Sunday, 3 June 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 1st June 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 1st June 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) refused to apologise

The Toasts:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following toast to Huret, the Boulevard assassin:

Hip hip Huret!
For the Boulevard assassin.
Hip hip Huret!
For the kills that he's a-massin'.

Soon there won't be a Boulevard left
In the entire European mid-West.

Hip hip Huret!
For the Boulevard assassin
Killing all the Boulevards!
I think he's jolly smashin'!


1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) once again suggested that we should get more members. No one seconded.
2. A motion was passed during a brief comfort break.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following excessively long presentation on Birds in The Canon:

The I-Spy Book of Birds and the Canon

"Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds..." - BLAC

Before I begin I should say a few words about the I-Spy books for those unfamiliar with the concept. The I-Spy series of books is practically an institution in the UK. They were first published in the 1950s and are essentially a treasure hunt game aimed at children. The pocket-sized books are themed (e.g. birds, on the farm, aircraft, dogs and so forth) and list around 150 to 200 things that fall within this theme which the child aims to spot. Different spots are worth different points, depending on how rare they are. If the child manages to collect 1000 points they get a parent to sign the form in the back and they can send off for a badge. I have a great fondness for these books as the I-Spy book of birds introduced me to bird-watching. And, yes, I did get my badge. At the age of 30. Don’t judge me.

While reading The Canon, I couldn’t help but notice the number of birds mentioned. Admittedly, many are dead or metaphorical, but nevertheless it set me to wondering; would it be possible to spot enough birds in The Canon to earn an I-Spy badge? With that in mind (and the 2016 I-Spy Birds book in hand) there follows a list of avian quotes from the Sacred Writings and my attempts to deduce specific species.


"That is our bird, Watson—a sporting bird, as you must admit." - 3GAR
"This should put another bird in the cage.” - LAST
""Your three birds are all in their nests," said Holmes" - 3STU
"This was not the bird that I was looking for." - BRUC
"He might have thrown a dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone." - ABBE
"Hugo left his guests to carry food and drink—with other worse things, perchance—to his captive, and so found the cage empty and the bird escaped." - HOUN
Non-specific birds are often used figuratively in The Canon:
In 3GAR, Having identified the villain as Killer Evans, Holmes talks of him as a  game bird which he intends to catch. By "a sporting bird" he is using hunting talk; the bird is a good one to hunt.
In LAST Holmes finds evidence which should put another German agent (bird) behind bars (in the cage).
In 3STU, Holmes's metaphor compares the students to fledgling birds who, having been out of their rooms for the day, are now returned to the care of their wards.
The bird quote from BRUC turns out not to be a reference to Alec Guinness in Star-ling Wars talking to the Stork Troopers ("These are not the birds you are looking for."). Unfortunately, the non-existent film came out a full 69 years after the story was first published. Holmes is, in fact, using bird in the sense of prey he has set a trap for.
In ABBE, Theresa Wright, the Australian nurse and maid, uses bird as pet name for her mistress, Lady Brackenstall. Presumably the inference is that Lady Brackenstall is a precious, pretty, sweet creature. Although she could mean that she is loud, has a big beak and poops on the windows.
In HOUN we again find a woman referred to as a bird. This was often used as a poetic metaphor from the 1300s onwards. It didn't attain its somewhat demeaning British connotations until the 1960s. From this side of the sixties Charlotte Bronte's words never seemed more apt: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will."
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life." - BLUE
"She was a five-hundred ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight jail-birds, she carried..." - GLOR
The term "jail-bird", meaning a habitual criminal who spends much of his time in prison, dates back to at least 1603 and appears to originate from the image of a caged song bird. As it does not specify a species of bird it is not possible to provide an identification.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"You are an early bird, Mr. Mac,” said he. “I wish you luck with your worm." - VALL
The saying referenced here is "the early bird gets the worm." It is a saying that at least goes back to the 17th century when it was listed in John Ray's book "A compleat collection of English Proverbs". Of course, anyone who knows birds knows that the truth is "the tap-dancing bird gets the worm". I've spent many happy hours watching herring gulls rapidly hopping between feet to pat-pat-pat on the ground and thus trick worms into coming to the surface to avoid the rain they think they can hear.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

