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The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

Hedgehogs: Nocturnal ramblings hold few fears for this well-known forager. Terraced gardens have proved to be ideal feeding grounds, far from the peril of roads. They are especially attractive in the middle of the night when the threat of pet dogs is reduced and the hedgehog can concentrate on the important business of snaffling worms and beetles.

Why did the hedgehog NOT cross the road? Because it had adapted its behaviour in order to thrive in a threatening man-made environment

The animals that share our cities are finding ways to prosper from urban living that would leave their country cousins baffled

Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre rub margarine into the feathers to help clean a stricken guillemot covered in pollutant near Taunton

Scientists identify sticky gunk that killed seabirds off south coast

University team says substance was additive used in lubricants

The pollution spill may affect thousands of seabirds

Seabird death toll rises in mystery oil spill

Investigators were today still trying to identify the source of a pollution spill that may yet kill thousands of seabirds along a stretch of the South Coast from West Sussex to Cornwall.

Facts that prove life is beautiful

So January's over: and here's why it's now OK to feel chipper. Spring is coming. Maybe tonight's the night you'll break a month long detox. It's Friday. And these facts, collected by Ink Tank blog, will (temporarily) make you feel like the world is a brain-meltingly wonderful place (which it might be).

Pope Benedict XVI holds a dove he is about to set free, at the end of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square, at the Vatican

Pope's dove of peace has wings clipped

When he launched a white dove – a traditional symbol of peace – into the air in St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI was probably not expecting that the effect would be immediate. And certainly he would not have expected the effect to be conflict.

Mass ‘twitcher’ survey to record rare breeds starving in big freeze

RSPB’s ‘Big Garden  Birdwatch’ this weekend is expected to be most exciting for years

A dairy maid with her cow and a bucket during a Dairy Show in 1913

True loves may come up empty-handed in search of birds and milkmaids

Good luck trying to find a partridge in a pear tree in Britain this Christmas, or even less likely — the true love's token of two turtledoves.

Waxwings are regular winter visitors to Britain and Ireland

Here from Lapland for Christmas, the birds that sound like sleigh bells

Birdwatchers in for a treat as waxwings arrive in numbers not seen for more than 40 years

Only one breeding pair of hen harriers remains in England

Tests reveal that rare bird of prey was shot illegally

Killing of hen harrier sparks calls for greater protection of fragile species

Books of the Year 2012: Natural history

From art to sport, poetry to nature, travel to food, history to music: our writers select the best of the year’s books in a comprehensive guide to the highlights in every shade of the literary spectrum – except grey

Birds may use cigarette ends to protect chicks

It sounds like a surreal urban myth: birds in cities may be deliberately incorporating cigarette ends into their nests to ward off insect parasites. But scientists in Mexico offer compelling evidence that it is true.

The house finch has learned to make the most of street litter - including cigarette ends

Marlboro palace: how city birds feather their nests

Nicotine-rich cigarette ends that repel parasites are the perfect building material for finches

Great Works: Finger Painting - Eagle, 1972, by Georg Baselitz

Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

WWII code experts called in to help solve mystery of the pigeon’s foot

GCHQ turn to Bletchley Park veterans for help with D-Day cipher

They didn't give Peace a chance: Conspiracy theorists aflutter as Turkey pardoned by Obama is 'euthanized' days before Thanksgiving

The closeness of the bird's death to Thanksgiving has prompted some observers to suggest Peace may have ended up on a plate

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
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'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk