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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Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

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Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

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JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
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Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
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Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
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Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

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On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
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Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

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"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

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George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
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Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker