A Solstice story from Babbacombe

Kestrel flying over Babbacombe Downs

Kestrel flying over Babbacombe Downs - Credit: David Evans

This time last year, as we learned to adapt to Lockdown,I realised an ambition to watch the sun raise itself above the horizon from Babbacombe Downs on 21 June-the Summer Solstice. 
I'd long planned to celebrate this in the time-honoured way with a trip to Stonehenge but decided that witnessing the sunrise is so rare an encounter that there's no need to travel far. 
I walked to the Downs at dusk, thinking it was high tide, and looking forward to gazing down on the breakers. 
On arrival, I saw too much Oddicombe sand for high tide and realised I'd misread the tide tables. 
But, never will I tire of the view from Babbacombe Downs. It never disappoints but on this wet and windy solstice evening, I was about to be treated to a spectacle that more than compensated for the lack of sun and high tide. 
There were very few people around, perhaps encouraging the local wildlife. Against the backdrop of the subtly darker green woodland that high summer brings, only a few yards from the cliff-edge, a lone kestrel expertly rode the wind. 
Watching a bird of prey hunting is impressive but there is something almost compulsive about a kestrels' effortless hovering. After all, the plucky little hawk is also known as the windhover. 
The kestrel simply fixes itself in the air, hardly moving more than its wingtips and scans the landscape for its prey of small birds and mammals.  
It's that very focus on its targets that lands the kestrel, in common with other birds of prey, in trouble with other birds like the crow and seagull. Another riveting sight in the sky is a kestrel or buzzard being mobbed by crows and gulls, usually to drive them away from their breeding grounds. 
Kestrels are quite at home all year round in most lowland parts of Britain and have adapted themselves well to modern life - they can often be seen hovering above a motorway, as the flat concrete highlights any small animals dashing across it as intensely as a searchlight. 
Wildlife is just another reason to visit beautiful Babbacombe. 

Babbacombe's regal visitor

Babbacombe's regal visitor - Credit: David Evans