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WELCOME TO WILDLIFE ONLINE

Content Updated: 12th November 2014

SEASONAL UPDATE: November 2014

Poppy in Hampshire

Welcome to the final throes of autumn and, after a couple of months of blue skies, sunshine and above-average temperatures -- including the warmest Halloween on record -- it now looks like things are set to stay wet. Several large areas of low pressure in the North Atlantic are bringing bands of rain and ‘lively’ winds to the UK and this is forecast to continue over the course of the next couple of weeks thanks to a large area of high pressure over Svalbard. It will be interesting to see whether the Met Office’s new super computer will do a better job of forecasting the weather than the old one; last weekend’s weather prediction left a lot to be desired! Still, in spite of the wind and rain, we are still experiencing some milder-than-average temperatures at the moment.

If you want to brave the elements and get out and about to enjoy the dying throes of autumn this month, there are a few events taking place that you might want to get involved in.  There is a litter pick happening in Torbay on Saturday 15th and a series of other cleans, organised by the Marine Conservation Society, taking place across the UK this month.  The RSPB have organised a series of events on their reserves during this month, so check out their website for further details.

So, those are some of the events available for you to get involved in if you so choose, but let’s take a look at what’s happening in the Natural World this month if all you fancy is a walk.

Grey squirrel cachingMammals: As the nights continue to draw in and the weather gets progressively colder, most of our small mammals step up their food-hoarding activities. Bank voles, mice and squirrels all build caches to help see them through winter and, during this month, all three can be found busily foraging for seeds and nuts. Wood mice are the featured species this month and you can find out more about their biology and preparation for the winter below, but before leaving the subject of caching, it is worth taking a moment to look at how squirrels do it. Squirrels, unlike mice and voles, scatter cache their food – they bury each nut separately, rather than digging one big hole and chucking lots in. Scatter caching offers a significant advantage to the squirrel in that if another animal discovers a cache it only loses one nut, whereas many more could be lost if a larder was discovered. The downside, however, is that the squirrel needs to try and remember where all the nuts are buried. Scientists still don’t know exactly how they do this, but the current thinking is that they use their excellent spatial memory to locate the area (based on landmarks such as trees, bushes, grass tufts, etc.) and then probably let their sense of smell guide them to the exact spot.  We know that the size of a squirrel’s hippocampus (part of the brain that deals with memory and navigation) grows by about 15% during the autumn and spring indicating that memory plays a big part in storing and finding this food.  At this time of year it’s worth spending half-an-hour in your local park watching squirrels going about their caching activities. If you watch them carefully, particularly if there are other squirrels and corvids (magpies and jays especially) around, you’ll see them make false caches -- where they pretend to bury a nut if they think they’re being watched -- to try and throw competitors off their trail. Fascinating stuff! (You can read more in my Q+A here)

There are still a few hedgehogs around and we have the occasional one visiting our garden at the moment. This is the time of year that hedgehog rescuers get inundated with small hogs, born late in the year and unable to put on sufficient weight to see them through the winter. If you can, please leave out some food for your spikey visitors (many, even adults, are very much in need of extra sustenance at this time of year as they try and put weight on before going into hibernation) and, if you have any concerns over the size of your visitor, please check out the Hedgehog Care article on this site. Also, a very important message to reiterate at this time of year: Please check bonfires for hibernating hedgehogs before lighting them.

Activity is winding down among our deer now, with the rut (such that it was this year) coming to an end, although Sika in some areas may continue to rut into mid-November. Badger activity will also start to decrease as the nights get colder; these mammals don’t hibernate, but they do spend more time in their setts, and less time out-and-about. Conversely, the movement in the Red fox population increases during this month as we enter their breeding season. The fox breeding season runs, roughly, from December until early February, with most mating happening during January. Vixens come into season (oestrous) for three weeks during the winter and will be receptive to mating (in estrus) for between one and six days. The dog fox is unable to predict exactly when the vixen will come into estrus, so he follows her closely for the period she is in oestrous. As the breeding season progresses, dog foxes start travelling more, looking for un-mated vixens, and the resulting territory violations result in much fighting, while those unmated vixens begin calling more to attract males. All this means that foxes are at their most vocal during the winter and this is when many people find out whether they have a fox in their neighbourhood!

Starling murmurationBirds: Late autumn and early winter is the time that most birders are to be found down at their local estuary watching large flocks of waders, ducks, geese and swans. Knot and dunlin form particularly impressive flocks at this time of year. Our resident starlings are now being joined by migrants from the continent, leading to some massive flocks wheeling and diving in the sky before going in to roost. Earlier this week, I was asked by a friend why a flock of starlings is called a murmuration (right), but other large aggregations of birds (our knot and dunlins, for example) are still called flocks? Good question and not one I knew the answer to. After a bit of research, however, it seems that the use of the term murmuration for a starling flock is attributed to English monk and poet John Lydgate in 1470. The name comes from the murmuring noise that the birds make as they pass overhead. If you get the opportunity to experience a murmuration, I can highly recommend it; the spectacle is breath-taking and some contain in excess of 100,000 individual birds, moving as one entity.

November is also a good month to scan the bare tree tops for aggregations of corvids, particularly rooks, which are very vocal at this time of year. Similarly, the rapidly baring trees mean that finding Tawny owls is a little bit easier; made easier still by the fact that these awesome owls are in the process of re-establishing territories and pair-bond following the breeding season, making them very vocal and more easily traced. Other birds to look out for this month include redwings, fieldfares, mixed flocks of finches (goldfinch, chaffinch, and brambling) moving through deciduous woodland and open farmland, the occasional straggling osprey passing through southern England on migration to Africa, Marsh harriers, Hen harriers, Great Grey shrikes, large flocks (several thousand birds) of woodpigeon and dunlin, with our resident population swollen by birds pouring in from Scandinavia, Russia and Greenland during this month.

Reptiles and Amphibians: Most reptiles will now be holed up, probably for the rest of the autumn and winter by now, particularly now the weather has turned cooler and wetter. All of our snake species will hibernate, opting for sheltered spots offering protection from frost and with plenty of crevices. Adders will often hibernate in the root systems of trees and, particularly, in crevices of fallen/blown over trees. Adders use the same hibernaculums each year throughout their life, and some spots will have been used by generations of adders.

Devil's fingers fungusAmphibians, by contrast, tend to opt to hibernate either at the bottom of ponds (breathing through their skin), in leaf litter or under logs. Indeed, a walk in the New Forest at the end of last month revealed a Common toad, Common frog and newt, each under a different log.

Invertebrates: There are still a few butterflies and moths around, including Speckled Woods, Red Admirals, and Poplar Hawk moths.  The aptly-named November moth, with its mottled grey colouring, have emerged and can often appear as fragments of floating tissue in car headlights on country lanes during this month. Most moths are, however, few and far between during November. Similarly, most beetles are now to be found in a semi-torpid state in the leaf litter or under logs.  If you have some ivy growing in your garden, keep an eye on it because it offers one of the last nectar resources as we exit autumn and is very attractive to butterflies and bees at this time of year.

There are still a few spiders around, although fewer now than when I wrote last month’s update. November is also the month to check sheds and outhouses for aggregations of hibernating ladybirds and to pick around in flowerbeds and leaf litter for the pupae of moths and beetles.

Plants, Fruit and Fungi: Most of the beech mast, hazel and Sweet chestnut here in the New Forest has now fallen, and much of it has been eaten or cached by the resident wildlife. There are, however, still a lot of fungi around and a brisk walk in almost any area of parkland or woodland guarantees a sighting of some. Species to look out for this month include the bright, but deadly, red-capped Fly agaric, the other-worldly looking Devil’s fingers (above), the delicate purple Amethyst deceiver and the innocuous brown Deadman’s fingers fungus.

Pick of the Month – The Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Wood mouseNovember is always the month that I start keeping an eye on the bird food in the shed, because the bags tend to start developing holes in them and the contents mysteriously vanish. The first time this happened I was somewhat bemused when, a few days later, I moved some paint cans and found a pile of peanuts hidden among them! I’d discovered a cache and, with a bit of detective work (including a few unsuccessful placements of the trailcam), I established the culprit was a small rodent: a Wood mouse. Wood mice are relatively common garden visitors, although they often go unnoticed by their human neighbours because much of their activity is conducted under the cover of darkness. Autumn and winter is, nonetheless, a great time to try and spot Wood mice because it is the time of year when females tend to disperse and both sexes are actively caching food.

A mouse by any other name
Most people can recognise a mouse and, in the UK, we have three species of primarily ‘outdoor’ mice: the Harvest mouse (Micromys minutes); the Yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis); and the ubiquitous Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaicus). According to Stefan Buczacki, in his 2002 opus Fauna Britannica, the word ‘mouse’ is an ancient one:

It reached modern English from Old English but has a pedigree extending back through Latin and Greek to Sanskrit [a sacred Hindu language dating back to the mid-to-late second millennium BCE]. It is said to have originally meant ‘thief’, its Sanskrit roots having to do with stealing.”

Mice are classed as mammals and sit within a large super-family called the Muroidea, which contains the mice, rats, dormice, voles, lemmings, muskrats, gerbils and hamsters. Within the Muroidea sits the family Muridae, which is not only the largest rodent family, but also the largest family in the Mammalia class, with in excess of 700 species. It is at this point that we start getting a bit more specific and there are five subfamilies within the Muridae that split the hamsters and gerbils and a few other highly-specialised mice away from the rest. It is the Murinae subfamily that we’re interested in here, because this is where we find Apodemus (collectively referred to as the Eurasian Field mice), along with 131 other genera. Based on a genetic analysis published back in 2005 there are currently 21 species of field mouse, including the Wood mouse. For many years, the Wood mouse and the very similar-looking, and closely related, Yellow-necked mouse were believed to be the same species. A careful study of Wood mice, published by William de Winton in 1894 however, noted that some Wood mice were slightly smaller and less boldly coloured than others, with a striking band of yellow fur around their neck; these were split out from the familiar Wood mice and reclassified as Yellow-necked mice. Incidentally, some references list 1894 as the introduction of the Yellow-necked mouse into Britain, when in fact this is incorrect; 1894 is the date they were separated from the common Wood mouse!

The Wood mouse’s binomial name, Apodemus sylvaticus, is derived from the Greek apodēmos, meaning ‘away from the house’ -- to differentiate it from the House mouse, even though this species does sometimes enter houses -- and sylvaticus, which is Latin for ‘of the woods’, but when applied to plants and animals it actually infers ‘of the wild’.

Wood mouseOne small step for a mouse, one giant leap...
Wood mice grow to between about 8cm and 11cm (3-4 in.), with a tail as long (in some cases, slightly longer) as the body and little difference in size between males and females. The fur is dark brown on the back, merging imperceptibly to a paler -- almost yellow-brown -- hue on the flanks and a white belly. The large eyes, large ears and long hind feet (the latter measuring 2-2.5cm, about an inch), as well as their fur colour distinguish this species from the House mouse (which are a buff-grey in colour). Wood mice weigh in at 13-27 grams (between half and one ounce), although heavily pregnant females may exceed 30g (1 oz.).

These endearing small mammals are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including woodland, arable land, gardens (even a small garden in the middle of a big city, such as mine), parkland, bramble and bracken scrub, and on sand dunes. They are sometimes found in heather moorland, particularly where Short-tailed voles are absent, but are rarely found on high moors and scree, unless there are stone walls and buildings to provide them with some cover. Within these habitats, Wood mice can range over considerable areas, although the size of their home range varies with habitat and sex. Home ranges are, for example, generally larger in arable fields and on sand dunes than in woodland, which reflects the greater density and more predictable distribution of food in the latter habitat. Similarly, males tend to be more active than females and range over larger areas. In woodland, for example, the average home range of a female is just under 2,000 sq-m (half an acre), while a male can range over three times that area. In sand dune habitats, by contrast, males and females may range over 37,000 sq-m and 16,000 sq-m (9 and 4 acres), respectively. Despite their small size, both sexes can move two kilometres (just over one mile) or more in a single night looking for food and/or mates. A fascinating paper to the journal BMC Ecology back in 2003 by Oxford University zoologists Pavel Stopka and David Macdonald found that, while out exploring, Wood mice place leaves, twigs and other conspicuous objects around to use as way markers, highlighting sites of interest. The biologists suggest that leaving such objects to mark out a spot is less risky than leaving a scent mark, which might be detected by a predator.

Wood mice maintain reasonably good mental maps of their environment and their ranges relative to their neighbours. A study published in 1951 reported that Wood mice in Dorset always found their way back on to their home range when moved 400 yards (365m) away, but only half returned when deposited 725 yards (663m) away. These rodents are generally very timid and can be very difficult to approach, owing to their excellent vision, smell (they can identify other mice from the smell of their urine or scent marks alone) and sensitivity to vibration. This is unsurprising, given that they are food for a wide range a predators, including cats, foxes, badgers, kestrels, stoats, weasels and owls, of which the Tawny owl is probably the most significant; some studies suggest that 30% of a woodland Tawny’s diet is Wood mice.

Back in September, shrews were the featured species and I explained how territorial shrews are and how they won’t tolerate others on their patch. Wood mice, by contrast, are generally more sociable small mammals and, although females will defend exclusive breeding territories (a small ‘core’ of their home range from which they will expel interlopers), males overlap in their home ranges and communal nests form during the winter, with mice of both sexes.  That said, males tend to be more aggressive during the spring, when the breeding season gets underway, and females are most aggressive while they’re lactating. Most studies on aggression in this species come from captive individuals, while those in the wild tend just to avoid one another, making such aggression comparatively rare.

Wood mouseThese mice are primarily nocturnal, with a peak of activity at dawn and dusk at this time of year and throughout the winter. They are less active on moonlit nights, when predators find it easier to spot them, and during periods of very inclement weather. While moving around their home ranges, Wood mice use a complex system of underground and ‘litterzone’ (i.e. within the leaf litter and deep within long grass, but not below the soil) tunnels and above-ground feeding stations. During periods of heavy snow cover, Wood mice remain active in the subnivian zone, moving around in a series of tunnels and pockets under the snow. They feed out in the open more commonly than voles tend to, particularly under bird feeders in gardens and on nature reserves. In more wooded habitat, food will be carried into a sheltered spot (frequently under a log, or among bramble) where it is consumed. Disused birds’ nests are sometimes also used as feeding platforms and can become littered with discarded nut and seed shells. Nests are built below ground -- usually from finely-shredded leaves, moss and grass -- and used for resting and breeding, with chambers for the caching (storage) of food. Indeed, Wood mice do not hibernate during the winter (although they may undergo brief periods of torpor if it gets very cold) and rely on food that was found and cached during the autumn.

Feeding and breeding
The diet of the Wood mouse is heavily influenced by season and habitat, but nuts and seeds predominate. In autumn and winter, tree seeds (such as Hazel and beech nuts) are commonly taken by these mice, and hazel nuts are frequently found in caches. They will also feed, to a lesser extent, on buds, fruit, fungi, moss and galls, as well as taking some animal prey in the form of insects, spiders, snails, earthworms, centipedes and larval butterflies and moths. A study published in the late 1950s reported that males ate more insects and less greenery than females, while younger mice ate fewer insects and more buds and fungi than adults. (I would caution against reading too much into these figures, because this is a highly opportunistic species, with diet varying considerably with habitat. The results for the young mice may reflect that they aren’t yet skilled enough to catch insects, or find buds and fungi easier to tackle than nuts.) In gardens, Wood mice will readily accept sunflower seeds, peanuts, mixed bird seed and sunflower hearts – in our garden, they are generally uninterested in the Niger seed we put out for the goldfinches.

In some populations, Wood mice will breed throughout the year but, more typically, the breeding season runs from March to October. The first pregnancies are evident by April, peaking during July and August and tailing off by the autumn. Wood mice gestate for about three weeks (19-20 days), although if the female is still lactating when she conceives (some females can produce six litters in a year) a period of delayed implantation may follow, which extends the gestation by up to 10 days. These mice are promiscuous and DNA studies in captive animals revealed 85% of litters were of mixed paternity, with some having four different fathers! Male Wood mice are apparently unique among mammals in that their sperm are cooperative (even altruistic). In a fascinating paper to the journal Nature in 2002, University of Sheffield biologist Harry Moore and his colleagues report that the sperm of Wood mice join together (using special hooks) to form long chains of hundreds or thousands of sperm cells inside the uterus. This sperm ‘train’, which is often composed of a mixture of sperm from different males, can swim much faster than any of the individual sperm, meaning it can get to the egg easier and more quickly. It’s not entirely clear how this evolved, but the leading theory is that the cells engage in what’s called the “green beard” effect. Essentially, the sperm can detect which others are most similar (genetically) to themselves and hook up with them, because they’re likely to be either from the same, or a closely-related, male.

Wood mouse cache in shedLitters generally contain between four and seven pups, although up to nine in a single litter have been recorded, each weighing about a gram, blind and fur-less – a buff-grey fur (similar to that of the House mouse) starts growing shortly after birth. The pups are weaned at between 18 and 22 days old and, they start leaving the nest shortly before this (15-16 days old, weighing about 6g). During their development, the female alone cares for them. Early-born litters will breed in the summer of their first year, while those born later will breed during the following spring.

