After two days of near torrential rain, it was nice to get out on the bike and enjoy some (dryish) weather turfing along the coast at Musselburgh. The weather was still miserably dank and wet with midge infested drizzle. Yes midges, even in November. My aim was to try and add a few more bird species to my tally of 26 following an earlier trip – see Turf Blog 16-10-22. Having already bagged the Bird and Twitcher medals, I’m aiming for the third unofficial medal in the set I created, the Ornithologist, identifying 50 different species of bird from within no more than 10 turf zones. However, before we go turf-birding, I want to talk about dogs and the risks they pose to bicycle turfers.
Now, that suspiciously friendly family pooch is, in fact, and as we all know, related to the wolf. Quite possibly even those bloody enormous dire wolves they have in G.O.T., and should not be taken lightly. I always treat them with the greatest of caution. In fact, I consider them as the potentially lethal killing machines they are under that cute and cuddly fur exterior. Even going as far as thinking of them as cyber-dogs. And they are all called Preston, just like that evil sheep-shearing-killer in Wallace and Gromit’s A Close Shave. They say that a dog is only a few meals away from being a wolf. And a cyber-dog, just one bicycle turfer away!
So, how do we deal with potential cyber-dogs and their owners? Well, first thing I would do is provide advance warning of my approach. In other words, ring your bell and ring it loudly. Do not be afraid to ring that bell. It’s the round thing that goes “ting ting” on your handlebars. Not got one? Get one! And do that even if approaching them head on and even if you think they have seen you ring it anyway. Not only will the bell alert the cyber-dog’s owner, it will also alert the cyber-dog. Best to avoid startling any cyber-dog. You never know how they will react.
However, even the loudest of bells might not be enough. Owners might be elderly and deaf, or wearing earphones. Even elderly cyber-dogs can be deaf. If this is the case, shouting the word “BIKE” will usually do the trick. Some people, however, require other means. Some people just deliberately ignore you and need something like, “Is this your £10 note?” or “Get out of the bloody way you b****y t**t!” That sort thing. As a last resort try shouting, “ARMED POLICE. GET ON THE GROUND.” As seen on Police Interceptors, or was it Traffic Cops?
Right, you are now past the cyber-dog but are you safe? Most definitely not! Every cyber-dog is preprogramed to react to movement, to chase and intimately kill. All they see in their red-mist-fogged little brain is, to borrow a phrase from the 1993 movie Demolition Man, Murder, Death, Kill or MDK. It’s what they were designed to do. So, no matter if you’ve passed Preston the Pink-haired Pomeranian or Preston the Piddling Poodle, and you hear the words, “No Preston, come back to mummy right now. Naughty boy!” You are in trouble. You are probably being chased. If it’s Preston the Polite Pomapoo, well, better say your prayers.
So, you have two options, stop and see what’s happening, or pedal like the clappers and hope for the best. Difficult one this. If you look over your shoulder to see where the dog is, you risk a wobble and possible spill. If you slow down, the cyber-dog will get you. Remember they are preprogramed MDK. Personally, I would slow down and stop. Saying hello to the nice cyber-dog usually confuses its programming and it will stop and wag its tail. The object of the chase has gone, so they don’t know what to do anymore. Of course, you just might end up with Preston the Whatever biting your ankle and hanging on for grim death. And in the brain of Preston the Cyber-dog, that death would be yours! Carrying a tennis ball to throw has been suggested.
Thankfully, no sign of Preston the Cyber-dog on my turf-birding trip to Musselburgh. My thoughts today were to revisit the same zones I did previously, which keeps me within the rules I set for the medal, no more than 10 zones. With the tide fully in I didn’t have much luck along the sea shore but at the small boating pond, zone MusselLagoon, I added pochard duck to the list. Then at zone John, on the coastal path opposite Prestongrange Museum, meadow pipit, pied wagtail and red-breasted merganser were welcome additions, bringing my overall total to 30, leaving just another 20 species required from the remaining four zones.
Then a brainwave. The rules for the medal state bird species and that was all. Nothing about them being only British birds, or wild, or captive, or escapes. And I knew just the zone that should add a few more to the tally. Zone Lewisvale in Lewisvale Park in Musselburgh. The aviary there gave me budgerigar, canary and cockatiel, taking me to 33 different species of bird. Though I’m down to only 3 zones left for that final 17 bird species. Should be fun. Back soon.
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