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

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.

Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
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Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
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fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
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Day In a Page

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
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform