Sunday, 27 August 2017

Bank holiday weekend at Cranford Park

On Saturday my Mum joined me for my weekly UKBMS butterfly transect. She was planning on doing some foraging at the same time, but I must admit we spent most of the time gossiping. Therefore hardly any photos taken by me whilst Mum walked away with a huge bag of heritage apples and a decent sized haul of Sloe berries. There are still some blackberries out but most of the bramble bushes are bare now, as is the mulberry bush in it's secret location.
It wasn't a great butterfly count either. I know the season is starting to draw to a close but I would have expected a greater total count than I got....
Saturdays tally..
29 butterflies / 9 species
Large White x 6
Green-veined White x 1
Small Copper x 5
Red Admiral x 1
Comma x 3
Speckled Wood x 1
Gatekeeper x 2
Meadow Brown x 8
Small Heath x 2
I normally see one or two Small Coppers about twice a year so to have five sighting in the space of an hour was quite unusual for me. This little darling is a very common and widespread species, so maybe it's just a good year for them. They are one of the first butterflies to suffer if our summer is wet and cold. Their food plant is the Common and Sheeps Sorrel and the males are highly territorial, often chasing away other butterfly species as well as their own.....

Mum and I also had a lovely close up view of one of the juvenile Kestrels that are still loitering around the meadows....

Sunday saw me back at Cranford Park with a find and photograph as many bees as I could for my friends little boy, Oscar, who absolutely loves them.
I failed dismally. Just one species (or two if you include the Honeybee). The below is the Common Carder bee with it's lovely fluffy orange 'vest'.....

Sorry Oscar ! Maybe next weekend I'll find some more for you.
I was hoping to see some hoverflies, but again failed dismally, with just one species seen......
the huge Volucella zonaria, the Hornet mimic. There were plenty of them though. I ended up counting over 17 on two neighbouring buddleias.....

There were some more butterflies to be seen, as to be expected on a warm late summers day. Several Small Heath were fluttering on the edges of the grass paths through the meadows, though this species does seem to be more prolific in just one area of Cranford Park this year......

Small Heath
 And there were another three Small Coppers in the meadows again like yesterday.....
The high-light of Sunday though was a Red Kite. These are regularly seen soaring over the park, sometimes in pairs, but in over fifteen years of going to Cranford Park I have only ever seen them perched in trees on three occasions. Today would be the best fourth sighting ever.
I followed this very tatty bird as it soared overhead then watched in disbelief as it landed on one of the tallest trees in Cranford Woods, giving me outstanding views.....

During this time I hope no one was watching me !! I was doing a kind of shuffle to try to get nearer to the bird without spooking it. This involved shuffling along a hedge line to stay out of the birds sight, and often walking backwards very very slowly, and only narrowly stopping myself falling in to a patch of nettles. But it was all worth it. There was a second bird soaring overhead and the photos below captures the soaring bird on the left and the perched bird on the right......

I think this is a juvenile Red Kite on its first moult for two reasons. Adult Kites general have bright yellow eyes, juveniles have whitish grey eyes. If you zoom in on my pics you can see the bird does not have yellow eyes. Also juveniles tend to be look a bit 'washed out' compared to the adults. But feel free to correct me.
So not too many photos from the park this weekend, and no visible migrating birds like the Whinchats, Stonechats and Spotted Flycatchers that I generally see, but maybe next weekend will bring in something nice.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth, Small Heath success story and more from Cranford Park

I had a lovely, but short, encounter with a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth this morning at Cranford Park. It was whilst I was doing my UKBMS butterfly transect so it was nice to add it to my sightings. Unfortunately my camera was on the wrong setting and I only managed the three bad photos below......

