On string’s power to brighten a dull day

Got back to Shetland yesterday morning after a weekend down south (ooh, the exotica I saw from the car! Red-legged Partridges, Magpies, and more Buzzards than you could shake a shirty gamekeeper at) to find the weather  had returned to normal for this time of year. In other words, wind and rain. Nothing unusual there, and for a mercy I’d missed nothing unusual while I was away. Which was nice.

While being kept abreast of what (wasn’t) being found back home, I amused myself by browsing through British Birds Interactive. Still available for the incredibly good value price of £96.95 for a fully searchable database of 100 years worth of British Birds (http://www.birdguides.com/products/BBi/default.asp)  the amount of entertainment you get for 96p per year (8 pence per issue!) is vast. I bought it a while ago, and have rather neglected it ever since. Spending 26 hours of my life on a ferry in the course of last weekend was a chance to remedy that.

It’d be nice to pretend I went straight to the identification papers, the mystery photos, the educational stuff… (and that’s all there, and very good it is too)… but the truth is, I went looking for the more, ahem, entertaining claims of yesteryear. Here’s a sample gem:

itchy chin

Given this was some 90 years ago, announcing your rare bird news in BB was de rigueur. Nowadays it would be rather different:

Rare bird hotline – Hello, rare bird hotline. What’ve you got?

A. Stringer – I’ve found a Wallcreeper! In Dorset!

RBH – Wallcreeper?! Bloody hell!

AS – That’s right! In Dorset!

RBH – Okay… where exactly in Dorset did you have it?

AS – Climbing round an old elm tree! At Chilfrome, near Dorchester!

RBH – An elm tree? I see… and how well did you see it?

AS – Oh, really well! It was remarkably tame, and I got within six feet of it!

RBH – Um… mate… are you sure about this?

AS – What are you trying to imply? I am familiar with our wild birds, and especially noticed the crimson shoulders and slightly curved long bill! I immediately identified the species by referring to the Collins Field Guide, and it is safe to say that at such close range there could have been no mistake!

RBH – o-kay…. and it’s still there, is it?

AS – No, I’m afraid it eventually flew away with another bird, which seemed to come from the other side of the tree and was apparently of the same species!

RBH – You’re now saying there were two Wallcreepers?! Six feet away from you? On an old elm tree?

AS – Yes! There could have been no mistake, you know!

RBH – Yeah, right. Goodbye.

Spotting blatant string – it’s just so much fun.