Friday, 15 May 2009

Thor & The Kjornebiter.

Thor for those of you familiar with your Norse Gods was the God of Thunder. Growing up in the Seventies he was one of my favourite comic book superheroes, I guess partly because he had long blond hair and was European I could identify with him more than say some New Yorker who got bitten by a radioactive spider. Anyway it fuelled an early interest in the Norse Gods and all things Asgardian. Occasionally this resurfaces, such as last year when I insisted on taking my six year old to see the 3D Beowulf movie which unbeknown to me featured the naked Angelina Jolie, the old legend was erm a joy to behold.
So what has all this to do with birds I can hear you scream, patience dear readers and all will be revealed.
First I need to take you back to April it was either 2000 or 2001 if memory serves. Perched on the end of Church Point, Newbiggin midway through another lonely vigil dreaming of seabirds yet undiscovered whilst watching the odd Kittiwake pass the point. Out of the fret two other birders appear, one a tall Viking blond appeared familiar, the other with a soft peaked cap spoke with an Eastern European accent and wasn't dressed for a North East Spring.
My memory fails me as to his exact nationality, whilst preparing this post I was convinced he was Hungarian but now for some reason I suddenly thought 'No he wasn't he was from Kazakhstan.' Let's put it this way he had come a damn sight further than those occasional itinerants we get from East Yorkshire or Derbyshire up this way.
Turns out he was there for a lifer, Northern Gannet, which he duly got although not overhead as can be seen on the best Newbiggin seawatching days. A little jig and our Hungarian/Kazak bird guide (as this was what his occupation was) had added Gannet to his life list and went home very happy.
What of the tall Viking blond? I hear all the ladies cry, tell us more. Well my flash of recognition was right as it turned out he was none other than ex Newbiggin resident, son of legendary North Northumberland birder Graham Bell, Julian.
There, oh I nearly forgot, Julian is now firmly embedded in the Norwegian landscape and he has as well his Natural Born Birder site a blog, the name of which I can't write without converting my language on the keyboard to Old Norse. He sees good birds, keeps the blog uncomplicated & uncluttered but best of all he gives you what I presume to be the Norse names for each of the species he sees. So species like Spotted Flycatcher are transformed into 'grafluesnapper' and Black-Throated Diver the simple yet utterly perfect 'storlom' and the fabulous name in the post title which I'll let you work out for yourself. So evocative, these harsh, Northern names, they flipped me back instantly, I could almost imagine Thor battling it out with the Kjornebiter some demonic Nordic Troll like creature from a time before time.

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