Although I haven't blogged since 27th February, I have been down to Cranford Park a couple of times to observe the Kestrels without my camera. March is the month they start displaying and mating, and after last year when they abandoned their favoured nest site for another deeper in the woods, I was intrigued to see which nest site they would chose this year. I'd observed them being quite protective over the favoured nest tree a few times last week. Woe betide any Crows or Jackdaws that settled on one of the branches, as out of nowhere one of the Kestrels would swoop in and see them off.
Today I had only just got myself settled on a log when a distinct Kestrel call came up followed swiftly by a Buzzard 'mewing'. Through the branches I could make out the Buzzard being mercilessly mobbed by both the male and female Kestrel. This was the only shot I got of all three birds.
The Buzzard soon soared away, and the male Kestrel settled just above me watching the skies for any other 'intruders'.
I waited around for a while to see if there would be any more action, but the male seemed intent on preening, and as it wasn't a very good angle for me to take photos I ambled off to see what else I could find.
The old Magnolia by the Haha wall is almost fit to bloom now.
I saw four varieties of butterfly. Comma, Brimstone, Small White and this obliging Peacock.
Everywhere, especially in the woods, birds were singing and calling. Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Wrens, Blackbirds, Jays, Marmite Parakeets, Goldcrests, Magpies, Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers and the tell-tale sign of Spring, lots of ChiffChaffs.
As it was such a gorgeous day I decided to see if any of the regular Woodpecker holes were being checked out. I know its still early, but Woodys often start excavating holes around now.
The first hole I checked was used by Great Spotted Woodpeckers two years ago (they don't use the same nest hole every year, but will go back to it in the second or third year). Sadly this year it looks as if the Marmite Parakeets have beaten the Woodys to it. A sure sign of a nesting Parakeet is one sitting by the hole while the other is probably already on eggs inside.
I had better luck with one of last years Green Woodpecker nest sites though (Green Woodys are opposite to GS Woodys and do tend to re-use the previous years nest). I found a male about two-three metres below the old nest hole basking in the sun. I perched on a log and waited to see if anything happened. Within half an hour I heard another Green Woody call and located a female on the next tree. My patience was rewarded even more when the male moved up the tree and started examining the old nest hole. No photos of that action as there were too many branches, however I did get a shot while the male was sunning himself below.
Further on in the woods, a hole that I had never noticed before had been taken by a pair of Marmite Parakeets.
They both came out and sat next to each other on a branch whilst I was watching them.
Another six previous Woodpecker holes showed no activity, although one looks like bees have taken up residence. There were an awful lot going in and out.
I also went to check out the River Crane. I was hoping that now the water levels were almost normal, that the Little Grebes would be around but despite hanging around for over an hour, there was no sign of them.
Whilst at the river I decided to visit one of my favourite secret hiding places. I'd just got myself settled to have a sneaky fag (don't worry, I am a considerate smoker, I always carry my own ash tray) when I noticed something move on the ground to my right. I just had time to turn my head when a Weasel popped up, ran across my boot, up the bank and disappear into the undergrowth behind me. I didn't even have time to lift my camera, let alone turn it on and focus, it all happened so quickly. From the undergrowth I could hear lots of squeaking, and realising that I may possibly be too near to its lair, I moved back onto the path way. I secreted myself away and waited hopefully for it to re-emerge, and again my patience was rewarded for after twenty minutes, a Weasel re-appeared from the undergrowth and disappeared down by the river bank. Again it all happened too fast for me to get a photo, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on that area in the future. Weasels don't make their own nests or lairs, they prefer to take over old Rat, Vole or even Rabbit burrows, which would make perfect sense for this area as there are plenty of Rabbits around.
After that burst of excitement I decided to check on the Kestrels one last time before heading home. The afternoon sun was completely against me when I got to the site, but again after some patience, the male flew onto a nearby tree and started 'chirping'. The female replied from an unknown location, then flew straight onto the nest tree and onto the nest itself. She stayed there for a few minutes while the male continued to 'chirp', then came out of the nest and onto the branch.
The male is pictured below calling. I know it's a dreadful photo, sorry, blame the sun !
I was then lucky enough to see something I've only seen once before, and that was the pair mating. My two awful photos below do not do the scene justice ! There were too many branches in the way and the sun was right in my eyes. In the first photo you can see the nest on the right, and the copulating Kestrels are the 'things' on the left. In the second photo I managed to focus more on the Kestrels, but again too many branches in the way and the light was against me.
Despite my terrible photos, I had a very enjoyable day. The weather was pleasant, I was dosed up with codeine for my bad shoulder and there was plenty to observe and listen to.
For obvious reasons I've kept exact locations of the Kestrels, Woodpeckers and Weasels secret.