The weather may be grotty today, but on Sunday it was sunny and the damselfly larvae in the pond decided it was time to crawl out and turn into their adult selves.

Arty Bee

This bee paused for a breather on my brick path, and was good enough to stick around for a few photos. I assume it’s a mining bee of some sort, though I’m not going to try to identify exactly which one. This is about the extent of what a plain iPhone 6 can manage for close-up work.

Mining Bee On Path

Irreplaceable Woodlands Book

Charles Flower has been custodian of the 25-acre Mapleash Copse for thirty years, and in this book he records his knowledge and passion for British woodland and everything that lives within it. He has done an incredible job, as this truly is a masterwork and an absolute joy to read. It blew me away with its depth and breadth and sparkling photography. Brace yourselves – this is going to be a gushingly positive review.

Like many people, I love a walk in the woods, at any time of year, and this book brings those British woods to life. It starts with an in-depth history of Mapleash Copse mixed in with the evolution of British woodland and its place as a critical resource over the millennia that people have lived in these isles. This history is detailed and fascinating, ramming home just how important woodland was, and how deliberately and intensively it was managed. Each type of wood had its particular use, from wheel hubs and spokes to tool handles and charcoal. Really it’s only in the last hundred years that this has ceased to be and most woods have been largely left to their own devices.

People like Charles however have been learning how to manage woodland, via coppicing, pollarding and careful species selection. In this respect the book is a detailed practical guide to managing woodland, especially Hazel coppice, and the 30 years of hard-won experience documented here is gold dust for anyone in a similar position of responsibility. Or simply for anyone that finds it fascinating learning about the surprising intricacies of the woods they walk through.

Irreplaceable Woodlands Pictures

The level of amazing detail extends into the later chapters on the flora and fauna, including super-close up views of lichens, mosses and slime-moulds, alongside woodpeckers, moths and dormice. The photography throughout is top-notch and the publisher has done it justice with loads of full page images, luxuriously printed.

All in all this book is a treasure that has taught me a huge amount and that I will be passing on (or recommending) to several other people that I know.

Irreplaceable Woodlands is available on Amazon for £17. Price correct at time of publication.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. My review is entirely objective however. This post contains affiliate links.


Veronica sends in this absolutely brilliant close up of what she reckons to be a Tree bumble bee. I’ve no reason to doubt her identification, and some of the other pictures show the white tail. It’s only been in the UK for about 10 years but has spread very rapidly, apparently due to its tendency to nest in our abundant bird boxes.


Thanks to Veronica for sending in these fantastic photos of a Poplar Hawk-moth resting on a wall in West Somerset. You can see its characteristic repose, with abdomen curved into the air and hind-wings swung ahead of forewings.

The second picture below gives a brilliantly detailed look at the unusual wing geometry from the side. I also love the way the antennae curve back around like the arms of sports sunglasses. Click for higher resolution versions of each image.




Photographer Rob Clayton sends in a couple of cracking shots of Harlequin ladybirds. Nice one Rob – excellent pictures! Click through to high-res versions, with some wonderful up close details.


Prowling with my macro lens in the garden I was really pleased with this shot of a small white butterfly. They don't tend to stay in one place for very long so I had to be quick, whilst hoping that autofocus would come up with a result. The very shallow depth of field means that's far from guaranteed. A more pleasantly coloured background would improve it mind you.

A family walk in the lovely Cassiobury Park, Watford, was much enhanced by seeing bats flying in broad daylight. It was the first hot day of the year, hitting 20c, and I wonder if that had anything to do with it, though I visit the park only rarely so for all I know they're out and about most days.

The first was hunting in a clearing in the trees by the river, about 20-30 feet up. The second, unless it was in fact the same individual, was skimming low over the canal, patrolling a stretch of a couple of hundred feet. I managed to get a video of the second, though a fast-flitting bat filmed at 12X zoom on a compact camera by an idiot like me does not add up to BBC HD quality results.

What sort of bat is it? I guess either a Daubentons or a Pippistrelle, the former being particularly noted for its water-skimming, though others sometimes do the same.

What drives bats to come out during the day? This academic paper gives a really detailed insight into daytime flying, but suffice to say it's not that unusual and it's probably to make up for poor feeding at night, or to take advantage of good hunting. Or one of many other possible reasons.

We can tell that winter has finally arrived because:

  • It’s extremely cold out
  • Pools and puddles of water have taken on a hard, shiny appearance
  • Winterwatch has been on tele, though sadly I’ve mostly missed it
  • Snow has happened, with more promised for tomorrow
  • This blog has been hibernating, but fear not, the occasional flurry of activity will occur
  • The hits for the Fox prints in the snow post have gone through the roof, as they do every winter.

There are 50 shortlisted images in the Children's Eyes on Earth photo competition, with public voting still open until midnight 25th September. The photographs are by children under 17, on the themes I Love Nature and I Fear Pollution, with the general idea being to raise awareness about important environmental issues, as seen through the eyes of these young photographers.

There are some really interesting and impressive images – it's most certainly not just cute animals!