I recently had the privilege of interviewing TV presenter Chris Packham for my other site: He was a very straightforward and knowledgeable chap who's clearly passionate about what he does. It was interesting to get an insight into his own garden full of birds, his photography kit and activities, and the deeper topics of the cut and thrust of modern conservation.

It's in three instalments: one, two, three. Personally I think the third is the best!


A cold, grey day walking around the RSPB's reserve at Rye Meads today. I thought that the photo above captured the place well, it being a mix of watery channels amidst reed beds, and massive electricity pylons. In the background is a Coot, of which there are plenty, along with more exotic birds on the larger lakes. See my post about Teal on UKNatureBlog for instance.


With a big expanse of South (ish) facing fence and an empty patch of soil I decided to plant a grape. It will be interesting to see how it does in our English climes, though global warming may be on my side. With any luck I'll be reporting back in a few years with pictures of lush bunches and even bottles of the finest home-produced wine. I can but hope. The variety is Pinot Blanc, which is apparently fast growing.

And yes, I know that weeding is urgently required (and in fact has been done since this picture was taken). 

I went exploring on Hampstead Heath over lunchtime the other day, looking for wild things to photograph (see UKNatureBlog for the results). From the top of Parliament Hill I took this photograph looking back towards Canary Wharf and my work office in the nearer foreground. Click for bigger version.


I'm afraid that the nature posts are going to dry up here, but never fear for they're all now going to be on – a new blog specifically for the flora and fauna of the UK and all related things, setup by myself and Mrs C.

Go and have a look, bookmark it, and do please contribute. The cheeky chap below will be over there from now on.


In mainland Europe they have a different brand of crow to the pure black ones we get in England – instead preferring the mostly silvery Hooded Crow. Here's one in Warsaw rather comically stood on a car roof trying to get into a nut. Hopefully I'll have more to post about my recent trip to Poland soon.


I found a medium size moth on the wall a couple of days ago and decided I'd try and figure out exactly what it was. I was already aware that there are many more species of moth as there are butterfly – something like 2,000+ in the UK apparently.

I started off by taking some up-close and personal photos of my moth, which was about 25mm long head to wing tip. Then I pored through my large "Butterflies & Moths in Britain and Europe" book, recently acquired at a charity shop mainly to assist with butterfly identification. The only way to use this book when you have no idea what you're looking at is to flick through from cover to cover looking for a matching photograph. Then do the same again just in case you missed it. I was looking for a relatively dull, mottled brown beast with stripy legs, but I didn't find it.


I turned to the web and quickly found the rather excellent UK Moths website, complete with keyword search. Unfortunately "mottled brown" and "mottled grey" didn't quite do the trick, returning tens of results but none of the quite what I was after. Lots of moths fit this very vague description so it's a tough one to solve with a simple text search. The best match I could find was the Grey Chi, but I wasn't convinced as that's much more silvery and lacks the small orange markings, though I wondered if it could be put down to variability between individuals. So I turned to the site's creator Ian and fired off an image and description to the email address given (only to be used once all other avenues exhausted). He got back to me within a couple of days to reveal that it is in fact a Large Ranunculus – and yes I think he's bang on. This is a man who knows his moths!

Digging in the borders of my new garden has revealed all sorts of interesting life. I found a few of these grubs, which are probably Chafer Beetle Larvae. Apparently these are a common pest in lawns, eating grass roots from several inches under the soil. The first picture is poor, but gives you the general idea of the curled up shape they adopt.

SoilGrub 2 SoilGrub 1

We found this rather large beetle on the bedroom floor a few weeks back, which was a bit unexpected. However it seemed to be on its last legs and by the look of it was a bit gunged up with spider web and carpet fibres. I can't make up my mind whether it's a stag beetle or lesser stag beetle, though it's definitely a female. There are some decent pages out there trying to help in making this identification, but it's still not quite clear to me. If I had to put money on it I'd go for lesser stag, because it's very black and seems to have some sort of ridges on its forelegs. I wish I'd paid greater attention to the size at the time!


I've seen a couple of droppings on the lawn over the last week that I assumed might be cat, or maybe fox, but I've come to the conclusion that it's almost definitely hedgehog. They're very dark, sticky and show evidence of bits of beetle. Though according to my research you'd expect worms, fruit and seeds to be a major constituent too – which could well be the case here.

We have seen a hedgehog snuffling around the borders so it seems like a reasonable leap of logic. Cats don't tend to go on open grass, much preferring the freshly dug earth of the vegetable patch. There's not much for the urban fox in our back garden, and I'd expect bigger doings from such an animal anyway. I wonder if you can toilet train a hedgehog…

Hedgehog Poo