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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
  What I miss most in the dead time of winter is the insects
It was like a last cigarette butt swept up after the party a bluebottle buzzing at the window. It got me thinking and, as I took my walk across the marsh, I tried to analyse what I miss most in winter. Why should I feel a sense of absence: after all, many of the old favourites are in place regardless of season. The blackbirds are on the lawn as the door closes, and when I pass the last houses the starlings are still along the pot tops to repeat their self-delighting inward song. Beyond the kissing gate, no single tree has yet moved. They're all here and, while they're now stripped bare of foliage, they will make that heroic outstretched stand winter-long. If anything reeds are more beautiful during the dead time, their stems a rich cinnamon and their heads a sparkling floss in the sunlight. There is even a special harvest which is lost once spring arrives. Today I can enjoy it all: the glorious canine music from the pink-footed geese and that special quietness of a stonechat on its fence top.

Yet what I miss most is the insects, those relatives of that bluebottle, whose warmth-loving soft-bodied forms are incinerated in the scorching colour of autumn. Winter is insect-free, and it makes you think about all their gifts through the year: the shapeless clouds of chironomids choiring down the dyke at last light; the glancing maypole weave of butterflies and bumblebees around the flowering bramble; then all those sleeping beauties in my moth trap maybe 60-70 species on a good summer's night that always add a spoonful of excitement to moth day (Saturday mornings). Thank goodness for the December moth, an insect so subtly beautiful it seems almost purpose-made to remind us of the aesthetic possibilities of chitin. What it also epitomises is the fugitive joys of insects. After all, no more than one in 10,000 of us has probably made the acquaintance of this garden familiar.
New to Nature No 96: Oncopodura fadriquei
Animal rights activists plan direct action against beagle imports
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New to Nature No 98: Xerophytacolus claviverpus
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A badger's biscuit-sized footprints in the snow follow the field edge
British moths in calamitous decline, major new study reveals
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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
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