Thursday, 17 June 2010

North Downs Walk


The cold wind of the last few days died down a bit today so Carol and I went for a walk along the North Downs. We parked in the pretty village of Shoreham in Kent and began the steep climb up alongside the White Cross which the village is famous for. The cross, which is about 100 feet high and 58 feet across, was built in 1920 and is a memorial now for the people of Shoreham who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
First birds of interest were two Mediterranean Gulls feeding alongside one or two Black Headed Gulls in the ploughed field to our left.
Our path then took us along the top of the downs where we saw four Buzzards lifting on the thermals and soaring away as the sun came out at last. Eventually we reached Home Wood, a lovely Bluebell Wood in May and home at the moment to Blackcaps, Gt Spotted Woodpeckers and lots of juvenile Gt Tits, Blue Tits and as you can see below newly fledged Jackdaws.

This chap was very obliging and was obviously desperate to have his picture taken, lots of times!
Although he looks a tad grumpy in this shot.

This is obviously his good side...........................

...................And this is his serious side!

Many thanks to young Jack for posing and his Mum (Jackie?) for letting him. Although she soon became agitated as she circled above so we got the message and moved on.

As we descended towards the Eagle Heights bird of prey centre we looked out for large raptors flying overhead, last time we saw a Sea Eagle floating around but today we saw nothing, but were told by a passing Eagle Heights employee that 'Chilli' the Bald Eagle was on the wing somewhere.

Lots of butterflies were seen along the sunny chalk ridges, including two Clouded Yellows, but the only one that I was able to snap was the Large Skipper above. If it's not a Large Skipper I guess it's a Small Skipper i'm not exactly sure. Here also we were treated to the sweet outpourings of ascending Skylarks, a sound and sight that never fails to evoke memories of youthful summer days on these same hills but some miles further to the east.
The last stretch of the walk is along the idyllic River Darent and the grandeur of Lullingstone Castle. It can get a bit busy here but there's always things to see, from the Chub in the river sipping small flies off the surface to the superb colours of male and female Banded Demoiselles flitting silently along the river path, but unlike the Jackdaw not wanting to be still for a picture.

It was along here that we heard a loud noise which at first we thought was the sound of Vuvuzelas drifting in the wind from the world cup but a closer look revealed this swarm of bees in a small tree alongside the track. I got as close as I dared, to get the picture below then decided discretion was the better part of valour and retreated quietly.


Anonymous said...

Great character shots of the Jackdaw, Phil. Sounds like an idyllic stroll.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
I was down by the river 11-1 ish . Fritillaries were on the Orchid Bank on the Golf Course .
Your Skipper is indeed a male Large , identified by the mottling on the wing as well as size . Small are just starting to emerge .
I agree with Rob re. juvenile Jackdaw shots .

Warren Baker said...

No Turtle Doves then Phil :-)

Enjoyed the Jackdaw portraits.

ShySongbird said...

A lovely post, Phil and fantastic photos of young Jack :) what a poser! I do like those Large Skippers that seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment...except here.

We had a massive swarm of bees on a shrub in our garden a few years ago which was removed by a local beekeeper and a little while later we were rewarded with a jar of honey!

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Phil.
Looks like you and Carol had a lovely walk.
Great photo's of young Jack.