WALNUT TREES - Juglans species

Walnut trees - Juglans species

The walnut is an edible seed of any tree of the genus Juglans, best known of which is the Persian walnut - Juglans regia, although in North America you could argue that it is in fact the native Black Walnut.

All types of walnuts are quite hardy, and actually require a cold winter period in order to thrive. So anyone living in warmer climates won't have much success with their own walnut trees.

Walnuts will start to produce nuts at around 10 years of age, give full production at 30 years and keep on producing for more than 50 years. Depending on the specific variety of the walnut tree, they can grow up to 100 feet in height.

Caring for walnut trees

Depending on the age and size of the tree, you may not be able to significantly treat diseases or insect infestations on a walnut tree.

Webworms or tent caterpillars can be a problem if there are too many of them on your trees. They build large tents of webbing, that can house hundreds of hungry caterpillars. Cut any branches off with tents and dispose of them carefully.

Full size trees have very long and deep root systems, which usually can protect them from moisture problems on the surface. But after very prolonged periods of drought, your trees might need some watering. You can end up with 'burned' walnuts come harvest time if you let your trees get too dry for too long. Walnut trees should be left to grow naturally without pruning.

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The Dragon Blood Tree 
THE MIMOSA TREE - Acacia dealbata
THE SILVER BIRCH - Betula pendula


The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of competitions held between representatives of several city-states and kingdoms in Ancient Greece. These games featured mainly athletics, but also combat and chariot racing events.

Ancient Olympic games
The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honouring both Zeus - whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia.

At the first one-day Olympic Games, the only event was a short sprint from one end of the stadium to the other.

Gradually more events were added to make four days of competitions. They included wrestling, boxing, long jump, throwing the javelin and discus, and chariot racing. In the pentathlon, there were five events: running, wrestling, javelin, discus and long jump. One of the toughest events was the race for hoplites, men wearing armour and carrying shields.

Only male citizens were eligible to compete in the Olympic Games. The term 'citizen' refers to a man who participated in local politics, voted and provided military service. Citizens were of Greek descent and had jobs or trades, slaves were not allowed to compete.

Ancient Olympic games
Some of the most skilled competitors had humble job titles: The first Olympi­c champion was Koroibos, a cook who won the stadion race in 776 B.C.

Winners were given a wreath of leaves, and a hero's welcome back home. Better still, winners get an improved chance to marry rich women, enjoy free meals, receive invitations to parties, and have access to the best seats in the theatre.

The running track was much wider than a modern one. Twenty people could run at once.

Olympic gamesmanship?

Ancient Olympic games
Probably the pankration or all-in wrestling was the nastiest event of the games as there were hardly any rules. Biting and poking people's eyes were officially banned, but some competitors did both!

While it does not seem very sporting to us, all-in wrestling was very popular. Boxing was tough too. The fighters wore leather gloves and a boxer was allowed to go on hitting his opponent even after he'd knocked him to the ground!

However, cheating was punished. Anyone caught cheating, trying to bribe an athlete for instance, had to pay for a bronze statue of Zeus as a punishment.

The Olympic Games reached their peak in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.

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The Ancient Olympic Games were a series of competitions held between city-states and kingdoms in Ancient Greece. These games featured mainly athletic, but also combat events and chariot racing.

Olympic facts
The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honouring both Zeus - whose famous statue by Phidias stood in his temple at Olympia and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia.

The Olympic Games reached their peak in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.

Olympic facts

1. No-one actually knows when the Olympic Games began. The earliest recorded event was at Olympia, Greece in 776 BC, but it may well have been held even earlier.

2. From 776 BC onwards, it was held every four years, and the ancient Greeks calculated their calendar in four year periods called 'Olympiads'.

Olympic facts
3. The word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek root "gymnos" meaning nude. In fact, the literal meaning of "gymnasium" is "school for naked exercise." This makes more sense when you find out that athletes in the ancient Olympic Games would have participated in the nude!

4. The ancient Olympics ended in AD 393 when the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned the games because they were becoming too pagan.

5. The earliest games were held to honour Zeus and included a ceasefire in all wars in the region.

6. When the modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896, only 13 countries took part.

7. The five Olympic rings represent the five major regions of the world – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, and every national flag in the world includes one of the five colors, which are (from left to right) blue, yellow, black, green, and red.

Olympic medals
8. The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912. Nowadays, each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold.

9. During the 1900 Olympic archery competition, live pigeons were used as targets.

10. Britain has always won at least one gold in every modern Olympics - however, one was the grand total of gold medals for the UK in 1904, 1952 and 1996 - embarrassing!

11. Because of World War I and World War II, there were no Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, or 1944.

Olympic facts
12. During the ancient Olympic games, married women were barred from watching the games. In fact the only only married woman allowed in was the Priestess of Demeter - a goddess of the harvest.

