Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frosty Friday on the Downs

Yesterday dawned cold and frosty (-3 overnight) with a sunny hazy blue sky. I decided to visit Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire.
The Downs, as they are locally known, are a chalk escarpment overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury and forming part of the Chiltern Hills standing at 243m (797ft) above sea level they are the highest point in Bedfordshire. Ivinghoe Beacon to the South West stands at 233m (757ft) and is one of the highest points in Buckinghamshire.

Ivinghoe Beacon is the high point to the right of the tree and the village on the far right is Edlesborough

Heading downhill on the footpath from the visitor centre, (I`ll do a post on that at a later date), I coudn`t help but notice how beautiful the grass and wild plants looked covered in ice crystals and sparkling in the sun.

 I then came across a cluster of  Seven-spot Ladybirds on a frozen bramble leaf that had been turned over by the breeze.

Scanning the trees and bushes through the binoculars I located a flock of about 20 Redwing feeding on Hawthorn berries, so as not to disturb them I took a long and arcing route to stay under cover and slowly get closer to them with a view to taking some photographs, After about 15 minutes of slowly creeping closer I was 'found' by a Golden Retriever closely followed by it`s lady owner calling "hear Toby, good boy Toby" hence birds gone and no photograph !!
I could, in the distance see a Kestrel hovering on the updraft from the slopes and decided to position myself in a spot where I hoped it might eventually come to. After about 20 minutes of me standing in the cold and frosty shadow of a large Hawthorn bush the Kestrel, a female, came within camera distance.

Kestrel (female)
It`s amazing to stand and watch these birds hunting for prey, if you can get a reference mark, you will see that when they hover they are stock still in the air just with a slight flutter of the feathers. Also using the updrafts were Common Gulls, Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows.

Common Gull

 As I was slowly getting colder and colder with all the standing about I decided to head for home and a nice warm cup of tea.

And finally a different type of aviator making use of the updrafts.

Have a good (rest of) the weekend.

Sightings List
Great Tit
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Carrion Crow
Wood Pigeon
  (Total 13)


holdingmoments said...

Great post Trevor, and worth the wait for that Kestrel shot.
The times I've hauled myself up Ivinghoe Beacon; some great views from there. Lovely shot of the frosty grass, and the beacon in the distance.
And the back lighting on those frosty plants is excellent.

The Herald said...

Thanks Keith, It`s a shame about the Redwing they were beautifly lit in the sunlight. Oh well, maybe next time! Yea,the beacon is a fair old slog to the top, I try not to do it too often.It was a long cold wait for the Kestrel but it paid off in the end, although the photo could have been a bit sharper. (I`ll try again,maybe when it`s a little warmer!).