Monday, December 23

A Christmas Carolina Duck, part the five

The sound that he heard, it was the Church bells of Much Ticking ringing, Scrooge was sure of it.  Church bells, and, and a Blackbird, yes, a dear sweet Blackbird, and wait, yes, a Wren, and the chomp chomp of an Ivory Seagull feeding upon the frozen corpse of the little match girl in the Square. The CocKs and their daily ritual of pre-dawn lime-light flashes had not scared it off yet, so the day was still starting, but which day was it(?).

Then the unmistakable sound of a once-jolly reveler throwing up the remnants of last night's ale with such gusto as to match the tones of a ditch-water torrent over-topping a jammed sluice discharge(?) It could only be one person. Scrooge drew back the curtains of his four-post bed and ran to the window.

"Mrs. Miggins(!) Why, Mrs. Miggins, is that you?" Scrooge cried down and received a warming reply of throaty regurgitation. He peered through the half-light to the roadside, where, in finest stilettos, LBD/apron combo, lashings of body glitter and a rather fetching scopac, Mrs. M. was squatting.

"Mrs. Miggins, pray tell me, what morning is this?"

"Well, Mr. Scrooge, that depends on 'ow long I have been asleep surveying this 'ere gutter for snipe I s'pose."

"No worries, no worries(!) I can now tell by my Weblogge screen it is indeed Christmas Morning, so neither you or I have missed it(!) Now, please, come in Mrs. Miggins, come in(!) I have business that concerns you."

Mrs. M entered, still on all fours, and Scrooge helped her to a seat. "Mrs. Miggins, I must ask, is this year the same as usual for your Tea & Sandwich Shoppe for Elderly and Befuddled Gentlemen? By that I mean do you still have several hundred unsold copies of your 'Annual Tea Shoppe steep records Reporte'? If so, then I will buy every single copy from you, providing you can have them here within the hour. In fact, have them here within the half-hour and there will be an extra shilling for your troubles. I intend that they will be given as presents to the poor a'birderers of this Parish." No time was wasted and, true to his word, Scrooge then went about the village showering holiday tidings and gifts on all the a'birdering muppets like some most able Caine.

No a'birder had ever kept Christmas as well as Mr. Scrooge did that day. I quote most truthfully the words that young Chas Dickens later penned about Mr. Scrooge;-

"Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them, for he knew that no good thing in this world ever happened, at which some did not have their fill of laughter. His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him."

He certainly showed it by being, for the first time in all memory, 'offline' to all Usury enquiries for the rest of that December 25th (it was later revealed he instead partied with his family where, for once he spoke not one single word of fowle language all night long).

On the Boxing Day morning Scrooge was found at first light already seated in his Usury, awaiting the arrival of Tickall. At one minute past the start of the first working hour his minion entered the shop, most sheepishly.

Said Scrooge, sternly "You sir, you are late.

"I'm terribly sorry Mr Scrooge sir, but we made rather merry with the carol-oke last night, and when we had to put the carpet on the fire the nylon caught the chimney alight we had call out the village fire brigade of Pugh, Pugh, Balmer & Gillings, Caffrey, Downie and Swann (and Fuller) to deal with it."

"Excuses, excuses, excuses. I will tolerate it no longer, sir. I shall instead, sir, be giving you a raise, sir."

Tickall was taken aback by this pronouncement;- "More money, sir(?) Oh that is wonderful news(!)"

"Money(?) Heavens no, man. I am giving you a raise up. A raise in position. A raise in rank. I am raising you to be the highest ranker in the Premier League of A'birderers (as sponsored by The Tickall Ornithological Claims Shoppe, formerly Meinertzhaagen-Das and Scrooge). You see, everything that in a 'birdering I have made my business these many years is now yours. I am stepping down. From this moment forward you shall be the Head Usury of the land. Does this not please you?"


"For certain, it means it will be you who is hero-worshiped most regularly, admired most regularly, interviewed most regularly, quizzed most regularly. True you will also be quoted badly most regularly, challenged most regularly and derided most regularly, but surely all the attendant celebrity and admiration is worth it(?)"


"No, my mind is made, I am stepping down. For sure, I am certain some regulars will keep harking back at me to start with, but within a short time you will be seen as the Premier recipient of all Usury discussion and I will by then be slipping quietly into anonymity. It is done, sir(!) By tonight it will be your name above this shoppe window, in lights. Your name on the lips of every a'birder. Come now, this really is what you have always wanted, after all(?)"


"Congratulations then(!) For the whole wide world of competitive listing, warts and all, now revolves around you. You are now the epicentre of all attention, good and bad."


"And now I take my leave of you, for I must go and see the Reverend and let him know I am a changed man, before I then retire to the country to attend to m'Lady's pheasant place and my half-hidden Carolina Ducks. Cheerio, young Tickall, and God help us, God help us every one(!!)


~ ~ ~ ~

And that, my future unknown incumbent of this Parish office, was how the famous Mr. Scrooge became such a changed man. I am sure right up to your own day many a'birderers will still consider him to be a most miserly figure and fail to ever find any good in him. And for sure, I know he will sometimes be unable to resist offering strong opinion on matters within the old profession. But he can at least now leave all Usury nitty-gritty to the new man and spend more of his time enjoying family and common fowle. For that is what he now appreciates. And that is the true Christmas miracle.

Whether of course Scrooge truly manages this, or whether indeed the Spirits require repeat visitations to young Tickall I presently have no idea;- you sir will have to read on through what must now be most-dusty annals of the Parish Register.

For now then I take my leave of this ghostly Christmas story, with a quote, which seems so apt to the highs and lows that will be heaped upon any who seek a situation of Usury:

"You don't understand how competitive this is.
For some people, this is life and death."
                                                                                  (Mr. Geo. Washington-Post, 15/12/13)


The full story was later adapted into a novel
 by Mr. Cajun-Avery,
 entitled "Fighting over Birds"
and is still available everywhere.

Tuesday, December 17

The Ghost of Sightings Yet to Come

The young man in combat fatigues opposite stared at Scrooge. He said nothing, as with the Spirit next to him, Scrooge found could still hear his thoughts, plain as day.

"Just look at you old man. Why did you have to go and sit near me? I didn't see you board, and I sure don't see you packing heat so you ain't a real birder. You just stay way clear of me when it goes down. I don't not like you, looking at you you remind me of my Grandad, 'G'. So I really don't wanna to see you get hurt. But this is birding after all."

Scrooge was confused by what he was hearing in his head, and confused by the situation he found himself in. He, and this Spirit of Future Sightings, had both materialised in some sort of shaking metal cylinder, speeding at some height over a brightly-lit city that seemingly stretched from dark horizon to dark horizon. The young man obviously saw him, but not the Spirit. Scrooge looked at the division patch on the militia man's sleeve; " Tickall, Dirk: Voyager Generation Birders: Championship Class."

Scrooge looked to his Ghost host and whispered "Spirit, these thoughts I am hearing, they are clearly not my own. Are they his?" There came a nodded reply.

Tickall checked his kit. Hundred thirty miles to go, just time for those superstitious last minute routines. His weaponry was always kept in a state of readiness, but this routine just got him that little bit more into the zone. He stared at his Hand-Cannon. The Android Operating System was off, replaced by manual CSC (Camera Systems for CocKs). Ultra HD and 3D image capture were online, and giving a good pixellation via the EVF transat. Using the touchscreen interface to spin through 360 degrees in nightvision setting, he zoomed in further on the target zone care of the Wi-fi GPS. A blip was there. Was this it? Pulling up voice recognition control he xeno-canted 'Tringa totanus'. At the same moment, now just sixty-seven miles away, the bird gave out a quiet contact call. His weapon registered positive voice-recognition and locked on. The screen flashed and zoomed in on the target. Already the Iris filled the screen. Oh this was going to be good.
It was the first twitchable Redshank since the Surge of '25 wiped out the last remaining saltings. It would only be his fourth-ever wader. Stakes were high. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his grandfather's lucky bandana, kissed it, then quickly hid it away again before anyone saw it.

They were now just forty miles off of the sewage storm-drain, the CocK chopper would be putting them down within thirty seconds. Whilst he could have remote-captured a full DNA pic-profile from breath at this range, Tickall was like the other CocKs;- old fashioned. He still liked the thrill of direct line photon capture- he wanted to be there, in the zone, with the bird. And naturally he also wanted the automatic reverse 180 selfie that would show him on site, for the Listing Committee files.

The chopper banked hard and fast, Tickall slid forward, his thermo-nuclear cam-pack battery array digging hard into his back. He gripped the barrel of his weapon tight to him. Deployment was now nano-seconds away, and it would be every CocK for himself.

The well-rehearsed plan was already set fast in his sub-conscious, in his muscle memory. The chopper floor would instantly withdraw and buckles release automatically- Tickall would drop into the foetal roll and let his body camo-armour take the impact. He'd practiced that a hundred times each week at the gym, in full kit; he knew first man standing always got the chance to then tripod down those still on the floor around him if needs be. He had to be first out the blocks.

It would be no more than a hundred yards to the camo-barrier-screen that had been remote-dropped overnight following the discovery of the bird on the avi-radar. Pre-flight he'd put enough steroids in him to cover that distance in Olympic qualifying time. His weapon would be up and readied ten yards from the barrier where it would capture the first K of images in the time it would take his rods and cones to record him an old-fashion 'own eyes on' hit. And in the same instant he'd be dropping and rolling clear before the main twitchwave hit. He forecast that most of his fellow travellers would be arriving a half-second after him, and taking no prisoners. After all, they'd all paid a lot to be here. It wouldn't matter they'd most likely bring down the camo-barrier with the force of the wave and flush the bird, they'd have it. It'd all be over in less than twenty seconds. Sure, some always didn't survive these landing photo-assaults, but this was birding.

For a moment he thought of his Grandad G. Sure, he'd sold the old coot for bodyparts on the Medicom black market to raise monies for this chopper flight, but he'd deserved a chance to get this;- Grandad G may well have introduced Dirk to birding, but you're only as good as your last performance, and Grandad G had kept on and on and on about how he didn't 'need' Redshank, having self-found and seen well at least three or four, pre-surge. He'd really annoyed Dirk by saying he'd have rather gone to pay respects at the funeral of his old boss Scrooge. The silly old fool. Nothing was more important than the list.

But the strange old duffer opposite him was a reminder, and Dirk felt a little for him. Still, this was first twitchable Redshank in nineteen years and he really hoped that this unknown coffin dodger wouldn't get in his way- if push came to shove he wouldn't hold back on seeing if those bones were as brittle as they looked. After all, this was the bird that was going to put him in the TUKOGBANI 100 club. And that old man was surely on his final migration. He was on the threshold of Premiership. You only remember the winners.

The red warning lights started to strobe and the chopper was dropping groundwards. Dirk was so pumped, he found himself singing. "I got ticks, they're multiplying..." This was it, battery up(!) Lens and load, Lens and load...

For Scrooge it was all over in a second. He and the Spirit were now alone in the chopper hold. At first they could hear rapid fire and then screaming from inside the concrete storm drain. Then the fading sound of distant 'booms' as the chopper pilot wisely got clear of the killer shot zone.

"Spirit, I have seen more than enough tonight. Take me home Spirit. Please. Have pity. Take me home."

Scrooge was in blackness. For what seemed an eternity. Would he ever awake? Would he have the chance to change?

(to be concluded)

Sunday, December 15

The Ghost of Sightings Present

In which Mr Scrooge is taken to view several festive scenes of Christmas;-

~ ~ ~ ~

First to a joy-filled market forum, where a'birderers had gathered from all over the webbe to discuss the true meaning of Christmas; namely, which journal to subscribe to, which book to buy, which travel expeditionary force to spend with, which pair of opera glasses to upgrade to, which drawscope was worthy of purchase, which camera obscura was best in the 'over one thousand guineas' range, which waxen jacket was the one to be seen in this season, which fowle usury service provided the best information for money (Scrooge liked this), which electronic application upon a telephonic communicator was worthy of splashing out upon, which birdseed mix gave best value by appealing to fowle but at the same time not attracting village waifs, strays, urchins and ne'er-do-wells... And so on and so on it went(!) Scrooge noted someone even posted a small piece on the sighting of a fowle, but as usual this just led to virtual fisticuffs, so he went back to coveting all the shiny things.

When sated, Scrooge turned to the Spirit and enquired "Oh Spirit, I now have such a feeling of cheer, when I awake I must join such a market forum if they will have me(!) But where exactly, may I ask, are those many happy people populating this market? I cannot see them for all the glittering."

The Spirit pointed towards the darkest corners, in which Scrooge imagined he could just make out the hunched figures of pale sad lonely souls, each alone in a darkened bare cold room, each a'hammering at their keyboard. Happy together, yet alone.

~ ~ ~ ~

Without warning, off, off, flying through the air, this time to a Minor's cottage. There, up in a bedroom a typical teeny-ticker of today applied himself to the young ways of a'birdering.

"But mommmmmm, five minutes, I'm a'twittering with my new friend..."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - MOS. I'm back!
So, your news?- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - ROTFL!
??? - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Robin on the Found List!
Boomawesome dude! - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - hey u promised 2 show me yr list
LOL- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Lots on List?
NOYB :-) Joke! sick set of selfies- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - pls send it
ok, but u gotta show me yours- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - ooo, that's a nice big list
+ you have pretty selfies- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - I want selfies like that
Listen, now we're BFF, can I share?- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - ?
It'll be our little secret?- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - WTF?
Wanna see a naked bird with a good book?- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - BLOCK!!! UNFRIEND!!

Scrooge looked at the minor, alone in their room wide-eyed, shaking and fearful, and despaired for the future of a'birdering. "Let us away Spirit."

~ ~ ~

Next was to a Lighthouse Observatory where, cut off from the world by savage winter gales thus denying him all chance of birderage, a lonesome Obs Man instead sat compiling chart upon chart of autumnal commonfinch motions for the annual reporte, by the flickering light of his Stormsvala kerti. Scrooge watched as he rose and sloped over to the oven from whence he took a small, but splendid, Christmas dinner of traditional 'Lighthouse Attraction', adorned with all the trimmings (roofing felt, grit, scrapes of leaden paint). "God bless me" he whispered, coldly, before settling back down to pull his own cracker.

"Spirit, I now know what you say to me, a'birderers are such lonely souls and they should not be. Show me something happier."

~ ~ ~

Scrooge found he then looked in upon his own relation's family celebration, a party at which talk of a'birds was always banned by his young nephew;- and yet people were somehow still happy, most happy, all dancing and singing and revelling, all enjoying the many things other than fowle which the world had to offer-

"Whoa(!) Halt(!) Not that happy. Quickly Spirit, away, quickly- a'birders may well need to live life a little better than they do, but nothing you can show me will make want to live like that(!!)"

~ ~ ~

Or so Scrooge thought. They were now outside the window of the hovel of his humble minion, Tickall.