""Our birds are flown and the nest empty," said Holmes." - GREE
"Then, if my friend of the night comes to revisit me, he will find the bird flown." - NAVA
"If he is quick enough to catch his bird, well and good. But if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there..." - NAVA
"I visited the front and satisfied myself that the bird was indeed flown." - BRUC
""Here is Lestrade with his warrant," said he. "He will find that his birds have flown."" - LADY
Variants of "The bird has flown", meaning the thing sought has already gone, have been used at least since 1655 when it was used by William Gurnall in The Christian in Complete Armour. Searches for an etymology have proved fruitless, perhaps because the meaning is so obvious. There is no telling what bird has flown as it is not there.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“From outside came the occasional cry of a night-bird, and once at our very window a long drawn catlike whine, which told us that the cheetah was indeed at liberty.” - SPEC
There are several candidates for this Surrey night-bird; tawny owl, nightjar and barn owl are the most probable. The tawny owl’s call is not a cry, it is the archetypal owl call of “twit-twoo”. If Watson had heard this he would have described it “the occasional call of an owl”. Similarly a nightjar emits more of a warble than a cry. I think the night-bird in question is a barn owl; they definitely cry. Their nocturnal screech sounds something like a scream of terror and would have been quite in keeping with the tone of the night at Stoke Moran.
Species: Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)   I-Spy Points: 40

“Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War—a bargain every one of them.” - EMPT
I have argued elsewhere (The Bookshelves of 221b) that the book British Birds would be British Birds in Their Haunts by Rev C. A. Johns published in 1893. Tempting though it is to count this as a sighting of every bird listed in the book, I feel it may count as cheating, so I won't.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“Pinkerton has taken hold under their orders, and his best man, Birdy Edwards, is operating.” - VALL
I have been unable to find any reason for Birdy Edwards having such a peculiar Christian name. The only precedents I could find were people so nicknamed for their singing ability, so I am forced to conclude that Mr Edwards was also nicknamed for his exquisite tenor voice and command of vibrato. Perhaps if the Scowrers had taken the time to put on a comic opera between killings they would have uncovered McMurdo's secret identity. We can only thank providence that this never occurred.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“When I saw that little empty quiver beside the small bird-bow, it was just what I expected to see.” - SUSS
The bird-bow can be presumed to be some traditional hunting weapon from Peru. With so many ethnic groups in the region, it would be difficult to pin down exactly which it came from. However, we do know that blow pipes and bows were important tools to most indigenous Peruvians. In his book "Hunting Practices of the Wachiperi" Rodolfo Tello tells us that the Wachiperi people of the Cusco region had six major types of bow, each designed for hunting different animals. A smaller bow would be easier to manoeuvre when dealing with small fast prey and the loss of power would not be important as not so much would be needed to fell a smaller animal.
With so many species of duck, quail and other birds in the region, it would be impossible to single one out as the intended target of this intriguing weapon.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“At this point there are several trails which lead to various mines. The strangers took that which led to the Crow Hill” - VALL
This is one of the mines in VALL (Run by Josiah H. Dunn) which was assaulted by the Scowrers. The general consensus seems to be that the Vermissa Valley is actually Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The crow referenced, then, is most likely the American crow. Being a carrion feeder, I dare venture that the crows were grateful for the dead engineer and manager that the Scowrers left behind.
Species: American Crow (Corvus Brachyrhynchos)   I-Spy Points: None

“I have a mule and two horses waiting in the Eagle Ravine.” - STUD
“Between them was the Eagle Canyon in which the horses were awaiting them.” - STUD
The local eagle that these places are most likely named after is the bald eagle. I like to imagine the canyon and ravine as home to Sam, the bald eagle from the Muppets. It helps diffuse the tension.
Species: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)   I-Spy Points: None

