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The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

FILM / Hi honey I'm homicidal: Adam Mars-Jones on ironic tastelessness posing as suburban warfare in John Waters' latest black comedy, Serial Mom

There's no more fragile hold on a movie audience than shock value - it can work for a single film, but it's tricky to parlay that into an entire career. You depend on people wanting to see what they don't want to see, and any potential cult following will be eroded from one side by disgust and from the other by jadedness. All things considered, John Waters has had a pretty good run for his money. When his film Polyester was accompanied by the gimmick of Odorama - scratch-and-sniff cards that you were supposed to activate at set moments to release a more or less gross aroma - most audiences did so, with groans of meek protest, as if they had no choice in the matter. They submitted willingly enough to the tyranny of Waters' tastelessness.

Twitchers wild about 'escapes'

BIRDWATCHERS are in a tailspin. A dispute about whether some rare birds recently seen for the first time in Britain were wild wanderers from the East or escaped imports is threatening to split the birding community.

Newsbrief: Woodland skills

Want to learn to make your own barbecue charcoal, or bird box? The spring Woodlands party on East Sheen Common on May 21 and 22 will feature demonstrations of traditional woodland crafts.

Letter: Britain's invasion by the woodpigeon

Sir: We read with interest last Saturday's article discussing the 'over-fed and over-sexed' woodpigeons in Britain. Duff Hart-Davis's suggestion that woodpigeon numbers have recently increased dramatically is supported by detailed information collected by members of the British Trust for Ornithology.

Sponsor able to take wing

TIRED of sponsoring the same old sports and arts events? Seeking a fresh cause for corporate philanthropy? Look no further than the Colombian rain forest, where you can have a newly discovered species named after your company - price dollars 100,000 ( pounds 67,000) ono.

Revealed: Britain's transit camps for migratory birds

THIS is, as you may have noticed, the bird-mating season. You can hardly pass a tree or hedgerow at the moment without being sung at loudly by some bird who is trying to tell you to get the hell out of it, as she is trying to build a nest there.

Bunting hunters

About 4,000 birdwatchers queued to see a black-faced bunting, the first to appear in Britain, at a country park in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

Bird throng

Thousands of bird watchers were expected at Pennington Flash country park, near Leigh, Greater Manchester, to see a black- faced bunting, a species from Siberia and north-eastern China not previously seen in the wild in Britain.

Dilemmas: Don't sacrifice your skiing for your husband

There was more than met the eye to the problem of whether Christine, a keen skier, should take a week's holiday on her own, despite her piste- loathing husband's fear that unless they did everything together their marriage might founder. Her dilemma was less about simply whether to go or not than about personal space, to use the dreaded phrase, and to what extent relationships thrive or become destroyed by partners doing their own thing from time to time. In the past, marriages were like ballroom dancing. Men took the lead; wives followed. Today, like the Lillehammer ice dance winners, up-to- date partnerships operate more like rock'n'roll - together part of the time, but free to break away for the odd indulgence.

BOOK REVIEW / High spirits again: An imaginative experience - Mary Wesley: Bantam, pounds 14.99

MARY WESLEY's novels are romantic romps with a slightly gamey flavour, jaunty in tone and mixing sex and death, love and class, in a series of improbable scenarios. More enterprising than most romantic romps, they are nevertheless set in a fantasy world in which the main interest is in the bringing together of the fateful pair.

Bird brains

Bishop Burton College, part of the University of Humberside, is to run Britain's first degree course in bird watching.

Dedicated twitchers take up position on the Kent marshes for a wild goose chase

Birdwatchers at Leysdown Marshes, Isle of Sheppey, hoping for a rare sighting of a red-breasted goose that has joined Brent geese wintering in Britain. Photograph: Edward Sykes

Twitchers' delight

A red-flanked bluetail, a robin-like bird on its first visit to mainland Britain, spent its third day at Worth Matravers, Dorset, attracting 2,000 bird-watchers.

Obituary: Peter Conder

Peter John Conder, ornithologist: born London 20 March 1919; Warden, Skokholm Bird Observatory, Pembrokeshire 1947-54; Assistant Secretary, RSPB 1954-62, Director 1962-75; OBE 1976; books include British Garden Birds 1966, Birds of Woods and Hedges 1969, RSPB Guide to Birdwatching 1978, RSPB Guide to Watching British Birds (with David Saunders) 1984, The Wheatear 1990; married 1952 Patricia Higginson (one son, one daughter); died Cambridge 8 October 1993.

Leading Article: The proper study of mankind is birds

IT IS a sign of the times that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has roughly as many members (860,000) as the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties put together. Many of the ornithologically inclined will have been out and about yesterday, eyes alert and binoculars at the ready, to see what species they could spot as part of the first World Birdwatch Day.
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