Two pelicans swimming with daisies beyond
Bird Weekly,  Birds,  London

Gallery: the birds of St James’s Park

London is blessed with many parks and green spaces and every Londoner has a favourite. Mine is St James’s Park. I love it for its views, its sense of history, its beautiful lake, and for its birdlife.

The park was originally created by King James I who had the marshland here drained to create a park for his palace at Whitehall, where he kept a collection of exotic animals including camels, crocodiles and even an elephant – the latter appropriate given the recent ‘invasion’ of neighbouring Green Park and St James’s by a herd of life-sized replicas!

Charles II had the park redesigned in a more formal style, influenced by those he had seen while in exile in France. He opened the park to the public and it became a popular spot for illicit trysts. But we owe what we see today to the Prince Regent and his favourite architect, John Nash. The canal through the park was converted a natural-looking lake, and winding paths replaced the formal avenues.

Today the lake is the park’s focal spot. Locals and visitors alike are drawn here to admire the views from its bridge (Whitehall in one direction, Buckingham Palace in the other); relax on a bench or in the lakeside café; or to see, photograph and (against park regulations) feed the birds.

Lake with trees and buildings beyond
View of Whitehall from the bridge

For this week’s Bird Weekly challenge Lisa has asked us to share photos of ‘Common birds in your area seen this time of year’. As photographing birds in our pocket-handkerchief suburban garden is a challenge, I took a walk in this favourite park to see what I could find. I confess this is a bit of a cheat, as most of the birds in the following images can be seen at all times of the year! But at least I can claim to have taken them at this time, and they are certainly in my area 🙂

The birds

Swan with five cygnet under a stone bridge

Swan and cygnets under the bridge

She had seven with her but they were an inquisitive bunch, swimming all over the lake, so I found it impossible to get all seven in the same shot!

Black duck with white bill feeding a young one

Feeding time for a young Coot

Fluffy grey duck with long legs on a stone ledge

Another young Coot is thinking about taking the plunge

Three pelicans in a row, feeding on weed in the water

The park is famous for its Pelicans, which were first introduced here in 1664, a gift from the Russian Ambassador.

There are currently six in residence here: Isla, Tiffany, Gargi, Sun, Moon and Star. The Pelicans are fed daily but are free to roam although they rarely go far. 

Head of a pelican

One of the Pelicans in pensive mood

Black bird with red bill

A Black Swan taking a rest on the path around the lake. Visitors have to be prepared to steer a path around the many birds who gather here.

Black, white and tan bird sitting on a path

Also on the path, this Red-breasted Goose

Black and tan goose's head tucked into feathers

A closer look at a resting Red-breasted Goose

Tan and black duck

I love the tan shades of the Ruddy Shelduck.

An information board in the park says that these pretty ducks hardly ever leave the water as they are clumsy on land, but we saw several on the path.

Tan coloured duck

I was so taken with the colours that I took another photo …

Black and tan feathers

… and a close-up!

Duck's head with purple sheen

Another close-up, this time I think of a Blue-headed Mallard

Green parrot in a leafy tree

This parakeet was one of several attracted by a lady feeding the birds – right next to a sign that said ‘Do not feed the wildlife’.

I visit St James’s Park frequently. These photos were taken in July 2021

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