Family Planning

Cranford Park has had our un-divided attention this weekend and has certainly delivered some interesting sightings.

A few hours on Saturday morning revealed Ring-necked Parakeets in and out of nest holes, Chiffchaffs uttering their two-note call all over the park, Green Woodpeckers “laughing” with regularity and squawking Jays chasing each other from tree-top to tree-top.

It also gave us the first Blackcap of the year, singing it’s heart out in search of a female:
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Deep in the woods I also had a very close encounter with a weasel. Hearing a commotion of small birds ahead of me, I followed the noise and saw a handful of Blue Tit, Great Tit and a single Wren bouncing around some old roots and undergrowth. They made away as I approached, leaving a small, thin brown creature to wend itself under the roots. The stripe of white on it’s underside making it easy to follow until it appeared to go underground. Next thing I know a small head appears less than five feet away from me from a small hole in the ground. A very inquisitive weasel! I had just got focus with the camera when the head disappeared into the hole from whence it came.

There was also no sign of the resident Kestrels’ at their nest. The only raptor seen was Cranford’s nailed-on Buzzard. Just the one today, being harangued by corvids as it circled low over the woodland.

Despite constant stalking I was unable to find a compliant Chiffchaff for the camera and a noisy Mistle Thrush also decided to resist my photographic charms in the car park as I left. Hopefully Sunday would bring better luck.

I met Wendy on Sunday morning at the Kestrel nest. The male was sitting just above the nest which as mentioned in previous posts, suggested the female was in the nest and hopefully on eggs.

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We later found the male on the far side of the park by the River Crane, presumably taking a pause from hunting.

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When we returned to the nest site later in the morning he was nowhere to be seen and a Wood Pigeon not only sat next to the nest but looked very much as if it sat in it. Despite witnessing breeding, food passes and territorial behaviour in recent weeks it looks as if the female may have decided another des res in the woods met her standards more than this site. This is the second year running where Kestrels have looked like using this nesting site, only to abandon it just when we would expect egg-laying to be happening.

There was plenty of other nest building happening throughout Cranford Park though. Wendy showed me a very low down Wren’s nest adjacent to one of the pathways and this Green Woodpecker who has been seen regularly tending to a nesting hole. He’s been competing with some aggressive Parakeets for this spot and looked to have gazumped them by mid-morning Sunday.

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The same tree was also being viewed by a pair of Stock Doves who seemed very interested in the penthouse suite. Just across the way from the Stock Doves we saw at least one Jackdaw moving in some soft furnishings to another high-rise hole.

One pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen mating and calls of others were heard regularly throughout the morning. We even had a brief moment of drumming as the UK’s most common woodpecker was seen and heard in good numbers.

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Blackcaps were both seen and heard in several locations on Sunday, suggesting that the solitary bird I saw on Saturday has now been joined by others. This male was very prominent along the River Crane, singing out for a mate and showing well.

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We found another possible Stock Dove nesting site later in the morning. Watching this bird investigate what we thought was not a hole, probing away and eventually easing inside the tree.

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A pair of Kingfishers were seen along the River Crane on Saturday and a single bird seen again Sunday. They are still quite flighty when people are nearby but a bit of patience usually brings a reward with these speedy and colourful birds. Wendy is convinced they are a young couple so fingers crossed that they will establish themselves as residents here.

There were plenty of signs of new life and future life throughout the park, Brimstone, Comma and Peacock butterflies were showing in reasonable numbers and Wendy and Sue (who joined us mid-morning) saw Red Admirals and at least one Holly Blue.

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Conditions were still damp enough for some interesting fungi to be seen too.

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Other birds seen or heard over the weekend not mentioned above were Great Tit (many), Blue Tit (many), Long-tailed Tit, Redwing (2), Magpie, Carrion Crow, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Goldcrest, Linnet, Dunnock, Robin, Skylark, Red Kite and a possible Merlin.

Saturday’s Mistle Thrush also managed to show just long enough in the overcast light for a few quick record shots.

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There are lots of positive signs for the coming weeks and we will attempt to update on all the nesting sites as the season moves on.

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