Sunday, 4 December 2016

Patch tick for Cranford Park

It was a very frosty start at Cranford Park this morning.....
 
 
but as the shadows disappeared, the frost melted away in the sunshine.
 
There's hardly any fungi left now, which is to be expected at this time of year.
The Yellow Stagshorn below is definitely on it's last legs....
 
 
but I did find a new patch of Candlesnuff fungi....
 
 
and I'll keep checking it to see how far it spreads.
 
The most prolific bird species seen today were the Blackbirds. There were loads of them. There were males chasing each other in the tree tops, and both sexes rooting through the fallen leaves for tasty titbits....
 
 
I spent most of todays visit loitering by the River Crane.
I'm glad I did now as I spotted a bird I have never ever seen at Cranford Park before.
I was standing on the iron bridge looking down towards the stone bridge, when movement caught my eye on the right hand side. There's a very small inlet there which is overgrown and leads up to the path on the other side of the river. I could see a flash of white under tail, and raised my binoculars for a better look fully expecting to see a Moorhen. But it was a beautiful stunning Water Rail. Smaller and slimmer than the Moorhen, the Water Rail is a fairly common but highly secretive inhabitant of freshwater wetlands. It has chestnut-brown and black upperparts, grey face and underparts and black-and-white barred flanks, and a long red bill. Difficult to see in the breeding season but it is relatively easier to find in winter, when it is also more numerous and widespread. Although usually secretive they can become confiding but are still far more often heard than seen. They have an amazing call that sounds like a small piglet.
I've seen Water Rails before but usually in reed beds around lakes, not skulking on the edge of a muddy small river !!
I saw it twice but couldn't get a photo on both occasions, and despite lingering around for another hour, the bird didn't re-emerge. But what a nice patch tick !
 
I saw the Kingfishers again, but no photos today. There are definitely two birds, a male and a female, and they were both flying out from under the M4 viaduct.
 
There were also two Little Egret present today. One was flying around overhead whilst this one perched in a convenient tree....
 
 
Also seen and not photographed were five Goldcrests, two Green Woodpeckers and one Common Buzzard.
 
I noticed on my last visit that there were a couple of shopping trolleys dumped by the entrance to the park. Today there were more. I really don't get what satisfaction someone gets from throwing these in the river. Does it make an extra large splashing noise to keep the smallest of brains entertained ??
Along with the three in the river below, there were another two left on the track...
 
 
Hopefully a clean up volunteer session will be held soon, and we can get these eye sores dragged out of the river.
 
As always though, it takes a lot to spoil my visit, and I enjoyed my three hour visit.
 
 
 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Kings and Waggies at Cranford Park

A quick visit to the park today, well four hours is a quick visit for me.
 
The Stinkhorn fungi that I found two days ago has already gone over, but near by I found another one complete with feeding fly....
 
 
I also found my third 'fairy door'......

 
I'm lucky in that I know who the talent is behind these clever little doors, but I don't know how many there are dotted around Cranford Woods. So far I've found numbers 7,8 and 10.
 
In the car park, there was a juvenile Pied Wagtail feeding amongst the fallen leaves.
It was so well camouflaged that people were walking past without even noticing it.
Spot the Wagtail......

 
Now can you see it......?
 

 
Also only for the second time ever at Cranford Park I spotted a Grey Wagtail. This was on the stable block roof, not by the river where I saw my first one. And as I raised my camera to try and get a shot it was joined by another two Grey Wagtails. Trying to get photos was fruitless though as a Magpie decided to chase them away.
 
Other bird sightings include the usual Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Plus a very large mixed flock, around 30 birds, of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits and five Goldcrests. Three Fieldfares landed in the mistletoe tree but were soon moved on by a Mistle Thrush. And there was a Little Grebe by the M4 viaduct.
 
Whilst I was trying and failing to photograph the Little Grebe there was the unmistakable sound of a calling Kingfisher and this little beauty landed in front of me.....
 
 
Seconds later another one emerged from under the M4 viaduct and took off towards the stone bridge.
 
The first one was very obliging and moved to several different perches allowing me to at least get good views of it, even if my photos aren't that sharp..... 





 
Where I saw them today was from the path way that goes from the stone bridge towards where the river disappears under the M4. There are plenty of trees there to hide behind.
 
So a very pleasant, if chilly, walk around the park and woods today. The Kingfishers were obviously the high-light and it was lovely to know they are still favouring the park.
 
 
 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Back at my favourite place ever, Cranford Park

Seven weeks is a long time to be away from your favourite place, and as I walked through the underpass towards Cranford Park earlier today I caught myself smiling. I didn't realise how much I had missed the patch.
 
I wasn't just visiting to satisfy my own needs, I also had a present for Martyn, our resident homeless guy. It was his birthday on Monday but I was in north Wales. Angie looked out for him though and  made him a birthday cake. My gift of baccy, papers, tips and batteries was well received, and reminded me again how grateful Martyn always is for the smallest things.
 
I was just unpacking my rucksack and getting my camera ready, when an Orange ladybird dropped down from the leaves above. It's pretty amazing considering its mid November, but it's a sign that so far our weather has been fairly mild, apart from a couple of chilly days......
 


 
The Orange wasn't the only ladybird out and about today. I counted seven Harlequins including this one by the stone bridge...
 
 
As to be expected there was plenty of fungi fruiting.
After the excitement a couple of months ago of finding a Stinkhorn in the woods, today I was even more chuffed to find another one. It was along the same path way as the first one.
 
 
and attracting the only insect I saw all day.....