13. Women were first allowed to participate in 1900 at the second modern Olympic Games.

14. Three continents – Africa, South America, and Antarctica – have never hosted an Olympics.

15. The 'Berlin Olympics' held in 1936 were the first Olympic games ever to be broadcast on television.

16. Olympian Oscar Swahn of Sweden is the oldest olympian to have participated in any of the olympic events so far. He was a shooter who participated at the 1920 Antwerp Games at the age of 72 years.

17. Baron Pierre De Coubertin of France is known as the father of the modern olympics.

18. The very first modern olympics were held in Athens, Greece 1896.

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The eagle owl is the largest and most powerful owl in Europe. It can grow to a height of about 27 inches and has a wingspan of 63–74 inches however the largest specimens can attain a wingspan of up to 79 in. It has a large beak and enormous talons but its most noticeable features are the striking orange eyes. It has prominent ear tufts, which are raised or lowered depending on its mood. The plumage is mostly mottled but with bolder streaks on the breast.

It has a huge habitat ranging from Europe and right across to Russia. Then south to Iran, Pakistan and across to China and Korea. Eagle Owls occupy a variety of habitats, from coniferous forests to warm deserts.

Rocky landscapes are often favoured, but having an adequate food supply and nesting sites seem to be the most important prerequisites.

The eagle owl will eat almost anything that moves - from beetles to deer fawns. The major part of their diet consists of mammals, but surprisingly, birds of all species are also taken, including birds of prey and that means other owls. Their prey can also encompass snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and crabs.

According to a study by the British Ornithologists Union, the contentious European eagle owl has begun to breed in the wild in the United Kingdom. Bigger than all other British birds of prey - except for the golden and the white-tailed eagle - it is considered to be the largest owl in existence. Unfortunately this also means that it comes in at twice the size of our largest native owl species - the tawny owl and the barn owl.

Although records confirming the existence of Eagle Owls in the UK date back as far as 400 years they are believed to refer only to captive-bred escapes.

Although a truly impressive creature, the fact remains that they are not native to this country even though they are widespread across most of northern Europe. However some experts believe that that they had bred naturally in Britain before the "land bridge" between Britain and the continent disappeared about 9,000 years ago when sea levels rose after the end of the last ice age.

According to a review of the eagle owl's status for the British Birds journal, the first sign of their emergence came in 1993 when a nest was found in the Peak District.

With a 6ft wingspan, and a body length of nearly 2 ½ ft , the Eagle owl is quite capable of bring down prey as large as our native heron or even as big as roe deer. The problem is that as a top predator it has the opportunity and ability to eat from a wide range of prey. With many of our native species entering the endangered list, the question that is causing the greatest concern is what are these new predators likely to choose as their staple food source?

Nobody knows if the current small group of eagle owls breeding in Britain are likely to maintain a self-sustaining population. Current thinking believes that it is unlikely unless the existing population is boosted with further escapes from captivity.

Currently, the eagle owl is listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which prohibits the introduction into the wild of any animal which does not normally live or visit Britain. Anyone caught doing so can face up to two years in jail and a £5,000 fine.

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The manatee is far from being attractive as sea creatures go, yet it is said by some to have inspired the mythical stories of mermaids amongst sailors. Tragically, the manatee is now one of the most endangered of aquatic animals.

The harmless and gentle manatee has been exploited by man for its meat and hide since the eighteenth century, but thankfully it is now listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union. While it has legal protection in most countries where it lives, this is not always enforced.


Manatees typically breed once every two years, gestation lasts about 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf. Only a single calf is born at a time and aside from mothers with their young or males following a receptive female, manatees are generally solitary creatures.

Manatee facts

1. The manatee was given its name by Spanish colonists in the West Indies from the words ‘mano’ meaning hand, and ‘tener’ meaning to hold.

2. As members of the Sirenian family – manatees and the related dugong – are the only, mammals that eat sea vegetation. This is why they are known as sea cows. 3.The intestines of a manatee are over 45m long!

4. The manatee’s mouth is extremely sensitive to touch. It uses it for searching for food, and communicating with other manatees. This form of bonding is called mouthing.

5. The Amazonian manatee is able to survive with out eating for up to six months during the dry season, when plants are scarce.

6. Nearly all mammals have seven neck vertebrae. The manatee has only six.

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Bass Reeves was one of the first black lawmen west of the Mississippi River, and one of the most respected lawmen working in Indian Territory. During his lifetime, he achieved legendary status for the number of criminals he captured.

Reeves was born a slave in July 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas, and was given the surname of his owner, George Reeves, a farmer and politician.

He later moved to Paris, Texas with George Reeves family, but during the American Civil War, they parted company.

Some say that this was because Bass beat up George after a dispute in a card game. However, others believed that Bass heard too much about the 'freeing of slaves' and simply ran away. Bass Reeves himself fled north into the Indian Territory - now Oklahoma - living for a while with the Seminole and Creek Indians.

Reeves is believed to have served with the irregular or regular Union Indians that fought in Indian Territory during the Civil War.

Reeves became a crack shot with a pistol, and later moved to Arkansas and homesteaded near Van Buren. Once he got his farm going, he married Nellie Jennie from Texas.

 They had ten children – five boys and five girls.

Reeves and his family farmed until 1875 when the legendary Isaac Parker was appointed federal judge for the Indian Territory. Judge Parker appointed James F. Fagan as U.S. Marshal, and directed him to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals.

Fagan heard about Bass Reeves, who knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages, and recruited him as a deputy U.S. Marshal. In the same year, Reeves was hired as a commissioned deputy U.S. marshal, making him one of the first black federal lawmen west of the Mississippi River.

Reeves worked a total of thirty-two years as a Federal peace officer in the Indian Territory. He was one of Judge Parker's most valued deputies. He arrested some of the most dangerous criminals of the time, but was never shot- despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.

During his law enforcement career, Reeves stood 6'2" and weighed 180 pounds. He was also considered to be an expert with rifle and pistol. In fact, he could shoot a pistol or rifle accurately with his right or left hand.

He carried two big 45 calibre 6 shooters and wore the handles facing forward. His signature move was the cross-handed draw which he claimed scared the hell out of people and gave him an edge in speed. Furthermore, contemporary settlers said Reeves could whip any two men with his bare hands.

During his long career he developed superior detective skills. For example, Reeves was a master of disguise, he would even go undercover dressed as a woman to set a trap!. When he retired from Federal service in 1907, Reeves had arrested over 3,000 felons. Reeves admitted having to shoot and kill fourteen outlaws in defending his life while making arrests.

Reeves became a legend during his lifetime for his ability to catch criminals under trying circumstances. He brought fugitives by the dozen into the Fort Smith federal jail. Reeves said the largest number of outlaws he ever caught at one time was nineteen horse thieves he captured near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The noted female outlaw Belle Starr turned herself in at Fort Smith when she found out Reeves had the warrant for her arrest.

In 1887, Reeves was tried for murder for the shooting of his trail cook, but he was found innocent. In 1890, Reeves arrested the notorious Seminole outlaw Greenleaf, who had been on the run for eighteen years without capture and had murdered seven people. The same year, Reeves went after the famous Cherokee outlaw Ned Christie. Reeves and his posse burned Christie’s cabin, but he eluded capture.

In 1893, Reeves was transferred to the East Texas federal court at Paris, Texas. He was stationed at Calvin in the Choctaw Nation and took his prisoners to the federal commissioner at Pauls Valley in the Chickasaw Nation. While working for the Paris court, Reeves broke up the Tom Story gang of horse thieves that operated in the Red River valley.

In 1897, Reeves was transferred to the Muskogee federal court in Indian Territory. Reeves remarried in 1900 to Winnie Sumter; his first wife had died in Fort Smith in 1896. In 1902, Reeves arrested his own son, Bennie, for domestic murder in Muskogee. Bennie was convicted and sent to the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Reeves worked until Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, at which time he became a city policeman for Muskogee. He died of Bright’s disease on January 12, 1910.

On May 26, 2012, a bronze statue depicting Reeves on a horse riding west was dedicated in Fort Smith Pendergraft Park. The statue, which was designed by sculptor Harold T. Holden and cost more than $300,000, was paid for by donations to the Bass Reeves Legacy Initiative.

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The Indian rhino was once found throughout the northern sub-continent, but today about 275 rhinos survive in fragmented populations. Numbers have dropped by 70% in the past twenty years. Today it faces a particularly nefarious challenge from poachers, this has resulted in the Indian Rhino only surviving in protected parks.

The Indian rhino has one horn, which poacher's prize because they can sell it on for large sums of money. That’s because rhino horn is highly valued as a complementary medicine, especially in China, despite there being little objective evidence that it has any medicinal effect.

What does the Indian Rhino eat?

The Indian rhinos – correctly known as the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, is a survivor from an old race of rhinoceros. Despite its fearsome appearance, it is a peaceful grazing animal, moving around to take advantage of fresh plant growth. It is adaptable in its feeding methods, extending its upper lip to grasp a bunch of long grass, or folding it away when feeding on short, newly-grown grass.

The Indian rhino also eats bamboo shoots, water hyacinths and a variety of domestic crops – which can make it a nuisance to farmers

Where does the Indian Rhino live?

Due to widespread poaching of the Indian rhino, its range has contracted eastwards – now only found in 10 locations in India and Nepal. The Indian rhino lives in the dense jungles of tall elephant grass found growing in swampy areas closed to rivers. Here, the rhino finds the wallows, or areas of shallow water and soft mud that it needs to keep cool during the heat of the day. The Indian rhino will occasionally move to higher wooded country in search for food. On such journeys, the Indian rhino will often follow the path of a rocky stream bed into the hills.

