Monday, March 31

The legend of Thicke-Foote

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow morning, April 1st, I attend an auction sale at Bristows, in the hope of procuring a mounted specimen I had long thought just a dream; the nigh-mythical Thicke-Foote.

The original Thicke-Foote is still also known in these parts as the Sussedsquash (from the olde English 'squash', to suppress and 'suss', a realisation the ornithological rozzers are onto any false claim).

Like oh so many, I have only seen illustrations before. The Thick-Foote is said to be a moderate sized, feathery, corlee-like fowle with cankles as thick as a mid-finger. Long thought both nocturnal and invisible (to all but Madame Curie's glow-in-the-dark sticks) young George has advertised he has come into the possession of a full set most complete, namely one of each of the various claimed sightings of Thicke-Foote species from around the world, said to have been taken as a flock at Lanceolating, Sou'Saxon.

Genuine provenance? Well, some might wait for the Watchmen to decide. At this very moment I know I just neeeeeed one, oh so badly, so I am heartily influenced by the reports from Bristow of his enquiries made by telephonic communication to a 'shady dealer' in such matters named only as "Fowle 'Arry", who has indicated none to be known in any zoological gardens or collections in our realm. That is good enough for me(!)

I quote the choices available to me from the catalogue, together with comments;-

Lot no. 04590
Eurasian Thicke-Foote
Burhindus oebinfrontofus
The original Thicke-Foote. Not to be confused with the Stoney-Corlee. Once supposedly as widespread in TUKOGBANI as that more familiar Stoney-Corlee, but now thought extinct for many years.
(Fowle 'Arry says this is the type most often claimed by observers hearing common corlee, and he could probably secure a crate if needs be. So save your money for a bigger prize.)

Lot no. 04600
Seenbygulible Thicke-Foote
Burhindus senegalensisnt
Almost a doppleganger of the Eurasian, but instead leaves a tell-tale size seven print, not a size six. One once thought to have been housed in the now disbanded collection at Leeds Follycastle, any/all present owners are unknown.
(Whomever they might be, Fowle 'Arry says they "ain't never letting such a prize out to roam, f'sure.")

Lot no. 04600.5
Indienda Thicke-Foote
Burhindus onmelistis
Again, supposedly not dissimilar to Eurasian in appearance, best separated by an association with crocs. Once suggested to have been in a collection in some Prussian zoo some decades past, but as we do not really get on with them nowadays, who really cares.
(Certainly according to Fowle 'Arry there are none in captivity here in God's chosen land.)

Lot no. 04600.6
Water-retaining Thicke-Foote
Burhindus lymphaticus
It was written one once shared a pool with a creature called a 'Shamu', in some far-off colony of the Empire, but apparently protesting natives spirited that specimen away many years ago.
(Again, Fowle 'Arry knows of none in the country, but might be able to find one for a small fee.)

Lot no. 04610
Spotted Thicke-Foote
Burhindus capetownensis
Thousands were once claimed to have been in a private collection in their native lands at Isandlwana Bird Park, but were handed over to Rourke's Drift-migrant Theme park and then mysteriously mislaid.
("Definitely a real 'un", according to Fowle 'Arry.)

Lot no. 04610.1
Double-observer-spotted Thicke-Foote
Burhindus bistringus
Last claimed by the lead pair of the ill-fated Meinertzhagen-Munchausen expedition to Colombia (pictures never put out on general release).
(Fowle 'Arry says "that stuffed'un's a banker.")

Lot no. 04610.2
Perusean Thicke-Foote
Burhindus pichumachus
Once claimed as collected in great number by the famous explorer Walter Snetterton whilst high in the Andes during his attempt to prove the altitudinal migration of frogs. Recent accounts in the possession of his living relations suggest Snetterton fed them to the frogs when they became confused and befuddled at 13,000 feet. (The expeditionary party were befuddled, not the frogs;- they were all fine.).
(Fowle 'Arry says he put a posting on a world-wide inter-webbe grouppe for herpetological dietary requirements and no-one has said they keep any, so that is proof enough of wildness.)

Lot no. 04610.3
Bush Thicke-Foote
Burhindus armidreamus
There are said to be sound recordings existing from many decades ago, and a rumour abounds of a circus tour featuring an original specimen coming to our shores later this very year.
(Other than this, Fowle 'Arry knows "nuffink".)

