Sunday, 27 October 2013

The calm before the predicted storm at Cranford Park

A bit of a short and boring blog today. I was only at the park for four hours, and didn't see many birds to photograph. However I did get the best of todays weather. At 8.30am the moon was still visible in a clear blue sky.
After yesterdays news that there might be a Tawny owl around the north park woods on the other side of the M4, I checked the area as well as I could. The woods here are considerably smaller than the ancient Cranford Wood, but there are still plenty of trees to check. My luck was not there today, I failed to find the Tawny, but with all the leaves now falling, it was a very picturesque place to be.
Back in the man park, I checked the green bridge for a Kingfisher or Weasel, and failed to see both. The three Little Grebes are still there though, and just as shy as always. This is the view from the green bridge across the park, with the Heathrow control tower in the distance.
Now the trees are shedding their leaves, huge bunches of mistletoe are becoming visible. This huge mass is right by the car park.
What I didn't expect to find today, was a Common Darter, albeit a very washed out and tatty one. I only managed one quick snap before it took off again. I know its been a mild October, but I would have thought any dragonflies would now be long gone.
As I did expect though, there were more signs of freshly fruiting fungi.
Up by the headlands area one of the resident Buzzards soared over. Better photos of it today, after yesterdays grey gloomy skies.
In Cranford Wood itself, I again had nice views of Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits, but no photos, those tiny Goldcrests don't sit still long enough !! Jays are very active at this time of year too, but again no photos. I also saw a Kestrel fly over, and flushed a large female Sparrowhawk from the Ice House copse. So not a bad few hours at the park before the temperature dropped a bit, the wind picked up a bit, and my coffee flask became empty.
An autumn storm, nick-named St Jude after the patron saint of depression and lost causes, is due to hit the local area first thing tomorrow morning. I predict a few trees will come down in the woods, so any early morning dog-walkers, please take heed. Sadly due to work commitments, I cant get back to the park until next weekend, to see what, if any, damage has been done. Because of where Cranford Park is situated, you don't need a storm to fell any old trees, just a night of high winds will do that. I hope the damage wont be too bad at the park. Call me sentimental, call me soppy, but I love the old trees in Cranford Wood, and don't really want to see any more come down.
Finally, on the door to the Secret Garden, there is a list of forthcoming events taking place in the park. I wont be able to make the Halloween Spooky Spectacular, but it looks like its going to be great, with separate 'shows' for the kids and adults. Booking is essential for this event. At the bottom of todays blog post, I have added a link to the Cranford Park Friends website, which tells you more about the Halloween special, and details on the Autumn Colours walk on the 9th November (which I will hopefully be attending).


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Another autumnal day at Cranford Park

The BBC weather website lied today. It stated the day would be cloudy with some sunshine.
It wasn't ! Luckily my rucksack has its own waterproof 'jacket' and is always packed with a plastic 'sleeve' for my camera.
The first thing that caught my eye this morning was this chrysalis suspended right by the door, just inside the Information Centre. I have no idea whether it's a butterfly (doubtful given the time of year) or a moth. There were several ants climbing over it, so I have a feeling its not a viable cocoon, but it was something that I did not expect to see on an October day.
The sun did make an appearance a couple of times. I managed to get this photo below, on one of those rare sunny occasions. This is the view from the car park to the stone bridge. The avenue of trees is looking quite spectacular now the leaves are on the turn.
Last week I blogged about the old fallen beech tree, that had been sawn up into logs. I mistakenly called it a picnic area, and Bob Barton kindly corrected me. It's actually going to be an outdoor classroom. Now it's completed, it looks great. I spent quite a while sitting on the 'bench'. I think this is fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the ancient Cranford Woods.
Sue and Jasper the bird-dog joined me later on. We found there were still some fruiting fungi around.
We heard and saw several Goldcrests in the woods, but trying to get a photo of one was near on impossible, so we had to settle for a brief glimpse of a Long-tailed Tit.
Up by the headlands we found evidence of the Oak Gall wasp.
While we were there we bumped into one of the regular dog walkers. He's been coming to the park for nearly forty years and although he doesn't carry a camera, he almost always is equipped with binoculars. He's seen Woodcock, and both Muntjac and Roe deer whilst on his early morning walks. But the most exciting news is that he has had a Tawny owl visiting his garden, which backs on to the woodland on the other side of the M4. When I visit the park, I always start at the entrance by the Crane pub, so know that area of the woods well, so in future I will have to scan the trees with extra care. He also mentioned there were now two Buzzards around. I've often seen one over the park, and within minutes of Mr Dog-Walker leaving, Sue and I then spotted both of the Buzzards overhead. Sadly today was not a great day for photography, and I've had to lighten what photos I managed to grab of the Buzzards.
Not one, but two !
As always Crows seem to resent a Buzzards presence
Two Crows mobbed this Buzzard
One of the Crows made contact
They soon drifted off towards Harlington, so Sue, Jasper and I made our way to the river. No signs of the Kingfishers today, but the three Little Grebes are still present on the same stretch of the river. At long last I managed to grab a photo of all three birds. It's a dreadful distance shot, but a record one for our patch tick.
We had been dodging the odd rain shower all this time. Only the Marmite Parakeets seemed happy to sit out in the drizzle.
Sue and Jasper left not long after, and I waited out the rain on one of the benches beneath the least leakiest tree. As soon as the rain stopped, the Grey squirrels came back out to do what they do best at this time of year......burying nuts.
As I was leaving, the sun came back out, and so did this rainbow.
I walked back through the park and the woods, and as I reached the entrance by the Crane pub, I looked back and grabbed a photo of the meadow and trees in the light drizzle.
Of course, my blog would not be complete without a photo of the bird-dog himself.
I'm calling this one 'Jasper and the autumn leaves'.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday morning visit to Lake Farm

