Tag Archives: birds

1852. After the long journey

How wonderful! Rafferty (known to his friends as Raff) belonged to the Spiggyholes Ornithologist Society. Like most bird-watchers he was consumed by a passion for observing birds. Every Saturday, sunshine or not, he would disappear into the environment with camera and binoculars.

It was on one of these Saturday excursions that Raff spied a pair of Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus). These birds were native to a neighbouring continent and had never been seen in this country before. When I say “neighbouring”, the continent and Raff’s country were separated by a sea of hundreds of miles. The pair of Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) had clearly been caught in a massive storm and been blown across the ocean. It was not a migratory bird. Such a thing happened only once or twice in a century or so. If the storm-blown birds settled and reproduced they would be classified as “native” to the country because they were not introduced by humans.

Raff’s excitement knew no bounds. The Condove Variegated Flicktail (Australissimus flickbumibus) was by no means a boring bird, unlike most of the native species of his country. The native species were all black or dark grey or dark brown or dark green. Quite dreary really! Whereas the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) were a bright and colourful addition to the native fauna. Let’s hope they breed.

And sing! My word! Could the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) sing or what?

Raff wrote an article (complete with photographs) for the Ornithological Bulletin, a monthly magazine dedicated to the promotion of native species of birds. What a furore the article caused! Half the readers were thrilled with such a colourful and musical possible permanent settler. The rest of the readers were dismayed. The new species would undermine the habitat of the native Leaden Brown Muted Caw-caw bird (Boringdullnus dozimus).

That’s why a representative was sent by the Government’s Ministry of the Environment to shoot the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) dead.

1837. Mother Thrush’s baby, Guzzle-Beak

“Now, now, Guzzle-Beak,” said Mother Thrush to her baby in the nest. “You must learn not to complain about your food. It doesn’t matter if you find a bit of lettuce in your caterpillar. Just quietly eat it and things will be fine. It won’t kill you.”

“Look at what happened to your brothers and sisters. There were five of you at the start, and they complained about the food. Next thing, they disappeared. It’s a nasty world out there and we must learn to be grateful for small mercies.”

“Your father and I have worn ourselves to a frazzle finding food for you. So a bit of appreciation wouldn’t go amiss. Taking a positive attitude to things will see you right in life. You’ll go places.”

Just then a hawk swooped down from nowhere, grabbed Guzzle-Beak in its talons, and flew off.

“Oh well,” sighed Mother Thrush eating the caterpillar she had brought for her baby and spitting out the bit of lettuce that was mixed in, “Mr. Thrush and I shall start a second clutch tomorrow.”

1820. People in glass houses

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – or so the saying goes. Geoffrey Higginbotham lived in a glass house.

It wasn’t one of those garden glass houses, you silly person. It was a real house but it had lots and lots of glass; big (in fact huge) glass panes in the doors and windows. The view out was spectacular. The view in was zilch. The windows were tinted and acted like mirrors.

It had one disadvantage: birds were forever attacking their own reflections in the glass. There would be a WHOMP and a dead bird would lie on the path beneath the window. This could happen several times a day.

Geoffrey tried to save as many birds as possible as often as he could by throwing stones and small rocks at them to scare them away. I know what you’re thinking: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Geoffrey never broke a window with a stone. Not the once. But there was getting to be quite a collection of rocks and stones on the path. One day, Geoffrey tripped on a rock, broke his ankle, and fell headfirst through a gigantic pane.

Which is the real reason why people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

1792. The Gentle Redneck

(This will be the second of two postings today because I’m fixing up the numbering system and having two postings on one day is the easiest way to do it! Sorry about that – I usually have a personal rule of only one posting a day!)

I hate it when people call me a “Gentle Redneck”. Just because I live in the foothills of North Carolina doesn’t mean to say I’m a Redneck.

Glad to have got that off my chest, but it’s not what this story is about. This story is about how I like to shoot animals and birds. I used to keep a list of the critters I shot, but now I do it just for the heck of it. So it doesn’t matter about keeping a list.

