I've seen Muntjac deer before, but usually just the rear end rapidly disappearing into the undergrowth. They are quite dissimilar to other British deer, being small and stocky with tiny straight horns and little tusks – almost like a cross between a wild boar and what you might classically think of as a deer shape. They are also very wary and prefer to skulk through overgrown thickets. That's why I was quite surprised to see this one ambling slowly over a footbridge then casually grazing on the grass beside a path on the other side.

Usually I don't have time to pull out a camera before they're gone, so this was quite the golden opportunity. Unfortunately I only had a small compact camera with me, which has struggled to get a good image, but it's still the best I've ever managed.


The weather has warmed up a bit (at least in the South) to as high as 10c during the day. Positively balmy! This, perhaps combined with all the rain, seems to have triggered a growth spurt, with lawns now needing mowing and bulbs thrusting up everywhere you look, even in beds that I could have sworn I dug over very thoroughly just 6 months ago, without finding any bulbs! Each morning on my walk to work I see gardens full of fresh green shoots so I'm looking forward to a riot of colour over the coming weeks and months.


An arty shot from the archives today. This is a gull blending into the rocks of the Dorset coast, with only a bit of post-processing to convert to black and white and improve the contrast.


An article from explains how to setup your lawn to be more wildlife friendly. It might take a while to get the results, depending on what you're starting with, but there is a diverse array of tips and suggestions.

Personally I'm quite keen to keep an area of lawn largely unmown as a wildflower meadow, but it remains to be seen just how easy that will be. I might end up with a scrappy and unkempt bit of lawn that falls rather short of the romantic vision of tall grasses and poppies swaying in the breeze.


Another bout of snow for the UK, but head south by a few thousand miles and it's warmer than usual, so birds have been migrating north from Southern Europe and Africa earlier than usual. The linked article mentions this phenomenon in its last couple of paragraphs.

It also states that Bitterns are calling ('booming') for mates and Willow warblers are warbling – both months early. As far as I'm aware Bitterns don't migrate north to the UK for the summer so I don't quite understand that link, or why they reckon that snow means it's April. If you see one be sure to ask it.


A splash of colour to liven up a drab winter. This is the resident Iguana in one of the glass houses at Kew Gardens in London. I had no idea there was one, so I was quite surprised to turn a corner and find it right there on a wall looking pleased with itself.

Update: actually as Richard points out in the comments this is more likely a water dragon than an Iguana!


I happened across a blog post today at BugBlog about hibernating snails, with a great picture that shows how they block off the opening to their shell. I've found plenty of these same large brown snails dormant around the base of the outer walls of the house, behind pipework etc.

Clearly the example in the picture above is not hibernating (I took it last may)!


The BBC reports that red squirrels have been returning to parts of Scotland where they had been missing for many years. This is put down to the pro-active controls on grey squirrel populations. We've previously reported on similar measures and successes in North Wales.

The squirrels pictured are actually Northumbrian, but that's fairly close to Scotland.


Whenever I see a Wren, more often than not it's flitting about on a riverbank, or similar, amidst the leaf litter and plants. They seldom stay in one spot for more than a second, and are always partially obscured. At least that's the way it seems when I'm trying to get a photo! The picture above is the best I could do, of a Wren right by the water's edge.



As well as being Valentines Day, February 14th also marked the start of National Nest Box Week. The week is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology and aims to encourage everyone to put up nest boxes to help encourage and support breeding birds in our local area.

Started in 1997, one of the drivers behind the week was the fact that gardens were generally being tidied up by their owners and as part of this process many of the holes that birds used to use to nest in are disappearing. Old houses and out-buildings are also being renovated or demolished and again bird nesting sites are vanishing as this happens. 

There is a useful tutorial on the NNBS site which also tells you what you need to construct a simple nesting box and how to do so. Useful tips are also given as to the size of hole you should have depending on the species of bird that you are trying to attract.

If you're new to nest boxes and want to learn more then the BTO also has a fantastic book, The BTO Nestbox Guide,
that covers everything you could need to know; how to construct a box, where to site it in your garden, and care and maintenance of your box. Also covered are details of the twenty most common species of bird that inhabit nest boxes in the UK.

Once your box is up remember to keep an eye on the comings and goings and also report back to the BTO as to what you see. In March they will be launching their 2010 Nest Box Challenge where they want to hear about what you have nesting in your box to help them track how breeding birds are getting on across the UK.

National Nest Box Week runs from 14 – 21 February 2010.