Monday, December 31

Viva las resoluciones

My New Year's Resolutions:

1) Make peace with Weasel.
I miss the good doctor's wine cellar.

2). Be nicer about Mrs Miggins' Tea and Sandwiche Shoppe for elderly and befuddled ornithologists. 
For instance, I note Mrs. M. is holding the annual meeting of Bird Observatories, Teahouses, Clubhuts & Hostels (BOTCH) this coming week. An honour for sure, and a clever choice of date, as many of Mrs. M.'s clientele actually do bother to get out of their comfy chairs and make one or two visits out into the wilds during the first week of a New Year. I wish them well in their botchings.

3). Take more interest in expeditionary work.

I note there are plans for an expedition to the frozen wastelands of Narfek this coming year. A claimed sighting of the lost ships H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror just off of Sea A'Palling has led to theories that the fabled North-East Back Passage may well have actually been opened, and that Franklin, Ross, Bonaparte and Barrow could yet be revealed as wintering safely there, attended to and protected by the natives local to the Yuueeaay tribe. I think I really should offer my services as Chaplain to Rear Admiral Evans.

4). Have a kinder word for CocK (Camera obscura club of Kent), and all other such photgraphic groups.
We have to work together. Why, this might well be the only way future generations might ever see an image of a collared dove, a dunnock, or a woodpigeon from our time, and so believe we actually had them in this land rather than simply have fabricated them.
Indeed, such up close and personal lens work as seen this winter is proving individual identification possible from various feather markings and patterns, and from unique bill patternings, among the visiting Waxen Chatterers so they can be tracked from one shoppe cart park to another, so we might yet well discover a truly useful ornithological purpose for all this photography of late.

5). Visit the Isle of Thannit before its scheduled Independence Referendum and subsequent breakaway.
It is good to find that Thannit's First Minister Pikeblogg is now back webpamphleteering, and so it cannot be long before revolutionary fervour starts up again among the masses. Although there appears to be more fishe than fowle on that page at present, the break from their county surely cannot be long in coming. Welcome back sir.

6). Make a donation towards the restoration of 'Dreamland' at Barredgate.
Such a shame that fanciful bird stories no longer emanate from this wondrous place. A lick of paint and some bush tidying will undoubtedly return it to being a premier fantasy theme park fit to challenge this country's finest, the North-east's Rokerland.

7). Entertain the Urbane Birder.
Viscount Lindley-Lindo-Lou has for some time now made a good living from dining out on avian stories in the most fanciful gentlemen's establishments in cities around the Empire, bringing tales of Hovel Sparrows to the well-heeled; I think he would be a most charming talker for the birding plebeians of Listershire, especially in educating those who oppose towns expanding into manure-belt lands. Urban is becoming the new rural. If I can only find some quail eggs for us to dine upon, I shall invite him.

8). View a Conjurer's Pantomime Show.
I see that Lawless the Younger is touring his magic lantern show again this January in the Northern Marshes and Listershire, his act centred upon how to reveal the one true species of seagull as actually being very, very many species. He works under his new stage name of 'Prince Caspian'. I really should reveal his performance to all for that what it is, namely it being all smoke and wing mirrors, and then to declare publicly to all that will listen 'careful now, down with that sort of thing'.

9). Contemplate undertaking my own small 'Grand Tour'.
It has for some time now been pointed out to me that whilst I purport to know just a little on God's feathered creatures of Listershire and surrounds, I actually know even less on their situations in other parts of this land. It has been suggested that I should undertake some of what was once known as 'a'twitchering' and is now repackaged as each's 'Grand Tour'. This could be a sort of coming out for me, to get to know more of the Kingdom, and to know more of the many interesting ornithological subjects found therein, so as to aid my writings.
I now just have to decide what species to tour to first and I do rather fancy a Waxen Chatterer, so I hope all watcherers will continue to report any and every single one of them found well into the coming New Year.

10). Wish a Peaceful New Year to all fowle watchers of the land.
Tis' just a making of a wish, mind you(!) That is the easy part. I know actual miracles to take a little longer and are beyond the remit of this mortal.

So, I start: 
A Happy fowle filled New Year to all my correspondents(!)

Sunday, December 23

Call yourself an Ornithological Society

To: The Secretaries of the Ornithological Societies and Field Clubs of South-east Angleland:

The National Ornithologists' Union, TUKOGBANIOU (not to be confused with TUKOGBANITO), has, in its 41st address to the nation, has passed a decree on the the definitions and usage of the terms  'Ornithological Society' and 'Bird Club'

No 'Bird Club' shall henceforth be allowed to pass itself off as an 'Ornithological Society'. The following criteria should be adhered to:

i) No Ornithological Society shall neglect publishing regular Avifaunas. Sets of breeding maps within an annual spottings report are not in any way an Avifauna. Any Ornithological Society not publishing an Avifauna at a minimum of every third decade shall be demoted to a Bird Club.
i)(a) It was also agreed that no Avifauna published within 18 months of a national TUKOGBANITO avifauna will be allowed to be claimed as authored by that county solely, and will not count towards meeting this requirement.

ii) No Ornithological Society shall claim to be conserving birds through the collation of sightings only.

iii) An Ornithological Society shall support national ornithological efforts, and give them prominence at every opportunity. This includes any and all that require actually going into the countryside and observing fowles.

iv) An Ornithological Society should hold at minimum a bi-annual ornithological conference. (Societies should note that under this definition a Christmas Quiz meeting thrown together by a committee member with access to 'The Bumper Book of Bird Facts'  to save on paying for a speaker is not a Conference.)

v) An Ornithological Society will acknowledge the greater good achieved by Biological Records Centres and deposit all records there, not keep them on cards in the loftspace.

vi) An Ornithological Society will keep the official County List, but will not keep keep the County Listers' tick lists.

vii) An Ornithological Society will have links with local Universities and other halls of learning to encourage the ornithologists of tomorrow to become involved.

viii) An Ornithological Society will take a robust approach to confirming reports of scarce species, and must appreciate they do not accept just because 'that chap is a jolly good birder'.

ix) An Ornithological Society will not give Camera Obscura sections prominence over ornithological studies. An example would be that seventy-two pictures of the same Black-throated Diver by sixty-one different chimpers is not adding ornithological value. Images being not simply just of the fowle side-on filling the frame, instead actually doing something of ornithological interest, would also be quite nice from time to time.

x) An Ornithological Society will appreciate any programme of Outdoor Events has to consist of something more substantial than a mimicry the local Fur and Feather Preservation Group events. A coach and horses outing by steam-packet to Calais is not Ornithological.

xi) An Ornithological Society will encourage open debate and free thinking. A Bird Club will keep their encouragement of listing and sightings discussions in bear-pit forums only.

xii) An Ornithological Society will provide at minimum a quarterly penny newsheet detailing items of interest for those of an ornithological bent. A Bird Club will as a minimum publish stock copy from their book of sightings, a series of 'My Best Ticking Days' articles and appeal every three weeks for club members to put quill to parchment to write something, anything, as the editor really, really cannot do it all.

xiii) An Ornithological Society will publish ornithological 'vanity'documents in timely fashion- for example publishing an annual 'Who's overestimated flock sizes and who claimed what good bird not needing any description' report should occur within 18 months of that year end, or before not more than ten per cent of the contributors die of old age waiting.

xiv) An Ornithological Society shall encourage inclusivity, not exclusivity.

xv) An Ornithological Society shall remain independent of commercial organisations, particularly providing free advertising to old birding school chums who in return expect favours.

xvi) An Ornithological Society will keep news on their records pages as news in the strictest definition  namely any page purporting to have 'latest updates' should include as minimum at least one piece of information published within twelve months of the present calendar date. Please note such articles should be relevant to their county; overseas trip reports from the previous decade are not 'news'.

