For a long time, it was believed that there were no venomous crustaceans in the world. Venom is common in many arthropods, including spiders, scorpions, centipedes and wasps, but of the approximately 70,000 species of crustacean, none were known to be venomous.
Today is National Badger Day – the perfect time to celebrate the UK’s largest living land carnivore. But although most people have a strong affection for this bumbling black-and-white creature, the badger is probably Britain’s most controversial mammal, commonly hitting the headlines – and almost always for the wrong reasons.
For our garden birds, the breeding season is now over. The nestboxes in our gardens that a few months ago were home to hungry broods of blue tits or house sparrows now lie quiet and empty. Well, not quite empty. They will still contain the nesting material used by the previous occupants. Should you just leave it in there over winter or clean out nestboxes in preparation for new birds next spring?
Today is October 1, which means that the pheasant-shooting season has officially started. One of our most striking birds, the male common pheasant has coppery plumage, a bottle green head with blood-red face wattles, and a barred tail that’s as long again as his body. Although today a quintessential feature of the British countryside, the pheasant looks too extravagant, too exotic to really belong here. And that’s because it doesn’t.
For most animal species, it is hard for me to clearly remember when I saw one for the very first time. But there are some – often those that I find particularly interesting or memorable – that I can vividly recall first laying eyes on. The Chinese giant salamander – the largest amphibian in the world – is one of those animals.