Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Waxwings at Cranford Park - a first for me in nearly ten years.

That great yellow orb was out today, but also the usual cold wind was with it too, so wrapped up as if it was still winter, I went off to Cranford Park.
The new wildlife pond in front of the Information Centre is almost finished. Planting has been done. As its still empty you can clearly see the different depths the pond will have. Whoever planned this has really thought it through. It's going to look really good when its full of water and properly established.
I only found two Kestrels today, a pair again. The female stopped to have her photo taken but the male flew over me,heading towards the A312 and M4. The fact this female is still being seen is a clear indicator eggs have not yet been laid. Once they are laid, the female incubates the eggs while the male hunts and brings her food on the nest. At this time of year I would expect the female to be more on her nest getting ready for laying rather than still flying around. The cold weather could be the reason why she is so active still.
What I did expect to see was lots of woodpecker activity, and I did. I missed loads of fantastic photo opportunities, either due to being disturbed by dog walkers, or my camera not focusing due to twigs and leaves in front of the birds. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers are every where, drumming, calling and flying around after each other. Not long now until they start choosing their nesting site.
poor record shot of female Great Spotted Woodpecker
The Green Woodpeckers are also very very vocal. Their loud 'yaffle' call can be heard all across the woodland. I found today that if you spotted one Green Woodpecker making its way up a tree, there was a second not far behind it. Again I missed several good photo opportunities, especially as they were often quite near the bottoms of the trees.
Green Woodpecker at base of trunk
male Green Woodpecker - note the red 'moustache'. Females 'moustaches' are all black.
What I didn't expect to see today were Waxwings. I was making my way back to the old stable block when I heard a 'trilling' and saw fly over, what I first thought, were a flock of Starlings. They settled right at the top of one of the trees, and I could then clearly see they were Waxwings. My photos were useless today as they were perched so high up, and the only way you could see them was by looking directly into the sun. A passing dog walker told me he had seen the birds at Cranford Park every day since Friday. He had also seen them resting on the tops of the aerials in Roseville Road, Hayes. We watched the birds for over 20 minutes before they all flew off over the M4 towards the Hayes area. Despite walking up and down Roseville Road several times, I could not find them again.
These are beautiful little birds from Scandinavia. They don't breed in the UK, and you generally only see them during the winter months. I never thought I would see them in April. Last winter season, 2012-2013, was an exceptionally good year for Waxwing sightings, though to my knowledge none had been seen around the Hayes area. I saw them in South Ealing and in Shepperton, in January and February. Sightings are still being reported around East London as well at the moment. The second photo is of a Waxwing I photographed in South Ealing in January. It gives you a clearer picture of what these incredible little birds look like. I've also added a link to the RSPB Guide to Waxwings, for more photos and facts about these Scandinavian beauties.
Cranford Park Waxwings. Approx 30 were seen.
South Ealing Waxwing in Jan 2013

link to RSPB Guide to Waxwings

Another bird I didn't expect to see today, was a solitary Fieldfare in the Memorial Garden behind St Dunstans. This is another winter visitor to the UK, and although I'm still seeing quite large flocks of these at work, I've never seen one at Cranford Park. I've also never seen a solo bird, as Fieldfares are quite skittish and prefer to be in flocks.
So along with seeing two birds generally only seen in the winter months, I then found something normally only seen in sunny warm weather, a Comma butterfly. True, once the sun was out in full, it did feel warmer and the wind did die down a little bit, but a butterfly was the last thing I expected to see today.
So a very mixed bag of nature at Cranford Park today. Displaying woodpeckers, which you would expect in Spring, Winter visiting birds and the first signs of Summer in the form of a Comma butterfly.
Comma butterfly, probably not long awake after hibernating all winter


  1. You had a great day Wendy. (Even your 'record' shots are good!).

  2. You really do get some good birds Wendy... and agree with Mark about your 'record shots'! Very nice!