On this basis of these definitions TUKOGBANIOU has recommended adopting the following names at County levels for the south-east of Angleland:

1) Sou'Saxon to be split (as it takes more than two day's expedition to travel from one end to the other):
- Sou'Saxon (East) Ornithological Society
- Sou'Saxon (West) Ornithological Society

2) East Saxon Ornithological Society*
*subject to the county actually finding a minimum of ten ornithologists or field spotters resident therein.

3) Londinium (incorporating all s-e Angleland Proposed airfields) Ornithological Society

4) Listershire Bird Club and Taxidermy Society

5) Northern Marshes 'I Spy' gang

6) Suthrige Bird Club to be split into two organisations:
- Elmbridge, Epsom & Ewell, Mole Valley, Reigate & Banstead, Runnymeade, Spelthorne, Surray Heath,   Tandridge, Waverley and Woking Society of Posh Ornithologist Golfers.
- Woking Plebs Bird Club

7) Hamptonshire to be returned to three organisations:
- Meon Ornithological Society
- Sarum Ornithological Society
- Unihabitable Offshore Islet Ornithological Society*
* subject to ownership of the Islet remaining within TUKOGBANI when ownership claims from Japan, Korea and China are resolved.

Alfie Newton,
Henry Hairy-Baker Tristram,
Revd. B Fumblefinch
on behalf of TUKOGBANIOU

Postscript: an announcement of a further review:
This Union will next pass sentence on title-ship of Bird Observatories in conjunction with the Bird Observatory Council. This joint TUKOGBANIOU/BOCOTUKOGBANI review will introduce three levels: (1) Accredited Bird Observatory.
(2) Pretend Bird Observatory.
(3) Residential Care Home.
Applications from any ornithological outside night soil building wishing to be considered for review should be sent to the usual address.

Illustration: Brigadier Brading Marsh (ret'd), 
President of the newly re-titled UOIOS

Monday, December 17

From the Minutes of the Nativity sub-committee meeting, Dec 16th

6) The choice for Adoration:

a) Reverend Fumblefinch put forward the first suggestion, namely an Arctic Common Lesser Redpoll, in recognition of the one adored in Syderstone on a December 25th past. However, this was decided against as the adored one had not seen fit to last that day out, being taken by a Kes.

b) Verger Stringsall made the proposition of the Killdeer adored on a December 25th past in Countee Wicklo'. However, this was decided against as the adored one was, in the first, in an area that only some parishioners would ever consider visiting, being so politically separate from us (despite prolonged protestations from one parishioner, Gagsall, B.) and was also, in the second, thought much too Pagan in name, being more often connected with the outlawed Worship of the Munticorn.

c) Dean Cliff made the advancement of the two female Snowy Owls adored on a December 25th past on Fetlah. However, this was decided against on the grounds that, in the first, two females together in such a scenario might advocate the wholly unacceptable idea of Sapphic wedding ceremonies on Consecrated grounds, and, in the second, that they committed the more heinous sin of Scottishness.

d) Dr. Weasel made the motion of Siberian Thrush, as recorded on a December 25th past in Great Yernemuth. However, this was decided against on the grounds that no-one ever went with Weasel's suggestions.

e) Mrs. Miggins made the choice of a pretty little Robin. The Verger was then reprimanded for letting one of the wimminfolk sneak into the meeting.

f) Councillor Podge made the suggestion of Nutcracker, as recorded on a December 25th past in Ashley. This was decided against on the grounds that, in the first, the Councillor failed to live in the Parish and was advocating support of an adoration from his own area of residence, and, in the second, the record was a mere 54 years old and as such had not yet seen print in any of his Avifaunas.

g) Brother Leghorn made the recommendation of, in consideration of the date in question, a change from tradition and a concentration upon an image the baby Jeebus. [The record of the following minutes was then lost to uproar but, in summary, the recommendation was not carried.]

h) Young Bristow then made the final solicitation of, in consideration of being due to be shot in the churchyard that very December 25th hence and then assigned to be deposited at his Taxidermery, abreeding pair of Pine Grossbeake. This was accepted on a majority vote, on the grounds that every other Parish in the land would want one.

7) The choice for Caganer:

The adoption, for the twelfth year running, of Konan the Baptist, for his continued preachings against a'twitchering and a'listing and for his loathing of all things migratory about the Woodpigeon, the Jay and the Common Lesser Redpoll, was carried unanimously.

Thursday, December 13

The General Synod of TUKOGBANITO

To the most reverend Dean Cliff of Losechelsea;

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Trust for Ornithology held a General Synod recently, and there has been much a'twittering since. Many of the air-parchments circulating have been in celebration of their most amazing ornithological discovery in the past twelve months; TUKOGBANITO members under the age of sixty(!).

In celebration of this moment, the Bishopric of TUKOGBANITO took the revelationary step of living beatification four of the youngsters; Saint Cain of the Dursley duck pond, Saint Gilly of Stirling Uni-tarian movement, Saint CeeJay of the Bridges of Ormskirk and Saint Lexy of Rhodes.

It is hoped the good works carried out by these present-day Saints will herald a new age of TUKOGBANITO and continue their Order for decades to come; many of their Methuselahs of the membership have reached the age where even carrying out a Garden BirdWatch count requires a medicinary support team to hand, and afterwards a special statistical logarithmic programme to adjust their counts for age-related macular degeneration.

As well as his wondrous achievements with nest-finding, the Saint of Dursley has taken of vow of avoidance of facial hair as his mark of Cain from the more usual unkempt supporters. Our Stirling Lady has sworn to always have the purest manicured nails in all bird banding camera obscura images. Saint Ceejay will continue to be known as the lad of the lamp for his role as Patron Saint of travelling Woodcock, and Saint Lexy is to continue his wanderings in the wilderness (the forsaken valley of Chew).

I am not yet sure if this headlong flight towards youthful examples will be all for the best; beatification after death is one thing, for then you cannot swerve from a path. But now they must be virtuous figureheads throughout. (I wish them well of course, but they will need to temper their turning of wine into water, as that is no longer a requirement of TUKOGBANITO membership.)

I also note that the outspoken radical cleric Mark Cajun-Aviary has followed this trend by supposedly unearthing another child-prodigy, one being currently revered as the ten year-old reincarnation of the Listershire Llama. He is said to be marked as the chosen one for his ability to write electronic epistles more coherently than any bird lister or camera obscura carrier. But writing to such a level is not something that should lead to his marking out; why, any of the ten-year olds in my choir can achieve that. I send urchins up my sooty flue who hold more command of matters ornithological than most of those bird list scribers blindly followed nowadays.

However, do not think me as counter the young, think of me as more against the decrepitudes in our ancient ones. Let these youthful ones step forward I say. As the Good Lord spoke in Luke: 

'Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, 
for to such belongs the Nature Reserve of the Lord. 
Oh, and try not to completely mess it up for them while you're about it.'

Wednesday, December 5

A missive to Wally Prentis of Rainham

Dearest Wally,

Thank you very much for the present of the book 'Notes on the Birds of Raynham featuring the District between Chavham and Siddingbourne'. It is a jolly read indeed, and a welcome introduction to a part of the Northern marshes not that well known to me. I hope to visit one day and enjoy sights as described therein such as Sea Eagle and Lesser Kestrel.

It is good to correspondwith a fellow enthusiast who goes a'birding but local, however I am afraid I cannot match your enthusiasm for making such a sport as I come to consider your suggestion for us to contest our patches this coming year.

The idea of a 'parishwork challenge' is indeed a good one, in that it makes us focus on the marvels about us, but my parish is larger than the 741.3 acres you suggest we should limit ourselves to. What if I need to comfort a recently widowed parishioner just outside the imagined line and a Grossbeake passes over? Not on my Parishwork list, but on my Parish list. 'Tis but half a bird(!) That would upset me(!) And once the position of the line was known, that would upset my flock outside. True, for the birds I could be like a Farmhand Francis and specialise in a fly-by list where any speck in sight of the horizon could be claimed gained, but sooner or later an outsider's hovel will turn up a Tengmalm's Owl roosting by the privvy and oh, what to do! They would feel slighted.

Certainly this 'sport' is gaining support, as seen from the worldwideinterweb newspage to which you refer me to, but I would urge all God-fearing folk to resist. Do not read this page, nor follow any suggestion contained therein. I hope none of my flock give this idea consideration.

You offer an alternative suggestion of spending January on foot, but this also displeases me a little. Actually, a lot. Having arranged for idlers assigned to the village stocks to be allowed out to do community service (carrying me around the Parish in my sedan chair as I really do not want to dirty my boots in the mud before entering a hovel) I do not want to get stains on my stockings. I must also admit the sedan also allows me uninterrupted views over hedges, any assembled throng of camera obscuras (obscurae??) on tripods, or even high brick walls in dirty northern settlements. The sedan would be missed.

I think this foot idea has come about simply because the originators appear to be residents of Sheaf'sfield, of where it is common knowledge a common man can neither afford sedan, horse with cart, or shoe leather. They really seek to bring us down to be their equals, these levellers.

Again, you show me this idea is plastered over the worldwideinterweb also, and championed as a worthy pastime but, again I will urge true naturalists to refrain, so they might be free to chase all over; God's choice is free will! Or else, whatever next? Listing for January 1st only (for money as is the quaint charitable custom in South Saxon)? Sitting at one spot only for the whole of the winter and watchering through window only (Mrs Miggins' cosy tables being the choice for many in your county)?

No, there is only one true worthy challenge tied to the calendar, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland year list, now in it's four hundreth year. TUKOGBANI 400 is a real sport, one in which every common man has a more than even chance of finishing second should they afford to put themselves in for it.

I do though still wish you all the very best for your coming year young Prentis; I will, if I may, swap notes with you from time to time during the year. And I quietly hope you and these Parishworkers and Footers find enjoyment in your new games- I will pray for you all.

Your new friend,

Friday, November 30

A reply to John Joseph Briggs

To John Joseph Briggs,
Elms Farm,
King's Newton,

How very pleased I was to receive your recent letter courtesy of your young errand boy Kingsdowner Coates! He came a'twittering last night, drawing attention to your musings on the worldwideinterweb. I shall ruffle his forelock and give him a penny for the pleasure when I see him next.

May I first say what an honour it is to exchange opinions with you. Your reputation goes before you 'faithful chronicler of the seasons', and I know you have written in the past to young Chas Darwin, who hold such high regard for you. (Chas is away at present, obtaining a fresh supply of tortoise meat for the local pie shoppe.)

I have never had the pleasure of visiting King's Newton, but once stayed at Pemberley, as a guest of Fitzwilliam Darcy, said to own 'half of Derbyshire' when another visitor, a young lady Elizabeth Bennet, responded to said anecdote with 'The miserable half?' Well, I for one certainly thought this most rude and a comment more becoming of a Buxton brothel, as there was nothing miserable about your countryside(!) You have some wonderful sights around you, especially within the District of Peaks.

Might I ask further asides? Close by to the area you visited here in the Allotment of England is Mrs Miggins' Tea and Sandwiche Shoppe for Elderly and Befuddled Ornithologists- some decades hence when I visited as a day-tripper, one of the interned there was a Michael McMichael Briggs- would he be a relation? He was an observer of many rare opportunities, being busy most of his days out of doors perfecting the croquet lawns of the local gentry and wrestling moles with his bare hands. I believe he was known to all as Groundskeeper Briggsy?

A most lovely man with so many stories of interest to the ornithologist.

I would though also enquire if you are familiar with another follower of your Derby county who was employed as chief bottle-washer at Migginses' some years later for several seasons, an Ellis Webbe? Young Ellis was a birdcatcher and ringer of great ability, and would often dangle himself on a rope over the cliffs at St. Maggies. Sometimes he might even tie the end, or have someone hold it, but mostly he had faith in Lord. I think he joined an Ecological Order after taking a Vow of Osbscenity and headed off to the heathen south-west.

But I digress(!) To matters ornithological; the Northern Willie. I must admit I was not aware of your modern travails and observations from Saint Margaret-at-Cliffe. I know the village and a little history thereof; mentioned in the recent Domesday Book as Sancta Magharita, named after the patron Saint of despondent Nutcracker dippers, and beloved by type of Lord Byron, Lord Cecil, little Noel Coward and young Pietor Ustinov). I have swapped a note with another lover of things thespian and aspiring diarist Maurice Anthony who dwells there at present. In his writings he always refers to having to espy Willies through a telescope, so I saw nothing to change my earlier opine.

I trust you have also supplied these observations to the likes of Balston, Shepherd and Podge? It could also be that the chair of the rare Judge Wrightly-Wrongly may need to consider veracity, but I am sure for a man of your reputation that would be a mere simple formality. I shall of course alter my own Compleat work to reflect this information.

I am not sure who is the landowner, but their gamekeeper will be indebted to hear of the Sparrowhawk and Merlin nests.

One final suggestion. Your mention of the differing egg patterns. This may be worthy of further investigation if you have not considered that rare swarthy European species which has yet to grace Albion- The Willie Cuckoo Clamator cukold oldfella. Such goings on are often suspected as regular in the area by the clientele of Mrs M's, so proof absolute would be a feather in your cap!

Thank you again for drawing my attention to this. In the heady swirl of a'Twittering, WorldWideInterweb and Personal Pages (of which I am thinking of investing; having wrestled with my conscience I now feel employing a raggedy orphan as my own Page to run betwixt nature reserves to gather sightings as being gainful employ for the needy) these more thoughtful and detailed observations made by the likes of yourself will be lost to future generations if we are not more careful with publicising them.

If you have reason to journey through Listershire, please feel free to drop by as I shall be happy to make your acquaintance in person. We have nothing to match your caverns of the District of the Peaks, but I will gladly show you the old Priest Hole in Much Ticking.

Your faithful servant and new friend,

Monday, November 26

From the Church Notices: Diggit and Diggit (Thannit)

Parishioners please note tomorrow (Tuesday) Mr and Mrs Dumpton Diggit of Thannit are renewing their vows here at the church at 10.30. Many will remember Mr Diggit as our former Plot Production Manager, Spade Technician and Headstone Upkeep Administrator, as well as being our keenest local naturalist and most fervent protector of birds' nests..

In addition to the renewal vows, Mr Diggit will be reasserting his vows of silence towards The Listershire Ornithological Society, The Northern Marshes Ornithological Society and South Saxon Ornithological Society.

Mr Diggit and guests will then retire to the Sporting Gamesman Inn, Peggity Bay to celebrate; friends from the village are invited to join him in the Snug any time between 11:30 and the 10th of January.

Lyster Stringsall,

Saturday, November 24

The Germans have claimed the Zugunruhe

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

Very many thanks for your swift missive prompted by my enquiry regarding the increasing numbers of Pendulous Tit-mice appearing in southern England in the late autumn and early winter months. Although I had hoped these records might give muscled body to the airy thought they could become an addition to our avifauna here, now that you have expanded your theories on migration I think I will support with your considered opinions.

I am afraid I have been unable to translate 'zugunruhe' easily, as it appears literally as 'migratory restlessness'. If I have understood you correctly, this is a subjective measure of the sum of all the wonderful influences you and young Berthold are suggesting drives a bird onwards in season? I think I have translated correctly that a young passerine has a 'juvenile' period when it changes from juvenile to juvenile/adult (or full adult) plumage. During this time it appears that it wanders, seemingly without aim, whereas it is in fact this gives opportunity to find breeding possibilities if it makes it returns to our shore in the spring. Adolescent 'hormones' as you call them, have made it wander. One day Listershire, the next South Saxon, the next the Northern Marshes.

