Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Nothing doing today, no birding, no ringing, unless you count a walk around the bird free zone that is Stalmine in November. Well I tell a lie, there were a few Dunnocks, one Lapwing – yes one, a couple of Grey Herons and somehow a single Fieldfare, with the best bit a flock of 30 Goldfinches around the village hall as Sue and I neared home after a couple of miles trek completed with always one eye each on the dark grey cloud to the south.

I changed the header picture because the Redwings have gone. Gone to the pleasant, warm Med where we would all be if we had more sense rather than here in the UK where it just rains, and rains, and rains….

Over in the right hand column on the map of the world some of my readers live in warm or even hot countries where rain or wind is something out of their daily experience, where generally they can bird each and every day without weather hindrances. They must read some UK bird blogs and wonder why UK birders obsess about the weather. Well it’s true we are preoccupied by the weather and so would they be if they had to live here. Here I am assuming that most of the red dots readers are loyal participants and examine my blog regularly through choice and their love of birds, not as an accidental result of Googling “long-legged dark female”.

So I put a Robin at the top. A nice seasonal but unexciting bird that is very winter appropriate as we near the dreaded “C” word, the word that even the most dedicated birdwatcher dare not utter for fear of conjuring up visions of their mother-in-law in a red outfit, but which may entail submitting to worldly pressures to soon lay down the bins for a day, or with luck a half day.

So whilst it’s goodbye for a while to Redwings I hope to see some more soon where they might qualify again for pride of place at the top of the page. But I worry that in using a Robin, it isn’t a “good” bird but the opposite, a “bad” bird. I read a piece in a newspaper last week aimed at Joe Public where the author two or three times used the phrase “good birds” in listing exotic birds that can or should be sought, then by implication that common birds should not be entertained. Now of course we all know what was meant by “good”, as in rare or semi rare, exciting or exceptional etc., but excuse me, aren’t for all birders but especially those just setting out or contemplating birding, all birds “good”? So I shouted “you plonker, what use is that to a novice” and in a rage screwed the paper up, vowing not to read such nonsense again.

So here’s a bad bird, a bird so bad it rarely merits a mention on bird blogs or websites, so awful that a few lines in a bird report is all it can muster. A bird that even ringers avoid, unless they are Trainers who can at least then pass it on to a trainee with a sigh of relief and a knowing smile. A Wren, admired for climbing up your sleeve from a bird bag or flying through the open hatchback and crapping on the dashboard before disappearing under the seat, escaping from the weighing device prematurely or wriggling through three net pockets then spinning like a top. Don’t we just love them really?

Amongst the overall dross there are a few good birds, as I recalled when I set up the slide copier again. Several hundred slides divided by three at a time = a lot of hours clicking away, but at least it’s raining as I may have mentioned previously. Undeterred I came across three crackers from Canada that stuck together in a box avoiding all those common, over populous bad birds like Chipping Sparrow, House Wren or White–throated Sparrow that clog up the best birding lists.

I could change my mind about Rose-breasted Grosbeak being good, probably the most vicious bird I ever encountered, a bill like a blunt pick axe and a grip like an ever tightening mole wrench. Oh the joy of looking along a net ride to see six awaiting my attention as happened one memorable morning at Old Cut.

Not much doubt about Black and White Warbler, the goodest bird ever, closely followed by Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Not the usual exhausted, moribund, soon to expire October specimen that turns up on Scilly to furnish many a tick list, but an example from May as fresh as a Canadian spring daisy.

Now here is a really ugly bird, brown and black with more hairs on its face then your old granny and a gape like the Mersey Tunnel, a Whip-poor-will. Actually I suppose it could be good because it’s a good tick but it might be bad, especially if I have seen one and you haven’t but that’s what it all about I think. Now I’m really confused.

Well at least we can hear one sing.

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