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Having been flooded with suggestions (there must have been at least two) for a new volume of Infrequently Given Answers I hereby proudly present ...

Infrequently Given Answers - vol 5.

Back to Volume 4.

From: "peter kook" 
Subject: Re: Red spot on herring gull's beak
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 

"Gordon Hamlett" wrote ...
> > > Here's a question from my teenaged daughter that I didn't know how to
> > > answer.... What is the function, if any, of the red spot on a herring
> > > gull's beak?

> > It's a sort of aiming point for the chicks.

> There was an experiment back in the seventies IIRC which showed that
> young herring gulls would respond to a stick painted with a red blob
> and would start pecking at it. Seems to be a 'food here' signal.

Basically you can explain to her that it works the same as the Mcdonalds
yellow lettering on a red background does for teenagers. It signals to them
that 'food is here' and it makes their parents want to 'throw up'.

From: "Bill Alexander" 
Subject: Above and Beyond
Date: Wed, 9 May 2001 

From this weeks BirdGuides newsletter:-

"For presence, bird of the week must go to the Black-browed Albatross that
lingered for 50 minutes off Dungeness, Kent on the 4th.  Its stay was far
too short for many, but a regular BirdGuides contributor managed to reach
his local patch in record time, though I suspect that not many birders
will have watched such a fantastic species whilst still wearing their

From: Coatimundi 
Subject: Re: Strange feathers
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 

Steve Foster wrote:
>Whilst having a ramble around my village cemetery I came across a collection
>of about a dozen feathers on the ground.  They were dark grey in colour,
>with some black evident too.  I assume these were from a woodpigeon.  They
>also seemed to have been plucked, as there was no evidence of chewing.
>Anyway, the curious thing was the structure of the feathers, being something
>I've never seen before.  The shaft of some feathers was very long (~5cm)
>with a mere centimetre of feather actually showing at the end.  (It reminded
>me of a paintbrush.)
>Would these be tail feathers?  What would have plucked these feathers,
>another woodpigeon?

Good morning Sir, and how are we today? Have a perch. Now what would 
Sir like today, Hmmmm? A little off the top perhaps?

Oh, tail feathers? Well, Sir, I could do you a nice Duck Arse effect, all the
rage - No? Just a trim? As Sir wishes.

Is Sir going on migration this year? I hear Torquay is very nice at this
time of year - No? Well, my friend Jason says we're in for a terrible
winter, so we're off to France next month - what? French Pate? No, 
sir, I'm sure it's all a nasty rumour, my other friend Dominic was there
last year with his pals and none of them got shot at, and they met 
some LOVELY French lads too... Cooo!

Ooops - sorry, did I pull too hard there? Must apologise, Sir, we 
were up all night in that cornfield, I must have had a few too many, you 
know how it is, if you don't eat some grit before you go it goes straight
to your head...

How's the wife? Good, and the eggs?

Oh, sorry to hear that Sir. If I had my way, I'd bring back hanging for 
all magpies, it's a disgrace how they get away with it. 

There we are Sir, nearly finished. Would you like to look in the mirror?

Oooohhh - suits you, Sir, suits you. Now, how about something for the

(With apologies to Granpa Worm - getting me coat right now)

From: Ann Barker
Date: 18 Aug 2001 
Subject: Re: Strange feathers

Percival......oh Percival, is that you?  Where on earth have you been dear,
we're late for..........eeeeeeeeeeek! 

Percival, what on *earth* have you done to yourself??  Good heavens -  A trim? 
Why, you're practically naked!  How could you do this to me?  Oh Percival, I
feel faint. I shall be too frightfully embarrassed to be seen with you for
months until those feathers grow back.  

Was it that horrible Coatimundi who talked you into this?  I know these things;
you needn't bother to admit it.  The scum.  I'll have his tailfeathers tarred
for this, I shall.

There, there, dear, settle down <cooo>... you won't mind hiding in this comfy
little wood for a few months, will you?  No one will see you here, dear, least
of all the Magpies.  It will be all right come next spring, I promise.

Mrs. P. Woodpigeon
(with further apologies to Grampa Worm)

Then there was a thread that started off about attracting Coal Tits to feeders. Didn't stay that way though ...

From: "Coal Tit Spokesman" 
Subject: Re: Coaltits
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2001 

Well we're glad we're not being ignored. There have been more than a few
primaries ruffled recently as we thought we'd been given the bird. Get those damn
feeders out, peanuts are nice, but the ones with mixed seed, especially sunflower
are the dogs dangly bits. We have stopped eating Alders as they impinged our 
ability to fly. Probably another reason you've missed us. Next time you see a 
fallen Alder take a closer look !

