It is rare the weather forecast holds true, but I awoke on Saturday morning to promising blue skies and sunshine. No excuse not to head straight to Cranford Park. Spring activity is now well underway, and Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins and Wrens could all be heard as I made my way through the woods. A repetitive tapping from high above my head reinforced the seasonal activity as this Great Spotted Woodpecker diligently worked away at this potential nesting hole.
Jackdaws and the Ring-necked Parakeets were also noticeably occupying space among the still bare branches, ducking in and out of the various holes left by previous seasons occupants.
Goldcrests were also very audible in the woods, occasionally showing themselves just long enough for me to not take a picture. It was whilst I was patiently waiting for a brief view of the UK’s smallest bird that a commotion above drew my attention away. Several Carrion Crows were cawing away quite loudly and after scouring the sky briefly the reason why was clear. The crows were mobbing two Buzzards that were gliding over the headland area. For a brief moment one of the raptors was right above me.
The Buzzards are a regular sight at Cranford Park, there was one afternoon last year when we had six circling high above us. Last weekend we saw two and this was repeated again on Saturday.
Speaking of lovely birds, it was also heartening to see the pair of Stonechats still present in the scrub. They were still quite skittish and spent a lot of time in the grass rather than topping the exposed twigs but I managed a few shots of the female.
The scrub also saw plenty of activity in the form of the almost guaranteed Meadow Pipits, and the nearby long grass had at least two Skylarks take to the air, chirruping and parachuting back down to earth as I walked down the pathways. If you do visit the park in the next few months please stick to the very visible paths in the grass. Both the Meadow Pipits and especially the Skylarks will be using the longer grass for nesting and raising their young and are pretty much invisible even when you are on top of them.
Before being called away by work I had also seen a male and female Chaffinch behind the headland (quite possibly my first sighting of a Chaffinch at CP), Green Woodpecker, Wren, Long-tailed Tits, Dunnock, Blackbird, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull. There’s lots going on and more to come at Cranford.
Sunday started with the same spring conditions as Saturday, but rapidly turned overcast and grey by mid-morning. Undeterred by this, I made for Kensington Gardens for a few hours. Things got off to a great start as I heard the distinctive song of a Nuthatch. It was very mobile and sticking to the higher branches of the trees hence the iffy pictures.
The resident Tawny Owl was also snoozing in the gloomy light around mid-morning but had disappeared into the tree when I returned around noon.
As is often the case at Kensington Gardens the tit population are very bold and appear right in front of you to see if you have any tidbits for them.
This Great Tit however was self-sufficient.
I then spent some time at the Long Water. Keeping a distance were both a pair of Great Crested Grebes and the Scaup that seems to have taken residence at the park. Among the gulls and the Mallards though were a pair of Pochard.
Next came a real splash of colour with the arrival of four superb Mandarin Ducks.
The male really is resplendent. There were three males and two females whilst I was at this spot. All following each other around but not displaying visible signs that pairing up had yet taken place.
The female Mandarin is a very nice looking duck in it’s own right, just massively eclipsed by the feathered firework plumage of the male.
As always there were plenty of gulls taking up various positions around the Long Water.
The Black-headed Gulls are the boldest, always joining in the feeding frenzies when tourists throw in morsels.
The Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls tend to stay away from the hustle and bustle.
All in all a steady day with some lovely sights at Kensington Gardens. I had no luck with the more exciting birds reported mid-week, such as the Cetti’s Warbler or the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but birding is not always about the rarities.
Next weekend we are in the grey granite of Aberdeen and its environs, hopefully some new birds for the year will cross our eyes!
More pictures will be on our Flickr page, please click here and have a look around.