To take a snowy woodland walk in the depths of winter is to enter an almost strange new world – the landscape is starkly monochrome and all sounds are muted. For residents of Sussex, Dorset, Gloucestershire and parts of Scotland, the alien nature of this world has recently become even more pronounced – and tinged […]
As the first really sharp weather hits Britain, our damp woods and field edges will be inundated by a vast influx of superbly-camouflaged immigrants. Arriving without paperwork or invitation, these East Europe refugees are welcomed by conservationists and sportsmen alike . . . This is the annual woodcock ‘fall’ when millions of these challenging game […]
December 2009 – As we tuck into hearty mushroom casseroles, Daniel Butler argues the mistle thrush, not the robin, should be the real Christmas bird…
As well as representing the height of the mushroom harvest, mid-October is the time to hear and see some of our largest mammals. Woods, moors and parkland are currently ringing to the sound of strange bellows as magnificent ly-antlered stags compete in the annual rut -and here I am deeply endebted to Sophie Pickford for […]
We are so used to depressing wildlife declines that it is refreshing to find a species not only holding its own, but positively thriving in modern Britain. Take the goshawk: extinct only half a century ago, yet now to be found almost anywhere.
Thanks to its shy nature, however, most people are unaware of their proximity and have never caught a glimpse of this impressive woodland hunter. Immature birds have a drab brown plumage and glaring yellow irises, but as adults they turn a beautiful slate grey, with a barred chest and distinctive white eyebrow. The eyes deepen in colour too, slowly turning first orange and then red as the bird matures.
Spring is the perfect time to spot one of our most misunderstood and threatened creatures . . . As the days lengthen and the sun warms the soil, adders are emerging from their winter lairs to bask on rocks across the country. This is when our only venomous snake is now at its most conspicuous, […]
The mention of wasps brings negative images to most people’s minds: these are no more than the pests which spoil picnics, but in fact they are invaluable garden helpers . . . Despite this, the mere sight of them on a sandwich or near a glass of wine seems to bring out the Rambo in […]
What is Britain’s most ferocious predator? Most people might have a stab at answering this simple question, yet few would get it right . . . Weight for weight, the shrews pack a powerful punch, regularly tackling and killing prey far larger than themselves. This is in part thanks to a venomous bite which they […]
Until recently it was the red kite which attracted serious birders to Mid-Wales. The spectacular success of the reintroductions of this iconic species to England, Scotland and Ireland mean this is no longer the case. Today keen bird watchers are drawn by the redstart and the pied flycatcher . . . As with so many […]
The appearance of house martins in late April is almost as welcome as that of their relative, the swallows, Unlike most migrant songbirds which only reveal their presence by singing lustily from the depths of foliage, these are supremely visible as they hunt insects over our fields and gardens. They are also extremely popular, probably […]