The Godwit. Like Italo Calvino, the godwit has a seething hatred of cement. It has been known to burrow. Prone to desperate sneezing, the godwit chews dandelions & lacks any sense of pottery.
The Wan Clump. An extraordinary bird, the wan clump is best known for its habit of swooping upon film premieres attended by the likes of Cloris Leachman, Troy Donahue & Tab Hunter. But not Tuesday Weld.
Third bird. The Quint. Vercingetorix Sepulveda wrote about quints in one of his majestic tracts. Unfortunately, scholars have to date been unable to read any of them, as his penmanship was execrable.
The Lopwit. Omitted from most biographies of Ezra Pound is the startling fact that he was an indefatigable trapper of lopwits. Such was his mania that he was fired from the joint US-Italian Lopwit Monitoring Committee in 1949.
The Tult. Sadly, the tult is an irrelevant bird.
The Fristiglip. What a joy to behold a flock of fristiglips on the wing, as they set off on their annual migration from Penge to Uttoxeter!
The Snote. The following is a quotation from Eric Wheat's "Notes On That Bad Man Dobson & Some Birds": "This morning on my way to church I noted the nest of a snote atop the timber-framed hut in which the malefactor Dobson plots his dark deeds. The nest was empty. Yet upon my return from worship, it was absolutely crammed with innumerable sickly snotes."
The Churter. The churter is able to mimic the sound of klaxons, sirens & tocsins, but does not often do so. It feeds on dew & flax.
The Arpad. Many top ornithologists contend that the arpad is a kind of nightjar. Certainly its beak & wings give that impression. Arpads, both in flight & roosting, have been a popular subject for recent postage stamps in Finland.
The Hoogoo. There are a number of interesting facts about the hoogoo, a tiny bird much smaller than the wren, or even the hummingbird. The hoogoo is, as far as I know, the only bird which has magnetic feet. For this reason, hoogoos avoid sites such as ironworks, blacksmiths, smelting yards, tin mines & other locations of metallurgical interest.
The Pale Auk. Aerodynamically unsound, the pale auk is only capable of flight on Wednesdays, except Ash Wednesday. Its characteristic cry is a wild & deafening ululation, not unlike a hoarse muezzin.
The Catsob. Catsobs were once numerous in Java & Batavia, but they have been almost wiped out, possibly because they resemble stalks of wheat.
The Shoveller Wreck. A shy bird, the shoveller wreck feeds mainly on bags of suet eked from shipwrecks. It tears the bags open with its huge, lacerating beak.
The Ip. The ip is treasured by tiny & bewildered orphans, for at harvest time it will roost atop unlikely clumps of foliage & sing oh so sweetly, which provides a diversion in the poor unfortunates' otherwise dismal lives.
The Immense Floon. The nomenclature of the immense floon is one of those endlessly fascinating ornithological puzzles tabulated by the Jesuit bird-fancier Father F X Curpin in his exhaustive book "Eggs & Talons". The immense floon is neither immense, nor is it a floon. Nor a bird.
The Plint. The plint is fractious, terrified, rotating, cowardly, pompous, harsh, bilious, untenable, made of cloth & pig iron, and often found in railway sidings.
The Panstub. The panstub is best known as the "star" of the long-running television series "Meet My Panstub!", in which members of the public show their panstubs to a studio audience.
The Grey Fod. Not to be confused with the vermilion fod, the grey fod has been adopted as a mascot by the Association Of Icing Sugar Enthusiasts.
The Chawbill. Ah yes, the chawbill. Few can forget the Sherlock Holmes story in which the entire plot hinges upon the presence, or absence, of a chawbill. I am one of the few.
The Tump. According to the testimony of that most winsome yet valiant of bird-experts, the wryly-bespectacled & quite possibly stone deaf Heppenstall Pondcrack - a man of whom it was said that phantom ospreys perched on his skull - the tump is "possibly the most charming bird I have ever been attacked by".
The White Sprague. The poor, poor white sprague is considered a delicacy by Tasmanian bird-eaters & thus spends much of its life hiding behind tractors.
The Ringtod. Also known as "that bird with antennae", the ringtod is capable of hearing sounds at such high pitch that laboratory experiments have sent many boffins completely insane.
Twenty third bird. The Frail Grewn. The frail grewn is a wholly dismal bird.
The Ockfop. Fond of caster sugar & whelks, the ockfop has a fiendishly complex chirp which appears to be intelligible not only to other birds, but also to dromedaries, antelopes, & gnats.
The Sneed. A toy sneed built from tungsten was stolen from the Texas Schoolbook Depository in Dallas just two hours before the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Note that the F stood not for "Fitzgerald", as is commonly supposed, but for "Fulmar" (a type of duck).
The Blet. Savage blets! Numberless are the fools who think the blet is a wistful, pacific bird. Not so! I bear scars today from a childhood blet incident, fully recounted in my book "Eight Hundred Traumatic Bird Episodes" (out of print).
The Mo. If to Penge you go For the bittern show Stub not your toe Nor cause yourself woe No Instead, speak low Take up thy oars and row Where the stream doth flow But not the River Po And in the sunset glow Behold the shy & tiny mo
The Amherst Pintpot. The feathers of the amherst pintpot are truly remarkable. I have no idea why. I was once accosted upon a train by a raving ornithologist who swore that this was the case, & who was I to argue?
The Wert. The wert has one head, one tail, two wings & two legs. I have not had time to count its talons.
