Saturday, 5 April 2014

Laughing Geese

I caught a momentary glimpse of a Marsh Tit singing from a hawthorn at Witcham Toll yesterday afternoon. I say Marsh Tit, but it could have been a Willow Tit; the terrain suggests it should be, but the two are so alike I've got no chance of ID-ing it correctly from the car.

Francesca Greenoak's patchily informative book All the Birds of the Air points out that the two were regarded as one species until 1897 and that consequently there are no folk names for the Willow Tit, it being just too new to the party to have earned any. The Marsh Tit though has a few, my favourite of which is the East Anglian name Joe Ben.   The others are predictably descriptive - Black-Headed Tit and so on - but I love the folkiness of Joe Ben. There is no attempt at explaining how it came about, which for me just adds to the folky attraction.

As I was on Ely Island Way
I met Joe Ben at Witcham Toll,
Singing to me from the high hawthorne,
I met Joe Ben in the mor-ning.

The best birds of the week though were the two Laughing Geese in the stubble field outside Landbeach and the flock of Pudding Bags outside my office.