Indian rhino behaviour

At more than 4 metres long and weighing up to 2 tonnes, the Indian rhinoceros is bigger and heavier than the average family sized car. It may appear to be ponderous and slow, but it can suddenly charge off at frightening speed to drive off rivals or enemies to dare to stray too close.

The Indian rhino does not spend much time defending its territory, although males, adult females and female with calves each establish their own feeding area and sleeping space. If another animal wanders into this space then the owner will drive the intruder away. However, the Indian rhino will share ‘public places’ such as paths through the grass, bathing pools and wallows. New arrivals are challenged by those already there, answering grunt with grunt until they are permitted to join the group.

The rhino spends the afternoon in the shade, moving into its more open feeding areas at dusk to graze there until about mid-night. Females with young calves move into the shelter of tall grass in order to protect their young from tigers, while the other lie down wherever they are feeding.

The following morning, the Indian rhino will begin feeding again, drifting back towards cover as the sun rises high in the sky. At noon they then return to gather at the wallows, remaining partly submerged for most of the rest of the day.

Wallowing is important for rhinos as it helps to protect their skin from biting insects, keeps the skin supple, and also prevent the rhino from overheating or getting sunburned.

Throughout the day, local populations of Indian rhinos keep in contact, not only by meeting at the wallows, by also by using communal dung heaps. These dung heaps can get as large as 5 metres across and 1 metre high! Just remember to wash your hands afterwards and especially before eating.

The Indian rhino can do considerable damage to crops, able to quickly destroy a whole field of wheat or lentils. Obviously, this can make the Indian rhino very unpopular with farmers, but in turn, local farmers and villagers collect elephant grass – the rhinos main food source - to use as building material for their houses.

In Nepal, villages near national parks are allowed to collect elephant grass at certain times of the year for a small fee which can help to encourage new grass to grow. Unfortunately, no solution has been found to the problem of poachers, who kill the rhino for its horn

Breeding Indian rhinos

The female Indian rhino comes into season for 24 hours, every 5 – 8 weeks. She attracts the male by spraying urine over bushes and on the ground, and by making a gentle whistling sound.

As the time for giving birth draws nearer, the female Indian rhino moves into denser cover. The new born will weigh in at about 65 kg and in the first few weeks afterwards, the mother will produce between 20-25 litres of milk every day in order to feed it! The calf will begin to graze at two months but will continue to suckle for at least a year or until the next calf is born. The calf will stay close to her mother until she gives birth to her next offspring – usually between 18 months and two years later. It will then join an established group of rhinos, choosing and defending its own private feeding and sleeping areas.

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For the truly organic gardener sustainability must be the watchword. You may think that a bag of compost is nothing more than a quick trip to the garden centre, but behind the ‘friendly gardener’ packaging is the hidden shame of peat bog destruction and hundreds of carbon-emitting road miles.

However redemption can be at hand by learning how to compost in your very own garden. Not only is it guilt free, it can help to recycle your household and garden waste. What’s more important is that it’s produced using a completely organic process requiring only air, moisture and naturally occurring microorganisms.

It all begins with the ‘compost bin’ and this can be as elaborate or as simple as you please. Any good garden centre can supply a wide range of purpose built models starting from the humble wooden ‘crate’ to the more exotic ‘tumbling bin’ design that turns upside down on its own axis – the reason for this will become clear later.

Alternatively you could always knock one up with a few old pallets, making sure that the top has some sort of rain protection. A good size to aim for would be approximately 1 cubic meter.

The type of waste that is generally used in a composting is split into two categories. The first is green compost – which has the higher nitrogen content of the two and includes grass clipping, annual weeds, vegetable kitchen waste etc. The second category is brown compost which is usually composed of hedge cuttings, dead leaves, plant clippings and discarded branches and other such woody material.

Composting is an aerobic process meaning that it works in the presence of oxygen, and has the useful side effect of releasing energy in the form of heat. In fact a healthy compost can achieve temperatures of between 55 and 65 degrees Centigrade.

These high temperatures also have the added advantage of killing off some of the weed seeds that may have inadvertently got into to your mix. If your heap is too wet or becomes too compacted oxygen levels can fall dramatically and this will show up as a drop in the core temperature. Don’t worry though, as gently forking the compost over will raise the oxygen levels starting the process over. However with a tumbling bin all you need to do is turn it over a couple of times.

