Spring out on the South Downs and enter photography contest

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There is still time to get your entry in to the South Downs Photography Competition which closes this month.

The competition, which was launched in October and runs until 28 February, aims to celebrate the landscape of the South Downs with its range of habitats, stunning views and abundant wildlife.

The mild spring weather and lengthening days should make it easier for would-be snappers to get out and about and take their inspiration from the countryside of the South Downs National Park, which stretches from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in West Sussex.

Three free guided walks run by the RSPB in February should provide ample opportunities to take pictures and inspire the people taking part.

Each two hour walk gives participants the chance to explore different South Downs habitats. The farmland walk, on Friday 7 February at 10am, will be led by Bruce Fowkes, RSPB agricultural advisor and Peter Knight the Norfolk Estate manager.

The first walk will take place on the Norfolk Estate, home to grey partridge, linnets, gold finches, skylarks and yellowhammers, corn buntings and starlings. There may also be the chance to see winter visitors such as redwing and short-eared owls.

The woodland walk, led by RSPB conservation projects officer Richard Black, takes place at Knowlands Wood near Barcombe, on Wednesday 12 February at 10am. It is the time of year when woodpeckers are drumming and walkers may have a chance to see the greater spotted woodpecker, and possibly its shy cousin, the green woodpecker.

Treecreepers, nuthatches and goldcrests are also frequent visitors, along with other woodland birds such as dunnocks, robins, thrushes and tits. Tim Bullen, the owner of the Secret Campsite, will be on hand at the end of the walk to dispense hot drinks and explain the wildlife measures he is taking on his campsite.

Richard Black is also leading the heathland walk which takes place on Friday 21 February at 10am on Iping and Stedham Commons near Midhurst.

On this walk wintering flocks of thrushes, finches and tits could be joined by woodlarks and stonechats, and possibly even a Dartford warbler.

All the walks will provide many opportunities to take photographs to enter into the South Downs Photography competition. Go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/futurescapes/southdowns/photo-competition.aspx for full details, and to have a look at the entries so far at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rspbsouthdowns/

Places on the free walks are limited, so please contact Kelvin.cooper@rspb.org.uk or call 0127363600 to book.

Report and picture contributed by RSPB.