Monday, October 5

The Rime of the Ancient Murelette (by young Sammy Rita-Coolidge)

The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the church, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

No paying guest aboard was blessed,
This cruise was to be tragic,
There would be shame, from unreasonable claim-
This was a doomed pelagic.

‘Ere long there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

The chum was here, the chum was there,
The chum was all around:
It stank for miles, but gave men smiles,
For rares would soon be found!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Through the fog it came;
Not close enough to specie-fy,
We could not make a claim.

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
But every day, it kept away,
I.d. attempts were hollow!

'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the tick, that plagues thee thus!—

Why did'st thou do?'With my glimpsed view
I strung the Albatross.

Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
And all my claims did mount;
Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Not any one would count.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no good view did follow,
Nor to make truth of another’s 'proof',
I heard the others LOL- oh!

For I had done a hellish thing,
And it brought indignation:
For all averred, I’d strung the bird
Through too much imagination.

Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
And all my claims did mount;
Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Not any one would count.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
For my claimed cross, that Albatross
About my neck now hung.

Four times fifty living men,
I heard all sigh and groan.
With heavy thump, a listless lump,
They dropped me one by one.

Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
And still my claims did mount;
Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Not any one would count.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on the world wide sea!
And ne’er a rares committee, shall ever take pity,
On my albatross and me.

My many claims, so stringful!
Now they all dead did lie:
Those thousand thousand claimed stringed birds
Sadly did for I.

Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
And still my claims did mount;
Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Not any one would count.

But happy single person strings!
No judgement could be lead,
If I remained a lone observer,
And kept them in my head:

Realisation that I could claim,
Did to my mind so hint
If Albatross stayed quiet in mind,
Never bother to see to print.

Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Now all my claims illusional;
Waterbirds, waterbirds, everywhere,
Who cared if self-delusional?

How long in this same fit I strung,
I have not to declare;
But soon my life list was rebuilt,
All claimed from thin rare air.

"Is it he?" they say, "Is that the man?
The priest who died by cross
'Gainst his daft claim, everlasting shame,
Of the stringy Albatross?"


Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
A light-house now I see?
Is that a hill? is that a church?
Is this my new county?

I drifted in o'er harbour-bar,
And I with hope did pray—
O let me be most unknown here!
Oh let me slip away.

I saw ashore, I heard his voice:
The Hermit Baptist I did seek.
For he kept mute of unlikely claims,
made here in his retreat.

This Hermit good hides in a wood
On a slope down to estuary.
His well known sin, is he loves to take in,
Raw birders off the ferry.

He birds at morn, and noon, and eve-
He claims a list most long:
It is the size that helps disguise,
The fowle he gets so wrong.

Together wonders we shall claim,
Many very, very rare I bet,
For I would wager on a New World wader,
I might stake a claim on a Murlette.

So now, safe in my new county,
I offer proof of claim to no man!
For I leave behind my old sunk rep,
To stay and bird with Konan!

Konan the Baptist,
evangelical birder and hermit of the Northern Marshes.
Banished from a'birdering orthodoxy after this DNA extraction
to falsify a claim of Griffon Vulture off Cape Unclear

Saturday, September 26

Lord of the Fly-bys (by young Billy Golding)

Piggy blew on the shell, as hard as he could. A toot escaped him.

One by one the children gathered. First to arrive, as usual, were the smallest choir boys. Since their boat had gone down mid-estuary and they had washed up on the island, these boys had been known as the litt’listers, because many had seen so few birds at all, and had no idea how to cope.

Then the big’listers came to the clearing. Among them there was Jack, former choir leader, now leader of the spotter-hunters. Sam’n’Eric, the twins who could never stop arguing on identification with anyone and everyone, who ran to the front and sat squarely beside Ralph, whom all had voted Chief of their new Society not long after the sinking.

Piggy held the conch aloft. “I’ve got what we’ve called the shell-sea. Remember, a shell-sea means it’s all about me. You have to listen.” He knew the rules. Anyone who took the shell-sea had to then be gazed upon with awe by their peers.

Now I know things ain’t been good. What with the litt’listers running about after Jack trying to tick allsorts, leaving the signal fire to go out. I know we’ve been arguing. But it has to stop now.”

Jack stared at him. “This is about my challenges, isn’t it?

Piggy, looking away from Jack, blurted “Shell-sea! shell-sea! this is all about me! You have to wait to speak, them’s the rules.” He looked over to Ralph for agreement, who nodded in return. “Yes, of course this is about your silly challenges. You challenge everyfink here. We should be concentrating on how to get back to the main stream but you see foreign beasts everywhere, and want us hunting ‘em out and splitting ‘em up.” Only now did Piggy turn to face Jack full on. “It ain’t right for litt’listers. Making up beasts, everywhere. It just ain’t right.”

Sam’n’Eric jumped up and,in unison, cried “we wanna take a shell-sea!

If it weren’t fer Jack..” Sam started, “We wouldn’t have Acadian Harrier on our lists” Eric finished.
“And if it wasn’t fer Jack..” Eric continued, “We wouldn’t have Pallid Flycatcher on our lists either” Sam finished.

Piggy put a hand back on the conch. “It. Ain’t. Right.”

Piggy was clearly shaking now, but would not let go, and would not keep quiet. “We should be building shelters ‘n’ finding food ‘n’ keeping the signal fire burning ‘n’ behaving like we was in school learning surveys  than running off after Europey Dunnocks and Europey Great Tits and everyfink else Europey you’ve added since we washed up here. We’ve been castaways on the island for seven hours now and already your list of bird-beasts is 417.”

Sam’n’Eric started back at Piggy, fifteen to the dozen, both blurting out new different criteria for new different beasts at the same time so that it was impossible to argue with them. Jack walked up behind and reached over the twins to clasp the shell-sea, ripping it away from all three. Holding it aloft, he paused, then spoke calmly but firmly.

“I’m taking a shell-sea now. Pay attention to me, no-one else. This island is overrun with beasts. We must identify them. All of them. If we spend time making a model Society, we will do no birding.”

Without a word further, he turned and strode to the tideline where he reached down to reclaim something he knew there for just such a moment. It was some sort of large beast's head, covered in flies. He held it aloft in front of him, so all could see it.

“You know me, I am conservative in my birding. So when I find a dead head like this, I treat it like any conservative birder would, and I poor all over it. So I can say, confidently, this IS a beast of continental origin. By smell alone, Danish. This is what I do! Would you rather do this, or count redshanks?”

The litt’listers erupted. Throwing the head at Piggy’s feet, Jack shouted And you don’t need your glasses no more! You don’t use ‘em properly! I’m taking ‘em!” Piggy squealed, but no-one helped him; Jack ripped the opera glasses from around his neck. There was more whooping and hollering from the mob.

Ralph, who like any good leader had done absolutely nothing up to now, felt it time to run.

Off through the spartina, dropping into runnels, squelching though black sand and mud, soaking from the damp, Ralph ran and ran and ran. Behind him Jack’s mob of splitters whooped and screamed, and to Ralph sounded to be getting closer all the time.

Clambering over rotted boats, racing along stony shores, Ralph ran and ran until he slammed into the legs of.. a man. Looking up he could see the figure was in uniform. Admittedly a convict’s uniform, but a uniform nonetheless. And there was a dog collar(!) Civilisation(!)

The splitters then came upon them, and their cries died away.

The priest looked at the crowd, then down at Ralph doubtfully for a moment, and said “Well? Anything about?.

Squirming a little, conscious of appearance, Ralph answered shyly. “Ummm, a Pallid Flycatcher and a Acadian Harrier sir.”

At which Piggy, who had just caught up to the back of teh mob, let out a long, long sigh that took a long. long time to die.

“I should have thought,” said the Priest, “I really should have thought that a pack of British boys- you’re all British aren’t you?- would have been able to put up a much better showing than that. Consider your statement again more carefully. Was it a Mealy Pallid Flycatcher or a Snowy Pallid Flycatcher?”

Piggy looked at him dumbly. The tears began to flow and the sobs shook him.

The emotion spread to all the other little boys too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Piggy now wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of mans’ lists, and the fall from purity listing of his once-friend called Ralph.

The man spoke a final time. “Look boys, I've no time for this. I’d left a severed Pig’s head I’d found over on that tideline yonder for sustenance tonight.  Have any of you seen it? You, you at the back, that's it- give it here(!)"

Thursday, September 17

My Great Expectations (by Charlie Dickens)

My father's family name being Pippit, and my Christian name Richard, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Dicka Dip. So, I called myself Dip, and came to be called Dip.

I give Pippit as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister, Mrs. Joe Garganey, who married the forgeman. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them, my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their most excellent bird records published within the County's Annual Reports. To me, they lived on the coast, surrounded by rares and scarces. Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.

My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain that this bleak place overrun with nettle-birds was the churchyard; and that the dark flat wilderness without a hide beyond said churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates and burnt-out carts, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes reserve; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Dip.

"Hold your noise!" cried a creaky voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Just keep still, you l’il low lister, or I'll cut your binstrap!"

A fearful man, all in coarse prison grey save for a torn clergyman’s collar, and with a great iron scopac on his back. A man with a broken Birdfayre pinbadge, split wellies, and an old rag convict bandana tied atop his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and whinged, and whined; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he poked me on the chin.

"Tell me your name!" barked the man. "Quickly!"

"Dip, sir."

"Show me where you live, Dip." said the man. "I pray thee point out the place!"

I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church, just beyond the fly-tipped hillocks.

"Who d'you live with-- supposing you are kindly let to go, which I have yet to make up my mind about?"

"My sister, sir,--Mrs. Joe Garganey,--wife of Joe Garganey, the Village Forger, sir."

"Forger, eh?" said he. And smiled the smile of a man with a cunning plan.

"Now look here," he said, "the question now being as to whether you are to be let go, or not." He paused, smiled and said more quietly "Do you know what a rares description file is Dip?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Garganey forges them."

"And you know what a Collinses is?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well Master Dip, you must get me a blank description file. And you must get me a Collinses. Then bring both here to me." He tilted me again, and tried to sound both authorative and threatening, like a Committee man. "Or I will have your records struck out forever and a day."

"You bring me Dip, tomorrow morning early, that file and that Collinses. You bring the lot to me, at that old coal burning station yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having seen such a person as me, and you shall be left to a'bird. You fail, or you go from my words in any particular, no matter how small it is, and your sightings and your descriptions shall be tore out, roasted, and ate."

I said that I would get him the file, and I would get him what broken bits of food I could, and I would come to him at the old coal station, early in the morning.

"Say may the County string up your reputation if you don't!" said the man.

I said so, and he tilted me down.

"Now," he pursued, "you remember what you've undertook, young man, and you get home!"

He hugged his shuddering body in both his arms,--clasping himself, as if to hold himself together,--and limped towards the low church wall. As I saw him go, he looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the adjudications of undead committees, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his tales and pull him under.

When he came to the low church wall, he got over it, like a man whose legs were numbed and stiff, and then turned round to look for me. When I saw him turning, I set my face towards home, and made the best use of my legs. But presently I looked over my shoulder, and saw him going on again towards the river, still hugging himself in both arms, and picking his way with his sore feet among the great rubber cart tyres and corner store trollies tipped into the fill-dykes here and there, and he called out, "Ah a Sandgrouse, a Willet, a Great Snipe!".

The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the a Websman. It gave me a terrible turn when I thought so, for such wader counterers were but ghosts about here; and as I saw twittering sheep lift heads to listen for his shouts, I wondered what they thought. Now I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping until I could hear the sound of "Tattler, Slender-billed, Corks! how lovely a Robin.." no more.

Tuesday, September 8

"And with one bound, Jack was free!" (And Bandwell. Mustn't forget Bandwell.)


To: The Guv'nor,
The Clink Doubters' Prison, Clink Street, Bankside, Southwark, Olde London Towne.

From: Judge Wrightly-Wrongly,
Chair, Northern Marshes Doubtful Claims Court.


I understand on Sept 1st last, a doubter sentenced for a string of Spring overshoot claims most heinous, made good his escape from your establishment. This individual, who answers only to the name of 'Spring-heeled Jack' has, by now, made it back to his beloved Sarf Downs, and will soon be responsible for generating many and varied fanciful claims and bestirring the locals to similar behaviour. Previously, tall tales of his ornithological abilities featured in many a penny dreadful bird report, and will now undoubtedly start up all over again, unless you ensure he is retaken soonest.

This may help you. From my judgements upon his doubtful claims, though he dons a mask and dresses most battily in public, I fully suspect his true identity to be a one Mr Wayne Bruce, of Goatham Lane, East Sou'Saxon. I have this suspicion based upon receipts obtained from Bristow's taxidermic records made out to an 'Alf Pennyworth', someone I know to be in Bruce's employ.

This 'Jack' is a great concern, for sure, but not as great a one to me as that of his cellmate, the (once Reverend, now defrocked) Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch, who did somehow also vanish from The Clink at the very same time.

Yours was said to be the best lock-up in Olde Englande. Your establishment's name held generic for prisons throughout our land, yet somehow not one, but two of the greatest errorists of our age have made good their escapes.

Though this past year has been enjoyably quiet, I have no doubt that the rogue Fumblefinch will soon come over all 'preachy' if not back in your custody. Double your efforts in finding him, I implore you. Treble your manpower. Quadruple any reward. He really must be stopped from launching one of his drones against a'birderdom.

Judge W-W

Monday, July 7

For so it was written, in Hebrew Characters

Well, it has been a further three and a half weeks up the Priest's Hole. Too long, far too long. My parishioners have been told I have been away on travails to deepest darkest Biru, hence a lack of burnt skin on my part. This should dupe them well enough.

I have much to catch up on, and will fill my diary most quickly but, for now, I must go through all correspondence outstanding, and in doing so, sort wheat from chaff. This last month has seen many a'birderers losing faith and filling their minds with matters lepidopteral. Camera obscura images of hawking-moffs have arrived in almost plague proportions. And by plague I am of course refering to those famous verses from The Book of Migrations, where Elvis and Skinnah freed the tribes of the Asbo-ites* from Pharaoh;

  ~10:12 And the Lord said to Elvis, “Stretch out your white egyptian cotton sheets upon the decking gardens of Tukorictac* so that moffs swarm ov'r the land and fill ev’ry single a’twitter field, ev’ry blogge, ev’ry page of the Book of Face, with images of moffs.”

  ~10:13 So Elvis stretched out his sheets over Tukorictac, fired up his gennie and lit his lamps also. And the Lord made a warm south wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morn the wind had brought the immigrant moffs;

  ~10:14 they invaded all Tukorictac and settled down in every area of the country in almost quite interesting numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of moffs, nor will be again. Until p'raps the next June.

  ~10:15 Moffs covered all the sheets until they appeared to be coloured rustic. Moffs devoured all that was left after the previous plague of "a continual damp-ish Spring with a bit of a chill in the air". Nothing fowle remained among tree or plant in all the land of Tukorictac.

  ~10:16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Elvis and Skinnah and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now do please stop making me look at moffs,

  ~10:17 And forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take all this deadly plague of moffiness away from me.”

  ~10:18 Elvis then left Pharaoh and dimmed his lamps.

  ~10:19 And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong north wind, which caught up the moffs and carried them into the Oceanus Brittanicus. Not a moff was left anywhere in Tukorictac.

 ~10:20 The Lord then softened Pharaoh’s heart by sending forth a failed breedering Godwitte and a failed breedering Spotteshank, and Pharaoh let the Asbo-ites go a’birdering.

*Records historic have shown that, at the time of Pharaoh, the tribes of our land were known as the Regni, the Icenii, the Catuvellauni, the Trinovantes, the Asboii and the Cantiaci. Together they were known as The Unruly Kingdoms Of Rictac  (Tukorictac) but have become etched in common folklore by their more plebeian name, derived from their loudest, leeriest, tribe; we now just think of them as the Asbo-ites.

"Suppressions 13:18
The one who has understanding must calculate
the number of the beaste,
because it is the number of a moff."
Illustration: Semioscopis avellanella

Sunday, June 15

Compulsory Service in the Territorial Army

Dear diary,

I am sorry I have been missing for some time again. My parishioners believe me on a Monastic retreat, whereas I have in fact been up my Priest Hole once more. The papers I now attach should provide explanation as to why I might remain up in my own Hole a little while longer. I have, at no little risk, obtained copies of the two most important Appendices to the final ever meeting of the Executive Committee of the Listershire Ornithological Society, held May 30th last;-

Appendix IX:

The Reverend Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch;-

A report upon the usefulness of the present reporting style of annual records for common migrants, as published within the Listershire Ornithological Society Annual Fowle Reporte.

(The following document is based on an analysis of Listershire published records of one species, specifically the Nightingale. Please note I have compared them against a second, unnamed, local county by way of a blind control experiment, and I am pleased to report the similarities were 'uncanny'.)

Just over sixty years ago our Annual Fowle Reportes commenced. Life and a'birderers were both much simpler then, so much simpler that it was not felt necessary to include all of the common species in all of the reportes, indeed the Nightingale did not feature until the sixth year. Unless it did not occur in county. I think it did, but I cannot tell.

When finally included, all writings were but snippets on a'breeding details from dedicated a'patchers, but by our ninth Reporte the Society felt confident enough for the first 'first date' to be included, and has never been missed promoting since. (Well, missed but once actually, in the infamous Reporte of '98 that led to rioting in the hides. Such a mistake has not a'happened since.) 'First dates' are a most useful piece of phenology. (For example, from these published dates I have discovered that 87% of all first dates a'happen on a weekend, closely followed by Bank Holidays.)

It took until our 13th Reporte to have enough informed sigthings to recognise a 'main arrival period'. Again, these occur most often at weekends. (And I now have a new ornithological theory to prove in coming years, namely that migrating fowle are affected by workhouse noise from Spinning Jennys and Puffing Billys on weekdays.)

By our 17th publication ('68) the county was divided to the four points of the compass. Some historians might claim this as a first sign of independence movements for (regrettably in my eyes) the following year saw the first attempt at independence, with one tribe conducting their first East Listershire Nightingale survey.

