Enjoying a waif from the East

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with the long-staying male Black-throated Thrush at Whipsnade Zoo, in Bedfordshire (a long way from home for this Geordie). Enjoying a scarce bird is always a pleasure but, I confess, the experience of observing just such a lost waif in the company of free-ranging South AmericanContinue reading “Enjoying a waif from the East”

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, experts and amateurs 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 anContinue reading “A Tale of Two Plant Hunts”

Winter wildlife doesn’t come much better than this

It’s shaping up to be a good year for Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus). Sure, the much anticipated ‘waxwing winter’ – an irregular spectacle marked by the mass arrival of these colourful birds to our shores – never quite came to fruition, but there is still a good number around. Hundreds, as opposed to thousands, yetContinue reading “Winter wildlife doesn’t come much better than this”

Dipping a Toe into the Natural History of Crete

A week ago, I begrudgingly returned home from a spur of the moment family holiday in Crete – a part of Europe I had yet to visit which, in retrospect, turned out to be rather beautiful. The week was marked by blissful temperatures, great food, a lively local culture and numerous excursions on foot toContinue reading “Dipping a Toe into the Natural History of Crete”

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. LivingContinue reading “Bringing the wilds home: a backyard experiment”

On the hunt for orchids

Orchids capture the popular imagination to a far greater extent than any other group of plants. Indeed, birders, entomologists, mammal-watchers – those who would never, under normal circumstances, label themselves a botanist – often find themselves weak and the knees and enraptured by their blooms. Perhaps this is due to visual appeal – orchids areContinue reading “On the hunt for orchids”

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 countlessContinue reading “An hour in the company of aliens”

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 lingeringContinue reading “The Post Christmas Escape”

A once in a lifetime encounter

Before yesterday commenced, I had only seen three Red-necked Grebes in my lifetime. Two as distant apparitions amid undulating heat haze on a vast swath of Estonian marshland, and the other, as an equally uninspiring spec on the horizon here in the UK. The latter being tossed astray by the tide around half a mileContinue reading “A once in a lifetime encounter”

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,Continue reading “The benefits of ‘curtain twitching’”

The exotic heart of London

Hailing from the North East of England, to me, a visit to London is much like a visit to a dystopian future. One where geographical boundaries blur and species which naturally should never have encountered one another, stand cheek by jowl in an odd assemblage of the tropical and tenacious. From squirrels, birds and fishContinue reading “The exotic heart of London”

Cetaceans on the Northumbrian coast

Yesterday I experienced something new and otherworldly: discovering a new side to my home county – Northumberland, for those who haven’t yet guessed – on a ten-hour trip into the North Sea with Northern Experience Wildlife Tours. The trip delivering a surreal experience as, at long last, I was able to get up close andContinue reading “Cetaceans on the Northumbrian coast”