1963 – 2013: birding at Southill Park revisited

Conor Jameson’s British Birds feature provides food for thought on the changing status of species at Southill Park over the past 60 years. While doing some research for my book Silent Spring Revisited, I came across a 1963 issue of the Bedfordshire Naturalist journal that included an account by Bruce Campbell of a nesting bird survey that he and the (then) British Birds editor James Ferguson-Lees carried out that year. They were repeating a survey first conducted sixty years earlier. Campbell takes up the tale: ‘On June 4th, 1903, Jannion Steele-Elliott, the… Read More

An American Goshawk in Scotland

Conor Jameson has a mystery to share… It has some of the hallmarks of a Conan Doyle murder mystery, complete with period costume, a shooting, a body, a fairytale Victorian Highland setting, suspects, big city and small town locations, journeys in between, and – for good measure and Hollywood appeal – a strong American angle. In fact the central character is a ‘Yank’ – Accipiter gentilis atricapillus to be precise – the fabled Northern Goshawk. It’s spring 1869 and there is unrest in the British Empire – Canada, this time. The finishing… Read More

Rachel Carson Day

Conor Mark Jameson writes … f The RSPB holds its annual weekend for members at York University each spring during half-term. The students are away and the wildfowl own the campus. Members (and staff and volunteers present) are treated to a range of stimulating talks and activities, guaranteed to recharge the batteries, and remind us what multi-tentacled beast is this organisation, grappling with challenges on all sides. Most of all you leave York with the strong sense that there is hope yet for saving nature. This year I was lucky enough to… Read More

Silent Spring Revisited

I had the rare honour of being invited to give a talk about my first book, Silent Spring Revisited, at the Buxton Literature Festival. I have several talks lined up, but this was the first I’ve done. The journey through the Derbyshire Peaks was pierced by glorious sunshine, evening shadows spearing across a landscape by freshening rain, cut hay drying in the warm upland breezes. Buxton retains all of its Victorian spa town elegance, and crowds milled in the gardens and outdoor cafes. A particular highlight was meeting Joanna Lumley outside the… Read More

The happy denouement

Conor Mark Jameson completes the Cheerps blog trilogy. First thing in the morning I confronted the task of working out how to get Cheerps back in his rightful place. I got the ladder out and climbed up alongside the nest hole. From the side, I could see a sibling sparrow’s head poking out, yelling encouragement at no doubt frazzled parents. The head turned unsteadily on a scrawny neck, got me in focus, fell silent, and slowly – comically – retracted. Looking from the front of the crevice I could see it, as… Read More

Bringing up baby – part 2

After yesterday’s cliffhanger, Conor Mark Jameson takes up the tale of Cheerrps… My foundling sparrow looks surprisingly under-developed, semi-naked, perhaps a week old and only half way to fledging, with bare patches of skin and rudimentary feathers beginning to show. Nidifugous, they call it. Its bulbous eyes are partially open, glinting between crescent lids. To rescue it from the airing cupboard I had to remove my watch and squeeze my hand through a narrow gap, using a screwdriver to manoeuvre the chick into a place from which I could pluck it, as… Read More

Bringing up baby

Guest blogger Conor Mark Jameson answers the cheerrp of nature… If you find a fledgling bird, you should leave it alone. That’s probably the most important thing to remember from what I’m about to relate. And yes I know you probably know it already, and have done ever since you first developed an interest in birds. I need to stress this point because each spring and summer the RSPB’s wildlife advisors field around 10,000 enquiries from people who have found – or, in many cases, ‘rescued’ – a ‘baby bird’. Picking it… Read More

Striking gold

Guest blogger Conor Mark Jameson finds something unexpected outside his window… I’m glad that others can vouch for what follows, otherwise I wouldn’t expect you to believe it. I’d even have doubts myself. I found a golden oriole. Now, that would be unexpected enough, but consider this: it was here in my Bedfordshire village, it was drizzling steadily (Jubilee Sunday – ask the Queen), it was very early, and I was in my bed. The bird was calling from the willow opposite the house. Was I half-asleep, in the optimistic inter-phase between… Read More

Buzzard love

Prize-winning writer and guest blogger, Conor Mark Jameson, author of Silent Spring Revisited, tells us what buzzards mean to him. I was dismayed this week to hear of the Government’ plan to destroy buzzard nests as part of a trial to see if shooting interests can rear more pheasants to shoot. I find this entirely bizarre. The piece below is from my forthcoming book Looking for the Goshawk, which is a search for the reason why wild birds and proximity to true wildness are integral to our well-being. Soaring spirits The buzzard has a… Read More