Monday, 7 April 2014


Progress I’m told, progression to what, the end?

The Green Belt is a brilliant idea, its unfortunate that it doesn’t live up to its name, it should be called the ‘progression zone’, or more aptly encroachment zone, with every sq metre of green land steadily getting encroached upon, with the blight of an urban lifestyle.

‘Suburban’ estates which are increasingly devoid of green, 3 metre front gardens, gravelled, with big steel fences enclosing them, wider tarmac paths and roads, houses squeezed side by side with just enough space to fit a wheelie bin down. Boxed back gardens with huge fences, like mini fortresses designed to keep everything out out and everything in in. Like the buildings themselves, no holes, no chance of a gap in the eaves, facer boards, or tiles, nowhere for insects to make their homes, never mind, House Sparrows, Starlings, Swifts, and Bats.

At least there’s still some wildlife corridors, the little voice in my head says, unfortunately not, wildlife corridors to what, monoculture crops? Wildlife unfriendly farms? And with 200 houses brings at least two hundred people, more like 800, and where do their gardens back onto? Where do they walk their dogs? The bottleneck that is now the ‘wildlife corridor’, 10 metres wide at the most, cleared of any greenery. The wildlife has nowhere to go but up or down, no escape into the impenetrable fortresses.

So in the end, a fragmented habitat, loosing its possibilities of what ifs, changing behaviours of its resident species, and cutting off those childhood lands. You can only hope that the time its been given has been enough, enough to develop those unique habitats, developed them enough to inspire people to protect them, or the endless goal of progression (greed) continues.

As I watch those dark storm clouds pass over ahead and the brilliant orange sun sets, I know all will be well in the end. It won’t be the end they were expecting, nature will reclaim its lost lands.

Sunday, 16 February 2014


For the past two winters there's been sporadic sightings of Bittern at Holywell Pond, this is most likely a wintering bird, but due to the vast reed-bed, and ponds to the West, its only been seen on the main pond a handful of times, normally in flight.

Today I had a text from BD, saying 'Bittern at Holywell, in reeds in front of North Wood'. Alan and Sid had seen it fly across the pond and land in the reeds opposite the hide, but it hadn't moved (in sight) for half an hour. I sat until dusk, with no joys. I'll catch up with it someday !

The White-Fronted Goose was still amongst the Greylag flock, in the field on the way down to the pond.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


It's been quiet on the wildlife front of late, mainly due to the confinement of edit based work, but I've been reading quite a bit to make up for it. The latest book being that of Feral, by George Monbiot, A' Search for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding', it delves into modern day thought and conservation, the shifting base-line syndrome, and the discussion of rewilding, whats possible, what can be done, what has been done. George opens your eyes to the true meaning of rewilding, and creates some bold statements along the way. Overall it makes you dream, dream of possibilities, dream of changes, dream of the wild, but it also made me gain a different perspective on things.

I've grown up in Whitley Bay, on the edge of the Green Belt, the forefront of housing development. My passion for the natural world developed in areas of land which were left around the housing estates, wastelands as some people call them. I've always seen them as wild, but it wasn't until reading Feral that it dawned on me, these areas are wildernesses. After the initial act which creates them, either planting, surface works, or just dereliction, they are by majority, left free to naturally grow and develop.

Unfortunately these are seen as wasteland sites, and sites which are said they can't be built on, in the end are. We have two larger areas left, one a mix of concrete bricks, grassland and hawthorns, the other a planted wood and a now stunning meadow. The rest consists of fragment 30-40 year woodland, and 20 year old shelter belts. One of these fragmented woodlands I've been familiar with since a child. Although its size is deceiving this is the wildest place I know, its like stepping into a place that had been forgotten, by man anyway. In the summer the floor is dominated by greenery, sticky weed up to your chest, giving home to the Fox, but also species which are associated with old woodland, such as the Speckled Wood Butterfly. The only pair of Blackcaps in my estate breeds there, and its also home to my favourite species, the Sparrowhawk, raising its family undisturbed here for as long as I can remember.

I believe these areas are vital for children's connection to nature in an urban environment, but also vital for nature itself, they contain so much more diversity than the nearby monoculture farmland. If you haven't read it already, Feral is definitely worth picking up.

