A century ago hares were so common that they could even be found within the City of London. Overall there were an estimated four million, distributed comparatively evenly across the country. Since then, however, they have gone into a long-term decline and today numbers stand at barely 20% of their former numbers.
The recent cold weather could well provide a rare opportunity to spot one of our more colourful winter visitors at the garden bird table . . . Bramblings arrive here every autumn from their breeding grounds in the birch and conifer forests of northern Europe, but the scale is very unpredictable. In mild years as […]
The world’s largest falcon, the gyr (or ger), is a rare visitor to Britain, although sightings have recently become comparatively common owing to falconers’ increasing use of captive-bred birds . . . Owing to their size, these Arctic predators have always been highly-prized by falconers. These are the world’s largest falcons with females weighing up […]
Until recently, if you wanted to get a good sighting of a wood pigeon, the best plan was to head for arable farmland in late autumn or winter. Normally shy and retiring, in the colder months this plump-breasted relatively solitary large dove abandons its normal woodland habitat to feast in company on the sweet seedlings of young crops. And these flocks can be huge, not least because Britain’s population of three million resident pairs is more than doubled by visitors fleeing from harsher Continental winters.
Thanks to The Wind in the Willows and Rupert Bear we have all been reared with the image of a slightly grumpy, but generally benign character. Certainly, with their characteristic black and white-striped faces, these bumbling giant weasels are one of our most instantly recognisable and appealing animals.
If one could rank insects by popularity, moths would be a long way from the top. Unlike their beautiful cousins, the butterflies, most are drab and nocturnal. Thus we are most likely to encounter them when a particularly large specimen begins to crash around the lamp by an open window in the dead of night . . .
Britain has six species of deer, but only two are truly native. Today red deer are effectively confined to Scotland and isolated parts of the West Country, but roe are not just common locally but positively in plague proportions in many areas.
Rabbits are so much a part of the countryside that we take them for granted, but while the are now a vital part of the foodchain, they have only been here for less than a milennia . . . It is just over a century since Peter Rabbit ventured into Mr MacGregor’s garden. Until then […]
‘Mad as a March hare’ is a familiar expression, but one which means little to many young people. Few people fortunate enough to have seen a group of these surprisingly large creatures bouncing like boxing kangaroos across the frost-dusted grass will forget it however . . .
Barn owls are often described as ‘threatened’ or ‘declining’, but in reality they are far more common than most people imagine. Many are fooled into thinking they are absent because they are rarely seen. They assume that such comparatively large, white, bird that hunts in the half light of dawn and dusk would be highly visible if present.