The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

Bill Oddie: The bird-watching broadcaster talks pompous drummers and blasted leaf-blowers

You can waste a lot of time looking for a specific bird While some bird-watchers have a bird-watching bucket list, I don't, as the most memorable and enjoyable days out can't be predicted. I'll never forget one day in New York in early May, standing at the top of the Empire State Building. I spotted what at first looked like moths, but became a flock of migrating birds, travelling past me, at the same height as I was.

I came, I saw, I forgot the liquorice allsorts

I've been hiking around my Cotswold valley, getting to know my new surroundings. My goal was to find a Roman villa that lies in the middle of some woods relatively undiscovered (in the sense that nobody has thrown up a fence and started charging exorbitant entry fees to look at some rubbish illustrations). I suppose that I should have bought an Ordnance Survey map immediately, as this would have greatly improved my chances of discovering the ruin. Unfortunately, I have always equated people with Ordnance Survey maps with the sort of types I wouldn't leave alone with my children.

Book review: Four Fields, By Tim Dee

From the Fens to Chernobyl, this tour of turf shows the skills of a gifted, if sombre, naturalist

Horrified birdwatchers see rare White-throated Needletail killed after it flies into a wind turbine

Sightings of the White-throated Needletail are incredibly rare in the UK so when one was spotted on the the Isles of Harris it caused quite a stir

All of a twitcher! Rare Pacific swift sparks chaos in Trimley villages as hundreds of birdwatchers descend to catch a glimpse

Police were called to a nature reserve after hundreds of twitchers descended to catch a glimpse of a rare bird.

One of the five cuckoos being tracked has decided to stay in France

Album: British Sea Power, Machineries of Joy (Rough Trade)

It's almost boring: yet another excellent British Sea Power album.

Walk on by: Buddhist monks on their way to a monastery in Bhutan

My life in travel: Angela Rippon

'If there's something to see, I'm there'

So many shades of grey – but none is lovelier than this bird’s

The shrike is a scarce winter visitor to Britain, so keep your eyes peeled

Backyard twitchers chart decline of 44m birds

Britain's bird population has plummeted by 44 million in four decades, according to a study carried out with the help of volunteer ornithologists.

Red kite: Once abundant across much of the UK, this spectacular bird of prey is making its way back thanks to a series of highly successful reintroduction projects. Up 575 per cent to 1,600 pairs
(1995-2010 figures)

Backyard ornithologists chart disappearance of 44m birds

The UK's bird population has plummeted by 44 million in four decades, according to a study carried out with the help of volunteer ornithologists.

Beat that: Kandyan drummers liven up the streets

Where to go in 2013: Sri Lanka

Why go in 2013? Serenity returns to Serendib

Tom Gullick, left, with bird guide Frank Lambert, after spotting the Wallace’s fruit dove in Indonesia

British bird brain is the first to pass milestone

It took him until he was 81, but a veteran British birder has become the first person in the world officially to see 9,000 species.

World's greatest birdwatcher sets a new record – then hangs up his binoculars

Former naval officer spots 9,000th species in Indonesia

Countyfile: Suffolk

Take the Sailor's Path for a taste of Aldeburgh
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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
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform