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Content Updated: 7th March 2015

SEASONAL UPDATE: March 2015

Frogspawn in garden pond

Welcome to spring! After what has been, at times, a cold winter, it is nice to look out of the window and see some blue skies and sunshine.  The preliminary figures from the Met Office suggest that this winter just gone was cooler and drier than average, and the sunniest winter since 1929. Certainly in the past week or so much of the UK has been treated to some sunshine, and the forecast is for milder temperatures across much of the country in the coming days. It is worth remembering, though, that February and March are often the coldest months of the year in Britain and the models currently suggest that, with high pressure coming to dominate at least the south of the UK for much of March, some sunny and potentially mild days but cold clear nights are on the cards.

If you fancy getting out into the spring sunshine this month, you might want to help out with the Big Spring Beach Clean which is being organised by Surfers Against Sewage and runs from 27th to 29th March (see website for further details). There are also a variety of nature-themed events being run by local wildlife trusts this month – their website has more. If you’re just out and about for a walk, though, what might you expect to come across?

Boxing Brown haresMammals: March is the month during which most fox cubs are born and the dog fox – sometimes assisted by any family members still hanging around on the territory – will be busy hunting for himself, the vixen and, ultimately, the cubs. Indeed, March is a good time to fox-watch because the male often has to hunt through the day to supply his family with sufficient food. Immediately around the time the cubs are born the father will be excluded from the earth by the vixen; he will drop the food at the entrance and call softly to the vixen before setting off in search of more.

Most pregnant badger sows will have given birth by now, and some may even be pregnant again – it’ll be another couple of months before the cubs appear above ground, however. Brown hares are in their breeding season at the moment and can be seen boxing in stubble fields, while red and fallow deer will start casting their antlers in the next couple of weeks. Roe bucks will soon finish their antler development and shed their velvet. Hedgehogs are also coming out of hibernation now and in desperate need of food and fresh water, so please leave some out in your garden if you can. March is also a good month to look for water voles as they start spending more time out and about, having been largely confined to their burrow systems for the winter.

Birds: Many of our winter migrants have left, or are now in the process of leaving, making way for spring arrivals such as wheatear, chiffchaff and hobbies. The number of lapwings at my local reserve is also growing and some of the species passing through on their way to their breeding grounds (e.g. grey plovers and curlew) are also being sporadically reported. March is a good month to get out in the woods and listen for the drumming of woodpeckers; all three species (greater spotted, lesser spotted and green) drum on trees as a sign of territory possession, rather than singing as most birds do. Long-tailed tits are nesting during this month and many other species are sorting out their territories; March is thus a particularly good month to watch robins and blackbirds (see feature). I have mentioned hobbies as raptors to see this month, but March is also a good time to watch and listen to the territorial displays of buzzards, tawny owls and goshawks. If you are fortunate enough to live in either north Wales, northern England or the Highlands of Scotland, March heralds the start of the black grouse lekking period, with the spectacular displaying and fighting that entails. Here in the New Forest kingfishers have returned to breed on some of the river systems, and March is a fine time to sit and watch their courtship behaviour.

Reptiles and amphibians: As the temperatures start to rise the activity among our cold-blooded residents increases, and the recent spells of sunshine have already tempted some adders out of hibernation. Among the reptiles it is ordinarily the males that emerge from hibernation first, in order to get a head start on sperm production, although there have been a couple of reports of females out and about already. March is a good month for reptile spotting because the nights are still relatively chilly, meaning they have to bask first thing to warm up. The result is that they tend to be more reluctant to leave their basking spots than they are later in the year and this can make for some good views.

Many of you have already observed that the frog breeding season has begun – we had frogspawn in our pond for the first time last month and, based on my Facebook newsfeed, many garden ponds are now playing host to nothing short of an amphibian orgy! Unfortunately, much of the spawn will be killed off by the subsequent frosts, but more will be laid throughout the spring, so keep an eye on your local or garden pond. It’s a bit early in the year yet for toads and newts to spawn, but both are now starting to be seen out and about at night.

