Monday, 5 December 2011

It's not rocket science

Do not wear pink if you want to attract birds. Hideously amateur is the best way to describe my attire on a trip to the Dungeness RSPB nature reserve recently. My business partner's careful selection of blend-in-with-everything black was wise. I am learning from my mistakes. We did, despite everything, see a snipe (highlight of the day for me), pochards, marsh harrier (possibly), great white egret, lapwings (lots), grebes, cormorants, tufted ducks and greylag geese.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Every day is different

Finding objects out in the wild is wonderful. Most days I am uplifted by collecting interesting leaves, feathers or mossy sticks. Very occasionally I get REALLY lucky, like yesterday:

Just got to work out how to clean it up.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Walnuts in honey

I first bought a jar of this in the Thursday morning market in Villefranche de Rouergue in the Aveyron. It was VASTLY expensive for the size of the jar (€4.50, jar = small). However, it was very delicious and it didn't take long to work out that I could easily make it myself.
Recipe and method: break the walnuts up to the size you want (you can use them whole) and put them in a sterilised jar. Pour some honey through the walnuts until the jar is full, then pop on the lid. This is fabulous with fromage frais/greek yoghurt and fresh fruit for breakfast.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Looking inside

Everything you find is worth a closer look. Seeing inside is usually both surprising and rewarding, even if sometimes it's hard to get there. This was true of the pine cone, it took 
a good deal of effort with a hacksaw to cut it in half.

On the top row is a teasel head and the pine cone. On the bottom row a poppy seed head 
and an ammolite (given to me by a good friend). The ammolite is a fossilised opalescent ammonite. It's made up mostly of the same mineral as mother of pearl. 
I was happy not to have to cut this in half.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The more you look, the more you find

How can leaves that all fall from the same tree in autumn look so unique?

Thursday, 22 September 2011


The smell of falling golden poplar leaves on a warm early autumn afternoon is not to be missed.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be--
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
Btu when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Bushy Park Red Deer

The deer are starting the rut in Bushy Park. I see a great deal of activity. 
The males are rubbing up against trees:

The females are herding anxiously together:

And I can hear the bellowing of the stags all across the park.

I can't wait for the first fog.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hop-picking in Kent

Rising early to be in the hop garden by 7am, I watch the sky turn from breath-taking red striations to a crisp September blue. It's rained heavily overnight and the hops are drenched and soon I am, too. Slowly, we make our way down the rows of hops, pulling and pressing the bines into the trailer. I've been doing this on and off since student days: a time when families of Eastenders would still come down for their annual "holiday". These have long been replaced by a posse of family friends and work-focused eastern europeans, but little else has changed. Possibly my favourite time of year. Liberating and life-enhancing.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Autumn foods

This fawn was chewing on (what I think were) acorns. It didn't look like it was enjoying them very much. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


I like the way some feathers catch in the grass and stick up like flags. 
The ones that stand out are mostly black.

The variety of feather shape, size or colour is remarkable. 
I cannot walk past a feather without picking it up. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Monday, 8 August 2011

The hint of autumn

I go to the park hunting for butterflies but it is too blowy. Instead I take a look at the bigger picture. I feel around me the change of the season. In places the bracken is starting to show autumn tints.

And I find the occasional leaf showing a hint of things to come.

The magpies are moulting. They look comical with their slightly bald heads and giant, feathery black and white overcoats. I don't manage to get a picture, they're too nervous.

Another bird I am never quick enough to photograph is the swallow. Today they are dancing with the grass, collecting insects. In flight they swoop so close maybe I can feel their wing beats. But this is just a fantasy. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Spiders and Acorns

I managed to find a wasp spider in the park. They are mean-looking and live up to their appearance they can give a nasty bite, as this grasshopper found to his cost. Watch out for them in long grass, just above ground level and keep your distance.

I notice there are lots of acorns this year. For some reason there were hardly any last year. I picked a few to scan but they also looked good in a bowl with some old seeds from previous seasons. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Too Hot

Fast or slow

Chalkhill Blue butterflies on Denbies hillside. I will avoid going into detail about what they're all so interested in.

Garden snail, France

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


The Meadow

I step into the long grass and I am immediately taken to a different place. Here everything is small, intricate and busy. The closer I look the more I become absorbed in this vast and detailed world.

With the sun comes the dizzying sound of thousands of grasshoppers, all competing to be heard. They are so small I can only see them as they scatter up in front of my boots in a spray of light brown dots. When they land they are invisible again.

Hoverflies bustle amongst the grass stems, darting so fast they appear and vanish like illusionists.

A bright Cinnabar moth catches my eye. The colours warn it’s not a tasty treat. It loves and is sitting on Ragwort, a yellow-flowered plant which it’s larvae devour.

I walk on, the more I look, the more I see and the more I want to see. I could spend many days here. Reluctantly I check the time. I have to go.

I step back onto the path and the meadow-spell vanishes in an instant. I glance back over my shoulder. I want to stay. There is so much to discover but it will have to wait until tomorrow.