Wherever I live I seem to encounter herons. In St Andrews a solitary heron lived on the Kinnessburn, in Manchester there is a pair of herons living on the pond in Alexandra Park, and in Nottingham there is another pair of herons at the university’s Jubilee Campus. Here’s a series of short posts about those herons, some of them memories, some of them first hand accounts jotted down in notebooks. Continue readingThe Heron Journals
As we were driving home yesterday evening I saw what I thought was a cat creeping out from behind a car and on to the road.
“Cat!” I shouted, and my stepdad slowed down.
It was then I realised that what I’d thought was a cat was in fact a fox. In the split second that it took for the fox to pause in the headlights, turn and run back behind the car my brain was able to process the bushy tail, the pointed face, and the deep red and bronze of its fur. Continue readingFox in the Headlights
Today as I was watching the garden through my binoculars I noticed two wood pigeons on a branch. I don’t usually pay much attention to the wood pigeons. There are so many of them in our garden and they seem too close to their abundant inner city neighbours to be of interest. However, today I didn’t simply skim over them and I was rewarded with an interesting display. Continue readingBowing Pigeons
For an aspiring nature writing I am able to identify shamefully few birds. Of course there is an argument to be made for not knowing the names of things. Names are weighted and change the way we think about an object or creature. However, as a writer it is good to be able to tell the reader that I saw a blue tit in the garden this morning, rather than I saw a ‘blue and yellow’ bird, which is what I typed in to Google when I spotted the bird through my binoculars. Continue readingThe Names of Birds
In the January/February 2012 issue of Orion there is an article about artist Dan Shepherd’s project, Draw Me a Tree, in which Shepherd asked people to tell him about a tree that means something to them. This got me thinking about trees that mean something to me, and about one tree in particular. Continue readingIn The Cherry Blossom Tree
When I was doing my MA I wrote a lot about urban nature, partly on the basis of advice to write about what you know. I have lived in a city all my life, it is what I know, so urban nature seemed like the obvious thing to write about. It turns out I know very little about urban nature. This is partly because I have not been observant enough in the past and partly because the places where nature abounds in the city are the sort of places I tend not to go. The very thing I seek when I’m out in the countryside – to be alone – is the very same thing I avoid when I’m in the city. Continue readingAlong the Mersey
The Peregrine is written in the form of a diary that spans from October to April and purports to chart a single wintering season of the peregrines in a small corner of Essex. However, The Peregrine is in fact the culmination of 10 years of stalking and observing on the part of Baker. Baker is a monomaniac, he is obsessed and hypnotised by peregrines, and his level of dedication to them is what makes this book so intriguing and worth the read.
I was sceptical about how interesting a book about one man following a single species of bird could be, and to be honest it is a slow read, but then The Peregrine is a book that demands to be read slowly and savoured. Time and again I found myself re-reading sentences over and over, not because I kept getting distracted or because I didn’t understand them, but because of the beauty of Baker’s language and the clarity with which he portrays the life of the world around him. Continue readingReview: The Peregrine by J.A. Baker