Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Overdue visit to Maple Lodge NR

I woke up this morning and decided on a whim to visit Maple Lodge NR, a very overdue visit. This is my second favourite place to go, and you can see why if you have a look at their website (link here)
 
The light this morning was incredible. I spent over an hour in the Clubhouse Hide with a cup of coffee watching the comings and goings.....
 
One of the Kingfishers perched for a brief couple of minutes....
 


 
A pair of Shovellers looked almost luminous in the morning light....
 

 
The resident Robin sat perched on the same twig several times...

 
And there were the usual squabbles over the feeders.....
 

 
Even the common Grey Squirrel made a photogenic subject....
 
 
Sadly the fine weather didn't last and once the cloud came over, so the temperature dropped.
 
By the side of the Teal Hide there was an abandoned Coots' egg with a tiny beetle on it that I'm not going to even attempt to identify....

 
I saw three Red Kites and two Common Buzzards go over the hide, all within minutes of each other. Of course the cloudy sky did not help with my photo....

 
The Long Hedge Hide gave up lots of Black Headed gulls, many Shoveller, several Gadwall and Teal and two Little Grebes.....

 
Several times during my visit I encountered a Sparrowhawk. First of all it flushed out at least five Siskin and a few Goldfinch by Comma Corner. The next time I saw it was when I was chatting to Roger by the Owl Meadow and we watched it fly away over towards the farm. Then I saw another whilst trying to locate the calling Cettis Warbler by the Shell Hide. Lastly I was walking towards the Lynsters Hide and had just stepped over the bent tree, when I noticed feathers on the ground, looked up and there it was mantled over a freshly killed Wood Pigeon. Unfortunately it spotted me before I had a chance to lift my camera and took off. Knowing how these birds of prey often go back to their kill, I lingered in the hide for a few minutes before tip toeing out, but again the bird saw me before I saw it and flew off.
 
The light at the Lynsters Hide was really bad by this time, and all of the birds on the lake were just silhouettes. I lost count of the number of Coot and Canada Geese, but counted six Egyptian Geese, three juvenile Mute Swans, three Great Crested Grebes and a distant Little Egret.
 
 
Back at the Clubhouse on my way out I had another look out and spotted the cat that keeps showing up. Instead of going for any birds, this time he tried his luck with a squirrel but failed dismally. I know it's a 'he' as after he missed his prey he strutted around spaying every where. Somewhere nearby is one irresponsible owner, that not only doesn't put a collar and bell on the cat, but hasn't even had it neutered.

 
It was a great visit though. I love the privacy of this reserve and all that it has to offer. Hopefully next time the weather will stay finer and I'll be able to stay longer.....
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Mindless vandalism, Grey Wagtails and more from Cranford Park

I was at Cranford Park for a very short visit on Wednesday (yesterday) and spent most of my visit sitting on the log by the new pond.
 
The pond Robin seems to be quite used to visitors and popped out a few times to see what I was up to....
 
 
and it was really lovely to see our first pond plant in flower. I'm pretty sure this is Marsh Marigold but happy to be corrected.....

 
However within minutes of arriving for my visit this morning (Thursday) I could have cried. Some mindless idiots have not only pulled up the notice put up by the Green Spaces team, thrown the posts in to the pond but also thrown all of the logs in to the pond....
including the one I was sitting on yesterday....




 
Heaven knows what satisfaction they achieved from doing that !! But I know it's going to make a lot of us quite fed up. Many of the volunteers gave up their spare time to help make this pond. Dragena and her team from the council spent hours on this project. Money was invested in it. Time was spent planning it. And for what ? So a few idiotic kids who were obviously dragged up to have no respect, just ruin it in a short time. And yes, I did say kids because we know they were seen trying to remove the sign before being challenged by two dog walkers. Sadly they obviously came back to finish off the job !
 
I hope their parents are really proud of the job they have done in raising children that have absolutely no respect for anyone and who find enjoyment in ruining things for others.
 
Hopefully there will be no long term damage (eg the liner being torn or ripped) but we might have to wait a few days to see if the water level goes down. Extracting the logs from the pond now might make things worse, going in to the pond and trying to move waterlogged lumps of tree is not going to be easy and might even damage the liner even more.
 
Below is the only vandalism I tolerate at Cranford Park.......
a Mallard dragging vegetation down to eat !!!

 
Todays visit was obviously soured by the state of the pond, but there was still a lot to see.
The Kingfishers on the river teased me in their usual way......flying up and down and perching, but always out of camera range. The Grey Wagtails (I am certain there are two now) were much more obliging as always. There was one by the stable blocks again (but no photos) and another on the river with great views from the stone bridge........
 



 
Despite it being almost mid-October, the morning was mild and bathed in sunshine for nearly all of my visit. This meant there were quite a few critters around.
 
The Garden Spider below caught a nice fat juicy fly and swiftly killed it and wrapped it in silk...
 
 
There were several Common Darters flying around and even some Hawkers including this Southern Hawker below. Dreadful out of focus photo but nice to see it perched for a few seconds.....

 
I completed my last UKBMS butterfly transect of the season with a very short tally
 
Eight butterflies / two species
6 x Red Admiral
2 x Speckled Wood

Red Admiral
 I have been seeing the lovely autumn Ivy Mining Bee (Colletes hederae) for the last few weeks, but no photographs until today, and even this is purely a record shot.......
 
