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Content Updated: 3rd September 2017

SEASONAL UPDATE: September 2017

New Forest sunset over Lyndhurst

The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has recently been instructed by the Trump administration to use the term “weather extremes” instead of “climate change”. Well, we’ve certainly seen some “weather extremes” here over the last month. Heavy rain and unseasonably strong winds, coupled with mists and even frosts, have made the end of summer seem more like autumn. The first weekend saw some bright sunshine and warmth, despite a brisk wind across southern parts and a squally, sleety thunderstorm that briefly disrupted the Saturday morning of Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight. Further north, parts of northern England and Scotland saw torrential rain and woke up to unseasonable frost. The first week wasn’t much better, with a month’s rain falling in southern and north-west England and Wales in only a couple of days. Indeed, the Met Office issued a yellow warning for rain between 8th and 9th August.

Strangely, a low pressure system residing over France at the start of the month tracked north-east across the Netherlands, which is very unusual at this time of year. Later in the month we saw the remnants of Hurricane Gert pass across the British Isles, bringing torrential rain and blustery conditions. The south-east of the country was fortunate in seeing the lion’s share of the dry and bright weather, while the west and north bore the brunt of the wind and rain. Indeed, in the penultimate week, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland saw 50mm (2 inches) of rain in about two hours. The month finished on an unsettled note that gave the countryside a distinctly autumnal feel, particularly with the abundance of fruit and the beginnings of colour change happening to our trees. As we move into September, a minority of models are suggesting pressure may build, settling things down, but most predict the jet stream will stay where it is, bringing more low pressure systems across the country.

If you want to get out and about this month, as usual, the Wildlife Trusts have a series of nature-themed events up and down the country, as do the RSPB. If you feel like being proactive and live near the coast, Surfers Against Sewage are looking for people to organise cleans of their local beaches – details here. The Forestry Commission are also running a series of events this month, details of which can be found here.

Roe deer buck resting in New ForestMammals: For me, the autumn is the season for deer watching because September marks the start of the autumn rutting season. The weather conditions have a significant impact on the timing of the rut; mild and wet conditions delay it, while cool and dry conditions advance it. Indeed, it has recently been suggested that climate change is advancing the red deer rut on the island of Rum off the coast of eastern Scotland. In 2013, Dan Nussey at Edinburgh University and colleagues published data suggesting that, perhaps because of warmer springs and summers, the birth of calves and the time that males start rutting is now as much as two weeks earlier than when the study began almost 40 years ago. Another disturbing finding by the team was the amount of introgression (mixing of characteristics as a result of inter-breeding) between red and the closely-related sika deer, which roam wild in many parts of Britain. Based on data collected from Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula, it appears that red deer are getting smaller, while sika are growing larger. What it appears we’re seeing is a blending of traits, providing what some consider a ‘mongrel’ deer. Hybridisation between these species is a problem wherever they co-exist, and in many parts of the country, especially here in the New Forest in Hampshire, red and sika deer are shot if they encroach on each other’s ranges in a bid to prevent such interbreeding. Problems aside, red, fallow and sika all rut in the coming weeks and each have their own rutting behaviour and unique call. Red stags (Cervus elaphus) roar/bellow/bolve, fallow bucks (Dama dama) ‘belch’, and sika stags (Cervus nippon) ‘whistle’. Well worth checking out  if you have the opportunity.
(Photo: The Roe deer rut has come to a close now and it's common to find exhausted bucks lying up to recover, unwilling to move.)

Rutting activity starts as the nights draw in and the temperature drops; this stimulates a rise in testosterone in the bucks and stags, and what was formerly a relatively good-natured bunch of guys hanging out together starts to experience conflict, leading to the breakup of bachelor groups.

Fallow bucks, being a woodland species, tend to set themselves up in a good spot and proceed to ‘belch’ or groan, scrape the ground and nearby trees, and generally spread their scent around in an attempt to advertise their presence to any females the area. This method of mating is called lekking. Research on fallow rutting suggests that females can judge how big a male is from the acoustics of his belch. Males that belch constantly are perceived as the fittest individuals (i.e. those with the greatest stamina) and are the ones more likely to mate.