Tickall was stood over the fading embers of old DVDs in the hearth, which flickered but dimly, making glimpsed images of old documentaries appear in the sparks. "I'm sorry family, but I think I have now squeezed all I can from the old show. I think I still have a little hot air coming off my bloggesite and a'twitterings, but that is all there is for now. We very well may yet have to fetch the hall carpet. But remember, whatever happens, we should always thank Mr Scrooge for this situation."

Scrooge pondered for a moment, then asked of the Spirit "What of Tiny Tickall's media career if I do not involve myself? Will he be able to keep it alive?" The Spirit's hand pointed to a stool by the fire, with a newspaper upon it. "The Washington Post" read the banner. "In Britain, bird-watching gone wild" read the headline beneath.

Staring at that stool, which he now realised to be much of his own making, Scrooge said quietly "No Spirit, no, I have no need to read that, nor shall I ever, whether in this newsprint form or googlified. I know what will happen. I have learnt from tonight. I have seen enough." Turning back to face his guide, he saw that the Spirit now looked old, tired and faded, no longer appealing to him in any way. And for the first time, Scrooge noticed that the Spirit had a sash around him, upon which he could only just make out several faint letters;-

TUK - GBANI   A'bird - - ing   L - sting   Ch - mp - - n    - - 13

~ ~ ~ ~

And then Scrooge awoke. In his bed.

And then Scrooge awoke. Not in his bed. 

And in his head Scrooge heard the voice of his guide for this, the final part of his journey.

"Do you smell that?
Redshank son. 
Nothing else in the world smells like that.
I love the smell of Redshank in the morning."

Wednesday, December 11

The Ghost of Sightings Past

Chapter the two:

In which Scrooge revisits a favourite haunt,
in spirit only
(for the establishment in question has been closed
for exactly twenty-five years
to this very day of writing)

Why Spirit, I know this place, oh I know it so well(!)  This Northfolk red-brick terrace holds Mrs. Seagull's Pudding Shoppe(!) Oh Spirit, you bless me, bringing me here like this(!) And you wish I should venture inside? Ah, yes, I see that the door is indeed open and there is the queue running the whole length the hallway, made up of so many old a'birdering faces, yet here still young and all innocently happy, all smiling, all expectantly awaiting their industrial-sized pot of tea, their Ethelburger, their beans on toast and their slice of Dambuster bread pudding pie, all for a half-shilling with change on top(!) Value(!)

Ah, the smell of the pud, the beans, the mouldering green waxen jackets and the great unwashed a'birderers. How this brings it all back to me(!) 

Look, look, through to the back room, past the table of nick-knacks for sale and there, by the window, the most famous perpetual telephonic communication contrivance in the land, stuck to the red-raw ear of the most foolhardy young a'birder who dared to sit next to it. Oh how often I was on the other end of that! Indeed, sometimes this end also, answering, answering, answering.

The converse would always be "Hullo there, is there anything fowle about this very day, if you do so please?" to which the young turk holding the fort would dutifully list all contents of the Daily Logge booke. This was our information service.

Were it the likes of myself answering, I would of course first point out they had the pleasure of addressing Young Mr Scrooge, and new acquaintances would be made. Oh, wait, I remember once, when contacting, I forgot my 'if do so you please' and dear old Mr Seagull, on the other end, pointing out most forcibly "I don't have to do this you know." What larks(!) Is he here(?) Yes, wait, wait, as we pass the front parlour door, look in and there he is, dear Mr Seagull, sat with their dear hound, hiding far from the a'birdering crowd!

Oh Spirit, now I can see Ethel, dear silver-haired waitress Ethel, dithering around the room, chivying along the prettiest young serving wenches the little village had to offer as they ferry hot pud after hot pud to the eager customers. And there, through in the kitchen, there the slight figure of Mrs. Seagull herself. Dear, dear Mrs. Seagull. How her sweet voice calls out my name(!)

Spirit, do I have time to push my way across the parlour that I might look on the table by the contraption for... yes, yes, it is there, the Daily Logge Booke, all stained with tea coffee and currants, detailing all the rares of the land. And Oh what a book that was(!) And the doodlings upon the pages. It is a historic treasure of a'birdering.

I can see out the window, to the garden, also is fit to burst with a'birderers, all filling up for another day in the field. Never has such a small house been so full to burst.

Those were the days Spirit. I was so, so happy then. If only life had not changed from this. If only I could have happiness like this again. But, there, look Spirit, look to the dark corner. That shady group, part-hid behind a pile of pud? I know what they are planning, for look, I am there also. (Did I not say Mrs. Seagull called out my name?) Dark times. The days of free information draw to a close. Fowle Usury is coming. Soon all of this happy clientele will be paying much, much more than the price of a pud for their daily news.

Wait, do we have to go now(?) Oh, please Spirit, just a moment longer, please, I was so happy then, please, please let there be no swift passing now back to...

Crying out so loud as to awake, Scrooge found himself to be sitting, bolt upright, in his own bed.

He knew he was now awaiting his Christmas present.

Monday, December 9

A Christmas Carolina Duck, part the one.

Entry to the Church records, December 11th;-

I provide the following account for all future holders of my post, as to be a cautionary tale of the witchery that abounds in country parishes as this quiet village of Much Ticking. Dependent upon your beliefs, this story may well prove to you that here truly Christmas ghosts do abound.

I wish to detail the strange case of one Ebansezer Scrooge.

Now some years past Scrooge was described by village newsheet columnist Charlie Dickens as 'a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old lister', and I myself had, until the time of this tale, seen little to make me disagree with the opinion. Scrooge, together with his minion clerk Garry Tickall, ran the Ornithological Claims Shop of 'Meinertzhaagen-das and Scrooge'. The business was that of a Usury of Fowle Sightings, and was open, according to his volume of days a'field, some 400 days of each and every year, excepting for a few hours on Christmas Day itself, because Tickall had to take time off to shampoo the hall rug (and reaquaint himself with his offspring) which Scrooge was known to feel 'a poor excuse for picking a man's pocketlist every 25th December'.

Scrooge did have family, and they had always made an effort to invite him to their festive gatherings at Christmastime, but his reply was always the same as given to them last year; 'Just as there will be other weddings, births and deaths, so there will be other Easters, Whit Sundays and Christmases. But there may never be another Siberian Social Thrush-plover. So, good day to you.'

Last December, following this annual turning of family away from his door, two of the local County Ornithological Society then arrived seeking donations of scarcer claims for their Annual of records, but Scrooge gave them also a stern rebuke, saying that he already paid enough through discussion on such sightings on the national information broadsheets. The two Ornithological men replied that many observers would rather die than not see their sightings appear in reputable annals, to which Scrooge replied that such observers 'had better do so and reduce the surplus claims population'.

Knowing of these events I could not then begin to explain how greatly shocked I was to have a much chastened, and a much changed Scrooge come unto me in my parlour this last Boxing Day. What a true gentleman he had become, overnight(!) The reasons for the change he revealed in the following story...


Returning home on the Christmas Eve night, Scrooge was, he is absolutely certain, visited in the early evening by a ghost(!!) Not just any ghost, but the ghost of Jacob Meinertzhaagen-Das, his business partner long dead some seven years. 'Meinertzhaagen-Das's face had a dismal light about it, like a half-hidden scarce specimen in a museum drawer. It had what appeared to be a bandage under his chin, tied at the top of his head.' How much greater was Scrooge's horror, when the phantom, taking off the bandage from about it's head, had its lower jaw drop down upon its breast, whereupon the bandage was revealed to be a lengthy roll of claims disproven and stolen, stretching over the bedroom floor and away down the stairs.

