The charming Chess: one of the vanishing Chiltern chalk streams

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Cherish these rivers - they may soon flow no more

The idea of a river dying is not a common one. If we were to categorise how people feel about rivers, in so far as they do so at all, we might suppose that feelings generally focus on power and permanence. T S Eliot, contemplating the Mississippi pounding past St Louis where he grew up, thought of it as "a strong brown God". Oscar Hammerstein portrayed it as eternal: "Ol' Man River, he jes' keeps rolling along".

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: For the first time, we can see spring coming from 4,000 miles away

Over six months, the mystery of where cuckoos winter has revealed itself

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Just because Nessie is a myth doesn't mean we can't dream

Nature has powers of persistence, even when all evidence points to a vanishing

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: We think swans are beautiful. So why not ducks?

Why do we laugh at ducks? Why do we find them funny? Did Walt Disney choose Donald Duck as a cartoon character because ducks are inherently comic, or do ducks seem all the more comical because of the creation of Donald Duck? In English, we have developed specific, mocking words to describe their actions. Ducks do not walk or hop, they waddle. They do not call or cry to each other, they quack. These are loaded, non-neutral verbs, waddling and quacking. They predispose to derision.

A badger’s powerful front claws can uncurl the hedghog’s tight ball of spines

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: More badgers and fewer hedgehogs. Coincidence? I don't think so

A badger's powerful front claws can uncurl the hedghog's tight ball of spines

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: We all know it has been mild recently – but butterflies think it's spring

Here's a remarkable butterfly story. When you first become interested in butterflies, you naturally enjoy their vivid colours and concentrate on recognising them, but as you become more involved, you start to look at subtler things.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: We all know what they look like, but have you ever really seen a mole?

It is the only mammal to spend most of its time underground
It was clear that the gnomes in 'The Little Grey Men' could not survive the creeping urbanisation, and the modernisation of agriculture which even in 1942 were spreading across the
countryside

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The debt I owe to Dodder, Baldmoney and Sneezewort

Our initial encounters with real stories, with fully formed characters and narrative, can shape us for many years to come, and recently I was put in mind of the first story, the first proper book, with which I completely engaged.

Talk turkey: The ocellated species

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: There is another way to appreciate turkey

There are two ways of looking at turkeys, it dawned on me one day in the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, that enormous tooth on the map, that great limestone molar, which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean.

People had known for centuries that swallows migrated from Britain in the winter, but nobody had any idea it was as far as to South Africa, 6,000 miles way, until a Staffordshire solicitor, John Masefield, ringed a young bird in the porch of his home in May 1911

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: In a birder's paradise, I thrill to the sight of a myna

Mynah birds (then spelt with a final h) were once popular in Britain in the days when every other family had a budgie in a cage and antimacassars on the back of the sofa; their ability to imitate human speech was regarded as equal to that of parrots. Cor. What a larf. They disappeared from British domestic parlours a long time ago but I have been watching them in the wild in the past week, while covering the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: What this pyramid says about us and climate change

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist of the mid-20th century, a scholar of human behaviour generally known for one particular imaginative insight into how people behave: his hierarchy of needs.

Frozen dinner: the hunt begins

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: When one beast must die – to let another live

One of the attributes of young schoolboys – or at least it was, centuries ago when I was one – is the impulse to gather round, fascinated and excited, when a fight erupts in the playground. I mean a serious fight, a grudge match between two boys going at it hammer and tongs. Shouting breaks out. Sides are taken. Emotions run wild, until the teacher arrives to break it up. Is it a purely male attribute, this animated reaction, or is it a universally human one? I've no idea. Although you may disapprove of it, it most undoubtedly exists. It's in the genes.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Medical myth is dooming the rhino to extinction

Can nobody stop it? Can no major political leader or other public figure realise what is happening and have the guts or find a moment to speak out about the horrific, heartless, headlong slaughter of the world's rhinos which is now running out of control?

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Why extinctions should worry us as a species

You probably missed it on the news, three weeks ago, the item about the Vietnamese rhinoceros going extinct; it didn't make a lot of noise. The fact that an animal which had roamed the jungles of Vietnam for millions of years had now disappeared from the Earth for ever didn't hit the front pages, or the television headlines: there were far more pressing concerns for the world. A rhino in Vietnam? So what? Who's bothered?

The people of Burkina Faso rely on burning wood for 90 per cent of their energy needs

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Exhausted, deforested landscapes show the truth about over-population

I imagine most people would be hard put to place Burkina Faso on a map; it neatly fits that cliché of a faraway country of which we know nothing.

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Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season
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Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
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The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
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Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
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Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor