Late dragonfly

One effect of the mild autumn is that many insects are still active (at least, they are when the wind and rain stop).  So the sight of a southern hawker dragonfly this morning wasn't too surprising.  It did look the worse for wear, with chunks missing from its wings.

This one is relatively easy to identify, once it stops flying.  Even without worrying about whether the spots along the abdomen are green or blue, you can see the spots on the last couple of segments are fused rather than separate. This means it is Ashna cyanea, the southern hawker, and the colours show it to be a male.

It is a late summer dragonfly, flying well into the autumn, and November records aren't unheard of!

Photography details - the dragonfly perched on a branch above head height, so I used a Sigma 150mm macro lens on a Nikon D7000, with the pop-up flash because the light was poor and the camera was hand-held (using a tripod would have meant standing further out in the road)


Nature-watching in Europe: issue 5

A couple of weeks ago I received a request (one of many) to fill out a questionnaire.  This particular one was about eco-volunteering.  Had I done it, where, what kind, what did I think of it, etc, etc.  So that got me thinking about what I had done in the past as well as what I do now.

No, I haven’t been on an expensive eco-volunteer holiday.  That doesn’t mean to say I’m not an eco-volunteer at other times – I take part in various surveys organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, and for Butterfly Conservation, both of which get a mention in this issue.

In past issues I’ve tagged holidays with a recommended by badge.  For this issue, they’ve provided a few suggestions for what to look for when doing an eco-volunteer holiday.

If you’d like to add links, or make suggestions for places to visit, please write in the comments box below, and we’ll see what we can do.

Belgium - Kalmthoutse Heide

Butterflies - organisations, books, apps

England - Nunnery Lakes Reserve and the BTO

Greece - Delphi and Mount Parnassus with Naturetrek

Norway - Trondheimsfjord with Din Tur

Research & updates 

Spain - Teba Gorge

Volunteering - get involved

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Here come the bees - or not!

Click to Enlarge Image

Beyond the Bees’ Knees – How Colony Collapse Disorder affects our food supply
For more information:

Nature-watching in Europe: issue 4

The focus of the magazine is places to enjoy nature in Europe.  However, I’ve found that enjoyment of just being somewhere is enhanced when we understand something about the place and the organisms that live there. 

Looking for that kind of information can lead you on a journey that takes on a life of its own.  Looking at one research paper about bats led me to others, reminded me of my first real encounter with these enigmatic creatures, and then I wondered what bat organisations there might be in various countries.

Similarly, an article by Dragan Simic led me to the company he travelled with, then the Greek Ornithological Society, and on to the Cyclades Life project – many thanks to all the staff who helped me put that article together.

If you’d like to add links, or make suggestions for places to visit, please email us, and we’ll see what we can do.

Greece: Birding the Cyclades, & Yelkouan shearwaters

Bats: what kinds do we have in Europe & Bat organisations

England: Nature reserves in south Dorset

Floral Stories: What’s in a weed?

Portugal: Tejo Estuary for 70,000 birds

Rabbits: not all born to be wild

Woodpeckers: anything for a peanut

Italy: Hiking in the Gran Paradiso National Park


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Book review: Heritage Trees Wales

Author: Archie Miles

Publisher: Graffeg 2012

People come and people go, but trees seem to be there forever.  We plant trees in commemoration of somebody or something, expecting them to remain in the landscape long beyond our individual lives.  But how often have we wondered what tales a tree could tell?

Heritage Trees Wales attempts to tell us some of those tales.  It is an amazing odyssey through the country, looking at trees that are steeped in history, myth, legend or other cultural significance, and a few that are just plain old.  It’s a book to dip in and out of, for there are too many stories and snippets to assimilate in one go.

Today the book fell open at the page entitles “Charley Trees”.  What trees?  This article led me through the history of the Scots Pine in Wales, Scottish foresters, the Jacobite rebellion, sign-posts for travellers and ley-lines.  All that in a double-page spread that included two photos and a small map.  And there are seventy-four such articles.

This book isn’t about identifying trees, cultivation of trees, or anything remotely technical.  It is about people, places, time and landscapes: the elements of heritage.  These are trees for curious minds.

Do I have any gripes about the book?  Only that Pembrokeshire gets a measly two trees (plus a reference to the drowned forest at Amroth), and Anglesey doesn’t get a mention at all.  It is heavily weighted towards the borders and the south-east, but perhaps there really are more heritage trees there.

You’ll need to buy the book to find out about the Curley Oak, or the Weird Birches of Ty Uchaf, and which masculine “Old Lady” had stood through the reign of seventeen Kings and three Queens by 1813.

This review was originally written for Natur Cymru a quarterly magazine about nature and the environment in Wales.

It also appears in issue 3 of Nature-watching in Europe.