Then comes the build of zugunruhe, or migratory restlessness. The true urge to travel a great distance, the urge to follow an inherited migratory track like parents before. It rises like sap, slowly, then a rush, then slowing to bring it to close to parental wintering grounds, if God's will has been done. In the spring, to reverse the journey, the same slow start, mad rush and petering out near 'home' brings a surviving young back close to potential breeding sites.

So, when Pendulous Tit-mice turn up here in late autumn/early winter and loiter in our reed litter they are at the decline or even the halt of their zugunruhe. Unless we clip their wings they will not stay to breed. The sap will rise again.

So those who keep commenting they must surely breed soon on this evidence alone are wrong. All those dreaming of other fanciful migrant passerines such as Bluethroat must also hold their collective breaths as well. The English Channel keeps out both invasive Frenchmen and surly youthful migrants, whose zugunruhe is not strong enough to take on the water, and whose zugunruhe when becoming strong enough to drive them towards darkest Africa, will not lead them in our direction. And if we see them in spring, these are vikings, merely refuelling before driving further? The swarthy Bluethroats of Calais will have 'switched off' as they reach the area and cocked a snoot at La Manche(!)

This is marvellous detective work Klaus(!) Truly, you are revealing God's mechanisms.

I note you then infer as a rule the wanderings of many larger non-passerines are somewhat different to small migrant passerines, and that their size they might take on water crossings? Your suggestion is there is much more chance major British rarities such as Little Egret, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Night Heron, Cattle Egret and Little Bittern could one day breed here in Albion? Because our watery marshes are within reach of their young? This is most fanciful(!) How I would love it to be so, it would be a great boost for our millinery trade, but perhaps not in this old cleric's lifetime..

Providing this mooted 'Heligoland-Zanzibar' treaty does not pass, and your island remains British through and through, I should very much like to visit one day and instruct you and your colleagues how British ornithologists carry out studies. (I have a dream that an Empire of observatories working in harmony throughout Europe should be achievable, if we fall under one leader.) I know one of my choristers, Gagnell, would like to accompany me; he is trying to record 500 species in Great Britain-ish, and some of your records are mouth-watering.

In the meantime please pass my regards to your friend the Kaiser, and let him know there will be a warm welcome with cakes and tea, should he ever wish to roll into the village of Much Ticking in Listershire.

Your new friend,

Wednesday, November 21

Apocalypse Kernow

I am deeply indebted to my old colleague the Reverend Osborne Whitworth-Woolworth, for contacting me regarding problems he is trying to help resolve which are similar to those described for my two neighbouring factions, but for Osborne they lie within just one county; the land beyond the edge of civilisation, namely Cornwall Twitching Association and the aptly named Kernow Edhan Sawder Cowethianz.

In this forsaken county life has always been hard, and the smuggling of bird-sightings rife- the accepted way of life. Now for many years the Kernow committee had been controlled by one family. They are recorded in Graham Winston's thinly disguised accounts in the 'Darkpoll' novels; they are 'the greedy Warleggan clan', who had made their fortunes and reputations from controlling more than ninety percent of the camera obscura images available to Cornish and Kernow watchers.

Over the decades some of the clan had tried to soften this image, and good old Cornish names such as Stanlake Warleggan, Blunden Warleggan, Tonry Warleggan and Madge Warleggan abound in the tales of struggles to bring peace to the land.

However, as Winston describes, the arrival of a tall, dark, handsome stranger some years aback was about to rend all asunder. This newcomer, the 'Darkpoll' of the novels, actually answers to the name of one Freestone Poldark. Poldark, though outwardly a fine upstanding citizen, has often found himself on the wrong side of the law as he has kept up a fight for the unwashed to have access to news and private grounds, continually going up against the Warleggan clan's control of rares.

So it then came to pass that Climpson Warleggan, Mitchell Warleggan and Cleggy 'peg-leg' Warleggan travelled to the London home of the Marquis of Warleggan, where they had arranged to meet and recruit new blood for their troubled society, two men who were willing to leave civilisation and seek new fortunes in the south-west; Grantham Warleggan (no relation) and Parker Warleggan (no relation also).

Grantham soon settled into his role as Lord of the Manor and brought an air of peace, but Parker and Poldark then at the same time both fell for the rare charms of Demelza Davidstow-Airfield, and soon all sorts of bird-smuggling was rife once more from every cove of the coastline. Poldark has managed to keep the underclasses on his side by publishing his own interweb scroll-pages to rival those sheets of the Warleggans, as well as a detailed annual report on the richer sightings of the county.

Various scuffles have continued to this day, with exchanges often seen in public arenas such as The Almighty Forum of Birds. Can any good come from this? My friend Osborne still hopes so. Poldark, with his cavalier ways and love of the rares can keep the twittering underbelly happy, whilst the Warleggans will continue as the upholders of robin records and dunnock dates. Both are of course are vital services. Osborne hopes they will learn to tolerate each other more. Otherwise the next novel in the Darkpoll series may be describing bodies at bottoms of cliffs before page one is out.

Freestone Poldark shields Demelza from the gaze of Parker Warleggan; from the cover of Graham Winston's fourth novel, 'The Four Trumpeter Swans suppressed'

Monday, November 19

And on the eighth day..

A passage from Sunday's sermon..

Todays readings are both from the book of Genesis, upon the matters of the fifth and eighth days of creation:

1:20- 22: And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' And there was evening and there was morning- the fifth day.

2:2(a)- 2(d): And on the eighth day Leigh of Celfunte Lesser did say 'Lord, you know about how you said you wanted to increase the birds on the earth? Well, I have a plan most excellent for birds of the Kingdom of the Unites- I shall increase the number of species through my own rulings upon appearance, provenance, and whether or not I have espied said form in the field.' And the Lord said 'Leigh, thou knowest neither the ways of the Lord, the ways of creation, nor the ways of the rules scientific. This really isn't on you know.' And Leigh cried 'Lord, show me the proper respect, I know what I do.'

And with these verses, dear parishoners, it is confirmed that God will listen to our desires, but we should be careful in what we seek. For God heard Leigh, and granted him respect, which is why from that day forward even the Lord in his omnipotence could never once defeat Leigh of Celfunte Lesser in any year listing competition. (Apart from one year, when he did for a short while anyway, before Leigh disqualified him for claiming to have been somewhere at a time Leigh proved he had most clearly not.) Leigh was cursed, forever driven, for each and every year thereafter.

My parisoners, you should be careful what you wish for. As the revered scholar Ellwood of Peart recently said; "Sometimes the Angels punish us, by answering our prayers."

KU400 club species #401: Mid-channel Long-tailed Tit-mouse

Friday, November 16


What follows is a plea from the pulpit to my two neighbouring war-like counties, South Saxon and The Northern Marshes.

Many hereabouts have noted that the Northern Marshes Listers' league table,as compiled by Sir Geoffroi de Topatable, has recently had a new proclamation added. In truth I acknowledge that it is good of this county to allow the knavish sport of Listing to appear on what they promote to be an Ornithological interweb volume of scrollpages, but such border skirmishing contained therein really should be avoided.

It is the comparison to South Saxon's underwhelming species total and their attempts to reach 400. Does Sir Geoffroi think the Saxons really covet their neighbour's assizes upon ornithological occurrence, with the Northern Marshes standing proudly on what he feels an unassailable 416 (and does that include the Calananandra Larke which I note Sir Gee has already included in individual lister's totals before acceptability has been proven)?.

True, South Saxon are indeed on 397.5 and are having a good humoured 'guess the 400th' competition, but should this not be taken as a worthy effort by South Saxon to be all inclusive to their watchers? After all, they do not list their listers separate anywhere (that is left to St. Barnard of Roevidean in private commune). They are simply promoting their lands to all interested in God's winged creations, and the use of the word 'spite' by Sir Geoffroi seems apt as he proclaims there..

