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7 Questions Kids Always Ask About Animals

Friday, 22 May 2020

Kids and animals – they go together so well!  However, kids are curious about all sorts of concepts and animals are no exception! Children will never stop bothering us with their thought-provoking and annoying questions up to and including "write a paper for me." Here are eight of them about animals, and how to answer them - starting with two of the more frequently asked and then some of the lesser (but still amusing) answers. Oh and don't worry about the little girl above - she does not have cruel and irresponsible parents. It's a statue.

The Billion-Bug Highway You Can't See

Friday, 24 April 2020




Look up at the sky and what do you see? Well, blue, yes. And maybe a plane or a bird, but otherwise ... nothing. Or so you think. It turns out that right above you, totally invisible, is an enormous herd of animal life -- tiny bugs riding the wind currents.

According to research done by British scientists in a six mile square space about our heads there can be as many as three billion insects.

That is quite some figure.  This amazing animation takes you through the reasons why.  Some of the heights that these insects reach is pretty spectacular to say the very least.  It certainly answers the question how high can insects fly?

The Bizarre Nest of the Central American Paper Wasp

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Take a look at the photograph above.  Is it some strange kind of blooming plant?  Is it a fungal growth attached to a tree?  It is something else entirely.  This is the bizarre nest of the Central American Paper Wasp (Apoica pallens).  It is notable for one thing – an apparent lack of nest altogether.  Those pale yellow cigar-shaped objects? They are the wasps, huddled together in neat order, waiting for the evening to come.

Image Credit
The species is native to the lowlands of central and northern South America, so unless you live there you are not going to stumble across something like this in the forest – although whether that is a shame or a relief entirely depends on you.  However, these wasps have developed a kind of night vision which means that they swarm and forage only after the sun goes down.  Until then, they adopt this position under the comb face of their nest – and it is entirely defensive.

The Assassin Bug – Malaysia’s Macabre Miniscule Murderer

Saturday, 1 February 2020

It is less than a centimeter in length and that is something for which, quite possibly, we can be truly grateful! This assassin bug, found in Malaysia, has a trick up its sleeve once it has finished its dinner. It attaches the empty carcases of its victims on its back – a ploy thought to be an attempt to avoid becoming a victim itself.


A Sea Slug Symphony

Saturday, 4 January 2020

The nudibranch is a soft bodied marine gastropod mollusk – but many people simply refer to them, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as sea slugs.  You can see why they gained this nick name (even though it is often taxonomically inaccurate too!) but compared to the land bound version they are an explosion of color and grace.  Here are just a few of the 3,000 species. (Image Credit Flickr User CW Ye)


This beautiful creature is found in the Western Pacific. A rich pinkinsh purple color, they have a white border on their mantle. They would be startling enough without, but their rhinophore clubs are an orange-yellow color that is a startling juxtaposition with the rest of their bodies. This exquisite creature is formally known as Hypselodoris apolegma.

The Water Vole - Back from the Brink

Saturday, 26 October 2019

It was not so long ago that naturalists were predicting that the Water Vole would be extinct in the United Kingdom within a few years. Predation by the North American Mink, loss of habitat and pollution seemed to be the main culprits.

The much loved small mammal, immortalized in fiction as Ratty (left) in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, seemed destined for the history books.  It was given protected status as late as 2008 - a legislative moved considered by many to be too little too late.

Yet just a few years after their dire predictions it seems that the water vole is back from the brink, testimony to the help it has received from conservationists.

Thriving colonies of over two thousand now exist in several places in the UK. Less than ten years ago, surveys of the same places revealed only a scattering of water voles, less than twenty in each location.  If those numbers have made you raise an eyebrow you may not know just how fecund a water vole can be. Left to her own devices a female can produce up to thirty young in a season with up to eight baby voles per litter. So, what did the environmentalists do to aid such a dramatic come back for this semi-aquatic rodent?

The African Fish Eagle – Kleptoparasite Extraordinaire

Sunday, 6 October 2019


The National Bird of two countries - Zimbabwe and Zambia – the African Fish Eagle is a bird that, with its gorgeous snow white head, once seen is never forgotten.

The Eagle is found in most parts of the continent – as long as you are south of the edge of the Sahara Desert.  Also known as the African Sea Eagle it is found anywhere near where there is water containing fish.  It has a distinctive call which immediately identifies it, but what really stands out is its magnificent plumage.

The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Perhaps it is the mucus, perhaps the snake-like appearance or the habit of many species of slug to regard your garden and the carefully cultivated plants within as dinner – but the slug generally has a pretty bad press.

So, if you just groaned in horror at the picture above, you are in good company. A lot of people don’t like slugs. The sight of them in a garden has been known to turn even the most mild mannered in to mad mollusk murderers. Yet the giant Banana Slug, the second largest in the world (after the European Limax), has more than just its size and resemblance to a certain yellow fruit as a claim to fame. This is one of the unsung champions of the forest, for the banana slug only eats dead organic material which they then turn in to soil.

