Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Another satisfying visit to Cranford CP

I was at Cranford CP after a couple of weeks away today mainly to do the UKBMS butterfly count and also to see what is around
The UKBMS count was quite successful considering the unseasonably bad weather we have had recently
On the transect today I had 100 butterflies of 12 species
Large White x17
Green-veined White x 2
Small Copper x 2
Common Blue x 2
Holly Blue x 15
Red Admiral x 5
Painted Lady x 3
Comma x 1
Speckled Wood x 9
Gatekeeper x 3
Meadow Brown x 37
Small Heath x 3
The Painted Lady is a migrant butterfly that does not appear in the UK every year - we generally have an influx roughly every ten years - this year we saw good numbers in late spring and even bigger numbers a couple of weeks ago - on both 'influxes' these beautiful butterflies were seen at Cranford Park and it was nice to see three still lingering on my transect today although they were a bit flighty and therefore my one and only photo today was a bit of a distance away
Painted Lady
 The Red Admirals I saw today were all quite faded and tatty but we should see some fresher second broods over the next few weeks
Red Admiral

Red Admiral
 There weren't as many Commas about as I would have expected (I saw another two after finishing my transect) but numbers could pick up again if the rest of August is quite warm

back lit Comma underwing

 There were quite a few 'blue' butterflies and 95% of these were second flush Holly Blues - in the spring these dainty little things are generally found on holly (hence the name) but second flush butterflies are generally found on ivy - I have no idea why but it does help me to search for them
Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Holly Blue
 One of my favourite butterflies is the tiny Small Copper - these are about the same size as the Holly Blue but prefer the grassy meadows - their colouring is very intricate and occasionally at Cranford CP we get a generation that have small blue dots on the bottom wing - otherwise known as an abherration - I've seen this the last two years but not so far in 2019
Small Copper

Small Copper
There were good numbers of Large Whites at the park - they are very adaptable and will feed on anything from nettles to brambles to buddleia
Large White

Large White

Large White
 Another common butterfly I never fail to see at Cranford is the Speckled Wood - as the name suggests they like woodland and woodland edges and are very territorial often chasing away other butterfly species that dare venture on to their 'patch'
This one below looks to have been a victim of a bird strike (ie where a bird has tried to catch it) but was still happily - if not a bit wonky - fluttering around
bird attacked Speckled Wood

fresh Speckled Wood
 The Meadow Browns were as prolific as always
Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown
 The other nice surprise for me today was seeing three Small Heaths - these are very common in the south of the UK but not so much in the Greater London area and I normally see these dainty little butterflies in early summer so to see three today could be a sign of a second brood which is really good news
As always my eyes were drawn to hoverflies along my route today - but it was the Volucella species that I saw the most including the huge Volucella zonaria - this is Britain's largest hoverfly at nearly 2cms long and is often mistaken for a Hornet - in fact it's 'nickname' is the Hornet Hoverfly - It is a relatively recent arrival to Britain being first recorded in London in the late 1930s - since about 1995 it has become very widespread and abundant - the larvae live in the nests of social wasps that build in tree cavities and they scavenge in the debris at the bottom of the nest
Volucella zonaria (male)

Volucella zonaria (male)

Volucella zonaria
 The second Voulcella species I saw today was this beauty - Volucella pellucens aka the Great Pied Hoverfly - it is smaller than Vollucella zonaria but the larvae feed in the same way
The wildlife pond in front of the Information Centre was host to at least three Common Darters
Some of the many oaks around the park are fruiting acorns already and if you check each tree you'll probably find several acorns like this

This acorn has been parasitized by the Knopper Gall Wasp - a really tiny wasp that has laid it's egg inside an acorn - the larvae will feed on the inside and eventually pupate and emerge as an adult - the colours of the Knopper Gall will change from green to red with age - they are fascinating creatures and there are more about them on this link
In some of the more sheltered parts of the park there are already ripe blackberries - it looks as if the dry July has bought forward their fruiting time
Lastly and sadly our oldest veteran tree in the park sadly succumbed to the recent high winds - the old trunk was already unstable and was being propped up by two posts but now the bigger of the split tree has come right down - Jennifer Hedges (the boroughs Conservation Officer) is aware and will be sending out a Tree Officer to assess the damage - hopefully we can get the old plaque cleaned up too


Monday, 22 July 2019

The Cranford Park Kestrels and more

On July 13th I led a guided Butterfly Walk and Talk - it was very successful with a good turn out and we saw all eight target species plus the added bonus of a Purple Hairstreak
After the walk ended my friend Sue and I loitered by the buddleia and were lucky enough to see a Silver-washed Fritillary - only my second ever time of seeing one at Cranford Park
Yesterday (21st July) I decided to see if it was still there
There were plenty of the usual suspects
Small Skipper

Comma (underwing)




Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admirals (female at top with male underneath)
Red Admiral
And then came along the unmistakable large Silver-washed Fritillary
When Sue and I saw it last week we just took a couple of record shots on our phones - but today I was ready with my camera
This is a male and he was behaving in a very territorial manner chasing away any other butterfly species and also having a go at a patrolling Migrant Hawker
He is looking a little tatty now with a chunk missing out of one lower wing (possibly an attempt by a bird to catch it) It is not necessarily a rare butterfly - they are fairly common in the south - but according to my UKBMS mentor (Paul Busby) this is only the third recorded sighting in 21 years at Cranford Park
So now for a complete overload of photos


The buddleia was also attracting a number of hoverflies including the huge Volucella zonaria

Other species were seen too - ids under photos
Volucella pellucens

Eristalis sp
Syrphus sp

Chrysotoxum bicinctum

The Migrant Hawker also favouring the buddleia posed for me nicely

Dragging myself away some time later I made my way to the meadows
Last week I had forlornly walked around the meadows for some time looking for any fledged kestrels but to no avail - however at the Family Fun Day on Saturday I got talking to Trevor and Karena and they confirmed they had seen four kestrels that same morning
Whilst I searched with my binoculars I had three Common Buzzard go over and this tatty Red Kite

The Kestrels are fairly predictable - just like previous years they do like to sit on the tree guards and watch the world go by - it's also a handy perch to watch the grasshoppers and crickets on the grassy paths
I could see the adult male and three juveniles but no sign of the adult female - she was probably watching her brood play fight and hone their hunting skills from the safety of a nearby tall tree
So now for an overload of Kestrel pics - the ones of them on the paths aren't that clear - I had the wrong lens on the camera - that's my excuse anyway :)

A very productive visit to the park and again a reminder that even though Cranford Park is surrounded on three sides by Heathrow and the M4 and the A312 - it is still rich in wildlife