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Adventures in Nature
Wild Encounters #6: Halichoerus grypus
9th January 2018

Unlike on my other Wild Encounter experiences this year, there was no problem spotting my final subject.  They were spread out along the beach in their thousands, their haunting calls carrying over the dunes before I could even see them.  Although normally at home out at sea, in November and December huge numbers of grey seal come to the mainland to give birth and breed.  It’s a spectacular sight which can be witnessed at a handful of sites along the east coast. (more…)

Wild Encounters#5: Sciurus vulgaris
28th November 2017

 

I had been trying to catch sight of red squirrels in the wild for a few years.  On trips to the Lakes or Scotland I had spent hours watching in woodlands to catch brief glimpses in the trees, but now in a woodland in my native Yorkshire they seemed to be everywhere, clambering up trees, scampering across logs and even running around my feet. The conifer woodland in Snaizeholme in Wensleydale is refuge for red squirrels who thrive there, thanks to its isolation and a conservation programme by local landowners.  (more…)

Wild Encounters#4: Arvicola amphibius
18th August 2017

Water Vole by Peter Trimming. Image from Flickr licensed under Creative Common

I walked barefoot along the board walk early one summer morning, trying to creep up one of Britain’s rarest mammals.  At this time of day, I had Malham Tarn to myself, so my ears were straining above the hum of insects and songs of birds, to hear a watery splash.  That was what had alerted me to its presence when I visited the nature reserve last summer, but today the slow moving streams were almost silent.  I peered into the clear water which runs into England’s highest freshwater lake, but only the underwater reeds were stirring. (more…)

Wild Encounters#3: Meles Meles
28th May 2017

We regularly meet badgers in children’s stories, usually as the wise old elder, (e.g. Wind in the Willows, Fanastic Mr Fox), or occasionally as a savage and cunning baddie (e.g. The Tale of Mr Tod, Watership Down), but either way, if there is an anthropomorphic tale set in a woodland, Mr Brock Badger will be there. Adopted as the symbol of the Wildlife Trusts and blamed for the spread of bovine TB, they seem equally loved and loathed and stand in the middle of the battleground of our attitudes towards nature. (more…)

Wild encounters#2: Lepidus timidus
6th March 2017

Growing up hares seemed much more common a sight, hiding in the long grass or boxing in the fields.  These days I rarely see them, but when I do they delight and transfix me, like the one last summer that appeared when I was lost down a country lane and lolloped along in front for several minutes, as if to guide me in the right direction.

For my Wild Encounters blog I researched where I might see some brown hares, and discovered that the Peak district has its own colony of mountain hares, whose coats turn Artic white in winter.  Unlike brown hares, which arrived with the Romans, mountain hares are native to the UK, but only naturally in Scotland.  They arrived in England probably thanks to introduction by landowners interested in increasing the variety of game to hunt.  As with much wildlife, mountain hares are at risk due to habitat destruction and illegal hunting, but in the Peak District, the RSPB  conservation work is helping the population of mountain hares to recover. (more…)