What does it matter that a county adds four species in a year, or in a month? What does he imply? I think we should celebrate the strengths of any Society- and clearly the band of birding brothers in South Saxon is now strong enough to be able to plough their field and shatter records. In this respect the Northern Marshes is more like my own Listershire, what with the continued wailings and bemoanings of a lack of numbers of bold Knights to scour the coasts at immigrant time.

Now, if memory serves me correct, does not South Saxon have a growing membership of some 1,600 followers? I saw the recent tweetergram that the Northern Marshes have kept their annual tithes at 1898 rates, but have they not similarly kept their membership levels at that year's figure also? The Marshes are stagnant.

Does South Saxon not overfill their Annual General Church Conference?  Does South Saxon not get Annual County and Parish Records out in good time? Does South Saxon not have to keep appealing for musings for their quarterly scrolls? I could go on..

And perhaps I will. If counties do feel the need for listing prodigious achievements of their supporters, then perhaps also combine scores for the totals of list contributors, of WeBB counters, of TUKOGBANITO undertakers of tracks of Birds, and see how things score then (!)

(As an aside I must also say such a page as the Northern marshes has posted is not the correct place for condemning the sinnes of the flesh for a pair of their supporters. Alledging that two of the observers of the Blackepolle had been 'cruising nearby' at the time was unnecessary; that really should have been left for the Confessional.)

Finally, their scrollpage concludes with an appeal for the other listers known to be active within their boundary to be cajoled into revealing their numbers. (A position of Listfinder General is opening methinks.) For certain, such addition would bring the real number one to the top of Sir Geoffroi's table, but all Societies should endeavour to make people want to partake. Otherwise they will be no better than some outlandish sects who spout eternal damnation to those who do not follow their ways.

If some think the score is important well, yes, I can acknowledge that importance to some. But title has always been all to Sir Geoffroi's descendants. The motto for this county of Men of the Marshes and Marshy Men is indeed 'Invicta'. Undefeated. Pray do remember this came from 1067 and the Norman-Ticehurst invasion. William of Norman-Ticehust and his men had been pushed to their limits in South Saxon in October 1066 and after part recovering simply wanted to hurry through the Northern Marshes to claim London and the crown. The ignorant Marshies, armed with nought but sticks and some old cutlery, were in their way. Rather than waste effort on such pitiful defenders the Norman-Ticehusts offered a deal that they would let the Marshies claim to have been undefeated if they simply let them pass. How the Marshies liked that! Had they not sold out the rest of England, done their duty and set upon the would-be Conqueror and his band in such a weakened condition, these invaders would have never made London. But no, they wanted the proud title Invicta, regardless that they should have stood by their neighbours even if it meant certain victi. They have kept the title, with their own somewhat embellished description of events, to this very day.

So, do enjoy your undefeated condition if you must, but do not crow and wake neighbours I beseech thee. And South Saxon pray forgive them, for they know not what they list.

Friday, November 9

Knocking Kent

Oh how wonderful it is to find solid ground beneath my feet after these past weeks!

Having turned down an offer from Brother Mensie to travel to Fenno-Scandia and count Tit-mice, I instead found myself taking up the temporary post of Minister to the Sea Area Thames in the hope of experiencing visible migration over the southern North Sea.

I have long been an admirer of Arthur Sea-Eagle Clarke's '1901- a bird odyssey (Studies in bird migration)', where Clarke travailed to many far flung isles desolate isles (St.Kilda, Hirta, Rockall, Thanet) to pioneer the study of bird movements. He had had the pleasure of a period upon the 'Kentish Knock' lightship, and found passage aplenty, with movements west from the Rhine, south-west from Viking lands, south from Angle lands and even the south-easterly departure of plucky Brits to swarthier climes. But throughout his notes certain species were missing in the southern North Sea, which I hoped to prove did indeed pass water.

I was in luck! The replacement lightship, 'Knocking Kent', has been recently been positioned and had spare berths for the autumn. In return for conducting any burials at sea that might be required, and for providing a broadcasted 'Semaphore for the Day' via the trawler 'Ross Revenge', I gained a half-dozen weeks of uninterrupted offshore avian observation.

It was also fortuitous that this year has seen, for comparison, large coastal numbers of the first of my targets; the Jay. But, just like Clarke before me I could only find close relations the Rook, the Crow and the Jackdaw sometimes riding the waves, the Jay eluded me. I am not giving up hope on proving the foreignness of this species yet. I might try joining the crew of the Nautilus next autumn to see if they pass under cover of the waves to break cover on reaching land, unwanted illegal immigrants that they might be.

Back to the now, and my next target, the Woodpigeon. Again, just like Clarke, there was a complete lack of sightings. Yet our coastline can teem with them! Thomas Mark of the Inquisition reported tens of thousands passing a West country witch and oologist burning he was attending at Taunton just a few short days ago. But, with 2.7 million territories in our green and pleasant land, is it not God's will that each autumn several thousand should indeed loiter around our coastline, chasing each other in the hope of good food sources when our countryside is becoming unfriendly and industrial, following the introduction of that modern invention, the shire horse?

Other claims are made by coastal observers, and many eagerly strain upon Brother Mensie's tits. But they will not come. Yes, Clarke did record one party of Great Tit-mouse, confirming this to be another species able to cross from mainland Europa, but his was again a record notable for scarcity- it was not his observation, but that of a crew member from years previous; I had none. I begin to support the once-fanciful notion these are species scared of water.

To be frank, most sightings reflected Clarke's lists. (Which worked out well with Red-throated Diver noted as 'not unfrequent' and thus made my favourite tasty snack.)

Whilst I hope to eventually publish a manuscript on my observations I must now desist from adding more to this short note, as my crate of Pine Grosbeak skins, collected aboard 'Knocking Kent', is just beginning to arouse my senses; I really should get them to Bristow for refrigeration as soon as possible.

Thursday, August 30

Shoddy Stoddy

To the Honourable Chair of Natural Albion:

Dear Dave,

How dismayed I was to wander down to your Stoddy Grove reedbed, to find a team of claimed 'volunteers' working under their own instruction and initiative to clear large swathes of the reedbed.

Though trying to disguise themselves, if I had to swear upon the good book of Collins I would say I recognised several of the ruffians. Local ne'er-do-wells young 'Chid' Chiddington, young Heathcliff H. Heathcliff, young Woodlandhedgerow Wilson and old Juan Chauntecleer were amongst them. They claimed their desecration was being carried out under agreement to provide scenic vistas for their own viewing pleasure. I saw through this and shoo'ed them away!

Now I know that as leader of an august body of some political standing you simply cannot be seen to take direction from such great unwashed as these, but if the masses now start to revolt perhaps is it time for joined up thinking to benefit Natural Albion?

For an example. Have not many marvellous missives now been published on management techniques for the Boomer Botaurus stellaris stellaris? Could not these be employed just in the areas these watchers require? True, they seek not the Boomer but actually the Tiddly-Boomer Ixobrychus minutus minutus and the New World Boomer Botaurus lentiginosus, and care not for the list fodder you hope to see flourish in a large bed, but with your guidance these field players could be put to good cheap industrious use with just some simple direction?

I know it will stick in the gullet, but why not even take some direction from our foreign neighbours just over the Channel? The 'Jeannie Oiseauxs' have realised that the 'fauvette aqueux' (a most satisfying scrabble score, translating literally as 'watery warbler', that which we know as Acrocephalus paludicola) undertakes migratory leaps by landing in dense reedbeds overnight, but then by day moving out to the shallow sedged edges to feed and show itself. These dashed foreigners now record ten times more of these most desired warblers in season than we can ever hope for, and yet, with a little prudent cutting at right time, our mighty British beds might be crawling with these top notch trophies.

