Chatting About An Indian Summer

Finally time to blog! It has been a hectic few weeks at work and time to indulge in documenting the sights and happenings of our local patches have been almost non-existent. We have still been able to find time to observe the comings and goings at both Cranford Park and Lake Farm, so this is something of an omnibus edition.

Sunday September 14th was a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day at Cranford and I was greeted on arrival by this very docile young rabbit.

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A passing dog-walker was even able to let his dog almost touch noses with the rabbit before it slowly made it’s way into the long grass. The dog walker explained that it was likely the rabbit was suffering from mixamatosis and sadly, would probably not be with us for much longer. It was certainly by far the least active rabbit I have experienced at Cranford.

Flocks of Canada Geese have also become a regular sighting over recent weeks. Each morning I have been at Cranford at least one, often two or three flocks of a dozen or more birds have crossed the meadows coming from a westerly direction. Both their characteristic honking and loud wing-beats are very audible as they come over just above tree-top height.

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The 14th also saw at least two Whinchats still hanging around, located at the Cranford end of the meadow among the long grass and hawthorn bushes. With summer clinging on well into September, one wonders when they would feel the time is right to move south.

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My last sighting of note on the 14th was the family of juvenile Mistle Thrushes. A good half dozen of these young birds were seen feeding out in the open opposite the memorial gardens as I left. Not the prettiest looking of young birds but the mottled chest patterns were clearly visible and maturity would not be long in coming.

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My next visit was two weeks later on the 28th September. Despite the calendar suggesting autumn was here, it was another shirtsleeves and sunshine morning. There were some early signs of the coming seasons change interspersed with the late summer sightings this time.

Representing the summery side of things was this Red Admiral, showing very nicely on the Ice House sign.

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The park was very noisy with birds though, a contrast from my last visit on the 14th which was largely quiet. Robin and Great Tit were particularly vocal, with Crow and Magpie and the occasional Wren breaking through. A single Chiffchaff could be heard, the Blackcaps and Whitethroats all seemingly gone now. The autumn and winter resident species were re-establishing themselves.

I went to check out the bottom of the meadow to see if the Whinchat’s were still visiting. No Whinchat’s it seemed but we did have both Meadow Pipits and a Stonechat in their place. Stonechat’s were a nailed on certainty during winter at Lake Farm before it was carved up for building on so it was fantastic to have one at Cranford.

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There were a good three or four Meadow Pipits sharing the same area as the Stonechat. They were very skittish and would take off or change perches at the slightest approach or movement. Luckily I managed a few so-so pics.

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And here is one of both of the “lower meadow” residents together:

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Jay’s were far more visible on this visit than before, a feature of the early autumn months, they can be seen crossing the park quite frequently as they gather acorns to bury in readiness for the harsh winter months.

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The Parakeets were back in big numbers too. They seem to bracket the summer months, noisy and numerous for the breeding months of March to May and then barely seen or heard in the same numbers from June to late August until they return with their cacophonous racket in mid-late September. The Jackdaws were also back in their biggest numbers since the breeding season too, mingling with the ever present Crows.

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Two Hobbys were also seen, flying very high over the M4 and circling east to west during the late morning. Our resident Kingfisher still eluded the camera but was seen along the River Crane twice during my visit.

Along with the aforementioned Red Admiral, another late summer sight was this dragonfly, languidly moving from leaf to leaf by the wood circle. I think this is a Common Darter.

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The wood circle was also home to some more interesting fungi, this tiny collection protruding from the top of one the logs.

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It was hard to believe October was only a few days away as the park was bathed in warm, bright sun, still very green and full of birdsong. Flocks of whittering Long-tailed Tits could be seen and very much heard most of the morning, stopping to nibble at a branch or leaf before moving on to the next food stop.

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I know Wendy covered the mindless destruction of the Information Centre in her blog but it would be wrong not to comment on it, albeit belatedly. I am sure everyone who visits Cranford Park, whether it’s for dog walking, jogging, birding and nature enjoyment or just to enjoy an open, natural, green space sandwiched between the M4 and Heathrow, will condemn this selfish and thoughtless action.

The park belongs to all of us and we all have a part to play in looking after it and supporting it. I hope just as nature renews and re-grows that a new centre will come out of this action, it will be down to all of us to ensure the park is a safe and welcoming place for the community to enjoy for many more years to come.

In order not to end on that sad note, here’s a picture of a Chiffchaff from the 28th.

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