The Groaning Fad. The groaning fad was popular, perhaps too popular, in the iconography of 1960s easy listening LP covers.
The Gorey. Ajax was his name, florid his complexion, & mighty were his works. Among these works, legend has it that he set free ten thousand goreys caged by the bird-hating King Anaxagrotas.
The Curpin. The curpin is a tremulous bird which is known to flock in the vicinity of hot air balloons, aerostats & grey dirigibles, especially those put out of commission because their fabric is frayed, rent, or torn.
Thirty third bird. The Tiny Shid. With its massive beak & laughably elongated legs, the tiny shid is often the butt of larger & more elegant birds, which give it chase & ridicule it in a peculiarly bird-like manner which has to be seen to be believed.
The Paglop. Worms form the staple diet of the paglop, a singularly idle bird which can survive bewildering extremes of temperature. An ornithologist once accidentally trapped a paglop in her fridge freezer, from whence it emerged four months later none the worse for wear. The next day, the very same paglop suffered mid-flight concussion & plunged into a huge cauldron of boiling grease. Regaining consciousness three days later, the paglop simply flew away.
The Booter. Booters were the favourite birds of Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line. The company's most famous, or infamous, ship was the Titanic, the sinking of which was survived by Ismay due to his wretched cowardice. Later in life Ismay, a broken man, tried to argue that the Titanic had not sunk, but had in fact run aground on a grassy knoll. Yes, THAT grassy knoll.
The Snab. Flightless, blind in one eye, & prone to fits, the snab emits a curious, frog-like croak when approached by Jesuits, bus conductors, & deposed monarchs.
The Illusory Wrenfig. Birdwatchers have reported increased chances of success in spotting illusory wrenfigs if they first ply each other with loganberry sandwiches & flasks of boiling hot custard.
The Giant Clamper. Despite my vast & intimidating erudition, I confess that I am wholly ignorant of the giant clamper.
The Beaked Snap. Or possibly the "Beakered" snap. Experts cannot agree on the correct term for this bird, & have not been helped by the astonishing popularity of Gus Fang's book "How To Spell The Names Of Birds According To Whim".
The Tragic Clot. Massive & unruly, the tragic clot lives on the edges of cliffs, in wind tunnels, & at the bottoms of abandoned wells. It is often mistaken for a loping heron, but only by those who don't know which side their bread is buttered on.
The Tupy. Monstrous & implacable, the tupy is possibly the most dangerous bird on this or any other planet. Keep away from them, for god's sake.
The Forlorn Punt. Quite why the forlorn punt has been included in this list is beyond me. Granted, it has a beak, it has feathers, it is wingéd. It is indubitably a bird, but it really is most unprepossessing.
Forty third bird. The Ectoblot. Aah, we come at last to the ectoblot, fondly known as the "Rod Steiger of the Aviary". Cantankerous, doleful & seldom at rest, the ectoblot's luminous crimson plumage is surely evidence that God exists.
The Snagger. Snaggers are a type of gull. Like all gulls, they are scavengers. However, being mentally unstable, snaggers tend to scavenge pointless things, like blunted pencil sharpeners & broken cotton reels.
The Big Drub. What poetry lover has not felt a frisson of pure delight upon encountering Gervase Beerpint's slim volume "A Toc H Lamp Sputters In The Gloom"? I am thinking of the first edition, with the cover picture of a big drub in her nest, feeding her cuddly chicks with scrapings from a bran tub.
The Old Cargpan. The following quotation is from an unknown source: "That year there was an Indian summer. As a hard-nosed press reporter, I had spent months tracking down the so-called "umbrella man" shown in photographs from Dealey Plaza. I was getting nowhere, & I was down in the dumps. To cheer myself up, I strode through buttercup-splattered fields, looking at the enormous blue sky, blue, so blue. And there, blue too, almost invisible, coming in from the south, was a whole flock of old cargpans. I nearly had a heart attack."
The Spavined Ack. The spavined ack is a parasitic bird. The chicks attach themselves to much larger ostriches. Once attached, if they fall off, they die.
The Hopeless Cork. The hopeless cork's name is a misnomer. Indeed, it is one of the most optimistic of birds, possibly because it looks so appealing that even those with the hardest of hearts will readily toss breadcrumbs to it.
The Reed Flamboise. The reed flamboise is the only bird in this list to be wholly mythical. Having said that - as I just did - it is not without charm. What it IS without is a sense of direction, as it habitually confuses north with west, but not vice versa.
Dobson's Wafer. Many is the time, strolling 'mid the fens, the spire of Ely Cathedral visible in the distance, that I have taken off my big woolly hat in awe at the sight of a pair of dobson's wafers.
The Basinbeak. Exceedingly disagreeable, though harmless, the basinbeak is the most unmusical of birds. You'll get no cheeps or chirrups out of this little fellow. God knows I've tried, alternately feeding it Garibaldi biscuits & holding its head under a water pump, but all to no avail. Call me a fool, but I'm going to try again, probably next Monday.
The Illicit Hoonjaw. Once upon a time, a little girl called Minnie said to her papa, "Papa, today I was coming home from school when one of my friends had an epileptic fit, a grand mal, & I was so disconcerted I made a strange surprised noise, like MIP! MIP!" "Ha!" replied her papa, "That is exactly like the song of the illicit hoonjaw!", for papa was a top ornithologist, & he knew his onions.
Fifty third bird. The Clunk. Last but not least.