Menu
Ecology and Life
The puppy room easing life's pain in a stroke
Gentle wobblings of a 'foul gull' fulmar
Frigatebird returns to nest on Ascension for first time since Darwin
New to Nature No 94: Canthigaster criobe
Uggie: 'He likes to fly first class'
It's a dog's life in China: sold for £1m or stolen and sold as meat
Malibu residents hire crew to remove rotting whale carcass from beach
Yellowstone's popular alpha female wolf shot dead by hunters outside park
What I miss most in the dead time of winter is the insects
BSE testing on cattle slaughtered for food 'no longer necessary'
Malaysia seizes 1,500 elephant tusks headed for China
The vibrant river was a welcome relief after the bleak, snow-covered fields
TV Review: Miniature Britain; Weight Loss Ward; Rome
Marine conservation group says UK lacks ambition to preserve seas
UK seas to gain 31 marine conservation zones
Live animal exports going via previously unknown routes
When a dozing otter steals the show
Newly discovered slow loris species already threatened
What the male bowerbird can teach us about home furnishings
Could this really be the fearsome, legendary Girt Dog reincarnate?
Overfishing is a solvable environmental challenge for the EU
Life comes cheap for winter wrens
Ash trees consumed by something of the night
Foie gras taken off menu in House of Lords
  TV Review: Miniature Britain; Weight Loss Ward; Rome
Some of those who have sat through nearly three hours of The Hobbit have left the cinema feeling a bit nauseous after director Peter Jackson doubled the frame rate to a hyper-real 48 frames per second. I felt much the same after about five minutes of Miniature Britain (BBC1) as the director seemed determined to switch shots and zoom in and out every few seconds. It was all a bit offputting as well as emetic. I really didn't need repeated demonstrations of the brand new special-effects camera to get the point that magnifying something 7,000 times makes very small things appear quite large. Though I can understand the temptation of having a new toy to play with.

Although presenter George McGavin and cameraman Emilien Leonhardt were nominally in charge of proceedings, it was the camera that was the undoubted star of the show. We just didn't get quite enough of it. Had this been made as a close-up film of the natural world with George just doing the voiceover, it would have been stunning, as there were plenty of memorable sequences, not least the water bears who can survive the radiation and vacuum of space and the phytoplankton at the bottom of the marine food chain. As it was, it all felt a bit disconnected and distracting. We didn't really need to see George climb inside an oak tree to collect some bugs; my imagination may not be up to much, but it can stretch to coping with the idea that not everything that appeared in front of the camera got there by accident.

It felt as if no one making this film had any confidence that viewers would stick with it unless there was jokey banter between George and Emilien the "to be or not to be" gag came right on cue as they filmed bees and tricksy special effects. They should have been more confident. Nature often has more than enough special effects of its own and all that was needed was the breathing space to see them in their full glory. The precision and detail of these quantum creatures was sublime and I couldn't help wondering what on earth they would make of us if they were able to see things through a lens that made everything 7,000 times smaller.

Especially if they happened to be in Sunderland, which, as Weight Loss Ward (ITV1) told us, has the highest proportion of obese people in Britain. Not that the cameras were there to find out why, as there were no attempts to link obesity with poverty and junk food. So we were left to assume that the people of Sunderland are a bit greedier than the rest of the country. I can't say I'd be happy with that interpretation if I lived in that area of the north-east but, equally, if I was hugely overweight I wouldn't be in any hurry to appear in a documentary that was almost guaranteed to show me in a not very flattering light.

Twenty-nine year old, 47st Tony had no such qualms. But then as he also said: "How is that my problem?" when asked why he was secretly snacking on packets of Quavers while he was being kept in hospital on a strict diet at a cost to the NHS of £250 a day, it's fair to say Tony isn't a man much given to introspection. Weight Loss Ward was good on the self-deceit of food addiction, but somewhat lacking in perspective. While the doctors and nurses came across as never less than caring, their insistence on the over-medicalisation of obesity seemed unconvincing. I'm sure that gastric bands do have their place and that they are a cheaper solution than treating patients indefinitely for diabetes and heart problems in many cases, but surely the only sustainable long-term answer to the nation's increasing bulk is education and equality of opportunity?

From the very fat to ... the very loud. There are many shouty presenters to be found on TV, but none with the decibel level of Simon Sebag Montefiore. Even if I turn the remote to mute, I can still hear him. At least what he has to say is interesting, though, as his series Rome: A History of the Eternal City (BBC4) continues to be consistently informative, while slightly offbeat. Last night's episode covered the transition of the city from pagan to Christian epicentre with clarity. If you've ever wondered why the Basilica of St Peter's appears more of a monument to the temporal world than the spiritual, it's because that's precisely the way it was always intended to look.
New to Nature No 96: Oncopodura fadriquei
Animal rights activists plan direct action against beagle imports
How the stink of a waterbuck could prevent sleeping sickness in Kenya
Tatler's dog, Alan, dies in bizarre revolving door accident
Insecticide 'unacceptable' danger to bees, report finds
Freedom Foods 'failing to crack down' on poor salmon farming standards
One in 10 Welsh livestock farmers illegally kill badgers, study suggests
Crab study puts pain on the menu
A large shape a bittern flies across the pond
Wolf killings are based on the most cynical of premises
New to nature No 97: Ferrisia uzinuri
Sad to see the tide turn against the otter
An owl swoops down on wings that seem as broad as they are long
Animals: are they good for supper or good companions?
Is human branding an animal-rights stunt too far?
Cat lovers pounce on campaign to save New Zealand's birds
Common pesticides 'can kill frogs within an hour'
There is something irresistibly cheerful about a flock of twite
Solomon Islands villagers kill 900 dolphins in conservation dispute
Mistle thrush numbers in decline
Guyana pledges to protect jaguars
Dung beetles navigate by the stars
How do you catch an escaped crocodile?
New to Nature No 98: Xerophytacolus claviverpus
Animal astronauts: the unsung heroes of space exploration
Pygmy elephants found dead in Borneo after 'poisoning'
A badger's biscuit-sized footprints in the snow follow the field edge
British moths in calamitous decline, major new study reveals
Menu
The lake is muted under the winter sun, like a faint watercolour painting
Should the RSPCA have pursued the man who ate a live goldfish?
Days of heavy rain have left the ancient woodland sodden
Alice Roberts: Rudolph and our early ancestors a love story
Saving the rhino with surveillance drones
Hunting with dogs ban unlikely to get free vote admit top Tories
The tracks in the snow revealed the secrets of these night visitors
A perfect winter's day for a walk
Meet the woman battling Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic ocean
China captivated by tiny tuneful insects that sing for their supper
HBO sued by animal rights worker over abuse of horses on Luck
Some surprising facts about hedgehogs
Cats killed in cattery fire
Experience: my horse sank in quicksand
Alys Fowler: fat balls and mealworms
Hawks in danger of extinction in illegal hunting campaign
What the Japanese red bug teaches us about parenting
Fishermen back sanctions against Iceland over mackerel catch
What I learned the day a dying whale spared my life
Overfishing causes Pacific bluefin tuna numbers to drop 96%
Glistening with water droplets, the black-throated diver looked almost eerie
Kitten swallows 15cm-long TV aerial
As the rain blows over, a double rainbow arcs across the sky
A moorhen sent stone-skimmer splashes as it pattered across the river