Monday, 28 December 2015

Another mild day at Cranford Park

I've been home bound for the last couple of days, and today I needed fresh air and a bit of exercise.
A trip to Cranford Park was what the doctor ordered.
It was incredibly mild again. The sun was out, birds were singing, and other parts of the park have been fooled into thinking spring has come early......
 
I found a patch of white dead-nettle in flower. They can tolerate cold weather but their usual flowering season is early March-early November. Either way this little patch is either late or early....
 
 
The old magnolia by the haha wall is in bud. This isn't necessarily early though, magnolias do tend to flower before most of our other spring flowering shrubs....
 
 
There were plenty of Robins singing and declaring their territories....

 
And the wild bee hive is still going strong. I got a better photo of it today. There are two distinct combs (bottom of the hollow) and the 'blob's in the middle of the hollow are Honey Bees....

 
More Ring-necked Parakeets are now in nesting holes. As I mentioned on my last blog post, this could be a good thing for our Woodpeckers. Hopefully the marmite parakeets will breed nice and early and evacuate the nest holes before the woodpeckers start breeding. As I also mentioned in my last post, both the parakeets and woodpeckers have survived side by side in Cranford Woods for several years now. There are plenty of old dead trees for both species to nest in....
 
 
The female below was in the nest hole to the right when I first walked past. On seeing me she came out and sat nearby....

 
The Great Spotted Woodpeckers were very active today. They were quite high in the trees which didn't bode well for any great photos, and several were calling. I even heard one drumming - a sound I normally hear in February and March......
 



 
By the iron bridge there were three GSWs all together at the top of one tree. I couldn't get a photo, too many twigs and branches in the way. Eventually one was chased off by the other two.
 
Amongst all of the singing birds I occasionally picked out a Goldcrest and was thrilled when one landed right in front of me. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the camera and only got a photo of it's bum as it started to fly off....
 
 
I saw lots of Redwings moving through the woods today, and heard a few Fieldfares, but failed to get photos of any of them. There are still lots of bushes with berries on them in the woods, including the Holly below....
 
 
Whilst there is still a good food supply the winter Thrushes will hang around, despite being frequently chased off by resident birds such as our Blackbirds and Robins.
 
I found some new fruiting fungi today (don't think I've ever said that in December before).
I think the one below is the starting of a new patch of Turkeys Tails.....

 
I have no idea what this one below is, but it wasn't there last week. It's growing half way up a small tree by the River Crane just before the iron bridge.....

 
and I think the one below is 'Orange Cup' fungi. It was very small and I had to use my macro lens to get a decent shot....
 
 
I checked the sites of some of the fungi I found on the 20th December.
The 'Candlesnuff' fungi has got a little taller.....

 
The brilliantly named 'Dead Mans Fingers' have grown some more digits....

 
and my favourite 'Stagshorn' has grown a bigger 'antler'.....
 
 
The beautifully marked 'Turkeys Tails' around the wood circle are expanding....


The water levels on the River Crane have dropped, and as predicted last week, the Little Grebe is back though I could only find one of them today and getting a photo meant staking it out for quite some time.....

 
Not only was the Grebe shy and elusive, so was the resident Little Egret. This was the only photo I could manage before a jogger spooked it and it flew out of view.....

 
I now have proof that the parks Grey Squirrels cannot read......!

 
It was a very pleasant couple of hours. Also seen but not photographed (along with the Redwings, Fieldfares and Goldcrests) were a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Grey Heron and Kingfisher. Not bad for a brief two hour visit.


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Is it really December ? Cranford Park today.....

I spent the mild morning a Cranford Park today. And it really was mild considering it's only five days away from Christmas.
First port of call as always was the wood circle to admire the ever growing 'turkey tails' fungi, and to share my breakfast with the resident Magpie....
 
 
 
 
 

 
Very near to the wood circle is an old pile of logs. During spring and summer they're hidden from view by vegetation but during winter it can be seen clearly.
The logs were smothered in fungi, probably all honey fungus (I'm not that great at fungi id).
 
 
 
 
My photos don't do it justice, so I've had a go at taking a short minute video clip on my iPhone....
Hope the link works, and it might be better to view from a laptop or pc rather than a smart phone.
 
 
 
I've never seen so much fungi in December before.
 
Deeper in the woods I even found a small clump of  'Yellow Stagshorn'......
 
 
some 'Dead Mans Fingers'......

 
I even found a small clump of 'Candlesnuff' fungi......

 
and I think the one below is Oyster Mushroom.....
 
 
Along the River Crane there was no sign of the Little Grebes. The water level is quite high and they wont like that. They like the level to be lower so they can hide under the overhanging vegetation. No doubt they will be back when the water drops.
 
The Little Egret was in the usual place by the M4 viaduct along with a couple of Mallards....
 
 
It is very nervous of people and dogs and soon got scared away when I got too close. It circled over the river and settled back once I'd left....

