Tuesday 26 November 2013

Telling whoppers

On 20th November a posting on the Birds of Poole Harbour website hinted at the presence of a Whopper Swan Cygnus bubula in the Frome Valley. This rare American visitor is often seen in its home range associating with cheese Caseus cheddari, for which it is a carrier species, and occasionally fries Potatas frittas. It has a diagnostic go-large call (an unenthusiastic, guttural grunt with upward inflection, as if in a question). A confirmed sighting would be a first for Britain, and a target for many twitchers with intact collarbones.

Efforts were made to contact the landowner and arrange access. However, in feudal Dorset this proved easier said than done. The Hon Richard Van Ewe who owns, well, Dorset, agreed to allow twitchers to visit on condition that they paid a 50 groat tithe, returned to the land as peasant labourers for a minimum 30 days, and granted him the maidenhead of their first born daughters.

Whopper Swan. The differences from closely related Whooper Swan are subtle. Too subtle to detail here in fact. Perhaps a bit of extra yellow on the bill. Probably cheese.
While some Premier League listers would have gladly accepted these terms, the finders considered them undignified in the post-1832 Great Reform Act era. Fearful of a mass trespass unleashing the wrath of their feudal overlord, they then reflected on the wisdom of releasing the news. The original post was subsequently amended to say 'Whooper Swan', raising the inevitable charge of suppression, especially as a privileged handful of the Laird's footmen and serving wenches had by this point seen the bird and taken gripping photos. One of which is reproduced above in the hope of kicking off another massive Twitter war supporting the record submission.

Acrimony was the inevitable consequence. Recently estranged Bundesliga twitchers Larry Blagwell and GGRE Michael, who made the long journey south only to find that access to the site had been denied, were united in their anger: 'First the Devon Dusky Thrush, now this. It's disgraceful. What with the price of petrol and all we can't be travelling huge distances chasing shadows, in separate cars'.
In a bizarre twist, according to an occasionally reliable source, later in the week a man was overheard in the car park at Radipole Lake offering to sell a Whopper to passers-by while the distinctive go-large call could be clearly heard in the background. Near the drive-through.

1 comment:

  1. I would have loved to have added the Big Whopper Swan to my harbour list but no more recent sightings
    Mr B King