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Earth, Wind & Water

Last Build Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:15:20 +0000


An ending...a continuation...a beginning

Thu, 21 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000

I've always hated when blogs I love just stop dead. I find myself wondering what happened to the blogger. Did they die suddenly? were they taken ill or heartbroken? Did they fall in love and drop everything? Who knows.

I always said therefore that wouldn't happen with Earth, Wind & Water. But it sort of did. A couple of years almost went by. Sorry about that. I'm still alive. Not ill nor heartbroken. I did fall in love. And then I got one of these.....


Why I otter.....

Fri, 07 Mar 2014 20:25:00 +0000

I'm guessing I'm the last person seriously interested in british mammals to get around to visiting the norfolk town with otters gambolling through the river in its town centre. But last month get there I did (about a year after everyone else). Still 10 minutes after parking up this happened.



Absolute magic. Details are around if you google. Don't miss out. Go.

White winged gulls

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:19:00 +0000

Been a good year here for white winged gulls, something I'm acquiring a taste for....

First up was this big glaucous gull in the town harbour

very relaxed bird....

then a Kumlien's

and lastly an Iceland...


Sat, 01 Mar 2014 20:14:00 +0000

Breaking radio silence to show you some photos of british native grazers in action:

Highland cattle

and Konik ponies

across Wicken Fen nature reserve in cambridgeshire. The idea is these guys simulate the now lost aurochs cattle and tarpan horses which would previously have grazed this landscape keeping at least some of it as open fenland rather than forest.

This little blog post is really just an excuse to point  you to for the Breeding Back blog where you can learn about efforts to provide more realistic aurochs and tarpan simulators still.

Before you go though here's some nice soothing highland close-ups....

Three sturgeons

Sat, 16 Nov 2013 15:20:00 +0000

Watching a show last night about one of my favourite animal groups, the sturgeon, giant prehistoric migrant fish of the northern hemisphere it occured to me I should show you some pet pictures.....I recently went home and took my underwater housing to try and get some nice shots of my parent's pet sturgeon. We have three species:This is an albino sterlet. Sterlets are among the smallest sturgeon reaching only 3 - 4 feet or so in length. It's vulnerable in the wild but widespread due to successful aquaculture projects breeding them for both food and ornamental purposes. This is Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, the diamond or danube sturgeon. They can get up to 8 feet in length and are a pretty serious beastie. Found in the caspian sea and the various former soviet states like the stans, georgia and iran. Note the rounded nose to the extent you can see it in the shoddy photos.The third species we keep is the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii) another large species wikipedia descrbes as present in all of the major Siberian river basins that drain northward into the Kara, Laptev and East Siberian seas, including the Ob, Yenisei (which drains Lake Baikal via the Angara River) the Lena and Kolyma rivers. It is also found in Kazakhstan and China in the Irtysh River, a major tributary of the Ob. This is probably the species first and most commonly bred by aquaculture and caviar farms. This is a dark species without the big scutes of the diamond so I resorted to setting the camera to video and using some squished up wet bread to lure them to the camera. You can see a close pass here.... and a full on "gimme the bread" attack here (that's the albino sterlet you can see cruising around at the bottom first up): Whilst having these guys cruising our pond gives me tremendous pleasure, the knowledge that we're able to enjoy them as a result of successful breeding programs providing wonderful foodstuffs whilst easing pressure on wild populations makes it all the better. I dream of a day when wild sturgeon are returned to the great rivers of western europe as a result of successful breeding (it's happening already: but the relict population of European sturgeon seems to be restricted to the Gironde) and these dinosaurs once again dominate huge untamed(ish) european river systems - imagine these beasties running through a system of ecologically non-damaging hydropower lagoons and into the upper reaches of the severn or people sportfishing for these giant fish in the thames or seine. [...]

got lucky last night

Sun, 08 Sep 2013 17:08:00 +0000

Long time no post. I've no intent for this blog to die and I still love reading many of your blogs but I've just not had time or inclination to share much recently. In fact I've got a ridiculous build up of good nature material from past trips: tamarins, tigers, turtles, crocs, sloths, orchids, toucans, you name it. But I haven't felt like sharing.

This morning I found something I had to share. A piece of epic luck. I've recently (August) started moth trapping. I was inspired to do so by both a load of epic silkmoths and hawkmoths I saw at Canopy Tower in Panama and by the epic garden lists of invertebrates various british moth trappers have had. So this morning after what transpired to be a horrible night, I went out to check my trap and discovered an enormous dark shape beneath the bulb.

I knew what it was immediately. I just didn't believe it. I quickly brought it in out of the rain to dry out and checked my id wasn't off. It wasn't. I checked again. Still exactly what I thought it was.....