Red deer, by contrast, being a species of more open moorland habitats, are usually ‘showier’ in their rutting. Red stags move to traditional rutting grounds in pursuit of the females. The females move to areas of best grazing to rebuild their fat reserves following a summer of producing milk for their calves, and the males follow. We used to think that a male rallied up a collection of hinds and held them until either they started coming into oestrous or he was deposed by another stag. Thanks to some fascinating in-depth studies conducted by the Red Deer Research Group on Rum, however, we now know the situation is much more flexible. The males do follow the females around and the largest/strongest stag tends to have unrestricted access to the largest group of hinds, roaring to advertise his prowess both to the nearby females and any stags thinking of challenging him. We now know that females may move between different harems if they’re impressed by a neighbouring stag or to get away from smaller stags pestering them. We also know that if the matriarch decides to move to another area, there is little the attending stag can do but watch his harem disappear. A female may duck out of a harem briefly to mate with a nearby stag and return to her group afterwards

Sika are slightly different again, tending to set up leks in areas between the feeding and resting grounds chosen by females, from which they stand and whistle.

What’s particularly interesting about rutting deer is that the chosen behaviour can vary with habitat. Fallow, for example, may adopt a more harem-based rutting plan in open habitats and clashes - where two males lock antlers, each trying to push the other back - are more common in open areas than in woodland. Presumably, open habitat allows the deer to see rivals and might make them more prone to fight than in woodland where they can generally only hear them.

Moulting robinDeer aside, other mammal action this month comes in the form of fox fights, as the family unit starts to break down. This is a protracted process that results in many cubs dispersing between October and January. Another mammal for which September involves much fighting, squeaking and squealing in this case, is the common shrew, and September is a good month to go looking for them in undergrowth and deciduous woodland because their population is at its peak. Grey seals are also very active this month, September marking the beginning of their breeding season, too.

Many other mammals are starting to prepare for winter. There are still a few bats on the wing, so a walk with a bat detector can still prove rewarding, and squirrels are busy caching as much of nature’s bounty as they can to see them through the lean winter months. Hedgehogs and dormice are both in the process of trying to build up sufficient fat reserves to see them through hibernation. Despite the impending winter hiatus, it is not uncommon to find juvenile hedgehogs about in this month; these late-born hoglets (sometimes called ‘autumn orphans’) often struggle to survive the winter if they’re born too late to lay down sufficient fat reserves. You can help by leaving out food and water for them and, if you happen to find a hedgehog out during the daytime or a hoglet in distress, please check out Natasha Harper’s Caring for Hedgehogs article on this site.

Birds: You may have noticed that many of your garden birds seem to have vanished, but don’t fret – it’s perfectly normal behaviour. As we come to the end of summer, most of our garden birds will be moulting; either replacing their juvenile plumage with their first adult plumage, or shedding feathers worn and damaged while raising the chicks for a new set to see them through winter. While moulting, birds tend to be more secretive because the loss and re-growth of the primary wing feathers makes them less agile in the air and thus more vulnerable to predators. If we couple this moult with the breeding season being over and the males having no need to sing to attract a mate now, the birds are also less obvious when they are around and more of their activity goes unnoticed. Furthermore, you may have noticed that many of the berries in your garden are now ripe and this intimates a further reason why you may be seeing fewer birds: they simply don’t need your garden as much at the moment, because food is relatively abundant in fields, parks and woodlands. Don’t worry though – come winter, they’ll be back.

Outside of our gardens, September marks the start of the “passage season” that many ornithologists regard as the most exciting part of the year. Many of our summer visitors will now head further south for the winter, while a variety of species come in from colder parts of Europe or down from the Arctic to spend winter in our milder climes. Most chiffchaffs will head south, and whitethroats tend only to be found around the south coast during the autumn, where they swap their usual diet of insects for one of fruit. Our local swallows have now left - although I know a few people are still seeing juveniles lined up on telegraph wires - as have many swifts and house martins. Invariably, this is a good month to visit the coast and, in particular, estuaries, which will be starting to receive geese from the Arctic. There are six migratory species of geese commonly seen in the British Isles and greylags are the largest. Having spent a pretty intense breeding season on Iceland’s tundra, they migrate south to spend the autumn and winter in our estuaries, lakes and reedbeds, where they roost before flying off to feed in grass fields during the day.

There are also a lot of corvids around at the moment. Jays are particularly noticeable in our parks and deciduous woodlands at this time of year as they collect and bury (cache) up to 3,000 acorns a month each. I’ve also had the pleasure of watching a pair of juvenile crows exploring the streets on my way to work most mornings over the past couple of weeks. Other species to keep an eye out for this month include ospreys as they stop off at lakes and fish farms in the south of England en route to their summering grounds off the African coast, kingfishers in coastal regions, redwings, and chaffinches, whose numbers are swollen by visitors from Europe at this time of year. September is also a good month to listen for the calls of tawny owls, which are becoming increasingly vocal as they start re-establishing their territories now the chicks have fledged.

Baby slowwormsReptiles and amphibians: Typically, autumn brings cool nights and sunny days, resulting in reptiles needing to spend more time basking in the morning than they did over the summer. A quiet dawn walk in the right habitat with the sun on your back can reveal basking adders and grass snakes during September. If this autumn follows the pattern of the last few, however, with temperatures remaining mild, snakes and lizards will become more difficult to spot. Nonetheless, there are still many smooth snake and slow-worm births (right) during September, along with juvenile lizards, adders and grass snakes to be found. Newts, which hibernate close to breeding ponds, are also on the move, so head out on a dark wet night to look for them. Most ponds are now home to far fewer frogs and toads than six months ago, with the adults and recently metamorphosed froglets/toadlets now spending much of their time on land in leaf litter, long grass and under logs. Indeed, frogs and toads, along with a host of insects, often overwinter in patches of long grass, so please take extra care when mowing your lawn and, if possible, leave it (or a section of it) to grow longer and help support your local wildlife.

Invertebrates: Those of you who are arachnophobic probably arrive at the start of autumn with a sense of dread, because it signifies the start of the spider home invasion season. September is the month when large, hairy, eight-legged critters start being seen indoors. In most cases, these are male ‘house’ spiders (those of the genus Tegenaria or Eratigena) and they’re on the hunt for breeding females. The males follow scent trails produced by the females and tend to follow the same routes each night, which is why you often see them in the same places. Also, spiders aren’t particularly energetic animals and tire easily. If you watch a spider run across the living room carpet (perhaps from on top of the dining room table while screaming) you might notice it stop for a minute before carrying on; it’s not eyeing you up, it’s catching its breath. Despite their size, these spiders are no threat to you. They are often drawn to bathrooms and kitchens seeking water and frequently end up in the bath or sink, the sides being too smooth for them to climb. If you want to reduce the chance of finding a spider in your bath take a toilet roll and unravel a short length; place the roll on the side of the bath and trail the sheets down into the bath to provide a surface spiders can get traction on and use to get themselves out.

September is the month that people sometimes find dainty green crickets in their house of an evening. We don’t quite know why, but these oak bush crickets are attracted to light. Out in the fields there is still some stridulation to be heard, with the speckled bush crickets being the last of the chirpers, lending their relaxed chirrups to damp dewy evenings. Dark bush crickets are busy this month, the females pulling back the bark of dead wood to lay eggs that will hatch next year, while the males utter well-spaced chirps from bramble patches. Indeed, if you’re out picking blackberries, keep an eye out for these crickets along with harvestmen, which are also abundant at this time of year. There are about 23 species of harvestmen in the UK, some of which have hugely exaggerated legs attached to a tiny body, making them look something akin to the Fighting Machines of H.G. Wells’ imagination.

There are a few butterflies still on the wing, including the odd speckled wood, brimstone and gatekeeper. September is the main flying month of the red admiral and small copper butterflies, and some painted lady, clouded yellow and even purple hairstreak butterflies are around. The unmistakable pale tussock moth caterpillar, with its luminous yellow tufts and bristles, can still be found during this month as it prepares to retire into the cocoon in which it will spend the winter.