The Pink Robin: The Gloriously Pink-breasted Bird

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The robin, both European and American is famous for its red breast.  The subject of nursery rhymes and Christmas cards the male of the species is resplendent in red. Australia, too, has a robin.  One might, of course, expect this particular country to produce something a little different: it has form, after all.  So, step forward the pink robin, Australia’s passerine of pulchritudinous pinkness.


Just in case you think this is some kind of practical joke, here's a rare and short video of the pink robin.

The Hyrax – The Elephant’s Cousin

Saturday, 17 August 2019

The Hyrax may look like a guinea pig to the casual observer but looks can be very deceptive.  It has even been called the rock rabbit but its family tree is much stranger than you might expect. Its nearest living relatives are the elephant and, bizarrely, the sea cow.

Caught In The Web: How Spiders Eat their Prey

Friday, 16 August 2019


Imagine you are an insect caught in a spider web. What exactly will happen to you once the spider comes and, as it were, sits down beside you? It’s not a pretty process, that’s for sure but some amazing macrophotography can make even death a thing of beauty...

The fate of a creature caught in a spider web often holds a morbid fascination to the casual viewer. The urge to release them may be strong but many hold back, perhaps afraid that if they assist the struggling animal then a similar fate may well be in store for them.

The Remarkable Giraffe Weevil of Madagascar

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Three guesses how the giraffe weevil gets its name. Unsurprisingly, this extraordinary looking Madagascan creature gets the name from its stupendously long neck.  It is three times longer in the male than the female of the species (Trachelophorus giraffa). As such it is sexually dimorphic – the male’s neck is used for aggressive combat.

When it comes to mating, it is certainly the male of the species which is more deadly.  The giraffe weevil has evolved its extended neck to fight for the right to a nearby female (which will patiently await the outcome of the fight and even occasionally act as a kind of referee before procreating with the winner). They show no aggression towards other species, neither hunting nor eating other animals. It is rare for males to kill each other in this struggle.

The Mwanza Flat-headed Rock Agama - The Spider-Man Lookalike Lizard

The lizard that looks an awful lot like a certain superhero is in huge demand in pet shops. Take a look and find out why.

Fans of Peter Parker’s erstwhile alter ego Spider-Man who also happen to be animal lovers have discovered their ideal pet.

Looking strangely like the comic and movie hero, step forward the Mwanza flat-headed rock agama. Yet if you suddenly want to run out and buy one, you need to consider the facts first of all.

Fishing with Cormorants

Sunday, 28 July 2019

It is partnership between man and animal which has lasted over a millennia. A fisherman needs to catch enough fish to sell and feed himself and his family. Sometimes that means that he needs an assistant. Along the river ways of China that assistance has come from a member of the pelicaniformes order of birds – the bird we call the cormorant.

These are working animals in much the same way as dogs and horses on farms in the west with a specific role assigned to them. The major primary difference is that the cormorants are not born in to captivity. They are lured by bait and caught. The training process can then begin.

Welcome to Flamingo City

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Each year the lakes of Kenya play host to one of the world’s largest populations of flamingos. For a short period the area around a group of lakes is awash with pink as millions of lesser flamingos fly in to breed and one of the world's most spectacular displays takes place.

There is safety in numbers, of course. It ensure the survival of the many. So each year Flamingo City forms, crowded, noisy and sometimes tempers can flare.  Yet why do these remarkable birds flock here in such huge numbers?

Some of these lakes, Lake Bogoria in particular, have formed along the Rift Valley. The lakes, among them Nakuru and Elementeita do not have significant drainage in to rivers. This means that the forces of evaporation are concentrated on them and this causes the water to become brackish and alkaline.

This has, of course, an adverse effect on aquatic life and you may then be wondering what on earth the flamingos eat. The answer is algae, the growth of which is encouraged by the shallow depth of the water and the powerful sunlight beaming down upon it.

The lesser flamingo loves to eat this blue-green algae and it is virtually alone in its taste for this rich harvest. That means that, without competition, they arrive in huge numbers. Some are predated by hyenas but Lake Bogoria can be temporary home to over one hundred thousand of them.

Volcanic geysers and fumaroles spit out sulfurous gases into the air which gives the place an other worldly feel. Once can hardly imagine life scraping by here, let alone thriving. Yet only a small distance away life defies all obstacles and flourishes in a mass of pink exuberance!


Image Credit
First picture - Image Credit Flickr User Rainbirder

The Solitary Bee: Wonderful Short Documentary

Thursday, 18 July 2019


Did you know that the UK has over 250 species of bees and that the majority of them don’t live in hives but live their lives alone?  This wonderful documentary by Team Candiru follows first Red Mason Bees and then others as they struggle to find resources, avoid death and create new life.  If you love nature the next seventeen minutes are going to seem like a few seconds.  Enjoy!

Plus if you want to learn more about the bee hotels included in this documentary then whey not visit our feature article on them?

How Spiders Escaped the Pakistani Floods

Sunday, 30 June 2019

When the floods hit Pakistan in 2010 the first thing that many people did was to head for higher ground. So too did countless millions of animals, among them spiders.  To escape the rapidly rising waters the spiders did the sensible thing and climbed up trees.

The flood waters took quite a while to recede. The result was that the temporary arachnid shelter became semi-permanent – and a spider has to do what a spider has to do...

Amung Feedjit