Usually a weekend of predicted bright, clear and dry weather would involve me getting up around 5 or 6am and heading straight for Otmoor. For several reasons, this weekend was strictly a local affair and a pretty rewarding one at that.
Friday bought news of a rarity almost on my doorstep; there was an unexpected visitor at Cranford Park, meaning the alarm clock was set for Saturday morning.
The first hour at Cranford was giving me cause for concern, no birders, no twitchers, no rarity. A few Blackcap and a Whitethroat on the way were reassuring though. I headed for the Ancient Woodland, mainly to see if I could spot any Green Woodpeckers. No luck here either, but while checking the holes used last year on a dead tree, I did catch this lovely female Kestrel:
She was pretty fixed steadfast on the tree and I learned later from my friend Wendy that this is either a potential nesting site or a food-store, as she had seen a male Kestrel here too.
I headed back out of the woods to the Headland where there was finally another birder, also on the look-out for the unexpected visitor. Again we were out of luck. It was then I spied Wendy who pointed out, finally, what I had given up Otmoor for:
My first Pied Flycatcher. The warmer temperatures of the week had brought in a huge amount of overdue migrants to the UK and this bird was among them. Pied Flycatchers are usually only found in the UK between April and October and they tend to prefer the western half of the country, Wales and the North-West specifically.
I think the late arrival of Spring and the abundance of foliage and insects made Cranford Park a comfortable overnight stay on his journey west.
Surprisingly few birders had arrived by late morning and my time was up as I had to attend a meeting with regards to the future of Lake Farm Country Park.
It seems the initial plans to build on part of Lake Farm are going to go ahead, the new fear is of expanding the building into more of this Greenbelt site. A second fight is on our hands and I hope my posts show many reasons why Lake Farm needs to be preserved.
Sunday morning and I could not resist the chance to see if the Pied Flycatcher had stayed another night at Cranford Park. I was the first one but no sign. A clear warm night would have been a perfect opportunity for him to head to his normal breeding ground after fueling up in West London.
I did have a Jay creating an awful noise right above my head:
Also among the Blackcaps, Crows, Parakeets and Great Tits were Chiffchaff:
This attention seeking Robin:
A photgraphically elusive Long-Tailed Tit:
And one of many Whitethroat:
Also seen was a Redstart and a Buzzard being mobbed by Crows.
With so much encouraging activity I popped over to Lake Farm too.
Skylarks where heard in the long grass and Reed Buntings seemed everywhere today. Whitethroat were also present.
Highlight of this short visit was courtesy of a loudly drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. His hammering of a tree was impossible to miss and I managed a few shots of him in action (definitely a male due to the red patch on the neck).
Next week I hope to report from a new location with a visit to the other half of Team Sausage.