Tuesday, April 29


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

My dear, dear, Heinrich,

Many thanks for the loan of your copy of young Groebbels' "Zur Physiologie der Vogelzuges".

 I know I have corresponded with you on the matter of migratory restlessness, or zugunruhe, in the past. I see Groebbels has added two examples of new terminology on the subject;-

  ~ zugstimmung; the 'flying' state, or condition, of a fowle,

  ~ zugdisposition; the 'feeding' state, or condition, of a fowle,

and that you have made up two Germanic desciptions of two more states,

  ~ zugdurchfarht; the 'transit' state of a fowle readying for their migration, and

  ~ zugrastplatz; the 'resting' state of a fowle, during a migration.

So, during migration a fowle gains zugunruhe, and starts zugdurchfarht so as to reach zugstimmung, during which said fowle may enter zugdisposition or zugrastplatz several times (depending on journey length) before a reverse of zugdurchfarht sets in.

Further, you entertain all these conditions are but unconscious responses to both endogenous cues (what the Good Lord hides in their DNA) and proximal cues (the terrain the Good Lord sets them in).

Oh my stars and garters(!) Such, such verbosity. Why is it in the Germanic character which makes you say something in forty-seven syllables when forty-six will suffice(?)

To see if I understand, let me apply this theory to an annual moan heard from the a'birderers of the Northern marshes; "why ain't we got any bleedin' spring migrants, like wot them rest of Tukogbanifec 'ave?"

Well, the Northern Marshes hang off the south-east corner of our land rather like a cankerous bunion. Certainly this makes them most nearest the continent, but your theory provides the reason as to why migratory fowle favour a more westerly route into Blighty.

First, the proximal cues. A bird moving north, in a series of lengthy flights, would have to have a reason to put down on this bunion, small and insignificant as it is. Further, if the fowle had a route pre-programmed via the bunion and overflies it by mistake, it could well end up way out over the North Sea. Better to be entering our land further west, as there is plenty of land north of that coast should such a problem arise.

Next, consider that our winds are usually south-westerly; flighting to the west of this country gives protection from gusted mis-positioning off to the north-east, as if that happens over the bunion they again end up in the drink. So, although the local sea crossing is invitingly narrow, the chance of failure is wide and successful past generations have evolved DNA holding endogenous markers taking them inland via the west.

Such endogenous cues also help with the wide Atlantic crossing just south of west Tukogbanifec. Fowle are hard-wired to be keeping up their migratory flight condition and speed at this point, and will only start 'farhting' along when reaching land close to their destination. This is why so many Froggie fowle stop breeding at Calais and do not attempt to invade us, they do not have the urge. They simply give a Gallic shrug and a 'meh' call to the thought of making any effort to cross the Channel.

Zugunruhe, zugstimmung, zugdisposition, zugdurchfarht and zugrastplatz, all under the influence of proximal and endogenous cues. Oh you Germans(!)

Well, as a plucky Brit I can shave this down to a terminology that e'en the basest a'listerer will understand. Fowle must travel far over various proximal cues. And they must go in the correct bodily state.

Sir, I give you 'Fargo'.

When that young male wanderer, cloacally ripe with nadial swellings gets the urge in his loins, his tiny, tiny mind can only think 'fargo fargo fargo fargo fargo'. And even if said fowle finds itself over the bunion there are few proximal cues to make that fowle want to rest, the land pocked and scarred by the hand of man. The Fowle has the condition and temprament to simply keep going whilst it tries to reorient.

And that, dear Heinrich, is how you win a prize from young Alf Nobel. There really is no need to over-think matters. Fargo, dear chap, fargo(!)

As for Northern Marshes a'birders, well at this time of year they will, to a man, whinge and whine on the paucity of migrants and pray for easterlies and miserable weather to bring them a mis-directed 'fall' of spring fowle of any considerable number;- in fact, this will be their only point of mass debate from now until near the end of May. For my part, I understand that if wet and miserable easterly gales were to happen now many more fowle will drown than ever land, so I will instead be praying for the exact opposite.

Light sou'westerlies, skies pleasant and fair,
There's no bloomin' chance of any fowle rare.

For sure, many a'birders will loathe me for wishing things so, but I simply want the chance for all God's creatures to safely reach their chosen lands. Instead of worrying about the Marshmen's loathings toward me for daring think such things, I simply ask the Good Lord to forgive them their covetousness, for they know not what they look at.

I loan you, for interest, young Geo. Bristow's mappe of those storm-driven Channel wrecks which upon salvage were found to have been harbouring such down'd migrants. So many, so very many(!)

God speed to all my feather'd continental chums, I pray you avoid these shores at all costs(!)

Your good friend,


A key to the mappe of known ornithological Channel wrecks;
Those marked by name alone held common migrants only.
Those marked in orange provided specimens of species new for the county,
those in red, new for the country.
For full details, prices, terms and conditions, apply to the usual address.

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