Greater beeflyInvertebrates: The insect world is slowly starting to come back to life, and there have been a few bees and the odd butterfly reported in the last few days. As the weather warms we’ll start seeing more butterflies, bees and spiders. Keep an eye out for the furry ‘ginger bee’ darting over flowers in sunlit woodlands, parks and gardens – these are greater bee-flies (right) and, in our garden, they are particularly fond of forget-me-nots. I have also seen a few caterpillars around and some to keep an eye out for this month are: the stick-like swallow-tailed moth caterpillar on hawthorn, ivy, privet and other shrubs; the striking yellow and black spotted six-spot burnet moth caterpillar in open grassland, wide verges and waste ground feeding on bird’s foot-trefoil; and the blue-grey and orange caterpillars of the lackey moth, which are widespread in the south of England and hang out in webs spun in hedgerows towards the end of this month. The spiders in and around the house and garden seem to have started to resume their activity and there were plenty of wolf spiders in the New Forest last weekend. Hoverflies are also a more common sight now as are shield bugs and ladybirds.

Plants and fungi: In the last week or so I’ve noticed a few daffodils flowering in sheltered spots, large swathes of snowdrop (some now past their best), some primroses, small clumps of campion and even crocuses adding a splash of colour to the verges. Many trees are also now in bud and there are plenty of catkins and some blossom to be found. Streams and ditches are good places to look for newly emerged butterbur flowers, with their striking purple blossoms arranged in pyramidal fashion. Old stone walls offer a great opportunity to look for delicate ferns and mosses, while the first sweet violet and lesser celandine are now starting to flower, adding a dash of purple and shining yellow, respectively, to our woodlands.

One common bird species is also about to start its breeding season and can provide almost everyone with some bird-watching enjoyment in their garden, local park or woodland. This month’s feature is the humble blackbird.

Pick of the Month for March – the European blackbird (Turdus merula)

Female blackbirdBlackbirds are among the most familiar of British birds and even if your garden isn’t a wildlife haven, it is still quite likely to be visited by a blackbird. Indeed, for me, the blackbird’s melodic song epitomises the summer and calls forth memories of sitting in the garden late into the evening enjoying the long days. Despite being common visitors to, and even residents in, our gardens, many people overlook the fascinating lives of these humble birds, and we often don’t see how city living affects them. An appreciation for blackbirds is all the more important because the British Trust for Ornithology has raised concerns for this species, having seen numbers fall by over one-third between the 1970s and mid-1990s, albeit with a partial recovery since then.

Just a black bird?
It is interesting that the small thrush-like bird visiting our gardens should have been dubbed the “blackbird”, when there are many contenders for that title – why not ravens, crows, rooks or jackdaws, which were all familiar to early settlers and naturalists? The reason appears lost in antiquity, but the first use of the name blackbird to describe this species appears to have been in 1486, and when Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus formally described this bird in 1758 he gave it the scientific binomen Turdus merula, meaning ‘blackbird thrush’. The scientific name proposed by Linnaeus still stands today.

Blackbirds are members of the order of birds we call Passeriformes; a group containing some 5,000 species, which represent about half of all the bird species known to science. Passeriformes are the ‘perching birds’; so called because of their foot arrangement, which has three toes to the front and one to the rear, allows them to grip branches. Within this order sits the Turidae, which is the ‘thrush’ family of birds that contains about 155 species. Some of the members of the Turidae are grouped together within the genus Turdus genus: these are the ‘true thrushes’, and our blackbird is among the 90 species this genus holds.

Blackbirds are small to medium sized birds: adults grow to about 25cm (10 in.) long, have a wingspan of around 36cm (14 in.) and weigh in at between 80g and 110g (3-4 oz.). Blackbirds are among only a few of our garden birds that show sexual dimorphism (i.e. males and females look different). Adult males are jet black, with a distinct yellow ring around each eye, while females are mottled brown, without the eye rings – both sexes of British blackbird have a bright orange-yellow beak. Juveniles can be more difficult to sex; both sport a mottled brown coat similar to that of an adult female, although with pale stripes on the back and wings. As males begin their first moult they turn black from the feet up and half black half brown birds are sometimes seen (see photo four below).

Partial albino blackbirdAlbinism and leucism is also known in blackbirds, although completely albino birds are rare. Full albinism manifests as a complete lack of pigment in the skin and feathers, so the bird appears white, with a pale pink-coloured beak and red eyes. More common are leucistic birds. In most cases, leucism is a phenomenon during which normal pigment production occurs but the pigment cells aren’t distributed properly during development. The result is a variable appearance, depending on the degree of leucism: some have a few spots of white on the feathers, others have only a few spots of black, while others are completely white – with leucistic animals, however, the eye and beak colour remain normal. In some cases, leucism may result in reduced melanin production or deposition, causing the animal to have a ‘wishy-washy’ colour. It is worth pointing out that the commonly referenced ‘partial albino’ syndrome is a misnomer. Pigments in the skin and feathers of birds and mammals are the result of the production of chemicals called melanins, which are created from an amino acid called tyrosine.  Now, in order for this conversion to happen, the body’s cells need an enzyme called tyrosinase and it is this enzyme that is lacking in albinos.  An animal either lacks tyrosinase or it has it; it doesn’t have tyrosinase in some cells but not others. Consequently, an animal cannot be partially albinistic.

Here, there, everywhere
The blackbird is a common throughout Britain, where it is found in most habitat types; from small city gardens (like ours) to remote mountain forests and the various parks, woodlands, coastal scrubland and farmland in between.  Blackbirds are arguably the most commonly seen garden bird (it being a close run against the robin) and creates most of the spring dawn chorus in urban parks and gardens. Outside of the UK blackbirds are found throughout Europe (including Iceland) down into the Mediterranean to Turkey and east to Iran, along the north African coast of the Mediterranean sea and on the Canary Islands.  Blackbirds are also found in parts of south Asia and India and in south-east Australia and New Zealand, where they were introduced in 1857 and 1862, respectively.

BirdLife International suggest that the global population of blackbirds may be as many as half a billion individuals, with an estimated 80-160 million birds in Europe alone and just over five million breeding pairs in Britain. Most blackbirds in the UK by late spring are residents, although some will migrate south into Europe come winter. Many more birds migrate south from Scandinavia and northern Europe into the UK each winter, swelling our population to 10-15 million blackbirds. These immigrants overwinter in Britain before flying back north as spring approaches, and can typically be distinguished from our native birds by their characteristically duller beaks, which appear brownish-yellow.

Blackbirds are highly territorial birds and a pair will remain in their territory throughout the year if the conditions (i.e. availability of food, temperature and shelter) permit. Both sexes defend the territory, chasing off interloping blackbirds – and even larger thrushes that stray too close – using a ‘bow and run’ threat display; they raise their head and bow, dipping the tail, before making a short run at the intruder. (Indeed, bowing is a more general characteristic of blackbirds; their flight is usually a low, quick swoop into cover, but upon touching down they raise their tail causing them to bow on landing.) Females are most aggressive in spring and, although fights involving females are generally rarer than those involving males, they tend to be more violent.

Male blackbird with foodInvasion of the urban blackbirds
Although most of us are now used to seeing blackbirds in our towns and cities, only recently has any detailed study of how city living affects these birds been undertaken; it’s not all good news.
The earliest records of blackbirds breeding in urban areas appears to be from Rome in the 1820s, but recent work by researchers in Norway suggests that blackbirds didn’t start to colonise British towns and cities until the early 1920s. It seems that partially migratory populations started to over-winter in urban habitats where it was warmer than the surrounding countryside and, over the course of several decades, some hung around to breed in the summer. More interestingly, it seems that it takes a certain ‘type’ of bird to put up with city life. Indeed, in a study published in 1974, Polish ornithologist Ryszard Graczyk compared the survival rates of urban and rural blackbirds released in a city in Poland where blackbirds were well established and also in Ukraine, which didn’t have its own urban population of blackbirds. Graczyk found that only the urban birds survived in both locations, suggesting that these birds had some kind of ‘edge’ over their rural counterparts. Since Graczyk’s experiment, several studies have been done looking at the physiology of blackbirds and how city living impacts their blood chemistry.