Meinertzhaagen-das then warned Scrooge to change his ways, lest he suffer the same miserable afterlife as himself. He warned Scrooge that he was already wrapping himself up in his own length, what with the list of credible a'birderers he already kept. Did Scrooge not realise he was close to hanging himself with it? To save him, Scrooge was to be visited by three additional ghosts that very night, and each in its turn would accompany him to various scenes, in the hope of achieving a transformation in his ways.

These were to be the ghost of sightings past, the ghost of sightings present, and the ghost of sightings yet to come.


(That must end the first chapter. My wick is short, please forgive me for now and I will continue this tale in a day or so.)

Tuesday, November 26

Went the day well?

My camera obscura plates are back from the developers. Oh what an entertaining time I had at the Dusky Western Thrush-warbler a'twitch. Went the day well? It most certainly did, so much so that I hope one day someone makes a cinematic presentation of it(!)

A view of the private mined field overlooking the apple tree in the rear garden of
No. 42 Wisteria Avenue
, where the bird has skulked for all of its stay.
The massed ranks of a'twitcherers assembled here for their assaults.
(The names of the fallen will appear in the next issue of  A'birding World.)

Mr Daniel Avin-itt (pointing), Mr Joshua Avin-Aswell(saluting)
and Stabsfeldwebel Bagschnell of the GDR (incorporating TUKOGBANI) 400 Club,
overseeing the day's field assaults.

The first wave of a'twitcherers secure the apple tree.

Inside, villager busy-bodies Miss Felicity Fugly-Munter and
Miss Minnie Beetle-Bonnet  chaperone the Bramley End NGB troop
as they prepare defences from which to safely request small donations
from a'twitcherers. They are receiving their final instructions in hand-to-hand combat
from Seaman
 Staines-Britches, one of the last few survivors of
the infamous Vermivora chrysoptera siege of '89.

The spinster sisters Miss Orphelia and Miss Clamydia Brock-Hunter,
owners of No 42 Wisteria Avenue, on crowd control duty.
This may in fact be one of the very last images of Miss Clamydia,
who was carried away on the first surge of 'swarovskis and disappeared beneath
the sizeable overcoat of one of the crowd, never to be seen again.

Finally, next door at no. 44, a convivial welcome awaited any a'twitcherer
who tried to enter Mrs. Fubbs' parlour unannounced.

Monday, November 18

Make it possible with canon -isation

A most warmest welcome to this editorial of your Much Ticking Parish newsletter.

As these long dark nights continue to close in, we have to find more and more tenuous reasons to give thanks and be merry by way of continual evening celebrations. Of course, this is especially easy if the excuse available to us is a Saints' Day.

Up until now November has always had rather a few too many gaps in the Calendar of the Saints, one such vacancy being on the 21st.

For certain, on the 20th the religious calendar sees us celebrate most heartily the life of Saint Edmund, King of the East Angles, who was martyred in A.D. 869 by the Great Heathen Army under the command of the infamous Viking Ivar the Boneless, Kirk of Douglas. Two days' later, on the 22nd, we have always celebrated Saint Cecilia, the patroness of musicians (and the authoress of 'Surfin' bird'). But that middle date has been quiet. So very, very quiet. So this year I am pleased to announce we have a new Saint appointed for celebration upon November 21st;-

Saint Francis of a'Fly-by 

His story is a familiar one to many naturalists, but one that perhaps is often confused by the lay person with that of his namesake from a'Ssi-si. Now Saint Francis of a'Ssi-si loved, and was loved, by all animals;- our new blessed Saint actually regularly performed the miracle of transforming common fowle into rare.

I think that every single county in our Kingdom sees claims of rare fowle every year attributable to an intervention from the new St Francis, where the miracle of the fleeting call somehow leads to acceptance. These claims are made in the most part by his followers who are always blessed with many, many more rares a'flighting than they ever find a'grounded (and which always pass through hid from the eyes of all unbelievers). St. Francis will then also often come to them, in a dream ,to help transubstantiate their written descriptions by filling minds with clear details they had not appreciated they had recorded until checking the texts.

Unfortunately his own story was ended with Saint Francis of a'Fly-by being adjudged and slaughtered by jealous fellow a'birderers.

So, to celebrate his recent canonisation, on the afternoon of the 21st there will now be a short service of thanksgiving in the church. This will be followed by an open-air silent prayer to the Saint, alongside the duck pond (where it is hoped we might all be blessed with a passing Dr Peter Pallas's Stoney-ground Grouse or two).

Whatever the outcome of the prayer, most importantly please note we are then all encouraged to retire to the 'Corncrake and Coote' for an evening of revelry. I do hope to see all of you there for this, the very first feast of the a'Fly-by.

Your humble servant,
Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch

A vision of a Hermit.
Plus a Gray-cheeked.
And a Swainson's.
And a Varied.

Tuesday, November 12

Deja Views. Again.

What ho Konan,

I know you are bombarded by pigeon post at present, so I hope you do not mind some more correspondence on visible migration from me?

I have found that young Master Davey Lacke has written concerning some experimentation he indulged in at Grimsmere some years past, with the aide of the local watcherer Bert Backaxel. They carried out counts at the coast, whilst at the same time their pedagogue friend Eddie Grey had a class of Next Generation A'birderers aloft watching in the skies, from tethered balloons using the new technique of RADAR (Rope-Aided Dangly Aerial Reconnaissance).

The efforts of these two teams led to confirmation that fowle viewable from the ground may, in certain conditions, be moving in a completely different direction to those moving seen at height. Lacke spoke not in terms of viz-migge for these low movers, but of 'coasting' and 'wrong-way coasting' (when movements were in contradiction of the RADAR results), both terms that have now fallen from usage. Should 'coasting' be reported more often than 'visible migration' especially when watching at the coast? I think perhaps it should.

Another act bordering on the sensible was to limit certain low totals from their data. Aware as they were that at this time of year resident fowle act as flocks, they knew to expect the birds to roost in smaller groups, only congealing into larger assemblies as they found feeding sites;- thus knew some coasting finches would not be a'migrating but on 'feeding flights' or 'flocking flights'. So, they drew a numerical line in the data sand; only if 100 or more of a species under study passed on a day would they consider including that total in any analysis; for them 40 Goldenfinches south was never viz-migge, nor was two Redpoll, of any flavour.

During my research I have noted more and more sites seem to be choosing their phraseology more carefully, with other descriptive choices coming into play. I have discovered the following in use as replacements for viz-migge, and I suspect there are more.

     Passage;- "the action of passing through, or past, a site on the way from one place to another" is a clever usage for time and motion studies, in that 'one place' and/or 'the other' could well be great distances apart, or just very small. We know not. But we can imagine, and our imagination runs riot;- that the fowle has surely come from the Northern Wastes rather than the Northern Marshes.
Please note an adoption of the shorthand viz-pass has not been seen. Also, that the term 'passage' should be reserved for a fowle arriving, or making way to the breeding site. The correct useage, 'back-passage', is solely reserved for evacuations.
Also remember here the matter of quantity;- "...the only evidence of passage was one east..." is something that really should not be used in reports as often as it is encountered.

     Movement;- With a strict definition of 'an act of moving', this is almost the perfect term, but I would ask any user to show me a bird, other than one moribund or dead, that was not undertaking movement of some sort(!)
Still, after consideration, I like this, and may well try to use more myself. The adoption of viz-mov in a'birderer-speak has not been seen, though a different vocalisation has produced Viz-Moo, now adopted by some as the name for a new Heathen God of Migration they seem to worship. ("By Viz-Moo, a Sibe(!)" and "Viz-Moo ignored my prayers and autumn is over for another year")

     Coming in-off;- an indication that the fowle in question were seen at some point over water, and has surely come from foreign climes. The adoption of the shorthand viz-coming has not caught on among the prim and proper.
When watching from low lying lands, an observer of just under six feet standing, at sea level, finds the distance to the watery horizon to be just under three miles. For a strapping fellow over six feet, just o'er three*. You really need to consider finding your flighting fowle from much higher ground before thinking a bird really has crossed from the continent, rather than undertaking watery coasting.
*Distance is approximately equal to 1.22 (being of use for miles {or 3.57 for Napoleonic miles}) multiplied by the square root of the height in feet (or Napoleonic feet) of the observation point. I hope you might have a use for this one day. I have yet to in my landlocked rolling hills.

Arrival;- 'The act of arriving'. To arrive means 'To reach an end, or end of a stage, of a journey'. This sounds as if there is a pre-determined desire to make a site a stop over. Which is a contrary meaning to the next two examples...

Grounded migrant;- this indicates a bird making no choice to land itself of free will, but pressurised to do so by the elements. Certainly some might be making a staged landing, but the phrase contains much more emotion than ' migrants present', or similar.

Fall;- from Sammy Johnson's book, means 'going to another level, rapidly and without control'. Something that is seen from time to time, for sure, but perhaps not with the frequency some watchpoints report. Daily 'falls' are simply not a norm. Only when that particular species has an exceptional number arrive does a 'fall' occur. Example " there was a fall of 15 Chiffchaffs..." no, no, no, nooo.

One then has to consider how all this terminology appears in the various annual county reports. Often movement is reported only as 'Autumn migration'. As a catch-all, that has the wrong emphasis. "Autumn migration commenced..." "Evidence of autumn migration..."  Horrid. If general migration is proved, it should at the very least it should be Migration in the Autumn season, or perhaps even just Movements in the Autumn. Autumnal movements may be acceptable, at least this places some emphasis back upon the many types of movement involved. Better yet to use more appropriate terminology.

For this a lot then rides upon the qualitative emphasis an author wishes to place upon a quantative count;- take these recent examples based on local a'blogwrites. Species, dates and totals have been changed to protect the befuddled, rewritten as if the comments were made on the following raw data

     ~ Blue Tit: 1st 6, 2nd 4, 3rd 8, 4th 2, 5th 12, 6th no count, 7th 4, 8th 10, 9th 3, 10th 5, 11th, 4, 12th 12

would well lead to

     ~ a fall of Blue Tits on the 12th, with twelve around the patch
     ~ grounded migrants included a dozen Blue Tits on the 12th
     ~ the excellent autumn passage of Blue Tits continued with another twelve on site today
     ~ twelve Blue Tits on the 12th were considered migrants    

Each qualitative choice adds a subjective value to the counted effort, one which the dull statistician may reduce to a more truthful comment of 'Sedentary;- no significant differences noted' on the basis that for knowledge scientific there is such a minuscule percentage of the whole population that actually changes habitat seasonally.

Thinking that a date on which for once you count nigh all your residents is surely makes for a sign of movement may well brighten up your own dull day, but but self-confusion and conflation is at play. Which is why you will later start openly believing 'there's clear Blue Tit migration seen at the coast here..' when it is clear there is not.

But there I must stop for now. I suspect the annual autumn invasion of Blue Tit to my garden is underway, and I must investigate;- I see one has finally arrived on my nuts.


On the thirty-third day 'ere Christmas,
my true love sent to me,
more flocking pigeons, more flocking Redwings, more flocking Fieldfares
more flocking finches, more flocking Dunlins, more flocking Starlings,
six goose spp. all flocking,
five wrong on jizz-zzzzzz,
for counting birds
freely moving
to someplace else
is a right sin in the Lord's eyes

Monday, November 4

Going down the Cinque holes

What ho Konan!

I am so very pleased you are finding my note on the Cinque Ports A'birderers' Association of use in your keeping of the waifs and strays out of your swamp. Now, as promised, I rather do want to comment more on your own swamp, being, as it is, a perfect example of a Cinque Hole Reserve.

The term is now quite commonplace amongst conservators as they struggle to protect our great country's wildlife. It comes from a model of thought called source-cinque dynamics that fits your situation well;- and it is based around how variations in habitats affect populations.

In the model, you have to consider a fowle population that occupies two separate (but nearby) patches of habitat. One is of high quality, a veritable Eden, where fowle abound and their numbers increase prodigiously. The other site is of much poorer quality, and is not able to support similar numbers;- left to its own devices, fowle would soon be extinct. However, as they are close-by, the excess from the source continually moves into the cinque and hides the continual losses there.

The implications now being drawn are that some areas are more worthy of conservation resources than others, and is why effort by conservators may be more a little more lacklustre at and around a cinque hole reserve.

For yourself, the problem is that your neighbouring counties' fowle enjoy such source sites, but are now finding pressures great enough so as to reduce their excess numbers. So your cinque sites now no longer receive enough replacement stock each year to keep a status quo within, and your cinque hole is revealed.

Why do you think so many of the treasured swamp sites on the Northern Marshes are now mapped out by Ordnance not by avocette or similar, but only by the dreaded black spotte? The thinking has become 'why should limited resources be wasted on such places?'. No, I am sure you can appreciate why so many conservation areas in your area register as cinque holes to those Watchmen in power, and why they will spend their guineas on better reserves outside your lands.

For sure, at certain times of the year an amazeballs** rare  might well turn up in your lands, but for fifty and one weeks of any calendar year now you will see naught but feral pigeons and escaped ring-necked parrottes around there. You are stuck in a cinque hole.

Cinque holes are the sites where tea-drinking hoary relics sit around banging on about the good old days when their skies were darkened by migrating turtle doves.

Cinque holes are the sites where even the paid conservators lose hope of keeping out the perambulists, fisherfolk and doggery-walkers, and instead hide in their parlours throughout a working day.

Cinque holes are the sites where the Councillor Watchmen worry more about appeasing their voters than upholding the value in recognised imports and exports of the migrant variety flying in and out of your county hub.

And Cinque holes also explain the age-old mystery as to why, at some sites, reported rares so often disappear so very quickly from view;- the bird is seen but by one lucky person before it flies straight down the cinque hole, never to be seen again.

I am sure you can now understand how and why so many sites in your county qualify as official cinque holes. Can you blame so many of your county a'birderers for moving away? They simply desert a cinqueing ship. Those few a'birderers left seem blissful in their pursuits of the rare, but I am sure if they were to look deep in their hearts they know the day of the great flood of concrete blocking up their holes draws ever nearer.

The view from the main hide at the famous
fps Northwards Hole Fowle Reserve

The end is nigh, Konan. Thankfully all other shires are safe for now. Why not join me here Konan? After all, here in Listeshire there are still Hoopoes on the lawn, Pale Mousey-coloured Swifts hanging on the side of the bell tower and Ruddies on the duck pond.

For now.


**(if you do not know it yet, 'amazeballs' is a term I learnt getting down with the UEA scholars and would make you look like one of the ladded gentry if you use it. Actually, you really should use it, perhaps as in this example "All my crew connected with the rare;- amazeballs views;- boom!" Now does that not make you sound like a right ol' a'birderer?)

