Starling Murmuration

I like this video of a starling murmuration because it is one of the few I could find on You Tube which hadn’t added music and I like the fact that it took place above a service station on the M6. I can picture all the ordinary people bound up in their journeys and their own concerns suddenly looking up and seeing this and imagine it must have been far more of a energising wake up call than the shot of double espresso they had stopped off for.

Feasting and Flocking

It’s the time of year when starlings return to our consciousness. For most of the year these medium sized black birds escape our notice but Autumn is when starlings come into their own.

For the last week there have been guzzling hoards of these Viking marauders in the pear tree across the road from where I live. Going sucrose happy on the fermenting fruit, cackling like crazy at the sudden alcohol induced hilarity of each other. “ha, ha ,ha,” they seems to yell. “look at the spots on your feathers.”

Up among the hairy forest of TV aerials a coded language of clicks and whistles is sung. A language that, as a child, I tried to copy, thinking I could woo the singers to me.

Swirling gangs spiralling over the motorway distract me, making me momentarily forget I’m doing 70 down the slip road, making me want to turn round and head south down to Brighton where their murmurations over the sea are legendary.

But it is a serious business, this flocking and feasting. It is the business of approaching winter. The instinct to band together and fuel. Forget the joys of sex and eggs and become health consciousness, take your vitamins, think of the lean times ahead and the coming of the killer cold.

Sensible, serious advice, which I too should follow. But, ah, to hell with it, while there is light in the sky I will enjoy the season for what it is and revel in the drunken squabbles in the pear tree and the soul uplifting flight of the gangs above the road.

Shorelines Literature Festival of the Sea

Monika Kostera

Monika Kostera

Hurrah, hurrah, my much beloved home county of Essex is having a fabulous sounding literature festival from the 8th-10th November. The festival brings together writers, filmmakers and musicians who have been inspired by the, much maligned but actually fabulous, countryside around Southend-on Sea. Ian Sinclair, Robert Macfarlane and other writers have found much to celebrate in this landscape and, I for one, will definitely be taking a trip back home to visit this overlooked gem.  Follow the link below to book tickets.

Nature Writing Course – Deal

weaving in facts on the foreshore

weaving in facts on the foreshore

on the golf course

risking our necks for literary excellence on the golf course at Sandwich

in the classroom

listening to nightingales in the classroom

down at deal

luckily the leader is a wildlife journalist not a fashion icon!


Here are some photos taken on the recent Nature Writing Course held the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory near Deal. I am delighted that people have started submitting work inspired by the day. All work submitted will soon be added to the Wild Sites website The next course will be held in the spring.

Rosehip Jelly – Recipe

A perfect recipe to keep coughs and colds at bay as rosehips contain 30 times more vitamin C than an orange. If it wasn’t pouring of rain outside I would be out there picking them this instant. Incidentally, the roots of wild roses are also a cure for the bite of a mad dog!! should you happen to come across one.

photo kanshiketsu

photo kanshiketsu

Rosehip Jelly

500 g (1lb 2 oz) ripe rosehips (stems removed)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 kg (2lb 4oz) crab or cooking apples

caster sugar

  • wash and drain and chop the rosehips (be careful of the tiny spines inside which can get under the skin and be a pain)
  • put the rosehips into a saucepan with the lemon juice and chopped apples (include the cores, pips and skin)
  • bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes
  • mash everything up
  • pour into a jelly bag or muslin lined sieve (or if you don’t have anything so fancy then try some nylon tights. You need a fine mesh to filter the spines)
  • leave overnight to drip
  • return the liquid to a pan and add 450 g (1lb) sugar for ever 1 pint of liquid
  • stir over a low heat until the liquid dissolves
  • increase the heat and boil rapidly for 5 – 10 minutes
  • test for a set (stick a bit on a cold plate and see if it wrinkles)
  • if it doesn’t set continue boiling and try again.
  • remove the mixture from the heat, skim off any scum and pour into warm sterilised jars.
  • it will keep for up to a year.

Thanks to all the writers

Thanks to everyone who came along on the nature writing workshop, it was great to have so many people and such beautiful weather. I am really looking forward to reading everyone’s work. I think my favourite moment was meeting Susan who was severely deaf but could hear the nightingale song I played as a listening exercise. It was lovely to hear about the memory it evoked of her mother. I should really thank the nightingale too. For those of you who have never heard a nightingale sing then please listen to this clip.

Wildlife Canoe Tours

Kingfisher by Peter Trimmings

Kingfisher by Peter Trimmings

I have just teamed up with Kent based canoe company Canoe Wild ( ) to run two wildlife canoe tours as part of the Canterbury Festival taking place all this month in Canterbury, Kent. The tours will involve a gentle 2.5 hour paddle downstream from the historic town of Fordwich (officially Britain’s smallest town) along the beautiful river Stour and across Stodmarsh nature reserve. On the way we hope to see kingfishers and marsh harriers and enjoy the sight of schools of fish beneath the water. The tours are £30 each which includes all equipment and a lift from our final stop at Grove Ferry back to Fordwich. Having been out with the company today I can definitely say that this must be one of the most peaceful ways to enjoy the autumn countryside.

Tours are taking place on

Sunday 20th and Sunday 27th October at 9.30am

meeting at the George and Dragon Pub in Fordwich

to book a place visit the Canterbury Festival website