Swift decline: the rain has been catastrophic for breeding

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Rain stopped play - why birds aren't breeding in the wet

There are reports of problems with tits and chats and pipits and larks

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Moths are just as worthy of our wonder as butterflies

Our human prejudices often lead us astray in looking at the natural world. For example, we so love our butterflies that we tend to think butterflies come first, and moths are merely an afterthought. But actually, it's the other way round.

Our man McCarthy with the paper's adopted cuckoo in Wales

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Good luck, Indy – the cuckoo that's carrying our name to Africa

I thought he was beautiful beyond description. And then I let him fly

A 'roding' male woodcock patrols a circuit

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The shy woodcock, our most mysterious bird

Setting eyes on a mystery is always memorable, perhaps even more so at dusk, in the atmospheric borderland between day and night; most of all in the long dusk of early summer. And on Friday evening of last week, which was 1 June, the first day of summer in some calendars, I found myself deep in a Hampshire woodland as the light faded and the owls began to call, waiting for the mystery to appear.

Dazzling: the small tortoiseshell butterfly

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The love that dare not speak its name – butterflies

Butterflies are back. For me the greatest blessing of the return of the warm weather this week, after that sodden April and that glacial most-of-May, has been that butterflies are once more on the wing and visible. I walked out of the house on Tuesday morning and bumped into a holly blue almost immediately. What a boost to the spirits that was.

The hawthorn: an uncommon and arresting colour combination

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: If the blackthorn is sugar, then the hawthorn is cream

I grew up with a whacking great hawthorn hedge at the end of the garden

Tardigrades (x135 magnification): 0.18mm long, smaller than fullstops

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: We've lost touch with the tiny, microscopic things

Ask your child what a tyrannosaurus is, or a velociraptor, and you'll probably get an intelligible answer. Movies have made dinosaurs familiar to millions. But ask them what a rotifer is, or a tardigrade, and you'll get a blank stare.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Cuckoo miracle - from Norfolk to Congo and back

Giving names to Clement and the other four birds was a masterstroke

In fine voice: a sedge warbler makes itself heard

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: From ants to birds to whales, there's a soundscape to be marvelled at

In nature's collective voice, we can locate the origins of human music, even language

Dazzlingly handsome: the first orange tip butterflies are out now

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Prepare to be amazed - spring is nearly sprung

When exactly is spring? Using the ancient, astronomical calendar you can say it begins at the vernal equinox, the moment when day and night are of equal length (as the tilt of the earth's axis is inclined neither towards the sun nor away from it). That occurs in March, usually on the 20th of the month; spring can then be said to run until the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, usually on 21 June.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Where is the elegy for the mountain blackbird?

I can clearly remember the moment I first saw a ring ouzel. I was 17. It was in the Easter holidays and I had gone hiking in Snowdonia with my friend Chris, and one bright morning we left Bala and tramped along the side of Llyn Celyn, at that time a controversial new reservoir, and then struck upwards into the hills, over the open moorland to Ysbyty Ifan.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: It's springtime for the swingers of suburbia

One of the most fascinating things we have learned about life in the past 50 years is that the principle purpose of all living things, in so far as they have a purpose at all, is to reproduce. It's an insight from evolutionary biology (if you want to explore it further, pick up Richard Dawkins's bestseller, The Selfish Gene).

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Reason to be cheerful. It's rook-building time

It sometimes seems a pity that there are only four official seasons. Golden October is a world away from sodden November, but they're still lumped together in autumn. And this period at the moment, mid-March, is a sort of in-between time, with winter officially gone and spring officially here, but it doesn't really feel like either. It's a waiting time, when things are coming, but haven't yet arrived.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Sense and sensibility – birds have lots of both

You think you know the world, at least the general shape of it, the way it works, yet sometimes you are struck by just how far you are from truly comprehending it in all its glorious peculiarity.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Ireland's corncrakes - no longer in every acre

Are we divided by the same language? There is no doubt that the British Isles – that is, Britain and Ireland combined – constitute a geographical entity. We have the same climate (temperate, moist, and 10 degrees Celsius warmer than it should be, because of the Gulf Stream), the same topography of low mountains, small lakes and relatively short rivers, and the same wildlife. But so ingrained are the social and political differences between the two countries that they are rarely considered together (the Lions rugby team being a rare exception).

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
The Independent
The Independent on Google+
i100 on Google+
i Newspaper
The Independent around the web
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little