January 11, 2013: A member of staff holds a handful of butterflies at The Glasshouse at RHS Wisley Gardens near Woking. Rare and exotic butterflies have been placed in The Glasshouse for visitors from until February 24

What’s the best way to survive winter? Ask a butterfly, because they know better than most

Our Environment Editor, who has published at length on these beautiful creatures, reflects on their life cycle. Plus: a festival of fieldfares

In the bitter cold, under a starry sky, a glimpse of a bird of mystery

The woodcock may be Britain's most secretive bird, but with the help of a leading expert it's possible to spot them on their nightly rounds

Nature Studies: Our generation has seen a great thinning that we can’t quite name

Young people just can't register how much of our wildlife has disappeared

Extravagant, yes, exotic, certainly – but black swans aren't as rare as you may think

Nature Studies: next year will see the publication of the most in-depth survey of the breeding and distribution of Britain’s birds ever carried out

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus: Kestrels have been declining in recent years and giving concern to conservationists, but they had a very good breeding season in 2011, thanks to an abundance of prey

What is behind the catastrophic decline of our hovering raptor?

It used to be that buzzards and falcons were struggling, while kestrels flourished. Now the situation has reversed and this proud bird faces extinction

The greatest book about mushrooms you'll ever read

A beautiful book could change attitudes to Britain's great variety of mushrooms

The betrayal of John Kahekwa: how Britain let down an inspirational conservationist from Congo

Five years ago our Environment Editor travelled to Bukavu to meet a man who has dedicated his life to lowland gorillas. What happened after is a tragic farce

Forget all those 'polite' landscape paintings and let the great Kurt Jackson show you how to do it

The brilliant 51 year old, a committed environmentalist, comes to landscapes through ecology - which makes him interested in more than mere surface appearances

There was much to enjoy in 50s Britain that won't be seen again - sadly, wildflowers have joined that list

As a result of intensive farming and development the reign of Elizabeth II has witnessed, in wildlife terms, a vast impoverishment of the fields of Britain.

Michael McCarthy and The Independent's adopted cuckoo 'Indy'

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: From Wales to Niger via the Po valley. Twice. Nice one, Indy

After a 1,700-mile journey to nowhere, his signal showed him in Tunisia

Gorillas in the midst: the park is in the heart of the Congo war

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: These brave park rangers make me seem like a traffic warden

I was grumbled at and occasionally roundly abused. But I never got shot

Astonishing fecundity: here on St Kilda is the profusion of life that our ancestors knew

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: If your wish is for the wild, St Kilda will fulfil it

It is the remotest part of the British Isles, 40 miles into the Atlantic

Michael McCarthy and The Independent's adopted cuckoo 'Indy'

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Cuckoo-style decision-making is a thing of wonder

On his way to Africa, Indy did something astonishing

The machair's flowers and beaches make it a place of beauty

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: A Western Isles idyll where wild flowers grow in profusion

I was bowled over by the machair. It is unparalleled in the British Isles

Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) photographed in Baja, California

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The unbearable lightness of dolphins

Tomorrow is my annual expedition to look for purple emperor butterflies in a wonderful Wiltshire oakwood, much anticipated, but the weather forecast is dire, and downpours will wash away any chance of catching those resplendent purple wings glinting around the tree canopy or even coming down to the ground. I feel the need for a word like Bah! (used by frustrated villains in the comics of my youth) or perhaps even Curses! The appalling sodden summer of 2012 has cast a pall over a number of such wildlife watching opportunities (and, more importantly, done a lot of real harm to the wildlife itself).

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
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