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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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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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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Emily and the Aigrettes

little egret in breeding colours

Emily and the Aigrettes sounds like the name of a pub-level rock group, but actually it’s the foundation of one of the most effective conservation organisation in the world. And it all started with a bird I was watching slowly stalk and catch a fish on a reed-edged pond recently. Except that this wasn’t your normal grey heron; this was one of Britain’s growing army of white herons. If you haven’t seen one already, you will soon, as white herons

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The swan and otter


Regular readers will have noted my dilemma a couple of weeks ago about pub names. Well, I know what my (purely hypothetical) pub will be called now, after a visit to my local nature reserve. I’d taken my friend Rob on the promise that we might, just might, see an otter. I’ve seen them on this reserve before, but they are fickle creatures. There have been times when I’ve seen them every day, and others when I’ve spent long hours

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What links Homer, Shelley, Coleridge and Keats, and also Shakespeare and Chaucer and T.S. Eliot?

the nightingale in song

What links Homer, Shelley, Coleridge and Keats,  and also Shakespeare and Chaucer and T.S. Eliot? It would have to be something pretty special, wouldn’t it, to inspire many of the greatest writers in history? It is something special. I know, because after four years of trying, I have finally both heard it, and seen it. I’m standing on a grassy track that weaves through a dense, scrubby woodland, home to coppiced willow and hazel, laced through with bramble and other

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