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.

Thursday, April 24



Time only for a short reply I am afraid.

Yes, I do think that, following today's Proclamation by the Holy European Empire, the newly recognised peoples of Kernow will eventually gain full independence from us (and, bolshy as they are, I think they will manage it much quicker than our other mutinous Celtic tribes as well).

So yes, I also think we will have to learn to say 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Formally Excluding Kernow' within a matter of weeks.

And yes, I am certain their first move towards ornithological independence will be to give full status and pride of place on their new national list to the Land's End/Lizard House Finch. So, although you only hinted toward the fact, yes, if do you still have it in your freezer, I have no doubt it will be worth a small fortune (especially if still with the actual cage it escaped from).

Finally yes, you may well have to check your other stock labels. Off the top of my head I can think of at least ten fowle species that will come off the Tukogbanifek national list following independence for Kernow (and the Kernowish offshore dependencies) through there being only one occurrence on our shores, but I do not have the time just now to indulge you in writing them all out. But any true a'listerer worth their salt should be able to recite them to you in a matter of minutes, I am sure (or they are not worthy to call themselves Premiership material).

I sign off the same way as my good Kernow friend,
Doctor Jonathan Couch-Poldark-Warleggan,
always signs off to me;-
Leun a sylli yw ow skath bargesi,

PS Another (final) yes;- I too could not fathom a single word spoken by the locals when I last stayed at Jamaica Inn.

Wednesday, April 23

We'll keep the red symetric cross upon a white field flag flying here

April 23rd is the Feast Day of the Patron Saint for one small part of our green and pleasant land of Tukogbani. Saint George Twitchem was a famous a'birderer much traveled in the Middle East, Turkey and even wildest, remotest Anglesey. Fittingly, his list was of mythical proportion.

So, a happy St. George's Day to all my parishioners. In honour of the occasion I would like to recite that very well known speech from "Henry V; When Nature Calls", as quilled by young Chrissie Marlowe. It is Hal's clarion call to his tired crew just as the great Feast Day dawns on a potential new tick;-

(HV) This new day is call'd the feast of St. George Twitchem.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the call of Twitchem.

    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast with next generation,
    To say 'To-morrow is Saint Twitchem's.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'Long lens wounds I have, from Twitchem's day.'

    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What a tick he listed that day. Then shall our totals,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Falstaff 555, Garry Bubo 496,
    And you at the back, whose name I cannot recall,
    who hadst 351 om this past calendar year,

    All these numbers, in flowing cups fresh rememb'red.

    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Saint Twitchem's Day shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of birderers(!)

    For he to-day that shares his 'scope with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile
    (On bookface or a'tweeter),
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And low-listers in Middle England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their Brit list cheap whiles any speaks
    That ticked with us, upon Saint Twitchem's day.

    So have your pager to hand right now,
    For we must pay the nice lady and thence away,
    From this Moto Service Station,
    Straight down to Baguette Bay(!)

   (Or Dingeyness if there's no news by whence we reach Caunterbere.)

Sunday, April 20

Five loaves, two fishes, four singing Scrub-warblers.

My dear parishioners,

Today's reading was brought to mind following intercourse most rough and most recent with a local a'birderer on the matter of numbers, in particular those of Cetti's Warblers. I was somewhat taken aback to be lectured on our local reedy duck pond being home to a 'multitude' of this delightfully skulky bird. When I suggested that my own daily observations were much, much lower in number I was told I knew not of what I spake. Unchastened, I then continued to explain how the watery level of the pond was holding two feet higher than last year, thanks to all the rains, so this species really did not like the pond as much as previous. However, I was told firmly, in colourfully rustic Anglo-Saxon phrases, to only to lecture on matters for which I was qualified.

So while of course it is important we concentrate on the Easter rising I really neeeeeed to be putting this individual straight. To this end my reading to you today is penned by the very discoverer of this species in question;- I read to you from St Francesco's letter to the Marshians.

   ~ 73:1 This is the story of Cettia and his family.

   ~ 73:2 In the beginning was Animalia, who begat Chordata, who begat Aves, who begat Passeriformes, who begat Passeri, who begat Passerida, who Sylvioidea, who begat Cettidae.

   ~ 73:3 And Cettidae begat many sons and daughters;- Pholidornis, Hylia, Abroscopus, Urosphena, Tesia, Horornis, Tickellia, Phyllergates, Scotocerca and Cettia.

 ~ 73:4 And it came to pass that Cettia alone settled in the land of Tukogbani, so those many brothers and sisters were not really that familiar to the native a'birderers of the land.

   ~ 73:5 His closest relation dwelling there was Aegithalidae, but the natives did not take kindly when the Watchmen of Science moved Cettia next to Aegithalidae in their Order Most Scientific. Many simply refused to believe Cettia was not of the tribe of old world warblers, and that Cettia behaved the same as one.

   ~ 73:6 But he behaved as a Scrub-warbler. And so when Cettia settled into the first county he came upon in number, his chosen Scrub-warbler land was sought- wet, damp thickets. Now this oft included wet reedbeds, but by co-incidence, for Cettia was seeking out his dense thicketry, with beautiful bare soil beneath, upon which to scrub about.

   ~ 73:7 And it was there he was first watched in great detail by a holier man than I, John the Artist, who didst a jolly good job writing up all observations chapter and verse in that county's annual reporte.

~ 73:8 And for you remaining doubting Thomases, the number of that reporte was twenty-two, and the page numbers four and eighty to five and ninety.

~ 73:9 And there the Artist wrote that the territories of Cettia were found to be much longer than wide, so as to only encompass those raised embankments crossing wet reedbed. Such dominions were said to have been approximately 250 to 300 mitres* in length but a mere 30 to 60 mitres in width. And Cettia thought it good, for he did not wish to cleanse his feet.
*An ancient Jesuit measurement. There are 39.37 inches in a mitre.

~ 73:10 And it was also wrote that every domain held cover both of trees and of bushes, through which Cettia could move, or double back, unobserved by friend or foe. And Cettia thought it good, for he was a hermit at heart, more like a Luscinia in habits than any old warbler.

   ~ 73:11 And it was also noted that Cettia flew most frequently after utterance, and that that he didst sing once again straight after any such unobserved flight. And such hidden flights were oft the length of the domain to be as much as 250 mitres away. And Cettia thought it good to beat his bounds.

   ~ 73:12 And so it was, to the unobservant, that the call of Cettia could be oft claimed as two instead of one, giving rise to numbers most tricksy in the records. Indeed Cettia thought it good to be counted more than once, for a ghost bird in the bush is worth more in the logge.

   ~ 73:13 So, if any one of you whomsoe'er still believeth in such high countery then, truly, thou art a wad of dip.

Here endeth the reading. My parishioners, when you are asked today if you know of the good news, you may now reply "Why yes, I most certainly do;- the good news is that the territories of the local Scrub-warblers have been flooded up closer to cart-tracks and footpaths around our ponds, so we all stand a goodly chance of glimpsing him now, and have three times as many good chances of hearing his sweet, sweet song(!)."

That completes this preachy sermon. If no-one else wishes to query any of my other counts... no(?)... then I will send you all on your ways into the field wishing you happy a'birdering upon this day, the appropriated Pagan festival of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and Spring fowle migration.

Makke waay thy skulky Cetti's,
who hath helde your territorie sinfth Octobre laft,
for them Spring a'ticks are now back
 and wifh to shaare your beddes,
tra la la la, tra la la laaaa(!)

Thursday, April 17

The Divine Comedy of a'birdering

Having stayed up late dining on milk and cheese, while at the same time reading the classic 'Inferno', (the first and most famous book of Dante's trilogy) I found myself falling into fitful sleep whilst still half-musing upon the role of the character Thanatos therein. (In particular I wondered how some Ancient Tukogbanis had known of this Greek daemon of death, for they had clearly named one nearby Isle after him (I presume because decent fowle only ever turn up in the fields of their dead).

This proved my undoing for the whole long dark night that followed for as I slumbered I somehow found myself acting out the story of the Inferno, even in the company of the Poet Virgil, Dante's guide for that tome. It seems that Virgil plays an important role in all Inferno-natural rescues, as he was soon explaining he had been chosen to lead me down to first view and then contemplate upon a circle of Hell especially reserved for a'birderers.

I mused upon Dante's nine circles;- limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud or treachery? Which one? A'birderers, along with many, if not all, of their claims, could sit nicely in any circle stall.

"We are here;- level three hundred."

I was mute. Sensing my shock Virgil continued "Like many mortals you think there are only nine circles of Hell(?) No sir(!) Why, there are a further 291 levels reserved for a'birders alone. Welcome to the 300th, a'tweetery. Before you Fumblefinch stretches the murky delta of the six great rivers of the Underworld; the Styx, the Phelegthon, the Acheron, the Cocytus, and the lesser-known Tems and Mudway. Together these form the fearful Stygian Marsh."

I remained mute at the sight (which I know is most unlike me) so the great poet continued "There is, within that marsh, a fabulous owl, the Stygian Marsh Owl."

"Ah" (for I can always find voice for opinions ornithological) "Asio stygius, of the southern and central latitudes of the Americas (and twice claimed at least by the Yankee-doodlers). Yes, yes, I am familiar with this fowle."

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That is a mortal owl, that is the Stygian Owl, so named by humans after this beast. The true Stygian Marsh Owl is a huge snarly, bitey, clawey, snowy-coloured fowle said to be, like Cerebus, a guard, to the gates out of this particular a'birdering Hell."

"A'birderers who find themselves stuckfast here must tick the Owl on their lists to escape their sufferings. But this snowy fowle only reveals itself rarely, and then usually only to a single observer. And when knowledge of their claim becomes public the foul waters of the marsh boil with rage as all those trapped within seek out the name of the one who claims it. For if the single observer claimant is revealed, then their sighting can be made unsubstantiated. What you see before you are all the unhappy souls a'tu-whittering, and that is their sufferance everlasting; an unhappy gnawing and gnashing, forever and a day, until a written description is dealt with. When it starts over again."

I looked upon those seething masses, and could hear their cacophonous cries;- "Who, who-hoo-hoo?"

Virgil chanted "If they gain the name, then they can pour shame, to disallow all claim." (I was beginning to think Virgil was not that great a poet by this point.) "For to stop getting through, gives another the view, and so carries on the game."

At this point I awoke, mortified. Such horrific rhyme(!).

But in the light of day I am more relaxed now, especially as putting the story down on paper here has helped distance me from such suffering.

I do now wonder if I should still risk continuing this night with Dante's second part, Purgatorio? No, perhaps not just yet. After all, I already have a full day's a'birdering planned. I am certain such a day will provide me with enough fanciful visions upon which to dream most vividly. A'birdering Hell can wait.

No, forget details of the fowle, describe to me the a'birderer(!)
The a'birderer(!!)