Friday, November 1


Dear Sir,

Thank you for your leafleted invitation, whilst I would normally be happy to attend I regret to inform you that this Friday eve I have a prior appointment at the Vicarage, for my monthly nasal hairpluck.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


A zoopraxiscopic presentation on behalf of MiniCon
by the eminent Watchmen Dr Christopher Manhatten, Dr Michaela Manhatten and Dr Martin Manhatten
(with assistance from lab-monkey Nick Manhatten working a button of the red variety)
Much Ticking village hall,
Friday November 1st, Eight of the clock

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A series of short illustrated lectures purporting to entertain the masses on;-

~  how you must pass on all sightings of Bramble-finch, Waxen Chatterer and Felfer to your local Watchman

~ how you must pass on all your sightings of Hen Harrier to your local Watchman
~ how you must pass on all your bag tallys of Hen Harrier to your local Watchman

~ how you must pass on counts of murmurations of Starlings to your local Watchman

~ how you must report any lone Starlings acting suspiciously to your local Watchman

~ how you must report all migration sightings to your local Watchman
~ how you must report any fowle feigning sedentaryism to your local Watchman

~ how you must report all sightings of Watery Vole in the village pond to your local Watchman
~ how you must report all sightings of Whale and Dolphin in the village pond to your local Watchman

~ how you must report all your thermal imagery sightings of hedgepigs in bonnefires to your local Watchman

~ how you must count all leaves a'hanging on trees and report to your local Watchman*
~ how you must count all leaves a'fallen under trees and report to your local Watchman*
* see also how to complete form 88/A/MCon to report all discrepanc(ies) between your day to day combined totals for leaves a'hanging/ leaves a'fallen

~ and finally how you must catch twenty-two hidden references to zoopraxiscopic thespian-performanced stories of wartime derring-do (as made by C.M. during the course of this presentation;- n.b. one is supplied free with this flyer).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Wednesday, October 30

The Cinque Ports A'Birderers Association

Konan, thank you for your note;- I do think we are about to get into a debate most deep upon the continuing over-development of your county. I must assert that the blame for so many a'birderers deserting your land to its fate lies squarely with the Masters Mundbryce, who have duties relating to protection of their local environment, duties they are clearly ignoring. The Mundbryce are indeed those leaders of the Cinque Ports Association you mention (though your continual spelling as 'Sink ports' is but how it is pronounced;- my spelling is correct, however 'froggie' it might look to you, and however stupid you think that pronouncing 'Cinque' as 'Sink' is.)

The Privilege of Mundbryce is written in their charter as the need to punish any breach of duty to guard and protect. They should be punishing themselves for what is happening by way of breach of duty to protect their environment.

The Cinque is a huge organisation, consisting as they do of five "Ports", two "Antient" townes, eight "Limb" townes and twenty-three townes/villages "Connected", throughout your area. They could save the day easily, but I fear they have more self-interests than interests altruistic, as shown by their privileges.

Whilst reaffirming this opinion, it is only right I should point out to you that there are many privileges claimed by these Cinque a'birderers. As part of your own marsh, dear Konan, falls under the jurisdiction of one of those Limbs, they apply to you and as such I think I should advise you of those privileges which could aide you, and those that could cause you hindrance. I assure you, I make not one of these privileges up. (You may check them on the interwebbe.)

They are;-

~ Privilege of exemption from tax and tallage. This means Cinque a'birders may enter fps Dingeyness and the like without charge or without purchase from the shoppe of shiny giftes. Those of the inner circle also receive their fowle updates gratis, unlike the common man.

~ Right of Sac and Soc. This relates to local 'self-government'. It is understood to mean Cinque a'birderers are under no obligation to abide by any rulings national, and is a right they hold dear. I believe this to be what other counties refer to this as the 'Kentish Maffia'? Or something that sounds similar, for certain.

~ Privilege of Toll. They may take their own collection at any twitch and spend such monies raised on tea and cakes of all sorts at Mrs. Miggins', regardless of what they tell visiting a'birderers the funds will be going towards.

~ Privilege of Team. This originally meant the power to make holders of stolen goods divulge their sources. Now, it has come to mean any Cinque a'birderer in receipt of suppressed news is obliged to publish immediate details via the interwebbelogges, or face permanent ex-communication.

~ Privilege of Pillory and Tumbrill. These cover punishments for all minor offences, from wearing a bandana in a built-up area, to 'booming' after darke.

Privilege of Blodwit and Fledwit. The authority to punish shedders of blood and to seize those who flee. This has led to one or two altercations with those fellows who follow country sports. (A third, 'Godwit', the power of Divine rule, was stopped by Garry the Eighth at the time of the Dissolution of the Four Hundred Club.)

Privilege of Infrangenthe. To detain and execute felons inside their jurisdiction;- usually taken to mean instant sentencing upon their own private interwebbeforum.

~ Privilege of Outfrangeneof.  As infragenthe but, carried out publicly, usually on the Almighty Forum of Birds.

~ Privilege of Waifs and Strays. For those held as pending for one year and one day after date of claim, any record so published without finder(s) details attached can be lawfully claimed by any/all Cinque birders as being their own find.

~ Privilege of Flotsam, Jetsam and Legan. Similar to the latter, for dubious sea-borne records, with just a twenty-four hour cooling-off period given before ownership and tickage is undoubted*.
(*Note this law came into being before the discovery of such waterfowle as large orange-billed ternes, which are NOT covered by the Privilege.)

~ The rights of Den and Strond. The right to dry and mend nets on the beach at Great Yaarmouth in Saarfek (I kidde you notte, check the linke). This has now also come to mean a claim to all of the rare birds in that towne's cemetery as belonging solely to the Cinques liste. Saarfek a'birderers take note.
It has also come to have a third meaning, that anyone residing in the Cinques by the name of either Den or Strond can never, ever be challenged on their opinions relating to a'birdering, however fanciful they might be. The Stronds have all died out, but a Den or two remain.

~ Privilege of Assembly. all rules national relating to the behaviour of gatherings of a'birderers for purposes of a'twitchering, may be ignored, without penalty.**
(**There is an interesting legal case at present deciding if this privilege can be extended to Cinque CocKs.)

I do hope this detailed information proves useful to you. I will write again soon.


The original Cinque Ports
Official Bird List pocketbook,
a free gift with
"Cavalier a'birdering" vol XXV issue III

Sunday, October 27

Professor UEAviour's School for gifted a'birderers

An odd day, I think. I had reason to visit the Bishop of Naaarwich, and, as this was an early appointment, was offered prior overnight lodgings at the nearby University of Exotic Avifauna, the prestigious UEA.

Over the decades the UEA has been responsible for a plethora of gifted a'birders. In the recent steampunk era, one group of young students, through the wonders of self-publicity, became the most famous of them all. Billed as "the strangest a'birderers ever known", these marvelous teenagers had to come to terms with their emerging mutant birding powers. What adventures they had along the way(!)

But, that was all some years ago now and The Uncanny UEA-Men have long since disbanded. They scattered  to various corners of the Empire to continue their good deeds, from the forests of Brazil to the Ninja'birding training camps of Asia and even to darkest... Glasgow.

In more recent times a second generation, an "All-new, all-different UEA-Men" came and went, with some now plying a mercenary trade as travelers' guides, some now desk-jockeys for the likes of fps. But they were never as much loved by the die-hard fans of those original steampunks, what with their powers, for the most, seeming just that little more 'ordinary'.

Now, we have a new intake in situ, the New Mutant A'birderers. Affectionately known as the "UEA babies", they seem (mirroring so many aspects of our educational system) to be intent on lowering standards still further. Instead of steampunk-a'birdering, flogging fields skillfully from dawn 'til dusk (or until the inns open), they all just link in to an information system called CEREBRO (Current Enlightened Reporterings on Existing Birds Recorded by Others) and then chase among Broads for sloppy second-hands. Most of the adventures now centre on whether they can arrange suitable transportation in time, pausing only to muse on their teenage angsts for those home county ticks they've left behind.