I know it hurts to act on clearance requests from the plebian hordes. But if you turn your thinking around you can claim to have ignored these riff-raff, whilst at the same time conning them to slavish toil and quietening their incessant annual whining. This would be best done before one of them discovers the search powers of engines like vicarpedia and looks for 'expenses', 'director', 'Natural' and 'Albion'. They will ignore your worldwide webpage proclamations to have made 'back office' savings of thirty per cent which have all been ploughed into 'front-line delivery' and would instead start to demand you cut back on important items such as sherry allowances to spend on manual labour instead! What then would we drink at the next Masons' meeting??

This empowering of these lower classes may be some time off, as for sure they could not at present arrange themselves for a regular wildfowl count in a duck decoy, but you should be planning for that rarest of species, the intelligent watcher!

Your humble and grovelling servant,

Sunday, August 19

British Birdwatching Fete, day the three

My very dearest reader,

Time to go home!

Unlike Miss Michael Jackson of Homle, my own cart was laden to the brim with purchases. I shall try to list some of them, as an example of what you might obtain should you decide to visit in future years:

Signed and framed photograph taken on the day by the famous continental chimpeur Monsieur Renoir Pop, entitled 'UK400 on the rise'
Signed painting by the famous artist Warren Michael: 'Wiggly birds on wiggly reeds in wiggly water eating wiggly wiggly worms' 

State of the art listing system: a new blank notebook and pencil.

New books: by Mister Collins, "Jottings and sketches of all the birds of the Western World.", by Rev'd Morris "British Fowle in nine volumes" and lecture hall celebrity 'Charlie Darwin's birdmap of Britain'

A telephonic application, or 'app', from Fowleguides (yet another copy of Collins, but on a chain to be kept in the pantry by my handset). You simply dial the operator, ask for young Stephen Mersey, name your species and he will shout out the page number to save you using the index.
Magazine subscription: 'The Strand Magazine', for all coastal sightings and tideline corpses.

New clothing: camouflage cassock and surplice. A detachable dog collar allows you to dash out during any overly long hymn to have a scout in the bushes.

Outdoor cases for everything: for opera glasses, notebooks, i.d. books, camera and, of course, gun.

Birdwatching Fete collectables including t-shirt, communion chalice, badge, cart sticker and sackcloth bag.

New birdfeeder: a sarf London lass who will stand on your lawn continually singing 'feed the birds, tuppence a bag' until you threaten to set the hound on her.

And finally, my favourite: freshly mounted Osprey in glass cabinet.

The birding life of the village will seem most slow after this for a while- certainly at least until the next rarity, long overdue- we have not had a new village bird for over a week now.

Saturday, August 18

British Birdwatching Fete, day the two.

Dearest reader, another most full day!

One of the more interesting sideshows was 'The work of the rarity committee of The Albion Rare Sightings Official Logistical Survey'. I say sideshow, it was more a pressgang, as the members made their way from tent to tent, seeking out fraudsters and charlatans and taking them outside for what I believe the correct term to be 'a jolly good kicking'. After the good-natured blood-letting the subject of their ire would always be taken to the osier weaving display area, to be fitted with his own wicker man. What japes!

Promenading past the bird clamping display I found myself wondering just what rare birds I might have caught should I have not quit the habit. I am sure I would have supplied Bristow with many examples, but, never mind, instead I loitered awhile with the eyeglass sales people. My plan was to once more only spy on the rares. It is amazing just how many good birds whizz by as you stroll the countryside, and to capture a vision through glass is dashed easier than fiddling with either net or chimpers' lenses.

Ignoring the scandal sheets such as the Daily Hail from earlier in this week in where they accused them of using slave labour in the sixties, I found myself purchasing a pair of Sawrubski Opera glasses. Oh the clarity of the eyepieces, put down to be due to being polished longingly and lovingly on the soft inner thighs of unmarried teenaged Catholic girls found close by their home town plant in Schwiz, Austria. My own pair have a card in their box which reads 'rubbed up by Fraulein Eva Schiklgruber and finished off by Fraulein Barbie Barbie'. They also come with a guarantee that if anything premature were to occur, I could return my pair for a seeing to.

Well done Sawrubski! I hope this bad publicity does not affect your sales in any way. We should remember they were just Catholic schoolgirls after all.

Friday, August 17

British Birdwatching Fete, day the one

Dear Parish newsletter reader,

Should you ever consider visiting the British Birdwatching Fete in years to come, I hope the following notations might help with any forward planning.

I am afraid to report upon arrival there had already been several accidents in the cart park, as many of the day trippers, for reasons unknown, felt the need to camoflage themselves as if they were heading into the wild itself. Why the need to take on the appearance of the Green Man I cannot fathom, but for some this became the Green, blood red, black and blue Man.

I was lucky enough to arrive in time for some of the morning events, of which I particularly enjoyed the BTO (British Taxidermist's Organisation) 'speed stuffing display'. One member was able to stuff, mount and finish off his bird in under a minute- impressive stuff.

The other demonstration which gave me pleasure was 'Moth mounting live', where experts had to grapple and bring down their quarry before efficiently impaling them onto a display card. I am considering investing in a killing jar, a killing bottle, a killing display and a killing guidebooklet to start myself.

You will be spoilt for choice for overseas travel. All elements of the Empire and I will now start an Empire List in addition to my British List. I had to find a reputable company for booking my next trip, so I have gone with a company of the Royal Engineers, courtesy of Army Ornithological Society and have provisionally booked for a tour to both Rourke's Drift Lodge and Khartoum Bird Observatory.

There are many Societies you can support. Today, under advisement from young Bristow 'ere I left, I have signed up as a member of Mounted BirdLife International. Thanks to their newsletter I will know just how endangered the species are that George offers me now. I did not enjoy The Plumage League's Legacies stand. They try to weasel-word a last will and testament from each visitor to inherit their monies. That, I am afraid to have to remind you, is the work of the Church.

Finally for today I should mention a brace of the illustrated lectures I attended. The three o'clock lecture by  the Slum Tenement and Unkempt Hovel birder, on the "joys of inner city birdlife" was followed immediately at three o' five by a lecture on the Spoon-footed Sandpiper, a near extinct fully palmated wading bird, now being bred in captivity. Bristow assures me one will turn up in Listershire soon.

I shall write more anon.

Tuesday, August 14

To the Venerable Dean Cliff, on the origin of subspecies

"I must enquire as to whether it is through his grandmother or his grandfather that young Tom Huxley considers himself descended from a monkey?"

So has the Bishop of Oxfud, Samuel C.P.B. Willbyforce, latter of Listershire Community Housing for the Differently Tempered become famous in these past few weeks; and I was lucky enough to have been there to witness the birth of his notoriety!
The instigator of the dispute, young Chas Darwin, was away, studying ancient tortoises at Mrs Miggins' Tea and Sandwich shoppe for elderly and befuddled ornithologists. His main supporter, young Alf Arbuthnot Wallace, was also on expedition, trying to make contact with the suppressed tribes of the East Saxon islands. (I hear he has discovered a new isle near Fowleness, which is to be named after him). This left young Tom Huxley to defend these new and radical views in the heat of the debating chamber.

John Stevens Henslow-Sparrer, chairing the debate had called upon Huxley to state his views at greater length, which brought up the Bishop. Having heard the argument that a camera obscura owner was a subspecies commonly known as a chimper (if you have not heard this, use your worldwidewebnet to search the term 'chimping' on vicarpedia), the Bishop was keen to know if a chimper was descended from a monkey, and asked whether he had a preference for the descent being on the father's side or the mother's side?

This of course gave Huxley the opportunity of bashing the Bishop in front of the entire assembly. He stated as a chimper he would sooner claim kindred with an ape than a man like the Bishop, who made so ill a use of his wondrous speaking powers to try and burke, by display of authority, a free discussion on what was, or was not, a matter of truth, and reminded him that on questions of ornithological science 'authority' had always been bowled out by investigation.

