Listen With Others

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Listener No 4543, Migratory Birds: A Setter’s Blog by Malva

Posted by Listen With Others on 17 Mar 2019

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to most Listener solvers if I admit to an interest in birds. Obviously, I’m not an obsessive twitcher, riding a moped 200 miles to catch a fleeting glimpse of a tawny frogmouth, but I do like wandering through woodland, pausing for a fag and seeing a nuthatch head-down on a nearby tree.

My interest goes back quite a long way and just after I left school, I even formed a band called The Dippers that only did songs with a bird’s name in the title. Regular things like Rockin’ Robin, Little Red Rooster and Pretty Flamingo, but also less predictable stuff such as Knot Fade Away, Vireo killed the Radio Star and anything by Owling Wolf.

To be honest, we never really made it as a band and within a year or so, we’d broken up due to ornithological differences – the drummer wanted to concentrate on passerines and the bass player was heavily into raptors. In fact, he went on to found the Buzz(ard)cocks with Merlin Bragg, Angela Eagle and Peregrine Worsthorne and they had a minor hit with their death metal version of Chirpy-chirpy Cheep-cheep.

Anyway, I pursued my interest by becoming a volunteer warden at our local nature reserve. It was on the edge of a harbour and most of it was marsh, so it was packed with waders and wildfowl in the winter. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good with waders and wildfowl, so most of the people who asked for my help were under the impression they’d seen a whimbrel even if it had four legs and was shaped like a horse.

Returning to Migratory Birds, of the 38 featured in the clues, I’ve actually seen 29 of them (or 32 if you count the stuffed tui I saw in a bar in Auckland, the nandoo that turned out to be a hallucination when I contracted food poisoning in Skiathos and the pelican that was attached to the hat of a woman who’d obviously mistaken a rain swept November day at Wincanton for Ladies Day at Ascot).

And let’s face it, even if you’re indifferent to birds, try imagining what my crosswords would be like if I’d been an ardent trainspotter all these years. A tad wearying, I’d say. Apart from the odd reference to the Mallard, of course.


2 Responses to “Listener No 4543, Migratory Birds: A Setter’s Blog by Malva”

  1. Encota said

    ho ho 🙂

  2. Andy Mullins said

    We’re regular summer visitors to Skiathos. Now you’ve got me worried about food poisoning.

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