Ruffs and Ruffled Feathers

To: "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: Ruffs and Ruffled Feathers
From: "Bill Jolly" <>
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 10:11:25 +1000
I've resisted commenting on Trevor Ford's fun piece about metamorphosing
Ruffs, while everyone checked their calendars.

It reminded me of an item in an RSPB magazine in the 1960s. This normally
very reliable birding mag carried an article announcing the discovery of a
hitherto unrecorded species of swift. Like Trevor's account of the Ruffs, it
was presented in a matter of fact way, explaining that these birds flew at
great heights eating only minute insects from the upper levels of the
atmosphere and being sky blue beneath, were virtually impossible to see from
the ground. Their existence was first detected following reports from
airline pilots flying in tropical blue skies. Like the needletails during
their time in Australia every year, these birds had no need of land, gaining
all their sustenance from the air and snatching moments of rest on the wing
at enormous heights. But didn't they need to come down to our level to nest?
Well of course they mated on the wing, and apparently when the time came to
lay an egg, this masterly flyer simply flipped onto its back to allow the
emerging egg locate in a special brood patch. It then continued to fly
upside down during the exceptional short incubation period (exposed to the
tropical sun), and in due course a particularly precocious fledgling took to
the air.

Again like Trevor's account, this story proceeded steadily from the sublime
to the ridiculous, and I think everybody twigged - either early in the piece
or eventually as the account descended further into farce - that this was
indeed the April issue.

I was reminded also of an edition of the BBC's then flagship current affairs
programme Panorama which happened to go out on 1st April 1950-something I
think. Richard Dimbleby delivered a very straight travelogue-style piece
about the Italian spaghetti harvest. And there was the footage of orchards
draped in spaghetti, which the locals were gathering up in baskets to take
to the markets!

Very cheeky of Trevor to share this ground-breaking stuff with us in

Bill Jolly

Lockyer Valley, Queensland.

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