Stagshorn fungi on the New ForestPlants and fungi: September is the start of nature’s season of bounty, with fruit, seeds, berries and fungi becoming apparent. Indeed, there seem to be bumper crops of berries around this year. In countryside lore, loads of berries in the autumn signifies we’re in for a cold winter – it being nature’s way of providing plenty of food for wildlife. In reality, however, autumn’s berry crop tells us more about the weather we saw during spring than what we’re going to experience in a few months’ time. Indeed, cool springs delay flowering while mixed spells of wet and warm, dry and sunny weather boost plant growth and pollinator activity. A whole host of species take advantage of this glut of fruit, from wasps to foxes and badgers. I found some fox droppings that were jet black and choc-full of seeds and drupels, suggesting the fox had gorged on blackberries.

Fungi is also to be found in abundance at the moment. This month, keep an eye out for the striking but poisonous sickener in pine woodlands – this fungus has a bright red smooth cap and white stem. The brilliant yellow flute-like chanterelle can be found in coniferous and deciduous woodlands during September and is, I’m told, delicious, while the delicate yellow fronds of yellow stagshorn fungi (left) can be found on rotting logs and stumps in pine woodlands. The scarce violet webcap is found mainly in birch woodlands and is a large mushroom with a beautiful rich violet cap that browns with age. The grey-brown and white blotched cap of the magpie fungus is also to be found in beech woodland.

There is a distinct pink tinge to the countryside in September, with heather in bloom on the New Forest and many other moorlands. Elsewhere, in fens, marshes and wet woodland, hemp agrimony can be found, with flowerheads containing five of six tufts or reddish-pink tubular florets. Late-flying insects are attracted to the nectar of the pink flowers of Himalayan balsam (originating in Asia, this plant is now a highly invasive species in Britain’s waterways) this month, while vivid pink blooms of rosebay willowherb also add a splash of colour.

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Discovery of the Month – Urban butterflies in trouble

Small copper butterfly on heatherOur world is becoming increasingly urbanised and we know that this often comes at a cost to wildlife, with reduced species diversity in our towns and cities. Indeed, in the last week alone I’ve seen adverts on Facebook for landscaping companies illustrating how they’ve “transformed” gardens into low-maintenance outside spaces by replacing lawns and flowerbeds with decking/block paving or grubbing up turf to lay down biologically-useless AstroTurf. The result is less suitable habitat for wildlife. In recent years, a great deal of effort has been directed to trying to engage people to both garden for wildlife and to help record the species they have living in or visiting their patch. One group of insects that lend themselves particularly well to recording are butterflies. Most of them are relatively large (for an insect), colourful and, with the exception of a few groups (the notorious ‘blues’ for example), pretty easy to identify.

In conjunction with the Big Butterfly Count, which encourages people to record the butterflies visiting their garden, the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) was established in 1976 to look at butterfly populations over larger areas, recording their presence along some 1,400 2-4km transects each year. Recently, a team led by Emily Dennis at the University of Kent’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science analysed data on the abundance of 28 species of UK butterfly gathered between 1995 and 2014 to get an idea of how they’re faring in Britain in the face of climate change and increasing urbanisation. Their results, published in a paper to the journal Ecological Indicators in May, make uncomfortable reading.

The study found that urban butterflies emerged earlier and had a longer flight period than the same species living in rural areas. Over the two decades covered by the dataset, overall butterfly abundance fell by 69% in urban areas and 45% in rural spots. Some individual species suffered more substantial declines, with small heath butterflies declining by 78% in urban areas, compared with 17% in the countryside. Similarly, small copper populations dropped by 75% and 23% in urban and rural areas, respectively. More common species such as the peacock and red admiral showed a similar pattern, declining by 67% and 58% in urban areas compared to 44% in the countryside. In total, 24 of the 28 species showed larger declines in urban areas than in rural locations, although in some cases the difference was small. The Essex skipper, for example, declined by 89% in urban areas and 87% in the countryside. The take-home message from this modelling was that all 28 butterfly species had declined and most had done so more sharply in our towns and cities and in our countryside.