The Hall was in uproar, and many other indignant chimpers also joined in bashing the Bishop in unison. A terrifying sight! Young Huxley had defended Darwin's theory so well, that, whilst the Bishop might still try to claim chimping as being almost Divine, the subspecies Homo sapiens longlensa is now indeed accepted to be just one step up from the primates, as many of us have suspected for some time now. It certainly explains their primal urges for perfect bird images! We really should pray for them.

I look forward to your company on the journey north to the British Birdwatching Fete later in this week.

Your servant,

Saturday, August 11

Forgive us our syndromes

Doctor Asperger,

Thank you for your lengthy report on my condition. Obviously my recent bout of listeria has been beneficial for one thing, that it allowed full investigative tests upon my health, but, whilst now feeling well in myself I am somewhat taken aback to hear you suggest I should take part in your novel study, because of my 'ongoing condition'.

You claim I have some form of as yet undescribed disorder, or syndrome as you put it, one that you hope to prove through studying people such as myself? Well, I for one have no wish to be some charlatan's experiment. You sir have misdiagnosed me, like some common quack.

What is this 'Doctor Asperger's syndrome'?

You say that the pursuit of a narrow and specific interest is a sign of your syndrome?
- The study of the birds of my parish is not a narrow interest, it is three miles by four, and why I have already recorded over 500 species here- is that not wide enough?

You say that someone with acute knowledge of the dates of rare species, but without an accompanying desire to understand the broader topic of birds, is most certainly affected?
- I have not heard such tosh since Mr Weasel claimed the Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater to be European, on July 26th, eleven years hence, the second of its four day stay- t'was a Sunday.

You say encompassing my entire house in the one subject is a sign?
- Ignoring the books and the mounted specimens , if you had looked carefully you would have seen the shelves in the pantry have a collection of dinky little horses in carriage displayed. And I have every gramophone recording of popular folk songs of Listershire in the study. Is that not different enough?

You say I lack non-verbal communication skills?
- I am not moved by this suggestion. Not a muscle.

You say I lack empathy?
- I do not feel moved by this suggestion either.

You say my clumsiness is another evidence of the condition?
- Well, God moves in mysterious ways, and so do I.

You say I have restrictive and repetitive interests and behaviour?
- Well, God moves in mysterious ways, and so do I.

You say I use words too literally?
- No, I am in accordance with giving the word the primary meaning. It is as it should be. After all, in the beginning was the word!

You also say I take words too literally?
- No, just literally. As they should be. How can they be 'too' literal?

You say I use the wrong intonations? That I fail on my prosody?
- I only have to look at how my parishioners strain at my every word in service to know this to be wrong.

You say I have marked one-sided verbosity? That I am happy to talk about my matters, but not listen to others?
- I refuse to hear such nonsense. No-one has ever stopped me to complain about my tales of the birds of the parish, no-one has ever felt the need to interrupt me. No-one has ever tried to interrupt me. I am sure all are fascinated by the movements of our avian friends. So, do not bore me with your own strange thoughts sir. 'What' and 'ever'.

You say I fail to interpret others correctly?
Well certainly I interpret others' poorly documented avian claims well enough. I am known as 'Judge, jury, Executioner and Priest for a last confession'.

You say I have impaired visual contact and facial responses?
- In your surgery certainly I am disinterested and I twitch to get free. But if you were to see me in the field, you would know this to be untrue. I am the model of interested study, just disinterested towards human companions. I simply must not miss the bird, for certain.

You say I fail to register if the listener is engaging with me? That the listener may have no interest in my subject? That the listener may in fact wish to depart, yet I keep them there engaged in a subject of which they have no interest.
- My parishioners never leave a sermon early. (They cannot, the door is locked.)

You say I may offer monologues of no interest to the listener, with no due cause?
My favourite sighting was a Wallcreeper. I watched it for over six hours. It was a Thursday.

You say I have auditory perception deficits?
No, I simply choose not to hear what you say.

You say I have selective mutism? Happy to engage with some, and not others?
Well I shall certainly talk to you no more. From now on I shall only seek the opinion of your partner in practice, Dr Thuckwitt.

I fail to see any value in your study. Your claim that this syndrome somehow benefitted hunters of old seems a little strained, but if you say hunters are retarded, then I am happy to be known as hunter. I will hunt out the fowle with such purpose that all men will know me as the greatest hunter of the birds, before any knowledge of me as a cleric, teacher, family man. And that is as it should be.

 That is all. Goodbye.

Sunday, July 29

The Most Silent Order of The Knights Suppressors

My Parishoners,

For today's sermon I would like to hold up the Godly work carried out within a closed order, not far from this very Church, as an example to us all.

This group of noblemen, the Most Silent Order of the Knights Suppressors, withdrew from everyday listing life near three decades hence, to bring themselves closer to God through the quiet study of the miracle of migration. Tired of wordly battles over sightings, and tired of chasing others' false idols, they formed a secret community deep in the hills not far from the sea where, from before dawn, they gather to listen to their choir sing the songs of the birds, and for this they are rewarded, not unlike Saint Francis of Assisi, by swarms of avian immigrants in Biblical proportions. Toiling in their field during all passage hours, they remain dedicated to just their own small patch of God's earth and no other, never bothering the common man by seeking out others' sightings, instead contented on just the fruits of their own labour.

For this Godly work, from within this bounteous crop of common immigrants they are from time to time warmed by the presence of rares. It is a just reward, for they are so devout in their labours.

However, some would question their motives, and challenge whether they have truly withdrawn from the world.

To those I say, do you ever see these Knights afield in the robes they are obliged to wear? Any such member has to carry their mark upon them at all times; The Royal Badge of the Ring and Garter. Well, to be seen amongst ordinary watchers wearing the RBRG is, under their own strict laws, an invitation to public ridicule and excommunication.

I ask you this; has any man here seen a Knight Suppressor twitching within the Parish this Millennium? No. You have not. You might only glimpse one on their ritual WEBB count (Wetland Beating the Boundaries count) and at no other time. And this is how it should be.

Now there are those of you who would seek out rare reward to revel in proclaiming it in public, but only at departure, late to all others. I will warn those of you here and now; you will not have to wait be judged at the last days, for you will judged here and now, and undoubtedly cast from your own flock.

If you wish to be follow in the footsteps of a Knight Suppressor you must act in all ways like a Knight Suppressor; you must keep the vow of silence until your due day of judgement, and only then confess your sightings direct to those who sit in judgement.

It is a hard path to follow. I myself try, but know I might fail from time to time. When I do fail, then I know to expect no mercy. I will be smited. As will you.

Sunday, July 22

An apology for my secrecy- chapter the fourth


I pray thee do not be so common in your despatches. I am afraid I cannot fathom your ire over the outcomes of these recent suppressions. Why do you have such a problem with the treatment of your Mongebourne Hoopoes? As a man of God I kept my word when you decided upon a policy of complete silence, and I told no birdwatcher. I know you intended not to mention in quite the same manner as the now infamous "B-E", but instead you were looking to simply silence the listers several months on by showing your actions as an example of how birds can be left to breed.

But you really cannot be upset if young Bristow accidently acquired them!

When you shared your initial joy with me you said no birdwatcher was to know of the attempt, and that was the case. For the two village gunners, Snaregood and Cagetrapp, to each independently chance upon a single of the pair on the same morn was just pure luck. It does seem far-fetched that Harris the chopper somehow selected the nest-tree for firewood, but you have to admit it all came together rather well for a jolly nice display for my mantelpiece.

For Bristow to be drinking in the snug of 'The Noosed Badger' at the same time all three came to imbibe at lunchtime, simply serendipitous. For my appearing there in Mongebourne at that time, just a small matter of good fate. You cannot hold it against me for seizing the opportunity, for paying a few pennies to each of the gunners and for then directing Bristow to mount my prizes for my parlour?

