Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wagtails, Honeybees and signs of spring at Cranford Park

For once the predicted weather forecast was correct. The morning was overcast and cloudy and the afternoon was mild with lots of sunshine. I was hoping that the mild sunny weather would mean my first hoverflies of the year but sadly no, but I did see my first Honeybee and Bumblebee of the year.
 
The crocuses are out. Not a huge spread but there are still some in bud.....
 

The snowdrops in St Dunstans also don't have quite the same sized spread as in previous years, but they're still putting on a nice show....
 

 
The catkins are out, always a sign of spring for me.....

 
and in the copse within the Memorial Garden the first daffodils have pushed through.....

 
There were plenty of Grey Squirrels around today.
 The mild weather meant food was fairly abundant for them......
 
 
Out on the Headland area as the overcast weather cleared and the sun tried to break through the clouds, this Kestrel was just visible as a silhouette.....

 
In Cranford Woods the air was alive with Goldcrests calling. Nearly every evergreen tree had at least two birds in it, sometimes three or four. I always struggle to get photos of Britain's tiniest bird, and today was no exception. The only two images I got below were the back of a female looking towards an out of focus male (with the raised orange crest).....
 
 
and a dodgy sideway shot of another male with his crest raised..... 

 
It's the season where these birds start to pair up and chase rivals away, hence all the noise and raised crests.
 
Whilst I was taking photos of some more snowdrops, a huge bumblebee settled on one......
 
 
but I only managed two more photos before it flew off.....


 
It's a Tree bumblebee and a very welcome sight.
 
Around the Stable Blocks I found a Grey Wagtail. I love Wagtails anyway and often watch the Pied ones on my way to work.
This is only the fourth time I've seen a Grey Wagtail at Cranford Park though, and the last three times I've seen them in the same area - around the Stable Block. Anyway I was able to tuck myself behind the hedges so managed to get some lovely views of this delightful little bird and I wont apologise for the complete photo overload........
 














 
Also at the Stable Block the honeybee hive which started last summer was active again......
 
 
 
and the bees were feeding on the early flowering spring flowers.....
 

 
On the edge of the woods there is a large old oak, and by the base of the trunk I spotted something that looked odd........

 
It was actually a good sixed, but fragile, old honeycomb.......


 
Instinctively I looked up to see if it could have fallen out of a nearby hollow and found another honeybee hive at least 20' up the trunk......

 
The usual wild hive in the ivy in the Secret Garden was also active today, so that's at least three wild hives we have at the moment and all situated very close together.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Heathrow Golden Plovers

Over the last few weeks reports have been coming in of a flock of Golden Plover that have been spending the cold mornings in a crop field at Heathrow. Luckily for me this field is practically next door to where I work, so this morning I took my camera with me, left home 30 minutes earlier than normal and managed to get photos of a very decent sized c100 flock of these charismatic little birds.
 












 
I have seen Golden Plover flying over Cranford Park before, but I didn't have the same lovely views as I did of them this morning. The flock sizes reported over the last few weeks have ranged from 40-150 birds, and it does seem that the colder the weather, the more birds there are.
 
The Golden Plover is a medium-sized plover. In the breeding season, it's plumage is speckled gold and black above with a black face and underparts - the underparts and face framed with a white border. In the winter they moult into a more uniform golden plumage, with a slightly paler, buff underside.
 
In winter Golden Plovers can be found on coastal marshes and estuaries, on wetlands and inland on agricultural land in the lowlands of Britain and Ireland. In the breeding season, the majority are in the uplands, with the main breeding population in north-west Britain.
 
 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday visit to Cranford Park

The weather was a bit dull today which made photography quite challenging against the grey sky, so I decided to stick to subjects lower to the ground.
 
On the most protected side of the stone bridge, a self seeded clump of red dead-nettle has flowered quite early.......

 
In Cranford Woods I was followed down the main path by a very obliging Robin....
 
 
All over the woodland floor there are signs of the first emerging Bluebells....

 
In St Dunstans the snowdrops are finally blooming.....
 

 
There wasn't too much to see today but I did hear one of the Little Owls calling from the oaks in front of the Information Centre but despite checking every tree, I neglected to find it.
 
The mild wet weather has encouraged a lot of fungi to fruit.
 
I found some Velvet Shanks in an area I've not seen them before....
 

spot the Turkey Tails....
 The Candlesnuff fungi is spreading nicely...
 
 
But by far the most prolific fungi seen today were the Jelly Ears, with four new sites found....
It's hard to imagine this revolting looking fungi is actually edible !




 
I found several examples of Coral Spot throughout the woods, but the specimen below was the most intense. Coral Spot is one of the fungi 'baddies'. The effect of Coral Spot infection is that small twigs and branches die back, and then dense clusters of soft, pinhead-sized pink fungal blobs (the sexual stage in the complex lifecycle of this fungus) break through the thin bark. Later the blobs harden and turn dark reddish-brown (this is the conidial stage in the lifecycle), and by this time the infected timber is so weak that it tends to snap off during windy weather.


 
For some reason conifer trees are never infected and the fungus is mainly attracted to Beech trees.
 
As in the last few weeks there was a lot of woodpecker activity today, from both the Great Spotted and the Green. Several times I watched Great Spotteds picking at loose bark or checking out favourite vantage points, including this one below by the stone bridge.....
 


and this Green was first seen feeding on the grass by the clock before flying under the furthest arch way and settling on the dead trunk behind the stable block.....
 

 
So not a great day out due to the gloomy weather, but I can always find something at Cranford Park to keep me interested.