Tuesday, 12 September 2017

More from Cranford Park

I'm not back at work until Thursday so decided to take advantage of the blue skies and get down to Cranford CP before the apparent storm that is meant to hit tonight.
 
I found another spread of Shaggy Scalycap.....
 
 
but no more Stinkhorns unfortunately.
 
There are still plenty of Common Darter (below), Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker dragonflies around.....

 
I completed the UKBMS transect today as the next nine days are going to be really busy for me at work. I was going to do it tomorrow but if the wind speeds are going to be as high as predicted, there wont be a lot to spot.
So todays butterfly tally......
 
31 butterflies of 8 species
Large White x 6
Green-veined White x 1
Small Copper x 4
Red Admiral x 5
Comma x 2
Speckled Wood x 9
Meadow Brown x 2
Small Heath x 2

Small Copper
I lingered around the northern scrub area for some time hoping to see the Whinchats. Whilst I was there I had a fairly close encounter with one of two Kestrels seen today...
 
 
and the Whinchats didn't disappoint either.....


 
I have no way of knowing if these are the same two females I saw on Sunday but I'd like to think they are.....
 
Another reason I was at the park today was to meet up with our local borough's Conservation Officer, Dragena. I had emailed her asking that the long grasses where I spotted the four Wasp Spiders recently, could be left over winter. This has been agreed thankfully.
 
Whilst we were there with her colleague, Tony, we heard a bird of prey calling. Initially I thought it was one of the Kestrels and looked around to see why it was calling so loudly. It was a very very pleasant surprise to see it was actually a Hobby, and not just one of them, but THREE. Two were calling which leads me to think they were juveniles. It was lovely to watch them swooping down low and then soaring up high. It was incredibly hard to photograph them though and out of all the photos I took, only a few came out well enough to publish. Thankfully one of the photos shows a food pass between the adult and one of the juveniles. I couldn't get all three in one photo but I did manage two in a few of them. So here's my dreadful pictures of todays three visiting Hobbys at Cranford Park.......
 





 


 
We have had Hobbys nesting at Cranford Park before but they didn't last year, and I don't think they did this year as I would have spotted or heard them by now. I do believe they have probably nested nearby and are passing through on their migration route to Africa where like all the other migratory birds, they will spend winter.
 
Lastly it was great to hear of Dragenas plans for the wildlife pond in front of the Information Centre. Work will start on it soon to make it deeper and a little wider.
 
As for when the Information Centre and toilets will be open to the public.......well as Dragena put it herself, she doesn't get involved in the politics. Fair point but one that makes me wonder if they ever will be open to us visitors. Lets hope so. There's only so many hidden bushes that I can pee behind !!!!
 
Not a bad visit to the park at all. Other sightings include a Red Kite and Common Buzzard on the thermals over head, two Linnet and five Goldfinches, a Green Woodpecker flying over and one of the Kingfishers sitting on the grate by the M4 viaduct. After Dragena left I went back to the viaduct to try and photograph the Kingfisher but instead came face to face with a lovely fresh looking Fox. We were both startled and safe to say the Fox turned and ran before I had a chance to lift my camera.
 
 
 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Some autumn birds at last. Cranford Park this weekend

Two fairly short visits to Cranford CP this weekend but both times I came away feeling that at last autumn migration is under way.
 
Obviously the fungi season is in full swing already. The Stinkhorn 'egg' that I photographed on the 6th September has now fully developed in to the delightful phallic Stinkhorn. I'm one of a small percentage of people who cannot smell the odour it gives off, which is probably a good thing for me....
 
 
However when I went back on Sunday this specimen had mysteriously been kicked over, just like the last one was. Maybe someone who walks the woods takes offence against the phallic shape. Maybe they're just jealous ? Haha. Either way its a shame that both of the specimens I've found this year haven't survived long enough to develop the gooey dark head that attracts the flies.
 
The first Ivy Bees are being sighted in southern Britain but not at Cranford CP yet. I still haven't found any ivy in flower, they are all still just in bud.......

 
I carried out the weekly UKBMS transect on Saturday. Weather conditions were not ideal. When the wind blew it really was quite chilly. The butterflies weren't settling or couldn't be seen as they were huddled deep against the chill.
 
Saturdays tally - 22 butterflies of 6 species
Large White x 3
Red Admiral x 6
Comma x 3
Speckled Wood x 8
Meadow Brown x 1
Small Heath x 1
 
The longest section of the transect takes me through the meadows which includes some of the scrub, and I stopped briefly when a small bird caught my eye. A Whinchat ! My first proper autumn bird this season. This was a rather stunning female who gave me some great views. Shame my camera zoom lens is quite old now and did not do the bird justice.......
Apologies for the photos overload but it really is a lovely little bird......
 








 
The Whinchat breeds in the UK (sadly not at Cranford Park) but they are often seen in autumn when they are on route to south Africa where they spend the winter. A very nice sighting on a cool autumnal day.
 
