Saturday, March 30

Let us sing..

..the modern hymn, "I believe in the Easter Bunny", to the music of Emerson Fittipaldi, Gregorian Lake and Carl Huntley-Palmer:


-I-

They said there'd be rain at Easter,
They said there'd be migrants as well,
But instead it just kept on snowing,
An icy shroud for those first back that fell.
I remember one Easter morning,
A dull half-light and a chilling howl,
And a river buoy bell and that sewage farm smell,
And mud still full of waders and fowle.

-II-

They told me a dream of Easter,
They sold me ev'ry chocolate thing,
Weathermen told me a fairy story,
'Til I believed in the coming Spring.
And I believed in the Easter Bunny,
And I dreamt of my patch with expectant sighs,
Then I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn,
Bugger all was what I saw through these eyes.

-III-

I wish you a hopeful Easter,
I wish you a bird-filled year.
No snow drifted pain nor sadness,
I'll send a plough to let your road be clear.
They said there'd be rain at Easter,
They said there'd be birds on earth,
Hallelujah, no, hell- we had a walrus as well?!
This March we really got what we deserved.

_ _



Thursday, March 28

From the Head Librarian

Northern Marshes Library and History Centre,
Whatbird Way,
Mudstone.
Northern Marshes
March 25th,


Dear Mr and/or Mrs Fumblefinch,

Thank you for taking the time to complete a questionnaire with thoughts and suggestions following your recent visit to our brand new County Library and Historical Archive. I am sorry that you found your visit to our splendid facility to be 'unedifying'. I acknowledge your disgruntlement at no longer being unable to access our complete collection of Northern Marshes Annual Bird Reports in the free public reference library as you have done in the past. However, the County Council has taken the reasonable decision that all original county documents of historic significance must now be stored safely within the Archive for posterity, and it is necessary for these magnificent pamphlets to be protected from the dirty digits of all and sundry.

Access can only be granted to those carrying a valid library membership parchment, or a summons from the Courts of Chancery showing the present address of dwelling, together a pictorial likeness of themselves displayed upon a recent cover of Northern Marshes Country Life and Slaughter or similar; upsetting my staff by bandying about a dog collar is never a sufficient proof of identification.

I note you suggest the collection of Annual Reports should actually be kept in our 'fiction' section, and whilst I have given all due consideration to your reasonable arguments, the Archive cannot agree; despite the strong case you make, said Annual reports will remain coded under Mr Melvil Dewey's radical new library bookshelf numbering system as 398.02: folklore, local, truth, some for the foreseeable future.

For your troubles, I enclose a voucher for a free hot beverage from our soup kitchen should you ever return.

Yours sincerely,
Poyser Princeton,
NMLHC


An historic gathering of the Northern Marshes Bird Report Editorial Panel from the turn of the last century; (l-r) Honorary Editor Sir Blyton Factsmissing, Honorary Artwork Editor W.G. Grace-Darling, Honorary Obscura imagery editor Sir Alcock Cockall, Honorary Obituaries Compiler R.I.P. Grimm-Reaping, (an un-identified and un-washed Honorary Groundskeeper), Honorary Tealady to the Panel Mrs Sobriety Miggins, Honorary a'ringing reporter Hedgerow Clamping, Honorary Fashions, Beauty and Rarities Editor Judge Dandy Wrightly-Wrongly, and Honorary Oology records editor  Sir Fingerin Chatham-Pocket.

Tuesday, March 26

CoCK displays

To the most honorable Justinian Marcus Welby of M.D.,

My dear Justy,

I hope your trip to Caunterbere went well last week. I have now heard a rumour you might not be returning to the Melchester Diocese for some time? I had a discourse I wished to take up with you on your return, so I hope you do not object to this letter, but I really would consider your opinion most valuable on a matter of business and politic, and with your experience of the rock oil trade you are the best man for the query.

It has come to this. I am distressed to see national birdering organisations offering obscure safaris in exchange for twelve pieces of silver. This is all somewhat lacking in morals with such organisations having to ply each participant with their own bottle of whisky before the safari, and then sobering them up with fried horseflesh in pig's bladder and blood pudding feast after the obscuring. I hope they might come to see sense and rewrite their advertisement banner to indicate the bribe of the whisky has been moved to the end. Conservators working hand in hand with alcohol producers is like conservators working hand in hand with politicians- you know the hands will move to around the neck sooner or later. But then this is all because money the way of the land now.

I fear this pandering to the long lensers will become more and more popular with all organisations chasing their cash. There are rumours abounding in respect of such things happening nearby over at Stoddy Grove. Owned as it is by Parliament, they are alleged to have asked the Honorables Samuel Sung and Nicholas Ong, under the administry one of the seated Bishopric, Canon O'Limpas of Sonybridge, to investigate the potential of turning this once-watery field into an income generator- a profitable outdoor camera obscura workshop opportunity.

Of course, money has always been of consideration there, what with the flooding of the land and subsequent reeding only coming about due to a large mining subsidy some years ago. But now our very own Prime Minister, the honorable David Gladstone Disraily Cameraown, heads a new drive to create just one body politic overseeing all our natural lands, under which the 'monetary benefits of ecosystems services' will be the prima facie. Stoddy Grove must pay for itself. Consideration and prioritisation will be given to all land userers and such land usage allowed will be there to drive the best income generation, and I am very much afeared this might be the end for birdering there in this day and age. The big problem for us is there are so few birderers, many of whom too many are most miserly. We will lack a voice due to our small size and smaller value.

Consider by volume the userers of a place such as Stoddy Grove. First, the masses of dog walkerers, willing to transport their pampered ones miles by carriage; they certainly would not object to paying good fees to park and help fund lowly-paid ex-birderers to collect their hounds' night-soil from whence dropped. Second, the ramblingers, willing to pay good prices each season for walking accessories, silky overgarments and cobbled boots of many colours, and to pay for lowly-paid ex-birderers collect their night-soil. Then the pleasure-boaterers, keeping their river craft equipped with up-to-the-day navigational guidance positioning aids (I believe the latest novelty is called a 'porthole'), who will think nothing of the lowly-paid ex-birderers who collect their floaters. And so on. Other sources of income richer than birders abound, the Picnickers, the Naturists, the Penny-farthingists... All more willing to put a penny or more in the Government purse for allowing their pleasures, and to leave their night-soil for care of the birders. Even then the low-value CocKs (spending much, but only on their equipment) will care not about the lowest of the low birderers putting up with all their night-soil strewn about the birdering hides. No, bottom of the chain, the pauper birderer has no chance of seeing wildernesse remain under this government.

If Cameraown now says that money has to be made from those enjoying the countryside paying for the countryside, he will make it so. And if at the same time the only way birderers can still enjoy the site is if they pay for it, then his jobs for plebs scheme must be used. Jobs can be created for the masses by way of an agreement for the construction of an estate of 5,000 stilted CocK hides terraced tight along every walkway of the reserve. Producing a novel way to generate management funds and help stop Stoddy Grove falling into a state of natural entropy and thereby attracting all sorts of fowle vermin, has to be paid for. Hides, adorned with gaudy hoardings for local businesses, with penny slots on the doors denying free access to the 'what the birder saw' viewing holes, will be the future for us now.

And what a ghastly vision of the future it is, but one very much of our own making in this self-satisfying economic empire we have all created. Just so long as Cameraown and his cronies do not try it on in Much Ticking, as I am a NNIMBY through and through (No Night-soil In My Back Yard).

So, dear Justy, my question most pertinent boils down to this:

Would the masses think me a bad priest if I pay out ten guineas for one of the guided trips to view the last Lady Chatterley's Pheasant, which currently displays in secret in one of the walled gardens of Baron Chalfont?

Your old seminary bunkmate,
Bandwell

A plate from 'The Book of Plebs':
"An anciente print of a night-soil collector (who were sometimes adorned with the titlular rank of 'warden' so as to cover all stench attached to their work) alongside his over-worked 'assistant warden' (or 'soil-boy'), on their regular half-hourly de-scraping of an unidentified tea and sandwiche shoppe for elderly and befuddled ornithologists, somewhere deep in southern Albion"

Sunday, March 24

The near Hastings Rarities

My dear young Bristow,

It is a great shame that Sou'Saxon has been fingered in yet another investigation, this time by the Almighty Forum of Birds, on a claimed record of some fakery, a Sabine Moussier's Redstarte. It seems that the entirely innocent proprietors of a local shoppe had a camera obscura image passed off on them of a bird purported to have been lodging in a local garden. All evidence has been disproven, most quickly and efficiently, by the ever zealous AFB Image Peelers, and the shoppe owners cleared of all involvement and saved any embarrassment. I for one hope this perpetrator is caught soon, before more falsities are perpetrated.

