Sunday, 18 January 2015

A Weasel and some other small things at Cranford Park today

I like to walk around Cranford Park with friends, but I also like to walk around on my own. I've been often known to find a suitable log in the middle of the woods and sit there alone for hours. By sitting in complete silence and as still as possible, I've seen some lovely sights over the years including a memorable afternoon last year watching a Wren build a nest just eight feet away from me and another day when a Green Woodpecker landed so close to me that my 300mm lens was too near to focus on the bird. There is something incredibly relaxing hidden deep in the woods and feeling almost invisible.
Today my plans were to meet up with Sue, but I arrived a couple of hours before her so I had my usual sit at one of my favourite places. My muted clothing and quietness soon bore results as a tiny Goldcrest emerged in front of me. After last weeks disastrous photos, I finally got one that I was pleased with.  

I moved round to another favourite area where there is a dip in the ground where a lot of small birds gather in the scrub. By standing almost behind a tree, the birds cannot see you. I was doing this when I caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye. At the base of the trunk of the next tree along a Robin flew away closely pursued by a tiny brown mammal. It was a Weasel and it quickly turned and went back behind the trunk.
Weasels really are small, around 15 centimetres in length. They have an excellent sense of smell but very very poor eyesight. As soon as I spotted it I stood stock still and waited for it to re-emerge, which it did. It looked around then came more and more out into the open. Luckily my Sony DSLR camera has a very quiet picture shooting mode, so I managed to fire off eleven photos before the Weasel decided to make a run for it across the open path I was on. Seconds later a dog emerged from the woods behind me, but I did get to spend a few lovely minutes alone with this rarely seen mammal and here are six of my eleven photos.....


This isn't the first time I've seen a Weasel at Cranford Park, I often glimpse them as they run across a path way but it's only the third time in ten years that I've managed to photograph one. Patience, stillness and quietness was what earned me my photos today.
I met up with Sue not long after and actually enjoyed her envy. We don't compete when taking photos, as we are good friends we like to share what we see, but I couldn't resist gloating a little bit today.
Together we make a good team. Two pairs of eyes are always better than one anyway. It didn't take us long to find an obliging Song Thrush all puffed up from the cold....
I didn't find any Meadow Pipits on my last visit so we made our way to their usual haunt, and managed to find nine, which is a good number for this time of year. Before we flushed them I managed to get two distant photos of three of the Mipits....

On the River Crane there was again no sign of the Little Egret nor of the Kingfishers. We found a hole in the bank that looks like a possible Kingfisher nest hole and will both monitor it over the next few months. From the iron bridge looking down to the stone bridge we spotted two of the Little Grebes but on getting closer we could only find one tucked under the overhanging foliage on the opposite bank. This one is still in full summer plumage, but the other one has much more duller brown feathers, which would indicate to me that it is in winter plumage.

Our Little Grebes are still very shy of humans and disappear if there any nearby. They rarely emerge if you stand on the river path and wait, so we have to hide behind one of the many scrubby bushes along the walk way.
Elsewhere in the park we had a Green Woodpecker flying over the open grass land, several calling Great Spotted Woodpeckers in Cranford Woods and by the river, lots of Woodpigeons, several Carrion Crows, many singing Robins, Wrens, Blue Tits and Great Tits, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, a couple of Dunnocks, several Blackbirds, a Kestrel flying in to one of the copses and many calling squawking marmite Parakeets.
We also watched a Jay exploring a tree high up who stopped to pose for us a couple of times....

By last years Wrens nest (which we discovered today has completely disappeared) some fine Stagshorn fungus was still clinging on despite the chilly weather.
So it was a very enjoyable few hours out and about my favourite patch. Jasper the bird-dog didn't join us today, he's not been very well this week so was left at home. Get well soon Jasper xx

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