'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Cannon-netting at Miranda

Last Monday the high tide at Miranda was due about 10.30 am. So in order to lay the net down on the shell bank and be off long before the birds came up to roost, I had to become upright at a time usually reserved only for quick nips to the bathroom, i.e. 5 am.

It wasn't easy, especially in view of Estella's excellent cognac and even more excellent conversation with Keith Woodley the evening before early that same morning.

But somehow I, the ten participants of the course, and about the same number of old hands, plus the tutors, had breakfasted and were up to our calves in water by 6.15am, carrying a quantity of essential paraphernalia. The hills were obscured by a light haze of rain as Adrian Reigen, Keith and Steve walked the shell bank, deciding on the best place to site the nets. Cannon netting is a fine art and things don't always go to plan. Wind strength and direction are the main factors to take into account.

The two nets were then carefully positioned with the open side of their covers in the correct direction so the nets would be yanked out properly. Weights were attached to the leading edge of the nets and dropped into the cannons which had been aimed carefully and then buried up to their mouths. The plan is that when they went off, the nets would cover a good number of birds, yet not land in the water. We didn't want any drowned birds!

And then everything was lightly covered with shells - camouflaged, so that when the tide came up and the wading birds were pushed off the tidal flats to roost on the shell bank, they wouldn't notice it there.

Now you see the cover over the net...

... and now you don't.

Then it became just a matter of retiring to a more distant spot with the wires, and literally keeping a low profile and waiting. And waiting. It got pretty cold and the drizzle didn't help much.

After a while there was some action. The waders began to arrive in flocks. They wheeled in; godwits, wrybills, a smattering of herring gulls, a few red knots and lots of the smartly-dressed SIPO - South Island pied oystercatchers - to preen and doze with their bills under their wings.

Unfortunately after that things didn't go exactly as hoped ...

Part 2 tomorrow.


  1. Hang on - Keith Woodley seems to be figuring prominently in this ongoing tale. Is he sweet on you and are you sweet on him? Never mind the birdlife - what we want to see is passion!

  2. Are all Yorkshire men as direct as you YP? It's a lovely idea, and anything's possible, but I mention Keith by name because he is a Famous Author.
    And if you want passion, you should talk to any twitcher! They are absolutely passionate about birds!
    But I suspect this kind is not what you want. Perhaps I should have a word to Shirley.

  3. We were just up your way last week. I must say the weather was better then!
    I am quietly waiting for part 2 of your story!

  4. Ah! Have just been to visit you. I'm quietly waiting for more of YOUR travel story too Bettyl!