Saturday, 3 May 2014

Goody Woody news from Cranford Park

With glorious weather forecast I was itching to get back down to Cranford Park to see how things are progressing.
The Great Tits nesting in front of the Information Centre now have chicks. Several times I watched the adult birds carrying the fecal (or faecal) sac away from the nest. This is the little white bag of poop from the nestlings. Both adult birds were very busy bringing in food. One of them has found an easy source of tiny insects, the front of the information centre under the awnings, around the exterior light and in all the brick cracks and crannys.
There was no sign of any action at the Stock Dove hollow, and the Wren nest appears to have sustained some damage to the bottom of it. I'll keep on checking both sites though, you never know, we might have a pleasant surprise one day.
Around the Headland area I found a Common Whitethroat foraging for food......
a Chiffchaff singing nearby.....
and after seeing two distant soaring Buzzards, a Red Kite came over low....
By the river there was again no sign of any Kingfishers, though I did find a new nest site, a Mallard. She's nested quite close to the bank and I've frequently seen Weasels in the very same area, so I'm not confident this nest will survive.
So back to the Goody Woodys. Before I was joined by Tony and Sue, I'd gone to the Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest tree. I could see the male on a nearby tree preening. He then flew to the nest hole and the female flew out, chasing him away before returning, having a preen herself then going back into the nest hole. This is great news as it confirms we definitely have a pair. I hung around for over 40 minutes and the female didn't come back out, so I'm hoping it means she is incubating eggs. This is 100% the same female that I've seen at the same tree and the same bird the male mated with, and how do I know ? She has a ring on her right leg.
 Both sexes incubate the clutch of eggs that take about two weeks days to hatch. According to some websites I've been reading, egg laying begins mid May, but two websites state egg laying begins mid April. So either way it is certainly looking good for the Cranford Park GSWs. The photo below is of the female (note the leg ring - which I've still been unable to read), and just before I left the park today, Sue and I observed the male go into the nest hole, and he didn't reappear whilst we waited.
Early afternoon found Tony, Sue and myself at the Green Woodpecker tree. From the view point down 'Chestnut Avenue' we could clearly see two Woodpeckers on the trunk below the nest hole. That vantage point is only really good in the morning before the sun comes over, so we raced around to the log viewing point to get a better view.
 Now this is where having more than one pair of eyes comes in handy sometimes. As Sue and I focused on the two Woodpeckers on the trunk, Tony focused on the nest hole. The two Woodys on the trunk turned out to be both male. As they crept down, they were mirroring each others actions, trying to stare around the trunk, bobbing their heads and flexing their tails. The afternoon light didn't help when trying to take photos, so my photo below has been heavily lightened for this record shot. After both males stared each other out, one eventually flew off. But what Tony had observed, was a third Woodpecker watching all the events from the safety of the nest hole. Our female ! She's the beak silhouette in my second heavily lightened photo below.
According to the various websites  I've studied, Green Woodpeckers lay their eggs between April and May. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs and they hatch about three weeks after being laid.
So great 'egg-citement' about both of our Woodpeckers today, with confirmation that both of the nest sites are active with females present and seen.
Butterflies seen on site today included Speckled Wood....
Green-veined White......
Holly Blue......
and my first Small Copper of the year.......
The only one of our confirmed nesting birds that I haven't mentioned today is our Kestrels. Tony and I caught a very brief glimpse of one flying into one of the tallest trees in the Ice House copse, but we were unable to locate it to confirm if it was the male or female.
According to my blog, the last time I saw our female was April 6th. I've seen the male often since then and I've frequently heard both of them calling. As I am obsessed by them, I have been following reports of other Kestrels nesting around England. Simon King has a webcam showing the interior and exterior of the nest box his Kestrels have taken to. So far they haven't yet laid eggs, but I remember in 2013 that his Kestrels nested quite a few weeks after the others that I was observing.
Aston University in Birmingham, has been home to Kestrels for nearly thirty years. Four years ago they installed a webcam, and have been able to accurately observe the following laying and hatching of the first eggs.
2010 - first egg laid 6th April, hatched 12th May
2011 - first egg laid 5th April, hatched 12th May
2012 - first egg laid 2nd April, hatched 24th April
2013 - first egg laid 24th April, hatched 27th May
2013 was the year we had a very cold and wet start to Spring, hence most Kestrels around the country nested later than usual. The Cranford Park Kestrels were still being seen on the 20th April last year.
I have attached links below to some of the webcams I have been observing, including another one from Simon King, of a Wrens nest. As it seems unlikely our Cranford Park Wren nest is going to succeed, we might as well take a look at what could be happening.

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