Crested Thingamajig

12 Jun

Ten thousand years ago, the last ice age came to an end, and meltwater ran into valleys forged by glaciers, bringing nutrient-rich silt down from the mountains. These valleys transformed into lush river habitats, perfect places for our nomadic ancestors to begin to farm. The final glacier of this period melted into the valley that became Loch Lomond. You could say that the last ice age ended at our doorstep… or a few miles from it, anyway.

Ten thousand years on, the glacial valley in which we live remains lush, with the Forth River winding between fields full of crops and livestock that thrive on the rich soil. We are having a wet summer, and the rains have produced a lot of grass for silage-making.

What you can’t see in that picture are the large flocks of birds running and flying in front of the tractors, presumably capturing invertebrates disturbed by the harvesting. Or are they after something else? They stuck around for a few days after this harvest. Here they are the day after, when there were no piles of grass to hide them:

The rooks and black-headed gulls I had expected to see, but the herring gulls were a surprise. I had not seen herring gulls in the area until this week. Another unusual sight was the crested thingamajig. It looks familiar, like I ought to know what it is, but I don’t. I’m sure, though, that several of my readers will immediately be able to tell me its name!

Crested thingamajig

Sorry about the quality, but remember that you can click on the photos to view them in more detail.

It pleases me to watch the ways in which the wild things follow the cycles of agricultural life, and how the agricultural activities follow the cycles of weather and insect. It makes me think about the biodiversity here: how rich it is, and how well wilderness and cultivation can blend if we allow them to.



Thank you, dear readers, for informing me that the thingamajig is a lapwing, otherwise known as a peewit.

Following a link about the bird sent to me by Cloudhopper, I have also learned that the RSPB (UK bird charity) owns a farm. “Run as a commercial enterprise,” says its website, “we use Hope Farm to give hands on demonstrations of how farming can benefit birds and other wildlife without farmers losing income.”

Now, that’s what I like to see.

24 Responses to “Crested Thingamajig”

  1. Jigme Datse Rasku June 12, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    That’s a crested thingamajig if I’ve ever seen one. I could be wrong, it could be a crested whatchamacallit which is very similar.

    • Snailquake June 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      Exactly as I suspected.

      • Jigme Datse Rasku June 15, 2011 at 1:03 am #

        Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but not a familiar bird to me, you guys have different birds.

  2. Brianda Domecq June 12, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I found it. It is called a European Lapwing and in Spanish an “Avefría” (which means cold bird) and you will find images on Google. I tried to copy and image but it doesn’t stick to the comment, sorry. B

    • SEF June 12, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      I agree that it’s a lapwing.

      This is a test to see if comments without links still get stuck in moderation.

      • SEF June 12, 2011 at 9:24 am #

        … and the answer (also checked with another browser) is that they don’t.

        • Snailquake June 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

          Sorry about the moderation. I’m not sure I can fix that, but I’ll have a look.

      • Snailquake June 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

        I knew I’d get an answer very quickly!

  3. SEF June 12, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Definitely a lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) or peewit (from the call it makes!).

    Aside: you’ve changed your comment posting format. Tests italics and bold and a linky or two for future reference.

    • Snailquake June 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

      I didn’t change it: WordPress did. My dashboard looks suddenly differet too.

      Only you ended up in moderation, though. Perhaps because of the unusual structure, or the link. Or because you’re not human…

      • SEF June 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

        I suspected the links were the cause but your last suggestion has a certain inevitable plausibility to it.

        • Snailquake June 13, 2011 at 1:45 am #

          Right. I’ve changed the settings. Either comments with links will no longer need moderation, OR all comments will now need moderation.

  4. NorthernLight June 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Nice post and beautiful pictures!! :)

  5. dewimorgan June 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    If you look really closely… it’s a sheep.

    I wish I’d recorded the dawn chorus at the manor to play to people in Texas. Texas biodiversity is almost zero at first glance. The dawn chorus is a single call, that of the grackle. They’re everywhere.

    Then you start noticing more. Even though I barely get out, and am generally in the most built-up areas rather than taking the back roads, I’ve seen quite a few of the larger critters the area’s known for. After the grackles, the bats are the next thing you notice, thick smokelike streamers of them unfurling from under the bridges at dusk. I’ve also seen buzzards, heron, ravens (or crows, I have no idea), deer, raccoon, opossum, plenty of squirrels, a large (maybe 5-6ft?) snake that I think was a Texas rat snake, and signs (and smells!) of skunk and armadillo.

    I’ve even seen a bobcat recently, streaking across the road in front of me, though that wasn’t in Texas so doesn’t count :)

    I really need to get faster with my phone camera.

    • Snailquake June 13, 2011 at 1:08 am #

      Wow! I’ve always wanted to smell skunk and armadillo. What are they like?

      I gather Round Rock is famous for its bridge bats.

      • Jigme Datse Rasku June 15, 2011 at 1:05 am #

        Skunk is actually quite nice if you only get a whiff of it, and not a whole face full of skunk spray. It’s a powerful weapon, but I happen to like it. Smells kind of like marijuana smoke.

        • Snailquake June 15, 2011 at 9:18 am #

          Very interesting!

          • Snailquake June 15, 2011 at 11:53 am #

            Waitaminnit! I see what you did there. :P

            • Jigme Datse Rasku June 16, 2011 at 3:52 am #

              doesn’t see what she did. Hm, thought you might be familiar with the smell of marijuana. Around these parts if you’re not familiar with the smell of marijuana, you haven’t been keeping your nose open very much at all. It gets smoked on the main street.


              • Snailquake June 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

                Skunk being a type of marijuana.

                • Jigme Datse Rasku June 18, 2011 at 12:46 am #

                  Oh right. I was talking about the animal smelling a bit like the plant. Only more so.


                  • Snailquake June 18, 2011 at 12:49 am #

                    I really thought you must be joking! What a peculiar thing for them to smell of. I wonder if that’s why the weed is called “skunk”.

                    • Jigme Datse Rasku June 18, 2011 at 7:35 am #

                      Probably, skunk is the more “prominent” smell. More so than marijuana, or skunk weed (which smells much closer to skunk than marijuana does). Somehow I’m surprised you’ve never smelt skunk, as it’s such a common smell around where I live.

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