In a poem she scribbled on the back of a letter to a friend in 1855, the Pre-Raphaelite Muse Lizzie Siddall wrote:
The voices of a thousand birds / That clang above my head, / Shall bring me to a sadder dream / When this sad dream is dead.
A freakish loon by the name of Wilf Birdclang – methinks he changed his name by deed poll – has spent the last fifteen years identifying and cataloguing the thousand different types of bird that make a clanging sound. It would not surprise me if you raised your eyebrows at that sentence, an inner voice exclaiming “what fresh nonsense is this?” You are probably of the conviction that few, if any, birds go “clang”, and certainly not a thousand different types. You might also be thinking to yourself that Lizzie Siddall did not suggest that her clangers were anything but a thousand birds all of the same type. Granted, she does not specify, but I think sheer common sense indicates that she had just one type of bird in mind. What that bird may have been she does not say, thus allowing the likes of Wilf Birdclang to step in with his ludicrous list.
The point about his fifteen years’ work is that it is all bluster and assertion, without a trace of evidence or argument. For example, the first bird on Wilf’s list is the starling. He writes:
1. The starling. Starlings make loud, even deafening, clanging noises.
Any ornithologist of repute will tell you that this is complete drivel. Indeed, I am an ornithologist of repute, and I am telling you it is drivel. I have come across any number of starlings in my time, and not one of them has clanged, ever, deafeningly or otherwise.
Wilf Birdclang has now set to work on a list of a thousand sad dreams. Let us hope it proves more rigorous than his birdy twaddle.