 
The mild weather is confusing the Ring-necked Parakeets. It's generally several weeks too early for them to be thinking about nesting, but there were lots of squabbling noisy birds today and lots of them checking out potential nest holes....
 



 
In a way this might be a good thing as it will mean their nesting season will be over before the Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers start theirs. There have been many studies on whether Ring-necked Parakeets are responsible for the decline of woodpeckers but strangely enough all three birds seem to survive alongside each other in the woods.
 Green Woodpeckers tend to use the same nest hole every year and I have witnessed the occasional battle of the green birds, but the woodpeckers do tend to win the fight. 
Great Spotted Woodpeckers use the same nest hole every second year and their hole is a little smaller than the Green Woodpeckers. Most parakeets are to lazy to bother with enlarging the hole, so these nest sites rarely get raided.
There are plenty of old dead trees around with crevices large enough for the parakeets and that's where they tend to go. The biggest gathering of these noisy but colourful birds are the woods nearest to the Headland area, an area also frequented by the Jackdaws.
 
The oaks in front of the burnt out Information Centre is a popular area for the Grey Squirrels to find acorns or chestnuts and bury them, and today I watched five clever Jays go round after the squirrels and dig up their buried treasure......
 

 
The last surprise for my mild December visit was finding the wild bee hive that we discovered back in the summer, is still there ! And there were still Honey Bees going in and out.
The hive was built in a tree hollow. I check the hollow regularly as Stock Doves nested in there a few years ago.
My photos aren't too clear as the hollow is a bit higher up than my camera focus would like, but I got two photos this morning from slightly different angles and you can just see the honeycomb inside the hollow. The second photo shows how far back the honeycomb stretches. The honeycomb is the yellow stuff, the black stuff above it is the remains of yet another fungi.....
 

 
I couldn't find any flowering plants so what are the bees feeding on ? There's still some ivy in flower but most of that has gone over now.
I answered my own question when I went back to the wood circle for a cup of coffee.
My old flask is covered in a flower print, and it attracted a solo bee......


 
which soon realised the flowers were fake and settled instead for a sip of my sweet coffee.....

 
and walking back to the car park I noticed a few more bees going in and out of the bin.
They're getting their nectar from the drinks cans, cups and bottles......


 
The bees should be hibernating now, but it's been so mild that the hive is still active. The other hive that I know of above the Secret Garden, also had a few bees going in and out. It's quite incredible to realise they are probably surviving because of our litter.
 
And to top it all Edwina from the Cranford Park Friends group spotted not one, but two Hedgehogs on her early morning dog walk today. The ground is still so soft that the Hedgehogs are still getting to pick out juicy worms and eat fallen berries.
Just a little foot note though - to see a Hedgehog in the very early morning or early evening is quite normal (though a little unusual in December) but if you do see one out and about in the day, it's not normal and means the Hedgie is probably in trouble. Best thing to do is scoop it up, get it into a secure cardboard box and contact one of the many wildlife rescue centres. Do not give it milk or bread, if you have to feed it give it dried meat cat biscuits.
 
My next visit wont be until after Christmas now. Will it still be mild ? Will I need to wear more than one layer ? Will I ever get the chance to take some wintry photos of the park ? Who knows, but I bet it wont be a white Christmas.
 
So just one last thing to say.....
 
Happy Christmas to all of you from Wino Wendy's Wildlife World

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Monthly visit to Maple Lodge and a brief clip from Mum's garden

This weekend I was off to the nearest nature reserve to my Mum's so I could go round hers afterwards and spend the night. It's been six weeks since she had major life changing surgery, and recovery seemed to be two steps forward and three steps back, but after her most recent week long stay in hospital she does finally appear to be on the mend and becoming more and more like her old self.
 I can vouch for that as she's started nagging again ! Normality resumes....
 
The nearest reserve to Mum is the wonderful private Maple Lodge in Maple Cross, Hertfordshire.
 Mum and I became members back in May after an Open Day and I've visited once a month since then. Don't get me wrong, I love my home patch, Cranford Park, and the other places that I visit regularly, but at Maple Lodge you often get the feeling it is just you and nature, and that's often the case too. Occasionally I have been completely alone on the reserve and it felt exhilarating.
Maple Lodge really is a beautiful gem of a place and I always look forward to my visits there.
 
Saturdays weather forecast wasn't great, but at Maple Lodge there are several hides to shelter you from the rain and wind so it wasn't as if I was going to be exposed to the elements like I would be at Cranford Park.
 
From the Club House Hide, there were at least 10 Shovellers a-shovelling and a pair drifted in closer for a photo call......
 
 
There was also an unusually marked male Mallard....

 
He wasn't outcast though and was mingling happily with other males and females.
 
The usual Rabbit hopped into view......

 
and one of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers refused to come out from behind one of the feeders for a better look.....

