Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Cranford Park Mipits

Firstly, following on from yesterdays successful day photographing Adders, I sent one of my photos and a link to yesterdays blog post, to the ARG UK group (Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK), and received this nice reply......

"Thanks for your photo.

Please record your sighting here:

There is a lot of very useful information on photographing adders here:

Please do share. Not everyone is as conscious of the need not to disturb adders so we are trying to spread the word!

We have heard some awful stories about large numbers of photographers queuing up to photograph adders, moving animals, getting very close for macro shots and trampling hibernacula which is all very worrying.

Thanks again."

I've also been asked by my biggest critic, my Mum, to explain how big Adders are.  Fully grown adult male Adders are around 60cm in length, with fully grown females around 90cm in length. New born Adders are small, just 10cm long.
So I hope that clears up any misconception that Adders are huge, because they're not.
Back to today. I spent a pleasant few hours at Cranford Park this morning. As always my first port of call was the outdoor classroom, or wood ring as I like to call it. I generally sit here for a while taking in the sounds and sights before deciding where to go next. Just like last week one of the first birds I saw was a stunning Stock Dove perched in almost exactly the same place......
From there I strolled through the woods until I reached the Headland area. Last week there were a pair of Stonechats here but there was no sign of them this morning, which is a bit of a shame.
From there I went looking for the Meadow Pipits, or Mipits as they are commonly called in the birdy world. Luckily at Cranford Park we have Mipits with us all year round and numbers grow here in the winter when birds from 'oop north' come down south to enjoy the milder climate. Generally across the UK numbers have been in decline since the 1970s and the bird remains on the amber list of conservation concern.
Mipits are small brown birds, similar in appearance to a Song Thrush but only the size of a Great Tit. At this time of year the birds are starting to squabble amongst themselves and pair up. Nesting usually begins in April, the nest always being well concealed and invariably upon the ground, frequently half hidden by coarse grasses. The eggs are incubated by the female for a period of about 13 to 15 days. The nestlings are fed by both parents on insects and when they are able to leave the nest in a further 12-14 days, they remain near to their home feeding on insects or small seeds and may join flocks with other with others of their kind or even wagtails.
We are incredibly lucky to have both Mipits and Skylarks breed at Cranford Park and therefore we need to look out for them. Grassy paths are kept short from now on, leaving great swathes of longer meadow grasses for the Mipits and Skylarks to nest in. So please stick to the mown grass paths.
 I saw some other birdwatchers whilst I was out this morning, and its great to know Cranford Park is becoming well known for its wildlife, but I was quite dismayed to see one of them heavily tromping across the Mipits area and not sticking to the grass path. If he had done that next month he could have seriously damaged a Mipit or Skylark nest.
I managed to get some photos of the Mipits this morning by standing on the grass paths, just to prove you don't need to tromp across their breeding area to get a good look.....

A shrubby tree with five Mipits
Mingling with the Mipits are a pair of Skylarks. Last week I only saw two as well, and I'm hoping some more will join them. Only a couple of briefly taken photos of the Skylarks today. When they are in courting mode, they're either chasing each other around, doing acrobatic flying dancing or are hunkered down in the coarse grasses....

I met up with Sue briefly and compared notes. I had seen a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, and Sue had seen a pair of Buzzards. Also seen today and not photographed were two Kingfishers sitting together (nice to see them back) and Eagle-eyed Sue spotted our first Chiffchaff of the year, both birds by the River Crane.
and I had another warm greeting from Jasper the bird-dog....
So a pleasant few hours. I'm not going to be able to visit for the next two weekends so it will be interesting to see how much has changed when I next pop down.

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