You don’t have to be an expert.

I am firmly of the opinion (which doesn’t mean that it is correct of course) that vast numbers of British people are really quite knowledgeable about birds, and that even more of them are thrilled by them.

In Remarkable Birds I suggest that ‘almost every human who has ever lived has probably seen or heard a bird almost every day’ and that seems pretty likely to me.

Yesterday I had a fun day of rushing around and getting various jobs done. One of the jobs involved me sitting down and chatting to a young lady for quite a while – I was having my hair cut (and did I need it!).  While sitting in the barber’s chair and looking into the mirror in front of me I couldn’t help but notice, and I really couldn’t help it, that there was a Red Kite circling over the school. And the young lady and I had a chat about Red Kites. When she was born, it would have been very unusual to see a Red Kite in Northants as it was in her early years that they were reintroduced (made me feel very old). Red Kites seem to like circling over school playgrounds – and generations of Northamptonshire school children are now growing up knowing and loving Red Kites.

Having got my hair cut (what do you think? Tidy hair or not?), I felt able to meet Mary Colwell for a chat and a walk around my local patch of Stanwick Lakes. We saw a Red Kite there too but the Goldcrest was probably the species on our rather feeble list of 36 species which I seen least frequently at my local patch. In fact, it is! because I have checked through the wonders of Birdtrack which tells me that I have seen Goldcrests on 11% of my 400+ visits whereas I have seen Goosander on 22% of visits.

And we talked about Curlews, GCSEs, TV and radio presenters, MPs, conservation leaders and the fact that one of my best friends lives in the same street as Mary.  Maybe we talked about you – were your ears burning?

And at the end of the day I went to see my accountant and signed off my tax return.  Jon sympathised with me about how little I earn as an author (please note Duncan Thomas even though it really is none of your business) and he even reduced his fees because he said my tax affairs were so simple (he could have said paltry) and that I had done most of the work anyway – which was nice of him.  He then told me that he was getting into birds and that in his lunch break he goes and looks at the birds on the local lake.  He is clearly getting to know his local Mallards, Coots, Grey Herons and Little Egrets quite well. Now, Little Egret, there’s another bird that would have been an extreme Northants rarity when the young lady who cut my hair was born, but it is familiar to my accountant, and Mary and I had seen one at Stanwick Lakes that lunchtime too.

I enjoyed yesterday. I expect hairdressers, radio and TV producers, accountants and impecunious authors will probably all be counting birds in their gardens for Big Garden Birdwatch the weekend after next – except this author won’t be as I will be talking at the Irish Raptor Study Group conference in Dublin.




Curlew stories

A writer called Kerri

One of the winners of the writing competition on this blog, Kerri Ni Dochartaigh, is collecting memories, stories and fragments from folk of all walks of life about ‘the majestic and hauntingly beautiful curlew’.  Please send anything you would like to share to Kerri at .

A bird called Curlew. Photo: Tim Melling


Who would you like to sit a GCSE in natural history?

Mary Colwell’s e-petition to develop a GCSE in natural history is doing well – over 4000 signatures already (see here and here).

If it already existed then I wonder how many Defra ministers would pass it?




Another bird flu case at another turkey farm in Lincolnshire

Yesterday Defra revealed that there has been another outbreak of bird flu at a commercial turkey farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire. This was in the same district of Lincolnshire as the other main outbreak of H5N8 affecting a commercial premises which was also at a turkey farm and also in East Lindsey back in December. Defra lifted the Protection Zone measures, on 9 January, around the premises where the first outbreak occurred (on 16 December).  Despite the close proximity of the two cases, and the second occurring just a week after the Protection Zone measures were lifted around the first farm, Defra say that:

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a flock of turkeys at a farm in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire. This follows confirmation of the disease in a flock of turkeys on a nearby farm on 16 December 2016. There is unlikely to be a direct link to the previous case but a full investigation is under way to confirm this.


Guest blog – New Nature magazine by Alice Johnson

Having always loved wildlife, Alice studied a degree in conservation and has been involved with various projects, including helping barn owls with The Wildlife Trust and little terns with the RSPB. She keeps a wildlife blog (Nature Nattering) and writes content for The Woodland Trust.





New Nature Magazine – Nature through the eyes of the next generation

Several years ago, when exam season at school had finished, my parents suggested we went for a short trip away somewhere. Everyone at school was jetting off to sunny resorts, boasting about the beaches and places they were going to. A stark contrast with my choice, where the chilly weather kept me wrapped in a thick coat, and I had to wear a hat for safety purposes due to aerial attacks by a certain species.

I sat huddled on a boat and looked across the choppy water as the harsh sea breeze numbed my face, but breathed life into my soul. Then I saw a small black shape flying over the sea, every wingbeat injecting excitement into me – a puffin! Once on the Farne Islands, being in amongst a seabird colony fuels you with an incredible engagement and love for the natural world. There is something especially memorable about having Arctic terns poking your head and being hit in the face by something other than a raindrop. When I came home however I didn’t tell anyone at school about how wonderful it was. I knew they would laugh and think I was ‘weird’ for going on holiday to watch birds. Many young nature lovers know this feeling.

This is where New Nature magazine comes in. New Nature is an e-magazine written and produced by the younger generation. It allows contributors and readers to feel connected to other nature lovers as well as express and share their love and experiences of the natural world. We want to continue to fuel the interest and passion the next generation has for nature as well as to hopefully encourage more people to appreciate what amazing wildlife we have here in the UK. The more interest there is in nature, the more likely it is that its importance will be recognised and that it will be protected.

New Nature magazine is produced monthly, with beautiful articles written by people aged 30 or under. Subjects covered in the magazine include specific species articles, places to visit, upcoming events, patch-chats, conservation discussions, celebrity interviews, careers advice, science research summaries and book reviews as well as lots of incredible photos. The magazine is a place where any young individual can express their love and interest for nature, whether it revolves around birds, fungi, trees or anything else. We want to hear about their experiences with nature and why they love it. As a magazine that includes careers pieces and summaries of student research, it not only aids connectivity of young naturalists but can help readers gain future employment by giving them advice from professionals. New Nature is already creating opportunities for its contributors as a few have been commissioned to write an article for another magazine, after the editor spotted their original piece in New Nature.

Support for the New Nature magazine has been unbelievable, so thank you to everyone who has already taken a look, and although the content is written by ‘young’ nature lovers, it really is a magazine anyone can read and enjoy. So if you haven’t seen it you can download the magazine free of charge on our website: and if you or anyone you know is aged 30 or under and would like to contribute (unless it is for a careers piece in which case we have no age limit) please contact – we would love to hear from you.