Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear?

By Lev Parikian

A lapsed and hopeless birdwatcher’s attempt to see 200 birds in a year

Friday, 18 November 2016

Apologies for absence

I do apologise. I’ve abandoned you in the shed without so much as a word for weeks and weeks, and now the biscuits have run out and you’ve resorted to eating potting compost. As I say, I apologise.

Mitigating circumstance No. 1: I’m writing a book.

Mitigating circumstance No. 2: I’ve been watching birds.

Mitigating circumstance No. 3: Elgar’s Violin Concerto doesn’t conduct itself.

But now I’m here, I’d like to answer your questions and ask a couple of my own.

Firstly, yes the birdwatching is going spiffingly, thank you so much for asking. We were up in Northumberland a couple of weekends ago, and the rest of the year will contain as many and as diverse trips as I can possibly manage in pursuit of those last elusive species. It looks as if it might go to the wire.

Secondly, yes the book is also coming along nicely. It’s by no means finished, of course, mostly because the year it describes is by no means finished. There are substantial chunks of it already written, but also a fair way to go.

One thing I’m interested in is how much people in general know about birds. It’s not that I’m planning to ‘dumb down’ or ‘clever up’ to fit my perceptions of people’s expertise, but it's an interesting bit of casual market research for me, and the intellectual challenge offered by the extremely short quiz below should be just the thing for a Friday afternoon.

So, how far down this list of questions can you get before answering 'no'?

Can you tell the difference between:
1. A bird and a dog?
2. A pigeon and an ostrich?
3. A great tit and a starling?
4. A song thrush and a mistle thrush?
5. A carrion crow and a rook?
6. A silent chiffchaff and a silent willow warbler? (NB the silence is quite important)
7. A first winter herring gull and a first winter yellow-legged gull?
8. A Manx shearwater and a Yelkouan shearwater, from a mile away in dense fog?

Just post below the first question you answered ‘no’ to, with any comments you feel moved to add.

As a reward, have a picture of a black-headed gull abiding by the rules.

Back to project synopsis

Comments

Miranda Dickinson
 Miranda Dickinson says:

I was a bit shaky on 5 and a definite no for 6!

posted 18th November 2016

Lewis Gaston
 Lewis Gaston says:

Yep same for me, 5/6!

posted 18th November 2016

Andy Gardiner
 Andy Gardiner says:

6. (Though 4 was a 'maybe'). And 5 (apart from other clear differences), is made easier by the old Shropshire (?) saying taught me by my former father-in-law: 'If tha sees crows, they be rooks. If tha sees a rook, he be a crow'.

posted 18th November 2016

Andy Gardiner
 Andy Gardiner says:

6. (Though 4 was a 'maybe'). And 5 (apart from other clear differences), is made easier by the old Shropshire (?) saying taught me by my former father-in-law: 'If tha sees crows, they be rooks. If tha sees a rook, he be a crow'.

posted 18th November 2016

Andy Gardiner
 Andy Gardiner says:

6. (Though 4 was a 'maybe'). And 5 (apart from other clear differences), is made easier by the old Shropshire (?) saying taught me by my former father-in-law: 'If tha sees crows, they be rooks. If tha sees a rook, he be a crow'.

posted 18th November 2016

Andy Gardiner
 Andy Gardiner says:

Oh, marvellous!

posted 18th November 2016

Meriel Cartwright
 Meriel Cartwright says:

4. I got stuck at 4 *shame*

posted 18th November 2016

Lidia Amorelli
 Lidia Amorelli says:

4.
Pass the dunce's hat.

posted 18th November 2016

Richard Vodden
 Richard Vodden says:

4. Very confident up to there, no idea at that point and beyond. I've been inspired to google. Interestingly I'd heard tell that Brahms 2 was once thought to conduct itself, but a recent performance proved the essential contribution conductor can make. Only heard tell mind you ;-) I quite like potting compost.

posted 18th November 2016

Anne Sedgwick
 Anne Sedgwick says:

Like most above I got stuck on 4. Can't help AT ALL with the rest. No idea at all! Will I therefore understand the book?
Good luck with the writing anyway.
A xx

posted 18th November 2016

Harriet Cunningham
 Harriet Cunningham says:

Any spare dunce caps in there? Q4 and I'm lost. Mind you, it's been a while since I've seen (or heard) a thrush, given I'm in Australia. You could try me on Currawongs, Sunbirds and the much-derided Noisy Asian Mynah.

posted 19th November 2016

Charles Wroth
 Charles Wroth says:

4!

posted 19th November 2016

Richard Montagu
 Richard Montagu says:

Would have to pick up the identification book or app. to get past 7 and that's after 65 years of birding. Tut, tut!

posted 19th November 2016

Giles Wade
 Giles Wade says:

All fine 1-5. Stumped at 6.

posted 20th November 2016

Lev Parikian
 Lev Parikian says:

Thank you for all your replies. I find it quite touching that so many of you feel ashamed by what seems to be a perfectly acceptable level of knowledge (and pretty much what I expected). Richard M, on the other hand, is quite right to tut at his own failure ;-)
For what it's worth, I would be fine on 1-5, would need a good long look to get 6 (which you don't usually get), and recently looked up 7 only to forget what I read almost instantly. 8 is ridiculous.

posted 21st November 2016

Gavin Geary
 Gavin Geary says:

I don't even know the difference in airspeed velocity between the unladen African and European swallow. Wait...

posted 16th January 2017

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