At 6.30am this morning I was at Cranford Park.
Initially I hoped my early start might get me a glimpse of one of the Muntjac, but despite starting my walk at the Northern Meadow (aka the Watersplash) by The Crane pub, and following the nature trail and also investigating the orchard in the walled garden, I saw no Muntjacs at all though there were plenty of tracks to taunt me.
I shared my breakfast with the usual pair of Robins at the wood circle.
We had quite a feast today - cheese, raisins and bread pudding. And I finally managed to photograph both Robins in the same frame.........now all I've got to achieve is to get them BOTH in focus !
At lunchtime I went back and put out some more raisins and was joined by a Grey Squirrel. I had to sit completely still to get this shot, any movement from me and he/she was off.....It took five attempts and just over an hour of my patience to finally get this photo....
It was a beautiful morning. There wasn't a cloud in the sky until about 11am. But it was bitterly cold. I regretted not wearing gloves today ! Very hard to believe it's going to be May in a few days.
There were plenty of birds to see, but with cold hands I found it very difficult to handle my camera, so not many good shots from this mornings visit.
There were two male Blackcaps chasing each other around, and this was the best I could do.....
The Common Whitethroats in the Headland area were being as un-obliging as they were two days ago......
There was a male Linnet singing from exactly the same bramble patch as the one that Sue and I watched a couple of days ago.........and his missus could just be seen in the thorny tangle below.
A new nest site ? It's certainly looking that way.
Even he was proving difficult to photograph with the sun directly in my eyes....
In the woods I neither saw nor heard the Buzzards. But there were plenty of Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Ring-necked Marmites (aka Parakeets) to watch.
I even saw a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers mating but by the time I lifted my camera the show was over and they flew off together calling.
Martin's Wren nest was still active this morning. There was a singing male right near it a few times today, and more bringing in of feathers.
There was a Stock Dove sitting alone in the woods by the Bluebell Dell, and he didn't seem to mind me shuffling around the woodland floor trying to get a good angle of him. Normally our Stock Doves are pretty shy and flighty.
These under estimated birds are cousins of the usual feral Pigeons, which we don't see many of at Cranford Park. Stock Doves are much more appealing with that wonderful black beady eye and the beautiful green hued patches on the back of their necks.......
We are fairly lucky that they breed in Cranford Woods along with it's other cousins, the pretty Collared Dove and the stocky Wood Pigeon.
Stock Doves aren't yet a protected species but they are still on the 'amber list' of conservation concern.
Several times today I saw the now resident Mistle Thrushes at the wood circle take on the Magpies. If a Magpie got too close to the Thrushes nest tree, they would shoot out and attack the bigger bird. All of this happened way too fast for me to even think about lifting my camera but at one point two Mistle Thrushes actually managed to ground one of the Magpies. It stayed on the deck for a while before finally flying off. I think it's pride was more hurt than anything else.
On the other side of the clearing there was the much more serene scenario of a Song Thrush with a muddy beak.....
I found two new wild flowers this morning.
The beautiful charming Cuckoo Flowers have started blooming. Also known as Lady's Smock (Cardamine pretensis) it likes damp grasslands, woods, ditches and pond edges. It flowers April-June and Orange-tipped Butterflies are particularly drawn to it. Their caterpillars feed on the plant..
In folklore the plant was said to be sacred to the fairies and therefore it was considered unlucky to bring flowers indoors. In the old days the leaves were used as a substitute for watercress.
I found a couple of specimens around the woods, but the biggest stronghold was in St Dunstans churchyard.....
The other wildflower I found was a nice, but small, patch of Wild Garlic. Also known as Ramsons (Allium ursinum) it flowers March-June in damp woodland and riverbanks. The whole of the plant (stems, leaves and flowers) is edible. It's much more mellow in flavour than the more common garlic and is often used by gourmet chefs for its fragrant flavour. Some First World War soldiers used the plant as an antiseptic. I only found the one small clump this morning, but it spreads easily so hopefully next year there will be more of it......
By lunchtime the temperature had risen enough to tempt out some hoverflies, but it was still quite cold and as I'm writing this there are news reports that snow fell in London and Slough today (!!!!!).
I also briefly saw two butterflies on the wing, a Speckled Wood and a Green-veined White, but it was too cold for either to settle for a photo call.
Back to the hoverflies - boring subject for some I know - but I find these tiny harmless critters quite charming.
First up is Syrphus vitripennis, a little widdy one less than a centimetre long. It's quite widespread and is a common visitor to garden flowers in mid Summer.
Number two is Eristalis pertinax, a little bigger than the other one. Again this species is widespread and occurs almost everywhere across the UK. It is one of the first species to be seen in Spring.....
The sun also bought out a couple of other critters.
This is a Dock Bug....
and this is an Earwig burrowing in a dandelion....
A very enjoyable sunny start to the day with seven hours nature watching and 13,200 steps clocked up on my Fitbit before 1pm .
I only came home because whatever pollen is out at the moment started my eyes streaming and produced several bouts of sneezing. Hay Fever. Great. Not.
But I still have two days before I go back to work on Friday, and the forecast is for two more fairly dry days albeit still being chilly. The gloves have been pre-packed in preparation.