Ask most people about lampreys and the chances are you will be greeted with a blank stare. And even those that do know something about these strange fish are unlikely to know more than that they are supposed to lie behind one of Britain’s more bizarre royal fatalities. Let’s start with the facts. Lampreys are […]
With its clown-like mixture of black, slate blue, brown and red plumage, the male redstart is one of our most striking summer visitors. For the next month or so his garish plumage will make him stand out from the foliage, but it is in flight that both he and his otherwise drabber partner are most recognisable thanks to their flashing brick-red tails . . .
Surely one of the greatest summer joys is to wake naturally as the skies begin to lighten? Lying silently, one listens as nature’s volume control slowly cranks up almost imperceptibly, as bird after bird launches into song, each the distinctive trill of a territorial male proclaiming ownership of a particular bush, shrub or tree. But while we may thrill to the sound, few of us can distinguish the individual species, not least because most are almost identical: small, thin-beaked and drab. These are the warblers, a large, but visually undistinguished group, but still genuine ‘diamonds in the rough’
Puffins are easily our most popular seabird: colourful, comic and confiding. Yet despite their popularity, remarkably little is known about much of their lives. For most of the year they vanish, living hundreds of miles from land, probably mostly in small groups scattered across the North Atlantic from Iceland to the Bay of Biscay . […]
The red kite is not only one of our most magnificent raptors, but it represents the ultimate in wildlife success stories. Reduced to barely a dozen individuals a century ago, it now numbers over 2,000 pairs and is regularly seen soaring over London . . . .
The pine marten is one of our most beautiful, yet least known predators. Almost no one has caught a glimpse of this lithe woodland hunter and most people would struggle to describe it . . . To start, even the name is misleading. Pine martens do indeed live in conifer plantations, but are no means […]
The curlew, our largest wader, is a familiar sight along winter coasts, but it seems its heart lies in the uplands . . . As soon as the risk of frost recedes, most leave the coast to breed among the heather and rough grazing of the mountains. Until 150 years ago the uplands were its […]
Every year bonfire night arrives with a fanfare of government health warnings. Fireworks can maim and blind they scream, yet this is nothing compared to the impact of the evening’s celebrations on one creature in particular.
Now is the perfect time to witness one of our true wildlife miracles. For the past six months great silver torpedoes have been slowly nudging their way against the current of our major rivers to rest a few miles downstream of the tributaries where they hatched. These are Atlantic salmon and they are waiting for […]
Mention this diminutive insect, and most people think of the West Coast of Scotland. Indeed, the most aggressive of our 152 native species is often dubbed ‘the Highland Midge’. Unfortunately those of us who live in Wales know quite how false this soubriquet can be. While there are plenty of blood sucking insects to spoil a summer picnic, midges are undoubtedly the worst.