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    How to be in the right place at the right time Watching wildlife is all about being in the right place at the right time, having an eye out, and most importantly being open to the unexpected. At least that is my approach. Let me share two recent amazing wildlife experiences: On our recent River Spey descent by canoe - a 5 day, 100km journey from Loch Insh to Spey Bay - we saw lots of wildlife. Ospreys patrolled the river for fish directly above the canoes. Kingfishers abounded in the dense willow on the bank, flashing azure light as they zipped from one bush to another. But the stand out moments for me were the sand martins which seem to have learned that the canoes lift flies from the surface of the river. Diving from their nests on the steep sandy banks, the martins would repeatedly duck and dive across the bows of the boats, hawking on the wing for their prey. This gave us a front seat view of the amazing agility of these wonderful birds. See https://www.theexpeditionclub.org/?P

UK Peatland our biggest carbon store and a wildlife heaven

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  Upland peatland doesn't win any prizes for landscape beauty, however it does win prizes for something else. Peat soils in the UK are by far the largest store of carbon we have and are vital to the UK meeting it's carbon commitments. They are also vital to conserving and managing much of our water supply. In this blog I want to celebrate their value for wildlife. From the majestic hen harrier, waders such as golden plover and curlew, to the diminutive plants such as sundew, bog rosemary, bog asphodel, preserving and maintaining our peatlands is vital to the survival of these fantastic species. However much of our upland peatlands are currently being destroyed by overgrazing by sheep, agricultural drainage and burning for grouse shooting. You can join the campaign to stop illegal burning of peatland at  https://twitter.com/GreenpeaceUK/status/1531637629330018304                    A healthy peat landscape                           Sundew, one of the UK's insectivorous     

Spring woodland wildflower bonanza

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  Go down to the woods today! The Spring woodland flowers are in full bloom. In their race to flower and be pollinated before the overshadowing trees come into full leaf, intercepting the sunlight before it reaches the woodland floor, many different varieties of wildflower richly carpet the woodland floor, thrusting up their colourful flowers a quickly as possible. A tapestry of whites, blues and yellows patterns the bright green leaves, while sweet scents drift through the still woodland air.      Throughout this dazzling variety, but really only visible to those or take time to observe quietly and carefully, a great number of insects move through the plants’ foliage from flower to flower. Early bees bumble around, both pollinating and searching for small holes for their nests. Spring butterflies of several kinds flap silently, switching between their search for nectar, and basking in the sunlit glades. A host of other smaller and more discreet flies, wasps and midges, tempted by the

March 2022

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  Awake to the English rain forest As I turn off the noisy main road onto a tiny quiet lane, I am immediately surrounded by scrubby hawthorn trees which have sprung up on this abandoned corner. As soon as enough scrub separates me from the road to provide a visual barrier, the air changes and my mood changes with it. I hear the piping of a score of small birds flitting in the branches, I smell the damp earth. So conditioned to the industrial sounds and smells of our urban world as we are, it is a shock to suddenly have my senses awakened to the emanations of nature. They alert in me a different feeling, an alertness to a slower rhythm and more ancient cycles. The hawthorn trees have grown up on disturbed ground, perhaps an old quarry, or workings from the time when the lane was first sealed. These scrubby trees have now reached their maturity, between them birch, ash and some oak fill in the gaps. My attention is drawn to one particular oak – older than the others. The old woodman’

January 2022

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  The turn of the year Despite the newness of the season, it being only 7 days since the Solstice, the first stirrings of a new year are noticeable. I went through the woods by Gunpowder Gorge where the river charges through a narrow limestone gap. The woods are a relatively new arrival, maybe 100 years old, with trees growing thickly on a shallow sticky marl which oozes wet all year. In the last few years the birch trees have been falling like matchsticks. Now the woodland floor is a like a giant game of pick-up sticks with a jumbled mess of silver stems lying crisscrossed and intertwined. This dead wood, though far from aesthetically pleasing, will provide vital food for the processes which might turn this young wood into a more mature naturalistic state. The dead wood is being colonised by a wide range of fungi and no doubt by saproxylic beetles. The fungi with their immense spread of underground hyphae not only process the decaying wood, but play a role in incorporating it into