Thursday, 27 August 2009

Downs Bank, Barlaston

There is a National Trust site near Stone in Staffordshire called Downs Bank. The locals know this as Barlaston Downs and it is a popular place for dog walkers. This area is a natural forested landscape with clearings and hills that were used to graze cattle. The National Trust maintain a few cattle on the site to keep the vegetation stable.

Whilst we were walking on the far side of the Downs, Rosie saw a large bird settle into a tree some 300 yards away from our location. I was too busy looking for fungi at the time.
This turned out to be a large buzzard. We frequently see them circling overhead or see them in fields, but this was settled in the woods. We crept slowly towards the bird, but it was having none of this and quickly took flight, off into a clearing and up over the tree and it was gone.
It has always interested me to watch these big birds swoop low to take advantage of the settled air and ground effect when flying off.
The dragonflies were out in profusion today. We saw common darters and the stunning Southern Hawker (shown above), Aeshna cyanea. This is one of the larger British dragonflies and it is often seen throughout the Midlands at this time of year. It is relatively fearless of humans and you can get very close to it to take good quality photographs. The common darters, Sympetrum striolatum, were just too fast and skittish to enable good photography.

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