Last Kite of the Summer


This in early July, (fittingly enough on Independence Day) was the last kites nest that I climbed to this year. The chick, by now full grown, glared at me, launched itself out of the nest, and flew off to sky dance and dream whatever it is that kites dream, if dream they do.

What links the Australopithecene Lucy , George Bernard Shaw & Rod Hull ?

I’d been out for a quick hunt for a big rare bird. No sign of it but they are there and it is perfect habitat. On the way home I went looking for another bird. Hawfinch. There are some huge and unprecedented flocks kicking around the North Downs at present, driven here by the failure of the Beech mast crop in Central Europe and the cold spell. I was following up a couple of sightings which were along the Yew belt on the downs. Hawfinch feed on the Yew and recent sightings have been thickest where there is Yew. So here I was, when I found an old tree with thick limbs down to the ground, so up I went laddering my way up, heading out of the crepuscular gloom of the base towards the sunlight canopy. Near the top I found this nest, just out of safe reach, at least without a rope. I was tempted to make the move but having ripped my trousers to the crotch on the way up I was wary of being found dying at the base of a tree in a state of deshabille ( my underpants). No bird is worth that public shame.  And what connects Lucy (who was named in the Summer of Love after a famous song, itself named after an infamous fungus derivative), GBS and Rod Hull ? They all had a bad fall and no horses, kingsmen or anyone could put them together again.


Peter Matthiessen

Three Bows for Peter Matthiessen

One for the writer
One for the dharma teacher
One for the activist.
Landed on the other shore.
His work will survive, not least for The Snow Leopard, a luminous meditation on the Himalaya, but also for his devotion to Native American causes (In the Spirit of Crazy Horse & Indian Country are brilliant angry books), and to Buddhism, documented in Nine Headed Dragon River). The lawsuits over In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, stalled publication but kept the name of the political prisoner/Sioux activist, Leonard Peltier current.
I once saw Matthiessen describe the death of George Armstrong Custer as ‘possibly the most richly deserved death in American history’.

He’s an extraordinary figure, of whom it should be said of nearly every extraordinary, countercultural, adventurous journey that he did it first and he did it best.


A fuller piece is forthcoming.

Elegies and all

There is a certain dominant mode in writing about natural systems that we can characterise as elegiac, broadly speaking being about loss. We (and here I’m invoking the Royal We of the First World ) inhabit what are grossly degraded habitats or biomes. Spend anytime in relatively undegraded ecosystems and you are perhaps ruined for life when it comes to appreciating what we are left with. Hence the elegiac mode. A lament for the ghost flocks, ghost herds, ghost predators and ghost raptors and perhaps most pernicious tragedy of all the ghost of all of our primate awe at the suchness, the thusness, the tathata of the Other. We live with the trace, the echo.

Now that’s a subject really worth an elegy; ‘if thou beest that; But O how fall’n! how chang’d’.


One Tree in a Billion Interview

I was interviewed last week by Tokyo based photographer and blogger Martin Bailey about the One Tree in a Billion Project.The interview is here :

Thanks very much Martin. The photograph below is by my One Tree colleague and partner in crime , Tom Ambrose. I love the Lost World feel to it.

One Tree in a Billion is now live !

Our Kickstarter fundraising page is now up and running :

I’ll be posting updates here and on the fundraising page. Minimum investment is £1. If you have £2999 more and want to come out to work with the team in the Amazon rainforest including getting up into the canopy then get in touch. There is a range of other offers available, but we need your support to make the project happen.



Sentient Beings are Numberless. I vow to save them all.

One of the central vows that Buddhists chant is the lovely refrain above. I like to think of it as a codified version of animism, or what E.O. Wilson terms ‘biophilia’ which he defines as the ‘urge to affiliate with other forms of life’. As always the poets say it better; ‘I have fallen in love outward’, as Jeffers has Orestes say in The Tower Beyond Tragedy.

What might this mean in terms of how we live on the planet ?

A recent press release from Panthera ( a charity that campaigns for Big Cats) sets out the direct link between the survival of the iconic Snow Leopard and the presence of Tibetan monasteries in the Sanjiangyuan reserve on the Tibetan Plateau that protects the headwaters of the Yangtse (Dri Chu) , Yellow (Ma Chu) and Mekong (Dza Chu) rivers. It is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been.


You can read the original article from Conservation Biology here :

As the article points out is it is widely recognised that

‘Sacred lands probably offer one of the oldest forms of
habitat protection and are important repositories of bio-
diversity outside formal protected areas in many parts of the world’.
There is a tantalising reference to a widespread myth that ‘according to Buddhist

scripture, the snow leopard owns the rocky mountains,
is the leader of all carnivores, and is one of the protectors
of the sacred mountains’.
I’ve never seen a Snow Leopard in the wild, although I’ve seen scat and pugmarks and been long enough in prime habitat with a good prey base (largely Blue Sheep) to cherish the illusion that I might just have been seen by one. Perhaps that is enough for this lifetime but I have a feeling that one winter day I’ll light out again for the high territory with big glass and down jacket .