My love of wildlife


Toby - 'Where has my hair clip gone?' Hi all,

I managed to grab nearly two weeks away over Easter and was able to spend some quality time with my family. I hope many of you were able to take some time out as well.
I love this time of year and it’s an especially wonderful time to watch wildlife. I’ve always been into wildlife in a big way and as I get older I seem to get even more out of it.
I don’t know about you but when I’m walking through woods or over heath land I immediately relax and having Toby again has made us all get out more! I live in a pretty rural area but city dwelling friends tell me they get a similar buzz from the many open spaces in the city.

Our Local wildlife groups have been putting up notices recently, in an attempt to stop walkers and dog owners from unintentionally disturbing rare nesting birds, snakes and lizards that are found around our home. I’m privileged to see very rare Sand Lizards every day on walks with Toby and every couple of weeks I’ll notice a beautiful but venomous Adder slithering away.

Bird But the moment that gave me a real buzz this weekend was spotting what I think is a Stonechat or Dartford Warbler bird, which are two of our rarest birds. Perhaps you could help me identify which one it is? I took the picture using a telescopic lens but it was a long way off and the picture is quite grainy. My kids think I’m turning into Bill Oddie! And perhaps in a way I am!
If you are interested in catching a glimpse of your local wildlife it’s always useful to use binoculars – they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg either, you could try the Folding Bridge Binoculars from Tasco.
Have you spotted any rare wildlife? I’d love to hear about it!

Dale x


  1. Margaret April 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm -  Reply

    Hi Dale , like you we are lovers of nature , for many years we were caravanners and always camped of the beaten track so to speak , I used to love it at night when we could watch the bats come out and then listen to the owls , Im almost sure your bird is a Stonechat, birds are so beautiful and they work so hard this time of the year , just wish all the cat lovers would appriciate this some are responsible owners but some are not , oh my moan is done , dont think I feel like you about snakes though they just make me shiver and I dont think I could handle one!.Love the puppy hasnt he grown, lots of fun for all the family, Best Wishes , Margaret.

  2. dale franklin April 22, 2009 at 1:07 am -  Reply

    Hi Margaret, I’m pretty sure you’re right about the bird being a Stonechat. There are rare Dartford Warblers,Woodlarks and Nightjars all nesting in the same small area, so I’ll post any pictures if I’m lucky enough to catch them. We also had Yellow Wagtails nesting in the Ivy under my son’s bedroom window, I’m afraid that his drumming has scared them off though !! warm regards Bill sorry Dale.

  3. julie April 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm -  Reply

    HI Dale
    I have always been into wildlife in a big way. We live beside a nature walk where 3 deer live, you get all kinds of birds, birds of prey, squirrels, thousands of frogs, dragonflies, hares, rabbits. I just love it. The local school put up bird boxes every year, unfortunately vandals destroy them within a couple of days, makes me so angry.
    Toby is gorgeous, i want him!

  4. Linda April 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm -  Reply

    Hi Bill – sorry Dale
    I, like you love watching all the wildlife in our garden and surrounding area. You are right Dale, it is very relaxing, and its amazing what you can see if you take the time to stop and look. I haven’t been as lucky as you to spot a rare bird, although we do have a huge variety that visit our garden, including Redpolls, Pheasants, and a Heron that sits on our fence and eyes up the fish in next doors pond! A couple of years ago we were also descended on by about 30 Parakeets who sat in our apple tree helping themselves to an afternoon snack!
    We are also regularly visited by lots of squirrels, foxes and the occasional wild rabbit! One day last year a fox decided to have a snooze at the bottom of our oak tree in the morning sun – and we took some lovely pictures of him. By the way – lovely picture of Toby! He’s gorgeous!
    Happy Wildlife Watching!
    Lots of Love
    Linda xxx
    Ps – I think you should present ‘Springwatch’ this year as Bill Oddie is no longer doing it! – What do you think?

  5. Maggie May 1, 2009 at 10:42 am -  Reply

    What a fab picture of Toby, he is so lovely. I have a shih tzu and she is the love of my life at the moment! Very friendly and naughty, but they really do bring such a lovely influence into everyday life.

  6. Dale Franklin May 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jules, I can understand your frustration with the Vandals, if only they could see how useful nesting boxes are – however we lost at least 4 blue tit chicks last year when a “Vandal” Squirrel pulled the nesting box off the tree !Presumably for different reasons. Dale x

  7. Dale May 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm -  Reply

    Hi Linda,
    Until about 11 years old I lived in Shepperton, Middx and the local story was that the Parakeets escaped from the set of “The African Queen” which was filmed at the famous Shepperton Studios. However, I don’t recall the Parakeets before the late 60’s/early 70’s and the film was made in 1951 ? Wherever they escaped from they are Ringneck Parakeets and came originally from India. As you know,there are now literally thousands of them all over the South. Are they furher North ?
    Dale x
    P.S I’d love to be on Spring Watch and Autumn Watch !

  8. Mrs. V. Truman May 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm -  Reply

    Hi Dale, glad you love wildlife – we seem to have our own nature reserve. We moved about 9 years ago and cleared the land we had and seeded it for the dogs, so at last no trudging pavements. My husband had always wanted an owl box so he built one and put it on a telegraph pole. The first year we had a pair of kestrels who raised one chick. The next year we got the owls! We got some good binoculars so we could watch from the bedroom and we had 3 owlets. The next year we had 5!! Got some great photos with the new camera we had to buy from QVC of course. He built a new box, we got a licence so he could put cameras in and we watched from the kitchen on the TV. We had 3 which we had ringed. This year it looks like the little beggars have got young in the old box with no cameras so its back to the binoculars!Have also got 4 quite tame foxes,wrens, blue tits, and great tits in boxes, and we also think we have a dormouse in one of the old bid boxes in the hedge. Who needs “springwatch” ! It’s magic.
    Love Ronnie x

  9. Mrs. V. Truman May 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm -  Reply

    Fogot to mention the owls we have are Barnowls which are very low in numbers.

  10. Robin Pearson May 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm -  Reply

    Hi Dale, your bird is a male Stonechat, not that rare but a good garden ‘tick’! Well done for getting the photo.

  11. Dale Franklin May 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm -  Reply

    Hello to all, Ronnie – I’m very envious indeed – one day, perhaps ! Don’t Barn Owls have the most amazing plumage. Thanks for the confirmation Robin, I’ve seen the Dartford Warbler, Shrike, Woodlark and Nightjar but photographing them is a real challenge. I didn’t realise how addictive twitching could get. Warm regards Dale

  12. Lynne June 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm -  Reply

    Hi Dale
    I definitely think it’s a Stonechat, a male – they are robin sized birds. Males have striking black heads with white around the side of their neck, orange-red breasts and a mottled brown back. The females lack the male’s black head, but have brown backs and an orange tinge to their chests. They are often seen flicking their wings while perched, often on the tops of low bushes like the one in your pic.
    If you go onto the RSPB website they have a fab bird identifier system where you type in the details of a bird and in which habitat you saw it – it’s really good for this sort of thing. I discovered after watching Springwatch on TV and being inspired by that to join the RSPB!
    Keep up the great presenting and blogging.
    Lynne x

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