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.

Thursday, April 24



Time only for a short reply I am afraid.

Yes, I do think that, following today's Proclamation by the Holy European Empire, the newly recognised peoples of Kernow will eventually gain full independence from us (and, bolshy as they are, I think they will manage it much quicker than our other mutinous Celtic tribes as well).

So yes, I also think we will have to learn to say 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Formally Excluding Kernow' within a matter of weeks.

And yes, I am certain their first move towards ornithological independence will be to give full status and pride of place on their new national list to the Land's End/Lizard House Finch. So, although you only hinted toward the fact, yes, if do you still have it in your freezer, I have no doubt it will be worth a small fortune (especially if still with the actual cage it escaped from).

Finally yes, you may well have to check your other stock labels. Off the top of my head I can think of at least ten fowle species that will come off the Tukogbanifek national list following independence for Kernow (and the Kernowish offshore dependencies) through there being only one occurrence on our shores, but I do not have the time just now to indulge you in writing them all out. But any true a'listerer worth their salt should be able to recite them to you in a matter of minutes, I am sure (or they are not worthy to call themselves Premiership material).

I sign off the same way as my good Kernow friend,
Doctor Jonathan Couch-Poldark-Warleggan,
always signs off to me;-
Leun a sylli yw ow skath bargesi,

PS Another (final) yes;- I too could not fathom a single word spoken by the locals when I last stayed at Jamaica Inn.

Wednesday, April 23

We'll keep the red symetric cross upon a white field flag flying here

April 23rd is the Feast Day of the Patron Saint for one small part of our green and pleasant land of Tukogbani. Saint George Twitchem was a famous a'birderer much traveled in the Middle East, Turkey and even wildest, remotest Anglesey. Fittingly, his list was of mythical proportion.

So, a happy St. George's Day to all my parishioners. In honour of the occasion I would like to recite that very well known speech from "Henry V; When Nature Calls", as quilled by young Chrissie Marlowe. It is Hal's clarion call to his tired crew just as the great Feast Day dawns on a potential new tick;-

(HV) This new day is call'd the feast of St. George Twitchem.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the call of Twitchem.

    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast with next generation,
    To say 'To-morrow is Saint Twitchem's.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'Long lens wounds I have, from Twitchem's day.'

    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What a tick he listed that day. Then shall our totals,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Falstaff 555, Garry Bubo 496,
    And you at the back, whose name I cannot recall,
    who hadst 351 om this past calendar year,

    All these numbers, in flowing cups fresh rememb'red.

    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Saint Twitchem's Day shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of birderers(!)

    For he to-day that shares his 'scope with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile
    (On bookface or a'tweeter),
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And low-listers in Middle England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their Brit list cheap whiles any speaks
    That ticked with us, upon Saint Twitchem's day.

    So have your pager to hand right now,
    For we must pay the nice lady and thence away,
    From this Moto Service Station,
    Straight down to Baguette Bay(!)

   (Or Dingeyness if there's no news by whence we reach Caunterbere.)

Sunday, April 20

Five loaves, two fishes, four singing Scrub-warblers.

My dear parishioners,

Today's reading was brought to mind following intercourse most rough and most recent with a local a'birderer on the matter of numbers, in particular those of Cetti's Warblers. I was somewhat taken aback to be lectured on our local reedy duck pond being home to a 'multitude' of this delightfully skulky bird. When I suggested that my own daily observations were much, much lower in number I was told I knew not of what I spake. Unchastened, I then continued to explain how the watery level of the pond was holding two feet higher than last year, thanks to all the rains, so this species really did not like the pond as much as previous. However, I was told firmly, in colourfully rustic Anglo-Saxon phrases, to only to lecture on matters for which I was qualified.

So while of course it is important we concentrate on the Easter rising I really neeeeeed to be putting this individual straight. To this end my reading to you today is penned by the very discoverer of this species in question;- I read to you from St Francesco's letter to the Marshians.

   ~ 73:1 This is the story of Cettia and his family.

   ~ 73:2 In the beginning was Animalia, who begat Chordata, who begat Aves, who begat Passeriformes, who begat Passeri, who begat Passerida, who Sylvioidea, who begat Cettidae.

   ~ 73:3 And Cettidae begat many sons and daughters;- Pholidornis, Hylia, Abroscopus, Urosphena, Tesia, Horornis, Tickellia, Phyllergates, Scotocerca and Cettia.

 ~ 73:4 And it came to pass that Cettia alone settled in the land of Tukogbani, so those many brothers and sisters were not really that familiar to the native a'birderers of the land.

   ~ 73:5 His closest relation dwelling there was Aegithalidae, but the natives did not take kindly when the Watchmen of Science moved Cettia next to Aegithalidae in their Order Most Scientific. Many simply refused to believe Cettia was not of the tribe of old world warblers, and that Cettia behaved the same as one.

   ~ 73:6 But he behaved as a Scrub-warbler. And so when Cettia settled into the first county he came upon in number, his chosen Scrub-warbler land was sought- wet, damp thickets. Now this oft included wet reedbeds, but by co-incidence, for Cettia was seeking out his dense thicketry, with beautiful bare soil beneath, upon which to scrub about.

   ~ 73:7 And it was there he was first watched in great detail by a holier man than I, John the Artist, who didst a jolly good job writing up all observations chapter and verse in that county's annual reporte.

~ 73:8 And for you remaining doubting Thomases, the number of that reporte was twenty-two, and the page numbers four and eighty to five and ninety.

