Oscar Dewhurst – Red Deer drinking

Oscar writes: I visited Bushy Park for the deer rut for the first time this year, as I had heard that the deer go in the water more than at Richmond Park. Sure enough this turned out to be true, with a large stag spending some time drinking in the early morning sun. I wish I could have got a lower angle, but didn’t have time to change position before it had finished and left the water again.

Nikon D800, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR lens


My library – Library Minus?

This blog isn’t about the natural world but it is about the political one in which the natural world sits.

As an author I’m quite keen on people reading books – indeed last year I got the huge sum of £77 as my share of the Public Lending Right pot.  But the local library is more than a source of income, it is a community hub which my children, when young, used and my mother, not at all young, still uses. I don’t use the library very much but I do now and again.

We live in an age of austerity and so it comes as no surprise that non-essential services are under pressure.  There are 36 libraries in Northants and the plan is to close at least 21 of them, including my local library in Raunds.  The mobile library will also be shut down.  The details are in this consultation which closed yesterday.

Raunds Library, like many others, is a designated Children’s Centre, and as I say, it is a hub for other community events.

It’s tempting to suggest that this is just one of those things – and maybe it is – but here are two contextual pieces of information which appear to have shaped these decisions. First, Northants has a growing population, particularly growing in children and older people, and it appears (I can’t be 100% sure of the truth of this) that Northants is disadvantaged by the existing funding formula. Second, for many years the county council has been Conservative controlled and has prided itself in not increasing the council tax (much if at all).  Last week Sajid Javid sent in a task force to look at the books of Northants County Council – a very rare event. So I live in a county where the needs are growing and the money is not increasing, partly because of ‘austerity’ and partly because the Conservative county council has not used its opportunities to tax us all to provide public services for those who need them.

We have been offered the possibility of running a community library but this would actually consist of having to raise £60k pa locally in order to have a mere 2-year stay of execution and then we might well end up in the same position as now. In fact, Northants’ finances are in such poor shape it looks impossible to save my local library and I’d be surprised if there are any library services, outside the big 8 libraries in the county (Northampton, Corby, Daventry, Wellingborough, Towcester, Kettering, Rushden, Weston Favell), which will survive in a few years’ time.

Still, Rushden is only 30 minutes away by bus – in a separate consultation the county council is planning to remove all subsidies from bus servies so that may be a less attractive option in future. Anyway, at least you can renew your library books by email and telephone – except that in another consultation those services are to be withdrawn and only online renewals will be accepted. These changes will very clearly affect those less able to travel, those less able to pay for travel and those less well-equipped with computyer technology.

I’m guessing there will be some houses on the site of my library within just a few years.

The UK is about the 20th-richest per capita country.



Completely impossible to choose

What is the nation’s favourite nature book?

The shortlist of 10 alleged nature books is open for you to vote for your favourite.

How one can possibly choose between Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by my mate Chris Packham (which is a superb book but not really what I would class a nature book) and The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White I really don’t know. Or how to choose between the poems of John Clare (our local poet in these parts) and Wind in the Willows (which again doesn’t strike me as a nature book much more than does Animal Farm).   The list seems a strange one to me, but anything which ecourages people to fall in love with nature has to be a good thing.

Poll closes midnight 25 January.


Tim Melling – Malachite Kingfisher

Tim writes: What amazing headgear this tiny Malachite Kingfisher has. Looks like it is dressed up for Ascot Ladies’ Day. Malachite Kingfishers are only about two thirds the size of the British Kingfisher but they have much longer crest feathers and have a different shade of blue on their backs. They are common and widespread in watery places in sub-Saharan Africa. I photographed this individual at Lake Awassa in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley.

Taken with Nikon D500 and Nikkor 300mm f4 lens with a 1.4x converter at f5.6 ISO 1400 1/8000s


An Unreliable History of Birdwatching (41) by Paul thomas