Caps, Crests and Kestrels

I returned to Cranford Park today with Wendy and Sue. Our main mission was to try and locate our resident Kestrels and their nest and also to check progress on the other birds nesting progress.

I met Wendy first at the Wrens nest and as she went to check on the Green Woodpeckers nearby I kept watch. Unfortunately the Wren has located his nest very close to a path and footfall on a Saturday morning meant chances of too much activity were small.

I did manage to catch him popping out of the nest just the once though:


One of the benefits of sitting still in woods is that the wildlife seems to become accustomed to your presence. Whilst waiting for some Wren movement a Blackcap started singing almost on my shoulder.


Both Wendy and I had only seen male Blackcaps on our visits so far and the trend was continuing today with at least half a dozen seen or heard in the first half hour of our visit.


Wendy had bumped into two other birders who reported seeing at least one Reed Bunting at Cranford too. Neither of us have seen Reed Buntings here before but with the demise of nearby Lake Farm it could be that Cranford offers them an alternative location, despite it not being typical Reed Bunting habitat.

With Wendy seeking out Kestrels, I made my own way round to check on the Green Woodpecker hole. Both male and female had been seen earlier in the week and today there was at least one of the pair busying around the nesthole again.


Despite some harassment by Crows this hole now looks to have been established by the woodpeckers.


The Stock Doves seen in the penthouse suite mentioned last week were still around the tree too. It did look as if they had been usurped by Jackdaws though, they made no attempt made to use the open top of the tree and the crafty corvids were constantly in and around this spot.


I met Sue back at the Wrens nest where we had Great Spotted Woodpeckers over and around us, a very bold Robin still in the process of nest building and Chiffchaffs still eluding my cameras lense.

With Wendy somewhere in the woods still seeking out Kestrels we made for the River Crane to check for the Kingfishers. En route we were accosted by a very excited dog walker who described a raptor we had only just missed while in the woodland. From her detailed description it sounded as if she had seen a Merlin. The second time in as many weeks we have had a teasing glimpse of Britain’s smallest bird of prey.

With work being done on both bridges we ruled out seeing Kingfishers but finally managed a brief glimpse of a female Blackcap disappearing into some hawthorn and ivy with two males. This still makes the male to female ratio at around eight to one at Cranford so far though.

It was then thanks to Sue that I finally managed to get my first Chiffchaff of the spring.


Small and very mobile, their two-note song has been a constant at Cranford Park for the last few weeks now and has been one of the earliest of the spring migrants to arrive.

We finally met back up with Wendy in the woods who had spent most of the morning tracking the Kestrels. It seems a new nest location has been settled on. This one at the upper reaches of a fir tree. Due to the density of the foliage we were not able to spot a nest but had an awful lot of activity of both a male and female Kestrel during the morning.

The male was the most visible, seen here perched high on a dead tree next to the suspected nest location.


He is quite distinctive as he has sustained some minor damage to his tail.


Cranford has been home to more than one pair of Kestrels in the past and having a bird with this kind of identifying sign will help us keep an eye on their progress.

The female made several sorties out of the tree too, perching on adjacent trees and chasing off Crows. We would expect a clutch of eggs to be imminent at this time of year and if sightings of the female start to be less frequent hopefully it means some young in the near future.

Whilst monitoring the Kestrels we had constant calls from a tiny Goldcrest in the holly and ivy next to us. Notoriously difficult to see let alone photograph, the Goldcrest is Britain’s smallest bird. No more than 8.5 to 9.5 cm in length and weighing around 5 to 7 grams, their ideal habitat is conifers but they seem to like the holly and dense ivy that grows at Cranford.

Wendy and Sue managed some great shots of this tiny bird in what were pretty poor conditions and with a lot of twigs and branches in the way. My efforts are shown here as record shots rather than any stellar photography.



With darkening skies and subdued Kestrel activity we made our way out just after noon, making a check on last weeks other Stock Dove pair. They were both nestled next to each other by the nest hole we saw last weekend.


Unlike the Stock Doves by the Green Woodpecker hole, this pair seem to have staked their claim to this location now.

Nesting and courtship is now well under way at Cranford. Along with the above sightings also have seasonal activity from Blackbirds, Blue and Great Tits, Dunnock, Mallard and even the butterflies are increasing in both number and species.

Hopefully next weekend’s weather will be an improvement on tomorrow’s forecasted deluge.

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