Just yesterday I mentioned how nature was invading my home, saving me from going outside in the cold to see it. Today a Shield bug startled me by noisily flying across my study. I took the opportunity for some photos and I read up on these critters, which taught me something I hadn't known before – though I'm not sure how I'd missed it. They are also known as Stink bugs because they can release a powerfully horrible odour from glands on the bottom of their thorax. I've been handling them for years without knowing this!

And in other news, the close-focusing capabilities of compact cameras are quite something these days, allowing you to get within just 1cm of the target. Unfortunately when you do that you have two problems: you might well block the lighting of your subject; your subject may be inquisitive and climb onto the lens!


The RSPB's Mark Avery wonders whether this might be a "Waxwing year" when we get a glut of the colourful birds from Scandinavia. Apparently plenty have already been seen along the East coast of the UK, whereas most years there might be only a few. So keep your eyes open especially if you're in the East.

You can read up on Waxwings courtesy of the RSPB and

It's always harder for a working person to get their fix of nature as the nights draw in and the weather turns foul. A lot of the more obvious animal life may also be retiring for the year, meaning there's less to see anyway. Dull days with grey skies can make photography that much harder, especially with long telephoto lenses that struggle to gather enough light for a fast shutter speed. What is a nature lover to do?

Well in my experience if you just stay indoors some of the nature will come to you. Woodlice in particular seem to be deciding that the warmth of the house is preferable to the cold outdoors at the moment and I find odd ones pretty much anywhere in the house, usually trundling speedily away from the front door where I think they're coming in. Next time, instead of throwing them back outside again I'll break out the macro lens and invite them to model for me!

The BBC has an interesting article for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, on just when you can and can't take that fruitfulness from public and other people's property. Basically, if it's not for commercial gain then you're mostly good to go, with a few caveats such as local bye-laws. Actually the article seems to contradict itself by stating that it's technically an offence to take fruit from a neighbour's tree that hangs outside their property. So confusion still reigns!

Note that the picture is purely for illustration – I have no idea if these fungi are edible or not!

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 has been announced, which means it's time to hotfoot it over to look at the splendid pictures. This gallery courtesy of the BBC contains some of the best. The Natural History Museum's website contains more, and you can see them in the flesh in the exhibition at the museum itself, which runs until March next year. You do need a ticket to get into the exhibition but I can thoroughly recommend it having been previously.

This evening I watched ITV's latest prime-time attempt to compete with the might of BBC nature programming. I missed Wild Britain with Ray Mears last week, but caught the second episode today. I can't say I'm particularly thrilled to have missed half of The Gadget Show in order to do so, as it was frankly a bit weak and wishy washy. I love Ray's work as a rule, but I think the game has moved on and this is struggling to compete with the incredible photography of recent BBC epics (Life…) or fast-paced bonhomie of Spring/Autumnwatch. Harmless, but rather middle of the road, where I suppose it finds an occupiable niche.

A rare visitor to my garden, a pair of Goldfinches stayed a while today. The face seems very much more orangey than the usual red though in this example. Perhaps it's between colourations, or just natural variation. You can really see the fine point to the beak that allows them to prise out seeds from thistles and teasels, though in this case it's feeding on sunflower hearts. We might expect to see more of them at this time of year, especially in the East, as they migrate down through Europe in Autumn. And naturally they're after high energy food to sustain them.


It's particularly interesting to look closely at the tail of this grey squirrel, where you can see two distinct layers of fur: a very wispy outer layer that's hardly there at all, and a denser, shorter inner layer. At the heart of it all you can just make out the very thin, flesh and blood part that's much the same as a rat's tail.


Did you enjoy your Indian Summer? That was today in case you missed it – a sunny Sunday afternoon to spend in the garden in short sleeves. And what did I notice as I did exactly that?

  • There are still lots of wasps around. More than I've seen for a while in fact.
  • I saw a Small tortoiseshell butterfly. I'd say this was fairly late to be seeing them.
  • The Walnut orb weaver spider that's been living in a crack on the side of the shed all year was out and about showing off how big it has grown. It's a brute of a thing now, and looks like a much scarier version of the classic Garden spider.
  • Speaking of which, there are loads of Garden spiders about, plump and making adventurous webs, often across pathways and seemingly impossible spans. That's one in the picture.
  • Jays seem even more numerous than in previous weeks, which is saying something.
  • There are a lot of ladybirds about. Perhaps they're looking for places to hibernate.
  • Still finding hedgehog poo in the garden, but not seen the hedgehog for a whole year.

It seems like Springwatch has only just finished, but Autumnwatch starts on BBC 2 tomorrow evening. Actually I think it seems like that because Springwatch quite clearly aired in the summer this year. Plant yourself on the sofa or set your favourite clever TV recording device for 8:30pm on Thursday evenings for the next eight weeks.

What's new and notable this time round? No Simon King – off to pastures new apparently! I shall miss his manic grin and ill-advised clothing choices.