Shift change has begun

Garganey duck

It took me a  while to realise it, but it’s not just animals and plants that breathe. Countries do, too. For people, there are the annual holiday periods, when they jet off on holidays or travel the country to reunite with loved ones, vast flows of humanity moving around, all at the same time, and the majority for some reason settling on the M5. But for our birdlife, there are the spring and autumn migrations. Those areas far to the

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The question that links seahorses to Chairman Mao

seahorse, St. Lucia

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 last week. It was reporting on the Poole Harbour oil spill. It seems that the mixture of oil and water from that spill now risks running into Studland Bay, the most globally-important breeding area for spiny seahorses. The what? I know. It surprised me, too. I’m a naturalist and I take an active interest in all British wildlife, and even so I was only vaguely aware that seahorses live in Britain.  I’ve watched

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Whatever happened to polluter pays?

raw sewage rising from a flooded drain

I try hard not to get political in my blog posts. I’m a floating voter (perhaps more so now than ever, given how much rain has fallen overnight!) so I don’t have a strong allegiance to any party. I call things as I see them. It’s now been raining for 24 hours with almost no break. Using the highly scientific empty-bucket-outside-the-back-door method, I think we’ve had about two inches (50mm) of rain. It’s raining as I write this. And I

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The fashionable view

beaver

The news in the Guardian recently that beavers are to be released in Ealing represents the ultimate comeback for a species once hunted to extinction in England. Possessor of a fine, waterproof fur and a pair of gland-like sacs near the anus which produced a substance, ‘castoreum’, used in perfumes and – wait for it – vanilla flavouring, the beaver was considered better off dead than alive, a view endorsed – and sometimes still endorsed  – by farmers whose fields

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Always too little, always too late

pod of sperm whales

The news that the U.K. Government has designated three areas off Britain’s coast as “Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs)” is to be warmly welcomed. HPMA designation is similar to national park designation. It bans fishing in these areas, and activities that damage the seabed, like trawling and cable-laying. It’s a significant step in ensuring the future of fish stocks, and protecting the vital biodiversity of our inshore seas. The UK Government also recently became one of the signatories to the

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Talk a walk on the wild side

eclipse male red-breasted merganser

The red-breasted merganser is something of a boogie bird for me. One of those species that I’ve tried to see, but only glimpsed. Which is a shame, because it’s a fascinating creature. To begin with, there is something about its name: ‘Merganser’. I have no idea why, but to me it feels like something out of Tolkien, or RR Martin, a creature of fable, the kind illustrated in medieval bestiaries by assembling parts of different animals and topping them with

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