P.A Rusater

From: "Bill Alexander" 
Subject: Re: Coaltits now :-)
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2001 

"Coal Tit Spokesman" wrote ...
> Well we're glad we're not being ignored. There have been more than a few
> primaries ruffled recently as we thought we'd been given the bird. 

Mr. Rusater,

Nice to hear from you, communic-aters from your branch of the family
are very welcome in the group.
Hope you don't mind the formality in your tit-le?

As an authority on the mither tongue do I recognise a few Tartan Coal-ition
clues in your epistle?

Further good news for your once neglected race is a new range of garden
parusols for your protection (and with all your dependants I think you should
seriously think "protection") a 72 parus golf course in Coaltown of Balgonie,
and a novel plan to plant Spruce trees the length of the West Bank of the
Seine in Parus.
I have taken to adding a mixture of parusley and parusmesan cheese to your
food as I have hear you are a very good ater.

I assume you are also from the alder school as I have communicated with your
younger cousin Tom, a wee bit seedy looking, who caused quite a stir with all 
his caerleus talk. Tom of course had all that cyanus trouble when he decided
to go on his oriental sojourns.
So titter not group, major disruptions failed to cinct us.


From: Mark Etheridge
Subject: The First Annual ukrb Awards
Date: 22 Dec 2001 

Ladies and Gentlemen

As some of you may already know, the Executive Committee of ukrb met
last week in the snug bar of the Dog and Bucket to select the first
annual ukrb awards, which are kindly sponsored this year by Birds Eye
Fish Fingers. It is my pleasure to report that after the consumption
of copious amounts of alcohol, the committee declared the following

The Barbara Cartland Award for Descriptive Writing : Bill Alexander -
the man with jokes to suit all ages, from the late Paleolithic to the
early Triassic.

The Rab C Nesbitt Award for Promoting the Scottish language : Malky @
Westhill. When informed of this award, he said modestly "Ach, dinna
fash yer interficherin scunners, awa an bile yer heids", which is a 
sentiment I am sure we can all share during this festive season.

The Award for Services to the Virus-checker Industry : Andy Mabbett -
who is himself a Frequently Asked Question.

The John Motson Award for Pointless Comments : GlenFiddich - who does
for serious discussion what a handful of sage & onion does to a
Christmas turkey.

The Les Dawson Award for Hitting the Wrong Keys Most Often : Chris
Mead - the man whose briding knowlegde is secnod 2to noon.

The Malcolm Ogilvie Award for being Malcolm Ogilvie : Malcolm Ogilvie
- who has done for Islay what Vesuvius did to Pompeii.

Hotelier of the Year Award : Carl Reavey - who has done for Islay
cooking what Jeffrey Archer did to literature.

The Hara-Kiri Award for Suggesting we put her in a Killfile : wavegirl
- who stands Head & Shoulders above the wash basin next to the

The Hara-Kiri Runner-Up with the Name Most Likely to Actually End Up
in a Killfile : peter kook - whose barbed comments are feared the
length and breadth of the country (in this case, Liechtenstein).

Special Award for Inadvertent Promotion of the Woodland Trust : Angus
MacMillan - who gets on with the Woodland Trust like boiled beef and

The overall winer was declared to be Steve Foster for supplying the
largest bribe to the judges. Steve wins his requested prize of a
year's subscription to "Big Hooters", which he says is a monthly
magazine dedicated to the study of the larger Bubo species of owl.

Merry Christmas

And for a change a more serious post (don't suppose it will last long though ...)

From: "Bill Alexander" 
Subject: Capers with Eagles.
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2002 

Eddie Chapman, who lives and works in Norway, has given me permission to
reproduce these tales of  these very brave (or foolish?) eagles.

The episode happened this May 2001, when an adult Golden Eagle Aquila
chrysaetos attacked and killed a male Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus, while
the bird was at a lek. Unfortunately the lek site is situated on an area of
higher ground, and when the eagle attacked, both the eagle and the
Capercaillie disappeared down the downward side of the slope,
an thus out of view. After about 20 minutes the eagle flew out of the
area. When the lek was over, and it was safe to leave the hide, the
Capercaillie was checked. The eagle had plucked away some of its breast
feathers and had eaten from the birds breast.

