The kids are leaving home

House martin and chick

I am walking on a carpet of freshly-fallen brown leaves that crunch beneath my feet. Welcome to…      summer in Southwest England. As the Southwest of the UK starts to feel the bite of the drought already affecting the Southeast, the trees are responding. Unable to support the loss of moisture that comes from their single, long daily breath, they are discarding some of their leaves and retreating, reducing themselves in the hope of surviving until moisture returns. The

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Is it time to permanently stop visits to the Farne islands?

arctic tern

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Scotland. On my way back down to Wiltshire, I decided to fulfil a longstanding ambition and visit the Farne islands. If you’re interested in wildlife, the Farnes have always beenone of those places that you need to visit at least once in your life. Nestling a few miles south of the holy island of Lindisfarne, and a couple of miles offshore from the Northumberland coast,  “island” is perhaps too grandiose a word for

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Death by Burnet

5 spot burnet moth

This time is year is characterised by many things. The occasional sunny day (it is Summer, apparently).  Hayfever. England’s cricketers gloriously losing or (this summer at least) emphatically winning. Wild orchids in their Sunday best. And the sight, on many of our grassy downlands, of a butterfly that seems have to come over from the dark side. It’s black with red spots on its wings, and when you look a little more closely, you realise that’s its not a butterfly,

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The case of the twitching leaf

fox cub

The leaf twitches. There are plenty of moving leaves in this thicket just a few yards from my home. A dense jungle of ivy and bramble, cow parsley, willowherb and fallen branches that adorns the bases of some tall ash trees, it’s alive with movement from a gusting breeze that is moving occasional teased-out-cotton clouds above me and bringing the temperature down from hot to mild. The flat white flower heads of the cow parsley jiggle, the ivy leaves flutter.

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Definitely a good hare day

Brown hare

Regular readers of my blog will know that I love hares.  The rabbit’s bigger. scrawnier cousin, hares are easily recognised by their large, black-tipped ears. I think the reason I like them so much is that hares are tough. Rabbits dig burrows to shelter in: hares scrape a shallow depression in the ground (called a “form”) and then just sit there and take it. Blizzards, torrential downpours, heatwaves – the hare is exposed to it all. Brown hare Now hares

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the Superhero you’ve never heard of

two-coloured mason bee

This week I watched one of Britain’s unsung superheroes, a miniature marvel: the two-coloured mason bee. A sunny weekend in May is the best time to see these bees. But you will have to look closely, as mason bees are tiny things, smaller than your little fingernail, topping out at a fraction over a centimetre from nose to tail. The two-coloured mason bee is, as its name subtly implies, two-coloured, with a black head and thorax (front end) and a

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