Friday, 19 April 2013

The Cranford Park Pied Fly

I was intending to go to Lake Farm and Cranford Park today, however last night I received an email from Alison Shipley, the Countryside and Conservation Officer for Hillingdon Council. She had spotted an unusual bird at Cranford Park yesterday morning. So I decided to go to Cranford Park first today, then maybe go to Lake Farm afterwards.
I got to CP fairly early, and spent some time scouring the site with my bins. Alison had described the bird as being black with flashes of white on the tail and wings, no indication of size, just that it appeared to be fairly active and was staying around the same area. Eventually I met up with Alison who took me to where she'd last seen the bird.
Within ten minutes, this beautiful male Pied Flycatcher in full summer plumage, popped up in the flowering blackthorn shrubs.
I've only ever seen a female before now, so I was very happy to get such clear and close views of this gorgeous little male bird. It's quite incredible to believe this tiny bird has flown all the way from West Africa after spending the winter there.
I knew I had to share this sighting, but my Blackberry phone has been misbehaving for some time, so after failing to get on to the London Birders website, I managed to eventually post a message on my Facebook page asking if anyone could post my sighting on London Birders on my behalf. Thank you Sandra P for doing that for me. I knew it would be a couple of hours before any birders turned up, so I got to spend those moments alone with Mr Pied Fly, and capture these photos.
Alison first saw the bird at about 11am yesterday, so it has already been around for at least 24 hours. Its active and feeding well, so who knows if it will still be there tomorrow. If you want to pop down there, the best way is go to the sign posted car park off Junction 3 off the M4. From the car park walk on to the great expanse of grass, and turn right at the huge old Sweet Chestnut tree. Keep walking until you can see the stretch of flowering blackthorn shrubs. The Pied Fly is favouring this area.
map of Cranford Park. The M4 is at the top. The grey square is the kids playground. The brown line is the ha-ha.
this is part of The Headland area. The Pied Fly is favouring the shrubs on the edge of the woodland.
Eventually some birders started to appear, including my friend Corinna, who I had already sent a message to. It was also nice to put some faces to names today so nice to finally meet you Adam C, Nigel S and Bill H.
While I had been waiting to meet up with Alison this morning, I'd had a wander around to see if I could find any sign of the Kestrels. Now the weather has warmed up I was really hoping the female would be nesting.
Today I found the Woodland Kestrels (as opposed to the other pair on site, the River Kestrels) purely by accident as they aren't nesting in the same tree they were last year. I'd been examining some of the bluebells to see if they were budding, when I heard a kestrel call right above my head. I looked up in time to see the male land on an untidy old crows nest, with prey. The female then appeared from within the nest, took the prey and settled in a nearby tree to eat it. I tried very hard to get photos but they've all come out so dark, you cannot make out any of the action. An hour or so later, I found the female sitting in a hollow in one of the dead trees nearby. Personally I think she has started laying but hasn't quite finished, as she's not incubating fully yet, but the male is presenting her with food. Obviously the location of the nest I cannot make public knowledge.
Even if I hadn't of seen the Pied Fly today, I would have come away happy as I've been quite concerned that there were no signs of the kestrels settling to nest.
Elsewhere around the woodland there were good numbers of both Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing, lots of Green Woodpeckers flying around and being very vocal and I've noticed the Jays have started pairing up. A Willow Warbler was heard but not seen, Alison saw one of the resident weasels and there were lots of butterflies around including Tortoiseshells, Commas, Peacocks and a beautiful luminous Brimstone. Spring is defintley here.
singing male Blackcap
the nest box in front of the Information Centre, being checked out by a Blue Tit. Will be interesting to see if they go for it as last year this box was occupied by Great Tits.
male Green Woodpecker (males have red moustaches whereas females have black ones)
female Kestrel
I went home a very happy wino, but didn't really have time to go to Lake Farm. Maybe tomorrow :) 


  1. What a great days birding! Really like the 2nd Pied Fly photo (amongst the Blackthorn blossom).
    Superb blog and photos Wendy.

  2. Hi Wendy
    I know I have thanked you personally and in public - on fb but just wanted to say it was a real privilege to share your bird today!

    I even got a few record shots of my own- but yours look so close and your description of sitting on the floor and him coming so near sounds magical!

    I really like your local patch - I think I might be spending more time there than I thought when I first visited it properly the other week!

    If its okay I might nick a couple of your photos for my blog obviously I will credit you with them!

    Thanks again for letting me know about the bird before it went public!