03 May, 2013

Birding, Nostalgia and Old Winchester Hill

Having spent the last few weeks either birding the same old patch of urban woodland that is Stokes Field, or stuck at work, I opted for a change of scenery back on Tuesday, and headed down to an old favourite spot of mine in the South Downs; Old Winchester Hill.

Nostalgia hits hard whenever I visit, and that's part of the reason why I love it there. Being only a slight detour from the main motorway route down to Portsmouth, in the distant past we used to stop off at the Hill for brief walks whenever visiting the grandparents by the sea. I've got fond memories of spending warm spring mornings standing on tip-toes to get views of some rare American sparrow in the car park, listening to Yellowhammers singing from the scrub, and watching Dingy Skippers flying about the chalk slopes. The latter two species can be found easily enough in Surrey, but a combination of beautiful scenery and sentimental attachment just made the long trek worth it; every time.

Times change though, and for various reasons, we found ourselves going down that way less and less. Driving down by my own on Tuesday was the first time I'd managed to get down there in good couple of years, and it was still as great as I'd remembered it. Willow Warbler, Bullfinch, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Linnet and Yellowhammer were singing from the scrub by the car park as I rolled up at 8am, just as they'd always been.

A Kestrel was hunting above the Hillfort, and a low flying Red Kite made a brief pass though, slowly rising up on the warm air currents...

An unexpected Firecrest gave a few bursts of song from deep within the woods, but apart from that, bird life was pretty standard. Despite the warmth, the only butterflies on the wing were a few Peacock butterflies; certainly no sign of any signature spring species - Orange Tip, Grizzled Skipper etc.

Still, the views and company more than made up for it, as did the Ploughman's Lunch down at the Shoe Inn, in East Meon. A nice little part of the countryside, and somewhere that will always be important to me. Don't take my word for it though, just ask the sheep...

"Love it"

"Yeah, not baaaaaaad"

"They've got nice fence posts"

1 comment:

Focusbiz said...

Hi Billy,

Love the photos on Old Winchester Hill. We're currently working on a short video for Natural England on the hill and wondered if we could use your photos for illustrating some of the wildlife. We'd credit you on the end of the short video. Could you email me