Tuesday, January 11

Letter to Dr. P. Weasel, January 9th. On first attempts at bird ringing.

My dear Weasel,
I trust things are well with you? I thought you might like to receive an account of my recent attempt to ring some of the birds of the vicarage garden. I entrusted my scullery maid, Clara, with the responsibility of retrieving birds from the mesh, recognising this task to need a woman’s touch. Clara has proved most useful, and will certainly become a competent remover once I have trained her fully.
I have used the first of the rings the local smithy has made for me, based upon instructions given by young Witherby. The majority used on this first session were of one ninth of an inch diameter, made of the thinnest lead. Upon each I had scribed 'Bandwell Listershire', and upon each a number. One of the very first birds that Clara bought to me was this British Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula nesa. Taffy Evans, the village idiot, poked his head over the hedge and proclaimed it to be an example from the far east, on account of a tiny trumpeting sound he had heard, but I rebuked him firmly, and sent him on his way. (It was far too delicate a matter to have explained to him the noise had eminated from Clara! The girls of the village are so full of rustic charm.)
Otherwise, less than a handful of tit-mice, and nothing else, so I will be trying your suggestion of putting out grain and seed on the floor below the mesh, and will report back to you soon.

Yours, etc,
Bandwell Fumblefinch (Reverend)

A Birdwatcher's Etiquette- part the one

I have decided to embark upon the formation of a set of instructions laying out correct behaviour for local birdwatchers, following an incident upon the Northern marshes this very month. An acquaintance and correspondent, known locally as Pop, has been rounded on in an electronic broadsheet for not having the manners to respond to a loud ‘halloo’ from a visiting bird sightings collector. This guest to the marshes was so taken aback by a lack of communication from Pop that he wrote to the ‘Northern Marshes Thunderer’ e-gazette “I parked up my carriage and walked down to the Aleph Pond meeting (no wrong word, they would have had to talk back) the two most miserable birders I have ever noted - hello and Happy New Year to you!”
If the slovenly gazetteer had done but half his work he would have discovered Pop and his colleague were in a private compound belonging to the local quarrier, who had given them written permissive rights plus instructions not to enter into communications with strangers trespassing therein. Only a few days’ prior some ruffians had cut their way into the compound, and other visiting tick collectors had been seen entering the site there, instead of using the public right of way running along the length of the boundary.
I have informed Pop that any good Christian birdwatcher faced with such a problem again should follow one basic rule:

When one finds a tick collector trespassing upon private grounds, one has the right to release the hounds.

Tuesday, January 4

From Fumblefinch's diary: January 1st- a bird 'race' perambulation!

Although I normally avoid recording my diarised jottings after imbibing sherry I must break my rule tonight, after a wonderful day’s chase in the field. This most entertaining premise, a pursuit of as many species as possible within the confine of one day, from dark to dawn to dusk to dark, was most novel to me, and thus I accepted Doctor Weasel’s invitation with eager anticipation. To show I was more than readily prepared for such an exercise, I immediately retired to the lobby to fetch my grandfather’s Baker rifle, last fired in anger in the Kaffir Wars. But when I showed him my weapon, Weasel was not amused, and then spent some not inconsiderable time explaining we really need not bag our quarries to be able to add them to our tally. I was most bemused.
Weasel continued to explain that I only needed my grandfather’s campaign glasses to magnify the target and confirm the identification of species to illustrations to my own satisfaction to join to the day’s list. I was now most perplexed.
Having met several gentleman-players who had made some incredulous claims in the past I had come to the conclusion they were driven by desires not becoming the honest, upright Englishman, and were, in many cases, less worthy than the worst rogues in Listershire’s gaols, and had decided never to be driven by mere lists.
But Weasel convinced me otherwise, and he and I proceeded to mark the commencement of 2011 by espying no less than 198 species of fowl within no more than four miles of the vicarage. Our most important observations consisted of no less than a thousand Black Larks roosting on the burnt-out town pier, a displaying pair of Pine Grosbeaks in the town hall gardens, and a moribund Bartram’s Sandpiper lain on the icebox behind Mr Bristow’s taxidermy.
We believe this to be the most possible species able to ever be recollected in a day in the field, although we have received electric mail to the effect that an effort of 206 was tallied by Messer’s Lawless and Lawless on the northern marshes, a most ridiculous number. These chavvie brothers cannot possibly be anything other than players, as true gentlemen would not enter into bribing all manner of bird-hunting ne’er-do-wells to try to list as many species for an area for their forthcoming avifauna by the way of a cash prize as they have recently done; how this shows the true colours of these base tallymen. Also, I understand they have also taken to claiming there is more than one true species of seagull in the county. Why, I truly believe these so-called-gentlemen should now have to have all their more inspired claims verified by production of the specimen for each, or else they will surely sully the scientific record of Listershire for all time!

Saturday, January 1

A letter received on Waxen Chatterers

December 31st
My dearest Reverend,
I know this is outside of your county, but I wonder if you have yet received correspondence upon  of the invasion of the north marshes by the Waxen Chatterer? This very day, opposite the Naval Dockyard by Mr McDonald’s hot potato shop some 180 birds were busy feeding on exotic berry bushes and discarded apple pies. They were so intent on feeding many nearly came to grief flying low over the rutted track as a cart sped by.
I understand from Mr. Bristow Chatterers have an amazing ability to turn up in your own parish, and yet at the same time rarely be found anywhere else in your county? I urge you to look, and certainly trust you will be lucky enough to see one of these exotics most soon, or better yet, purchase one from Bristow.
Your humble correspondent,
Mr Murray Applefield,
Apothecary, Herts, Norfolk and Kent.

A reply to the Dean of Losechelsea on matters of Geese

December 31st
My dear sir,

Many thanks for this information. I hurried to the Level, but I fear the rapid spread of news of this Red-breasted Goose had lead to a great many local ne'er-do-wells loitering around the edges of the marsh, quite spoiling the potential for an afternoon's gunning.

I am amazed by the effects several pairs of eyes have on such a day. I am reminded of a story concerning the brief-lived Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia, when in 1860 several officials and tribal elders gathered to have an open-air lunch, and whilst gathered espied two new species for their country- I believe this is known to this very day as the 'Patagonia Picnic table effect'. Certainly there have been claims of a very many most interesting birds today; Tame Swan, Speckled-belly Goose, Barnacle Goose and Seaford-Parson Goose were all seen (of the latter there were claims of no less than three subspecies!). This is indeed a most unusual winter for the county's nature.

Your humble servant,