As always, this causes the AFBIP to open their files on older unsolved cases, such as in recent years the fanciful stories of both Sooty Falcon and Lesser Short-toed Lark in your county, as publicised by the owner/operator/executioner of the UK Fraud Blunder Club. I would urge you to make certain that you keep your own name well clear of any such dispute at present. Should anyone offer you the possibility of a novelty stuffing in that vicinity I would suggest you decline. Reputation is everything after all; we know innocent shoppe keeping taxidermists can also be vilified so you must keep a clean name and always remember it has long been suspected there are many dirty birds in and around the village of Bobstollbridge.

From my contacts countrywide I would suggest that only ARSOLS (Albion Rare Sightings Official Logistical Survey) accredited species could be mounted without suspicion for a little time for now until things quieten. Yes, other species found in Europe will very well turn up in flocks in this poor spring weather (Weasel is rumoured to be luring Snowfinches from the skies at this very moment using one of young Tom Edison's phonographs), but ARSOLS will always suspect the possibility of imported ice-cream cargo assistance, and will always throw good records out with suspected bad, to uphold their purity listings.

Oh, and any Cypriot endemic is almost certainly as unclean as a skin from the Russian steppes at the moment. Do not offer cash for them, however much one of their citizens may plead- you will receive no credit for it. And accept no White-throated Sparrow flocks either. And away from birds on NO account accept any specimen said to be a Beast of Stronsa. Crypto-zoology is always frowned upon.


Bandwell

P.S. I myself do have an African Chaffinch which I secured of late within my own churchyard, safe in my cold store, which I will bring to you shortly for your wonderful treatment. I can assure you this skin is as pure as the driven snow under my privvy door, you have my word.


 

Friday, March 22

Out for the Count

Major General Powers,
WeBB Division,
TUKOGBANITO
Sir,

Thank you for your recent response to my request for a decision re the ongoing dispute over any inclusion of my counts for Much Ticking village duck pond into the Ticking brick pits complex for the national WeBB (Wetland Beating the Boundaries) survey. I would like to plead my case once again as I still believe I might yet gain your agreement to play a part.

You tell me there are priority dates that I really should agree to meet as regularly as possible? You hint that synchronised counts are imperative on complex sites such as Estuaries (or indeed brick pits). And that the purpose is to ensure a co-ordination of counterers on these larger water bodies so that they all count at the same time to make their cumulative effort more relevant? Well, that is a most splendid aspiration, but as someone more familiar with ordination than co-ordination I must point out that I will most certainly have trouble with said priority dates, being that Sundays are the only days I have to work most important days of my spiritual calling.

You know that I have already argued my case with the local co-ordinator, a Dr. Weasel, at some length, who says he would still prefer to have 'a.n.other' count the pond on the actual priority Sundays. So this time I plead to you, can I not be more like some other counters I am already aware of? I have seen of late on some worldwideweblogges said counterers are happy to promote their counts as being a formal part of a co-ordinated WeBB, even when they have regularly do them days, very many days, later. Certainly, after studying your own handbook of spiritual WeBB guidance I understand you would want such incidences to be only very occasional and that temporary cover should then be found for these times whenever possible. But these counterers feel they alone give full value and do not seek such help, so I ask does it really make that much of a difference? Why, it is not as if one flock of esturine fowle roosts at, say, site 'one' on day one and then at site 'the other' on another- the Good Lord has given every bird a place, after all.

You suggest such counterers should really let their local co-ordinators know if they cannot make a priority date so they can arrange for someone else to cover, but surely that is a little unfair on that counterer if it is 'their' patch? Letting someone else on? Sacrilege. I also know it must be extremely difficult to find enough counterers in the first place before even considering coverers, what with the pressures of the most able birderers sinfully lusting self-gratification through keeping their days open to list rares, and also with standards of schooling presently making an ability to count past ten amongst more general birderers lacking somewhat. I must say if counterers want ownership of 'their' watery retreat, who are we to disagree with them?

I have seen your bird counting worksheets and shown already I can complete them in full. In addition, if I might once more mostly humbly advance my own personal worth to your survey, can I state modestly that only recently it was found I was the only local birderer who could make even a thought towards an answer to an advanced ornithology comprehension exam question of
'If Johnny counts 26 shanks in his field on a Sunday, and Johnny then counts 25 shanks in the field adjacent on a Wednesday next, how many shanks can be expected to be present if the dividing hedgerow is taken out by conservationists hoping to help up to 51 shanks?'
My groundbreaking answer, if you cannot fathom for yourself, was
"zero returning Nightingales following hedge removal, plus a minus of the last breeding Turtle Dove pair in the parish".