In order to maintain a good balance within the compost heap you would typically aim for around 1 part green compost to two parts brown compost, making sure that they are well mixed together. If for whatever reason that isn’t practical then apply them in layers of no more than an inch or so. However if time is of the essence then faster composting can be achieved by increasing the percentage of green matter. Too much though and anaerobic decomposition will occur which can bring with it a variety of unpleasant odors.
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The saber-toothed tiger - or more correctly - the saber-toothed cat is one of the most iconic mammals to have ever lived on this planet. However, you may be surprised to find out that there wasn't just one saber toothed cat. In fact there are over one hundred species and subspecies that can make claim to this title ranging from the extinct subfamilies of Machairodontinae (Felidae), Barbourofelidae (Feliformia), and Nimravidae (Feliformia). There are also two families related to marsupials whose remains have been found worldwide.

These specialist mammals are so called because of their large, saber-like maxillary canine teeth, which extended from their mouths even when it was closed. Despite the name, not all animals known as saber-toothed cats were closely related to modern felines.

Be that as it may, the one species that comes to most peoples mind when they think of the saber-toothed tiger is the magnificent Smilodon.

Named from the Greek for "chisel tooth, it was described by the Danish naturalist and palaeontology expert Peter Wilhelm Lund in 1841 who found the fossils of Smilodon populator in caves near the small town of Lagoa Santa, Brazil.

A fully-grown Smilodon weighed approximately 55 to 470 kg (120 to 1,000 lb), depending on species. It had a short tail, powerful legs, muscular neck and long canines. Smilodon was more robustly built than any modern cat, in fact it was more comparable to a bear! The lumbar region of the back was proportionally short, and the lower limbs were shortened relative to the upper limbs in comparison with modern pantherine cats, suggesting that Smilodon was not built for speed.

Where did the saber-toothed tiger live?

Perhaps the most impressive of all the saber-toothed tigers is is the magnificent Smilodon, which itself is made up of three subspecies. First found in caves near the small town of Lagoa Santa, Brazil, smilodon species were later discovered to be endemic to both North America and South America.

In fact, if you combine the ranges of all the saber-toothed families together, their distribution would have once covered every continent in the world except Australia and Antarctica. This make it all the more tragic when you consider how such a successful group of animals managed to die out so completely!

What did the saber toothed tiger eat?

Smilodon probably preyed on a wide variety of large game including bison, tapirs, deer, American camels, horses and ground sloths. As it is known for the saber-toothed cat Homotherium, Smilodon might have also killed juvenile mastodons and mammoths. Smilodon may also have attacked prehistoric humans, although this is not known for certain. The La Brea tar pits in California trapped hundreds of Smilodon in the tar, possibly as they tried to feed on mammoths already trapped.

Modern big cats kill mainly by crushing the windpipe of their victims, which may take a few minutes. Smilodon’s jaw muscles were probably too weak for this and its long canines and fragile skull would have been vulnerable to snapping in a prolonged struggle or when biting a running prey. Research in 2007 concluded that Smilodon most likely used its great upper-body strength to wrestle prey to the ground, where its long canines could deliver a deep stabbing bite to the throat which would generally cut through the jugular vein and/or the trachea and thus kill the prey very quickly.

The leaders of this study also commented to scientific journalists that this technique may have made Smilodon a more efficient killer of large prey than modern lions or tigers, but it also made it more dependent on the supply of large animals. This highly specialized hunting style may also have contributed to its extinction, as the Smilodon’s cumbersome build and over-sized canines would have made it less efficient at killing smaller, faster prey if the ecosystem changed for any reason.

A later study concurred, finding that the forelimbs of Smilodon, more than those of any modern large cat, were capable of minimizing the struggles of prey and positioning them for a quick kill without fracturing those impressive canines.

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The manatee favours the muddied waters of bays, lagoons, sluggish rivers and estuaries. It cannot tolerate water temperatures below 8 degrees Celsius, preferring it to be over 20 degrees Celsius, and will migrate to warmer spots if necessary. The Amazonian manatee lives only in freshwater, but the other two species are equally at home on fresh or saltwater.

Although usually occurring singly or in small family groups, during cold spells in tropical waters manatees will gather in larger numbers, around a heated discharge of a power plant or the warmer outflow of a spring. They hang vertical in the water in the cold of the early morning with little more than their snouts showing, but as the sun gets hotter, more of their bodies become visible at the surface.

It is in such groups as these hat manatee have been observed pressing their big snouts together. This is thought to be a gesture of greeting.

As a mammal, the manatee has to come to the surface to breath. It appears to be able to remain submerges for up to about 15 minutes, but generally surface at five to ten minute intervals. It cannot survive out of the water, partly because it is unable to move. And because its body weight makes it impossible for it to breath without the support of the water.

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Although jaguars are good climbers, they hunt mainly on the ground at night. They will however, climb trees in order to lie and wait for prey.

The jaguar can over short distances rapidly, but it will tire quickly. Therefore its successful kills rely on both surprise and getting sufficiently close to unsuspecting prey.

Its main food consists of forest animals – varying in size from mice to deer. However the jaguar is also an excellent swimmer, able to catch frogs, fish, turtles and even small alligators!

The jaguar is especially skilled at catching fish, which it achieves by lying motionless on a rock or overhanging branch, then flipping the fish out on the bank with its paw.

Jaguars will also take domestic animals – particularly where the forest has been cleared for farmland.

After the kill, jaguars will drag their pray into cover before eating it, often burying part of the carcass to finish it off later.

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Over 1,000,000 square kilometres of Europe's forests have suffered the effects of acid rain, with conifers being damaged the most. The sulphur dioxide from burning fossil fuels may damage and kill many trees, but this is compounded as acid rain reacts with vital plant nutrients, preventing their uptake through root systems.

Even slight damage to a mature tree caused by pollution can be enough to kill it because it reduces the trees frost hardiness and its resistance to fungal and pest attack.

American studies have indicated that even where forests are showing none of the easily visible external signs of acid rain damage, pollution is nevertheless limiting their growth.

Other plants can also be damaged by acid rain, but the effect on food crops is minimized by the application of lime and fertilizers to replace lost nutrients. In cultivated areas, limestone may also be added to increase the ability of the soil to keep the pH stable, but this tactic is largely unusable in the case of wilderness lands. When calcium is leached from the needles of red spruce, these trees become less cold tolerant and exhibit winter injury and even death.

Acid rain can also damage buildings and historic monuments and statues, especially those made of rocks, such as limestone and marble, that contain large amounts of calcium carbonate. Acids in the rain react with the calcium compounds in the stones to create gypsum, which then flakes off.

The effects of this are commonly seen on old gravestones, where acid rain can cause the inscriptions to become completely illegible. Acid rain also increases the corrosion rate of metals, in particular iron, steel, copper and bronze.

Acid rain does not directly affect human health as the acid in the rainwater is too dilute to have a direct adverse effect. However, the particles responsible for acid rain (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) can have an adverse effect because increased amounts of fine particulate matter in the air contribute to heart and lung problems including asthma and bronchitis.

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Just prior to the 5 November every year, children standing eagerly next to an effigy of Guy Fawkes sat in the garden wheelbarrow used to be a common sight. If they were not too shy - and they generally were not - they would usually run at you with open palms asking '..penny for the guy…' in a hope to secure coinage to put towards a handful of cheap fireworks.

An effigy of Guy Fawkes is still burned on bonfires across England in recognition of his part in the failed 'Gunpowder Plot' of 1605, but it turns out that Fawkes didn't devise or lead the plot to assassinate James I. So why is he still singled out as one of British history's greatest villains more than 400 years after his death?

Guy Fawkes was born in April 1570 in York. Although his immediate family were all Protestants - the accepted religious practice in England at the time - his maternal grandparents were Catholics, who refused to attend Protestant services.

Guy's father died when he was eight, and his widowed mother was re-married to a Catholic, Dionis Baynbrigge. It was these early influences that were to forge Fawkes' convictions as an adult.

Guy Fawkes and Spain

By the time he was 21 Fawks had sold the estate his father had left him and left for Europe to fight for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch republic in the Eighty Years War. His military career went well and by 1603 he had been recommended for a captaincy. He strangely also adopted the Italian variant of his name, and became known as 'Guido'.

In the same year, he travelled to Spain to petition the king, Philip III, for support in fomenting a rebellion in England against the "heretic" James I. Despite the fact that Spain and Britain were still, technically, at war, Philip refused. "A man highly skilled in matters of war"

Personally, Fawkes was an imposing man. His former school friend Oswald Tesimond, who had become a Jesuit Catholic priest, described him as "pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife ... loyal to his friends".

Tesimond also claimed Fawkes was "a man highly skilled in matters of war", while the historian Antonia Fraser described him as "a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard... a man of action ... capable of intelligent argument as well as physical endurance, somewhat to the surprise of his enemies."

Fawkes is drawn into the plot It was while on campaign fighting for Spain in Flanders that Fawkes was approached by Thomas Wintour and asked to join what would become known as the Gunpowder Plot, under the leadership of Robert Catesby.

His expertise with gunpowder gave him a key - and very perilous - role in the conspiracy. Fawkes was to source and ignite the explosive. But 18 months of careful planning was foiled with just hours to go, when he was arrested at midnight on 4 November 1605 beneath the House of Lords. Thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were found stacked in the cellar directly below where the king would have been sitting for the opening of parliament the next day.

The foiling of the plot had been expertly engineered by James I's spymaster, Robert Cecil. Fawkes was subjected to various tortures, including the rack. Torture was technically illegal, and James I was personally required to give a licence for Fawkes to endure its ravages.

While just the threat of torture was enough to break the resolve of many, Fawkes withstood two days of the most terrible pain before he confessed all. Famously, his signature on his confession was that of a shattered and broken man, the ill-formed letters that spelled his name told the story of a someone who was barely able to hold a quill. His fortitude throughout had impressed James I, who said he admired Fawkes' "Roman resolution".

Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitors' death of being 'hanged, drawn and quartered'. However, just before his time came, Guy Fawkes jumped from the gallows, breaking his own neck thereby avoiding the horror of being cut down while still alive, having his testicles cut off and his stomach opened and his guts spilled before his eyes. His lifeless body was hacked into quarters and his remains sent to "the four corners of the kingdom" as a warning to others.

The burning of the 'guy'

Guy Fawkes instantly became a national bogeyman and the embodiment of Catholic extremism. It was a propaganda coup for the Protestant English and served as a pretext for further repression of Catholics that would not be completely lifted for another 200 years.

It is perhaps surprising that Fawkes and not the charismatic ring-leader Robert Catesby was remembered, but it was Fawkes who was caught red-handed under the Houses of Parliament, it was Fawkes who refused to speak under torture, and it was Fawkes who was publicly executed. Catesby, by contrast, was killed evading capture and was never tried.

Through the centuries the Guy Fawkes legend has become ever-more entrenched, and by the 19th Century it was his likeness that was being placed on the bonfires that were lit annually to commemorate the failure of the plot.

The failed Gunpowder plot may have happened over 400 years ago, but story behind it is just as powerful today as it was then.

What led to the Gunpowder Plot?

The year 1603 marked the end of an era. After 45 years on the English throne, Elizabeth I was dying, and because she didn’t bare any children she hadn’t provided an heir to the throne. All the signs suggested that her successor would be James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. Incidentally, Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587 on Elizabeth I's orders.

However, the English Catholics were becoming very excited as they had suffered severe persecution since 1570, when the Pope had excommunicated Elizabeth I, releasing her subjects from their allegiance to her. The Spanish Armada of 1588 had made matters worse.

To the Tudor State, all Catholics were potential traitors. They were forbidden to hear Mass, and forced instead to attend Anglican services, with steep fines for those Catholics who persistently refused.

Rumours suggested that James was more warmly disposed to Catholics than the dying Queen Elizabeth. His wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, was a Catholic, and James himself was making sympathetic noises. The crypto-Catholic Earl of Northumberland sent Thomas Percy, to act as his agent in Scotland. Percy's reports back optimistically suggested that Catholics might enjoy protection in James' England.

The early signs were encouraging. Upon his accession as James I of England (VI of Scotland), the new king ended recusancy fines and awarded important posts to the Earl of Northumberland and Henry Howard, another Catholic sympathiser. This relaxation led to considerable growth in the number of visible Catholics.

Trying to juggle different religious demands, James was displeased at their increasing strength. The discovery in July 1603 of two small Catholic plots did not help. Although most Catholics were horrified, all were tainted by the threat of treason.

The situation deteriorated further at the Hampton Court Conference of January 1604. Trying to accommodate as many views as possible, James I expressed hostility against the Catholics in order to satisfy the Puritans. In February he publicly announced his 'utter detestation' of Catholicism and within days all priests and Jesuits had been expelled and recusancy fines reintroduced.

Although bitterly disappointed, most English Catholics prepared to swallow the imposition of the fines, and live their double lives as best they could. But this passive approach did not suit all.

Robert Catesby was a devout Catholic and familiar with the price of faith. His father had been imprisoned for harbouring a priest, and he himself had had to leave university without a degree, to avoid taking the Protestant Oath of Supremacy. Yet he possessed immense personal magnetism, crucial in recruiting and leading his small band of conspirators.

The Gunpowder Plot plotters

Their first meeting was on 20 May 1604. Catesby was joined by his friends Thomas Wintour, Jack Wright and Thomas Percy at the Duck and Drake, in the Strand. The fifth person was Guy Fawkes. Originally from York, he had been recruited in Flanders, where he had been serving in the Spanish Army. They discussed their plan to blow up Parliament House, and shortly afterwards leased a small house in the heart of Westminster, installing Fawkes as caretaker, under the alias of John Johnson.

With Parliament successively postponed to 5 November 1605, over the following year the number of plotters gradually increased to ten. Robert Keyes, Robert Wintour, John Grant and Kit Wright were all relatives, by blood or marriage, to one or more of the original five conspirators. As one of Catesby's servants, Thomas Bates' loyalty was equally firm.

In March 1605 the group took out a lease on a ground-floor cellar close by the house they had rented from John Whynniard. The cellar lay directly underneath the House of Lords, and over the following months 36 barrels of gunpowder were moved in, enough to blow everything and everyone in the vicinity sky high, if ignited.

Still hoping for foreign support, Fawkes travelled back to Flanders. Unsuccessful, he was also spotted by English spies. They reported back to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, James' first minister, and made the link between Fawkes and Catesby.

