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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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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
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
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