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Peregrines called "hawks" in a book (2 Viewers)

@Richard Prior Got it, thank you!

"Snipe huddled in a flooded meadow north of the river, like little brown monks fishing. They crouched low over their bent green legs, and I could see their Colorado-beetle-coloured heads and their gentle brown eyes. They did not feed, but simply held their long bills out above the muddy water, as though they were savouring the bouquet. Fifty went up when I walked towards them. There is no hesitation, no slow awakening, for snipe; only the sudden convulsive jump from the mud when the alarm rings in their nerves. They made a tremendous nasal noise as they rose: a sneeze of snipe, not a wisp. They kept close together and did not jink, flying high and fast in a group, like starlings. This meant that a hawk was about."

Does anybody understand what Baker means by "a sneeze of snipe, not a wisp"?

Saying that the snipe "did not jink", does he mean that the flock didn't fall apart or that it, as a whole, did not move around much?
The author is mixing things a bit here, a wisp is the commonest collective noun for a group/ flock of Snipe so not normally used to describe the noise they make when flushed. He uses the noun a sneeze which I think is to suggest an explosion of sound as multiple birds called at the same time.
Common Snipe are known to fly off zig zagging (to better escape a chasing avian predator), to jink is another way of saying to move in such a fashion, like an agile winger in a rugby team for example.
Cheers,
Richard (an ex- rugby player ;) )
 
Common Snipe are known to fly off zig zagging (to better escape a chasing avian predator), to jink is another way of saying to move in such a fashion

But he says the snipe were "flying high and fast in a group, like starlings." Starlings maneuver a lot when fleeing, don't they?
 
But he says the snipe were "flying high and fast in a group, like starlings." Starlings maneuver a lot when fleeing, don't they?
When fleeing a predator or preparing to roost, yes, when flying from a to b, no. As he says “flying high” I guess he’s describing a more direct form of flight, especially as he says they weren’t jinking!
 
"Not a wisp" is difficult. A "wisp" is a thin, delicate shape, like the smoke from a candle-flame. You see a wisp of smoke only if there is no wind. It moves slowly. I think what he's trying to convey is that the flight of a flock of snipe isn't subtle or gradual, and doesn't linger. Like a sneeze, it's sudden and brief, but powerful.

Edit: see Richards reply for a different meaning of Wisp that Baker had in mind.

"Jink" is easier, but your question is a good one. To "jink" is to suddenly change direction, like a fighter airplane trying to escape pursuit. It's not completely clear whether he means that the flock as a whole made no sudden change of direction, or that no individual bird darted away from the flock. The latter is already covered by "kept close together" and "in a group", so I think he means the former: the flock moved and its course may have curved, like a starling flock, but it didn't change brusquely, the way a school of herring's course would.
 
@nartreb @Richard Prior

Thank you, it makes sense now. I was confused by "wisp" as a flock of snipe and somehow couldn't put it together with the other meaning that you mentioned.

Regading "jinking": I think I'll now find a way to translate this passage so it's not self-contradictory.

One more question:

"The tips of the folded wings reached just beyond the end of the tail; exceptionally long, even for a tiercel peregrine."

Is it the tail, or the wings, or the tips of the wings that are exceptionally long in this bird?
 
@nartreb @Richard Prior

Thank you, it makes sense now. I was confused by "wisp" as a flock of snipe and somehow couldn't put it together with the other meaning that you mentioned.

Regading "jinking": I think I'll now find a way to translate this passage so it's not self-contradictory.

One more question:

"The tips of the folded wings reached just beyond the end of the tail; exceptionally long, even for a tiercel peregrine."

Is it the tail, or the wings, or the tips of the wings that are exceptionally long in this bird?

The wings are long. So long that the tips stick out past the end of the tail.

In many birds, the folded wings hardly reach the tail, but falcons have very long wings, reaching near the tip of the tail.
(compare perched peregrine to perched parus )

Much of the extra length is in the wingtip (primary) feathers, so the tips are long too.

The tails of falcons are longer than in many other birds of prey, but it's the wings that are "exceptionally long" in the sentence above.
 
@nartreb Understood, thanks!

Which species from the rather big family does Baker likely mean below by "thrush"? Thrush - Wikipedia

"Consider the cold-eyed thrush, that springy carnivore of lawns, worm stabber, basher to death of snails."

"Grey plover were feeding, leaning forward like pointers, listening to the mud like thrushes on a lawn."

"In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding."
 
@nartreb Understood, thanks!

Which species from the rather big family does Baker likely mean below by "thrush"? Thrush - Wikipedia

"Consider the cold-eyed thrush, that springy carnivore of lawns, worm stabber, basher to death of snails."

"Grey plover were feeding, leaning forward like pointers, listening to the mud like thrushes on a lawn."

"In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding."

In England there are two common species of thrush: song thrush (turdus philomenos) and mistle thrush (turdus viscivorus). They're similar in appearance and habits: we commonly get photos here on the ID section of BirdForum from new members who need help telling them apart. I think Linnaeus considered the two a single species, but that changed in 1831. It's a bit surprising that Baker didn't distinguish the two, if he considered himself a birder.

