A business appointment at The College of Naturotherapy in central London at lunchtime gave me time to pay a visit to nearby Hyde Park and a particular spot adjacent to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Why you may ask? Well for the last ten days or so two Bearded Tits have been frequenting a ridiculously small reed bed no more than thirty metres long by a few metres wide, right by the public path round the Serpentine and indeed to call it a reed bed may be exaggerating things. It really was that small.
Not only is this so remarkable but the tits appeared totally fearless and un-phased by the numerous members of the public and birding community that stopped to admire them. They perched openly on the reed stems feeding on the feathery tops of the reeds no more than ten feet from their admirers.
So it was, that coming out of the tube mid morning at Lancaster Gate, I crossed the road and went into the park and made my way to the aforementioned 'reed bed'. I am more used to the vast expanses of reeds at Otmoor and the elusiveness of the Bearded Tits that occasionally frequent there. This was the direct opposite. No long, tedious, endless waits for an all too brief view of birds flying across the reeds, only to then disappear into the depths of the reed bed. No sir. These beauties (sic Gordon Buchanan) perched right out in the open, almost as close as they could be in a tiny area of reeds. Not only could you study their plumage to your heart's content, as they were constantly in view, but you could watch them as they fed, burying their heads into the soft reed tops, feeding on the seeds. Their tiny bodies were so light that they could be supported by a single reed stem although occasionally when they sidled up to the thinner top of the stem it would bend and both stem and bird would slowly descend with almost balletic grace before the bird would hop onto another reed. These were the best views ever and I doubt very much that I will better them. Both birds were females and ringed. They had, according to another birder present, been ringed at Rye Meads Nature Reserve in Hertfordshire last November.
I just admired them, noting how their orange russet plumage blended perfectly with the sunlit dead reed stems. Their orange yellow eyes looked at us dispassionately as they went about their business extracting seeds with their tiny yellow bills. The photo opportunities were too good to resist and I along with others clicked away happily as these two charming individuals carried on their lives heedless of the strangeness and uniqueness of their surroundings and the amazement and delight they brought to all and sundry present.
The only time they showed any concern was when two Magpies perched on the railings separating us from the tits. This caused them to start calling with their ringing, pinging calls and descend to the bottom of the reeds until the Magpies flew off.
It was a classic cold winter's day with blue sky and sunshine. The dull roar of the endless traffic was punctuated by the raucous calls of Rose Ringed Parakeets careering over the trees in the park. There was a gentleness and friendliness amongst our small group as we shared the delights of seeing these birds so close. A couple of very well dressed ladies of a certain age, out for a constitutional, passed by and I heard one say to her colleague 'Look at those twitchers. I really do not know what they see in looking at those birds but I must say they are always very friendly when you speak to them'. I will take that as a compliment then.