On Sunday I found this lovely gall on one of the shrubby wild rose bushes. It's the Robin Pincushion and like all galls, is caused by the larvae of one of the tiny gall wasps. The gall will darken to a deeper red, the larvae will feed inside of it all winter and the adult gall wasp will emerge next spring....
 
 
In Cranford Woods I found a beautiful clump of Shaggy Scalycap fungi......

 
and even more Yellow Stagshorn........

 
There had been rain overnight so I was hopeful this meant the Whinchat would still be in the northern scrub area. It was, but it wasn't alone. I found two female Whinchats today, a nice healthy count......
 


 
 
Whilst I was following their movement around the scrub, three Meadow Pipits suddenly broke cover from the remaining long grasses and flew over head calling. I managed to quickly grab one dreadful silhouette photo of one before all three disappeared in to the adjacent crop field.
Another very nice tick.....
 
 
Two of the regular dog walkers, Yvonne and Serge, greeted me with the news they had seen a Red Kite soaring really low over the meadow earlier and they were amazed to see it apparently 'chasing' a Blackbird. This doesn't really surprise me. Red Kites used to be known as purely carrion eating birds but a few years ago a group of us watched a Red Kite soar down, catch and kill a feral pigeon at Lake Farm before soaring back up to the thermals and eating it's kill on the wing.
 
After the nice surprise of the Whinchats and Meadow Pipits in the scrub I decided to go for a walk along the River Crane in the vain hope there might be a Spotted Flycatcher around. No such luck but the loud call of a Kingfisher caught my attention and I managed to follow its progress until it landed. A very very distant shot below, but it's been months since I've seen one at Cranford Park so I was very pleased to add it to my sightings for the day.....
 
 
From the Stone Bridge I lingered in case the Kingfisher decided to be a bit more obliging. It didn't but a Grey Wagtail did.......



 
I'm almost certain these little beauties are breeding at Cranford Park considering I've seen them a few times this year. The Kingfisher flashed past me twice more but perched hidden from view and as the weather was turning for the worse I decided to head home. I looked up in time to see a Kestrel hovering above me, again silhouetted against the dark sky.....

 
Just two shorts visits produced a lot for me to see. There are rumours of an 'indian summer' which should make for interesting butterfly behaviour but we will have to wait and see.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Four nice suprises at Cranford Park today

I was off work today and took the opportunity to have a short wander around Cranford Park. I am still waiting to see any signs of bird migration. In parks all around the area Spotted Flycatchers, Stonechats, Whinchats and Wheatears are being spotted. At Cranford Park ? A big fat zero. Not even a Spotted Flycatcher by the river, which is usually a normal sighting for me in spring and autumn. The only birds I saw during my short visit was a Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Red Kite, three Blackcaps, four Common Whitethroats and the usual large mixed flock of Tits and Goldcrests. No migrating birds at all (although the Common Whitethroats will eventually leave the Headland area and fly back to Africa)
 
The Stinkhorn fungi that I found on the 3rd Sept (photo below).....

 
......now looks like this.......

 
It looks as if it has been kicked over rather than gone over as nature intended.
However surprise number one was finding a very very immature one just a couple of feet away.
In fact it is so immature that it's still in its 'egg' stage......
 
 
and to give an indicator of size, it really is like a standard chicken egg that looks partially buried.....

 
A nice first for me.
 
Surprise number two was finding TWO more Wasp Spiders to add to the two that I found on Sunday......
Sadly again both were facing outwards which meant I couldn't get photos of their colourful abdomens. All four were in the same area and add weight to my suggestion on Sunday that there are probably loads at Cranford Park hidden in the long grasses....
 

 
There were a few butterflies around today but I wont be doing the UKBMS transect until the weekend.
 
Comma

Speckled Wood
 
Surprise number three was finding a Small Copper with an aberration. In this case the Small Copper below has blue spots on the lower wing. This is known as a 'form' called caeruleo-punctata and although not particularly rare, it is unusual.
 

 
 
This is the first time I've seen this form and I will be closely checking any other Small Coppers that I find. For more about aberrations and forms in Small Coppers please take a look at this article on the UK Butterflies website.
 
The cloudy weather didn't deter most critters. There were plenty of Green Shield Bugs around in various instars (stages of life)...
 
 
and even more Dock Bugs.....

 
I found a nice Leaf Beetle.....
 
 
and partook in my favourite pastime of hoverating......all ids under the photos...
 
Myathropa florea

Episyrphus balteatus


Chrysotoxum bicinctum
 Which brings me to my fourth nice surprise of my visit. Not one, but two hovers of a new species for me. The very handsome Xanthogramma pedissequum......
 
 

 
I had hoped to find Ivy Bees today but although a lot of the ivy at Cranford Park have flower buds, only a few are actually in flower. Hopefully I'll have more luck on my next visit.
 
There were more signs of autumn as I was leaving the park.
The hops that grow wild over the fenced off cellar are in full 'fruit'....
 
 
and the large acer species behind the stable block by the M4 underpass has started to get it's wonderfully coloured autumnal leaves.....

 
Not a bad three hour visit at all.