The behavior of stalking along lawns, listening for invertebrates (including earthworms) is common among the whole turdus family. Snail bashing is less common among thrushes, but both song and mistle thrush do it regularly.

Closely related to song and mistle thrushes, and very common in England, is the blackbird, turdus merula. But this bird has always been called "blackbird" in English, never "thrush". You can see Baker lists "blackbirds" separately in the last quote.

We can safely eliminate the redwing and other members of the family for similar reasons to the blackbird, or because they're uncommon in England.

If I had to pick one species name to translate, I'd pick mistle thrush. Деря́ба (judging by the title of the Wikipedia.ru article for turdus viscivorus)
But my guess is that he meant both mistle and song thrush in the passages quoted. A more literal translation of thrush, I think, would be дрозд.
That would be my pick for the first two quotes; in the third quote I might pick Деря́ба so I could translate "blackbird" as Чёрный дрозд without repeating myself.
 
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@nartreb Understood, thanks!

Which species from the rather big family does Baker likely mean below by "thrush"? Thrush - Wikipedia

"Consider the cold-eyed thrush, that springy carnivore of lawns, worm stabber, basher to death of snails."

"Grey plover were feeding, leaning forward like pointers, listening to the mud like thrushes on a lawn."

"In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding."
I’d be much more inclined to use Sông Thrush for the first two, lawn-frequenting birds myself, the Song Thrush renowned for using particular stones as an ‘anvil‘ for bashing snails.
The third quote sounds as though he’s describing a winter scene, perhaps the end of winter as the birds are looking east, from Essex that means across the North Sea so maybe an assembly of mixed thrush species and Starlings preparing to migrate back to Scandinavia and Russia, the “chattering and scolding “ fits a mixed group of thrush species, so Narteb’s Ãpo3Ã sounds the right word for that quote ( sorry for not having the brain to type Cyrillic on my device;)).
 
It's a bit surprising that Baker didn't distinguish the two, if he considered himself a birder.

@nartreb @Richard Prior I did not write this but Baker actually does mention song thrushes as a separate species, for example:

"A hard tapping sound began, a long way off. It was like a song thrush banging a snail on a stone, but it came from above."

"Song thrushes bounced and sprang to spear out the surfacing worms. There is something very cold about a thrush, endlessly listening and stabbing through the arras of grass, the fixed eye blind to what it does."

"A song thrush and four skylarks sang all day."

So, "thrush" could be a generic name used when Baker could not tell different species within the family apart. Or when he was just speaking generally. This generic meaning is likely used here: "Song thrushes bounced and sprang to spear out the surfacing worms. There is something very cold about a thrush [any thrush], endlessly listening."

The Russian "дрозд" is used colloquially to describe any species from the family - the English "thrush" is used in the same way, right? While "дроздовые" is the scientific word meaning Turdidae family.

On the other hand, here we likely have another meaning: "In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding." If it was the generic meaning, he would have written: "...blackbirds and other thrushes". So, it could be "mistle thrushes" after all...

But then again, Baker mentions a mistle thrush as a separate species too, once in the book:

"March 13th. A mistle thrush sang by the ford, the first of the year, rolling out his rich mellow phrases. He stopped singing, and dashed into the copse. I heard the dry rattle of his scolding note; then he chased a peregrine across to the dead oak."

"In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding."

The third quote sounds as though he’s describing a winter scene,

The entry was from December 15th.
 
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@nartreb @Richard Prior I did not write this but Baker actually does mention song thrushes as a separate species, for example:

"A hard tapping sound began, a long way off. It was like a song thrush banging a snail on a stone, but it came from above."

"Song thrushes bounced and sprang to spear out the surfacing worms. There is something very cold about a thrush, endlessly listening and stabbing through the arras of grass, the fixed eye blind to what it does."

"A song thrush and four skylarks sang all day."

So, "thrush" could be a generic name used when Baker could not tell different species within the family apart. Or when he was just speaking generally. This generic meaning is likely used here: "Song thrushes bounced and sprang to spear out the surfacing worms. There is something very cold about a thrush [any thrush], endlessly listening."

The Russian "дрозд" is used colloquially to describe any species from the family - the English "thrush" is used in the same way, right? While "дроздовые" is the scientific word meaning Turdidae family.

On the other hand, here we likely have another meaning: "In bushes and trees there were many sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, looking east and steadily chattering and scolding." If it was the generic meaning, he would have written: "...blackbirds and other thrushes". So, it could be "mistle thrushes" after all...

But then again, Baker mentions a mistle thrush as a separate species too, once in the book:

"March 13th. A mistle thrush sang by the ford, the first of the year, rolling out his rich mellow phrases. He stopped singing, and dashed into the copse. I heard the dry rattle of his scolding note; then he chased a peregrine across to the dead oak."





The entry was from December 15th.
Thrushes would much more likely be Redwings and Fieldfares imo if he is referring to 'winter thrushes'. They come from the north/east to winter in the UK and flock much more than Mistle and Song Thrushes (although we do also get migrants of these).
 
Excellent, what Dan and I are suggesting ( I think!)though is that for the Jan 15 group it’s best to use the generic thrushes word as it would probably be a mixed group.
 
Redwings are mentioned 4 times in the book as a separate species, fieldfares 31 times.
In this case though I would say he is referring to the two in the family generally - lumping them together (along with the other two as well, which tag along in smaller numbers!)

EDIT: Thinking about it, we do separate out Blackbirds from the other thrushes - they are more distinctly different perhaps. Noting too from that passage - by 'sparrows' he isn't differentiating out House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow - so could easily be either or both? A bit like 'crows' often isn't species specific.
 
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In Moscow where I live they are rare though.

You might be pleasantly surprised. Baker would, I think, be amazed how so many peregrines visit, live and breed in cities today. The abundance of prey - pigeons, starlings, black-headed gulls and other birds - in cities attracts peregrines, both residents that live year-round in the city and migrants or winter visitors. Last weekend, without travelling more than about 30 minutes from my apartment in London, I saw at least nine different peregrines from two locations, and could have seen more if I had planned to check more locations, instead of waiting and watching at the spots I chose. I'm not saying you will see as many in your area, but would think that if you visited the kinds of buildings they like (all of Stalin's seven sisters would be worth trying - I see another pair nests on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, though pointing binoculars at that building might not be prudent...) and spent a couple of hours carefully observing, there's a good chance you'll find them. As for seeing them do interesting things ... well, you know from reading Baker that it often requires patience, but can be tremendously rewarding.

I do think your translation will have a different level of understanding if you can observe peregrines like Baker did, and see some of their behaviours and actions. When you see, for example, a peregrine coming down with tremendous force yourself, or climbing into a cold winter sky with incredible power and speed, it will change how you look at them, think of them and write about them.
 
@Patudo Thanks for pointing this out! I am sure seeing a wild peregrine by myself will change my vision of the book and the way I translate it. I'll do it when I can. From what I know, they mostly fly around the Moscow University skyscraper, which isn't far from where I live.

I see another pair nests on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Have you found this on the Internet?

One more question about the book.

"Little owls called as I walked beside South Wood. The air was quiet. Birds were feeding in fields where frost had melted. Song thrushes bounced and sprang to spear out the surfacing worms. There is something very cold about a thrush, endlessly listening and stabbing through the arras of grass, the fixed eye blind to what it does. A cock blackbird, yellow-billed, stared with bulging crocus eye, like a small mad puritan with a banana in his mouth. I went into the wood."

There seem to be two references in this paragraph. The first one from Hamlet, the scene where Polonius is stabbed through a rug. The second one about the Puritan I can't understand. Okay, the banana is the worm, but where does the little Puritan come from? Could it be connected with Puritans in Shakespeare's time?
 
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Correction to whoever translated Hamlet into Russian: Hamlet stabbed through a heavy wall-hanging, a tapestry. In England in Shakespeare's time, such a tapestry was likely to have been made in the town of Arras (northern France).* A very, very, expensive "rag" :)

I think the "puritan" description is only about color. Certainly it's not about Shakespeare. Puritans famously wore a lot of black (trimmed with white). So the blackbird, being all black, reminded Baker of a Puritan. (One with large, yellow-rimmed, "mad" (insane) eyes.) The bright yellow bill reminded him of a banana. The image of a Puritan eating a banana is incongruous, even comical. Bananas probably did exist in England in Elisabethan times, but probably not in great numbers. They would be an expensive rarity, and a Puritan would surely consider them a frivolous expense, and might object to their phallic shape as well. But then again, this particular Puritan is "mad".

The blackbird doesn't have a worm in this paragraph. It's the song thrushes that are catching worms, the male blackbird is just staring.

* correction: in Shakespeare's time Arras was part of the Spanish Empire (along with practically all the Low Countries, Artois was conveyed into the Hapsburg family by Mary of Burgundy).
 
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@nartreb I misspelled "rug", have corrected it.

Regarding the "puritan": I got it! I forgot that Baker switched from a song thrush to a blackbird and was trying to apply the image to the wrong bird. Thanks!
 
(A December entry.) "South of the wood, where there is sloping ground out of the wind and flat to the sun’s low angle, the hawk suddenly rose higher, lengthened his glides, and swept round in wider circles. He drifted southward, a thousand feet up, gliding slowly down wind. Over open parkland he found another thermal and circled within it till he was very high and small. From a great height he slanted gently down above the common, falling slowly to the skyline. Then he rose once more in a steep, flickering helix, hypnotic in style and rhythm, his long wings tireless and unfaltering."

Is "the common" in the extract above "a tract of land in common ownership; common land"? It seems the only suitable meaning: common - Wiktionary, the free dictionary
 

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