Wood mice are relatively short-lived mammals, with few adults surviving from one summer to the next; many die during the spring having lost so much weight over the winter. The maximum life span is generally considered to be about 20 months, although in captivity they can live for considerably longer. The current record is held by a Wood mouse kept at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, which died in August 1955, having lived there for almost six years; it was an adult when it arrived and was estimated to be six years and four months old when it died.

At this time of year, it is estimated that Britain is home to 114 million Wood mice. Winter and early spring losses then reduce the population to 38 million.

A mouse, loose, about the...garden
So, when you’re out and about, what should you be looking for to know whether there are Wood mice in the area? Well, checking in crevices and hollows for discarded nuts and seeds is a good start. Wood mice feed by holding the nut against the ground and gnawing into (usually) the top with their lower teeth, working away at the side furthest from the body. The lower teeth work against the upper incisors, which grip the nut on the outside rim. The result is that a rather irregular hole is gnawed into the nut, which has a very distinct corrugated edge to it, because the teeth scrape at 90-degrees to the edge of the hole; chip marks caused by the upper incisors can be seen around the outside of the hole. The mouse is after the kernel inside the shell and will chip it out through the hole it gnaws in the outer shell. (Photo: The cache of a Wood mouse in my shed. Note shiny brown droppings in the front of the image and peanut husks, which suggest this is a feeding site as well as a cache.)

Wood mice will also extract seeds from pine cones, leaving a similar field sign to those left by squirrels. One significant difference, however, is that a Wood mouse will drag their cones into cover, so they can feed away from the prying eyes of predators. Consequently, the remains of these cones tend to be found in undergrowth in small piles. The cones themselves have had most of the scales removed (except for the bunch at the top, which contain very few seeds and don’t warrant the effort to remove), leaving a smooth shaft with no ragged or frayed ends. Wood mice will also eat fruit, such as blackberries, but tend to eat only the seeds, leaving the flesh behind. It is also worth searching long grass for tunnel networks, ending in holes in the earth typically less than 3cm (1 in) in diameter. It is almost impossible to determine whether the run belongs to a shrew, vole or mouse just by looking at it, but this can often be solved by sitting and waiting as it gets dark, with a red-filtered torch.

Hazel nuts eaten by small mammals

Examples of Hazel nuts eaten by three common British mammals, each with a distinct feeding method. From left to right: a Grey squirrel (nut cleaved cleanly in half); a Bank vole (a roughly circular hole with smooth edges); and a Wood mouse (an irregular hole, with striations in the edges from the lower teeth and scratch marks around the rim from the incisors).

Whatever you’re up to this month, take care and I hope to see you back here in December. As always, I love hearing from readers; any queries or comments regarding the information on the site can be sent in using the addresses on the Contact page (Note: Some website questions are answered on the FAQ, while many animal-related questions are covered in the Q/A). Photos can be e-mailed to a dedicated e-mail address - please keep them coming and don't forget to check out my Photos Needed page. I'm also interested in hearing any reports of unusual behaviour in any of the animals featured on this site, or interactions between humans and wildlife. Thanks as always for your continued patience and support.

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WildlifeonlineOkay, for those of you that are new to the site, let's take it from the top!

What is Wildlife Online?
Essentially, WLOL is an educational website about British wildlife. The site contains profiles of various British animal species, with new articles in preparation all the time. The site also has articles looking at wildlife-related subjects, including hunting and animal emotions. This site is purely a hobby of mine; it does not generate any money or contain any advertising and, for the time being at least, I am happy for it to stay that way.

What does Wildlife Online aim to achieve?
The ultimate goal of the website is to be useful. My intention has always been to provide un-biased, accurate information that’s accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Increasingly people are coming into contact with their local wildlife and whether such interactions are positive or negative, they generally inspire a desire to learn more about the species. Moreover, there are still a great many misconceptions surrounding our wildlife (fox behaviour springs immediately to mind) and these are brought up time and time again during discussions in the media. Each article aims to provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of the species in question by drawing on information from the media, books, TV programmes and the scientific literature. I feel that this combination of sources, along with my own observations and those of my friends/colleagues/readers provides a unique online resource of British wildlife information. My hope is that the information provided here will go some way to changing people's perceptions of the creatures with which they share their parks and gardens.