My favorite was the Bearded Screech-Owl. I shot it down in Mexico a couple of years ago. Had to wait up all night for it to make an appearance, and when it appeared I was pretty pleased with the result. I have it now on a shelf in my billiard room. It takes pride of place and I like to think it supervises the billiard games with my buddies. It’s endangered as you might know and there weren’t (back then) many of them left. Being quite small it provided me with quite a challenge.

I’ve shot some quite big animals too; polar bears for example. And not just mammals from North America. I got literally dozens of koala bears when I was visiting Australia. In Madagascar I was lucky enough to get several varieties of lemur.

I used to have a really good one of a New Zealand kiwi. It was stuffed by a “talented” niece. I seem to have misplaced it. I don’t know where it is now. I like to keep an eye out for endangered species. Sometimes the scientists do a cull as part of the breeding program. Don’t ask me how that works but apparently it does. If I find out that a cull is going to happen I step in and ask if they would mind me shooting a few first. I’ve never been turned down.

So there you have it. I’ve shot dozens of creatures over the years. The highlight was when the National Geographic used a photo I shot in the Amazon of a three-toed sloth. That shot got an honorable mention from the Photography Society that I belong to.

1559. Birds, bees, and butterflies

Flora was true to her name. She had planted her large property in plants to attract butterflies and bees. When summer came there were flowers flowering and butterflies fluttering and bees buzzing. She planted shrubs to attract nectar-eating birds. Who needs wind chimes when choirs of bellbirds tinkle in the breeze? And to lie in bed a little longer in the early hours of a summer’s day and hear… the birds!… oh! the birds! The dawn chorus! It was a piece of heaven fallen from… heaven.

Flora’s new neighbour didn’t appreciate Flora’s slice of bliss. “Those bloody birds wake me up every morning. What a racket. As for the bees – I see you’ve put in a hive. Some people react to bee stings. The bees are a menace. And as for flowers, especially lilies, don’t you know people get hay fever from the pollen? I suggest you pull a few things out and start recognizing the needs of other people who live nearby.”

Flora didn’t flinch.

The neighbour’s property was empty and well sprayed. There wasn’t a weed in sight. For that matter, there wasn’t a plant in sight, not even a blade of grass. “We’re getting ready to put it all in concrete. It’s so much nicer, and easier to maintain, and we’ll charge only a few dollars for every kid who wants to play.”

Flora left her paradise for one and a half weeks to go on the Horticultural Society’s Grand Garden Tour. It was one of the highlights of her year. When she returned her garden was dead; no thriving nectar-producing trees, no bellbirds, no lilies, and butterflies, and bees. Even the hive sat silent. Flora asked the neighbour what had happened.

“I done nothing,” said the neighbour. “We’re putting our concrete backyard into a go-cart race track for the local kids. You could learn a trick or two from that as to how to be neighbourly. No bee stings. No hay fever. No bird poop all over the go cart track.”

And that was that.

1483. A reflection on a pair of wood pigeons

Mr and Mrs Wood Pigeon were a handsome couple. Not only that, but Mrs Wood Pigeon had laid an egg. It was a smooth, white, oval egg. They were both very proud of it. Mrs Wood Pigeon sat on it first, and then Mr Wood Pigeon had his turn at keeping the egg warm. For several days they took turns at incubating their fabulous egg.

Mr Wood Pigeon had another job in between sittings. He had to make sure the area around the nest was safe from enemies. There was one smart-alec male woodpigeon on the other side of the field. He clearly had his eye on Mrs Wood Pigeon. He would strut around, and then perform spectacular aerodynamics just to show off. And he imitated everything that Mr Wood Pigeon did. If Mr Wood Pigeon flew up in the air, the smart-alec would as well. If he flew down, so did the smart-alec. It was infuriating.

“One day I’m going to teach you a good lesson”, called out Mr Wood Pigeon to the smart-alec across the way. And he did! One lovely sunny afternoon, just after Mrs Wood Pigeon had taken over the care of the egg, Mr Wood Pigeon swooped across the field in pursuit of the smart-alec. The smart-alec flew towards him at a fantastic rate. They collided. WHAM!