No, I know co-ordinators seek only the best counterers, and that is perhaps why one county near to Listershire ships in non-residents month after month for such work, as their own current birdering folk must surely not be up to the task at hand. Now I would hate to have to see local counts here being made by such peripatetic immigrants from as far afield as, say, Least Ticking, coming to my own pond and producing counts I recognise to be hopelessly low. Ex-pats are really not necessary. If I am here six days of the week I know my fowle maxima. So I do hope you can allow me to reject all choices of Sabbath dates and still be included in all fieldwork and in any list of contributors in the subsequent publication, without my contribution necessitating parentheses to highlight counts of Ticking brick pits as somehow being of lesser value for the lack of Sunday servicing.

I look forward to receiving your support.

Your potential counterer,
Bandwell Fumblefinch

P.S. Why is there no Great Aukke on your WeBB species list? Is that an oversight? Can I just add it in at the bottom?



Monday, March 18

Proverbs 12:15

Dear Dr. Asperger,

The reason I have not responded sooner to you is that I have been away, staying as a guest of some locals, overseas. I think after my time there I can now say I do believe most strongly any need for us to correspond has come to an end.

During that stay I shared my chamber with, amongst other fieldworkers enjoying their compulsory hospitality, the eminent Germanic husband and wife anthro-apologists Frederick and Diane Kruger and their assistant, Renfield Dunning. During our time I provided them with much evidence of ornithologists to support their radical new behavioural theory, which they say they will now name the Dunning-Kruger (Fumblefinch) effect.

In short, the effect is a cognitive failing, a bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from an illusory superiority by mistaking their abilities as much higher than average. In which the incompetent will fail to recognise genuine skills in others, and in which the incompetent is so incompetent he cannot ever recognise he is incompetent. As contemporary playwright young Will Shakespeare has put it in 'As you List it' (V.i.) 'The fool doth think he is wise, the wise man knows himself to be a fool.'

Technically, it is described as a meta-cognitive inability of the unskilled to recognise their mistakes; to my mind, this was all just a way of describing a typical birderer. Herr Freddie agreed completely with me that many birderers actually suffer from this as soon as I showed him the many evidences in my published letters and journals.

He also pointed out the reverse effect; that highly competent birderers (such as myself) will be able to identify their own shortcomings and recognise their mistakes. However, in doing so, they then have the ability to undermine their own self-confidence. It can be damaging to be so aware of one's limitations. So, as an example, we should, perhaps, not be too hard on the new member of a rare bird committee who votes to reject one of your rarer sightings as it may well be he knows feels is making an awful error as he has never been a'judging before and does not want to lose face in front of his supposed peers; however, once he has stood on that committee for several judgements and still tells you Watery Pipits do not exist in Sou'Saxon then to my mind he is clearly exhibiting the Dunning-Kruger (Fumblefinch) effect and deserves nothing but contempt. Herr Freddie was happy that in addition to my recognising my own set of competencies I clearly never ever suffer any lack of confidence, making the effect perfect to be named in honour of me as well, in perpetuity.

This I am most happy with, and so wish to hear no more of your eponymous theory. I bid you a final good-day, as I have more important mailings to make on Sou'Sussex's continued disbelief in Pipits, the incompetent fools.

I remain,
Bandwell Fumblefinch, Rev'd, and now K.B.E.*

*Knowlegeable Birderer of the other Empire, a title as bestowed upon me by my new Prussian friends, which gave them much joy. Do you like my helmet?





Thursday, March 14

Flying Buttress

Dear Jorge Belgrano,

It was good to make your acquaintance most recently, and I hope your own return from the Africa Mission back to Craggy Island was at least as uneventful as my own journey. I also hope you manage to find the logistical support for your project to help the birds of the Malvinas, oh, and yes, I almost forgot, did you manage to have that stopover in Rome you hoped for?

Here in God's own country the most marvelous scientific advancements have continued apace during my absence. Following the tagging of the cuckoos, I have read of ongoing studies on Woodcock in Wales, and now on White Storks on the Iberian Peninsula. They are looking at their new street urchin ways, as they make a winter living feasting on human squalor and detritus rather than going to Africa (and after my prolonged stay I cannot blame them).

