Notes: In response to the challenge issued by Anonymouse314. The first line is taken from A Third Book of British Birds and their nests, by Brain Vesey Fitzgerald F.L.S. (and it’s old enough to be priced at 2/6d, which means two shillings and sixpence). As required of me by the challenge, I’ve never read this book, and have in fact just spent the past fifteen minutes digging around the attic to find it; it being the only book currently in the house that I haven’t read, as far as I’m aware.
“The Redshank is sometimes known as ‘The Warden of the Marshes’.”
They stalk through the salty, flooded wetlands on their stick-like long legs and they make sure that their long, long beaks are into every metaphorical pie that’s cooking; except for those pies cooked by kings whose wives eat bread and honey, because the Redshanks have heard rumours.
In fact, pinned to a stalk of grass overhanging the shallow depression in the ground that masquerades as a nest, there is still a missing avians poster; reward of 5 (five) mud worms for information pertaining to the location of 24 (four-and-twenty) birds, colour; black, identifying features; yellow beaks.
Still; the Redshanks know everything that goes on in the marsh; from the timetable for this year’s migratory arrivals (the party from Canada are late again, which is sparking more anti-goose sentiments) to the antics of the funny creatures with two legs and no wings (and an uncanny ability to locate patches of quicksand, then wave their non-wings around and vocalise about it loudly).
Because everyone knows that the Redshanks know everything, they take great care to ask the Redshanks for advice (even the swans, who have a Royalty complex like you wouldn’t believe) and, incidentally, let drop little snippets of information that may— or may not— be of some small use.
The other wild fowl are usually the best at that; particularly the Curlews, who are considered mud worm connoisseurs in a league of their own. The other birds, the one that hang around the fresh-water inlets to the marshes and live in the trees (something the Redshanks find patently absurd when there’s more than enough ground for everyone, especially when all the sink-hole areas are so thoughtfully marked out by the funny no-wing creatures) are less helpful, but they do come up with interesting rumours upon occasion.
That was where the news of the disappearing Blackbirds came from; a Reed Warbler singing about it in badly scanned sensationalist rhyme, trying to impress a mate. The Redshanks did have to admit that the wild and lurid speculations— whilst distinctly off-colour— were a neap tide of improvement on the usual ‘my tree my tree my tree!’ that the roosting birds came up with.
Speaking of tides; it’s nearly low tide, and the Redshanks are abroad in force, ostensibly to pick over the mudflats for food, but mainly because they’ve heard— from a Mute Swan who heard it from a passing Mallard duck— that a flock of Herring Gulls is supposed to be flying in to the area, and Herring Gulls equal trouble.
So the Redshanks are out on the mudflats of the tidal marshes, one eye to the ground, one cautiously on the air, watching for the loud-mouthed interlopers, as they continue on their official beat.