 
This was a male, and I heard the other one before I saw it. The male on the feeder shot off when he heard the other one too, so there's probably a bit of a territorial ongoing dispute over the feeder patch at the moment.
 
As always the Grey Squirrels are 100% guaranteed to be hanging around...

 
In between the drizzly rain I managed to visit all of the hides on Saturday (except the closed Long Hedge Hide) and despite the weather there were still plenty of birds to be seen.
The path parallel to the farmers field gave me views of Red Kite, Buzzard, Greylag Geese, many Blackbirds, and a large mixed flock of around c20 Long-tailed Tits, c10 Blue Tits, c10 Great Tits, 3 Goldcrests and this Treecreper below.....
 
 

 
Even though I was only about 8 feet away from the Treecreeper it was still really hard to get a good photograph. They move so fast.
 
From the path by the owl box meadow I could see a large flock of Canada Geese and amongst them was one with very different face markings to the others (bird on the right below).....

 
Another place I visit often is Kensington Gardens where the Canada Geese there often show different head markings. Normally it is because they have inter-bred with another goose species, generally a Greylag.
 
From the Lynster Hide I couldn't see the unusually marked Canada Goose, but in amongst the others gathering at the waters edge were at least three Eurasian Wigeon.....

 
There was also a good sized flock of around 25 Pied Wagtail flitting from muddy patch to muddy patch. They were hard to count and even harder to photograph but I did fleetingly think I saw a Grey Wagtail amongst them. There was also a solo Redwing feeding right at the back of the field.
 
The Greylag Geese were keeping to one end of the farmers fields and the Canada Geese were sticking to the end nearest the water, but mixing amongst the Canadas was one solo Greylag that really didn't look too good.....
 
 
It eventually came quite close to the hide and appears to be eating quite normally, but there is definitely something very wrong with it's wing.....

 
Sadly I don't think the outcome for this particular bird looks good. If it cant fly it will become prey to one of the predators. As much as I would have liked to have helped, this bird wasn't even on Maple Lodge land, it was on the farmers field and access for me would have been impossible. However I have sent this photo and the location to a local Swan sanctuary (that often rescue geese and ducks), and am awaiting to hear from them.
 
As mentioned earlier the Long Hedge Hide is closed for renovations to the entrance ramp. From the Shell Hide I could see the resident Little Egret was taking full advantage of this and was positioned almost directly by it......

 
He's that white blob on the left hand side, preening peacefully in the drizzle.
 
The mild December weather means there are still several fruiting bodies of fungi around.
These tiny 'jelly ears' are the same that I saw on my last visit, but have expanded quite a bit.

 
Again as mentioned earlier, there were several mixed flocks moving around the reserve.
Along the path going from the Woodshed to the Club House I found more Goldcrests mixing in with Blue and Great Tits. These ones were much more relaxed, and the one particular bird below sat in the same place for over four minutes and despite me desperately shoe shuffling trying to get the best angle in between the twigs, it was the overcast weather that really let me down. All of my photos were coming out in silhouette, so this one shot has been considerably lightened....

 
There was also a Chiffchaff amongst the same flock. I doubted my own sighting until Dave Simms showed me other recent entries in the Bird Sightings log.
 
Another Goldcrest just by the door to the Club House almost made me drop my camera. For one second I thought I had a Firecrest, and you can see from the pic below why I fleetingly thought that......but it was just a male Goldcrest with his end 'crest' tinged by orange which I'd seen as it had flown away.....

 
This is my second visit that I've seen a Goldcrest so near to the rear door of the Club House. This male is obviously preferring this little patch of hedge.
 
So another enjoyable monthly visit to Maple Lodge.
I cannot praise the reserve enough. It's well maintained in the name of nature. There are regular weekly work parties and if I lived nearer I would be one of them.
I always enjoy my visits here.
 
For any of my non-member local friends, I can take two visitors to the reserve on my membership. There are certain rules and regulations, but they are more common sense than anything else. Feel free to contact me if you would like to see more of Maple Lodge when I next visit in January.
 
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Briefly back to my trail cam and the problems I had with it last weekend.......it was human error. Somehow I had ducked up the settings. We tried it briefly this morning in Mum's back garden, and although it wasn't left up long enough to capture any of the garden birds drinking or bathing in the terracotta pool, and despite the trail cam being moved by Mum so she could access the bottom of the garden, it did capture the resident male Sparrowhawk flying off after an unsuccessful hunt through next doors garden.
I was actually just outside Mum's conservatory at 11.20 this morning and saw the Sprawk fly up next doors garden, across Mum's garden and down the other neighbours garden.
 
The trail cam managed to pick it up flying over the neighbours at 11.20 and 59 seconds.........

video
 
I've also been reliably informed that if you view my blog on your smart phone, the video clips aren't always compatible. However if you read my blog from your laptop or pc, the vid clips are 100% viewable.