“Please be at the Black Swan Hotel at Winchester at midday to-morrow [it said]. Do come! I am at my wit’s end.” - COPP
Before it was renamed The Black Swan in the early 1800s, the inn was called the Old Swan. The pub closed in the 1930s and the building was demolished and a retail unit has now been built on the site. However the carved black swan which was originally on the front of the building has been restored and is now on the front of this retail unit. Black swans, as discussed next, are an imported species from Australia.
Species: Black Swan (Cygnus Atratus)   I-Spy Points: None

"It was frozen over, but a single hole was left for the convenience of a solitary swan." - ABBE
There are three native swans in Britain; mute swan, Bewick’s swan and whooper swan. The latter two are both flocking creatures and unlikely to be seen in the singular. This would appear to leave just the mute swan, but we should also consider the black swan which began being imported for ornamental purposes in the 1800s. This species originates in Australia. With this being a pond in the grounds of Abbey Grange there seem to be arguments in favour of either species. Lady Brackenstall comes from Australia herself, so she might well have imported the black swan as a reminder of happier times at home. However, Sir Eustace Brackenstall is an unpleasant man who cares so little for animals that he once torched his wife's pet dog. He does not strike me as the sort to go to the expense of importing an expensive pet for someone else's pleasure. As it is Sir Eustace who would have controlled the finances of the household, I suggest that this swan would be of the free, wild, mute swan variety.
Species: Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)   I-Spy Points: 5

" won’t know it again, with a thousand candlepower Swan and Edison right here in front of the hall door." - HOUN
The Swan here is the surname of Joseph Swan; a human who made early electric lightbulbs and merged with Thomas Edison's company. He was not an actual swan. Swans lack the digital dexterity required to make light bulbs. Because they lack digits.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“His name is Armitage—Percy Armitage—the second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane Water, near Reading.” - SPEC
I that Crane Water is named after some patch of water which is frequented by cranes. Excluding rare vagrants such as the American sandhill crane, the likely candidate is the Common Crane. This is indeed a water bird; favouring bogs, and the edges of lakes and rivers. As the Thames passes through Reading and the area has plenty of lakes, it is a possibility. The species became extinct as a breeding species in Britain in the 17th century, but Crane Water could have been a settlement long before this. These days the UK only has a tiny breeding population of cranes. It is in the East of England but the precise location is kept secret for their own protection. Which must make it very difficult for them to find their way there.
Species: Common Crane (Grus Grus)   I-Spy Points: None

“The place was deserted and there was no sign of life save for two sea-birds circling and screaming overhead.” - LION
The two sea-birds will definitely be some sort of gulls. In East Sussex this is most likely to be either herring or black-headed. Of these the call of the black-headed gull is the most appropriately described as screaming. I'm not sure I'd describe their flight as circling, but they do cut some beautiful arcs in the sky.
Species: Black-Headed Gull (Chroicocephalus Ridibundus)   I-Spy Points: 5

"On its jagged face was spread eagled some dark, irregular object." - HOUN
Originally a spread eagle referred exclusively to the heraldic device of a non-specified species of eagle depicted with its wings outstretched. Over time it came to refer to any creature or person with its limbs spread out in this manner. From there it came to describe anything which was fully splayed out.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick and Nelson’s large timber-yard, just past the White Eagle tavern." - SIGN
There is no bird which fits the description of "white eagle" save perhaps the white-bellied sea eagle or some peculiar albino specimens. The pub appears to be fictitious and my attempts at locating it have been no more fruitful than those of Charles O. Merriman. Traditionally, English pubs had simple names which referred to the pictures on their signs for the benefit of their illiterate customers. The white eagle which would have been on the sign was probably the Germanic heraldry of an eagle with its wings stretched out to indicate that it stocked German wines.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"It was identified at once by the manager of the Eagle Commercial as belonging to a man named Hargrave, who had taken a room there two days before." - VALL
While I can find no evidence of the Eagle Commercial in the right area, there is a Spread Eagle Inn in Hawkenbury which dates back to the 16th century. It is six miles from Groombridge Place (the real name of Birlstone Manor; see page 661, volume three of Leslie S. Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes). Like the White Eagle Tavern in Nine Elms it would be named after the sign proclaiming it to serve German wines.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"...they looked down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great chalk cliff in which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had perched himself four years before." - LAST
If we are looking for an eagle that travels a lot but also perches in cliffy areas there is only one candidate in the British Isles. This is the white-tailed eagle which nests exclusively on the cliffs of north-west Scotland. While it is generally considered "partially migratory" (and so hardly a great wanderer) the sight of it coming in from the sea with it's catches could easily create a more romantic image of it as a solitary traveller.
Species: White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus Albicilla)   I-Spy Points: None

“But you do occasionally find a carrion crow among the eagles.” - SHOS
There are only two regular species of eagle in the UK; the white-tailed eagle and the golden eagle. The White-Tailed is such a rare species inland that you are unlikely to ever see crow among them. Whereas the golden eagle can be found across most of the Scottish Highlands, so is certainly the eagle Holmes has in mind.
I have been unable to find any references to this as a phrase elsewhere so I suspect it is a metaphor Holmes invented for the occasion. The suggestion is that you do get occasional bad people (crows) among the regal upper classes (eagles). This does a great disservice to the carrion crow which is one of the planet's most intelligent animals. Crows are known to be able to make and use tools, solve problems and have a brain to body weight ratio equivalent to most great apes. Golden eagles tend to lay a clutch of two eggs and once they have hatched the strongest of the pair will habitually murder it's sibling. Hardly indicative of a noble bearing.
The metaphor further breaks down when we consider that golden eagles are principally a solitary bird, although they may sometimes be seen in pairs. Conversely crows are great flockers, often seen in large groups. You are much more likely to find an eagle among the crows than the other way around. That said, despite the difference in size, you can quite often observe crows chasing eagles off of their territory. Because crows are much better than eagles.
Species: Carrion Crow (Corvus Corone)   I-Spy Points: 15
Species: Golden Eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos)   I-Spy Points: 35

"As he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight." - SIGN
Crow in this sense refers a cry similar to the call of a crow or cockerel. It does not refer to a specific bird.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“There were a couple of brace of cold woodcock, a pheasant, a pate de foie gras pie with a group of ancient and cobwebby bottles.” - NOBL
This is part of the feast which was laid out before Watson as he awaited the meeting of all the main players in NOBL. The pate de foie gras would have been made by force-feeding a domestic goose with corn to produce an especially fatty and flavoursome liver. These days, this is considered controversial, to put it mildly. But the Victorians would have had no such concerns. All three of the species in this meal are further discussed as the next entries in this essay.
Species: Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax Rusticola)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere
Species: Common Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere
Species: Domestic Goose (Anser Anser Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: Given elsewhere

“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe.” - BLUE
Woodcock represent an English rarity; it is a native game, rather than a game bird specially imported, reared and bred just to be shot at for fun. In “A Few Hours to the Birds”, Donald Girrard Jewell shines a light on the use of the “I believe” at the end of Holmes’ statement.He says that it was common for unscrupulous Victorian vendors to pass off various less valuable birds as woodcock.
Species: Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax Rusticola)   I-Spy Points: None

