Picture of the year, 2023

questionmark

At this time of year, when the days are short and gloomy, I like to look back at the encounters I’ve had during the year and try and choose my favourite image. Every year, it gets harder.  Do I choose the best photo, or the rarest or most unusual species? Or the picture that was the hardest to get? In the end, I always choose the image that brings me an emotion, an image where I’ve felt elated or tearful

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Unrestrained joy

Jumping for joy? Breaching dolphin

Most wildlife tales these days are grim. All of Britain’s wildlife is declining, and much of it is vanishing quickly. Most naturalists I meet border on clinically depressed.  But just occasionally you come across something in the natural world where the only word you can use is “joy”. Channonry point is a spot on the coast of Scotland’s Moray Firth, just a hair North of Inverness, and it is probably the best place in Britain to watch dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins

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What are grey and black and red all over?

black-coloured grey squirrel

We’re all familiar with that beloved British icon, our native red squirrel, now sadly endangered. We’re also very familiar with its cousin, the grey squirrel, which is largely responsible for the red squirrel’s downfall. Greys are a North American animal, introduced as an ornamental species in English country estates in the 1820s. They have since taken the country by storm and now vastly outnumber our red squirrels. They carry a disease, squirrelpox, which our reds are susceptible to, and are

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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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Small and deadly

weasel

“Weasely”. Adjective. To be sneaky, devious, untrustworthy, promiscuous. Let’s face it. weasels have a bad reputation. The sneaker and stealer, they have been accused of being witches’ familiars and carrying the souls of the dead. Shakespeare spoke of ‘weasel words’. In more modern culture,  ‘the Weasel’ is a child-killer, a villain in the DC Suicide squad film franchise. But I side more with Harry Potter, which made the Weasley family the heroes of the hour. Because these small mammals are

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