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 "...today 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).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~