So, what can we do? We can all use fewer chemicals on our gardens, we can leave areas to ‘grow wild’, particularly the areas of long grass in which many insects overwinter, and we can create log piles or install so-called “bug hotels”. Perhaps most importantly, we can plant for butterflies and other pollinators. Buddleia, hebe and lavender bushes are very attractive to butterflies and are widely available, including dwarf varieties suitable for potting. Similarly, planting a selection of plants that will flower throughout the year can be hugely beneficial to butterflies and bees. For more details about small things you can do in your garden to help butterflies, and wildlife in general, have a look at Butterfly Conservation’s gardening guide.

Reference: Dennis, E.B. et al. (2017). Urban indicators for UK butterflies. Ecological Indicators. 76: 184-193.

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RabbitsProfile of the Month – Jenny Cross, God’s Kingdom Photography

This month we get an insight into the work of Hampshire-based wildlife photographer Jenny Cross, who set up God’s Kingdom Photography in May 2016 to showcase her love of nature. On her Facebook page, Jenny describes herself as an “Amateur photographer with a passion for capturing and sharing the beauty of the natural world. With every new month and season revealing something new.”

Tell us a little about yourself
I have always lived in Southampton but in the last 10 years have moved across the water to Totton, where I share my home with my husband and our two beautiful children (of the furry kind) George and Peggy (left). I have always felt extremely lucky to live within a stone's throw of the New Forest. I have devoted my entire working life to pet animals; working initially in boarding kennels and then for 10 years at Southampton City Council in the stray dogs kennels, before qualifying as a Veterinary Nurse in 2004.

My fascination with the natural world began around the age of nine, watching and identifying birds through my grandparents’ window, which is when I also bought my first bird book and started collecting feathers. I love nothing more than spending time alone in the natural world, fully absorbed in my surroundings, and this is how I fill most of my weekend free time.

Glanville fritillaryWhen did you first realise that you had a talent for photography?
I am not really sure that I have realised that yet. It is just something that I enjoy deeply and want to share with others.

What drives and/or inspires you to photograph?
I never cease to be amazed by the intricate detail and beauty found in the natural world, which I believe to be God’s design and handiwork. I get such immense pleasure out of what I do; it feels very much like a gift that I have been given to appreciate and enjoy the wonder of the natural world. I am motivated by excitement that I never know what I am going to see and also a passion to inspire others and to share that wonderment with them.

What subjects do you enjoy working with most and why?
I consider myself a bit of a butterfly fanatic and love to capture them in detail on camera. I find them exquisitely beautiful and their lifecycle and relative food plants fascinating. I think of them as jewels of the countryside.  As a member of the charity Butterfly Conservation, I like raising their profile too as 75% of British butterfly species are now in decline – a shocking statistic. Butterflies as well as moths are indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem. Other subjects include whatever else I can get in focus with my favourite 250mm telephoto lens.

If you had to pick one of your pictures that was your favourite, which one would it be and why?
It would have to be my picture of a chance encounter grass snake soaking up the last rays of the autumn sunshine on Halloween at the Lower Test. For me the autumn and winter are what I can only liken to the dry season in the Serengeti in terms of photography; with the disappearance of the sun everything dries up, there are fewer insects (butterflies,) reptiles and amphibians. Flowers fade and there are just fewer things to photograph….that was until I saw a grass snake! It’s times like these that it makes getting out in the field all the more worthwhile and rewarding.

If you could photograph anything in the world, what would it be and why?
I have a particular passion for British wildlife and have many animals still on my wish/bucket list to see and photograph. Mountain hares are one of them, our only native hare, which are confined to the Peak District and Scotland. There are still some of the 59 species of British butterfly I have yet to see, too. This year I made some special trips to sites to see some species for the first time, including one to the Isle of Wight to see the rare Glanville fritillary. Next year I plan to visit Collared Hill in Somerset to see the once extinct and recently reintroduced large blue butterfly colony.

If you had one piece of advice for budding photographers, what would it be?
Spend time in the field and with your subject. Respect your subject and its habitat and, most of all, have fun; that’s what it’s all about.

Grass snake in Hampshire

If you're interested in getting involved and being featured on here later this year, please get in touch via the normal route.

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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 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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