 
Other fungi seen today was this fine Jelly Ear specimen. Also known as Jew's Ear, it's quite hard to imagine this species is actually edible. I don't think I could ever eat something that looks like an ear !
 
 
In the usual place I found more Yellow Stagshorn.When I say the usual place, it's where there are a pile of old coniferous logs.

 
The one below is one of the most commonly seen in Cranford Woods, the Sulphur Tuft. Although it looks harmless, it's actually poisonous if eaten.....
 
 
The Dead Mans Fingers fungi below is so aptly named.....

 
There are two fungi species in my photo below. The black blob in the top left hand corner is a King Alfreds Cake, also known as Cramp Balls or Coal Fungus.
In the bottom right corner is the Candlesnuff fungus, also known as the Candlestick....

 
Everyone who regularly visits Cranford Park and Cranford Wood knows how magical the place can feel at times. Some of the regular visitors even believe there are ghosts and fairies.
Finding several well placed fairy doors only strengthens that theory.......
 

 
Elsewhere the falling of the autumnal leaves have exposed the masses of Mistletoe.....
 
 
and despite it being quite an overcast day, the autumn colours were glowing.....

 
A very enjoyable short visit back to my beloved patch.
I've missed you Cranford Park.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 14 November 2016

The blog is back with an overdue visit to Rhyl

It's been seven weeks since my last blog post. I was fairly ill for most of that time, but fingers crossed I am well on my way to feeling more like myself.
 
The last few days I've been staying with my cousins in north Wales. The sea air must have been therapeutic as today I was out and about for over five hours and my fitbit registered over 16,000 steps. It looks like I'm well and truly back to being the old me.
 
My timing wasn't too good though, the tide had gone right out and the birds were distant. I also neglected to wear my walking boots so wasn't able to walk along the beach, but there was plenty to see from the prom.
 
At least seven Little Egrets could be seen today with three standing together with a Grey Heron on the waters edge. The others were a bit nearer and I managed a few photos....
 



 
There were also very good numbers of Ringed Plovers, but again they were quite distant. In between one set of breakwaters I counted 14 individual birds. Below were the only two birds that I could capture within my lens range....
 

 
The one bird that I can guarantee I will see on every visit to Rhyl are the Turnstones......
 
 
....and as I haven't published one of my 'bird bum shots' for a very long time here is one of an obliging Turnstone.....

 
I heard the Pied Wagtails long before I saw them and counted 11 birds between Splash Point and Prestatyn Sand Dunes flitting between the golf course and the sea wall.....
 
 
and I had one satisfying short glimpse of a stunning Grey Wagtail......

 
I spent 30 minutes watching an enterprising Carrion Crow continually drop something on to the hard surface of the prom, swoop down to pick it up then repeat the pattern all over again. Eventually the 'something' broke and the bird took it to the steps where it prised open a shell and managed to eat what was inside.....
 
 
Looking at my photo, I think the 'something' was a mussel.
The corvid family are highly intelligent and it was wonderful to watch this bird use a 'tool', ie the hard surface of the prom floor, to help him break open the mussel.
 
_________________________
 
As always my visit to Rhyl is too short and I will be going back home tomorrow, though I might fit in another couple of hours before my train leaves and I'm already planning my next visit.
 
And as always I thoroughly love seeing my cousins and their families......
 
I was incredibly proud to stand next to my cousin David at the Cenotaph in Rhyl Memorial Gardens on Sunday morning for Remembrance Day, with him sporting his two medals.
Another high-light was seeing David's son Jack, my Godson, ride his bike for the first time with no stabilisers and a bunch of confidence......
 

Thank you David, Joe, Aimee, Jack, Dave, Karen, Paula and Sharlotte for as ever making me feel so welcome. Love you all xxx See you soon.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

More from Cranford Park

The weather was much cooler today, but there were still some sunny spells on my short visit to Cranford Park.
 
I saw five Red Kites during my visit, including these two soaring the thermals together.....
 

and six Common Buzzards were seen....

 
including this very pale one below....

 
and another one that was right overhead...
 
 
I found more fungi in the woods. A new years growth of Turkey Tails was just visible through the undergrowth...
 
 
The solitary Stinkhorn didn't look that much different from yesterday, but you could definitely smell it more after last nights rain....

 
and more Stagshorn had appeared near to the ones I found yesterday...

 
and you can tell autumn is finally here as the holly berries have started to turn colour.....
 
 
In the Headland area you can still hear the occasional cricket or grasshopper. However finding one is quite difficult now the long grass has changed colour and is starting to flatten down.
 Spot the Grasshopper below.....
 
 
I think it's a Lesser Marsh but identification will be near on impossible without a photo of the whole of the critter.
 
Right nearby was this tiny bright green gem.....

 
It's a Short-winged Conehead, a species of bush cricket. It was less than 2cm in length, if you don't include the extra long antennae that are twice as long as the body.
This particular one hasn't yet reached adult form yet......

 
also lurking in the long dry grasses was this Robber Fly looking for it's next meal......
 
 
On the flowering Ivy by the M4 wall I saw another Ivy Bee but couldn't get a photo. There were also three Red Admirals and plenty of hoverflies including this monster Hornet mimic, Volucella zonaria...
 
 
Around the orchard the Common Darters were still plentiful but I only found one happy to pose for a photo today....

 
A very short visit inbetween shopping and other chores, but a nice one all the same, and it was lovely to see my old friends Paul and Sheila too.