Another episode that happened a few years ago was better documented. In fact
the whole episode was caught on video. A Golden Eagle attacked two
displaying male Capercaillies. What happened next was unbelievable. The
Golden Eagle landed in front of one of the Capercaillies and walked towards
the bird. During this period, both the Capercaillies carried on displaying
to each other, and seemed unaware of the danger. The eagle then made a lunge
at one of the Capercaillies, sinking its talons into the breast region of
the bird. The Capercaillie started hacking at the eagle with its bill, and
flapping its wings, often hitting the eagle with some force. This
action forced the eagle to loosen its grip and the Capercaillie seemed to
regain its posture. However this did not last long, and the eagle attacked
for a second time. This time the eagle seemed to get hold of the
Capercaillie by the back of the birds neck, and on its back. Due to
vegetation it was difficult to see how the eagle managed to kill the
Capercaillie, but I should think that the grip on the neck was fatal.

During the fight the other Capercaillie had stayed on the sideline. This
however soon changed. While the eagle was on top of the now dead first
Capercaillie, the second Capercaillie attacked the eagle. This attack was
more like when two male Capercaillies clash. The bird had fanned tail
feathers, out stretched neck and was making the throaty "clicking" display
call. On nearing the eagle, the Capercaillie made a running dash, hitting
the eagle with its breast. It now looked like the second Capercaillie saw
the eagle as a new Capercaillie and therefore a new contender at the lek. It
continued attacking the eagle. During this time the eagle had stood its
ground, keeping a firm grip on the first Capercaillie. However the attacks
continued and in the end the eagle was forced to let go, but instead of
flying away, it attacked and killed the second Capercaillie, roughly in the
same fashion as the first with the first strike going into the birds breast.
After the second Capercaillie was lying dead, the eagle flew away from the
area, leaving the two birds untouched and a camera man rubbing his eyes in

As I said, the whole sequence was filmed and shown on a nature program on
Norwegian TV. The film was also entered into a competition for the best
amateur nature video shown on Norwegian TV. It won hands down, a truly
remarkable piece of wildlife photography.

Best regards,
Eddie Chapman.  Voss.   Norway.
Website: Bird Watching In Norway - Birding Holidays In Norway
Norwegian Rare Bird Alert.

From: Carl and Jan Reavey 
Subject: Re: Capers with Eagles.
Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2002 

jp writes
>Some time ago I was shown a clip from a documentary made many years
>ago about a band of pelt hunters from Asia (Kazakhstan?). One of the
>native trappers had a 'berkut' - a golden eagle, which he used to kill
>wolves. The clip showed one such flight, if I remember rightly the
>eagle held the wolf across the back with one foot and its head with
>the other foot, presumably using its tremendous strength to drive its
>talons through the wolves skull. Fairly gruesome stuff,  but it
>showed, as Alan says, what a formidable predator a golden eagle can
>be. Incidently, am I right in thinking the Golden Eagles from this
>area are the biggest in the world - does anyone know just how big they

I believe the Golden eagles on Jura are considered to be the largest and
most fearsome in the Western Palearctic.  They mostly feed on Grey seals
which they catch by hunting in pairs - the female eagle grabs the head
and the male the tail (which is not so heavy) and together they haul the
hapless beasts up to their eyries on the Paps.  Local legend has it that
one pair tried to carry off a U-boat which was skulking in Loch Tarbert
during the war, but the crew managed to drive them away using the 8 inch
gun mounted on the foredeck.  The U-boat was fatally holed in the action
however and finally foundered in the Gulf of Corrievreckan.  George
Orwell, who was the only other living soul for a hundred miles, found
two of the survivors trying to catch a sheep and rode his BSA Bantam to
Ardtalla in a futile attempt to raise the alarm.  Some say the Germans
are still there...

The eagles certainly are.  Malcolm pops over to count them every year -
but always with an armed escort of redundant goose shooters who have
nothing to do during the birdy breeding season except shoot deer which
they claim gets boring after a while...

Yours etc..
Carl Reavey

From: "Steve Foster" 
Subject: Re: Fieldfare question
Organization: Ye 'Ol Disorganized NNTPCache groupie 
Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2001 

"W K" wrote...
> > > I saw a few fieldfares yesterday BTW. Perhaps the first time I've seen them
> > > in a flock (in the UK)..
> > >
> > How many does it take to create a flock? 3 or more?

> Well this was 20 odd.
> I'm sure I have heard them in ones and twos before, but not really seen them
> properly.
> I do see them regularly in central france around christmas.

Flippin' 'eck.  What bins do you use?! ;-)

Steve Foster - Stanwick, Northants
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