And now, first updates from the most exciting study yet; the tagging of a member of the Camera Obscura Club of Kent. There is a study underway trying to correlate their movements intra-county, to hopefully make sense of their irruptions in an effort to help genuine birders avoid them.

Not long after the turn of the year a tag was fitted to a mature male specimen somewhere near Cap St. Magarettes. The tag has been sponsored by Stone, Mason and Lychgate, master churchbuilders, and in their honour the CocK been christened 'Buttress Bertie'.

Already the movements in just the first few weeks up until now have been interesting indeed. I attach the map for your enjoyment.



You can see that Bertie has remained fairly faithful to the area around the Cap, where he often returns to roost up (usually in short bursts of nappy-napping after lunch). He is now been shown to make nocturnal visits to the county town. These are theorised to perhaps be meetings of ornithologists, but we have yet to prove this to be so; very few were known to attend these meetings in the past and it has been rumoured they may be  extinct. Mrs Miggins' Tea and Sandwiche shoppe is also a favoured roosting spot, especially in inclement weather, but the main thing is Bertie has turned up at many of the East Kent sites, exactly as forecast by the scholars of photogenic rarity migration.

However, the single most interesting fact was hitherto unknown, and totally unexpected. The size of the squares on the map reflect the amount of time spent at any one site. The largest, shockingly, is outside the county.

The tag is working fine. At all his own county sites marked, Bertie has made always confirmed his presence known CocK display, usually rather jolly little images unlike the overexposed and enlarged efforts made by younger alpha male CocKs. On days when Bertie has not turned up at any of these known lensleks (a Scandinavian term which translates as 'a gathering of phalli') he has, without any advertisement and flying low to avoid being detected, been secretly making his way into Sou' Saxon and then encamped himself for long periods at the Rotherbredillingham Harbour. More than forty flights have been made- this is most extraordinary, unexpected behaviour(!)

The scientists are sure this furtive behaviour would be denied if challenged. The theory for secrecy is that the volume of birds in Sou' Saxon, which far outweighs any of the dark satanic reserves of his home county, have become a major lure, and that when there, due to the lack of other CocKs, Bertie is able to avoid having to compete at lenslekking all the time. A second theory holding some credence is that alpha CocKs usually lose interest if they cross out of their territorial boundary, so as a more mature specimen Bertie, like a head of the pride usurped by younger lions, is at least able to wander off and meander most peacefully there, with no need to compete.

The first theory may be closest the truth. On the days the tag shows him to be secretly away, field workers at the Harbour have as yet failed to spot anyone remotely looking like a CocK with a long lens. This is remarkable. Bertie may well in fact be travelling with just opera glasses and spotting scope. To be on the verge of discovering that it is possible for a birderer to simply enjoy watching birds could yet win these scientists some sort of Noble Prize(!)

This is all fascinating stuff. The scientists (Ratched, Pilbow, Spivey and Turkle from the Oregon Audubon State Hospital) hope to perhaps tag one of the alpha CocKs later this year and compare movements- it may well be Bertie is just not enough of a rabid, testosterone-fueled individual now that his shutter works only intermittently and raising his lens without a tripod proves difficult. Whatever the outcome, I do wish Bertie well for the coming spring, as reading of his lenslek wanderings is a most enjoyable pastime for any watcherer, and perhaps he may one day admit to his secret vice.


Wednesday, March 13

Quiero la cabeza de San Alfredo de Garcia

Oh Sunday service was such a sufferance, having to beg the forgiveness of my parishioners for my prolonged absence and leaving their guidance to the utterances of others.

This then is a letter of guidance for myself. One that I promise I will keep close to look at, every time and every time again, that I ever come to consider that I might take another lengthy sabbatical from the Parish:

No, Bandwell, no: think(!)

To reach any decision, remember and consider that all that the Church holds orthodox is laid out in the 39 Articles of 1563. We all just have to follow these and ensure any decision is made by them. Yet so many chose to ignore them now.

In a recent survey of 100 men of the cloth it was shown that more than one quarter of fellow men of cloth deny the virgin birth in this day and age. Well, I do not. It is reflected in nature- many rare bird sightings come not from any egg.

One in three vicars deny the bodily resurrection- I most certainly do not. Still to this day, in honour, many departed rarities are seen long after.

50 of 100 reject the idea of predestination. This one does not. We have no choice but to follow the birdnews services.

