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The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

The Week in Radio: Radios 3 and 5 combine to little effect

It's been a bit of a surreal week in radio. There was waking up with Ian Hislop instead of Today on last Friday's strike-hit Radio 4. This was a whole lot more stimulating than the birdwatching programme that followed. Why replace Today with birdwatching? It seems unlikely that an audience accustomed to fast-moving current affairs would want breakfast-time birdlife. But along with the Living Cheap documentary, which gave tips on coping with smaller salaries, there was obviously some subliminal management message going on with these replacements. What you discover with short strikes is that listeners actually like a bit of change. Birdwatching makes people feel grounded and filled with inner peace. Losing the Today programme for just one day reminds them they aren't slaves to routine. Cue numerous commentators boasting either that they hadn't noticed the strike or they preferred the birds.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Rarity has a value all of its own

Why is rarity so prized? What deep psychological roots in us does it tap? It clearly has nothing to do with the inherent properties of a given object, as a tatty and overprinted postage stamp will have immense allure for stamp collectors, if very rare, whereas a clean and exceptionally beautiful stamp which has just been issued in its millions will carry no cachet.

Breeding again after 18 years: the bird that vanished from Britain's shores

Michael McCarthy reports on a landmark moment for the red-backed shrike

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem with a licence to attack

He has become the outspoken voice of the Liberal Democrat left – yesterday calling for the party's MPs to be given the power of veto over contentious Coalition policy proposals.

Pelican Blood, Edinburgh Film Festival

Rebel with a pair of binoculars

Your countryside needs you: call for citizen scientists

Members of the public are being urged to become "citizen scientists" by recording their sightings of local wildlife in order to combat the global extinction of species.

End of Alaotra grebe is further evidence of Sixth Great Extinction

Species are vanishing quicker than at any point in the last 65 million years

Deborah Ross: 'There are some things you can only do indoors. Say, if the bailiffs call and you’re outside, where can you hide?'

If you ask me, this magazine's timely celebration of The Great Outdoors is all very well, but what about The Great Indoors? I love The Great Indoors, which, as far as I can see, offers quite the best protection against The Great Outdoors, and all the horrors of The Great Outdoors – like having to go BIRDWATCHING!!!

The Widow's Tale, By Mick Jackson

Outsider's truths that hit home

Blue Lightning, By Ann Cleeves

Death and dirty deeds dog Fair Isle

Michael McCarthy: You needn't travel far to find a monster

Nature Notebook: The pike's emergence somehow justified another, age-old fear, that hidden depths must hold horrors

Victim of 1999 attack by two schoolboys demands Edlington pair get longer term

Stabbed and left for dead, Ashley Murray – still paralysed on his left side – now has to endure taunts from assailants

Michael McCarthy: The sad decline of a little goddess

Nature Notebook: Unlike similar introductions, the little owl has been an attractive addition to Britain's avifauna

Going for a song: a mysterious vanishing act

A much-loved summer visitor is fast disappearing, and no one knows why
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Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us