The tale of the tortoise and the dictator

Hermann's tortoise

The survival of a species can sometimes involve a great deal of luck, as I found out on a recent holiday to the island of Menorca. Menorca (Minorca) is an island of around 30 miles by 10, lying off the east coast of Spain. It is a beautiful place, with clear seas, sandy beaches, and a lot of sunshine. It is also far quieter and less developed than its neighbouring island, the famous party island of Mallorca (Majorca). It turns

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One for sorrow…

turtle dove

Five years ago I was moved to tears by one of the saddest things I have ever seen. My wife and I were celebrating our silver wedding anniversary (no, that’s not why I was crying!). We’d broken the piggybank open, burnt our savings, and gone on safari in Kenya. As part of our trip our guide took us, unexpectedly, to  rhino sanctuary. And there we saw Sudan. Sudan was as that time the world’s last male Northern white rhino. Since

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Not just a silent spring, but a colourless summer

all the butterflies

In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote her classic book ‘Silent Spring’. In it, she described the impact of the pesticide DDT, which was killing wildlife throughout the food chain, but especially silencing the birds whose song she heard every spring. The book caused enough shock that DDT was eventually banned almost everywhere. But Rachel lived in more innocent times. Since the 1960’s, things that were once unthinkable are now routine, and every time we think nothing could get worse, we are proven

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Methuselah flies again

Colin the cuckoo

It seems that Britain’s -and perhaps the world’s – oldest cuckoo is back. According to Wikipedia, the oldest recorded cuckoo for Britain is just under 7 years old. At this point, you should hear inside your head the kind of quiz show klaxon favoured by QI or Family Fortunes. Because Colin is back. Who? Colin. The cuckoo. Colin is perhaps Britain’s most famous cuckoo. Every summer for what is believed to be nine years, the bird has appeared at Thursley

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The long echo of the curlew

curlew

I hear it long before I see it. A high bubbling call, that loops up in pitch like a referee with one of those old-fashioned pea-whistles getting increasingly annoyed. It’s a song of desolation and loneliness, a haunting sound that I associate with moors and estuaries, with vast skies and open spaces. It’s the call of a curlew. It makes me pause. Seventy years before, Blakehill Farm would have throbbed to the sound of wartime Dakotas taking to the skies.

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Armchair conservation

hedgehog

There’s a certain smugness involved when you can say that you’ve actively contributed to the recovery of a threatened species. Most conservation measures involve plain hard work – laying hedges, trimming encroaching bushes, digging out invasive plants. Mine involved finding a chair and a good book. It’s the easiest contribution to nature conservation I’ve ever made.  There’s nothing like being stuck indoors much of the time to help you see the jobs you’ve been putting off for years. I’ve been

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