The windswept winter days are frowned upon with an unappreciative notion of loathing and dislike by many. The sun is gone. The days are dark. The weather is cold. Yet when the morning comes and my eyes awake, I peer into the gloom of the house. Some would say it feels lonely and desolate without the exuberant spring chorus heralding the morning; the absence of the seasonal orchestra of birds leaving a lonely gap. But if you wait with the patience of a nocturnal creature who longs for darkness, through the confines of the house you can hear the robin take centre stage – let his thin wistful solo infiltrate the physical barriers of manmade structures and enter your mind. He or she, as both sexes of this bird will take their moment in the spotlight, stands statuesque on a twiggy throne or urban streetlight, a pretence of daylight that is protruded into the night time world, and gives all the voice this species possesses to the coming day. The winter morning concert is not as extraordinary as the spring prom but it gives you a chance to commit this gentle song to memory. Come spring you will hear this winter friend amongst the blue tit soprano, blackbird base and thrush duet, appreciating it all the more, remembering the joy it brings you in the quietest months. Continue reading
A New Year, an empty sightings list – endless possibilities of exciting wildlife encounters. As I stepped outside, the fresh air of New Year’s Day awakened my senses and took my breath away. It was one of those days where grey grumpy clouds lingered above, threatening to change the mood with their tearful raindrops. I walked along the path surrounded by trees and bushes, a blackbird scurried along the ground in front of me while a robin perched on a nearby branch – its pose reminiscent of those adorning many a Christmas card received this season. A flock of chaffinches were chatting in one of the trees where the path divides into different possibilities. They shouted their colour call ‘pink pink’ then bounded off in flight in their winter group. I stood by the various pathways, deserted momentarily by my finch friends, wondering which to take and how this decision would influence what species would adorn the afternoon. The clouds waited no longer as they let their water droplet stowaways fall. Through the beginning drips of rain I could see a tell-tale smudge perching on a branch. A view through the binoculars divulged the red-pink lipstick breast of a male bullfinch, which certainly gloried the grey day. The rain grew heavier, the magnificent male deserted me to find shelter and I found myself in the open with little cover for myself to stop the raindrops. I walked down the grassy path, catching sight of a rabbit disappearing under cover, its white pompom tail showing me where it hopped to find shelter. Thinking I would be spending the rest of the walk rather damp the falling drops soon stopped and the world brightened again. Continue reading
The sun graced the fine autumn day as I looked out upon the estuary. The tide was already rising fast and the water rippled steadily over the mudflats covering the wader bird buffet.
The golden plovers stood together on the muddied bank; plumage shimmering with their jewelled colouring in the autumn sunlight. The redshanks took no solace in the stillness of the plovers and continued to feed along the edge of the rising water – their red legs dashing about. The desire to avoid the increasing tide did not spread to this species as one continued to wade through the water to reach another mud island, appearing to almost swim at one point. The ringed plovers did not share their eagerness for the water but continued to busy themselves on the banks. The jet black summer front plumage of the grey plover is no more, replaced with their grey and white speckled winter appearance – still a beautiful sight. Continue reading
The leaves have changed now, losing their vigour as they alter in colour and contemplate detaching themselves from the tree – many having already fallen. This process is a vital survival strategy for these deciduous beings.
I gazed upon the rowan tree from my desk. The brilliant green foliage of summer had steadily vanished; a crop of beautiful red berries festooned the tree and I still dream of waxwings passing through the town and stripping the structure of these jewels before continuing on their way – what a sight that would be. The uppermost tree leaves turned a red russet colour more quickly than the rest, while a few still attempt to hold onto the summer feeling with their lime-tinged greenery. When the sun shines what is left of the green foliage fools you into believing it is a summer’s day, but recently the tides have turned and the darkening leaves fitted into the scene against the red sun, before Ophelia took many of them unwittingly into the sky, mixing them with the Sahara as they went. Continue reading
I recently found myself elevated into the clouds on a journey I was taking over the UK. As much as being on the ground is a great assessment of habitat, the ability to see the florets of broccoli shaped trees amongst the patchwork of farm fields really gives you an understanding of what is meant by the phrase ‘the classic English countryside’. Continue reading
The August sunshine had finally arrived, despite the nearness of September, and the wildlife was appreciating this flurry of fine weather before the season was out. The swallows circled flying above my head, chattering as these feathered acrobats majestically changed direction within a second, the long tail streamers of the males following their lead. Swallows are for me a sign of summer, of endless days and evenings filled with a calmness in the air. Soon these icons of the season will depart for their wintering grounds in Africa, or at the bottom of a pond if old tales are to be believed, and their presence shall be missed. But for now we should appreciate their company as they all line up on the telephone wires as if reporting for a role call – a perfect chance for observing their red-rouged brown face and sleek blue-black plumage through the binoculars. Continue reading
I knelt carefully on the green oasis that was the unmown garden lawn, feeling the memories of a childhood spent adding grass stains to clothes while adventuring outside. The small circular leaves of clover covered by hands as I leant on the cushioned foliage, feeling the cool damp earth beneath my fingers. Yet it wasn’t reminiscence that brought me here, but the desire to listen to the humming and buzzing of the orchestra of bees. Continue reading
It is often stated that in our busy 21st century lives that we just don’t have time. Time to make the dinner from scratch, time to exercise or to appreciate nature. Sometimes however, if we just take a moment in the midst of modern stress and technology, nature can give us an instant of happiness and joy in our tiring, manic filled days. Continue reading
Located in the picturesque village of Stock, Swan Wood becomes awash with the lush violet display of bluebells from around April to June. Walking along the pathways into the woodland you can see the flecks of mauve colour appearing from around the tree trunks, as if someone was just adding colour to their painting. Walk a few more steps along the bare earth pathways and you will soon see the full canvas of delicate lavender blue dominating the woodland floor. The hornbeam coppice and birch trees are surrounded by this terrestrial flowering ocean; one of the greatest floral displays in the British calendar. Continue reading
Despite the grey weather, the light is holding steadier into the evening while the birds seem to have gained a spritely energy, and many have begun to fill the air with their song. The robins who kept us entertained with their solos during the darker months when all other birds went quiet, now sing from the branches in the garden; a faint outline of their red breast visible on a small silhouette as they sing in the unclear light of the end of day. Several robins are visiting the garden at present. One flits onto its twiggy throne and surveys the area this little creature thinks of as its own; another arrives and they soon become twisted in a game of tag, in a less friendly way than when it is played by children, and their small bodies dart across the garden then vanish over the fence as the chase continues into another’s abode. Continue reading