About Me

Hello and welcome to my nature writing blog. My name is Jill Stanton-Huxton and I am a freelance writer with a passion for the natural world. I am a volunteer and member of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), World Wildlife Fund, British Hedgehog Preservation Society, UK Butterfly Conservation, Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hosptial and BBONT (UK Wildlife Trusts). Please feel free to comment on my posts and if you’ve enjoyed your visit please come again! You can also find me on my facebook page: Nature Notes of a Country Girl. Best wishes, Jill

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Long-tailed Tits

Walking in my local wood the other day, I heard the unmistakable high-pitched ‘tssirrp’ song of the Long-tailed Tit. On closer inspection, I found a small family group, with their distinctive pinkish-brown fluffy bodies, moving through the trees.

One of them, a juvenile (so not yet pink, but with grey-black cheeks) looked at me from the safety of his perch high up in the tree branches. Maybe, I was the first human he had come across; he didn’t seem that concerned - just a little inquisitive as he stared at me while other members of his family busied themselves around him.

It was a particularly lovely sight to see these cute little birds in this relatively young ‘Millennium Wood’, established by The Woodland Trust in 2000. The native broadleaf’s are now over thirty feet tall, and over the last few years it’s been noticeable that it’s now matured enough for the local wildlife to start moving in and setting up home.

Good news also then, that according to the RSPB 2011 Bird Survey (which says that small birds can be particularly badly affected by harsh winters), the Long-tailed Tit has bounced back with UK sightings now having increased by a third.

As this close knit family disappeared across the tree tops, I found myself hoping that they too would deem it worthy of setting up residency; so I can be lucky enough to see a lot more of these adorable little birds in the future.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Butterflies Need Our Help

It’s a sad fact that four species of butterfly once resident in the UK have become extinct over the last century; and two-thirds of our current species are in decline.  There are a variety of reasons for this: habitat destruction, changes in agricultural and forestry practices, urban expansion and the drainage of wetlands. And butterflies are not just a beautiful part of our natural heritage either; they also indicate the health of the environment, play a crucial role as pollinators and provide food for birds and wildlife.

According to the UK-based charity, Butterfly Conservation, there are a number of things we can do to help. In the UK our gardens cover over two million acres of land – that’s 15 million gardens, each of which can be a mini nature reserve.

So, to encourage butterflies into your garden think about doing some (or all) of the following:

  • Plant nectar rich flowers: Buddleia, Ice Plant, Lavender, Michaelmas Daisy, Oregano, Aubretia, Red Valerian, French Marigold, Hebe and Candytuft;

  • Adult butterflies lay eggs on the foodplant of their caterpillar, so make sure you cater for them too. If you have a vegetable patch grow nasturtiums to lure Large and Small White caterpillars away from your brassicas.  Stinging nettles (which can be grown in a container) are a favourite of both the Red Admiral and the Comma;

  • Environmentally friendly gardening can make a big difference, so cut down on your use of herbicides and pesticides – they kill butterflies, moths and many other pollinating insects, as well as ladybirds and spiders;

  • If you have the space, create a wildflower meadow. Sow a mixture of wildflower and grass seed on bare ground or let grasses that are already there grow and add wildflower plants.

Finally, how about getting involved! Every year thousands of people (including myself) record the butterflies they see; these ‘records’ are vital for conservation. For more info visit the recording and monitoring section of www.butterfly-conservation.org.

Nature Writing

When I set up this blog, I thought the obvious first step (before I started ‘blogging’ away) would be to have a look at the work of other nature writers; and not just my own personal favourites: Gilbert White, Richard Mabey, Simon Barnes and Mark Cocker.

 As well as finding a plethora of nature blogs I also came across some interesting articles on ‘what constitutes good nature writing’; my favourite was by Sir John Lister-Kaye, one of Scotland’s best-known naturalists and conservationists.

In his opinion good nature writing should be more than just an entertaining read. It should be informative, thought provoking, challenging of damaging Western values that are destructive of nature, philosophical and, at the same time, uplifting. A good nature writer, in his opinion, should inspire people to understand and respect wild nature.

This seems like a hefty task, especially with people having little spare time in today’s hectic world. But it’s essential. We need the natural world as much as it needs us. Simon Barnes sums it up succinctly ‘we are all wild, it’s just that civilisation keeps getting in the way.’     

The poet and visionary, William Blake wrote in one of his letters: ‘the tree which moves some to tears of joy in the eyes of others is just a green thing that stands in the way.’

I hope in my nature writing that I can help and inspire people to feel that joy and reconnect with the natural world.