Bird Binder

I mentioned the other day that I have mislaid my binder of ornithological resources. I have hunted and searched and rummaged and fossicked, high and low, in every nook and every cranny, but still have not found it. I would be grateful if you would add a plea for its discovery to your daily prayers, for I fear that without my bird binder Hooting Yard itself may simply grind to a halt. Without it, whole swathes of this website could never have been written.

It is a chunky ring-binder, somewhat battered with age, into which are crammed a lifetime’s accumulation of paper-based bird documentation: notes on nesting habits and flight and swoop patterns; profile depictions of beaks and bills; feathery prose-poems; transcriptions of song and trill and chirrup and caw and shriek and warble and tweet; egg lists; talon imprintings; brain scans; analysis of millet and tiny semi-digested mammals and owl pellets; and so on ad avian.

In the nineteen-seventies, leftist theoreticians coined the phrase “actually existing socialism” to account for the fact that Communist regimes such as those in Eastern Europe, rather than being the Utopia of their dreams, were drab grey concrete hellholes. By the same token, my bird binder represents what I like to think of as “actually existing ornithology”. It is a field in which my expertise is, or at least ought to be, unquestioned.

Bereft of my binder, I am lost, like a blind man stumbling in fog, in danger of plunging down a crevasse, at the bottom of which are piled the bleached and brittle bones of long dead Elephant Birds and Upland Moas and Kangaroo Island Emus and West Coast Spotted Kiwis and Korean Crested Shelducks and Amsterdam Island Ducks and Pink-Headed Ducks and Réunion Pochards and Auckland Island Mergansers and Pile-Builder Megapodes and Viti Levu Scrubfowls and Himalayan Quails and Javanese Lapwings and Tahitian Sandpipers and North Island Snipes and Eskimo Curlews and Great Auks and Canarian Black Oystercatchers and a plethora of Rails, the Antillean Cave and the Hawkins and the Red and the Rodrigues and the Bar-Winged and the New Caledonian and the Wake Island and the Dieffenbach’s and the Vava’u and the Chatham and the Hawaiian and the Laysan, among Rails, and Ascension Flightless Crakes and Saint Helena Crakes and also from Saint Helena Saint Helena Swamphens and then Tristan Moorhens and Mascarene Coots and Colombian Grebes and Bermuda Night Herons and New Zealand Little Bitterns and Réunion Sacred Ibises and Spectacled Cormorants and both Small and Large Saint Helena Petrels and Guadalupe Storm-Petrels and Chatham Island Penguins and Bonin Woodpigeons and Réunion Pink Pigeons and Rodrigues Turtle-Doves and Sulu Bleeding-Hearts and Norfolk Island Ground-Doves and Thick-Billed Ground-Doves and Red-Moustached Fruit-Doves and Mauritius Blue Pigeons and Dodos and Society Parakeets and Paradise Parrots and Oceanic Eclectus Parrots and Newton’s Parakeets and Glaucous Macaws and Martinique Amazons and Delalande’s Cuas and Saint Helena Cuckoos and Guadalupe Caracaras and Réunion Kestrels and Mauritius Owls and New Caledonian Booboks and Laughing Owls and Puerto Rican Barn-Owls and Jamaican Pauraques and Coppery Thorntails and Brace’s Emeralds and Bogota Sunangels and Turquoise-Throated Pufflegs and Giant Hoopoes and Imperial Woodpeckers and Bush Wrens and Chatham Island Bellbirds and Lord Howe Gerygones and Mangarevan Whistlers and Nuku Hiva Monarchs and Guam Flycatchers and Short-Toed Nuthatch Vangas and both North Island and South Island Piopios and Huias and White-Eyed River Martins and Red Sea Swallows and Moorea Reed-Warblers and Rueck’s Blue Flycatchers and Chatham Island Fernbirds and Tana River Cisticolas and Black-Browed Babblers and White-Chested White-Eyes and Rodrigues Bulbuls and Aldabra Brush-Warblers and Starlings, so many Starlings!, the Kosrae Island and the Mysterious and the Tasman and the Pohnpei and the Bay and the Bourbon Crested, among Starlings, and Grand Cayman Thrushes and Cozumel Thrashers and Black-Lored Waxbills and Slender-Billed Grackles and Bachman’s Warblers and Semper’s Warblers and Tawny-Headed Mountain Finches and Bonin Grosbeaks and both Lesser and Greater Koa Finches and Kakawahies and Black Mamos and Hooded Seedeaters and Arabian Ostriches and Bering Cackling Geese, so many dead birds, so many bird bones, piled high and white, it is a wonder I could name so many, without the aid of my bird binder. Therein lies the beauty, the dazzling beauty, of actually existing ornithology.

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