Letter: The magpie is guilty

Sir: I read with interest your article on the disappearance of sparrows (13 November), and I beg to differ with Denis Summers-Smith when he rules out the increase of wild birds of prey as a cause for the decline of sparrows.

Country and Gardens: Nature Notes

EVERY TIME a disused barn is turned into a dwelling for human beings, barn owls lose a potential nesting site - and the huge number of conversions made in recent years has been one reason for the decline of our most spectacular night bird. Farmers used to regard barn owls highly because they killed so many rats and mice, and barns were often built with holes near the gables in the outer walls, to make good nesting sites for them.

Right of Reply: Graham Wynne

The chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds responds to an article stating that, following strict protection of hen harriers, grouse moor owners were cancelling shooting owing to a shortage of birds

Golden eagles deliberately killed with poisoned bait

AT LEAST two golden eagles have been killed in the Scottish Highlands after apparently being poisoned with an insecticide used against birds of prey.

Country & Garden: Where eagles fear to tread

Country Matters

Secretarial The Temp: Don't you get sniffy with me

ROB ALWAYS starts the day in a gloom and ends it on a high. I've noticed this about various people I've worked for, particularly in the financial, fashion and advertising industries, but increasingly, it seems to be creeping into the way that people in service industries - even accountants - deal with the day.

Red kite returns to the North after 100 years after 100-year absence

A RED KITE flying to freedom, one of six released yesterday more than 100 years after breeding pairs became extinct in England and Scotland. The birds of prey were set free from the Harewood estate near Leeds as part of the Yorkshire Red Kite Project, in the hope that they will colonise an old haunt. They were fitted with radio transmitters and coloured wing tags. The birds had died out in England and Scotland by the late 19th century, although a few remained in Wales. They have been reintroduced gradually since 1989.

Here's one way to Keep Britain Tidy: modify all birds

With Monsanto Friendly Bird Seed, robins will be cuter and have optional blue or green breasts

Coiuntry: Nature Notes

PIERCING WHISTLES ring out over the valley every day now as buzzards start up their annual mating routine. In twos and threes - sometimes even five or six at a time - the big hawks soar above the escarpment as they pair off and stake out their territories. On set wings, keeping their upward-curved primary feathers separated like fingers, they cruise in wide spirals for minutes on end without any apparent effort. Sometimes the birds are mobbed by crows, which deliberately harass them, making recklessly close passes and occasionally forcing them into sudden changes of course. Every now and then a crow pushes its luck too far and gets grabbed in mid-air.

Skiing: Maier prepared to face `Birds of Prey'

THE PISTE is called "The Birds of Prey" but Hermann Maier has no intention of doing any flying in the World Championship downhill at Beaver Creek, Colorado. A year ago, the Austrian memorably hurtled through the air to disaster at the Nagano Winter Olympics but came back to win two golds.

Birds of prey study seeks helpers

Birds of prey study seeks helpers

Letter: Roundly irritating

Sir: The latest complaint in The Irritations of Modern Life wrongly refers to "round robins" (Review, 23 December).

Virta walks on air to wing Eagles

Nottingham Panthers 2 Ayr Scottish Eagles 1

Birds of prey 'ambush pigeons in mid-race'

PIGEON FANCIERS are demanding immediate action to save their sport. They are calling on Parliament to protect vulnerable homing birds from a growing number of air-borne predators.
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment