Saturday, 29 March 2014

A Flutterby morning at Cranford Park

After yesterdays exciting day, I was back at Cranford Park this morning to check on my three nest sites.  As always, I took my coffee to the Kestrel nest tree first and sat around waiting. I couldn't see either of the Kestrels for quite a while, then a distinct alarm call came up followed by a Buzzard drifting over, with of course, both Kestrels not far behind it. It's nice to see they're still protecting their tree, I just hope they stick to it this year. Last year they completely fooled me by choosing two nest sites and decided to nest in the one I haven't yet located.
I managed to get a couple of photos of the male. I've stopped taking photos high up as it hurts my shoulder, but I could see through my bins that the male has sustained some damage to his tail.
It's obviously not affecting his flying, nor his ability to mate and guard his tree, so I'm not overly worried. Several times during my morning walk in the woods, I heard the familiar 'trilling' call which meant mating was commencing. Hopefully egg laying should start at the end of March or beginning of April.
Whilst I was waiting for the Kestrels, I watched this stunning little Blue Tit gathering insects on one of the conifers. It's very difficult to 'sex' Blue Tits, but at this time of year males generally have a brighter blue head than the female.
The Wren nest is still going strong. The male has now almost finished building his elaborate small cylinder shaped nest, and when I saw him today he was taking in mouthfuls of moss, probably to shove into any gaps to make it less droughty. I only saw him go in the nest once this morning as I was on a short visit. I managed to get a couple of photos of him peering out. The first photo I've cropped quite a bit, to show just how intricate the nest is. A lot of hard work and energy goes into building such a complex little nest. If the female accepts this nest, she will start lining it with feathers before laying between five and eight eggs. But I do fear the nest is too exposed and too near the path, for the female to decide she feels safe in it. Only time will tell, and tomorrow I'm showing the nest to my two fellow Cranford Park birder friends, in the hope that between the three of us we can monitor the nest on a near daily basis.
I found my first bluebell today. It's quite early for this lovely woodland flower to open, but this particular one is in a position where it gets sunlight all day, rather than being in shade for part of it.
On the River Crane I was again treated to distant views of both the male and female Kingfisher. No photos today of either of them. I can follow where they land through my bins, but if I try to walk closer, they soon take off.
The drake Mallards on the river are also behaving territorially. I caught this one (with the sun behind him) about to land on another.
I had three disappointing moments today. The first was at the Green Woodpecker nest site. It appears that Marmite Parakeets have already found the nest hole. Whilst I was there this morning, a male Marmite was checking out the hole intently and I couldn't locate either the male or female Green Woody. The Marmite wasn't going all the way in to the hole though, so it looks as if the male Green Woodpecker hadn't finished excavating all the debris out from its nest last year. When I walked around to the other side, the female Marmite was sitting on a twig very close to the hole. I don't mind the Parakeets but I was really hoping the Woodpeckers would use that nest hole, as its the only viewable one I've found this year so far. I'll check again tomorrow. Green Woodys have been known to see off Parakeets, so fingers crossed for this nest site.
The Magnolia by the Haha wall has finally blossomed. Not many flowers on it this year, but plenty of green leaf buds.
My second disappointment of the morning came as I was leaving. I go under the arch at the stable blocks to make my way home. Most mornings in the doorway, there is a tramp asleep there. He doesn't like early mornings, he's always still asleep when I see him. He causes no trouble and is actually very conscientious and clean. As soon as he's awake, he has a wash in the Information Centre loo and even shakes out the door mat there. I've also seen him 'air' his blankets and sleeping bag over the benches, before packing everything away and disappearing for the day leaving behind no rubbish at all. Because he is generally asleep when I arrive, I don't hang around in case I wake him, but leaving today after he had gone, I couldn't help but notice the door has been smashed in at the top. There's a very new padlock on the door itself, but above that someone has actually managed to break through the wooden slats. Late last year Bob and I discovered someone had also tried to jemmy open the door to the Secret Garden. What is going on with these mindless acts of vandalism ???? I honestly don't believe its the Cranford Park tramp. His behaviour in the way he is so tidy and tries to keep himself clean, doesn't leave rubbish or empty alcohol bottles or cans around, doesn't sound like the type of man who would try to break down a few doors !
My third disappointment of the day was some little tea-leaf has taken every last toilet roll from the Information Centre loo. Two days ago the holder was full and there were three more rolls left out. I guess the only solution is to now make sure I carry a roll in my pocket every time I visit !!!
The stars of today though, were the Butterflies. The warm sunny weather today meant they were everywhere.
There were Speckled Woods....
and my first Holly Blue of the year....
........but the most prolific were the Peacocks. I counted twelve individuals today, and that included three 'fighting' near the Crane pub entrance. They love to bask open winged in the sun (unlike the Holly Blue which generally sunbathes with its wings closed). The males are very territorial and if you see two or three butterflies flying together and 'mingling' it is likely they will be Peacocks squabbling over a territory. They are also amongst the first butterflies to lay eggs. The caterpillars can be seen en masse on most nettle patches in a few weeks time.
So another enjoyable short visit. However I've been so immersed in the three nest sites and the Kingfishers that I've almost ignored the rest of the park, and I hope to rectify that tomorrow.

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