The goldcrest is a tiny bird. Adults typically weigh just 5g, which is the same as a 20p coin. On average, goldcrests are slightly lighter than the similarly diminutive, and closely related, firecrest. This makes the species the UK’s smallest bird.

Goldcrests are named after the crest of bright feathers in the middle of their head. This is completely yellow on females, but has an orange centre on males. The rest of the plumage is mainly green-brown.

Not to be confused with: the firecrest. It has a distinct black stripe around the eye, but this can be hard to see on a moving bird. However, firecrests are much rarer than goldcrests and are predominantly found in southern England.

Images taken by CRUSH Photography©

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from the Woodland Trust

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The house sparrow is an opportunistic bird of towns and cities, parks, gardens and farmland. House sparrows feed on a variety of foods, including buds, grains, nuts and scraps, and will visit birdtables and feeders. They live in colonies and nest in holes or crevices in buildings, among Ivy or other bushes, and in nestboxes; they use a variety of materials to make their nests.

Both parents will incubate the three to five eggs and raise the young. House sparrows are residents in the UK, but may disperse from their breeding grounds to feed on nearby farmland and grassland in winter.

Male house sparrows are streaky brown above and grey below. They have chestnut wings with white wingbars, a black bib and a grey cap. Females and juveniles are a drab brown. Tree sparrows look similar to male house sparrows, but have a brown crown and a black spot on each cheek.

Images by CRUSH Photography©

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from Wildlife Trusts.

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Lightning fast and technicoloured, seeing a kingfisher always feels special. Spot them near rivers, diving low to catch tiny fish with impressive dexterity. The kingfisher is a small bird with unmistakable plumage. Its back is bright metallic blue and its breast is a coppery-brown. The beak is long and black, though females have a red patch at the base. With a wingspan of 25cm and body length of 16cm, a kingfisher is only slightly larger than a robin, although it is nearly twice as heavy.

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from The Wildlife Trust

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Ever wondered why meditation retreats and monasteries of all spiritual traditions are often found in the mountains or deep in the forest? There are many benefits of meditation in nature—it’s a place where wisdom and perception come alive. Meditating outdoors activates our senses, making our practice more alert and wakeful. At the same time, the usual distractions seem far away and somehow less important. Many meditators find it easier to let go of their worries and their electronic devices when they’ve got such a satisfying alternative: mindfully communing with nature.

Meditating with Nature

In Asia, the accomplished meditators of yore believed that isolation in the wilderness was conducive to advanced mindfulness training. They would retreat to hermitages carved into mountains or hidden among the flora of the jungle and spend time in deep contemplation. Many ancient poems and chants evoke the wonder of such retreats. A verse by Han-shan, a 7th century hermit who lived on Cold Mountain in China, describes this experience beautifully:

Today I sat before the cliff,
Sat a long time till mists had cleared.
A single thread, the clear stream runs cold;
A thousand yards the green peaks lift their heads.
White clouds—the morning light is still;
Moonrise—the lamp of night drifts upward;
Body free from dust and stain,
What cares could trouble my mind?

(From Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the Tang Poet Han-shan, translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press)

Photographs by CRUSH Photography©

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from Mindworks

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