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The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

Five bolt-holes for bird watchers

Binoculars at the ready, wing your way to these havens for twitchers.

The Hide (15)

Part of the ICA's New British Cinema season, The Hide is a modestly scaled but cleverly written chamber piece, and a refuge from the blare of Terminator Salvation.

Michael McCarthy: The truth about Elliot Morley - the man I knew

Sometimes sheer longevity gives you a right to pass judgements. In the course of reporting on the environment for The Independent, I have observed every single Labour environment minister since the party came into office in 1997, and I have no doubt at all that the one who has done the most to protect the natural world is Elliot Morley.

Album: Andrew Bird, Noble Beast, (Bella Union)

Birdwatchers rejoice – the familiar markings are all here: pizzicato violins, whistling, linguistic gymnastics.

Bearded Tit, By Rory McGrath

A gentle and affectionate history of the author's pursuit of birds, both feathered and not, this life story through ornithology will appeal to fans of McGrath's blokeish but self-deprecatory humour.

Hunt for the world's rarest bird

It's the rarest bird of the Old World, so rare, in fact, that it hasn't even been glimpsed for nearly a decade. It may even be extinct. But conservationists think the slender-billed curlew may still be hanging on, and yesterday a global quest was launched to find it.

Egrets? We've had a few

Rapidly spreading bird breeds in UK for first time as temperatures rise to warmer temperatures

Goodie turns baddie as viewers protest at Oddie's 'X-rated' wildlife commentary

For the millions of viewers who tune in every week, the BBC's Springwatch, fronted by the former Goodie Bill Oddie, has long been a beacon of prime-time decency. So it came as a shock to many when, earlier this week, the presenter used rather direct language when narrating sexual congress in the natural world.

Jersey police to search six more sites

Police will extend their search at a former Channel Islands children's home to six more areas today after a body was found there.







No privacy for white-crowned sparrow on rare visit to Britain

Question: when does a sparrow excite more birdwatchers than an eagle would? Answer: when it's a white-crowned sparrow from the United States, hopping around in Norfolk.

Don't lose your head over a headache

Headaches drive millions of us to despair, and according to Harvard scientists half of us have at least one a month. Yet the majority are not caused by any disease. So what triggers them? And how are they best treated? Roger Dobson investigates

Film Studies: Film school is fine - but it sure doesn't teach you about movies

The London Film School is 50 years old, and it is being celebrated at the National Film Theatre. I have mixed feelings, perhaps because when I went there, in 1960, it was the London School of Film Technique. As a name, this was either ingenious or very shy. I suppose it implied that students would be taught to do very difficult things - like tuning up Lord Attenborough's Bentley. Did it also imply that the larger things - "Why film?", "What is film?" - were too much for Electric Avenue, in Brixton, south London? That's where the school was then: you'd have thought the name "Electric" might have inspired someone into calling the school "The Truth 24 Times a Second".

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?