Having met some of them, I do rather hope they may yet prove their critics wrong. There is still time for one of them to perhaps find a 'mega' this autumn, or, better yet, for one of them to turn up for a lecture on time. Either storyline would make for a great comic plot in the tradition of the old team. But it may well be that golden age of such super heroe a'birderers is gone forever.

Fan-boy favourite Steampunk Summers,
team leader of the Uncanny UEA Men

Thursday, October 24


Thank you for your reassuring note Konan, I so am glad you intend on seeing out the lengthy self-imposed exile on your marshes. It is just that I have heard of so many deserting your county during the past decades. They seem to be heading to all corners of the Kingdom, from Darrrrset to Yarkshire, from joining the Silures to sailing to a Scottish isle of fowle fantastical. And I had just had news of yet another has fleeing to the Narfek Boides this past month.

I cannot subscribe to your theory that, in the main, the only reason any a'birderers are left is that the bad ones are required, by law, to remain there to practice.

To borrow from the Bard's Prince of Denmark, I do think there might still be one or two who "know a hawk from a handsaw" among the ranks remaining. However, I also think it is perhaps down to the deserting of a sinking ship, what with all the continued progressive developments happening around and about all those dark Satanic shopping malls already destroying your garden.

True, the a'birderers remaining understand the Prince's tongue had trouble getting around "harnser". They appreciate they can still know a hawk, high over the chippies handsawing all the new hovels, that they can find a brown harnser or two close by those Muddies digging for their brickmaking masters, and that they might yet even still pick out a foreign beauty amongst the farmworkers seasonal at this time of year.

No, I am sure some dedicated a'birderers will hang on there with you until such time that the notice reading "this nature's home has been closed in perpetuity by your local authority" is hammered up upon your County Hall's doors.

I will have my Parishioners hold thought for their plight this weekend. After all, those that remain deserve such support as they are all Godly men, what with them having to offer up prayers thrice daily just to have any remote hope of even a tenth of the feathery rewards heaped upon their deserters, now suckling on fowle feasts in the Promised Lands of Darrrrset, Yarkshire, Narfek and the like. You are welcome to your promised land.


Four hours, and just six Chaffinch south?
Beggar this, I'm off...

Monday, October 21

Deja Views

Thank you for your prompt reply, dear Konan.

Written as it was in a mix of bodily fluids spread upon shredded pages from an official 'Watchman's notebook', and in rudimentary Queen's English, I had to take the liberty of translating, and wish to confirm I have understood your reply to be as follows;-


Visible Migration
Prose on cons of the activity.
Konan T. Baptist

What is Visible Migration?
'Viz mig' is the observation of various types of fowle migration at low altitudes.

So, what to count?
The flock-witted tend to count everything, including sedentary species. When your daily log includes "two dunnock- an increase of one hundred per cent", you know you are trying too hard. Some intelligent observers set an arbitrary figure; Lack and his viking compatriot Soren Sorenson have set a minima of 100 individuals per species before they would claim visible migration in their studies on the Sourthern Fark coast, as they wish to compare counts to images being captured by a flighty photographer, suspended by balloon just above the clouds. You should decide your own cut-off, based on your counts outside of migration. Seriously, a dunnock flying past you at ear-height is not evidence of migration.

So, when to count?
Although the clock provides a useful data-point, counts should be relative to dawn. And broken into countable periods. Some go by the hour, so dawn plus one hour, dawn plus two hours, which allows you compare days more easily. There is a primitive tribe based around the River Sheaf in Yorkshire, which admits to worshiping the magic of viz-mig, and in their offerings breaks down the counts to 15 minute periods. This is only recommended if you have no life outside of a'birdering. If this is the case, as you draw a line under each section, find a moment to note any sinful thoughts you have had in that time as well, for later repentance.
Counting is said to be best from one hour after dawn, but true miggers start from one half-hour before dawn, or earlier. You may claim many more interesting species in the darkness before dawn.

So, where to count?
Topography is important. You must discover your local flight lines. You are lucky in that churches have often been raised on such important sites. Go to your church, and repent when there whilst you're about it.
If not, the second most favoured viz mig site is the back yard of your own hovel, close to the tea urn. It is amazing how often someone will claim their own garden as a migration hot-spot, in an attempt to avoid repenting, of being cured of their lameness and of their discovering how to walk again. They may be identified by a'tweetings of 'one plus chaffinch over the garden so far'. they should be made to repent.

So, how to count?
Your field glasses are essential. You must be able to espy specks at the greatest distance. As these specks cross your field of view, you must be prepared for split-second decisions on species claimed. This is usually easier than it sounds, as at the distances involved, there is no-one going to argue with your opinion.
Also, you must remember fowle will move over you and behind you. You must be continually prepared to 'lighthouse', spinning upon the spot, for it is statistically proven the best fowle will always pass behind you;- the nagging doubt you are missing something is always with you. You should also record fowle directions based upon the compass. This is for the sole purpose of making your notes look impressive to others.
Some count by tally marks, others use numbers themselves. I prefer the latter. It is then easier to make what had been a count totaling nine (one, two, four, two) into a more impressive count of one thousand two hundred and forty-two, if you forgo a liberal use of commas.

How often should I count?
Every. Single. Day. Of. The. Year.
If you take it up, you must see it through. You must, of course, be able to prove which days are dull. If you miss a day, then you must spend as much of that day in repentance as you possibly can. And sleep on a bed of nails.

So, what else to record?
Weather, both local and not so local. This will help you guess at sources. And during lulls in fowle migration, write down your sins also. This will make your repentance that little bit easier. If still time to kill, then other wind-blown detritus such as butteredflies, dragonflyers and hovery-flies can be claimed as being worthy of some note. You might even start a recording of different makes of passing carts, but that is a little outside the natural history remit. (By the by, postage stamps and steam engines are really off limits.)

So, is vis mig useful?
In some of  the true words of the River Sheaf tribe's interweblogge site, "best of all, what you discover is your own, no need for telegrams to/from your local Avian Sightings Service , no messaging via pages/manservants, nor herds of stampeding a'twitcherers, many of whom do not seem to know their Isabelline-stained wheatear from their elbow nowadays". That I think says it much better than I ever could(!)

So, what should I do with my records?
Keep them in a notebook. Tally the records several days after you make the observations, so you can use rose-coloured spectacles upon any hazy figure and increase the tally towards levels of impressiveness. Then, once complete, keep that notebook upon a shelf, the dustier the better. And never, ever, open it, as you will be opening yourself up to the sin of wasting of time once more. If you feel the urge, simply repent.

And so, finally
Always remember these are visible migrants are naught but transients. They are fly-overs. They have no real worth for protecting the habitat you survey in. You are just using up precious time on a futile activity. But then that is what a'birdering is for many, regardless. A fun pastime to occupy your idle thoughts between cradle and grave. An excuse to forget the sins of the world as oft as possible.

So, never forget you also need to REPEEEEEENT any a'birdering sins regularly!

Some images of the joys of visible migration:

Meadow Pipit, Northern Marshes

Tree Pipit, Northern Marshes

Olive-backed Pipit, Northern Marshes

Red-throated Pipit, Northern Marshes

Pechora Pipit, Northern Marshes

Buff-bellied Pipit, Northern Marshes

Friday, October 18

Vis a Viz

Why my dear Konan, thank you for your news. I really do not know how you persuaded our local Watchman to leave us be for now, and I am not sure I would really want to, but I do appreciate your efforts. To placate him I had been affecting interest in all the many and varied schemes the last few days, and it has made my head hurt so. Now I can go back to the mundane. Wonderful(!)