Within the Anglo-Catholic wing, the majority are said to reject purgatory, transubstantiation and original sin. I do not. I have been to Sheepey, I have seen Paddyfield Warblers become Chiffchaffs and I have met men born into this world with a subscription pre-paid to the UK100 Club.

Nine of ten vicars see baptism as only symbolic. I. Do. Not. (I just now see some Baptists as shambolic.)

So, am I not then good? Well, it seems so, but I must be good at all times. Because this one of that hundred sampled made a mistake of holding good his own further novel article, that his flock could be as best served by another in his absence. Well, now I must always remind myself that this has certainly been proved not to be so and I must always recall my recent humbling in this matter.

No, for what it was worth, I might as well just have kept blind faith in a fairy story, a fable oft told to quieten childish birderers, that one of the Knights Suppressors will return astride a unicorn one very day soon to watch over the Northern Marshes and guide all good men from the sins of listing and photo-lechery. Pah!

No, Bandwell, no: Remember that the people need your preachiness, always(!)












Tuesday, March 5

On her Majesty's Secret Suppressing Service

To Fumblefinch, B.R. (Reverend),
The Parsonage,
Much Ticking,
Listershire


From Her Majesty's Customs, Excise, Revenue and Preventative Service,
Dover Coastguards Office and Touristy Office,
March 2nd

Official Notice of Seizure
issued under CITEES
(Control of International Travails of Established English Specimens)

This notice confirms the seizure yesterday of the specimens detailed in appendix (i) attached under CITEES, on the charge of insufficient documentation. All were claimed to have been taken out of Albion by yourself for show on your recent travails, having been originally collected here. However, we have reason to believe they have been collected overseas and purchased recently by you from a continental Bird Market.

Your claim that these are home-found and that you did not need to submit your documentation because you do not recognise the judging panel is not acceptable. Suppression is no defense in the eyes of the law. The specimens will, therefore, be held for 90 days to allow you time to obtain the necessary official acceptance papers from relevant authority, namely the Albion Rare Sightings Official Logistical Survey.

This action will then satisfy this office that these fowle have been accepted as wild vagrant specimens found in Albion, and they will be returned to you. However, if you fail to produce the relevant documentation from the ARSOLS then the fowle will be seized permanently, and deposited at the Museum of Booth in Brighttown (British Ornithology's Outcast Taxidermicalogical Horrors) for future mockery and derision.

This decision will be final.

Investigated and signed hereby

Chief Preventive Officer Harrop-Lund
Assistant Chief Preventive Officer Melling
Senior Preventive Officer Collinson
Preventive Officer Nicholson
Assistant Preventive Officer Knox
Judge, Jury and Executioner Evans



Appendix i: The schedule (composing species/site/label of taxidermist)

i) French Galley-Bird (also known locally as Mid-Spotted Woodpecker) Dryobates medius francophile 
Said to have been taken at Cap St. Magarette's Nez (Bristow, G.).

ii & iii) Black Galley-Bird Dryocopus Martius martius
Said to have been a pair, the male taken at Cap St Magarette's Nez in months most recent (Bristow, G.), the female on the nest just over the border in Borsetshire some fourteen years previous (Grundy, W.).

iv) Slightly Slender-billed Courlie (also known locally as Flippin Curlew-mate) Numenius tenuirostris
(Mis)taken at Drearidge (Graham, D.)

v) Sing-song Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes gallinago beiber
collected when calling incessantly in flight at Barredgate in January (Mummery, S.)

and vi) Flightless Walrus-bird Odobenus rosmarus orkensis
Taken at sea, west of North Ronaldsay, over the Tesco Shelf (Krinklesac, K.)





Friday, March 1

To the Count of Morray and Nairn

Your Countfulness,

I hope this note of gratitude finds your hand quickly on your rising as I must, I am afraid, depart your most comfortable lodgings for my ferry very early this morn. To allow me to stay overnight as your guest, as I negotiate my journey back to Listershire, was so very considerate of you, but as I do so long to return to my home and find out the state of my parish, and as I did not want to disturb you at such an un-Godly hour I regret I make my leave before you rise.

Hence, this note. Your suppertime soliloquy on wader numbers of the Northern Marshes was most educational, thank you. I had not heard of the recent discourses this past week upon the Not quite as almighty as some forum of Northern Marshes' birds which had revealed so many discrepancies (and led to raised fonts amongst some of the Marshmen).

