Recent Articles in Nature Diary

Mostly by the Ship’s Naturalist

Where do dolphins go when it’s raining?

  Ever since I first heard that it was possible to listen to dolphins and record their voices, I’ve wanted to do just that: ever since I first heard that dolphins ‘talk’, I’ve wanted to get my hands on a hydrophone. And pretty much ever since I first understood how privileged we ‘yotties’ are, in being able to wander whither we will and see the wonders of the world, I’ve wanted to share our adventures with someone who can make…

Introducing the Beaver

Walking though a woodland is easy – until we leave the path and try to make our own way. Having grown up in a land which is criss-crossed with ancient footpaths and other ‘rights of way’, I somehow take it for granted that the rest of the world must surely have been likewise tamed for my benefit; and so deeply ingrained is this expectation that when we moor the boat in some remote caleta in Tierra del Fuego and row…

The Boggy Isles

I used to think that bogs were rather drab and dismal places. They’re definitively damp, and nothing much grows there except… well, you know – boggy stuff. Some of that ‘stuff’ I identified tentatively as sphagnum moss, and the rest I dismissed as “some other kind of moss”. And who could possibly get excited about moss? Well, lots of people, as it turns out; and me too, eventually. It turns out that the flora of the Cape Horn National Park…

Another Gull and our Gal

We’re interrupting our series of articles about Wulaia and the natives of Tierra del Fuego to bring you a short story about a seagull. As ever, if you want to enlarge the photos you can just click on them; and then you click again, on the surrounding page, to get back to the text. Last week we were walking along a stony spit where the local cormorants, oyster-catchers and seagulls are preparing to nest. As we came near to their…

Anteaters, Jaguars, and the Conservation Land Trust

“Listen!” says Emmanuel. “Do you hear that?” The wind, hurrying across the marshes beneath the wide open sky, whispers gently in the reeds on either side of the road, and somewhere in the distance a buzzard is mewing. Smaller birds twitter. But Emmanuel isn’t talking about these soft sounds. We’ve spent the past half hour driving north along the dirty track which passes for a state highway, and after every half mile he’s been getting out, climbing onto the roof…

Wildlife of Brazil

In a small, isolated village in southern Brazil, the long, hot day is finally ending. From our yacht, anchored out in the river, we watch the sun sink slowly into the mangroves, lighting up the clouds like tufts of pink candy-floss, and streaking the water with rainbow colours as though it had been mixed with oil. The characteristic sounds of the Brazilian daytime – motorbikes, the shrill screaming of cicadas, and the sound of Roberto Carlos’ latest hit being played…

Birdwatching on the Rio Luján

One thing which doesn't interrupt my thoughts, as I stand in meditation on the foredeck, is the quacking and whistling of waterbirds - and that's because there are surprisingly few in this vicinity. The Rio Luján and our quiet little creek are very polluted. Having passed through hundreds of miles of farmland and through cities with every form of industry from leather tanning to nuclear power generation, the river is choked with heavy metals and poly-poisons and also with an…

Watching the breath, or watching the birds?

Life alongside the riverbank allows us an entirely different perspective on Mother Nature, for whereas at sea we are surrounded by her majesty but catch only glimpses of our fellow beings, here, amongst the trees, everything is much more cosy and the environment is thronged with life. When we visited this creek in the summer the trees were alive with insects, many of whom were as sociable as their compatriot, two-legged Argentinians. Wasps of various kinds came aboard and made…

The Sand Bar, Itaparica

The tide is low. The sun having scarcely hauled itself up over the rim of the world, the sand is still damp; damp, and noisy, too. Perhaps the continual high-pitched popping is the sound of the water ebbing amongst the individual grains which make up the beach. Perhaps… but I like to think that it is made by some of the millions of tiny creatures for whom this shoal is the known world. Down there, under my feet, is another…

Cape Verde Fauna (Beasts and Birds)

Discounting domestic animals, there are only 13 species of mammal resident in the Cape Verde islands. Three of them are bats, one is a mongoose, and the others are all dolphins and whales – which is cheating, if you ask me. There are also 19 or 20 reptiles living here – but don’t panic, because none of them are snakes. In fact, five of them are turtles, which come here to breed, and the others are all lizards, skinks, and…