In a recent paper to the Journal of Experimental Biology, University of Antwerp biologist David Constantini and his colleagues assessed how well urban blackbirds dealt with city stress by sampling their blood. The oxygen that is so vital for our continued existence on this planet comes in various varieties (or species); some are highly chemically reactive and can cause damage to an animal’s body – these are called free radicals and all birds and mammals produce them as a byproduct of metabolism. Ordinarily, these free radicals are ‘mopped up’ (deactivated) by molecules we call antioxidants. Now, if the body can’t produce enough antioxidants to deactivate all the free radicals damage can occur to body tissues: physiologists call this “oxidative stress”. Constantini and his team were looking for signs of oxidative stress in their blackbird subjects. The results suggested that urban birds suffered lower oxidative stress than rural birds; in other words, city birds were better able to ‘detox’ from city life than their country kin. Being able to cope with the rigours of living in the city is beneficial to a blackbird because it means it’s able to exploit the warmth and pretty-much year-round food supply that urban areas have to offer. Other studies suggest that blackbirds are also generally less concerned by human activity when building their nests, unlike song thrushes, and this has probably also helped them colonise our parks and gardens.

Moulting male blackbirdLife in the city isn’t entirely a bowl of cherries, as many of us can testify, and blackbirds face considerable challenges when they share our conurbations. One of the biggest problems for blackbirds, in common with many birds, is the light pollution that has been a growing issue in urban areas since the first commercially-produced light bulb lit the streets of New York in 1879. Light pollution has long been linked with earlier (pre-dawn) activity in urban birds, which may start singing and foraging for food earlier in the day, and continue later into the evening, than their rural counterparts. I observed this first-hand on Tuesday when I was serenaded by a robin in Asda’s carpark at just shy of 8 pm.

A recent series of studies by biologists, led by Davide Dominoni at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, have looked at the impact of artificial light on blackbirds in some detail. The researchers kept one group of birds in total darkness at night (the 'rural' or 'dark night' birds) and exposed another group to light levels of about 0.3 lux, which is common in larger cities at night (the 'city' or 'light at night' birds). The results showed that city birds had lower levels of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin in their blood than the rural birds. (An increase in melatonin as it gets dark causes us to feel tired and sleep, and it has been suggested that our use of tablet devices and computers late into the evening suppresses melatonin production and disrupts our sleep patterns.) This suppression of melatonin ‘tricks’ the birds into thinking that the days are longer than they actually are, causing them to start singing earlier and continue singing later, sometimes even singing through the night. This reduction in melatonin has other, less immediately obvious, consequences too: it triggers the reactivation of the bird’s reproductive system much earlier (up to a month earlier) than in rural birds. Worryingly, however, Dominoni and his colleagues also found that young blackbirds exposed to light at night initially developed gonads earlier in the season than birds kept in darkness at night, but in their second year all the ‘night light’ subjects failed to develop reproductively at all, with testosterone remaining at baseline levels throughout the year. This suggests that light pollution may have a serious negative impact on the breeding ability of some blackbird populations. Dominoni and his team also observed that ‘night light’ birds exhibited an irregular (drawn-out) moult, compared with the birds kept in darkness overnight.

More work is needed to establish just how representative Dominoni et al’s findings are, but they certainly suggest that some blackbirds may pay a heavy price for their city lifestyles.

