A pearly day

Park Corner Heath in East Sussex is a postage stamp of acid grassland, heath and coppiced birch within a mixed woodland of planted pines and ancient beeches. The small reserve is managed for its butterflies and moths by Butterfly Conservation. The winter management by teams of volunteers maintains the clearings; this supports a range of…

Meadows and brambles

At Bough Beech there are no nightingales this year but a garden warbler is singing its continuous rattle from the bramble patches in the wilding fields. Nearby a chiffchaff makes short sorties to collect dead leaves and grasses to construct a domed nest in a short tangle of grasses and brambles. At Marden Meadow, the…

Old Lodge warblers, larks and starts

The last week of April is the week when Old Lodge reserve on Ashdown Forest comes alive with the sound of birds; the most obvious is the liquid song of willow warblers foraging in the birches but also blackcaps and redstarts. A mistle thrush sings from a tall pine. A pair of woodlarks forage quietly…

Curlew country

A weekend in the spring sunshine and a cold east wind helping my old friend Tony Cross colour-ring curlew and dippers in Wales and Welsh Marches. Male curlews are highly territorial so they respond to a playback of their effervescent bubbling call alongside a stuffed curlew (inappropriately called ‘stuffy’) placed by a net and we…

March descending

On the last day of March, the sun makes a slow descent behind the dark hedgerow and April emerges under a blue sky. On the downs, ravens and buzzards are mobbed by nesting carrion crows. Chiffchaffs, finches and buntings are calling from the trees. Bumblebees work the willow catkins in the evening sun and appear…

Dexters on the Down

Dexter cattle are either tan or black with elegant curved horns and small with short legs, so perfectly formed for grazing the steep downlands. At Fackenden, they are put out over winter and early spring to keep the chalk grassland sward in check and perhaps halt the spread of tor-grass which occurs in distinctive, light…

March light

In March, the grass is growing, gardens and greens are full of daffodils, the budding trees are russet-fringed and willows are in bright leaf. The muted, early spring palette, laced with white and pink cherry blossom, is filled with promise. The old estate at Little Barford near St Neots provides a set of postcards of…

Faces of February

A month of extremes; a mild start followed by a week of freezing air from the north east and snow-frozen ground that disappears as quickly as it arrives and is quickly forgotten as the land is brought alive by spring-like temperatures and the first butterflies are on the wing. In the freeze, the small birds…