I've been quite poorly the last two weeks so haven't been out anywhere to blog about, and this morning I slept in late so I didn't think I'd make it out today either. But the skies were so blue and inspired by both Bob Barton mentioning he had seen two Kingfishers and Sue mentioning she had seen two Little Egrets, all at Cranford Park, I decided to make the effort and spend a couple of hours there this afternoon.
Even though the sun had melted away most of the frost, it was still very cold and pockets of fallen leaves in the shade were still heavily coated.
It was straight to the River Crane on arrival. I've never seen a Little Egret at Cranford Park before, so was determined to get at least one of the birds on camera. Sue had spotted two Little Egrets this morning, but I could only find one. It was easy to spot. Little Egrets are a little smaller than our usual park visitor, the Grey Heron, and they feed in the same manner. Just like Grey Herons, Little Egrets are as comfortable perched in a tree as they are fishing in the river. Of course, the bird being all white made it even easier to find quickly. However trying to photograph the bird was a little trickier. It was very wary and twice flew off when I got too near. Finally after approaching very slowly and quietly, and using tree trunks and shrubs as cover, I managed to get a few shots.
Now the water levels have dropped on the river, the Little Grebes have re-appeared. I found two today. They seem to be more accepting of unusual silhouettes on the bank (ie myself) than they were when they first appeared over a year ago, but they still prefer the shady parts of the river which doesn't make for good photos. One of the grebes is in full winter plumage, the dull browns shown in my first photo, but the other bird has still got the more colourful rusty feathers and visible 'gape' of a summer plumage bird as seen in my second photo.
The resident marmite Parakeets were looking stunning against the clear blue skies, but were as noisy as always.
Below, the bird on the left is a male with the visible ring around his neck, and the bird on the right is the female with no ring around her neck.
But the stars of todays visit were the Kingfishers. As mentioned earlier, Bob had reported during the week that he had seen two Kingfishers flying between the iron bridge and the stone bridge. We've known there has been a resident pair again for the last two years, but seeing both birds is unusual and although I have suspicions as to where their nest hole is, I still haven't been able to confirm it. In the past I have often had guaranteed sightings of at least one of the birds by standing on the stone bridge and looking up and down the river from both sides. Today I didn't have to do that. Both the male and female Kingfishers were incredibly active, and just by standing still on the river path way, I was treated to some exceptional views. The dying down vegetation obviously helped with the sightings, but even then most of my photos aren't that great. Just like the Little Grebes, the Kingfishers seemed to prefer perching in the shadier areas of the river bank, which doesn't always bode well when trying to photograph them.
It's not very clear in my photos below but the male Kingfisher has an all black coloured bill, whilst the female has a red base lower bill (called a mandible in 'birdy' language).
It was whilst I was staking out the river bank that I bumped into Sheila from the Cranford Park Friends Facebook group, and just as she was saying she had never seen a Kingfisher at the park we were treated to both of the birds flying past us and then further treated to the male flying back and perching on a twig right opposite to where we were standing.
I think I can speak for the both of us when I say seeing these beautiful little birds, really did make our day.
My afternoon outing was completed by the glorious sun setting over Heathrow as I left the park....
Just so very pleased I made myself go out after all.........