Sunday 26 April 2009

We're all going to die (again)!!!!!!!!!

The Department of Unnecessary Scaremongering and Public Panic today issued a warning about a new strain of Weasel Flu discovered on a remote island in the Pacific, which 'could spread to the rest of the World'.

The public is being advised to stay indoors, try not to breathe, and keep watching BBC News 24 for up to the minute advice on what to do. The Daily Quail has called for all migrant Weasels to be culled immediately to prevent the disease taking hold in Britain.

Symptoms of this deadly new disease include an inability to take anything seriously, and greatly increased levels of cynicism regarding anything overhyped by the media in a desperate bid to increase sales.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Out now!

I couldn't be arsed to gratuitously twitch the Pec at Cossington Meadows, or do any proper birding, so I amused myself this afternoon by doing this instead...

P.S. For anyone who missed it, the first issue of Stringing magazine can be found here.

Monday 13 April 2009

You've been papped!

Leicestershire twitchers were honoured yesterday by an unannounced visit from the President of the British Birdspotting Association, Lee Grevans.

El Presidente toured Watermead Country Park (strangely without his usual retinue of ‘Creebs’, bodyguards and assorted hangers-on) and was able to confirm a sighting of the rare red-tailed swallow, which is thought to have been blown off course by strong winds whilst migrating.

Now, which is the end I look through again?

Yeah - got it - red tail showing really well!

Thanks to the Drunkbirder for the photos.

Monday 6 April 2009

Alex Horne's Birdwatchingwatching

Published by Virgin Books. Hardback, 378 pages. £12.99

The last few years have seen something of a change in bird book publishing. It seems publishers have finally realised that we don’t need any more identification books or family monographs, and have turned instead to bringing out books about birding. So we’ve had Simon Barnes’ How to be a Bad Birdwatcher, Mark Cocker’s Birders: Tales of a Tribe, Adrian Riley’s Arrivals and Rivals: a Birding Oddity and Sean Dooley’s The Big Twitch, amongst others.

Stand-up comedian Alex Horne’s contribution to this genre is different to all those in one big respect: he knew almost nothing about birds when he challenged his father, a lifelong birder, to a year listing contest. This very funny book is the story of that year’s birding, and, perhaps more importantly, Alex getting to know his father better.

It’s also about other birdwatchers, and how a newcomer sees us and our strange hobby. As someone who’s always been interested in birds, I often wonder what it must be like to get into birding relatively late in life. As Alex quickly realises, there is a huge amount to learn, and even after his year of regular birding he admits that he’s “still rubbish at it.”

He also admits towards the end of the book that he never really felt ‘passionate’ about birds, in the way that his father obviously does, or that he does about football for instance. Or words. With his passion for and interest in words, there is not surprisingly a lot of discussion about bird names. Bullfinch, for instance, sounds ‘a tiny bit too close to bullshit for comfort’, while Golden Orioles and Honey Buzzards sound like breakfast cereals. Other themes running through the book include the ridiculousness of bird feeder names (my favourites being the Opus Garden Ballet Hummingbird Feeder, the Duncraft Super Cling-a-Wing, and the Meripac Bird Banqueting Hall) and his attempts to ‘tick’ Bill Oddie, which he finally managed at the Rutland Water Birdfair.

There are several amusing references to El Presidente, and even a couple of brief mentions of llamas, but you’ll have to read the book yourself for the context, and also to find out who won the year listing competition and how many species they saw.

My only minor criticism, and it is a very subjective one, is that there is a bit too much about football for my liking (as well as being Alex’s ‘big year’, 2006 was also a World Cup year apparently). But then I have no interest whatsoever in football, so to be honest just one mention would have been too much for me. But if you aren’t interested in football, please don’t be put off by that. If you have any interest at all in birds, or know a birdwatcher, or are simply interested in what makes people tick (in both the birding and non-birding senses of the word), read this book.