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Wild Hares & Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village (2012) is about the author’s home in the ancient West Country of England in the Somerset Levels, the home of King Arthur in medieval times. This is about village life, its nature, and the wildlife that lives in his garden and surrounding environment. 

The book is divided into the months of the year, beginning with snow in January. He tells of birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals — most in hibernation at this time of year. Weather plays a large part in this book, with the changing seasons and the unseasonal changes. As does the metamorphosis of insects, the reproduction of animals, the growth of the young, and their demise. 

As the months pass and the year unfolds, readers can visualize the landscape and the integral life of everything that lives within it. Here and there, a poem appears, to enrich the narrative. Colours are described in relation to the sunlight or shadow, in all their softness and brightness, from camouflage to displays of ‘look-at-me’ attention-seeking. 

Set amid the history of the location, the local events, and the author’s ambling walks among the criss-crossing paths in his village, it is a gentle stroll through a patch of land that he loves. Ancient and modern roads run side by side. A lone hot-air balloon descends to the nearby Bristol airport. Visitors mix with locals, as migrant birds mix with residential birds. These are the contrasts that makes the book interesting.

There are symbols of longevity and long life, such as the towering yew trees, and the brevity of a flower or an insect. There are mesmerising episodes, such as birds at the author’s bird-feeders outside his kitchen window, juxtaposed with the natural brutality of animal-eat-animal, and the reality of human encroachment. 

What Moss reveals is the richness of the diversity of flora and fauna, including his favourite brown hares and hummingbird hawk-moths. The white snow of winter and the heat haze of summer—the four seasons, and the twelve months provide a variety of sights in each chapter. 

The writing is as evocative as the landscape, rich in its descriptions and fascinating in its scientific knowledge. It is a delightful blend of bird and beast, and the beauty of science.   

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

MARTINA NICOLLS – MartinaNicollsWebsite

Martinasblogs – Publications – Facebook – Paris Website – Animal Website – Flower Website

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