Lot no. 04620
Great Thicke-Foote
Esawus recurviriverbankus
There have only been rumours of rumours of these magnificent beasts since routine dredging of the Empire's waterways ceased.
(Fowle 'Arry has a sniff of a new sighting this very day from some newly dredged muddied parts down upon the Levels, but he thinks just wishful thinking on the part of the locals. His judgement? "That stuffed 'uns deffo worth a punt.")

that's yer lot no. 04620.1
Beach Thicke-Foote
Esawus magnusopus
Rumours of rumours of rumours from the Indian Ocean persist. Many spend fortunes searching.
(Fowle 'Arry says this is the one if the price is right;- he could afford it, he'd "av it" on his mantlepiece.)

Diary, I am sure there will still be some doubters who would suggest these may not be Thicke-Footes at all, but some sort of taxidermified chimera. For my part, I am ready;- I am aware that the tarsus width to bill width ratio should be no more than 3.14159 to 1.00000. Any greater and a claimant risks confusion with the much more common and plausible Slender-billed Corlee, of which I already own one. I shall not fall for that.

Oh diary, I shall not sleep much tonight- I cannot wait for the morrow when I shall certainly be parted, most easily, from all my monies(!)

A Thicke-Foote. Probably.

Tuesday, March 25

String Theory

My dear Dean Cliff,

For many years I had been content being simply called 'Doctor Div' by my parishioners. However, holding just a Doctorate of Divinity had not given me the standing I sought in the ornithological community, so for some time I have secretly been undertaking a second academic course, through the medium of correspondence, via the prestigious Pendleton State University. I am pleased to reveal I have now passed said course and gained what they term a 'High School Diploma'. For your records my full title becomes Rev'd Doctor Div (Dip).

I also thought you might like an abridged copy of my paper, which strings together most neatly all the odd threads within a'birdering. If you enjoy it, do plase let me know if you would like a signed copy of the full 14 volume work for your shelves.



The True Mechanicks of Quantum a'birdering
The Rev'd Dr. Div. (Dip) Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch 

It is accepted that Heinrich Klaus Fritz Von Gatke had already done much great work to establish the many-birds theory whilst stranded upon The British Overseas Territory of German Bight (also known by the Hun as Heligoland).

However, when the brilliant physicist young Werner Sheldon Heisenberg sojourned there, recuperating from a bout of severe hay-fever one May, he claimed that there were 'no distractions whatsoever' on that rocky island, which allowed him time enough to get to grips with all the elements of quantum behaviour. Many birds/No birds, both observed and not observed by two observers present. How can this be explained?

I present the nine elements of the Fumblefinch theory of the True Mechanicks of Quantum a'birdering.

1) The Copenhagen Interpretation
To begin, young Neils Bohr stated "quantum mechanicks does not yield a description of an objective reality but deals only with probabilities of observing, or measuring, various aspects of energy quanta, entities that fit neither the classical idea of particles nor the classical idea of waves"
Applied to lone quantum a'birdering, this means no descriptions are ever required. Ever.
We must now persuade those in power that this is so.

2) Wave/Particle Duality
Young Louis de Broglie first suggested what was to become a basic of all quantum work; at the teeny-tiniest level, all things exist as both a wave and a particle. In quantum a'birdering, this translates as existing as both a rare and common, a.k.a. duality, a.k.a. two bird theory.

3) The Double Slit experiment 
Young Thomas Young helped prove quantum a'birdering duality with this neatly packaged experiment. At quantum level, light passing through two viewslits must pass as electromagnetic waves but then this wave-field must collapse in upon itself on impact with a viewing object whereupon a photon particle appears in place of the wave. Our eyes view photons, not electromagnetic waves. When one fowle is observed by our own eyes through bino-optics it can and will for one quantum-instant appear as both common and rare.

4) Schrodinger's Catbird
During the time the bird is not observed nothing is real and all probables exist. Only when properly observed does either the rare or the common exist. This is why one observer correctly sees a rare and another correctly sees a common.
In quantum a'birdering, until now any birder may have legitimately claimed any species for their personal quantum list (say an Eye-browed Thrush) providing no-one else had also seen and claimed it as common (say a Fieldfare). Thanks to wave/particle duality any multiple of multi-observers might now legitimately claim either species as their own observation, with no danger of ever being challenged to remove the tick from their own personal lists.

