Category: Natural history


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

A very odd thing happened yesterday when I was fishing with Colin McLachlan. I was sneaking around the shore of a reservoir called Embalse de Gabriel y Galán in Extremadura when I came across a full grown griffon vulture on the slope leading to the shoreline. I had been so intent on looking for barbel in the shallows that I approached reasonably closely before I noticed. It is very unusual to see a vulture like this on the ground and there was no sign of a carcass that might have attracted it. Continue reading

It´s not quite summertime yet and it may be a little early yet for the cotton to be high, but fish are certainly jumping. On the way back from fishing on Saturday, I came across some gypsy barbel on the Guadalhorce who treated me to to a fine display of their aerial acrobatics. Continue reading

You should never pass up the opportunity to put on a pair of wellies and stand in a puddle. If you don´t believe me just ask a kid, any kid. They may not be able to explain what makes it so much fun to be simply splashing around. They just know that it is. Kids are wise that way. For me there is something about being partially immersed in a muddy liquid while your feet are warm and dry that is very satisfying, Christ knows why. Continue reading