I had not mentioned the acquisition to you until now as I wanted to keep all news from the spies of this county's Nestfinder General. But I thought you might have noticed the birds' absences yourself, especially as the nesting tree is no more? This lack is a tad obvious, after all! Perhaps your own lack of diligence brought this reward upon you? You cannot blame my acquisition on anyone but yourself.

But no, like some childish schoolgirl you now proceed to withhold news of the actual nest-site of 'your' Gleads from me on the off chance that they might return next year. Well, pish. If you feel you can no longer confide in this man of the Cloth, then I suggest you consider our exchanges on the natural world now completed, and that you begin corresponding with the Presbyterians from this point forward.

I bid you good day.

Your once closest friend,
The Reverend Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch

Saturday, July 21

An apology for my secrecy- chapter the third

Chiduel Pickwick wrote...
Very Christian of you Reverend to let your followers know of Parish matters late, yet again(!), and then reproduce your lithographs after the fowle has flown, Listershire pizzle taking of the greatest value, well done Reverend for being a prize codpiece filling

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
'Chiddy' I know full well my actions are no different from any other good ornithologist- indeed you, yourself, kept a new species to the Kingdom quiet this spring- how I would have loved to have seen the 'short-eyed owl' that you publicised on your own interweb blogpost. Let he who is without sin throw the first codpiece...
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Comment Deleted wrote...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
'Comment Deleted', if indeed that is your name, you have done me no favours by writing a comment that says 'This comment has been removed by the author' as, if I now remove it, it will read the same and show me as swift with the editorial quill. Is this because I did not allow you to call me a 'pony-tailed knob-jockey' last winter? As I explained at the time, I am well aware there are several birdwatchers known by this name already, and I could not let them think they were being disparaged here...
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Mr Heathcliff wrote...
Suppression at its finest!.

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
No Mr Heathcliff, that would involve a Tengmalms' Owl at the very least...
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Listershire Stringer wrote...
One word. TOSSER!

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
I forgive you.
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Thannit Stringer wrote...
Found your blog a few months ago and had enjoyed reading your accounts and wondered why they had stopped for the past week. Maybe you were on holiday. Well now we know. Very sad that you never thought to spread the news.

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
I forgive you too.
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Harry Bunting wrote...
Suppression is a very touchy subject and many birds do indeed get suppressed, either for pleasure or the fact they may be breeding birds, etc, but if you choose the path to suppression for pleasure you will get peoples' backs up; note the suppresser here twitched or attempted to twitch the Northup Park Bee-eaters and the Eastern Black Redstart, I can handle suppressed birds easily but these types that keep their sightings quiet or concealed, but gleefully turn up hoping to see their victims' rarities are indeed a very much maligned breed. Very disappointing that this action has been taken.

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
Young Harry, we all choose paths in life, and as we know, we will all be judged on the final day. My behaviours will then, and only then, be deemed good or bad. If my actions cost a ticker one or two ticks, then so be it. As for visiting the finds you mention, it is my Christian duty to try to convert the heathen twitcher, and where they gather in number, so there will I be.
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Konan the Baptist wrote...
See, all you lousy heathen scum, this is truly a Godly man! Hellfire and brimstone on the lenses of all those who would seek profit or self-gratification through the act of coveting a neighbour's sightings. Cast out your sins and repent you unworthy maggots! Or else your miserable life of envy and pettiness will repeat itself, for eternity, stuck forever on UK399! REPENT! REEEEPENT!!!

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
Thank you Konan. I trust I shall see you for tea and cake at your usual time?
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Judge Wrightly-wrongly wrote...
Record not accepted.

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
Your Honour, sometimes I think the members of your judicial review committee have a prejudice towards this particular man of the cloth. But, no matter. I shall not appeal. I shall walk my own road. And see many wonderous things upon it.
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AprilWan#69SPAM wrote...
I find your page. I like very much. You visit mine? Plenty cheap Asian rarities for plenty cheap import. You find at asianrarebirdsDOTcom. You come plenty soon!

Reverend Bandwell Fumblefinch replied...
Dear Mistress April, can you arrange delivery of a Peter Pallas's Reeler? In time for late October? In return I shall find some clothing for you.
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Friday, July 20

An apology for my secrecy- chapter the second

My dear Weasel,

As the finder of this magnificent beast has now posted of his triumph elsewhere I am safe to share some of my pictorial illustrations with you. I am very pleased with them, better than many of the Camera Obscura Club of Kent images you see in their publications. Why I may even now apply to become a CocK member (guffaw!).

Here you can clearly see the rarity perched, next to a Great Spotted Cuckoo. This was on day the one.

Here the bird has just flown up from tunneling a nest in a freshly prepared grave. You can see the soil between the toes. This was day the two.

Here the bird is in display flight over the nesting area. It is reacting to the mixed kettle of 437 Red Kite, six Black Kite, a Mississippi Kite and a hot air balloon that you can just make out in the skies above it. This was day the forty-third.

Here the bird is sleeping. R.I.P. indeed (roost in peace, guffaw!) How lucky I was to get so close for these records. This was day the ninety-eighth.

The final record, from day the one hundred and eleventh, when this Amur Falcon was captured in illustration stooping low like a hunting African Goshawke. It plucked the rare from this favoured perch, carrying it in talons, looking not unlike a Fish-hawk, to a nearby bramble where it impaled the rare on a thorn, like some butcher-bird, then to feast on the flesh throughout the day (dipping morsels in royal jelly not unlike the Honeycomb-Buzzard) until, like a crafty Jay, it cached the remains under leaf mould, before, like some Long-tailed Tit-bird, it joined the rest of the Amur flock to roost side-by-side along a branch for the night.

Such delights! Such wonders! Such a victory! I trust your records of the H--p--s are as memorable for you.

Thursday, July 19

An apology for my secrecy

My dear Weasel,

I must apologise for not writing sooner. I have been on a most marvellous adventure, protecting a rare species of bird that was attempting to nest nearby. I say attempting, in the widest meaning that it never actually truly attracted a mate, for another did seemingly fly-by, high, one morn in the midst of the stay, but, no matter- it had an opportunity, whilst we the select keepers of the secret got to enjoy it for a brace of weeks. We kept the camera obscura riff-raff at bay, that is all that matters. We have no doubt they will squawk and feathers will be ruffled, but then these will be allied to the same people who would deny the young finder in question his good migrant records, so they bring it upon themselves. If they so wish to doubt a December flyover Blyth's Reed-Wren, so be it.

How we managed to keep news of this find from the great unwashed observers of the Isle in question is not for quill on parchment; there must be no triumphalism in our writings for that will only provoke the list players furthers. I cannot post you pictures of the site, nor of the bird itself, but I promise I will tell all when we next meet, where also- for now I might just hint that having a man of the cloth as one of the lookout party does make it that little easier to dissuade any due local plebeian burials (for the bird was tunneling in a pre-prepared grave) and in the process gain me a farthing a cadaver sent in the direction of the crematorium to boot.

I hope your own secret watchering has gone well also. Hoopoes are such lovely birds.

Friday, July 6

Let us sing in praise of your great directions..

Guide me, O thou great bird pager,
Dude in this nigh birdless land. 
My skills are weak, but thou art mighty;
Guide me on thy powerful band.

Birds of others, birds of others,
lead me till I want no more;
lead me till I want no more.

Open now your crystal display screen,
whence the banal stream doth flow;
let your bleeps and low vibrations
give directions for me to go.

Dear deliverer, dear deliverer,
tell me it's still in that field;
tell me it's still in that field.

When I risk the judgement of Evans,
bid my anxious fears subside;
confessed dips for list's corruption,
keep me safe on 400's side.

Monthly payments, Monthly payments,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.