I think I need your advice, because some are trying to make the mundane more confusing than it needs to be.

I have, the last few morns, taken the air upon the top of the church tower, in a hope to experience that thing known as 'visible migration'. Now that pond hibernation has become an unfashionable theory many, it seems, are trying to prove other theories by way of the scientific (such as a'banding), and unscientific (trying to argue we can experience this for ourselves and draw ready conclusions). But I really wish these finches a'fluttering by me would carry a passport or similar, because I am finding it impossible to fathom.

I had a length note from dear old Bert Hold on the matter. Old Hold professes to be quite the expert on migration (or so he claims). He terms much of that which I can see as being evidence of  'periodic seasonal return migration'.Well, that much was known by the time of the bible, for certain (Jeremiah eight, seven) and that is what many of us instantly apply to all our sightings.

But he adds layers. Upon layers. Next comes 'partial migration', where only some of the population move, whilst others remain on their breeding grounds. This is thought a most popular type of migration. The Chaffinches I am seeing are likely part of this, coming from Europe. I can only say likely, as then what are our TUKOGBANI birds doing at the same time? Well, some will indeed be making a partial migration. Some might still be undertaking a sort of 'dispersal migration', not so much now 'natal dispersal' but more a 'spacing movement' as winter territories are needed, or winter flocks that are congealing.

Throw in 'differential migration', where individuals move varying distances according to age and sex, and it becomes even harder to draw a conclusion.

Movements can also be obligated (pre-destined) or chosen (free will). Some are saying "where are all the tens of thousands of Reddenedwings that were seen arriving this past week?" Well, if they arrived this far west not of their own free will but because of easterly winds why should they be staying if they are obligated for finding somewhere more south on the continent?

So, not all 'my' Chaffinches passing can be readily assigned to one layer. The local birds may be making local flights. Daily local flights. The local youngsters may be making dispersive movements, flocking movements. Other not-so-local locals might be arriving. The foreigners may be in there in some number, for sure;- but I can only guess at that number.

Add in Bert's other madcap ideas, such as the need for 'irruptive movements', 'escape movements' from poor weather and even 'spreading movements' where species are expanding (he claims the rare Collared Dove I espied may well be spreading into Western Europe, pish says I), then it becomes messier to know what to record this visible migration as in my journal.

Oh, and he also comes up with so many forms of migratory locomotion;- broad-front migration, funneled migration, fanned migration, detoured migration, arched migration, migratiory bends and migratory divides. This list goes on. Also for consideration are loop migration, leap-frog migration, intermittent exploratory migration (after post-juvenile fledging movements), reverse migration, weather migration and weather commute movements, nocturnal movements and diurnal movements;- oh he also comes up with so very, very many.

What are my birds doing? Some flock-witted individuals try so hard to draw just one conclusion from what we see here. But are these common birds doing things uncommon to us still? Do our eyes play tricks on us, and we see what we want to believe?

My church tower is a good vantage point, but, oh for a Jacob's ladder(!). Some such as dear Dr Lack theorise that if we could see above the clouds where the angels fly, migratory movements should well often be in totally different directions to those we see below. That we may never know, but it all makes me think I should certainly never draw any quick conclusions myself.

I know of many who simply see what they wish to see;- 'migration'. Yet for them a local raptor repeatedly circling a territory during a'breeding periods becomes a seasonal migratory movement of several. They see migration on the wrong winds. They see birds coming in on the coast cannot have been coasting. They see birds heading north as reverse-migrating and not simply dispersing after arriving by some short water-crossing. They think all that they can espy from the ground is the be-all and end-all, but there is so, so much going on that needs to be considered(!)

What I want to know, dear Konan, is if you really believe watching the skies daily in this way is of any real ornithological value, or do such dark grey specks cloud the true picture we seek? Should I keep returning to my tower?

I do so look forward to your response.


The good book touches upon the matter of star navigation,
as depicted in this contemporary image
(note also an example of one of the many man-made threats
to traditional migratory routes that we see in modern times).

Tuesday, October 15

Konan the Baptist's bird news: Octobre ye fifthteenfth

REPEEEENT(!) Repent my dear Doctor Manhatten(!)

I trust you managed no sleep last night? I make no apologies for the lack of bunking facilities here at my hemitude of solitage on the Northern Marshes, but I, Konan The Baptist, normally find I have no guest last this long. Perhaps your stay will be over soon?

I have let MiniCon know you have extended your work here on the Marshes for at least another week, so you will not be missed, and we will have plenty of time to talk on ornithological matters.

Now, where did we get to last night? Hmmm, yes, once again our chat had centred upon your import stressed on being a good citizen scientist and immersing oneself in all available citizen scientistry, especially when providing fowle records to you for your works.

You see my dear Doctor Manhatten, your faith in the average citizen following such a command does not wash with this devout fanatic. I have looked upon Cart-track, and found it not fit for my purpose. I keep my head down here, working as I do amongst the poor, the criminal, the insane. That is just the birderers, please do not get me started on the land-owners. I have so very many to deal with here, that my reports are ever divided. I count in two hundred and six different enclosures in an area you just call a swamp. Now the road to my own personal hell is paved by the good deeds of providing comfort to the land-owners. You would have me spend time for Cart-track providing one summary, or so many small sites? No sir.

I know that if you do not make daily strolls in your Chosen Land you will never strengthen your understanding of it. You must take knowledge from your counts showing the glory of the firmament. You must see how your sightings will raise the spirits of the local man, be they of fowle mind or not. You must look at all the movements in great detail to achieve this and you must not have your own Good Words lost in any translation by fellow citizen scientists in the County yearbook of Coveted Sightings. 

You must be as one away from all others, to avoid their influences, if you wish to learn for yourself. In science I think you call this a 'double-blind' control? I choose such a life of solitude with the fowle.

ou frown my dear Doctor Manhatten? Two days' sufferance of my full-on preaching and you are yet to be convinced? You are strong. Some may call me a complete cult, but I believe there is still much that can be done by working outside of all the routine daily services. So my missionary work can wait just that little longer because I really must convert you and I think I am close to finishing with you.

 short, Cart-track is not right for all. It is certainly not right for me. I am your standard deviationIn short, the blind worship of County Ornithology adds little to true ornithology. In short, coveted lists, of all shapes and sizes, have no value other than that which the individual places upon them. In short, selfie-promotion through the interweb is a sin

So, by this barnacle-encrusted depth marker I am
 at present measuring upwards from one yard six inches of tidal depth is already upon us, dear Doctor. And we are some way from the shore. By the time the tide reaches the whole six yards of the marker, this conversation will have had to have been at an end for some considerable time because I for one will be back safe upon the saltings. Do please nod to agree to the following conditions should you wish to join me.

By the time of the tide being at one yard and twelve inch of depth, you will have to acknowledge that Cart-track does not fit all.

By one yard and eighteen inches of depth, you will need to acknowledge a County Ornithological Society is never the be all and end all if it one that does not strive to improve.

By one yard and twenty-four inches of depth, you will acknowledge there is no compulsion to make public every fowle sighting within a split of a second of appearance. This is no game we play.

By two yards of depth it is essential (for by then I will have difficulty telling if your head is a'nodding or simply a'bobbing) you will have promised to ensure MinCon provides adequate funding for research of a medical nature into finding a cure for 'selfie' a'twittering and a'blogging, to allow a resurgence of gentleman ornithologists once more.

Do not, for one moment, doubt my resolve on achieving this course of action. 

After all, surely someone has explained to you why they call me 'The Baptist'?