Delving into the next book, traits from Feral can be followed through, but this time more to do with rewilding of the human spirit. The Nature Principle by Richard Louv looks at 'Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit-Disorder'. Richard introduced the concept of the nature-defecit-order in his last book, 'The Last Child of the Woods' (definitely worth a read), where he found children where lacking in skills, life, and even developing illnesses through the lack of contact with nature. Inspiring is an understatement for The Last Child of the Woods, I'm only a few chapters into The Nature Principle, but it is already just as inspiring. Richard looks at our faith in technology, good and bad, how it can be a struggle to let it go, and how the powers of nature are still overlooked.

Due to the nature of my work, technology plays a huge part in my everyday life, and I'm guilty of letting it take over at times, especially in terms of social media. Technology and nature can work together to form something even better, but Richard Louv says that your time in nature has to be greater than that of your time in technology, so that it doesn't eat you up completely. Recently its eaten me up, so I've been rewilding myself over these past few days.

Hide and Seek with a Little Owl.

Today I've spent some time attempting to photograph wildfowl on one of the Hadrian Wall Loughs, I've visited Killingworth Lake and Holywell Pond, but most importantly I spent a few hours in the woods, stalking Roe Deer. Stalking an animal has to be the best way of connecting with nature, all your senses come into play, you feel the wind on your cheek, you touch the ground, searching for those quiet spots, you use your peripheral vision to look for movement, you listen to the surroundings, and you even smell the air, all this comes together with little conscious effort, but it instantly takes you into the wood, not just through it, into it, into the home of the Roe Deer.

Getting close to these animals, in their home, the place they know where every tree stands, where every track leads, where their own senses are perfectly in tune, is a unbelievable privilege, not because they've accepted you, but because you've managed to traverse their home as part of the wood, as an object of the natural world, not as a man.

A Doe looks up as the shutter goes, and a Buck feeds behind.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Swallow Roost

Over the past few nights the Swallows have been putting on an impressive spectacle at the pond as they come into roost, tonight I took my little sister down to see it. We made this little film.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

On the move...

Busy times as I continue to chase my dreams, Holywell has been getting neglected. I was over the moon to have a chance to visit last Friday, and it didn't let me down. This week the movement of waders has been evident with a single Green Sandpiper, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Black-Tailed Godwit, an impressive evening roost of Curlew (135 on Monday) and 2 Little Egret.

A Wood Sandpiper in the fading light, with Curlew roosting behind.

Record shot of the two Little Egrets in the Main Meadow last night.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Nature Watch

This morning I arrived back in the Tyne after a weekend filming with ORCA on DFDS Princess Seaways. Heading straight out, I bumped into SW, and met up with AH at St Mary's to catch up with the Wagtails, we were successful on all accounts, Pied, White, Yellow and Blue-Headed, a sign of good things to come?

After a trip round the Great North Museum this afternoon with my Grandad, I headed out to meet 5 Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts for week two, of a five week 'Nature Watch' program I'm running. Last week went extremely well! We visited Big Waters (thanks for the seed John) and began on the basics, which they took to, and enjoyed.

This week we ventured North to Cresswell pond, on arrival, and the opening of the shutters, species learnt last week were being called out, noted down and checked in ID books, what a start! It wasn't long before unfamiliar species began to be seen, Great Crested Grebe, and Red Brested Merganser being some of the first, it was great to see last weeks excitement heightened by these different looking birds, and the challenge of identification was taken in their stride. The hide may have been slightly noisy, but it was noisy with excitement, debate, discussion, and the call of new sightings.

We were joined by another birder, he picked up a bird in the distance and asked what it was, I took a step back and let the Explorers take over, 'Shoveler' was called by all of them, and thats exactly what it was! 

As the sun began to fade a Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the sandbar, we all got onto to it, one soon into 25+, there was a definite buzz in the hide, especially when we found at least 2 Blue Headed (type) Wagtails amongst them! along with 3 White and 4 Pied.

The evening finished off with Curlews coming in to roost, with one leucistic individual! What a night!

Can't wait to see what next week holds.