Mr Wood Pigeon’s neck was broken. He’d flown into his reflection in the window of the house across the field. Mrs Wood Pigeon waited and waited, but Mr Wood Pigeon never came back.

Poem 80: When birds begin to sing

When birds begin to sing
I know with joy that spring is near.
Somehow, this time of year,
the birds join up in pairs and build
nests, lay eggs in song-filled
days, feed, are never stilled lest
the fledglings leave the nest too soon.

Fresh things are everywhere!
Flowers bloom! Fruit forms! The air – it cries
new life! And butterflies!
And bees! Yet here, in my old, spent
winter of discontent
I must not not forget to turn
the page, the page, the page.

(Based on the Vietnamese Luc Bat).

1273. Tit birds

Tits come in all colours and sizes.

Fire-capped tit Cephalopyrus flammiceps
Yellow-browed tit, Sylviparus modestus
Sultan tit, Melanochlora sultanea
Black-breasted tit, Periparus rufonuchalis
Rufous-vented tit, Periparus rubidiventris
Coal tit, Periparus ater
Yellow-bellied tit, Pardaliparus venustulus
Elegant tit, Pardaliparus elegans
Palawan tit, Pardaliparus amabilis
European crested tit, Lophophanes cristatus
Grey crested tit, Lophophanes dichrous
Bridled titmouse, Baeolophus wollweberi
Oak titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
Juniper titmouse, Baeolophus ridgwayi
Tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor
Black-crested titmouse, Baeolophus atricristatus
Varied tit, Sittiparus varia
Owston’s tit, Sittiparus owstoni
Iriomote tit, Sittiparus olivaceus
Chestnut-bellied tit, Sittiparus castaneoventris
White-fronted tit, Sittiparus semilarvatus
White-browed tit, Poecile superciliosus
Sombre tit, Poecile lugubris
Père David’s tit, Poecile davidi
Marsh tit, Poecile palustris
Caspian tit, Poecile hyrcanus
Black-bibbed tit, Poecile hypermelaenus
Willow tit, Poecile montanus
Sichuan tit Poecile weigoldicus
Carolina chickadee, Poecile carolinensis
Black-capped chickadee, Poecile atricapillus
Mountain chickadee, Poecile gambeli
Mexican chickadee, Poecile sclateri
Grey-headed chickadee, Poecile cinctus
Boreal chickadee, Poecile hudsonicus
Chestnut-backed chickadee, Poecile rufescens
African blue tit, Cyanistes teneriffae
Eurasian blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus
Azure tit, Cyanistes cyanus
Ground tit, Pseudopodoces humilis
Great tit, Parus major
Japanese tit, Parus minor
Cinereous tit, Parus cinereus
Green-backed tit, Parus monticolus
White-naped tit, Machlolophus nuchalis
Yellow tit, Machlolophus holsti
Himalayan black-lored tit, Machlolophus xanthogenys
Indian black-lored tit, Machlolophus aplonotus
Yellow-cheeked tit, Machlolophus spilonotus
White-shouldered black tit, Melaniparus guineensis
White-winged black tit, Melaniparus leucomelas
Southern black tit, Melaniparus niger
Carp’s tit, Melaniparus carpi
White-bellied tit, Melaniparus albiventris
White-backed black tit, Melaniparus leuconotus
Dusky tit, Melaniparus funereus
Rufous-bellied tit, Melaniparus rufiventris
Cinnamon-breasted tit, Melaniparus pallidiventris
Red-throated tit, Melaniparus fringillinus
Stripe-breasted tit, Melaniparus fasciiventer
Acacia tit or Somali Tit, Melaniparus thruppi
Miombo tit, Melaniparus griseiventris
Ashy tit, Melaniparus cinerascens
Grey tit, Melaniparus afer


