Summer Wildlife Report by John Sheppard

John Sheppard writes:

I have been thinking recently of my childhood and my first interest in what was to become a lifetime passion, wildlife. I remember with a twinge of guilt the hours spent with my head inside a hedge looking for bird nests with a view to adding to my egg collection. This activity is frowned upon today, quite rightly, but it was an informative part of my knowledge of birds and their habitat. This reminiscing caused me to ponder some of the birds and mammals that we struggle to see now that were relatively common then.

More information and pictures on the next page. (Click “read the rest of this entry”)



There are many species of birds that have become less common, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Yellow Hammer and one that was once easy to see is now quite a rare sighting the Lapwing.


It has suffered from a change in farming practices as have many birds. Lapwings require old pasture land that is left undisturbed until quite late in the year. Well established permanent pasture ideally lying a little damp is their preferred habitat but how often do you see these conditions today?

Grey Partridges

Similarly Grey Partridges are also difficult to see and have been overtaken by their imported cousins the Red Legged Partridge. They were largely introduced by commercial shoots as they are a much larger fleshy bird.

Red Legged Partidge

On the other hand Pheasants are more common than in my youth thanks to the breeding and release policy by the same shoots. I offer no comment on these practices but it is interesting to note their effects.


Last week I had the opportunity to photograph another mammal that was quite common in my local brook where many happy hours were spent searching for Bullheads, Crayfish etc. I am referring to Water Voles which I had not seen for many years. I travelled to Nottingham to spend a very happy day in their company and fortunately they were in the mood for a photoshoot! They were bigger than I had remembered but it is quite a number of years ago!

Water Vole

Water Voles suffered a near terminal decline by the accidental and deliberate release of Mink which feed readily on them.

Hedgehogs have also suffered a serious decline over the years and are always a joy to behold shuffling along in the garden in search of food. I became aware of their decline when few were seen killed on the road. I know this is a macabre measure of population but it was a good indicator of the numbers moving about at night. With mixed emotion I see very few when I drive along the roads these days.


Harvest mice are also in short supply and I have included these in this article as I have a photo of one!

Harvest Mouse

To finish on a positive note, I have noted two species that seem to be enjoying a comeback, Brown Hares (see photo at the head of this report) and Otters. I have seen groups of hares on three walks this past month and this is a big improvement on recent years so I am hoping this is a sustainable trend.


Otters have been turning up in many places where they used to be seen but had been absent for many years so a sustainable population is a realistic proposition.

If anyone knows of a local population of Water Voles I would be interested to know of their whereabouts so that I could spend more time photographing them. Thanks for your help with this.

John Sheppard


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