Otter on the river Wharfe, Ben Rhydding Nature Reserve

Tails, from the Riverside

Oh, how I’d love to tell you about how I woke up hours before sunrise. How I hand-ground some coffee and gently simmered it over a stove before stepping out into the cold and dark. That I went into full camouflage mode, rubbed otter spraint into the pores of my skin and waited motionless for hours in anticipation of my quarry. While the reality is somewhat more mundane, my most recent and closest encounter yet with otters was no less magical and no less authentic. Read more


Orange tip butterflies about to mate

The Morning After the Sleep Before

It’s the morning after two nights before. You’ve worked hard, partied hard - so hard that you’ve slept for twenty-four hours straight.Read more


Dipper sunlit under a wrought iron bridge, Ilkley

A Dip Under the Bridge

I don't need to tell you that since the global pandemic, finding the quieter spots locally has become harder. Yet, where there's a will, there's a way and on a bright summer's evening where best to find some quiet? Under a wrought-iron bridge, naturally. Read more


Snowfall in Lockdown, a Slow Video

If there's one thing I've been consistently good at from childhood to now, it's looking out of windows. So as I try to focus on some image editing, it's no surprise that the sight of snow falling on the rooftops around me pulls my gaze like a blue bottle to a UV strobe. Computer off, tripod up, home studio window open and an afternoon gone. To help justify my poor discipline and beyond hope attention span, I made a short video of it (the snowfall not my attention span!). I hope you enjoy...

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Day One, One of Two Halves

The morning after the night before. Another indefinite lockdown announced with schools shut for at least six weeks. Challenges both familiar and new are not on the horizon but here with one foot in the front door already.

Two cups of coffee to offset last night’s bottle of wine, a pinch of motivation mustered and we’re away… By afternoon the sun breaks through the thick cloud and a crack of positivity creeps in.

As the snowcapped hills glow pink in the last light of day, I’m ready for the weeks ahead, ready to face the new realities of our world albeit through the crack of a rooftop window.


Reminiscent Walks in Royal Parks (Richmond & Bushy)

“Do you miss it?”  - It’s a question I still hear at least a handful of times a year after swapping the busy London boroughs for a quieter suburban life in Yorkshire. Over the years I’ve honed and refined my answers, often opting to give the questioner a polished but personalised version of the answer they wanted or expected to hear. Read more


Grass sparkling with frost

All That Glitters...

“I leant upon a coppice gate

      When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

      The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

      Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

      Had sought their household fires.”

The opening verse to ‘The Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy – Which you can read in full here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44325/the-darkling-thrush 

Looking back now, it seems pretty implausible that a young adult who spent nearly every spare moment playing Grand Theft Auto would suddenly and inexplicably find themselves hooked on a book published in 1874 called Far From the Madding Crowd. 

 

Yet maybe these epic pendulum swings to and from the seemingly unconnected are something familiar to those who have known me the longest. 

 

Far from the Madding Crowd was a book that sparked a short fascination but enduring admiration for its author Thomas Hardy. 

 

Today, I find myself living in a village with faint, faint echoes of the landscapes so vividly and painstakingly described in Hardy’s books and poetry. One of the criticisms I’ve heard directed at Thomas Hardy is his lengthly descriptions and depictions. For me though, it’s what sells and sets him apart as a writer. His uncompromising determination to record a place and time, reflects a recognition of a world in flux and a responsibility to preserve it, warts and all.   

 

From harnessing fire to building 5G masts, I doubt there’s a generation in the history of humanity who hasn’t felt the dizzying effects of unrelenting change. But maybe it’s the changes we don’t notice we should find more nauseating. 

 

I recently passed a house whose eaves are a regular nesting and roosting spot for starlings. It wasn’t so much that the rooftop roost had been filled with expanding foam that disheartened me, it was the fact that no post-eviction provision had been considered for them.

If the homeowners were aware of the 66% decline in UK starlings would they have placed a nest box or two afterwards? How many people are even aware that this familiar bird is in such trouble?

 

Starling numbers are just a drop in an ocean of examples where drastic and alarming changes seem to pass us by with not much notice. Swifts have declined by more than 50%  since 1995, Curlews, Cuckoos (80% decline), a quarter of our native mammals and insects too are all facing dramatic and dangerous population declines. The problem is, most of us don’t see it, or the impact of it.  

More recently, my attention has been focused on our local climate. Waiting, hoping for a good frost to get out in and photograph. The problem is, with December just days away, we still haven’t had a good, solid frost. We’ve had a couple of very mild frosts but those didn’t even warrant a nectar card scrape along the car windows. Here in Burley in Wharfedale and anecdotally speaking, each year, appears to offer less and less hard frosts. It’s not just me that’s noticing it, however. It’s evident in the changes of some of our wildlife behaviour too. 

 

Now, I have to be careful here not to turn this post into something it’s not meant to be. It’s important to bear in mind that there are lots of different pressures and variables that can independently and/or collectively affect bird and wildlife behaviour. What I do want this blog article to highlight is, that when you start to get outdoors and watch and photograph your surroundings, it’s inhabitants, you start getting a more intimate picture of the silent, unseen changes occurring. 

 

I cannot help but believe the more people going out with their cameras and recording these local, small and largely unseen changes, the bigger the picture we’ll get to see. 

 

Of course, such observations will be hard to offer anything much beyond anecdotal evidence. And if you are interested in the hard science on the effects of climate change on the UK’s wildlife behaviour, this 50 year study offers a good starting point: https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/news/fifty-year-study-shows-climate-change-pushing-uk-wildlife-out-sync  

 

While science offers a vital foundation and a tangible yard-stick for us, I really feel that until will are all able to contextualise it with our own observations, the harder it will be for people to care. And before we know it, our once-iconic birds, beasts, even localised frosts, will become just a subject of legend, found only in our local archives and museums…. 

A 2019 November Frost...


light, grey Lurcher dog portrait Yorkshire Dales, dog walking

Happy Adoption Day Alfie 2020

This year Alfie celebrated his Adoption Day in the Western Isles of Scotland (before lockdown part two). Which is why this yearly tribute is a little later than usual. Read more


Nature and wildlife graffiti Mural on Subway at Tolworth Roundabout. Nature Graffiti of a badger and kingfisher, London Suburbs

Hometown Roundabout Makeover (In Green)

Brussel sprouts, Trump, Mama Mia, U2, ketchup on baked beans and... Tolworth Tower. Yes, like Marmite, this 22 storey 1960's landmark or eyesore has both fans and critics. But now, Tolworth can boast a new attraction that must surely unite opinion and praise! Read more


Hoopoe, Upupa epops on a driveway digging for grubs Collingham, Leeds West Yorkshire

Mott the Hoopoe & All the Young(ish) Dudes!

Sporting a majestic mohawk, I guess the Hoopoe may be more punk-rock than my glam rock pun-tastic blog title (channelling Mott the Hoople) suggests! Read more