Country diary: Swimming in the sea through a roiling shoal of silver sprats fold

ors we arrived at the beach, the setting sun blazed orange, backlighting the sail-shaped Spinnaker Tower, which stood proud on the horizon. It was the perfect evening for a swim, the calm, dark sea reflecting like quicksilver. As we slipped in, two swallows swooped low above our heads – a welcome distraction from the water’s … Read more

Country diary: A swift hunting among house martins is a joy to savor Birds

The sky was intermittently blue and weak sunshine sparked a faint chorus of grasshoppers. Otherwise, this was a landscape wrung dry of all summer and the grasses were gray, the thistles dead, if flossed with cottony seed. The only sounds were the long-drawn notes of young buzzards that were suffused with a sense of melancholy. … Read more

Country diary: September means a new start for young adults – and new dangers | Birds

or young barn owl drank from a water trough on the farm, fell in, and drowned. It was found the next morning and soggily removed. Now, the body decomposes in the hedgerow. My eight-year-old nephew showed me the white maggots feasting on the still beautiful corpse; only the beak and fierce talons remain in perfect … Read more

Country diary: While I was watching pipit and cuckoo, so was something else | Birds

With my back to an oak tree in the last copse below Carneddi’s fridd wall, I focus my glass on a low branch where a tree pipit is feeding a young cuckoo. Pale green caterpillars dangling from the pipit’s bill contrast neatly with the pink of this foster parent’s lower mandible. The cuckoo, plump and … Read more

Country diary: A stony desert in the heart of the Peaks – and it’s thriving | Wildlife

Glance north as you walk east-west over this ridge and my guess is that few would see much to lure them into the landscape beyond the fence. Perhaps just as well, given the lack of public access, but you’d be wrong about any absence of interest. Deep Rake is an old industrial place and the … Read more

Country diary: I’m fond of these steers. Today feels like a betrayal Animals

The carry such tension about this morning. Despite the parched ground, there is enough to eat and the cattle aren’t very motivated to move. They’ve obliged so far, passing through a sequence of fields until they arrived in this meadow about five days ago, but now I’m going to require them to come into the … Read more

Country diary: The black guillemots are well cared for here | Birds

Two small silhouettes are floating on the tide. With apparent casualness, these “Bangor penguins”, as they’re known locally, dip their heads underwater to scan for butterfish. Their sleek bodies and monochrome plumage lend a little resemblance to their distantly related namesake, but the black guillemot is in fact an Arctic species of auk. Over a … Read more

Country diary: The garden is alive with insects, despite the heatwave Insects

Eearly morning in my garden and the catmint path is already noisy with bumblebees. They hurry from one open-lipped mauve tube to another, their wings back-lit silver by the new day’s light. Sprigs of catmint bend under the weight of the bees before bouncing up again. The hazy billowing plants on either side of the … Read more