Blackbird fledglingBringing up baby
The aforementioned notwithstanding, blackbirds typically breed between March and August – with male blackbirds experiencing a peak in testicular activity between April and June – during which time they may produce two to four broods, depending on how favourable the conditions are. In his 1988 book, A Study of Blackbirds, David Snow described the courtship display of these thrushes: it consists of oblique runs by the male combined with head-bowing, an open beak, and a “strangled” low song, after which the female remains motionless until she raises her head and tail to allow the male to mate with her. Blackbirds are generally socially monogamous (i.e. the pair will stay together and defend their territory together throughout their lifetime), but genetic analysis suggests that almost 1 in 5 chicks may be fathered by a male other than the female’s territory mate.

Following successful mating the female will lay between three and five greenish-blue eggs with red-brown speckles into a shallow cup nest made from grass, twigs and moss (sometimes incorporating mud) and situated in bushes, low in trees/hedges or even at ground level behind cover such as a log pile. Each egg measures about 3x2cm (1.1x0.9 in.) and weighs about 7g (0.25 oz.) and the female will incubate them for 12-14 days until the blind and naked chicks emerge. Both parents will provide food for the ever-hungry chicks, and remove their faecal sacs, until the chicks fledge at about 14 days old (although anywhere from 10-20 days, depending on food supply). David Snow noted that the young are fed by both parents for up to three weeks after leaving the nest, and the fledglings will follow the adults begging for food. In most cases, the newly fledged birds hide in cover on or close to the ground and await their parents’ return (left). In the event that the female starts another brood, the male alone will feed the fledglings. Blackbird chicks are independent by 5-6 weeks old, at which point they may be chased off the territory by the parents.

Adult blackbirds are primarily invertivorous, taking a broad range of invertebrate prey including worms and a variety of insects and spiders. Blackbirds will feed on berries and other fruit, particularly during the autumn, and will visit bird tables to take bread, suet pellets and mealworms. More unusually, there are records of blackbirds taking tadpoles, newts and even small fish. To my mind, there are few things more comical that watching a blackbird noisily explore the leaf litter looking for food, chucking leaves all over the place! Typically a blackbird will live for about two and a half years in the wild, although ringing studies suggest some regular garden visitors reach five years of age, and the oldest wild-rung bird lived to be almost 22 years old!

Sing it loud, sing it proud
For me, the song of the blackbird brings back memories of summer, and listening to them sing, in fact any bird sing, invariably lifts my mood. It seems I’m not alone in this, either. It has long been known that green spaces in cities and contact with nature has considerable health benefits: reducing stress, improving mood and boosting our immune systems. Recently, we’ve had an insight into how some of these elements link together to affect our experience. A paper published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening last year looked at how people’s opinion of an urban green space was affected by bird song. The research found that bird song, and particularly a medley of songs from different species, generally enhanced and improved young people’s appreciation of these green spaces.

Blackbirds are known for their very melodic warbling song, which often ends in a weak scratchy sound. The song has many phases and variations to it and, in his 2009 BirdGuide, Lars Svensson described it as:

“…a clear, loud fluting (almost in the major key) at slow tempo and on a wide, often sliding scale, with a soft twitter appended; verses rather short, repeated at 3-5 sec. intervals.”

Alongside their typical song, blackbirds have a variety of other calls, resulting in quite a diverse vocal repertoire. Two alarm calls are employed, which have different meanings and serve to tell the other blackbirds from where the danger is coming. A low ‘tuk tuk tuk’ call is used while dodging about in the undergrowth to draw attention to danger on the ground – e.g. a stoat, cat, fox, etc. By contrast, a loud agitated screeching, often made while the bird is in flight, signifies danger from the air – e.g. an owl, sparrowhawk, etc.

I hope this brief introduction to one of our most familiar garden visitors has given you a new appreciation of the humble blackbird. Urban living can be tough for these guys and they can use our help whenever we are mindful to offer it.

Male blackbird with worms

Whatever you’re up to this month, take care and I hope to see you back here in April. 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 and a special thanks to Maggie Bruce for letting me use her hare photo this month.

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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 are, however, 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, 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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