The Diaries Of Brett Westwood

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01Farmland20150112

1. Farmland. When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire.

From those early days, when travel was by bicycle, Brett's wildlife diaries have developed into a record which is anything but parochial. They mirror the often undreamt of changes which have taken place across the UK over the last 40 years; Cuckoo and Water Vole reveal both have disappeared from Brett's local patch, whilst ravens, buzzards and otters have moved in.

In this series Brett returns, diaries in hand, to different 5 different habitats in his local patch and compares notes from the past with the landscape and wildlife of today. There are genuine shocks and revelations.

In the first programme Brett visits an area of arable and pasture land where corn buntings sang their crackly songs, grey partridges creaked in spring dusks and the pee-wit cries of lapwing were regular sounds. But intensive farming in this area has had a huge effect on how the land is managed; resulting in the loss of hedges, use of pesticides, loss of winter stubble; all these changes have impacted on the insects, shelter and nesting sites for wildlife. This is a scene which has been repeated across the UK. However, the old hedge banks are still home to rare bumblebees which feed on the flowers and a very scarce and spectacular black bee with smoky wings has turned up in the last two years, one of a handful of sites for it in the UK.

The series underlines the importance of keeping a diary like Brett's not just for personal notes but as a valuable document of change which is measurable from decade to decade.

Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson, Producer: Sarah Blunt.

02Valley20150113

2. Valley. When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire.

In this series Brett returns, diaries in hand, to different areas of his local patch and compares notes from the past with the landscape and wildlife of today. There are genuine shocks and revelations.

In this programme, Brett visits the valley. Since Brett started visiting his local patch, the landscape here has been changed more radically than any other area in the patch, not as a result of management, but of nature taking its course. The valley is a sandstone dip between two horse pastures and its steep sides have deterred any cropping or grazing. As a teenager, this is where Brett soaked in the scents of basil and thyme which carpeted the banks. Young hawthorn saplings attracted whinchats and tree pipits. Turtle doves nested here in summer. Knowing that if the hawthorns became too vigorous they would shade out the ground cover and become too dense for the whinchats, Brett did a little judicial pruning from time to time - but it was a battle he lost. Today the hawthorn cover is complete and many rare flowers have been shaded out. Ash and birch trees have grown up and the whinchats, tree pipits and cuckoos have gone. Instead fieldfares and redwings roost in the thorns in winter and in summer chiffchaffs and blackcaps are commoner than ever. Ravens and Buzzards are often heard overhead. And on one winter's eve he had an unforgettable close-encounter with a sparrowhawk.

The series underlines the importance of keeping a diary as a valuable document of change which is measurable from decade to decade. Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson, Producer: Sarah Blunt.

03Sewage20150114

3. Sewage. When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire.

In this series Brett returns, diaries in hand, to different areas of his local patch and compares notes from the past with the landscape and wildlife of today. There are genuine shocks and revelations.

In this programme, Brett visits a farm at Whittington. When he was a teenager, sewage was pumped out onto an area of about a square mile where cattle were grazed. In icy winters the fields did not freeze owing to the warmth provided by the sewage and the life breeding in it! Unusual for the West Midlands in winter, a regular flock of up to 200 curlews were joined by a pink-footed goose, pintails, wigeon, and in winter 1976 two spotted redshanks. These waders are very rare inland in winter and Brett, as a novice bird watcher at the time wasn't believed by the traditional and older birders. However once the record was accepted by the West Midlands Bird Club, the record spurred Brett on and his passion for wildlife and bird watching continues to this day. The old methods of spreading sewage stopped in the 1980s and the curlew flocks have gone but Brett still visits the area, and in recent years has been rewarded with sightings of barn owls and buzzards.

The series underlines the importance of keeping a diary like Brett's not just for personal notes but as a valuable document of change which is measurable from decade to decade.

Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson, Producer: Sarah Blunt.

04Woodland20150115

4. Woodland. When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire.

The diaries mirror the often undreamt of changes which have taken place across the UK over the last 40 years. In this series Brett returns, diaries in hand, to different areas of his local patch and compares notes from the past with the landscape and wildlife of today. There are genuine shocks and revelations.

Fairy Glen is a small natural woodland in Brett's patch carpeted with bluebells in spring. This was once oak has become a sycamore wood. However it's now a great place to spot warblers; chaffinches and bramblings feeding on aphids in spring, and during his visit Brett watches a pair of Nuthatches bringing back food for their young to their nest hole in the trunk of a tree. A second area of woodland which Brett visits - is a relatively new small plantation - but the species have been well chosen and Brett scans the skies above for buzzards. These he finds flying high above a third area of woodland in his local patch which was bought by the Woodland Trust and is much frequented by walkers and dogs. But for Brett - the attraction is the buzzards soaring over the canopy, which have returned and bred in the area since the 1990s. There are ravens too - another bird which Brett would never have dreamed of seeing when he was a teenager on his local patch.

The series underlines the importance of keeping a diary like Brett's not just for personal notes but as a valuable document of change which is measurable from decade to decade.

Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson, Producer: Sarah Blunt.

05Canal20150116

5. Canal.

When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire.

From those early days, when birding was done by bicycle, Brett's wildlife diaries have developed into a record which is anything but parochial. They mirror the often undreamt of changes which have taken place across the UK over the last 40 years. In this series Brett returns, diaries in hand, to different areas of his local patch and compares notes from the past with the landscape and wildlife of today. There are genuine shocks and revelations.

The River Stour has its source in the industrial Black Country and flows through Brett's local patch on its way to the Severn, about 9 miles away. Today, although it is polluted, the river is far clearer than in years gone by, thanks to rigorous controls on pollutants. With their absence, fish have returned and damselflies such as the white-legged damsel which is sensitive to pollution, skim across the surface. During his visit for the programme, Brett is thrilled to see a Beautiful Demoiselle for the first time here; a species which signifies that the water is less polluted than in the past. Last year Brett heard the what he's convinced was the 'plop' of a water vole and saw footprints in the riverside mud for the first time in fifteen years. With mink now well-established, could these water voles survive?

The series underlines the importance of keeping a diary like Brett's not just for personal notes but as a valuable document of change which is measurable from decade to decade.

Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson, Producer: Sarah Blunt.