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,
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.
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.
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.
Sadly I had already had lunch so he was disappointed, as was this jackdaw.
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.
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.
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,
greylag geese, moorhen, coot, magpie, mallard, blue tit, feral pigeon, great crested grebe and mute swan.
Some of the black swans were still on their nest.
Of course the black swans originally came from Australia and were introduced to the park as ornamental birds like the peafowl.
Who were still looking lovely despite having lost their display plumage.