Category: Nature

The Woodcock

The Woodcock

She senses me before I sense her, of course, after all, this is a bird who hears worms. Both of us hunker, trying to disappear into earth she, a tessellation of feathers and I a tall shape in a woolly hat. Minutes pass but we stay rooted, the frosted grass cool on our toes. To her, this scene is familiar, she's lived it a hundred times or more crouching to avoid foxes and huntsmen, who delight...

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Running

Running

Running, I think, is my favourite way to pay attention. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes the muscles in my legs complain. But I keep going. Eventually, the discomfort eases. I find a rhythm, a pace which allows me to see. I like to run on the bookends of the day. I have tried it in the middle, but even in winter I find the light, and warmth, too harsh.  I relish it best in the morning,...

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Less is More

Less is More

After dreaming of Ceps (Boletus edulis) and Fly Agarics (Amanita mascaria) I took myself to a well-walked woodland in the Blackdown Hills which seemed like a good place to search for fungi. I didn’t expect to find much, but the dream was so vivid that it felt remiss to ignore it. At the time, I had no idea that the two species frequently grow alongside one another, both having mycorrhizal...

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Ghosts and Giants on Hermaness

Ghosts and Giants on Hermaness

As soon as we knew that our trip to Shetland was definitely happening, the first place Simon and I honed in on, independently, was the island of Unst. Unst is Shetland’s most northerly inhabited island. If you were to get in a boat and head directly north from its upper end, between the rocky outcrops of Muckle Flugga and Out Stack, you’d eventually reach the North Pole. Legend has it that the...

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Storm Petrels in the Simmer Dim

Storm Petrels in the Simmer Dim

The boat is already laden with people. We're not late, but perhaps this is one of those instances where arriving half an hour early was the correct thing to do. I dash down to the owners, who are standing at the land end of Sandsayre Pier, near Sandwick on Shetland, and tell them my name. Thankfully my booking, made online over a month ago, was recorded and my friend Simon and I are on the list...

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Walnut and Ash

Walnut and Ash

Recently, I’ve been fortunate. I have been in the company of Owls. The first, a Barn Owl, took me by surprise as I planted out courgettes. I have plans to write a longer piece about that encounter, so for now I’ll leave you with a photograph I took that evening. The second involves Owlets. A pair of Tawny Owlets which I stumbled upon just over a week ago at the edge of our garden. There have...

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Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent Clouds

I have been watching an oak tree for over two hours. It’s gone midnight, and it’s now so dark that the tree is no more than a hazy silhouette. I’m meant to be recording bat activity in and around the tree, but by this point in the morning the whole thing seems pretty futile. The bat detector I’m holding might register their ultrasonic calls, but I can’t see if the bats are flying into the tree,...

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Voices from the Sky

Voices from the Sky

(The title of this piece has been borrowed from Arthur C. Clarke.) Writing when sleep deprived is not the best of ideas, but I’m fired up from the events of last night (23rd-24th April, 2023). All the reports suggested an intense CME (coronal mass ejection - a large cloud of magnetised plasma from the outermost surface of the Sun’s atmosphere) was heading our way. Before darkness had even set...

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Linnets

Linnets

I wrote this piece in February, 2023. The original version was published on Mark Avery's website. I have edited it slightly since then, but the majority remains the same.  Mark has also written a blog about Linnets, which can be read here.  The sky is the colour of a Wood Pigeon’s back. The air fizzes with mizzle. After breakfast, I drop my car to our local garage to be fixed, then run the lanes...

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Jack Frost

Jack Frost

There are many things to feel nostalgic for as our world heats up. Near the top of my list is frost.  Frost is magic. Its formation, although easily explained, seems akin to alchemy. Crudely put, when ground temperatures fall below freezing, water vapour in the air condenses into ice crystals. These crystals, which start as hexagonal prisms, can shift and morph into numerous symmetrical shapes,...

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