Category: Natural history


Every now and then you feel as though you are invited by nature to observe an event or a behaviour which normally goes unobserved and it invariably comes as an unexpected treat. This happened to me on the river about three weeks ago when the gypsy barbel were so preoccupied with feeding in broad daylight that, when silently approached, I was permitted to see them from very close. I made a film of them but for reasons I do not fully understand, I am unable to load it up on to the blog. Continue reading

Brian Jones keeps a fishing diary and he was kind enough to show me what he had written about our fishing last Saturday. I thought it was very interesting, detailed and well-written and so I twisted his arm and asked him if I could reproduce it here. Being the gentleman that he is he gave me the thumbs up and so, without further ado, here it is: Continue reading

Everybody I have fished with on my local river returns the fish they catch. They might have asked if the fish are edible but that was no more than curiosity. They have also treated the fish with care and taken pleasure from seeing the fish swim away strongly after a quick photograph or two or a moment of appreciation. It is difficult to resist that moment even when you know it is high time for the fish to be on its way again. The gypsy barbel are strikingly handsome fish and, particularly in bright sunlight, it is always a pleasure to admire the profile of these fish and the striking contrast between their olive backs and golden bellies. Continue reading

Yesterday evening I found myself looking out over the Mediterranean from a viewing point at the end of a walking trail. I was with Paul Reddish. Beneath us was Marbella and cutting through the haze beyond the still waters of the sea were the tops of some of the mountains of Morocco. This is far from the narrowest part of the Mediterranean but, even from here, Africa looks pretty close. If you travel further west, at its narrowest point at the Strait of Gibraltar the distance shrinks to 8 miles or so and it can feel as though you could almost skim a stone and have it bounce across the water and rattle up among the pebbles of a different continent. Continue reading

I´m no expert on the fish of Loch Lomond but I am more of an expert than I was this time last week after having made a trip up to the Loch and to stare, for the first time, into its dark, peat-stained water. Continue reading

I got no change out of the fish yesterday evening when I tried to sucker them into ingesting a little nymph and so the gypsy barbel of the Guadalhorce enjoyed a relaxed, uneventful evening. To be honest I should have had one when I lifted into a dip of my yarn indicator but without any real conviction. I thought I had snagged on the bottom and, by the time I realised that the bottom had drifted across the river a couple of metres, everything went slack again and the fish was gone. Continue reading

A skinny bird

It looks like a great white egret (Ardea alba) has made a home for itself in my local stretch of the Río Grande. This is a really strikingly beautiful bird and a bit of a rarity around these parts. My “Birds of Iberia” just lumps it with the miscellaneous “other birds” that are thrown in a loose pile between the main text and the index. It has nothing at all to say about it beyond describing it dismissively as an “accidental.” If my encounter with it was similarly described as accidental I would have to say it was a very happy accident! Continue reading

I´m a pretty crap bird watcher if I am to be completely honest. I did try some years back to record in that back of diary I was given at work to faithfully list the species I came across here in Spain. The list ran to more than 40 species when the diary disappeared and I became distracted by other things. No doubt it will resurface one day. Continue reading

I have a fish tank in my lab which is a constant source of interest to the students I teach. Frankly, they spend more time watching the fish swimming around than they ever do listening to me. There used to be a much-admired crayfish in there which would astound everybody by periodically shedding its exoskeleton and looking like it was dead before appearing from behind a wooden log.

What a party trick that was! Continue reading

We´ve had some hard rain here recently and I thought I might take a look on the river on Sunday to see how it was clearing up. As usual I had the rod in the back of the car but thought it unlikely that I would be be taking it out. I live close to the confluence of two rivers, the Río Grande and the Río Guadalhorce and after heavy rainfall it tends to be the Río Grande that clears up sooner. So on Sunday I went to take a look at it in the hope it might have recovered sufficiently to offer me a chance to fool a barbel or two. Continue reading