Over the next two months Catesby recruited Ambrose Rookwood, as well as Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby. Both Rookwood and Digby were wealthy and owned large numbers of horses, essential for the planned uprising. Tresham was Catesby's cousin through marriage, and was brother-in-law to two Catholic peers, Lords Stourton and Monteagle.

Back in London in October, with only weeks to go, the final details were planned. Fawkes was to light the fuse and escape to continental Europe. To coincide with the explosion, Digby would lead a rising in the Midlands and kidnap King James's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, ready to install her as a puppet queen. In Europe, Fawkes would be arguing the plotters' case to continental governments, to secure their passive acceptance, even support.

Everything seemed ready. But on the night of 26 October, an anonymous letter was delivered to Lord Monteagle, warning him to avoid the opening of Parliament.

He took the letter - generally thought to have come from Tresham - to Salisbury, who decided the best results would be achieved by striking at the last minute.

Thomas Ward, one of Monteagle servants, had warned the plotters of the letter. Undaunted, they returned to London, and on 4 November Percy visited his patron, Northumberland, to sniff out any potential danger. Smelling nothing, they pressed on with the plan, and Catesby, Wright and Bates set off for the Midlands. All seemed well.

It wasn't. The waiting over, Salisbury ordered Westminster to be searched. The first search spotted a suspiciously large amount of firewood in a certain cellar. The second, at around midnight, found Fawkes. Immediately arrested, he gave only his alias, but Percy's name had already been linked with the cellar and house, and a warrant for his arrest was immediately issued.

The plotters escaped from London for the Midlands. Rookwood was the fastest, covering 30 miles in two hours on a single horse, a considerable achievement that enabled him to catch up with, and warn, his co-conspirators.

These six plotters - Catesby, Rookwood, the Wright brothers, Percy and Bates - rode on towards Warwickshire. As the first bonfires of thanksgiving for the discovery of the plot were being lit in London, 'John Johnson' was being interrogated.

By 6 November his silence had prompted James I to give permission to use torture, gradually 'proceeding to the worst'. Even this, however, failed to extract any useful information for two more days.

In the Midlands, the plotters raided Warwick Castle. By now they were wanted men and, with their stolen horses, they rode to Holbeche House in Staffordshire, which they thought would be more easily defended. On arrival, they discovered that their gunpowder was soaked, and laid it in front of the fire to dry. They should have known better: the ensuing explosion blinded John Grant, rendering him useless for the inevitable confrontation.

This came quickly, in the form of 200 men led by Sir Richard Walsh, the High Sheriff of Worcestershire. They arrived at Holbeche House in the morning of 8 November. The battle was short. Catesby, the Wrights and Percy died from their wounds; Thomas Wintour, Rookwood and Grant were captured. Five others remained at large.

Tried for high treason

Not for long, however. By December, only Robert Wintour was still free. Furthermore, under interrogation Bates had admitted confessing the details of the plot to the Jesuit priest Father Tesimond. With the Jesuits now implicated in the 'Powder Treason', the government set about finding them, ransacking scores of Catholic homes in the process.

To further capitalise on the widespread sense of shock, the 'King's Book' - containing James's own account of what had happened, as well as the confessions of Fawkes and Thomas Wintour - was rushed through, appearing in late November.

Francis Tresham died of illness in the Tower in December, and Robert Wintour was captured in the New Year. On 27 January 1606 the trials began. Westminster Hall was crowded as spectators listened to Sir Edward Coke's speech. Under instructions from Salisbury, the Attorney General lay principal responsibility on the Jesuits, before describing the traditional punishment for traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. They would be hanged until half-dead, upon which their genitals would be cut off and burned in front of them. Still alive, their bowels and heart would be removed. Finally they would be decapitated and dismembered; their body parts would be publicly displayed, eaten by the birds as they decomposed.

Only Digby pleaded guilty, and his trial followed that of the other seven. All were found guilty of high treason. Digby, Robert Wintour, Bates and Grant were executed on 30 January, with Thomas Wintour, Rookwood, Keyes and Fawkes dying the next day.

Yet the repercussions rumbled on. Some small fry were tortured in the Tower and, tainted by Percy, the Earl of Northumberland was imprisoned there until 1621. However, Monteagles letter - now kept in the Public Records Office - rewarded him with an annuity of around £700 per year.

It was ordinary Catholics, however, who suffered the longest as a result of the Gunpowder Plot. New laws were passed preventing them from practising law, serving as officers in the Army or Navy, or voting in local or Parliamentary elections. Furthermore, as a community they would be blackened for the rest of the century, blamed for the Great Fire of London and unfairly fingered in the Popish Plot of 1678. Thirteen plotters certainly proved an unlucky number for British Catholics: stigmatised for centuries, it was not until 1829 that they were again allowed to vote.

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