This is the life. Last Tuesday was another day off and what better way to spend a few hours free from work than a visit to Cranford Park?
With the clouds threatening imminent rain, it was a brief visit, but not without some interesting moments.
I started off at the River Crane again, hoping to catch up with the Little Grebes from my last visit. I had barely reached the end by the stone bridge when a glint of azure-blue caught my eye. Sitting, as they are prone to do, on some protruding branches in the middle of the river was a Kingfisher. Sadly, by the time I had brought the camera to bear, it was off again. I hoped, however, that this was a portent of things to come.
The Little Grebes were seen again, still very nervous and wary of any human activity along the bank. There were three seen this time so an improvement on my last visit, but still two less than Wendy and Sue have seen.
A busy, cheeping flock of Long-tailed Tits busied themselves in the trees along the bank as I made my way back towards to the stone bridge. Still keeping my eyes peeled for the Kingfisher, I saw something considerably larger just over the bridge, on the A312 side of the River Crane. My first thought was a deer of some kind, but no. A donkey. Now I’m no expert on the various equidae, but I am as sure as I can be that what I saw munching away was a donkey. How it got there I don’t know. Hopefully Wendy may be able to shed some light on this four-legged leaf muncher. All I know is when I returned to the same spot some 40 minutes later it was gone. How does something that size just appear and disappear without a trace?
Making my way down past the Memorial Garden there were around twenty or so more Long-tailed Tits and a noisy Wren or two among the trees. There was also an awful lot of noise coming from the large yew tree by St Dunstan’s church but try as I may there was not a single bird showing long enough for a positive i.d. The noises I could confirm were a mixture of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Song Thrush. It is likely that among these were either some Redwing or some Fieldfare but they all eluded the eye on this occasion.
My next area for exploration was the orchard running parallel to the M4. I was hoping the remaining apple trees and hawthorn here would attract some winter thrushes. Alas, no such luck with these birds but yet another flock of Long-tailed Tits were active here. As with the Memorial Garden, I also picked out two Wren among the greenery and a single Goldcrest that just moved as I was trying to focus in for a record shot. Along with the Firecrest, the Goldcrest is the UK’s smallest bird and is extremely flitty. So close, yet so far this time.
Parakeet continue to make their presence felt throughout the park, especially the woodland area. It was here I had sight of a single Grey Wagtail, moving along the tiny brook at the back of the woods.
Out into the headland and the open parkland and this Green Woodpecker was seen on the ground hunting for insects. As I approached it kindly perched itself on the tree protector and posed for some vanity shots.
I finished my circuit at the green bridge over the River Crane and sadly was witness to this dead fox on the river bank. It looked reasonably fresh and I could see no obvious cause of death. Perhaps it managed to crawl this far after being hit by traffic or is there something more sinister here? Our friend Wendy reported the corpse still present this weekend so it is likely the park authorities will have removed it by now.
After a morning of much exciting avian activity and a touch of mammalian mystery, this was a sad note to leave the park on.