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.
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!