A Tale of Two Plant Hunts

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s (BSBI) New Year Plant Hunt is an annual event in which botanists, expert and amateur alike, head out to record the plant species bucking the time-honoured trend and blooming in the depths of winter. Now in its ninth year, the four-day survey is both great fun and an…

Bringing the wilds home: a backyard experiment

The problem with living in any city, whether that be London, Manchester or, like me, Newcastle, is that space is often at a premium. Large expansive gardens and idyllic personal grottos are few and far between and, more often than not, residents are forced to make do with small, confined and often uninspiring spaces. Living…

An hour in the company of aliens

Britain’s cities have served as the epicentre for countless invasions over the years. Landing sites, if you would, where species from far-flung destinations – East Asia, North America and closer to home, in Europe – gain first a toe-hold before beginning their creeping advance across the land. Here, in the city, the wheels of countless…

The Post Christmas Escape

Dawn broke overhead as I took my first, adrenaline-fueled steps into the reedbeds of Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, the grey-blue sky, a vestige of the previous frigid night,  soon yielding to pleasant silver as the day got underway. The only lasting remnant of the darker, colder hours before coming from the veil of fog lingering…

The benefits of ‘curtain twitching’

We all have days when everything feels like just a little bit too much: like myriad tasks are mounting up uncontrollably while motivation [and self-worth] are cascading downwards. Slumps and spells of low creativity as we bemoan mounting pressures but do little to combat them due to persistent, nagging and quite frankly, irritating, doubts. Yes,…

A rare record in Newcastle

European Hornets really are fearsome looking beasts: significantly larger than their more abundant cousin, the wasp, and boasting both a menacing set of mandibles – used to great effect to shred insect prey – and a particularly large stinger. They are also rather striking, clad in alternating shades of warm red, yellow and black. A…

Beauty amid death

As a nation, we have been conditioned to view our cemeteries as dark, macabre places. And, to a certain extent, they are – each and every one subtly different to the next, but all standing as everlasting memorials to the ephemeral nature of life, and the certainty of death. They are sombre places which, even…

Chris Packham’s UK Bioblitz comes to Newcastle

Have you heard of Chris Packham’s UK Bioblitz?  If not, it’s essentially a ten-day tour of 50 wildlife sites scattered across Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, conducted in an effort to highlight the extent to which our nation’s wildlife is under threat. With all data collected on the whirlwind tour being used to create…

A paradise of parched grasses

Walking at Weetslade Country Park this past weekend, the rolling grasslands of the former colliery site appeared almost Mediterranean. Parched grasses, sapped by what seems like an eternity of vigorous sunlight, appearing yellowed, dry and lifeless. The vista laid out before me more like a sight from the South of Spain, or Portugal than one…

Hairstreaks in the morning sun

Traversing the dappled woodland of Gosforth Park Nature Reserve earlier today, I had only one thing in mind: hairstreaks. Purple hairstreaks, to be precicse, Neozephyrus quercus, a remarkable, handsome butterfly that spends the majority of its time high in the canopy. Feasting on honeydew in close proximity to the species larval food plant, oak. Unlike most…

Small Skipper

This year appears to have been a good one for the Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris). All around the local area at present, these energetic, golden, thimble-sized butterflies adorn roadside verges, roundabouts, parkland and wasteland: livening up walks in the city as they flit from bloom to bloom. Appearing to particularly favour the pale-purple flowers of …

Broad-bodied Chaser

A quick visit to Gosforth  Park Nature Reserve today came up trumps with my first ever Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa). Now, this is a relatively common species, doubtless familiar to many of you, but as someone only just beginning their journey into the frustrating, complicated but altogether fun realm of dragonflies, this individual gave cause…