It’s been hard work trying to find the time to bird and blog lately – work, weather and the dreaded (very real) man-flu meant postponing any weekend birding opportunities. But Saturday 17th saw me finally able to brave sub-zero temperatures with a morning visit to Cranford Park. Both the Kingfishers and the Little Grebes were keeping a low profile. This Song Thrush was the highlight of my walk along the River Crane, singing it’s heart out on a freezing, damp, grey morning.
One or two Little Egrets have been appearing in the park of late, and I found a very nervous one hiding away on the brook at the back of the woodland. I couldn’t get within 20ft of it before it took off and away, like a sheet blowing in the wind.
A Goldcrest also teased my camera lens for a good ten minutes before deciding that hiding in the top of the trees was a far more attractive option than posing within range for a rare photograph. I had to make do with this bold Robin instead.
With Mrs Sausage completing the Team, we re-visited Cranford again on Sunday 25th. Conditions were still quite wet and the temperature just above zero. Kingfishers remained elusive but the Little Grebes were out on the River Crane.
As usual the Ring-necked Parakeets were noisily dominating the trees. They are among the first of the Cranford residents to occupy nesting holes and produce young. Their incessant chatter-screech will be one of the sounds of the woodland in the coming weeks.
A more enjoyable winter sound and sight was this Great Spotted Woodpecker, drumming away at a trunk.
In direct competition with their green cousins and the ubiquitous Parakeets for high-level nesting holes, this individual was putting in a lot of effort in order to make a new hole for this years brood.
As always with Cranford the various tits were very visible. Both Great and Blue were in good numbers and possibly my favourite, the Long-tailed Tit were posing most obligingly too.
Highlight of the day for us was the sighting of around 20 Lapwing in a field just over the Frogs Ditch at the back of the woodland. Sharing the stubbly terrain with some Wood Pigeon and Black-headed Gulls they soon took to the air in that all familiar skittish style that Lapwing have. This is our first sighting of Lapwing in or around Cranford Park and for that reason alone deserves a mention.
A return visit last Sunday (8th February) saw an even greater number of these enigmatic waders in the air just beyond Cranford. Mrs Sausage counted around 200 twisting, turning, round-winged shapes that were remaining in the air for quite some time. We estimated their location to be somewhere around Harmondsworth, a spot where I have seen the occasional Lapwing on my way to work before. With our car in dire need of a clean, the local garden centre on Holloway Lane was our next port of call.
With our car left for a wash we took a stroll down Holloway Lane. The field adjacent to the M4 was occupied by some Magpies and Carrion Crows and a large number of gulls but between the motorway noise we could hear a familiar peewit call of Lapwing. As we drew parallel to the field something sent up the gulls and joining them was around 40-50 Lapwing.
The white bellies were glistening in the sun as they rose, turned and circled the field. Whilst not the large number we saw from Cranford Park it was a fantastic sight. We’ve seen plenty of these crested birds at Otmoor, Barnes and Slimbridge but to have them between the M4 and Heathrow Airport, our own doorstep in reasonable numbers was heartening. If you click on the images of the Lapwing flock you can pick out the individual birds against the cloudless sky.
Lapwing are a nationally threatened species with the most serious decline in numbers occurring in the south of the country. Let’s hope this little patch of land among the air and road traffic of west London remains something of a haven for these endearing waders.