Why create a website when there are books and TV programmes about your subjects?
Books can be a fantastic resource and I can't imagine being without my library. Not all libraries, however, are equally well stocked, and not everyone has the funds to splash out on what are often very expensive wildlife books (especially those written by scientists). More importantly, much of the scientific research never makes it out of the journals into books and TV shows. Similarly, many of the early books -- which contain some of the pioneering work on the species -- are now long out of print and can be difficult or expensive to track down. Books have the 'luxury' of being able to devote their entire contents to a particular species, covering all aspects of its life history. Television, by contrast, is a much more limited and variable medium: the programme editor(s) has to create a show that is likely to hold the viewers' attention and appeal to a very wide audience. The result is that, although some reach this compromise very well (the BBC, for example), many documentaries focus heavily on the 'wow factor' (multitudinous slow motion shots of Great whites leaping out of the water in pursuit of seals, for example) and this often comes at the inevitable expense of the information about the animal. Finally, both books and TV programmes go out of date quite quickly; new research is being conducted all the time. Consequently, a website is an ideal and dynamic intermediate - it offers the opportunity to provide a decent amount of information about the subject that can be updated at the metaphorical drop-of-a-hat as any new research is published.

Why include so much information?
I honestly believe that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well. There are hundreds of websites with brief species profiles and if that's all WLOL offered there would be little point to it. I understand and appreciate that some people find being confronted with large volumes of text very daunting while others are of the 'too long; didn't read' mind-set and will thus be turned off by the amount of text facing them. I have tried to remedy this as far as possible via two avenues: there is a Speed Read section with a brief profile of each species featured in a main article; and each article has been 'virtually split', with the aid of hyperlinks, into sections that allow people to easily jump to the information they're looking for. Ultimately, I want to provide as much information as is feasible in order to provide the reader with the clearest appraisal of each species or topic; I hope that most readers approve of this approach.

Why haven't you included a complete bibliography?
My intention with WLOL is to provide the information in an accessible format, which means that anyone should be able to read an article and understand the information in it. Consequently, I didn't want to format it as a scientific paper because the current format allows for a much more informal approach and writing style which, I hope, will appeal to a wider audience. Most people should find enough information in the article (I typically provide the name or one or more of the authors and the journal and year) to track down the original scientific paper. When I take information from books, I always give the name of the author(s) and the full title of the book for easy reference. I am also happy to provide full details of any of the references upon request.

Are you really qualified to do this?
I'm certainly not an expert on any of the subjects presented on this site. The articles stem from my varied interests in natural history and biological sciences. In terms of qualifications, I trained as a scientist (studying natural sciences at degree and postgraduate level) and all I really do is interpret information, blend it with associated research and personal observation, and present it in what I hope is an accessible format. Unless specifically stated, I do not claim any of the information on this site to be my own research. I have built relationships with some of the many diligent researchers who have produced the data that I use, and I am happy either to recommend an expert or provide my own opinions on a subject.

As a final note, I want to make a quick reference to the quality of the material on the site. The great French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes, once said: "If you would be a real seeker of truth, you first must be willing to doubt as far as possible all things." This is very sage advice, especially when it comes to believing what you read on the Internet. Most Internet sites (indeed, some books and TV shows too), including this one, have no form of peer-review (i.e. nobody with experience of the topic checks the site for accuracy); consequently pretty much anyone can have their own little corner of cyberspace and information can make it onto websites that is either misguided, or downright false! When creating material for this site I take every care to ensure that the information I present is accurate. Invariably errors will creep in; typos are almost inevitable (although each article goes through several levels of proof reading before it appears online) and research is always underway on the species featured here, so the data can go out of date almost overnight. Each page has regular (ish!) reviews, however, during which I update the information, adding details of new findings and taking out that which is now thought highly unlikely. You can see most of the books I have used in the preparation of this site on the Recommended Reading page and I have provided links to some of the most interesting sites I came across during my research – these can be found under the appropriate sub-heading on the Links page.

Anyway, I digress.... I hope you enjoy looking around the site and I hope equally that you get something worthwhile out of it. Any comments, suggestions or (constructive) criticisms are welcome via e-mail - appropriate addresses can be found on the Contact page.

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DISCLAIMER: All the photographs and artwork on this site are either my own work or have been donated by readers. All images remain property of their authors and, if you wish to reproduce any of the pictures, consent must be granted by the appropriate person - requests can be directed via myself or see FAQ. For more details on the content of this site, please see the full WLOL Disclaimer.

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