An Ignorant Ornithologist

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Tim Birkhead’s splendid post on The Wisdom Of Birds reminded me that all too often we overlook the equally fascinating topic of ornithological ignorance. Fortunately, I have to hand a document that came into my possession when I was fossicking about in an old bin near the pollarded willows by the canal just before the level crossing. I reproduce it here, without comment or, indeed, permission.

The Private Memoirs & Confessions of an Ignorant Ornithologist

Tuesday. Saw something sitting in a tree. It had a head, two legs, and seemed to be covered in feathers. I only saw the back of the head, so could not tell if it had a beak. I suspect it may have been a linnet.

Wednesday. Trained my powerful binoculars on a speck up in the sky in the far distance. It was moving quite fast. Perhaps a wren?

Thursday. Saw a worm being dragged from the soil by something much bigger than it, possibly with wings. Rang Dennis to tell him about it. He said he’d come and check, but by the time he arrived, puffed out, ten minutes later, the thing was gone, and there was no sign of the worm. Dennis said it was probably a cassowary.

Friday. Overheard a couple of people in the park talking about sedge warblers. Later, I discovered these are a life-form which all authorities agree is a type of bird. Ticked off a box in my notepad.

Saturday. Went to the church fair. When I said how nice all the flags and bunting looked, Dennis said, “That’s also the name of a bird!” “Flags and bunting?” I asked. “No, you nitwit,” he said, “Just bunting. Also known as the ortolan.” I was very, very impressed with the breadth of his knowledge.

Sunday. Woke to find an owl sitting on my head.

You can read (much) more Frank Key, buy his remarkable books and download his famous podcasts at Hooting Yard.
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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

3 thoughts on “An Ignorant Ornithologist

    April 1, 2011 at 08:49

    Brilliant! Bet you haven’t seen a Dipper though Frank. No one ever has

    April 1, 2011 at 09:51

    You and Oddie, Frank. Beware the charms of things avian, look where Bill ended up, in a dark corner of the local funny farm, crouching on a sheet of Tidysan, wondering where the next beakfull of seed was coming from.

    john halliwell
    April 1, 2011 at 16:17

    ‘Fossicking’ – what a great word, Frank.

    I went through each day and thought:”This could be me.” I then recollected being down the local canal in the hot summer of ’76 and wondered if my experience might qualify for your missing Monday?

    Monday. Too hot. Canal very smelly, needs dredging. But saw two elegant swans, side by side, stationary for ages. Their long necks in precise unison. After 10 minutes I thought they might be trapped in sludge. About to phone RSPCA when my mate, Sam, said “Idiot! It’s a pram”

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