Category: Natural history


We´ve had some hard rain here recently and I thought I might take a look on the river on Sunday to see how it was clearing up. As usual I had the rod in the back of the car but thought it unlikely that I would be be taking it out. I live close to the confluence of two rivers, the Río Grande and the Río Guadalhorce and after heavy rainfall it tends to be the Río Grande that clears up sooner. So on Sunday I went to take a look at it in the hope it might have recovered sufficiently to offer me a chance to fool a barbel or two. Continue reading

It´s not every day that a vulture descends from the sky and alights at your place of work but that´s exactly what happened today. I thought people were kidding me when they asked if I wanted to go and take a look at the vulture but then I saw the crowd standing at a safe distance and, lo and behold, right in the middle stood a full grown griffon vulture. Continue reading

For some time now I have dabbled in painting fish in water colours and, until now, the subjects have been fish that I have become acquainted with first hand including brown trout, perch, carp, black bass and gypsy barbel. I have just broken with this little tradition by painting a fish that I have never seen in the flesh but that strikes me as a beautiful subject – the Golden Dorado. It´s no surprise that I have never seen or caught one. If I were to do so I would have to book myself a flight to South America. Continue reading

In the fish tank in my lab we have a crab that is remarkable for a number of reasons. For one thing it is not a crab and it has died at least twice. This remarkable creature was a gift from a Year 11 student, Margarita Solontovnikoff, and was presented with a companion tropical fish about 16 months ago. Both of these were Margarita´s former pets and, for whatever reason, she thought we might like to have them. Continue reading

My neighbour Kay is down to her last hen. She used to have a bunch of them but most are now kicking around in that great hen coop up in the sky. One of those hens just disappeared under mysterious circumstances one time we have no idea what the hell happened to it. Continue reading

Yesterday I came across a slug out walking the dogs. I realise, on re-reading this first sentence, that it is open to misinterpretation so let me state plainly that it was me out walking the dogs and not the slug. The slug just happened to be crossing the dirt track which links two sections of roughly-paved road. The track itself is little used. In the recent rains it becomes very slippery and so vehicles tend to keep off it and, as a result, plants grow freely down the middle. Continue reading

On Thursday I opened my annual account with the carp on my local river, the Guadalhorce. I made a single withdrawal of what I imagine was about five pounds, or maybe a little more. It was a typically spirited fish and slugged it out like a heavyweight before I managed to ease into the bankside shallows and beach it. Continue reading

On Saturday a bunch of us went on a long walk that took us to the top of a mountain called La Concha. All told, we covered about 17km over pretty unforgiving terrain, often in single file. I suppose you should work on your fitness before such an undertaking but I thought it best to prepare by sitting on the sofa with my father in law and watching Bear Grylls on the telly!

Bear Grylls tells us that drinking urine is a convenient substitute for coffee when out in the wilderness and there is nowhere to plug in a kettle (and of course it has no caffeine!) and that eating rabbit droppings is just a simple question of mind over matter: just pop them in your mouth and imagine they´re maltesers! Continue reading

This morning Catriona and I took Pippa to Euston station for her journey back to university in Glasgow. Not wanting to miss the opportunities available in the heart of London, we discussed places that we might visit. On account of it being my birthday, I was offered the casting vote and decided that we ought to go whale watching.

“Hope” is the name given to the 22 metre blue whale skeleton displayed in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum. She is a real show stopper. She was stranded in Wexford Harbour in Ireland in 1891 and was bought by the museum which was only 10 years old at that time.  She is the only whale skeleton in the world to be displayed in a diving lunge feeding position and has been the headline act here since July 2017 when this amazing display was revealed to the public for the first time. Continue reading

I don´t know about you but I´ve spent the Christmas period sitting on my arse with my feet up on the coffee table. I noticed that some idiot left an open box of Quality Street lying around. They won´t do that again in a hurry!

This shameful self-indulgence is tolerated and even encouraged at this time of year and usually acts as a catalyst to sign up to healthy new year´s resolution like marathon running, cross-channel swimming, mountain climbing or at least taking the dogs for a walk. Continue reading