Struck into action by their finding something useful to say, the next year our Committee retake the high ground and a county-wide survey was carried out, and was even repeated in the following year. For Masonic reasons, results of the second survey were suppressed from the Reporte;- "full census details to be printed elsewhere". I understand all who knew exactly where it was published met painful and grisly ends during that winter's wetland counts, so the survey results have become known as one of the greatest ornithological writings lost to man. The famous relic hunter Sir Nicholas of Cagge seeks out this not-quite national treasure to this day.

By our 26th Reporte that most useful of phrases, 'widespread by end of the month' had come into common usage. The general tone was now set for years to come.

By the 33rd Reporte someone had discovered that coastal recordes might just very well belong to migrants, and these were then highlighted for a few years, but this too soon disappeared.

The infamous 47th, of '98, when shockingly dropping the 'first date' tried to replace it with the short-lived 'KBI' (Kleptoparisitised Bird Index), an attempt to distill a short sentence upon county trends from Tukogbani Trust for Ornithology national surveys. This proved to be too much like real analysis for our writers and was soon quietly given up. The county did take up the County Wildlife Trust's 'Red data' status statement from that time, which continues to this day thanks to the famous device of 'cut'n'paste'.

In short, 60 years of data in our fine county provides a superb overview of when Nightingales arrive, when they sometimes show at the coast, that they a'breed and departe, all mainly upon the weekends.

So confident were we in our abilities we even claimed the last national survey as our own initiative in this county. Quite honestly, what more would the Watchmen wish of any county(?) More detail would surely be to the detriment of the pages of most useful to conservation;- numbers of  uncommon, scarce and rare fowle recorded each year, which is surely all that really interests dedicated county a'birderers(?)

I would urge our committee to stay true to our present reporting style. First date, main arrival, mention of any a'breeding count (should anyone have bothered, last date). This is all the recordering fowle in Listershire really required.


Sir Ronald of Holy Wood & Sir Nicholas of Cagge, those most famous hunters
 of lost relics, depicted at the Siege of Newport Wetlands,
contemplating their course of action at what was to become known as
Savi-ge Slaughterre of the Toggers'


Appendix X:

Watchman-General Yew-Ahn;-

An appeal for glorious co-operation


I must thank Brother Bandwell for his most detailed report. It simply confirms what I must now to present to you.

I know your county has voiced grave concerns about a short paragraph in our latest "Written Orders to our Most Glorious Volunteer Regiment of Tukogbanifek Ornithological Foot-soldiers" magazine, commenting on the results of a Watchman survey which had shown that our vols cry out for more contact and more co-ordinated manoeuvres within their local collectives. We have kept a distance from this sort of thing in the past, preferring to support our glorious County Societies in their own efforts. What we printed of late was but merely a suggestion to improve matters, which I repeat here;-

"...perhaps it is time for a radical change in the way we work, even to consider a local group scheme akin to the fps's*, but with a narrower focus on surveys..."
(*Feather Preservation Society, formerly FFPS, Fur & Feather Preservation Society)

The war against the ruling capitalist elite is a most bloody one in our countryside, and all we politely suggest is that it might be better for us to be a little more involved in bringing together logistics at the local level. We cannot keep just recording first dates and then say 'all is over 'til autumn, let us forget about our fowle'. Comrades, our foot-soldiers cry out for leadership. Together we can form a caravan upon the Cart track, end any division on distribution work and halt a'birderers wasting June 'togging common moths and instead mobilise to map out nesting territories and survey their populations.

But time is against us, so I must inform you we have already moved forward internal consultations on this suggested course. We have formed a working group to conduct tests on such 'reforms', known as Current Ornithological Unifying Practices, and I am proud to inform you that, due to your lack of any locally-led a'surveying this year, Listershire has been chosen to be a glorious experiment for the rest of Tukogbani to admire. The Proletariat has spoken. Sixty years of 'first seen, bred here and there, last seen', is long enough'. This COUP has assumed control.

We next intend to remove your present Honorable Glorious Leader Chairman Shinawatra and place him under Local Nature Reserve a'rest with his much-loved duckpond collection. After this a body to oversee all Joint Utilitarian Non-voluntary Tasked A'birderings will be appointed to run all 'in the field' survey operations. The JUNTA will direct and enforce all field operations from that point forward.

Those of you completely loyal to our cause will be summoned to attend the first planning Congress, Tuesday next. Those of you still drawn to petty bourgeois listless meanderings will of course be more than welcome to continue such a'birdering, but only once rounded up and resettled alongside your Chairman within the confines of his enclosure.

I finish by thanking you, my Comrades in the now renamed county of The Tick-markist State of Listergrad, for volunteering unanimously and for giving your total unceasing support to our glorious experiment. Together we shall make the toils of every prole a'birderer count.

You are dismissed.


Tuesday, May 27

Sun Dogs, and Englishmen go out in the mid-May glum

It seems the Marshmen, as well as bemoaning a lack of rare birds, have been crying out at a lack of commoners.

I wondered if I should bang a drum to my flock about this, but I do know that I have done so on many, many occasions, so I will, in this diary entry, just jot notes on a new way to place factualities of such matters before those unable to apply common sensibilities to the situation.

For my argument I shall take the Turtled Dove. Telegraphic communication of the first county record this spring came through in mid-April, but then such a dearth of subsequent sightings caused many too many to wail for the condition of their year-lists, continuing on loudly until this last week or so when a small wave of Turtleds hit the county. Indeed, these wailings had been so loud some pronounced the species extinct before it had arrived.

To illustrate the matter I would ask you, dear reader, to compare the time of the dove here in Blighty by way of a graph line in your head, shaped much like the incomplete rise of the sun over ice-y Arctic climes, a half-circle. In the past, the dove's time here was like that sun shape in the time of late summer, climbing over the horizon just to the diameter;- a large enough arc for all to enjoy. Nowadays, with a crashing population, their sun rises as if it were late autumn, nowhere near so high, being a pokey arc of very poor size just above the horizon;- a'birderers do indeed struggle to see them now.

But with the Sun we must remember that there are the 'Sun Dogs'- or, more science-factually speaking, parhelia, being ice crystals that shine out as two obvious patches of light some distance to the left and to the right of the sun itself.

What makes up the Sun Dogs in this a-birdering analogy is clear; the Sun Dog to the left, first early arrival date, the Dog to the right, final late departure date. Things we a-birders love to claim.

Now, in the past, when numbers rose higher, many saw their own early Sun Dog and noted it down. And the lack of telecommunications meant such a-birderers had to wait upon a Caxton printing from their county society to compare arrival dates. They never got so upset with their lot, they knew not what the next village claimed. They simply awaited the main arrival.

But now, when in these times that arc of doves is barely revealed to us? What happens now? Well, there is still usually an early flash of a Sun Dog, seen by just one or two observerers county-wide. However, our new-found ability to share information instantly by the interwebbelogge box, combined with our lust to list makes us blind to the true scale of showing and so our wailings begin. No matter that we should be recognise a Sun Dog when we see it, even if but a poor size of its former self, and know it the precursor to the main (small) rise at the appointed time. No, we simply blinker ourselves to fact and whinge on that we have not had one yet. We make ourselves unhappy with our lot.

It is but yet another failing of listing games. I understand that Tukogbanifek 'Cart-track' can demonstrate a better revealing of true arrival timings, but like many, I have perhaps found it easier just to wail about my own predicament in years past. I have not really bothered to look.

I will have to look more closely over the next few days. We have a meeting of the Listershire Ornithological Society due later this week where a Cart-track Watchman will be in attendance and where I have been asked to argue a case as to why the historic presentational style of our County Annual Reporte, with emphasis on first dates, should remain unaffected by such modern witchcraftery.

I must sit and muse more on all merits, and will detail all to the Society (and here) in but a few short days.


From Geoffroi Chancer's 'Avifowle Lifterfhirenfif', 1355;-
the first recorded 'Funne Dogge graphhe'.

It is said to depict (left) Martin Luther van Droffrecord-
"a common a'twitcherer & claimant firft date, Aprille 19th, Fewerfide Countree Parke".

(centre) John Wybuildatcliffe-
"furveyor to the King & mapper of the cenfuf of neftf of Lifterfhire, 1355".

(right) Thomas Aquaticus-
"handler of the Queen'f trappe, claimant laft date, Feptember 18th (one in the ovenn)".

Monday, May 12

Sea-swallow Shanty

Well dear diary, no sooner had the last month's journal of Tukogbanifek Birds been delivered than a new revolt against Watchmen oppression began.

In that issue chapter and verse on the spring migrations of Common and Arctic Terns were laid out before us, detailing that regular and routine mis-identification of Terns is down to too much reliance on just one feature- that absence or presence of a dark primary wedge.

Of course, this problem has actually been known for some time; one has only to look at the presence/absence of Arctics among Spring a'sightings from regular sites along the Capital river, it has always been as if they somehow possess the ability cloak themselves from detection at one site, then parade themselves at the next.

No matter. It was actually the edict that followed this which caused this latest Peasant's revolt;-

"It is decreed that a'birderers in sarfern Tukogbanifek work on the surmisation that, in circumstances normal, Common Terns are far more greater in number than Arctic Terns, by somewhere in the region of as low as five to the one, up to as many as one hundred and eighty to the one.."

So came the subversive claims. Never have so many vouchsafes of Arctic been made in the sarf and east as in these few weeks that have followed. Why, one site has claimed 2,900 in one day, meaning, if we follow the Watchmen's mathematics, up to 522,000 Common/Commonish Terns should have been scuttling past as well. I am sure the Watchmen will put this down to unfortunate timing, and that in reality no such plebbish backlash exists, but I also think we should all wait to see what they pronounce next, and how the unruly Sarf coast responds to that proclamation. Dear diary, I think they might well just see a trend developing then(!)

I am reminded of the marvellous old shanty penned by one Montgomery Python some years ago, for his comedic operetta 'The Meaning of Lifelists', a song which has never been more apt methinks, and of which I can still recall all words;-

Every Tern is Sacred

          There are Seawatchers in the world,
          There are Trappists.
          There are Patchers, back-gard’ners, and then
          There are those that follow Four hundred, but
          I've never been one of them.

          I'm a Lister, catholic,
          And have been since before I was born,
          And the one thing they say about listers is:
         They'll claim Terns three hours ‘fore dawn.

          You don't have to get every identity.
          Not each a specific species claim.
          You just have to claim one example a year. You're
          catholic without any duff claim, because-
          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is great.
          If a Tern is mis-i.d.’d,
          God gets quite irate.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is great.
          If a Tern is mis-i.d.’d,
          God gets quite irate.

          Let the patchers claim theirs
          O’er village green.
          God shall make them pay for
          Each wedge that went unseen.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is good.
          No claim can be out of place,
          For your neighbourhood.

          Sussu, Kentist, Hantsman,
          Claim theirs anywhere,
          But God loves those who treat their
          Tern claims with much more care.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is great.
          If a Tern is mis-i.d.’d,
          God gets quite irate.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is good.
          No claim can be out of place,
          For your neighbourhood.

          Every claim is useful.
          Every claim is fine.
          God needs everybody's.
          Thine and thine and thine!

          Let the Stringers claim theirs
          O'er reservoir, lake, and plain.
          Stats shall strike them down for
          Each tern sp. claimed in vain.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is good.
          No claim may be out of place,
          For your neighbourhood.

          Every Tern is sacred.
          Every Tern is great.
          If Common is strung Arctic,
          God gets quite iraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate!

Monday, May 5

Bird a'botherers get twelve months

To the hovel-owner,

An advertisal announcement;-
Tukogbanifek Broadcasting Company,
in conjunction with CocK (Camera osbcura club of Kent)
are proud to announce

Details of this year's 'Countrydefiled' Photographic competition

A Calendar of CocK

Our competition is open to all Cock members. It is not open to professionals, nor may you enter images used in any other competitive event. (Please note individual a’Blogs will be counted as competitive events, as all oft' include imagery of the very same bird taken on the very same day.)

You may enter up to four images, which must have been obtained within the county of the Northern Marshes. Please engrave your name and address on the front of the image, details of where taken and send to Calendar of Cock, CocK House, CocK Row, Cockshot by the 28th of this very month.

The winning image, as chosen by the followers of Countrydefiled, will receive a year's worth of whine from fellow CocK members.

The alternate winning image, as chosen by the Watchmen Judges, will receive twelve months of .EXF examination from fellow CocK members.

Full terms and conditions can be made available, though we know from past experience no 'togger ever bothers with rules;- however we wish to point out there are several changes of rules this year for you to ignore:

~ The Ornithological Watchmen have decreed this year, unlike all previous, will be the first year that photographers, and those with a genuine interest in ornithology, will actually have to follow all laws and Codes of Conduct.

~ To help resist any temptation to recklessly disturb a subject, TBC and CocK have decided that within all images a fowle (or a flock of fowles) may take up no more than seventeen pixellated dots by fourteen pixellated dots.

~ Further, the background image is now required to show a panorama of at least two statute miles in length, so that the judging panel might be assured no nest was in the vicinity of the ‘togger at the time of image capture.

~ Finally, there must also be submitted a 'selfie' image of the ‘togger obtaining the ‘tograph, to ensure no additional chicanery were used, such as the 'nipper' phonographic warbling lure.

Finally, please remember we cannot return original entries as our tears of laughter will have stained their gloss finishes quite badly.

The best of Blighty'd luck to all entrants(!)

Tuesday, April 29


To Herr Heinrich Klaus Fritz von Gatke,
German Bight Bird Observatory,
British Overseas Territory of German Bight

My dear, dear, Heinrich,

Many thanks for the loan of your copy of young Groebbels' "Zur Physiologie der Vogelzuges".