Yeah. If you're a fan of this blog (or classic thrillers) you probably recognise it too.

The Death's Head.....


This is Britain's largest moth. It rarely breeds here but every year a few will migrate across to the UK from the continent. This is only the 11th ever found on my own little island. People have moth trapped for decades in hope of one of these. I got mine in less than a month.


A few little known Death's Head Hawk Moth facts:

1. Also known as the Bee Hawk because it is occasionally found in beehives eating honey.

2. This is the European species. The Asian one is the one from the cover of Silence of the Lambs


3. It vocalises. Squeaks away like a mouse or chick. Astonishing.

Look how big it is.


Those legs are remarkably powerful. Handling it was like dealing with the large stick insects I used to breed. Stronger than you'd ever expect.

A wonderful sunday morning surprise I had to share.

The lesser of ticks

Wed, 19 Jun 2013 19:16:00 +0000

I saw some things I've always wanted to see and got some awesome mammal ticks in Panama. This is probably the least awesome of the ticks.

Lesser Capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius. If you've seen normal Capybara (the one found everywhere else besides eastern Panama, northwestern Colombia and western Venezuela) this is.....exactly the same as far as I can see.


Still basically a giant guinea pig.

Pre-flight Duckling Chaos

Mon, 17 Jun 2013 19:13:00 +0000

So last month I went away (hence the abysmal lack of posts) and in so doing there existed a brief half hour of time in which I needed to:
1.get from work to home,
2. de-suit,
3. prep-for-travel,
4. get in a cab and head to the airport.
So you can imagine why I was slightly concerned when between step 1 and step 2 I heard a maniacal and persistent cheeping in the vicinity of my front door.

One of our resident mallards had hatched out ducklings in the vicinity of the house, was leading them along the driveway as I pulled in and as a result was now attempting to herd a load of frightened ducklings off a not unbusy road (to which they had fled in fright at the sound of my car).

The end result? Your hero spent a chunk of the half-hour herding ducklings and nearly missed his flight. Here's some cuteness.

going the wrong way.....again.

climbing the steps. yes that is a drain on the left and yes, yes one did jump in and need fishing out.

too cute to be mad at though right?

life in the tree tops

Thu, 13 Jun 2013 18:49:00 +0000

recently back from the legendary Canopy Tower in Panama. Some treetop life from the Rainforest Discovery Centre tower....

epiphytic orchids.

keelbilled toucans


red-tailed squirrel

spot the blue cotinga?


Tue, 11 Jun 2013 18:46:00 +0000

wild pear in a waitrose car park....


Medlar "Royal" in my orchard....



Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:55:00 +0000

Nearly ran this 'hog over on the way home Wednesday. Note the blue dyejob and the earring - this is a released 'hog - one that has probably spent its winter in the warm being fed as opposed to hibernating.


Hence the girth and the total lack of fear of me.


which allowed for some rather lovely close-ups.


This shot was taken just as the hedgehog turned and walked off. I love the detail on the little foot - something you don't get to see very often. Look at those little claws and hairs. wonderful.

Hopefully I'll see "sonic" again soon.

The World's rarest cat

Wed, 20 Mar 2013 07:30:00 +0000

 About 2 months ago, I was sat in a car driving into the heart of Sierra Andujar to look for the Iberian Lynx. It was early in the morning still barely dawn. It was far colder than expected and conditions were bleak. The Iberian Lynx is the world's rarest cat with a global population of less than 300. We were looking for a highly camouflaged needle in a haystack......

....and then I saw something walking down a hill towards the road. I shouted "lynx", the car stopped and this happened.

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Sorry the video's not great but it was the rarest cat in the world, it was dark and my hands were shaking. To tell the truth they're shaking now and I can taste the adrenalin again just thinking about how lucky we got.