The hummingbird hawk-moth is a small, day-flying hawk-moth. They are summer visitors, migrating here from Southern Europe in variable numbers each year. In some years, they can be common and may be seen in gardens hovering like hummingbirds to feed on the nectar of honeysuckle, red valerian and many other flowers. They can also be found in woodland edge, heath and shrubby habitats. The caterpillar feeds on various species of bedstraw, so the female adult moth lays her eggs on the buds or flowers of these plants. The hummingbird hawk-moth has greyish-brown forewings, bright orange hindwings and a greyish body with a broad, black and white 'tail'. Its flight is a distinguishing feature: it can be seen hovering over flowers, feeding with its long proboscis. It flutters its wings so quickly that it can appear orange as it flashes its hindwings and makes an audible hum.
I went back to the same place after completing the butterfly transect but could find no sign of it.
I did however find the remains of another moth.......
This is the wing of the Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing moth (thanks to Jan, Richard and Dave from the Butterflies and Moths Facebook page for the id).
It had more than likely been predated by a bird.
The butterfly transect count was not very high today. But there is one success story which I'll mention later on.....
Todays tally
53 butterflies / 8 species
Large White x 7
Holly Blue x 1
Red Admiral x 6
Comma x 8
Speckled Wood x 8
Gatekeeper x 3
Meadow Brown x 8
Small Heath x 12
It is the Small Heath that has got me excited. I've not seen one since 1st July and I've only had single number sightings since my first one of the year on 14th May but today I found 12 of the endangered little lovelies. It is one of the UKs most widespread butterflies but numbers have been badly affected by habitat management and destroying of their natural habitat. It is a great success story that we appear to have a small breeding colony at Cranford Park.

Holly Blue

Comma underwing


Small Heath

Small Heath
After the transect I loitered around the Headland area hopeful of finding another Painted Lady (see yesterdays blog post) but all I saw was a low soaring Common Buzzard......

A Great Spotted Woodpecker's feather.....

and several Dock Bugs....
It seemed to be a good day for Hoverflies though I only managed to photograph four species. Others seen today but not photographed include Helophilus pendulus, Volucella pellucens, Volucella zonaria and Syritta pipiens.

Rhingia rostrata

out of focus Volucella inanis

Myathropa florea

Syrphus sp.
Fungi season is heating up. I've now got three sites for the beautiful but small Yellow Stagshorn....
and the impressive Coral fungi can be seen at several sites within Cranford Woods now.....

Another successful visit to Cranford Park. Not bad for a country park that is surrounded on three sides by the M4, A312 and Heathrow Airport.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Painted Lady, Kestrels and Goldfinches at Cranford Park today

Today was very windy and it often felt quite cold. It was also very cloudy with only the odd burst of sunshine. I decided not to do my regular UKBMS butterfly transect today because of the weather, so will do it tomorrow when the wind speeds are predicted to be lower.
There were a few butterflies around, but not many were settling enough for a photo call, except for this Red Admiral which not only perched at a reasonable head level, but also let me get quite close up.....

The high-light of my visit though was stumbling across this beauty.....

It's a Painted Lady. My first ever at Cranford Park.
 It's not a patch record though as I know others have seen them there before but it's a big fat patch tick for me.


The Painted Lady is a migrant butterfly, arriving from north Africa from May onwards. They can breed over here but second flushes don't survive our winter. You can find the Painted Lady in a range of habitats including on buddleia and some garden plants, but they prefer dry, open areas, particularly rough ground with thistles, which is exactly where I found this little lovely.
As I said earlier, this really was the high-light of my day.
The juvenile Kestrels are still in the meadow, even though most of the long grasses have been mown (my moan time now - why do the grasses have to be cut mid-August ?? Why cant it be left another couple of weeks ????)
Spot the Kestrel below.......
Now they are getting older the juveniles are spending more time flying and hovering and honing their hunting skills. Instead of perching on the tree guards and looking for prey (usually grasshoppers, crickets and butterflies at the moment) they were hovering then diving down.....

The one below landed right above a bench I was sitting on. Not the greatest of photos with all of the twigs in the way, but it was lovely to get a 'falcon stare' from it....

It's been a good year for the Goldfinches. There was a decent sized flock of both adults and juveniles in the Headland area.
Spot the Goldfinch below....
They were particularly drawn to all the thistle flower heads that have now gone to seed.
The collective noun for a group of Goldfinch is a 'charm'. Very fitting I reckon....

So a short but packed visit to the park.