Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is it dead yet?

Blown in by the gales from their pelagic fastnesses, Leach's Petrels have been turning up at inland waters in Britain. Our local reservoir, Grafham Water, reported one this morning. I was invited to go and have a look, but declined as I was too busy packing and hiding the booze from my cleaning lady.
About half an hour after the invitation, I had a phonecall from another friend asking my advice as to what he should do with one of the Grafham Leach's Petrels which had been picked up in a poor condition. I told him to go and make a cup of coffee and look at the bird again in half an hour. Of course it was dead within half an hour. Poor bird - and there were others later - probably hadn't eaten for 2-3 days and hadn't found anything nourishing at Grafham.
Fortunately, there was one there that seemed to be flying strongly, and in fact did fly strongly away. So, a "tick" for those who saw it. It's not sour grapes - I have never seen Leach's Petrel - but I really don't get a lot of pleasure from gawping at birds which, by definition, shouldn't be there, and which in most cases are exhausted and unlikely to survive.
I remember years back being told a tale about a group of birders who were driving late down the Great North Road from a twitching trip to Scotland when they noticed a bird on the tarmac. It turned out to be a now uncommon bird, a Corncrake, and clearly on its last legs.
"Can I tick it?" asked one desperate lad.
"Is it still warm?" said another.
"Yes, it is. It's dead, but its still warm," said the lad.
"OK, then you can tick it."
Personally, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

No comments: