John Clare

Melvin Bragg’s ‘In our Time’ featured the 19th century ‘peasant’ poet John Clare – it is well worth a listen. A poet with an unprecedented eye for wildlife and a man who lived through the enclosures of the Northamptonshire Commons which no doubt played a part in the mental health issues he faced later in his life.

You can listen to the radio programme here.

Here is one of his poems – The Cuckoo – he captures the bird and its natural history in words in a way that we would only know 200 years later as a result of scientific research – remarkable.

Cuckoo 1

The Cuckoo

The cuckoo, like a hawk in flight,
With narrow pointed wings
Whews o’er our heads – soon out of sight
And as she flies she sings:
And darting down the hedgerow side
She scares the little bird
Who leaves the nest it cannot hide
While plaintive notes are heard.

I’ve watched it on an old oak tree
Sing half an hour away
Until its quick eye noticed me
And then it whewed away.
Its mouth when open shone as red
As hips upon the brier,
Like stock doves seemed its winged head
But striving to get higher

It heard me rustle and above leaves
Soon did its flight pursue,
Still waking summer’s melodies
And singing as it flew.
So quick it flies from wood to wood
‘Tis miles off ‘ere you think it gone;
I’ve thought when I have listening stood
Full twenty sang – when only one.

When summer from the forest starts
Its melody with silence lies,
And, like a bird from foreign parts,
It cannot sing for all it tries.
‘Cuck cuck’ it cries and mocking boys
Crie ‘Cuck’ and then it stutters more
Till quick forgot its own sweet voice
It seems to know itself no more.


Brent geese

The sky over Dawlish Warren looked quite threatening but as it turned out it only rained for around 15 minutes.

A nice little flock of Brent Geese on the 6th fairway on the Warren Golf Course

They were a bit anxious as we walked past them but they soon returned to feeding – there aren’t many birds that survive by eating grass and when you are that big you need to eat a lot of it.

Titchmarsh in the fog

Northamptonshire was again a foggy place yesterday.


I went back to Titchmarsh nature reserve yesterday – this was the first nature reserve I was involved with the acquisition of when I was Director of the Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust

A wet land reserve created from gravel extraction in the mid 1980s – today it is an SSSI and part of the Nene Valley Special Protection Area – habitat creation really works for wildlife

This is one of the gravel pits next to the Heronry – there was a bittern about but we didn’t see it but we did watch a Cetti’s warbler – there weren’t a Titichmarsh in the 1980s.

Great spotted woodpecker on a bird feeder by one of the hides

Male goldeneye

Male and female today

Great to go back and see so many wildfowl on the waters – well over 750

New species in Northamptonshire

I lived and worked in Northamptonshire for many years. I’m now back visiting and I have seen three species of bird from the garden in Denton Wood which were not present in the county in the 1980s and 1990s. All three species now breed – they are raven, red kite and buzzard.

Yesterday they were several ravens flying around and ‘cronking’

red-kiteRed kite flying over the woods

No photo yet of a buzzard……

An Eastern Black Redstart at Mousehole

Went down to Mousehole in West Cornwall yesterday to see if I could find and photograph the Eastern Black Redstart. Took around 30 minutes to find it.

Super looking bird – it is a sub species of Black Redstart from the Middle East – it has this lovely red breast

It would sit on the rocks and then fly off into nearby garden – it was also being harassed by a robin who obviously wasn’t so keen on the red breast

A poor picture but you can see the red breast and the red markings on the under tail

black-redstart_Here is the UK sub species for comparison

There was also a Grey Wagtail on the beach too

A Desert Wheatear on Leasfoot Beach

I had heard (via Birdguides) that there was a Desert Wheatear on Leasfoot Beach which adjacent to Thurlestone Golf Course close to the Club House. So I popped down at lunch time yesterday to see it.

It is a very rare vagrant in Britain – the species normally breeds in the dry steppes and semi-deserts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The recent strong easterly winds must have blown it off course and somehow it ended up in Devon. Here are a few photos of the bird – it is a 1st winter male.