I went for a short walk around Lake Farm this morning. The new school building works are well under way. A site entrance has been made on Botwell Common Road, and a workers hut (complete with veranda and bench) has been erected alongside a bright yellow secure tool store.
The toddlers playground has now been removed (centre of the photo below), but the original Skylark arch and statue is still in the same place.
It still depresses me to see this part of Lake Farm ripped up an destroyed like this, but I cant change anything, I just have to get on with concentrating on the rest of the park.
I bumped into Sue and Jasper the bird-dog, and we later bumped into Roy. He said he had seen large numbers of Redwings passing over the park in the last week. He also mentioned the resident Sparrowhawk had been seen in its usual tree by the Grand Union canal, along with a solitary Grey Wagtail appearing every now and then.
Other birds seen today were the welcome sight of three calling Skylarks, a couple of Linnets and a few Goldfinches. At least three Jays were seen flying over, and some gulls are starting to re-appear in the 'gull field' (the Navsat field). Just as I entered the park I had good views of a Red Kite soaring towards Stockley Park.
As always when Sue and I bird watch together, Jasper keeps himself entertained. Today he was happy playing in one of the puddle by the BMX tracks.

Sunny and rainy Saturday visit to Cranford Park

Back in the middle of February, a night of strong winds bought down a huge beech tree. I blogged about it at the time (see my photos and the story - link to 14th Feb blog post )
It was such a huge tree and fell in such a secluded spot, that a crane could not be bought in to remove it. So bit by bit, the fallen tree has been sawn up over the last few months. Now the path that was blocked by the tree, is completely open and all that remains is a pile of saw dust.
Some of the trunk has been used to make some wonderful authentic 'picnic' tables and stools, and one section has been made into a fantastic bench (which, I might add, is very comfortable).
My new favourite bench

All around this area, were hundreds of mushrooms, which added a nice rustic touch.
There are still fungi fruiting else where in the ancient woods.
The trees are bursting with acorns and I saw several people collecting the conkers from under the very old chestnut tree by the kids playground.
Honeysuckle is still flowering by the stable block.
Rain stopped play for a while, so I sat on one of the benches under a tree and waited it out while playing with the settings on my new camera.
On the river, I briefly saw one of the Kingfishers, and I've noticed on my last few visits  that this appears to be a favourite perch for this young Moorhen.
And there isn't just two Little Grebes, there are three. Again no great photos as they are very wary of humans. According to another visitor to the park, there have been a family of Little Grebes here for a couple of years now. Just goes to show that no matter how long you've been visiting a patch (in my case nearly eight years), that there are still things to be learnt.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Its Autumn at Cranford Park

As I only have my weekends free now, due to my new Monday-Friday job, I hoped and prayed today would stay dry, and I got my wish, so it was off to Cranford Park for a stroll with Sue
 and Jasper the bird-dog.
Nice new shiny signs have appeared at both the entrances to Cranford Park.
The mild weather, sunshine and the heavy rain last night meant the ancient woodland was bursting with fruiting fungi. I don't know what any of them are called, but every year I look forward to seeing them. Many years ago I nearly moved to the Isle of Wight to grow mushrooms as my career, it didn't happen in the end, but I think my love of seeing these amazing little organisms has never faltered.
Along with fruiting fungi, there were also a lot of fruiting shrubs and trees.
Bird-wise, Sue and I didn't see too much. We had 4 Goldfinches, c20 Redwing over, c50 Woodpigeons, c30 Jackdaws and Crows feeding in the short grasses, c20 Long-tailed Tits (including the one below), a Little Owl calling from the old Ice Stores copse and distant views of a Buzzard being mobbed by a Crow.
We checked the stretch of the River Crane where I had seen the Kingfishers last week, and got brief glimpses of two flying past us. But what got us both excited was Sues spot of a Little Grebe. Nothing special there I hear you say, but that's a patch tick for both Sue and I. And there were two of them, a male and a female. They were obviously not used to humans as getting close to them was near on impossible. We both got distant record shots (below) and hopefully I can get back to the park next weekend to see if they are still around.
My out-of-focus record shot of Little Grebe (female).
Sues photo of Little Grebe (male). Record shot for our patch tick.
Meanwhile Jasper the bird-dog was getting thoroughly bored of mine and Sues activity,
 so decided to entertain himself.....
So a nice day for photographing mushrooms, getting a patch tick and seeing two distant views of the Kingfishers. The weather forecast for tomorrow is rain, rain and more rain, so unless that changes dramatically over night, there will be no blog from me tomorrow :(