It was a beautiful clear sunny, but cold, morning today. Armed with a flask of coffee and sandwiches, a thermal hat, scarf and gloves, I made my way to Cranford Park.
In the shade, the leaves were still frosted over.
This was my first visit since the St Jude storm. Both Sue and Tony had sent me photos of the damage done, so I was prepared. The huge tall oak by the car park, had been almost split in two. This is the same tree that has all the huge bunches of mistletoe on it. I found lots of mistletoe on the ground.
One half of the tree is still in tact and still with a couple of huge clumps of mistletoe, the other half has been broken apart about half way down (as shown on the right in my photo below)
There were several other trees bought down by the storm. Two of the path ways are still blocked (one in the Memorial Garden and one by the ha-ha wall), and there are loads of broken branches all over the woodland floor. I'm glad they haven't all been tidied away. Mother Nature will rot the wood down in her own time.
On the river I found this heron, all huddled up on the flattened ice frosted reeds by the stone bridge.
In the Information Centre, the chrysalis that I photographed on the 26th October, was still attached to the wall. This continues to baffle me. It looks like a butterfly chrysalis (rather than a moth), but I find it odd that not only has it attached itself to a wall (rather than a plant), but that it should even be there at this time of year. Part of me wants to take it home, and see what happens, but I'm also intrigued to watch nature work its own mysterious way.
Outside the Centre, Robins could be seen chasing each other and singing heartedly. Territorial behaviour is common with these birds at this time of year. I also watched two male Blackcaps chasing each other too, and managed to grab a photo of one as it briefly rested in the sunshine.
On the outskirts of the woodland I found a very washed out, and inactive Common Darter. This has got to be the latest yearly sighting of a darter, that I have ever known.
Up by the Headlands, the trees looked stunning in the autumn sunshine.
On one of the dead trees I found a Great Spotted Woodpecker.....
and on another dead tree, I found a Green Woodpecker
I was just making my way back to the river when I bumped into my good friends, Paul and Sheila. The three of us played 'spot the Little Grebe' from the green bridge. There was another Heron perched in one of the trees by the bridge, but the sun was behind him, so I didn't get any decent photos. The view looking down to the stone bridge was beautiful.
and we could see the Little Grebes about half way down. There are still three birds on the stretch of water between the two bridges, but they are incredibly shy of humans. Here is a pic of two of them in the afternoon sunlight, taken from the green bridge.
After Paul and Sheila left, I went back to the river and managed to grab a record shot of all three grebes from the stone bridge. I'm guessing this is a family group. It will be interesting to see if they actually nest on this same stretch of river in the spring.
During my seven hour visit today I also saw (but did not manage to photograph), a Kestrel, a male Sparrowhawk chasing a Song Thrush, several Goldcrests in the woods, Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, a couple of large flocks of Long-tailed Tits, the usual Blue and Great Tits, plenty of Magpies and Woodpigeons, at least seven noisy Jays in the Memorial Garden, a large colony of both Jackdaws and Crows around the Headland area, Black-headed and Herring gulls coming over from the fields beyond the A312, five Fieldfares flying over, and last, but not least, three very quick sightings of one of the Kingfishers flying up and down the river.
The Kingfishers are on my hit list. I want to know where on the river, they have chosen their nest site. It isn't on the stretch between the stone and green bridge. The banks there are too low. Paul, Sheila and I went through the viaduct to the other woods. There the view of the river isn't as good, but the banks are much higher. As we were discussing this, a Kingfisher zoomed past us, back in the direction we had come from.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CP today. I love weather conditions like this, crisp and cold but dry and sunny. And to top it all, at the end of my day, I bumped into Bob Barton, the Cranford Park Friends secretary. It's always nice to have a chat with some one who is as passionate about the park as I am.