Have you heard of Observer’s Books? They were little pocket books for youngsters and they were about all sorts of subjects. I think they started in the thirties and there were 100 different ones to collect.
Well several years ago I was given my Grandfathers collection when he died – I’ve got 67 and two thirds (one seems to be missing forty pages). Look, I’ve taken snaps of four of them, ones that I really like.
My absolute fave is the one on birds. I live a couple of floors up in my apartment block and I see lots of birds. In fact they often sit on my balcony, probably because I put food out for them.
Until I looked through my little book I didn’t realise how many makes of birds there are.
Up until now the only birds I could actually recognise were chickens and turkeys (I see them in the supermarket minus their feathers) and the usuals like robins and sparrows and gulls.
I don’t like gulls and I see lots of them because I live over the road from the sea. They are HUGE! And greedy, and noisy and a little bit scary. They have a habit of swooping down on unsuspecting sun-worshippers on the beach and stealing their sandwiches and things!
Out of my back window I look over our communal lawn. There’s an old biddy on the bottom floor that puts out bread for the birds on the grass. I need to tell her that you shouldn’t feed birds on dry bread. Apparently when they drink water after eating dry bread it swells up in their tummies and that is not a good thing. I read that on a sign down on the promenade asking you not to feed the gulls with bread.
Well, I’ve got some little binoculars on a stick – you know what I mean, I think they are called opera glasses. Anyway they are perfect for bird spotting.
Today I’ve seen several robins (why do they say ‘robin red breast’ when their breasts are actually orange?) some jays, a blackbird or two and a pair of tits (no Keith, I wasn’t spying on the topless sunbathers. Anyway it’s the middle of winter and freezing cold so there aren’t any)
I also saw a gaggle of crows - or rooks. Even with my book I can’t see the difference. I know that one of them likes the company of others, and the other is a bit of a loner – a ‘billy no-mates’ as we say. I remember once learning a poem which helps you tell the difference;
A crow on its own is a rook
A rook in a crowd is a crow
At least I think that’s how it went, but it could be;
A rook on its own is a crow
A crow in a crowd is a rook
So that doesn’t help.
I also saw a magpie. I think I’m right in saying that if you see one magpie you have bad luck until you see another. No that’s wrong, because the old superstition has just come back to me. It’s to do with number of magpies you see at once, and it goes like this;
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.
I was never quite sure what to expect if I ever saw eight or more!
I also happen know that they are ‘tea leaves’ - thieves (did you like my Cockney rhyming slang?) They like to steal bright things like diamond rings and tiaras.
I’ve made notes on the birds I need to look out for. I want to see a jenny wren, a thrush, a starling and a black-chested buzzard eagle genus geranoaetus melanoleucus, although the chance of seeing one of them is not very high.
Anyway, I am now a fully fledged (joke) ornithologist. We are also known as Twitchers by the way! I prefer that name.
All that bird spotting has made me hungry. I think I’ll boil myself a couple of eggs.