In the space of a week there was a noticeable change seen at Cranford Park and most of it was represented by the colour green.
Where last week saw winter’s bare branches and twigs still starkly present, blossom, leaves and buds were now present. Flat and barren pathways were now starting to over-grow with grass and hawthorn branches and a carpet of bluebells has sprouted throughout the woodland.
Most of our nest sites were showing signs of increased activity too. With Sue, Wendy and I all paying visits to Cranford Park we have been able to keep a fairly regular eye on the spring action. The Wren nest had actually changed shape since last seen, sagging to one side as if weighed down. Sightings over the week had been sporadic but on Sunday I was able to see one bird taking feathers and soft material into the nest. This is hopefully a sign that the nest is being lined for use. Unfortunately the nest is becoming harder to observe from the “viewing log” due to the new growth just in front of it.
The Green Woodpecker hole held the most interest for me this weekend. Saturday saw the male continuing to work on the hole with great diligence. When I checked on Sunday though, two Ring-necked Parakeets were taking a very strong interest in this high-rise des res.
The pair started by perching a few branches away and looking around furtively for signs of the male Greenie. With the coast clear one of them landed just beneath the hole, poking his head in several times, probably to make sure a sharp woodpecker bill wasn’t about to defend the territory.
With the coast clear, the first Parakeet then began to make his own alterations to the hole the woodpecker has been working on. It looked as if the Parakeets were intent on making the hole a little bigger than it’s current size. The red bill of the Parakeet was chipping away at the edge of the hole, stripping off bark and sending sprays of sawdust earthwards.
It was very interesting watching them work away, stopping with regularity and looking around to see if the Green Woodpecker was near. They clearly knew they were stealing another birds nesting spot and their regular furtive glances made them look very guilty indeed. The other bird soon joined in, one would gnaw and work away at the hole, the other acting as look out.
After some ten minutes or so of this attempted “breaking and entering” the male Green Woodpecker flew in from nowhere, shooing the Parakeets off and inspecting the changes they had attempted to make. I returned later with Wendy and he had ensconced himself in the hole, sending more sawdust flying out at regular intervals.
The Kestrels were very quiet this weekend. The male was seen only occasionally and no sign of the female. We hope this is a strong sign she is on eggs now. When the male was seen there were a few calls and what appeared to be food passes. The suspected nest is located very high in up in a fir and viewing is tricky to say the least. We may have to play the waiting game now.
Sunday’s sun and warm temperature saw a noticeable increase in the parks butterflies. There is still a lack of flowering plants at the moment and they are constantly on the move, searching for somewhere to pollinate which makes decent pictures hard to come by. I did manage my first Orange Tip pictures though.
Back to the birds again, and Wendy located a Great Spotted Woodpecker hole on Saturday. We saw both a male working away and a female arrive to investigate the potential nest site withing a few minutes of each other.
On Sunday morning I was able to watch the male expelling sawdust from within the hole as he continued to make it welcoming for a mate. Wendy witnessed him drumming on the tree on Sunday too and with a female looking interested on Saturday this is another nesting spot to keep a close eye on in the coming months.
Our previously mentioned Stock Doves were nowhere to be seen over the weekend. However Wendy witnessed the female near the nesting hole during the week and we hope this means she is now sitting on eggs within the tree.
Male Blackcaps are still showing and singing throughout Cranford Park and females remain elusive. Alarm calls from Wrens and Blackbirds are also being heard with great regularity as you make your way through the woodland. Chiffchaff are starting be seen in specific areas too as they establish territory ready for nesting.
I had one Buzzard over low on Saturday morning, two on Sunday morning and Wendy had five later on Sunday afternoon. The Buzzards seem to come from an area next to Cranford Park towards Harlington and never seem to stray further than the area of the park adjacent to the M4.
There was no sign of the Kingsfishers on Saturday when I paid a short visit to the River Crane side of the park but there was a Muntjac deer seen on the very edge of the park next to the A312, another first for me. Also seen across both days were plenty of displaying Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits with nesting material. Dunnocks, Goldcrest and Skylarks were regularly heard and occasionally spotted, Crows, Jays, Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw were also seen along with several Robins and at least one Mistle Thrush. Sue had a fleeting glance of the resident Little Owl on Saturday afternoon too but I think quieter week days may be the best time to try and spot them.
I left Wendy around noon on Sunday and was about to start my engine and head for home when she called me back with an exciting sighting. High up on a tree just ahead of where we had been talking was a big, fierce looking female Sparrowhawk. Both Wendy and Sue have had Sparrowhawk sightings at Cranford before but this was my first and a perfect way to sign off from Cranford Park for a week or so.