Category: Nature Notes

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 and ...

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 ...

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 ...

The beauty of Bee Orchids

For me, the Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) has always been somewhat of an enigma: a species I frequently encounter on TV, social media and the blogs of other naturalists yet never in the flesh. This petite yet flamboyant bloom, famed for its status as one of nature's great mimics, eluding me at every turn. The ...

Cuddy ducks, clowns and stench of guano

Britain's seabird colonies represent a spectacle like no other: bustling, raucous municipalities where a multitude of species congregate to form a single, far larger, living being. An avian city, cramped and lively, which moves and reacts as one when presented with danger, or opportunity - similar in many ways to the concrete jungles so many ...

Nature Notes #3

I've had very little time this week for my usual outdoor pursuits, largely owing to a growing workload and a multitude of mounting side projects. That said, yesterday I managed an all too brief outing in search of a bird I have wanted to see for many years: a Rose-coloured Starling. A rare vagrant to British ...

Nature Notes #2

  Spring has sprung, at long last. And all about my local area, the sapphire blooms of English bluebell mingle with the garish, Simpson-yellow of lesser celandine and the pristine white of flowering wood anemone. The air encompassing them ripe with the stench of ramsons carried on the breeze and nearby waterways - the ponds, streams ...

Nature Notes #1

The descending song of a willow warbler, the years first, catches my ears as I take my first steps into the wood - a sound which, to me, evokes everything profoundly beautiful about the British springtime. Calling to mind longer days and warmer nights; the electric blooms of bluebell and the yellow radiance of celandine; and ...