Thoughts from category: nature

this is probably how the chicken crossed the road


Crossing roads can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, even for the most well-seasoned and experienced road crosser amongst us. It’s easy to forget your green cross code when you’re in a bit of a rush (stop, look, listen and all that). Can we cross just before the green man comes on? Can we cross just after he disappears? Do bikes have to stop at zebra crossings? These are all questions we’ve asked ourselves before stepping off that curb into the dangerous unknown.

Animals are even less well-equipped to deal with the dangerous world of traffic and, too often, when they decide to give crossing a go, it doesn’t end too well.

To help solve this problem, a habitat conservation practice has developed which involves building wildlife crossings to allow animals to cross human-made barriers (such as roads) safely. Structures which have been made for this project include underpass tunnels, viaducts, overpasses (for large or herd-like animals), amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, tunnels and culverts (for small animals such as hedgehogs, otters and badgers) and green rooves (for butterflies and birds).

As well as protecting the animals while they’re crossing, wildlife bridges offer rich potential for learning about the movements of animals, with infrared cameras often installed at crossing sites to capture and record animals in transit along with web cams which can transmit real-time wildlife movement data. This all helps reconnect us (the busy people in the fast cars who often whiz by the countryside in a bit of a blur) with the natural landscape around us and become more aware of the impact the fragmentation of the landscape has on the animals in our fields and forests.

You can have a look at a nice selection of wildlife crossings from all around the world here

The bees and the butterflies

Now we've entered the fine month of May, we think we can officially say that spring has definitely sprung – the hanging baskets outside the pub are in full bloom and the blossom on the trees is looking particularly lovely (even if it does sometimes drop into our hair on the way to work and cause an awkwardly intimate moment when our desk mate has to fish it out).

But spring wouldn't be such a beautiful time of year without insects like the bees and the butterflies who make it all possible – they put in the hard graft of transferring the pollen and seeds from one flower to another, and fertilising them so they can grow and produce food.

However, these pollinators have been going through a bit of a tough time in recent years. What with global warming, increased pesticide use and habitat loss, they are now under threat like never before. That’s pretty scary, because without them, many much-loved food crops, such as apples and onions, would die off completely.

By planting some bits and bobs in your garden which are bee and butterfly friendly, you can provide them with the sustenance they need to get the job done. This can be as simple as using a wide variety of different flowers in your garden, not keeping it too tidy, leaving wild flowering plants in place (such as ivy, which is a particularly important source of late season winter food for bees) and avoiding using pesticides. If you’re feeling extra specially helpful, you could even take a course in bee-keeping to boost bee numbers, or create a butterfly habitat in your garden by planting milkweed.

If you fancy having your garden a-buzzing with bees and butterflies, then these incredibly useful (and beautiful) illustrations by Hannah Rosengren display a few of the plants which can give them a bit of a helping hand:


You can see more of Hannah’s work on her website here , or find her on Twitter here

flies beware

Animals don't eat it; it eats animals. And the odd human if the films are to be believed.

Venus fly trap

But whatever the truth, there's no doubt that the venus fly trap is a plant to be feared. Especially if you're a fly or a spider.

The trap is triggered by tiny little hairs on the inner surface of the plant. If a prospective meal wanders in and stumbles over a couple of these hairs, it snaps shut, trapping its prey inside. The plant then begins to produce special acids which kill and digest its lunch. And if the little fellow tries to escape, the trap just closes tighter and digests it even faster. There really is no escape.

Once it's finished eating, the trap reopens ready for the next unsuspecting victim. Each individual trap on the plant can only operate 3 or 4 times, after which it photosynthesises like a normal leaf or withers and dies.

But that's enough from us. Here's David Attenborough wearing a nice shirt to show us exactly how it works:

And what's more, for the next month or so you could win one of these wonders of nature with our kids juicy drink. All you have to do to be in with a chance is to enter the special code from promotional packs in the gang's garden. Just make sure you take your umbrella.

kids juicy drink pack with venus fly trap competition

madgascar 3: the preview (not really)

I have recently come back from an incredible couple of weeks in Madagascar. It's a land full of contrasts with unique wildlife and beautiful landscape, but it's also home to some of the poorest people in the world.

During my time there I visited Project Lanirano run by Azafady on behalf of the Innocent Foundation. Azafady are a small NGO based in the south east of Madagascar and they do some fantastic work to alleviate poverty in the area and create more sustainable livelihoods for the local people.

Project Lanirano is an initiative that has two main aspects: an urban side, and a rural side. The urban element of the project assists women in making their small businesses more profitable, and the rural side teaches farmers new agricultural methods.

I think the best way to tell the story of my visit is to talk you through some good ol' pics:

Day 1

Here are some women receiving small business training. Many of the group were illiterate before they started so their progression has been immense.

I met a number of women who had already benefited from the small grants for their business. They told me their stories and it was incredible to hear how such a small amount of money can have such an enormous impact on their lives. The lady on the right gave me a zebu statue as a gift, which I clearly seem happy about but not sure she was quite so pleased by the look on her face.

This woman told me that because of the business grant she was now able to afford to feed her family 3 meals-a-day.

I spent the afternoon looking at a flash spreadsheet that held some frightening data about the women's income & expenditure. The average member of the group is living on 4p per day.


Day 2

This is me and Latena (Head of Sustainable Livelihoods for Azafady), just before we embarked on a bumpy mission out to the bush. Despite my smile I was feeling rather ill, having been up all night being sick. Not ideal.

This didn't deter me from visiting the rural side of the project where I watched a lesson in how to compost.

The locals have also started to grow their vegetable patch to get more variety in their diet.


After chatting to some of the locals about the new methods, my illness had finally caught up with me and I needed to go back to the Jeep to crash out.

The work Azafady are doing is making a huge impact on people's lives in Madagascar. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see their efforts first-hand.

I recommend checking out their range of volunteering programs, including the community conservation I undertook prior to visiting the foundation project.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say a massive thanks to Samm & Latena and everyone at Azafady - you were amazing.

P.S I couldn't write a blog about Madagascar without including some pictures of Lemurs. So I bid you farewell with a few new friends of mine.


And this happy chap.

your words on our juice labels

Animals are good to look at. We put pictures of animals on our juice labels and write captions to go with them.

In the summer this photo of a lemur will appear on our next round of juice labels. We want you to write the caption that goes with it, with your words being seen on hundreds of thousands of juice labels.


Lemur to use cropped

What is this furry fellow thinking, saying, or looking at? Is he in fact a she? What you write is completely up to you.

We'll print the caption we like best on every single label with a lemur on it later this year. Your words will be read by shed loads of people (probably millions) and you’ll receive international fame, fortune and a hefty delivery of juice and smoothies.

Just post your caption as a comment below. The competition will close at 6pm Thursday 17th March, and we'll announce the winner the following week.

Good luck.