Sunday, 13 April 2014

Bee-fly bonanza, and other critters, at Cranford Park

After yesterdays cloudy weather, today the blue sky reigned. It was a glorious day with some gentle gusts of wind.
I was actually planning on staying home and resting my shoulder, but Tony was on site early and texted me that the Wrens nest was still being visited by an individual. Not only that, but the Wren was seen to bring in feathers. This is a really encouraging sign for our little nest. The male Wren builds several nests out of old leaves and moss, but its the female that lines the nest with feathers once she has chosen to call it her home for the next few weeks. Maybe the bird I saw yesterday at the nest was indeed a female. So I took some painkillers and headed down to the park.
Also after Sues exciting discovery of one of the Little Owls on a tree that I'd always suspected was their nesting tree, I really wanted to see if there were any more signs or sightings. Unfortunately some young men were playing cricket right by the tree, and I didn't hold out much hope on seeing anything there today.
So my second nest site to visit after I arrived, was our newly found Great Spotted Woodpecker. Sure enough the male was drumming on a branch near to the hole. I didn't see him go back into the hole but Tony witnessed him excavating sawdust again, and later in the afternoon I saw both Mr and Mrs GSW on another branch on the same tree. Couldn't get any photos of that, but did get one of Mr GSW sunning himself this morning.
I met up with Tony and we had a quick walk around the Wrens and Green Woodpeckers nest sites. I re-visited the Wren nest several times during the day, but saw no action at all. Earlier in the morning Tony had watched a pair of Marmite Parakeets at the Green Woodpeckers nest hole entrance. One of them had sawdust on its beak, so it looks as if they've had a go at enlarging the hole, and maybe thinking of using it for their own nest. Luckily when we both went to check on the nest, Mr Green was back inside the hole, and regularly throwing out beak loads of sawdust. Late yesterday afternoon, Sue had also seen the Parakeets around the nest hole. So it looks like Mr Green has a problem on his hands and a battle to fight. The Battle of the Green Birds. No photos from me on either the Wrens or Green Woodpeckers nest sites today. As I said, I didn't see the Wrens, and I only saw Mr Greens beak, and I've already posted one bad photo of that on yesterdays blog.
Also no visible signs of the Kestrels, but I did hear them calling mid-afternoon and got a brief glimpse through the tree tops of a Kestrel mobbing a Buzzard. I'm hoping the lack of sightings is good news and that it means Mrs Kes is now on eggs. But these wonderful birds of prey have fooled me before, and may just prove me wrong. On April 19th last year, both the male and female were still being seen regularly, but that year we had a very cold and delayed winter, so a lot of Kestrels up and down the country nested later in the spring. This year its been relatively mild.
And no sign of the Stock Doves at their hollow again. Mrs SD could be inside on eggs, but despite checking on their tree regularly I found no sign of Mr SD.
Around midday Tony decided to head home. I was just heading back to the GSW nest when I spotted something perched in one of the tallest trees in the woods. A stonking large female Sparrowhawk. A quick phone call to Tony and luckily he was still in the car park and trotted on back. This may not be a big deal to some, but to us 'Cranford Birders' it is. To our knowledge the Sprawks are usually seen further down the North Meadow and wetland area near Cranford Lane, and not usually within Cranford Woods. Yet I've seen the female in the same area several times over the last week, and saw a male in the woods on the 26th February this year. So being as how I know very little about Sprawks, I had a 'google'. Some fascinating facts about them in this link RSPB guide to breeding Sparrowhawks. They can control their egg laying to coincide with when small birds have fledged, therefore ensuring a guaranteed easy meal. Plus each sighting I have had, has been quite close to the Kestrels supposed nest tree. As neither bird is really a threat to each other, I guess its a case of safety in raptor neighbours.
Not the greatest photo, but certainly the best view I've had of the female so far.
Elsewhere in the woods, more male Blackcaps were singing their hearts out. Managed to grab a couple of photos of two of them.
By the Wren nest site, a Chiffchaff has been regularly seen by all three of us, and today it didn't fail me.
After last Aprils sighting of the male Pied Flycatcher around the Headland area, Sue, Tony and myself have been regularly checking out this corner all of this month. No signs of the beautiful little migrant again, but if you want to see Buzzards, this seems to be the best place to see them clearly. Behind this area is a crop field with a large copse in the middle. Its off bounds and surrounded by barbed fencing, and from the entrance by the M4 bridge in Harlington, there's a sign saying Police dogs are often trained in the field. So its not a place any of us have tried investigating before. However all of our Buzzard sightings have confirmed the birds drift in from this area, do a short soaring circuit around the woods and then drift back. Today I was sitting on a bench near to that corner, when I heard the unmistakable 'mew' call of a Buzzard. Not one, not two, not three and not even four, but five Buzzards together soaring quite high. I couldn't get all five in one shot, but I did manage three.....
and just as I sat down again, another solitary Buzzard came over very low down.....
As the weather was so good today, there were plenty of insects around. Yesterday I posted photos of the Common Carder and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, so today was the turn of the Large Bee-fly (bombylius major). Everywhere I went I found these lovely little critters. So for two fascinating facts about them........females drop their eggs in flight and larvae develop as parasites within other bee and wasps nests.
And lastly, todays butterfly count. Eight species seen in all, but only six photographed. The elusive Brimstone yet again evaded me though I saw several flying around, and male Orange Tips were abundant but again no photos of either them nor the females.
Small Tortoiseshell
Speckled Wood
Holly Blue
another Holly Blue
my first Green-veined White of the year
and another Green-veined White
So another great day at the park and more to observe and learn about.

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