Stag beetle loggery at Kew Gardens

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The remarkable stag beetle loggery at Kew Gardens. This giant beetle model is an educational exhibit with the added aim of providing a home for saproxylic insects (those which feed on decaying wood), and in particular to provide a safe haven for stag beetles which are globally endangered. It is found in the conservation area of Kew Gardens around Queen Charlotte’s cottage, kept wild. London is a stronghold for stag beetles.

Photo by David Hawgood [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Big Ben’s starlings

On the evening 12 August 1949  a flock of starlings landed on one of the minute hands of Big Ben causing it to slow by five minutes. The clock was unable to chime at 9pm but was back to normal by midnight [here].

Incidentally, an entire episode of The Goon Show in 1954 parodied of the futile efforts to disrupt the large common starling roosts in central London.

Sadly, the magnificent murmurations over the city are now a thing of the past as this RSPB article reminds us, although they are still the second most common bird found in London’s gardens according to the  annual Big Garden Birdwatch.

Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary

Field Notes from a Hidden City

Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary by Esther Woolfson looks at the “hidden city” of Aberdeen, meditating on our complex relationships with the natural world. She intimately portrays the wildlife of this northern city.

In the night a few times, I’ve been wakened by the stillness. Even the gulls are silent. Here, you’re often woken by the sounds of gulls. Even when it’s nearly morning, in winter darkness, it still feels like night, their cries arching lightly in the air over the silent city. I waken and then as I sleep again, think about the sounds they make which might be of warning or joy, or grief, but which are most probably an unfathomable Larus chorus of dialogue and exchange. For me, gulls’ voices are a welcome wakening, a kind of wild music, a reminder of where I am in that moment of renewed consciousness: a city on the edge of the sea, at the north-eastern rim of a northern island between the western coasts of Scandinavia and the eastern beginnings of North America, the southern reaches of circumpolar north.

Looking down from a plane window when you’re flying towards it from the south, for a long way below you see only rock and grass and fields and suddenly it’s there, a tight grey city with sea and water almost surrounding it. It’s a city perched on the edge of water, a city of two rivers, blown by every wind named and unnamed, by ban-gull and haugull, blinter and flist. There are days in the wind and rain when it feels as though the whole of it, every edifice and structure, every garden, streetlight and tree will detach and set out determinedly to sea. The grey granite from which Aberdeen is built can look only a semitone lighter or darker than the clouds and sky. We’re part of a thin string of cities, a chain of northern places, poised along this numbered scale, the circles of latitude; the last habitation before the real cold begins, on the fringes of subarctic ice and snow, at the northern reaches of an earth circling in an ellipsis around the sun.

The Guardian review ” “Just like the herring gull a century ago, contemporary nature writing is migrating into cities, albeit with publishing trends as much as evolution forcing the pace. Field Notes takes the form of a year’s worth of diary entries, starting in the depths of winter.”

Urban otters in Newcastle


Great short documentary (Springwatch) about the return of otters to the Tyne in Newcastle

“Otters were once on the brink of extinction because of polluted water. But these days otters are making a comeback and can now even sometimes be seen in the heart of cities. Springwatch sent cameraman Jamie McPherson to Newcastle to meet Kevin O’Hara of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and film urban otters. First to be seen was a large dog otter. Male otters can have a territory of over 12 miles so it is lucky to see one. City otters have been witnessed raiding bins and catching rats.”

Wilds of the Upper Thames


A short extract from a wonderful documentary with Robert Macfarlane: The Other Side of Essex – Unexpected Wilderness, a  year-long exploration of Essex right on the county’s edge, on the north shore of the upper Thames.

“Essex illustrates perfectly how, across England, we misunderstand, overlook and underestimate the power of our own wild places. This film reveals our misconceptions, and brings reassuring and surprising news – and hopefully will encourage us to act fast to protect our last remaining native wildernesses.”