Lock Down Wildlife Walks -Kestrels and Skylarks in London!

Kestrels! Within sight of the London Shard!

Roundshaw Downs, on the site of the former Croydon Airport, is now an almost natural grassy chalkland habitat. With the A217 forming one border of the site and the towers of Croydon, the IKEA chimneys and the Shard all in view, it feels both an urban and a rural setting at the same time. As you entire the site, there are information boards telling you about the habitat and that there are skylarks and a pair of kestrels resident. I’ve lived here for about 5 years now and, although I’ve visited a few times, had never seen either…until the lock down that is.

In these times strange times of being unable to travel to see wildlife and having just one daily form of exercise, we feel really lucky to have this local nature reserve pretty much on our back doorstep.

Our daily walks with our 12 month old Benjamin, have become a regular wildlife-spotting adventure. The first thing that strikes you upon entering the Roundshaw Downs, is the sound of bird calls all around you, with the song of the skylark an almost constant backdrop, along with blackbirds, blue tits and Starlings Although you can hear the skylarks everywhere, they do seem to be hard to spot, hiding in the long grass, but we’ve been lucky to spot a couple.

Second is that it is good to see that the Downs are absolutely full of pollinators, with honeybees and bumblebees seemingly everywhere, attracted by the abundance of wildflowers including forget-me-knots and carpets of bluebells in the shade of the trees.

However, the most exciting thing for me is finally seeing kestrels, or more specifically a male (one of a mating pair, I assume) which we see 2 or 3 times a week now, letting us get a good idea of his favourite perches and hunting grounds. Kestrels, with their hovering behaviour whilst hunting, are probably my favourite bird, so to know that we have a pair just around the corner from home feels comforting and our lock down walk is always the highlight of the day.

Skylark
Skylark

Note: All photos have been taken handheld with only a 70-300 mm lens and with a 12 month old strapped to me, which presents its own challenges, both in terms of the time you have to take a shot and being able to get in the best position!

4 thoughts on “Lock Down Wildlife Walks -Kestrels and Skylarks in London!

  • Nice post. I visited Roundshaw Downs for the first time today and was surprised to see a kestrel out hunting so close to the main road. There was also a buzzard circling around, firstly up by Plough Lane, then later on, down by the Purley Way. I’ve driven past this place hundreds of times but never stopped off before – I’ll definitely be heading back again soon.

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    • I actually hadn’t seen the kestrels for a few weeks, so thanks for letting me know about your sighting! I also hadn’t seen any buzzards, but was sure I saw a red kite over the roundshaw estate.

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  • The kestrel was down by the old strip of runway with the big white circle painted on it, hovering low and then diving in and out of the long grass. Funnily enough, most of my lockdown has been spent watching kestrels in South Norwood Country Park, where the breeding pair had five chicks who are now all out hunting in the meadows.
    I wasn’t 100% sure initially whether it was a buzzard or red kite, but I got a good look on its second pass and it definitely didn’t have the forked tail, so I’m fairly confident it was a buzzard.

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