~ 73:9 And there the Artist wrote that the territories of Cettia were found to be much longer than wide, so as to only encompass those raised embankments crossing wet reedbed. Such dominions were said to have been approximately 250 to 300 mitres* in length but a mere 30 to 60 mitres in width. And Cettia thought it good, for he did not wish to cleanse his feet.
*An ancient Jesuit measurement. There are 39.37 inches in a mitre.

~ 73:10 And it was also wrote that every domain held cover both of trees and of bushes, through which Cettia could move, or double back, unobserved by friend or foe. And Cettia thought it good, for he was a hermit at heart, more like a Luscinia in habits than any old warbler.

   ~ 73:11 And it was also noted that Cettia flew most frequently after utterance, and that that he didst sing once again straight after any such unobserved flight. And such hidden flights were oft the length of the domain to be as much as 250 mitres away. And Cettia thought it good to beat his bounds.

   ~ 73:12 And so it was, to the unobservant, that the call of Cettia could be oft claimed as two instead of one, giving rise to numbers most tricksy in the records. Indeed Cettia thought it good to be counted more than once, for a ghost bird in the bush is worth more in the logge.

   ~ 73:13 So, if any one of you whomsoe'er still believeth in such high countery then, truly, thou art a wad of dip.

Here endeth the reading. My parishioners, when you are asked today if you know of the good news, you may now reply "Why yes, I most certainly do;- the good news is that the territories of the local Scrub-warblers have been flooded up closer to cart-tracks and footpaths around our ponds, so we all stand a goodly chance of glimpsing him now, and have three times as many good chances of hearing his sweet, sweet song(!)."

That completes this preachy sermon. If no-one else wishes to query any of my other counts... no(?)... then I will send you all on your ways into the field wishing you happy a'birdering upon this day, the appropriated Pagan festival of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and Spring fowle migration.

Makke waay thy skulky Cetti's,
who hath helde your territorie sinfth Octobre laft,
for them Spring a'ticks are now back
 and wifh to shaare your beddes,
tra la la la, tra la la laaaa(!)

Thursday, April 17

The Divine Comedy of a'birdering

Having stayed up late dining on milk and cheese, while at the same time reading the classic 'Inferno', (the first and most famous book of Dante's trilogy) I found myself falling into fitful sleep whilst still half-musing upon the role of the character Thanatos therein. (In particular I wondered how some Ancient Tukogbanis had known of this Greek daemon of death, for they had clearly named one nearby Isle after him (I presume because decent fowle only ever turn up in the fields of their dead).

This proved my undoing for the whole long dark night that followed for as I slumbered I somehow found myself acting out the story of the Inferno, even in the company of the Poet Virgil, Dante's guide for that tome. It seems that Virgil plays an important role in all Inferno-natural rescues, as he was soon explaining he had been chosen to lead me down to first view and then contemplate upon a circle of Hell especially reserved for a'birderers.

I mused upon Dante's nine circles;- limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud or treachery? Which one? A'birderers, along with many, if not all, of their claims, could sit nicely in any circle stall.

"We are here;- level three hundred."

I was mute. Sensing my shock Virgil continued "Like many mortals you think there are only nine circles of Hell(?) No sir(!) Why, there are a further 291 levels reserved for a'birders alone. Welcome to the 300th, a'tweetery. Before you Fumblefinch stretches the murky delta of the six great rivers of the Underworld; the Styx, the Phelegthon, the Acheron, the Cocytus, and the lesser-known Tems and Mudway. Together these form the fearful Stygian Marsh."

I remained mute at the sight (which I know is most unlike me) so the great poet continued "There is, within that marsh, a fabulous owl, the Stygian Marsh Owl."

"Ah" (for I can always find voice for opinions ornithological) "Asio stygius, of the southern and central latitudes of the Americas (and twice claimed at least by the Yankee-doodlers). Yes, yes, I am familiar with this fowle."

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That is a mortal owl, that is the Stygian Owl, so named by humans after this beast. The true Stygian Marsh Owl is a huge snarly, bitey, clawey, snowy-coloured fowle said to be, like Cerebus, a guard, to the gates out of this particular a'birdering Hell."

"A'birderers who find themselves stuckfast here must tick the Owl on their lists to escape their sufferings. But this snowy fowle only reveals itself rarely, and then usually only to a single observer. And when knowledge of their claim becomes public the foul waters of the marsh boil with rage as all those trapped within seek out the name of the one who claims it. For if the single observer claimant is revealed, then their sighting can be made unsubstantiated. What you see before you are all the unhappy souls a'tu-whittering, and that is their sufferance everlasting; an unhappy gnawing and gnashing, forever and a day, until a written description is dealt with. When it starts over again."

I looked upon those seething masses, and could hear their cacophonous cries;- "Who, who-hoo-hoo?"

Virgil chanted "If they gain the name, then they can pour shame, to disallow all claim." (I was beginning to think Virgil was not that great a poet by this point.) "For to stop getting through, gives another the view, and so carries on the game."

At this point I awoke, mortified. Such horrific rhyme(!).

But in the light of day I am more relaxed now, especially as putting the story down on paper here has helped distance me from such suffering.

I do now wonder if I should still risk continuing this night with Dante's second part, Purgatorio? No, perhaps not just yet. After all, I already have a full day's a'birdering planned. I am certain such a day will provide me with enough fanciful visions upon which to dream most vividly. A'birdering Hell can wait.

No, forget details of the fowle, describe to me the a'birderer(!)
The a'birderer(!!)