I was back at Cranford Park yesterday as well as today, but my camera mis-functioned yesterday so I didn't write up a blog. However, its nice to be able to confirm the Little Owls have youngsters.
A few days ago my friend, Tony James, got a cracking photo of two juvenile Little Owls sitting together. I have decided not to print it, as it shows the nest hole, and there is a small chance Mum Little Owl may already be sitting on a second clutch of eggs. In a few months when I know all the young have fledged, I will ask Tony's permission to post the photo on here,
Yesterday morning Tony and his lovely wife turned up at Cranford Park just a few minutes after I did. We had all come out in the early Sunday hours to hopefully see the juveniles. And we did. As I arrived one was sitting above the nest hole, but an invisible adult must have been higher up in the branches, and with one sharp call from the adult, the juvenile dived back in the hole. I backed off and sat on a nearby bench. Tony and Awe arrived shortly after and just got a glimpse of a juvenile outside the nest hole, before it again dived back in. We waited around for a while listening for the hissing sound the juveniles kept making. As soon as we heard it we checked the nest hole again, and there was a little face peering back out at us. We all left shortly after that, the park was filling up with Sunday dog walkers and sunbathers.
This morning after thoroughly cleaning my camera and lenses, and finding they worked, I went back to Cranford Park. It was very quiet. I sat on my usual bench near the nest tree waiting for the tell tale hissing noise, but it never came. I waited for almost two hours before deciding to have a walk around the site. There are still no signs of any fledged Kestrels, nor any adult birds. I'm beginning to fear that the male I found dead last week, was the Woodland male. Depending on how far along the young (if there were any) had developed, I'm not sure if the female Kestrel will have been able to cope on her own. I sadly do think this year we will not see any young Kestrels at Cranford Park. All the Kestrel web cams I watch have shown all the young to have left the nest now, with the exception of Simon Kings web cam which is down in Dorset. Surprisingly his kestrel chicks only hatched a week ago.
But I remain an optimist and made my way to the kestrel nest tree. There's a huge old tree that came down across the haha and path earlier in the year. Its too big and heavy to move out of the way, so has been cut in half so the path way remains open. Its here that I normally sit and wait to see if there is any Kestrel activity in the woods. I had just approached the log this morning and was about to swing down my rucksack when a bird that I hadn't noticed, flew up from the other log opposite. It wasn't a Kestrel, it was an adult Little Owl !! It sat in a tree up high scowling down at me, but no matter how many photos I fired off, my newly cleaned camera decided to focus on the surrounding foliage, instead of on the bird. The owl flew off shortly after that, so I raced back round to the Little Owls nest tree, and there I heard hissing. I scanned the branches and the foliage a thousand times, and still could not spot the juveniles. They weren't poking their head out of the nest hole, the hissing noise was coming from above that. And that basically is how I managed to spend nearly eight hours there today, without getting one photo of the owls. I'd hide myself on the bench nearby until the hissing started then carefully and stealthily move around the tree. A few times I saw a juvenile hope from one branch to another, but by the time my camera was to my eye, it had moved on again.
So no photos of Little Owls, and no sign of Kestrels. Below is a link to Tony's blog, there may not be any sightings of Kestrels at Cranford Park yet, but at least Tony has had some brilliant views of a whole family from the luxury of his balcony.
Else where around the park, the long grasses are looking magical. My photo does them no justice at all. They are several shades of pink and cream, and if I knew my wild flowers and grasses, I'd be able to tell you what they are.
In amongst them are patches of thistles and this lovely yellow flower, which this flower beetle obviously likes too.
I must have seen hundreds of Meadow Browns, Small Skippers and Six-spot Burnet butterflies and moths today. The grasses are really attracting them in.
Six-spot Burnet moth
The woodlands are attracting different varieties, mainly Speckled Wood, and I saw my first Red Admiral of the year there today.
Patches of nettles are still home to thousands of Peacock butterfly caterpillars.
I don't know what these two critters are, though I have a good idea of what they're doing !
The high light of my day though, was finding a stunning female Banded Demoiselle. This is a first for me at Cranford Park, and I'd been hoping to see one since I'd found a male a little while ago.
Bird wise, except for the elusive Little Owls ,it was very very quiet. I caught glimpses of Goldcrests, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and the odd Wren. The birds most seen were Crows, Woodpigs, Blackbirds, Robins and Magpies. The pair below are obviously a youngster with an adult.
So an interesting if frustrating type of day. I'm very tempted to get back there very early tomorrow as work duties call on Wednesday, and the juveniles are already very active.