cyanus Yellow-browed Melaniparus Melaniparus crested black-lored chickadee Yellow modestus Carp’s cinctus black-lored Chestnut-backed Cyanistes Parus tit Owston’s Melanochlora Poecile monticolus Bridled inornatus black tit Pardaliparus Parus tit albiventris Periparus Melaniparus tit flammiceps tit Poecile Poecile tit funereus bicolor Black-breasted Sittiparus Sittiparus venustulus David’s Melaniparus Sombre Tufted black Baeolophus tit chickadee hudsonicus tit cinereus Poecile titmouse tit minor Lophophanes Melaniparus tit Melaniparus cristatus White-browed tit Oak thruppi Mexican black Dusky Black-crested tit Melaniparus tit Periparus Caspian Tit European Somali afer Machlolophus tit Pardaliparus varia tit Lophophanes tit blue tit Poecile tit gambeli hyrcanus chickadee Grey carolinensis tit chickadee Machlolophus tit Sylviparus titmouse Sultan Melaniparus Machlolophus tit Acacia tit Indian holsti ridgwayi Pardaliparus Grey Rufous-bellied Carolina elegans Varied tit spilonotus Poecile Melaniparus dichrous Coal tit chickadee Poecile Melaniparus Black-capped fasciiventer Baeolophus tit tit Cyanistes crested semilarvatus African Stripe-breasted tit Poecile fringillinus tit chickadee Machlolophus tit Baeolophus tit tit Ground tit tit Japanese Fire-capped davidi White-naped amabilis blue Baeolophus tit Melaniparus Machlolophus Rufous-vented Poecile Parus leuconotus Melaniparus tit griseiventris castaneoventris tit superciliosus rufonuchalis Père Sittiparus olivaceus tit Poecile chickadee Elegant tit Iriomote caeruleus Periparus tit Himalayan Yellow-cheeked Parus rufiventris Mountain titmouse White-backed tit Pseudopodoces leucomelas rufescens owstoni Melaniparus White-fronted Black-bibbed rubidiventris tit sclateri aplonotus Southern tit lugubris montanus Chestnut-bellied Poecile nuchalis tit Poecile hypermelaenus major tit ater Palawan carpi xanthogenys Poecile White-shouldered Marsh humilis Poecile tit atricapillus Sittiparus Grey-headed Cinnamon-breasted tit palustris Melaniparus tit titmouse Baeolophus tit weigoldicus tit Yellow-bellied Cephalopyrus Ashy Green-backed White-winged sultanea Juniper guineensis Red-throated Willow niger Eurasian Melaniparus tit Boreal White-bellied tit cinerascens Great or Sittiparus Cinereous Poecile Azure titmouse Cyanistes tit teneriffae wollweberi black atricristatus pallidiventris Miombo Sichuan

Which is what happens when you get your tits in a tangle.

1229. Paranoia overcome

Avis was paranoid, not about spiders, oh no! Not about centipedes, oh no! Not about bugs, or birds, or even terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs, oh no!

Avis was paranoid about tadpoles. If those little slimy eyeballs with a tail could grow legs, what else could they do? Grow claws? Tentacles? Great gnashing teeth?

And the fact that they grew into land-hopping creatures, would they jump out of their pond and leap into her bedroom at night? Avis shut her bedroom window and drew the curtains.

And then the inevitable happened, for this is a story is it not? Avis overcame her paranoia when she kissed a frog and turned into a reptile herself. They married and lived happily ever after.

She and her husband produced a bunch of sprogs, and the sprogs lived happily ever after too. One of them was able to transmogrify into a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc when it was called for, although eventually it was devoured by a hungry sibling.

Poem 55: I cannot love the sky


I cannot love the sky
until I know the scientific names for all the clouds.
Look! how dramatic is Cumulonimbus!

I cannot love the garden
until I know the scientific names for all the flowers.
Oh! such lovely Lobularia maritima!

I cannot love the song
until I know the scientific names for all the birds.
Hark! to the rapture of that Turdus philomelos!

I cannot love reflections in the water
until I’ve checked for giardia,
those anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasites of the phylum Sarcomastigophora.

I cannot love you
until I have dissected your opinions
tested your resolve
verified your good faith
and checked that you don’t have a Daucus carota stuffed up your Sphincter ani externus
like some overcharged know-all who

…cannot love the sky