Madagascar’s ‘Silk’ Route

I’ve been visiting Madagascar for over 20 years: in fact I’ve returned each year since 1991. Back then it captivated me like no place had done before, or since, and my enthusiasm has yet to diminish. Since my first visit in 1998, one place on the island has been my favourite – Marojejy National Park in the far north east. It is one of Madagascar’s wildest places.

I initially visited the park with just one aim – to get photos of the incredibly rare silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus). Continue reading

Owling in Páramo

Now that we’re into April, this breeding season’s owling is well into its swing. Owling is the name our group gives to the activity of putting up nest boxes and monitoring them for these magnificent birds. In the UK, Barn Owls, Little Owls and Tawny Owls breed inside pre-existing cavities, such as tree hollows and outbuildings, but all will breed in nest boxes. Short-eared Owls are ground nesters and Long-eared Owls prefer to breed in old Magpie and Crow nests.

I started owling in 2006 and have been hooked ever since. Continue reading

Maisie’s story – told by the Flight of the Swans team

Bewick's Swans arriving in the UK

As winter closes over the Arctic tundra and the temperatures drop to well below freezing, a swan takes flight. Maisie is leaving her summer breeding ground late this year but with the cold now gently nudging her on her way she has no choice but to begin her long migration. Continue reading

Paratrike to the rescue: Flight of the Swans update

Sacha Dench preparing for take-off, Flight of the Swans expedition

After weeks of taking off on hard, uneven ground as she crossed the tundra Sacha was expecting a fairly straight forward take off from a field near St Petersburg on Saturday. Instead, an awkward stumble on her run up was followed by a moment of intense pain in her right knee. Continue reading

The Little Owl in Britain

Little Owls are amazing birds. They’re only eight inches tall, yet they ooze so much personality. Their quirky behaviours are utterly charming and a sheer joy to watch. Many people are surprised to learn that this much loved owl is not native. Landowners successfully introduced the Little Owl into England during the 1880s; these were brought over from mainland Europe to control ‘garden pests’. After its initial and rapid spread across England and Wales, the Little Owl started to decline from the late 1930s. More recently, this decline has accelerated, with numbers down by 64% in 25 years.

Continue reading

Flight of the Swans – the big Flight prep

Sacha over forest

 

There is nothing so magical as flight. If you’ve ever been asked what your preferred superpower would be, I bet it was high on your list. In September I will summon my inner superhero and begin the first ever attempt to follow the migration of Bewick’s swans from the air, flying 7,000km from the Russian Arctic back to Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, I won’t have superpowers on my side. Instead I will be flying a paramotor – basically I will be dangling from a wing of fabric, with a propeller strapped to my back. Continue reading