“A path led us through the pheasant preserves” - THOR
"I preserve, too, and in the pheasant months I usually have a house-party, so that it would not do to be shorthanded." - MUSG
“Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant’s life.” - GLOR
"They are my favourite covert for putting up a bird, and I would never have overlooked such a cock pheasant as that." - 3GAR
While there are some rarer fancier pheasant breeds in Britain, the species we would expect to find is the common pheasant. It is not a native species of Britain. There is debate on when the pheasant was introduced. Some suggest that they were introduced by Romans and they were certainly established no later than the 15th century.
In the 1700s humans started having a considerable impact on the environment. Due to woodland clearances pheasant numbers dramatically declined. A fashion for “preserving” became apparent in England from about 1800. This refers to managing woodland specifically to encourage the right conditions for pheasants to thrive. Musgrave maintains a such a game reserve on his estate grounds. This is essentially a forerunner to modern conservation. We see a lot of this proto-environmentalism taking it's first steps in Victorian England. The birth of the industrial age meant that for the first time, humans had to consider the finite nature of nature and the implications of their interactions with the environment. While hunting and conservation may appear to be at cross purposes, there is often considerable overlap like this. (Although, early on, the running of these “preserves” tended to include the extermination of any competing species or predators. These days such activity is illegal but it still goes on in many places as the law is not properly enforced. But you can’t have everything. Like pine-martens. You pretty much can’t have pine-martens anymore. Or hen harriers. Or red kites. And so on and on and on. Thanks malevolent game-keepers!)
A covert, in the sense used in 3GAR, is a thicket or copse where game can hide. Holmes is saying that the agony columns provide a great place for finding information relevant to his cases (the same as a covert provides a great place to find game birds). If they had recently featured anything to corroborate "John Garrideb"'s story it would have stood out in among the other adverts like a brightly covered male pheasant among the dull female ones.
Species: Common Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus)   I-Spy Points: 10

“It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire.” - BLUE
“‘That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the flock.’” - BLUE
Generally speaking, the type of goose eaten in England is the domestic goose, which is (mostly) a sub-breed of the greylag goose. They are principally white with all kinds of markings coming through from their ancestry.
Species: Domestic Goose (Anser Anser Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None
(Which is a subspecies of: Greylag Goose (Anser Anser)   I-Spy Points: 10)

"Here, as you perceive, is the inner pocket prolonged into the lining in such fashion as to give ample space for the truncated fowling piece." - VALL
A fowling piece is another name for a shotgun. It is so called because it is used primarily for shooting any wild-fowl.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Nothing stirred over the vast expanse save a pair of ravens, which croaked loudly from a tor behind us." - HOUN
"The question now is, what shall we do with this poor wretch’s body? We cannot leave it here to the foxes and the ravens" - HOUN
"He was a black-maned giant, bearded to the cheek-bones, and with a shock of raven hair which fell to his collar." - VALL
“His hair and moustache were raven black, the latter short, pointed, and carefully waxed.” - ILLU
With regards to HOUN; the raven, like most corvids, is a carrion bird and would happily tuck into a corpse. But it prefers it's meat to already be rotting. This makes it easier to tear off manageable chunks. Frankly, the Nottinghill Murderer's remains would have been more of an immediate attraction to the blowflies and other insects than to the foxes and ravens.
With regards to VALL and ILLU; people often say raven hair when they mean black hair. Because ravens are black. But so are many things; ants, crows, panda bottoms, the underside of my fingernails. I don't know why ravens get singled out.
Species: Common Raven (Corvus Corax)   I-Spy Points: 30

"He had spent the whole afternoon at the Manor House in consultation with his two colleagues, and returned about five with a ravenous appetite" - VALL
"Holmes ravenous, I curious" - NAVA
The word “ravenous”, despite what I thought ten minutes ago, has nothing to do ravens. Originally meaning extremely greedy, ravenous comes from the French "raviner" meaning "to seize", whereas “raven” is apparently derived from the sound it makes distilled through several different languages. I know; it makes no sense to me either.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“The blackish soil is kept forever soft by the incessant drift of spray, and a bird would leave its tread upon it.” - FINA
Watson doesn't tell us which bird he imagines leaving its tread on the banks of the Reichenbach Falls, but there are a few likely candidates in the local fauna; black redstart, golden eagle, nutcracker, citril finch, crossbill, Alpine accentor, crested tit and willow tit. Being a cliff bird that is found practically everywhere in the region, I'd plump for the black redstart, although I am uncertain how any bird would react to the noise of the falls.
Species: Black Redstart (Phoenicurus Ochruros)   I-Spy Points: None