On the matter of the Black-tailed Godwittes; Yes, I too would have been delighted at coming upon your count of  more than 3,500 Godwittes at roost, but you are right to say news of the CocK captured image claiming 12,300 together in but one place should raise eyebrows even higher. (I suspect you are right that the Marshmen may have stolen birds from the East Saxons; I am sure they will raid some back.)

You said you had a 'reliable source' for an accurate count of exactly 9,001 for one roost these past weeks? Well, splendid then that you trust someone, but I do agree you were right to say publicly that you must have 'more details' and 'additional verification' than just a photographic image for so very high a figure. The image certainly must be gone through, wing-bar by wing-bar, to reveal the true number. It is bad enough that there are, as you put it, already more than enough 'plonkers' not knowing how to count properly without the Camera obscura club of Kent evidencing big counts as well.

Perhaps you can have the CocK members play another part in the proving? They are, as we so well know, all adept at producing frame filling shots. Have we all not seen 12,300 images of one bird? Instead, just one image, full and side on, of each and every one of the 12,300 birds within the flock, so as to identify each by their individual patternings, would end all debate. They could also look out for the bands fitted on some Godwittes by that nice man Caractacus Potts? (Or perhaps that would be asking too much. I fear I have a whole other sermon on colour rings and CocK to deliver soon.)

I share your hurt at not witnessing such an event. Where would the Northern Marshes be if it were not for you being willing to travel so many miles and so often to this most distant of local patches? It is such a shame then that someone has to come along and see these numbers on a day your Countly duties had kept you in another shire. No matter, you will still sort the wheat from the chaff. Your public pronouncement of your own most deep levels of understanding of waderers on these particular Marshes has quite rightly allowed you to request, most publicly, control of the writings for these species for future ornithological reports. Someone really needs to do something about some 'observations' put in by inappropriate channels. This 'Cart track' system you mention, a way where any pleb can provide sightings to a national list when out rambling along cart tracks, is quite, quite wrong.

I move on to your Forum's revelations about the writings on other species, and especially upon the Bar-tailed Godwitte, or as you alleged to me it was put on the Forum "How is the Spottings Committee going to manage the problem of printing grossly inaccurate numbers of some of the wader species in the latest annual manuscript?"

Responses on the Forum commenting this is why all annual reports should not be rushed into the public domain should be heeded, I agree; publication was only some two years after the event and thus there was certainly no time available to arrange even the quickest passenger pigeon to carry correspondence to and fro between observer and author. This is why your good men could publicly acknowledge that mistakes will always occur in all such annual publications. Well, thank goodness no-one holds any ornithological import by them. Why, to think some counties, such as my own neighbouring South Saxons, or the Nor' folkers and the Sou' folkers continue to have the audacity to try to present what they say to be a factual report within a very twelve month of the end of the year under consideration. What tosh(!) Think of how many unfortunate things there must lurk within their passages(!) It makes me shudder. No, the Marshmen are right, publish late to lose most mistakes, and then hope the remaining errors will be few enough not to raise concern. (Listershire is a full decade behind and long may it remain so. Most observers involved have usually passed on by the time we publish.)

In truth it was unfortunate that published counts in truth summed the winter high-tide roosts with low-tide counts from both sides of the estuary in question. Small wonder the true figure of three overwintering Bar-wittes reached the staggering half-million mark in this report. How could any proofreader have been expected to spot that?

To the crux of the matter. Why does someone not take the bull by the horns and arrange some sort of co-ordinated count, where all observers go, pre-arranged, at the same time on the same day each month to gain a truthful figure? It cannot be that hard, surely? Perhaps it is. There must be history of such errors, going back through birdering immemorial, as there is, after all, the old saying from that county;

  'Pigs will bay like hounds before any count from here is ever correct'

It must now be time to get things right. This must be sorted out, for the future generations. Or it will get only worse. The Baptist is back there as well now. As nice and as Godly a man that could be, I do admit, I rather fear that passerine counts from one small patch will soon resemble the plagues of Israel.

Enough, I must hasten to seize my steam packet. There is just time to thank you for the gift of this lovely portrait of yourself, afield counting. When it comes to this picture I shall take great pleasure in sitting down and assessing your size at some leisure. With the first glance it certainly looks large enough to equate to a mass of more than 3,500, for sure(!) With just the power of wings and a prayer may I now wager an instant estimate of 8,839 (that is, if one is allowed to discount all those plooovers at the back)?


Thank you;
once again Count,
I remain in your debt.
Bandwell