 I know I have corresponded with you on the matter of migratory restlessness, or zugunruhe, in the past. I see Groebbels has added two examples of new terminology on the subject;-

  ~ zugstimmung; the 'flying' state, or condition, of a fowle,

  ~ zugdisposition; the 'feeding' state, or condition, of a fowle,

and that you have made up two Germanic desciptions of two more states,

  ~ zugdurchfarht; the 'transit' state of a fowle readying for their migration, and

  ~ zugrastplatz; the 'resting' state of a fowle, during a migration.

So, during migration a fowle gains zugunruhe, and starts zugdurchfarht so as to reach zugstimmung, during which said fowle may enter zugdisposition or zugrastplatz several times (depending on journey length) before a reverse of zugdurchfarht sets in.

Further, you entertain all these conditions are but unconscious responses to both endogenous cues (what the Good Lord hides in their DNA) and proximal cues (the terrain the Good Lord sets them in).

Oh my stars and garters(!) Such, such verbosity. Why is it in the Germanic character which makes you say something in forty-seven syllables when forty-six will suffice(?)

To see if I understand, let me apply this theory to an annual moan heard from the a'birderers of the Northern marshes; "why ain't we got any bleedin' spring migrants, like wot them rest of Tukogbanifec 'ave?"

Well, the Northern Marshes hang off the south-east corner of our land rather like a cankerous bunion. Certainly this makes them most nearest the continent, but your theory provides the reason as to why migratory fowle favour a more westerly route into Blighty.

First, the proximal cues. A bird moving north, in a series of lengthy flights, would have to have a reason to put down on this bunion, small and insignificant as it is. Further, if the fowle had a route pre-programmed via the bunion and overflies it by mistake, it could well end up way out over the North Sea. Better to be entering our land further west, as there is plenty of land north of that coast should such a problem arise.

Next, consider that our winds are usually south-westerly; flighting to the west of this country gives protection from gusted mis-positioning off to the north-east, as if that happens over the bunion they again end up in the drink. So, although the local sea crossing is invitingly narrow, the chance of failure is wide and successful past generations have evolved DNA holding endogenous markers taking them inland via the west.

Such endogenous cues also help with the wide Atlantic crossing just south of west Tukogbanifec. Fowle are hard-wired to be keeping up their migratory flight condition and speed at this point, and will only start 'farhting' along when reaching land close to their destination. This is why so many Froggie fowle stop breeding at Calais and do not attempt to invade us, they do not have the urge. They simply give a Gallic shrug and a 'meh' call to the thought of making any effort to cross the Channel.

Zugunruhe, zugstimmung, zugdisposition, zugdurchfarht and zugrastplatz, all under the influence of proximal and endogenous cues. Oh you Germans(!)

Well, as a plucky Brit I can shave this down to a terminology that e'en the basest a'listerer will understand. Fowle must travel far over various proximal cues. And they must go in the correct bodily state.

Sir, I give you 'Fargo'.

When that young male wanderer, cloacally ripe with nadial swellings gets the urge in his loins, his tiny, tiny mind can only think 'fargo fargo fargo fargo fargo'. And even if said fowle finds itself over the bunion there are few proximal cues to make that fowle want to rest, the land pocked and scarred by the hand of man. The Fowle has the condition and temprament to simply keep going whilst it tries to reorient.

And that, dear Heinrich, is how you win a prize from young Alf Nobel. There really is no need to over-think matters. Fargo, dear chap, fargo(!)

As for Northern Marshes a'birders, well at this time of year they will, to a man, whinge and whine on the paucity of migrants and pray for easterlies and miserable weather to bring them a mis-directed 'fall' of spring fowle of any considerable number;- in fact, this will be their only point of mass debate from now until near the end of May. For my part, I understand that if wet and miserable easterly gales were to happen now many more fowle will drown than ever land, so I will instead be praying for the exact opposite.

Light sou'westerlies, skies pleasant and fair,
There's no bloomin' chance of any fowle rare.

For sure, many a'birders will loathe me for wishing things so, but I simply want the chance for all God's creatures to safely reach their chosen lands. Instead of worrying about the Marshmen's loathings toward me for daring think such things, I simply ask the Good Lord to forgive them their covetousness, for they know not what they look at.

I loan you, for interest, young Geo. Bristow's mappe of those storm-driven Channel wrecks which upon salvage were found to have been harbouring such down'd migrants. So many, so very many(!)

God speed to all my feather'd continental chums, I pray you avoid these shores at all costs(!)

Your good friend,


A key to the mappe of known ornithological Channel wrecks;
Those marked by name alone held common migrants only.
Those marked in orange provided specimens of species new for the county,
those in red, new for the country.
For full details, prices, terms and conditions, apply to the usual address.