Nuts to all that

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 07:30:00 +0000

I've been pondering nuts rather a lot of late. Why? It's complicated. The connections my brain makes these days between nature, food, environmental concerns and so on never cease to surprise and disturb me but for whatever reason I've found myself increasingly googling unusual nuts.One of the hooks that led me down this rabbit hole was discovering the rather fascinating blog of the Badgersett Research Corporation. There is it must be said not a lot of work going into the improvement of the world's nut crops. These guys are working on that though. Although not a massive agri-business they've achieved remarkable and interesting success with hybridising hazel species (America's beaked and bush hazels and the european hazel) to produce varieties suited to the demands and diseases of the USA. They're also working with the American Chestnut Foundation to produce blight resistant hybrids with high US chestnut genetics to try and someday restore the great chestnut forests of the Apalachians. Which is cool and worth a look.That led me to Grimo-Nuts which is a family run nut nursery with a catalogue deep enough to interest readers the world over and sure to tempt those in the States or Canada.Somehow I ended up reading the Northern Nut Growers Association Report of the Proceedings at the Eleventh Annual Meeting Washington, D. C. October 7 AND 8, 1920. It's wonderful. Like Steampunk horticulture. Full of early twenthieth century endeavour, good intention and politeness with exchanges and phrases like:Mr. Littlepage: What is the variety?Professor Close: They are all seedlings. In fact all of his varieties are dead. He has nothing but seedlings.Mr. Littlepage: Has that been called to Dr. Van Fleet's attention?Professor Close: Not that I know of. I doubt if Dr. Van Fleet has seen this blight proof one. I will be glad to tell him about them when I have an opportunity. Mr. Killen has one Japan walnut tree that is interesting. It must be 25 or 30 years old. I do not know where he got it. One limb we measured extends out 36 feet. The limbs on the other side of the tree are not quite so long but the tree is nearly 70 feet in diameter. Two years ago he sold the crop for $54.00, and he thinks he will get more this year. He has contracted the crop to a nurseryman. Mr. Killen has quite a number of seedling Persian walnuts and some of them, perhaps all, blight more or less. He is very much exercised over the blight. He worries more over this than he does over the chestnut blight. andWhy not have Mount Vernon walnuts thus distributed throughout the Union. Every school boy and girl in the land would be delighted to get them for planting.The supply would not equal one hundredth part of one per cent of the demand for them. Then select throughout the country other special or historic trees of various kinds or varieties of nuts and still I am sure the supply would not begin to equal the demand. Long ago I began to arrange for nut crops from some of these historic trees, planted by Washington at his beautiful Mount Vernon home, now the Mecca for prince or pauper and all those millions who love the freedom of glorious America.Those nuts will be planted in the parks and on the grounds of the people of my home city this very year by the children of our schools who are now in their moulding being taught to revere the name of the father of our country.This very act of patriotism will cause thousands of boys and girls to have fixed in their minds for youth or age the value of planting the useful trees that will in later years produce food of the very best character for the human race. Carry this message into every city, village and school district and the good work will be duplicated thousands of times and then the movement [...]


Thu, 14 Mar 2013 16:27:00 +0000

 Just a cellphone snap on a grey day of  a field near my house.


I think it speaks for itself.....


Tue, 12 Mar 2013 16:35:00 +0000

There's a big flock of feral greylag geese on one of the island's reserve areas. Every so often they attract migratory vagrant geese of other species. A couple of years back they attracted some white-fronts and they've been harbouring some pink footed geese for a few weeks now too. Last week some more white-fronts arrived.


I really like wild geese. At once they manage to be sleek, efficient and honed (compared to farmyard geese) whilst also being symbols of plenty and abundance. Naturally then I popped down to see them. Rather than being warily sat in the middle of the field as the wild geese typically are, these two turned out to be the first birds I saw as I stepped out of my car.


It's nice when a plan comes together.


Curding up

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 04:39:00 +0000

A friend with whom I often share wildlife experiences, sports fields and food recently sat exams. During her prep time we were talking about chutneys, jams and so on and she asked me if I'd ever made lemon curd, apparently a favourite. I hadn't and declined to make her any at the time offering the incentive "home made lemon curd is for girls who pass their exams". She passed so this had to happen:


I used Nigel Slater's recipe - it was amazing.



another baby bat

Wed, 06 Mar 2013 07:54:00 +0000

FC may have been the only one to find my last bat baby post cute but hopefully a few more of you can get onboard with this.......


An island mammal sighting. sort of.

Mon, 04 Mar 2013 19:51:00 +0000

 Saturday night saw a particularly boozey annual get together amongst my circle of friends (everyone produces a pair of home-flavoured liquors and we have a blind tasting). This is relevant to the post for two reasons:
i) it's an awesome evening and I encourage everyone to go foraging and give it a go - the relevant sections of and boozed and infused will provide inspiration (pro-tip decant everything into matching bottles and do scorecards with different categories - guaranteed to increase the friendly competition); and
ii) as I provided some spare equipment for the evening I drove over to the hosts', walked home and wandered over the next day to collect the car - the walk takes one through some nice farmland where I often see raptors whilst driving so I took the camera for a walk.

Sighting #1 was a surprise mammal tick for the year. This photo shows our island's endemic subspecies of common vole. I don't think it's in the best of health.


I left the windhover to tuck in in a rather picturesque old tree.

My main target was common buzzard -  a bird I've yet to photograph on the island. This one was the third of three.


The 4th buzzard to fly over looked rather different. When it landed and I got a proper view I saw why; it was in fact a female marsh harrier.