5) Einstein's Quantum Theory of Radiation
However, to this day one 'real' problem with (4) appears if two or more of these observers sight the fowle in the very same itsy-bitsy nano-quantum-instance. They may still correctly each register each species, but on a classical human level they will never be able to accept both exist, and so will openly query each's identification. Young Einstein's theory is that if any identification mistake in a'birdering is observed in this way, then no matter how small (the quantum), it will radiate out to proportions most large (the tedium). The experiment for this theory is conducted on the Almighty Forum of Birds most regularly.

6) Bosun-Higgs Pratincole
Thankfully, the echo from the existence of both forms at once has now been found and proven most conclusively via work done in the Higgs Field. This has made the need to read rarity threads on the Almighty Forum of Birds completely redundant, providing time for a'birders to leave their darkened rooms and go out and get a lifer.

7) Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle 
Young Heisenberg also theorised that the paradoxes of the dualism between wave and particle were never actually solved by quantum a'birdering mechanicks, rather that they were somehow 'hidden in the mathematical scheme'.
This still allows some Ornithological Watchmen to try to pronounce classical acceptability/rejectability on the grounds of mathematical statistics. Wrong. They do not search at a quantum level, ignoring what happens inthe tiniest amounts of quantum time necessary but instead look to the whole sum of lifetimes of observers (most usually concentrating on just after the end of such lifetimes when the deceased then has all queried records removed without room for reply). Such poor judgements should never concern a quantum a'birderer.

8) The Multiverse
Finally, we reach the concept of the 'many worlds', where every outcome of every duality is played out in an alternate universe. Different, parallel strings of universes. Every sighting is a string. Which brings us back, rather neatly, to tie all string into the 'classic' birding theory through...

9) Planck's Constant
In all these many-world realities, no matter what species is claimed as observed by a quantum a'birderer, in the judgemental eyes of every Planck of a classical a'birderer any and every bird claimed can and will, in all realities, be a Great Tit.


Byrd, Lady 1853: British Birds and their nests, Vol I. (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough) 
Byrd, Lady 1854: British Birds and their nests, Vol I. (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough) 
Byrd, Lady 1863: British Birds and their nests, Vol I. (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1867: The Lady Byrd Book of Sea and Estuary Birds (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1868(i): The Lady Byrd Book of Heath and Woodland Birds (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1868(ii): The Lady Byrd Book of Garden Birds (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1869: The Lady Byrd Book of Pond and River Birds (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1870: The Lady Byrd Book of Birds of Religious Prayer (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1871: The Lady Byrd Book of Birds of Narfen Britain and Narfen Europe (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1872: The Lady Byrd Book of Birds and how they live (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1873: The Lady Byrd Book of Cheating Listers (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1874: The Lady Byrd Book of Dodgy Records (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)
Byrd, Lady 1875: The Lady Byrd Book of Quantum Mechanicks (Hills & Wepworth Ltd, Loughborough)

Sunday, March 2

Dumbing Downs

Oh dear, moanin' Konan has been sounding off again. He tells me he has complained to the Tradery Description Board about about a book he had recently purchased on being described in advertisements as an Avifauna. His complaint is built around the fact that all true Avifaunas are written as if nigh-scientific, full of proven pseudo-fact and long-windedness, whereas this latest effort appears a little more Lutheran, albeit smattered with wishful platitudes more at home on a'Birdering a'Forum. He thinks it might be a deliberate attempt to engage the hard of thinking.

I offered to take a look at this 'Birds of Sou'Saxon', and I must admit it was easy to pick most quick some example statements (most genuine) from within the text to support his protest;-


On the Black Grouse
  ~ it seems unlikely that we will ever see another Black Grouse in the county ~
If working on the basis of including unlikelies then the Locksacre Pterosaurs should really be included there as they have just as much (snowball's) chance.