 
The Ivy Mining Bee was recorded as new to Britain in 2001 when a bloke called Ian Cross discovered specimens at Langton Matravers in Dorset. Since then, the bee has spread across much of southern England (as far north as Shropshire, Staffordshire & Norfolk) and into south Wales. It is now extremely plentiful in some coastal localities, and increasingly, inland. Peak activity matches the flowering period of its key pollen forage plant, Ivy (Hedera helix), and the species is on the wing from early September until early November. This makes it the last solitary bee species to emerge each year. This is the third year I have found them at Cranford CP.
 
Surprisingly I also found two species of Ladybird this morning...
 
7-spot ladybird

Orange ladybird
The mild weather also bought out some hoverflies. I found three species today. ID's under each picture.....
 
Eristalis sp.

the huge Volucella zonaria

Helophilus pendulus
As always at Cranford Park there was the usual sighting of a Common Buzzard. This one was photographed against the sun so creating its unmistakable silhouette.....
 
 
I spent some time sitting under the huge Yew in St Dunstans. I was hoping for Redwing sightings, one of our winter thrushes, but had to make do with a Grey Squirrel pretending to be an ornamental statue......
 
 
My last photo below is very out of focus but it's the comparison between the leaves and the bird that I wanted people to see. This is one of many many Goldcrests that are making their way around the park this season. The Goldcrest is the UKs smallest bird and weighs roughly the same as a 20p piece. The out of focus bird below is photographed next to holly leaves. That is how small it is. Literally the size of a standard holly leaf.....

 
So not my usual 'bouncy' 'happy' 'carefree' blog post today. I cannot deny that the pond being vandalised has really angered and upset me. I only hope that once Dragena and her team survey the damage, that we find none of it is permanent.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

An autumnal morning at Cranford Park

Its been a busy few days so I was glad to spend a few peaceful hours today at my favourite place.
The butterfly transect also needed recording. Although the sun was out for nearly the whole time I was at Cranford Park, the temperature has noticeably dropped over the last few days therefore I wasn't expecting to see many butterflies, and I was more or less right.
 
Todays butterfly tally....
16 butterflies / 3 species
Red Admiral x 9
Small Copper x 6
Speckled Wood x 1
 
Red Admiral

Small Copper - my new favourite butterfly of 2017
The pond is starting to really take shape now all of the plants are in and the water is topped up. The recent rain has certainly helped. The wildflower seeds that were sown in the stone trough have already started 'sprouting'....
 
 
There's a new polite sign by the pond asking dog owners to please refrain from letting their dogs go in the pond.....
 
 
and I found a Red Admiral basking on the newly laid stones.......

 
I often see Common Buzzards around the Headland area. Some appear to drift over from the direction of the M4 and the adjacent crop field and we've been lucky enough to have them breeding on site for the last two years. Buzzards mate for life and are very territorial. However at this time of year you can see small groups soaring the thermals as they migrate south for the winter. These are usually groups of young adults that haven't yet found a mate. For some reason Buzzards are often mobbed by crows or Jackdaws. The reason isn't clear especially as they mainly feed on rabbits and occasionally reptiles so aren't really a threat to corvids. Both Buzzards and Red Kites are also well known for following a plough when it digs up a new field, to scavenge the worms the plough will bring up. So why do crows find them so threatening ? Who knows, but I witnessed this behaviour this morning as I have many a time.......
 




 
My photos don't do the sequence of events enough justice. My old zoom lens is on its last legs, so I'm frantically saving up for a new one.
 
A more obliging bird for my focusing camera lens in the autumn sun was this lovely Blue Tit.....
 
 
I loitered by the river for a long time, seeing the Kingfisher whizz under the bridge and up and down the river several times. Twice I heard one call behind me and saw two together, but the little darlings had no intention of stopping for a photo opportunity.
And yet again it was a Grey Wagtail that kept me more amused........
 


 
and an hour later when I was sitting under the huge old Yew in the churchyard yet another landed by the gate......


 
It then flew off calling and as I walked around to the stable block there was another bird by the wall under the clock. The chances are it was the same as the 'gate' one, but it would be pretty nice if there were three individual birds.


 
Seeing these beautiful wagtails is becoming a very regular occurrence now, and hopefully next season I'll be able to find out if they are breeding on site.
 
The wild Honeybee colony in the bricked up arches was again very active this morning.....
 
 
The Secret Garden colony was a quite a bit quieter, the Oak Tree colony were even quieter still but the new colony in the dead stumpy trunk by the M4 seems to have gone.
 
The cooler weather meant not many hoverflies seen today, and I only found one perched in the whole time I was there.....
The lovely marked Myathropa florea with it's distinctive 'batman' symbol on its thorax.....

 
It's the season for our Grey Squirrels to start hoarding nuts. Watching them running around with their mouth full searching for a suitable place to bury them, can be quite entertaining....
 

 
Watching the clever Magpies following them around and digging up the recently buried nuts is even more entertaining.....

 
 
To finish todays blog, a short list of the birds seen today....
2 Kingfishers
Common Buzzard
2 Kestrel
Sparrowhawk
2-3 Grey Wagtail
5 Stock Dove
4 Mistle Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Mallard
3 Moorhen