A half hour ramble and great views of our three commonest raptors. Not a bad way to spend the lazy afternoon after the night before.

The rocks revealed

Thu, 28 Feb 2013 06:49:00 +0000

So those weird bowl-shaped rocks were in fact bowls. For feeding a truly fascinating beast. (image)  
This is a spanish fighting bull or Torro Bravo (not sure if the singular there is right). Regardless of what one feels about bullfighting (I suspect you won't be surprised to know I'm not a fan) these rather wonderful primitive cattle are spectacular animals rich in wild aurochs heritage and right at home in a primitive untamed landscape. Even the little ones have spunk.
Next week I'll share the real reason I was in Spain.

Mystery rock formation

Wed, 27 Feb 2013 03:45:00 +0000

Anyone wanna guess what these are?

Answer tomorrow.

Cattle Egrets Next to Stuff

Mon, 28 Jan 2013 16:33:00 +0000

Basically - here's the deal. Cattle Egrets, Bubulcus ibis, are reknowned for following large mammals and feasting on the stuff they disturb. Traditionally it is cattle (hence the name) but it can be other this White Rhino.

Being crafty opportunistic little rascals, they'll follow pretty much anything and anything be it a common or garden field cow or one of the world's rarest mammal or even some dude on a tractor. Being crafty and opportunistic they've also managed to extend themselves around the world onto every continent and into all sorts of situations. I've seen (and photographed) them next to all sorts of weird creatures and items (including a mobile bbq chicken truck) and I reckon you may have too.....So I'm planning on starting a new blog to which all can contribute: Cattle Egrets next to stuff.

If you have a photo of a cattle egret stood next to, following, riding or chillaxing in the general vicinity of either an animal, person or bit of machinery either email it to p dot taihaku at or tweet me @twaihaku and we'll get this thing up and running.

They don't have to be amazing shots and I'll of course give you credit and a link back to your blog or twitter if you have one. I'd also appreciate a little background (what it's doing, where it's doing it)

My goal is to get photos from as many different people of cattle egrets next to as many different things in as many different countries as possible. I'm genuinely fascinated to see how many the nature blogging community can come up with - OK, so this isn't high falluting citizen science but hey, lets have some fun with this and see what we can come up with.

Leopard Tortoise

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 17:12:00 +0000

The coolest member of the so-called "little 5" and one of my favourite chelonians is the leopard tortoise.

 They come in two flavours; normal....

....and chargrilled.

The second tortoise appeared to be a burn victim. I say victim but other than his horrible appearance he seemed utterly unphased by the injury and was doing his leopard tortoise thing (their thing seems to be walking as quickly as they can in a straightline ignoring a) people, b) other things, c) the obvious stupidity of their chosen route. Maybe they just know where they're going.

They get pretty big too.

Baby baboon

Mon, 21 Jan 2013 07:30:00 +0000

Not much to this beyond a little cuteness for a monday morning. A mother olive baboon carries her baby across a road in Kruger NP, RSA.....

Giant Fish of British Columbia

Fri, 18 Jan 2013 04:32:00 +0000

 So we've already seen a number of bits of charismatic megafauna seen by me on my trip to British Columbia; whales, bears and so on.....and that is what one tends to think of when one thinks of north american megafauna: bears, bison, deer (and moose, caribou and so forth), wolves and so on, on the coasts, elephant seals, whales and sea lions, down south perhaps 'gators.

The more educated naturalist (ie you, my readers) is probably also thinking of some of the lesser known american megabeasts - the American Crocodile, the jaguars and ocelots of the South West, the various sheep species.

As we've touched on before we are not seeing the whole picture of course. The north american landscape is missing a number of its giants: its elephants (the mammoths and mastodon), its wild horses and the ground sloths and glyptodonts.

But even those who envisage this total picture often forget another class of giant american creature; the megafish which swim in its great rivers. If there is one thing I'm not, it is neglectful of big fish and accordingly I present to you my favourite creature in all British Columbia, North America's biggest fish - the White Sturgeon of the Fraser River, Accipenser mid air.




I know there is no scale object but this fish is, by the way, 7 feet 3 inches long. I know that because we put a tape measure on it when my co-angler had landed it. It was, for the avoidance of doubt, subsequently released. I will have more soon on these giant, ancient, beauties but in the meantime just drink in the power and majesty......and if you really can't wait FC has some Gulf Sturgeon aerials in his back catalogue.


Wed, 16 Jan 2013 08:30:00 +0000

 A tiny movement half a click away gradually resolved itself into a coyote by means of our various rabbit squeals and bird calls (he loved my fishing guide's squealing rabbit, was less sure about my plover call) and his curiosity.


Wonderful animal to see in a big landscape.