“There is no bird in the steel-blue heaven, no movement upon the dull, grey earth—above all, there is absolute silence.” - STUD
There is no bird here to discuss. “No bird” is not the same as “bird”. Move along.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“Giving pain to any creature weaker than himself seems to be his one idea of amusement, and he shows quite remarkable talent in planning the capture of mice, little birds, and insects.” - COPP
This is Violet Hunter's description of young Edward Rucastle's persecution of Winchester's wildlife. We can exclude several birds as being too flighty for capture; it is unlikely he managed to catch blackbird, blue tit, great tit, wren or robin. Most likely he caught starlings. They travel in large groups, will happily feed on the ground and are fairly confiding. Moreover, the scientific name, sturnus vulgaris, seems to accurately describe the stern and vulgar Rucastle family.
Species: Common Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris)   I-Spy Points: 10

“Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only inhabitants until you come to the Chesterfield high road.” - PRIO
Assuming Holmes did not mistake a whimbrel for a Eurasian curlew (which is unlikely for the master of observation) this bird is easy enough to identify.
The plover is more difficult. There are five species of plover likely to be found in the North of England setting of this story. Golden plover and little ringed plover are only found in the area in Summer. As this story is set in May, it is probably too early for them to be around. Also, the Peak country (where we are told the Priory School is located) is too far from the coast for grey plover to be a common sight. Lapwing (or green plover or peewit depending on who you speak to) and ringed plover, however, are found in the area all year round. I believe these would be the plovers Holmes is talking about.
Species: Eurasian Curlew (Numenius Arquata)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Ringed Plover (Charadrius Hiaticula)   I-Spy Points: 15
Species: Lapwing (Vanellus Vanellus)   I-Spy Points: 30

"She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face, freckled like a plover’s egg" - COPP
Like "Lestrade", there is no agreed pronunciation of "plover". It seems equally split between rhyming with "over" and rhyming with "lover". Personally I go for rhyming with "over" and only use rhyming with "lover" when I want to sound cleverer. (See also Lestrade - rhymes with "aid" in normal use, rhymes with "hard" when I'm being pretentious).
The plovers are, broadly speaking, coastal birds who nest on beaches. They all have speckled eggs which lends them a remarkable camouflage on sandy and shingled shorelines. As to which plover's egg Watson is comparing Violet Hunter to, it could be one of six. For my money though, the markings of a little ringed plover egg provide the kind of speckles that Watson could reasonably compare to Violet's freckles. Splodging such as that of a lapwing or golden plover egg would not be likely to elicit praise from the somewhat looks-obsessed Watson.
Little-ringed plover are one of the most wide-spread plovers of England (second only to the lapwing), so it is the most likely plover egg for Watson to come across in some friend's or museum's egg collection. Egg collecting was a popular hobby in the 19th century. It wasn't until 1880 that the first laws protecting wild bird eggs were introduced. By the time of the Protection of Birds Act 1954 it had become viewed, quite rightly, as a horrible crime. It is an unusual quirk of human progress that we owe a lot of environmental knowledge to the earlier walking eco-disasters. A prime example is Gilbert White (1720-1793) of Selbourne, Hampshire, whose contributions to the understanding of nature are as great as the number of creatures he killed and stuffed.
Species: Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius Dubius)   I-Spy Points: None

“Because it ran up the curtain. A canary’s cage was hanging in the window, and its aim seems to have been to get at the bird.” - CROO
"...down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-End of London." - BLAC
The domestic canary (often simply "canary") is a small type of finch that originated in the Canary Islands and were first bred in captivity in the 1600s. The bird is named after the islands it came from, rather than the other way around. In fact, the island were all named after one island; Gran Canaria, meaning Island of Dogs due to the many large dogs which were found on the island.
There are two ways of training canaries that Wilson may have employed which both originate in the 1700s when birds were "trained" to sing louder and more musically. One method was with serinettes; a mechanical pipe playing music box which played tunes for the canaries to mimic. The other method, founded in the belief that birds sing better in the dark, was to blind the birds. While this latter method in unpleasant, it is hard to see how Holmes shutting down the operation would remove a plague-spot from London. It is far more likely that the canaries in question were of the slang variety. For a Victorian East-Ender, canary could mean, among other things, a prostitute or a thief's female accomplice. That said, the implied canary of CROO is a real enough bird.
Species: Domestic Canary (Serinus Canaria Forma Domestica)   I-Spy Points: None