On the Grey Heron
 ~ tree felling can also disturb heronries ~
As I commented to my great friend Mr Holmes of 221B Baker Street, London, "No nightsoil, Sherlock"

On the Red-necked Grebe
 ~ numbers seen in Sou'Saxon seem to be buoyant ~
Ah, jokes of the 'end of the burnt down/fallen down Pier' variety that the county is most famous for. That confirms their target audience.

On the Little Crake
~ how many go unseen, one can only guess ~
Konan guessed at four hundred and six. I guessed seventy-two. Unfortunately the tome does did not say what the prize is for anyone guessing correctly. Bristow says this gives authority to reach for the collecting musket once more, being as the statement surely applies to any species and surely needs answering.

On the Herring Seagull
~ Beach-going Herring Gulls help clear up the mess we leave ~
No sir, I think you may have misidentified a womble.

On the Bearded Tit
~ The male Bearded Tit's eye catching facial plumage suggests this should rightfully be called the Moustached Tit(!) ~
Not content with TUKOGBANIOU name changes, the Sou'Saxons now make their own. And whatever is it with this trend for exclamities in authoritative texts(?) Most Avifaunas manage perfectly well without. You would never catch me making such excessive use here(!!!!!!!)

On the Dark-eyed Junco
~ should another turn up in Sou'Saxon, it would be worth putting down seed to encourage it to stay ~
This is so out of date. Everyone knows the coconut to be the food of choice for our American cousins. Especially as prolonged exposure can lead to death from nutty allergies and a nice addition to any taxidermist's shoppe front.

On the Little Bunting
~ looks rather like a female Reed Bunting but is only about the size of a Goldfinch and has a chestnut face with strong black crown stripes like thick eyebrows ~
If they are to promote eyebrows as scientifically supported identification features in this fashion then I do wish they would mention the different races involved, as for example I have a fine mounted specimen of the Little Monobrowed Bunting, known to me from my time in Latveria and collected trying to sneak past the 'Arbourmaster at 'Astings.

On the Black and White Warbler
~ It could be many more years before another is found in the county, but it just proves that just about anything is possible ~
Well I can see that particularly impressive argument swaying all those men with ARSOLS (Albion Rare Sightings Official Logistical Survey) in the future, should something as surreal as, say, a Trampolining Puddle Heron ever reach our shores. (That and a couple of guineas each at least.) Still, it does give room for all future claims of very first listed examples being accepted on the 'anything is possible' wild card.


These few genuine examples were easy to find on a quick flickage and I know there to be many more therein, but even so I think the TDB will not support Konan in his claim for refund.

The liberal use of oversized pictures to cut down on printed verbalisation, especially the collection of very many luvverly Waxen Chatterers portraits, points conclusively towards this being meant to be more of an ephemeral glossy periodical designed for a table of coffee parlours than it being an Avifauna as we have known. I fear I must tell Konan that when purchasing such books in future he should always check to see if they include reference to the Butcher-shoppe Bird, Caveat emptor.

No, it is fit for purpose. We should be grateful that such a progressive county has led the way in dumbing down for the levels of our next generations, whilst (on first skim at least) avoiding any reference to such modern youthful decrapitude as the fast-spreading Boom-Awesome Bird Tickus novaseelocalli.

I think this style of book will catch on. And that, like it or not, is progress for you(!)

I understand another local county has just now decided, after only some several short decades of deliberation, to drop all pretense of publishing an avifauna and to go for just a short a'breedering picture-book atlas instead, on the grounds that;-
 ~~ the common bird maps will appeal to the youth on 'colour in the circles' grounds,
 ~~ and the rares will excite the excitable on a 'join the dots to see what it is' basis.
For these reasons I rather look forward to receiving my copy of a modern take on 'Where's Wallacea?' for review in due course.

Even so, yes, I understand rumblings upon this new trend. I for one am certainly most old and set in my ways and whilst this new 'avifauna' now sits shelved and readily available to me I am certain I will still continue to refer to my well-fingered copy of the writings of young Willum Markwick F.L.S. and his 'Aves Sou'Saxonienfif', a work fo much leff contentiouf and controverfial.

(Clockwise from top left)
Juvenile Common Stormy-Womble,
Immature Brightun-Laynes' Hipster-Womble,
Adult Admiral Woss's Gull-Womble,
Pre-a'breedering Cory's Shear-Womble