Leeds Castle Revisited

Being a complete skinflint I noticed that our free admission to Leeds Castle was about to expire (when you buy a ticket it’s valid for a whole year) so we decided to get the car out and head for Kent.

We crossed the Thames by means of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge,

I’m getting into this motoring photography

which links Essex with Kent. The bridge is 812 metres long and rises to 137 metres above the Thames. Completed in 1991, it’s the 44th longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and the second in the UK after the Second Severn Bridge, so there must be room for a whole host of trolls to live underneath it. Speaking of trolls, the toll to cross the river has just gone up to £2 for a car which is a bit steep. As I wasn’t driving I took a few snaps as we passed over.

The Bridge is a pretty amazing piece of architecture

I won’t go into the history of Leeds Castle and why it isn’t in Yorkshire, as you can read all that in my previous post here. On arrival I was disappointed to discover that since our last visit the aviary had been closed, but we were lucky enough to catch the last part of the Birds of Prey Show with Oreo the Great Grey Owl.

Oreo the Great Grey Owl

Found in Arctic Russia, Canada and Norway the great grey owl is very fond of eating lemmings, which it can spot from afar with those eyes. As the handler was bringing Oreo around to meet the spectators I heard a honk from behind my back, I turned around and found this fellow, who was hoping I had a bit of old sandwich for him.

Hopeful black swan

Sadly I had already had lunch so he was disappointed, as was this jackdaw.

‘What are you looking at?’

There were still plenty of wild birds to see on the castle moat, lake and ornamental canals, including some whooper swans who had already arrived from their summer home of Siberia.

Whooper Swan

Whoopers are slightly smaller than the UK’s native mute swan and have a yellow rather than an orange beak. I was also very pleased with this photo of a black headed gull in his winter plumage.

Black headed gull

The only remnant of his chocolate-brown head is the spot behind his eye. It’s odd when you think that in the UK we now have two species of gull (the little and the continental) with a black head and the one we call the black headed gull actually has a brown head, but then we call them seagulls when most of them seem to live in supermarket car parks!

Other birds spotted included: Canada geese, barnacle geese,

Barnacle goose

greylag geese, moorhen, coot, magpie, mallard, blue tit, feral pigeon, great crested grebe and mute swan.

Mute swan and cygnets ‘Call me an ugly duckling and I will break your arm!’

Some of the black swans were still on their nest.

Domestic bliss

Of course the black swans originally came from Australia and were introduced to the park as ornamental birds like the peafowl.

‘Don’t even think about sticking an electric tail on me!’

Who were still looking lovely despite having lost their display plumage.

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