Apart from the environmental woes we hear about, one of the good things that’s happened to British wildlife is that it’s been liberated from a dark age of prejudice. Creatures once demonised as ugly and evil are now celebrated as uniquely beautiful and fascinating. This is particularly true for both toads and swifts.
Even though they walk like your granddad after a couple of pints, toads are cool with a capital curly Cuh because they can zap flies with their tongues. Swifts are the aerial mentalists which scream pure rock n’ roll over our rooftops. But what is really captivating a new generation of wildlife watchers are the stories of their migrations.
Have a butchers at the World on the Move website - bbc.co.uk/worldonthemove - not just to follow the geese, whales, salmon, eels and butterflies being tracked around the world, but also to see what people say about them. I particularly like the toady page, which perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, has masses of comments:
Sam finds a huge toad he thought was dead, but it just turned round.
John Clayton discovers a colony of 50 in the stone pile in his back garden.
Do toads eat their young? Jason asks. No they don’t, reassures the expert.
Jo Murray and friends help toads cross the road to Nuffield Marsh.
Ben Bayliss found a pair of toads enjoying each others company on his driveway, in broad daylight.
This is great because its about how wild life, literally on the doorstep, matters to people. And this makes it easier to get excited about reports on the more remote journeys, such as the tens of millions of finger-thick Monarch butterfly caterpillars in Mexico; the grey whales which chugged up the Pacific coast of America; and D8 the bar-tailed godwit from New Zealand which just finished the 8,500 km leg of its trip from China to Alaska in 4 and a half days flat.
The big stories may grab the headlines: the soap-opera that is Logie the osprey; the Nordic saga of Top Goose; and six-ton Mac - not since Nellie has an elephant’s whereabouts been so closely monitored. But some of the side stories on the website I find equally fascinating, such as Rolf William’s postcards about bird dramas on his oil rig in the Persian Gulf.
It’s also the smaller, quieter, domestic stories the website tells between the radio programmes that I find intriguing: sea-lampreys on the River Wye, Daubenton’s bat in Wharfedale, and Wylam the Atlantic salmon swimming to her spawning grounds up the River Tyne.
Where can I hear the cuckoo?
Is there a decline in swallow numbers this year?
How long are Mac’s tusks?
Can you give me more information as to where the sociable lapwings wintered in Sudan?
Having got us all enthused about Logie, why the news blackout - is there a risk of egg-collectors locating the nest?
Your questions answered, your observations recorded, your pictures loaded… The future is with the children and schools from Scunthorpe to Borg Monsbergergasse Austria to Washington DC are signing up to World Class, an initiative linking schools at either end of an animal migration route - cuckoos in Ethiopia, whooper swans in Iceland, swallows in South Africa - bringing communities together. So pile into the website: bbc.co.uk/worldonthemove. Click on this, drag on that, where’s those Painted Ladies at?