Sunday, 6 October 2013

Clearing ivy, spotting Weasels and chasing Kingfishers at Cranford Park

On a warm October Sunday, I joined Bob Barton and some volunteers from Friends of Cranford Park, to clear the ivy off the 18th century ha-ha walls near the front of the Information Centre. It's not an easy task to do, you cant just pull the ivy off in case it damages the ancient mortar so it has to be cut off first off all with a saw, then the rest with secateurs and clippers. It was a thankful job, the wall looked much better afterwards, and the ivy will come back next spring. We were serenaded by one of the Little Owls calling from the Sweet Chestnut behind us.
The Secret Garden was opened for a while. It was good to hear the small pond in there is now home to seventeen Common Newts. The garden is now getting ready for winter, so not many photo opportunities, however it produced a good crop of potatoes this year, and a fantastic glut of grapes. And yes, in the future there will be a Cranford Park Wine. Lights have been fitted around the ancient well, and there's a new waterfall feature on the pond, but sadly neither were working today. The lovely Lorraine has given me the keycode to the garden so I can enter as I please now, so long as I don't abuse my privilege of course :)
After two hours of cutting back ivy Bob announced he was happy with what us volunteers had achieved and we all went our separate ways. Naturally I stayed on site, its been weeks since I've spent a day at Cranford Park.
 All over the park various types of fungi are fruiting.
A few weeks ago Alison Shipley told me she had seen two Kingfishers by the green bridge. The photo below is the view from the green bridge towards the stone bridge by the car entrance to the park.
I found some late butterflies, Peacock and Speckled Wood.
Then something moved at the other end of the bridge. It was small and brown, and my first thought was that it was a rat, but it was a Weasel, and not just one as right behind it was another Weasel. I have been fortunate to see Weasels at Cranford Park before, but I have never seen two together. I fired off several shots before they disappeared, but only three photos were in focus. I'm not sure why one is darker in colour than the other.
As with all Weasels and Stoats, you have to stay still once you've spotted them as any movement at all, and they are off. It was my find of the day today, and probably a moment I'll never get again. I waited around to see if they would come back, but cyclists and dogs and walkers were using the bridge, so I gave up after a while.
I still hadn't spotted any Kingfishers so started walking back towards the stone bridge. A Heron was feeding, and while I was watching him, a Kingfisher zoomed by closely followed by a second Kingfisher. I tracked them with my bins and saw one settle. Could I end my day on a perfect high ??
Yes and no. The Kingfisher that landed was only 20 feet away but my camera was wanting to focus on the water and not the bird. So I'm not very pleased with my photos of this gorgeous bird, but at least I know for future the best place along the River Crane to look now.
As I was leaving the park, a female Kestrel dropped into a tree and posed for a photo.
So a very enjoyable day, the highlight of course being the two Weasels. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.