A walk in Chiltern kite coun­try

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - PAUL TRODD

THE BACK­DROP FOR this walk is the Chiltern Hills Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, af­ford­ing spec­tac­u­lar views across the Vale of Ayles­bury to the north, and the town of Chin­nor, com­plete with flocks of wheel­ing Red Kites. Chin­nor Hill, with its Bronze Age burial mounds, is man­aged by the lo­cal Wildlife Trust, pri­mar­ily for chalk down­land plants and associated but­ter­flies, with one of the favoured ar­eas be­ing the sheep-grazed slopes around the old chalk pit. Clear­ings with scat­tered scrub are also good spots for grounded pas­sage mi­grants such as Ring Ouzel (above) or Red­start. Bledlow Great Wood is a typ­i­cal Chiltern Beech hanger on the scarp slope, with a sparse un­der­storey, scat­tered Ju­nipers and Holly bushes and a ter­rific show of blue­bells and ran­soms. Else­where across the wood­land, a wider va­ri­ety of trees and scrub can be found, sup­port­ing the typ­i­cal suite of low­land breed­ing birds and where Mun­t­jac deer and Ed­i­ble Dor­mouse are present. Visit early for the dawn chorus. I re­mem­ber bird­ing these chalk downs back in the 1970s when the last Cirl Buntings were breed­ing on the Chilterns. The passer­ine di­ver­sity is now much di­min­ished from that time. On a pos­i­tive note, Red Kite has re­turned and is thriv­ing on these an­cient hills.

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