"She is a stray chicken in a world of foxes." - LADY
"She entered with ungainly struggle like some huge awkward chicken, torn, squawking, out of its coop." - 3GAB
"The neck was drawn out like a plucked chicken’s, making the rest of him seem the more obese and unnatural by the contrast." - RESI
"“This case will make a stir, sir,” he remarked. “It beats anything I have seen, and I am no chicken.”" - STUD
Chickens are used a few times in The Canon for metaphors and similes to great effect. In LADY Holmes uses them to illustrate the plight of the solitary travelling woman. In 3GAB Watson's simile conjures up the eavesdropping maid, Susan's undignified entrance quite wonderfully. And in RESI when Watson described the hanged corpse of Mr Blessington, the image is quite unsettling.
In STUD, Lestrade uses a well-known chicken-based saying. The phrase "no chicken" is a variant of the phrase "no spring chicken" meaning "no longer a young person" and, in Lestrade's usage "no longer inexperienced".  Although versions of the phrase can be found as far back as 1711, modern usage seems to have originated in the US around 1835-45. Of course, this being Lestrade, it is possible that he was being literal. His own lack of avian traits being the only thing he had discovered at the crime scene, he thought he'd better mention this to Holmes in case it had a bearing on the case.
For those of you wondering, the domestic chicken is descended from red junglefowl (gallus gallus), a bird from Asia whose male is very similar in appearance to the typical farm yard rooster.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

“The limbs and body of some large, white bird, torn savagely to pieces with the feathers still on, were littered all over it. Holmes pointed to the wattles on the severed head.
“A white cock,” said he. “Most interesting! It is really a very curious case.”” - WIST
I believe this breed of domestic chicken must be the “light sussex” which was first displayed at London zoo in 1845. Wisteria Lodge is near Esher in Surrey, not far from the border with West Sussex. It is not unreasonable to suppose the breed had spread this far and the physical description certainly matches.
Species: A specific breed of Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

"Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting Cock." - PRIO
"...we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign of a game-cock above the door..." - PRIO
The pub here is disappointingly not named after traditional Greek wrestling in the traditional Greek nudey-bums. It is named for the blood-sport of cock-fighting which presumably went on at the site at some point.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

""Now then, Mr. Cocksure," said the salesman" - BLUE
""Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined to be cocksure, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade." - NORW
"...and that in such a very cocksure manner, as if it were merely a case of a proposal and all else would follow?" - BOSC
Cocksure means "as self-assured as a cock" and derives from the puffed up appearance of a strutting rooster parading around its coop.
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus) again   I-Spy Points: None

“It is Lestrade’s little cock-a-doodle of victory” - NORW
Holmes seems to be suggesting that Lestrade's bragging is like the rooster crowing with pride. My first reaction was to say that he is mistaken; roosters crow because of the dawn, not out of pride. Many avian species call and sing early in the morning. This is because it is the most sensible time of day to do it; it’s quiet enough to be heard and their prey aren't up and about yet so they have nothing better to do. It is generally a marking of territory combined with attracting the attentions of a mate. "Cock-a-doodle-doo" is pretty much chickenese for "This is my patch keep out. Unless you are a hen, in which case check out how gorgeous I am." Is not “Important fresh evidence to hand. McFarlane’s guilt definitely established. Advise you to abandon case." Lestradese for "I'm the professional, this is my patch, keep out. And check out my awesome evidence while you're at it."?
Species: Domestic Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus) yet again   I-Spy Points: Still none

"Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion,” said Holmes, uncovering a dish of curried chicken." - NAVA
"What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps—curried fowl or eggs" - NAVA
I have to say that the thought of curried anything for breakfast quite unsettles my stomach. Rosenblatt and Sonnenschmidt (Dining with Sherlock Holmes) tell us that the dish in question was most likely chicken korma which is, at least, a mild Indian dish. Curry was popular in England from the 1700s onwards, as soon as the exciting flavours of the empire started to arrive on home shores from the colonies. Once Queen Victoria expressed her passion for Indian culture the cuisine was soon well known to all her subjects.
Species: Domestic Bloody Chicken (Gallus Gallus Bloodius Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: None

“Tonga thought he had done something very clever in killing him, for when I came up by the rope I found him strutting about as proud as a peacock.” -SIGN
The phrase "proud as a peacock" refers to the strutting of a male Indian peafowl while performing its courtship display. Originally it was a bird of the Indian Subcontinent but it has often been introduced to lots of other countries by travelers who were taken with its beauty. It is natural that in the reign of Queen Victoria, Empress of India, no English estate was complete without this representative of the empire strolling the grounds.
Species: Indian Peafowl (Pavo Cristatus)   I-Spy Points: None

“‘Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s. 6d., glass sherry, 8d.’” - NOBL
There is much debate about the origin of the word cocktail in the sense of an alcoholic drink and not all of the suggestions involve birds. Indeed the most popular etymology is one involving a specific way of docking horses’ tails. I am afraid that I do not follow the logic and so prefer the certainly incorrect suggestion that early cocktails were garnished with feathers from peacock tails. A good lie, after all, is worth more than a dull fact.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“To-morrow at midnight,” said the first who appeared to be in authority. “When the Whip-poor-Will calls three times.” - STUD
During their flight from the Mormons, Jefferson Hope overhears their guards discussing their secret signals. The whip-poor-Will is a North American nightjar which is named after the sound of its call. It is a call that an able whistler could easily mimic.
Species: Eastern Whip-Poor-Will (Antrostomus Vociferus)   I-Spy Points: None

“It’s a very rare bird—practically extinct—in England now, but all things are possible upon the moor. Yes, I should not be surprised to learn that what we have heard is the cry of the last of the bitterns.” - HOUN
A booming bittern sounds nothing like the noise a howling hound might make. (You can get an idea of its call by searching online. This won’t do the call justice; much of the booming is subsonic and your computer speakers just won’t cut it.) Further, according to Watson's diary extracts, the action takes place in October. Bitterns only boom in Spring. For a naturalist, Stapleton seemed to have little grasp of nature.
Species: Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus Stellaris)   I-Spy Points: 50

"You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson." - NAVA
"I am afraid, my dear Colonel, that you must regret the hour that you took in such a stormy petrel as I am." - REIG
By stormy petrel, Holmes means an ill-omen. The bird which inspired this phrase is the storm petrel. The bird earned its ill-omen reputation and stormy name by its habit of surviving ocean storms by coming towards coast and sitting on the water until the storm passes. Thus, when you saw petrels on the water, you knew a storm was coming.
The petrel part of the name comes from the way that, when feeding, they use the sea-breeze to hover just above the water with their feet touching the surface. At a glance they appear to be walking on water, like Saint Peter did with Jesus in Christian folklore.
There are many species of storm petrel, but the English one Holmes would have in mind is the European storm petrel.
Species: European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates Pelagicus)   I-Spy Points: None

"I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little choice in white wines" - SIGN
There are two species of grouse likely to be found at the meal table of a Victorian gentleman; red grouse or black grouse. With red grouse being considerably more abundant and easier to rear, it is likely that these are the bird to be found at 221b.
This particular meal has been discussed in much more detail (with recipes) in Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenschmidt (page 103).
Species: Red Grouse (Lagopus Lagopus)   I-Spy Points: 15

"You wore a costume of dove-colored silk with ostrich feather trimming" - SILV
"...a gigantic column of smoke which streamed up from behind a small clump of trees in the neighbourhood and hung like an immense ostrich feather over the landscape." - ENGR
Given the plethora of dove species and the great variety in their markings, the colour of this dress in SILV will go down as as great a mystery as the colour of Holmes's dressing gown.
The ostrich feathers present more interest. The use of plumage for fashion indirectly led to the formation of one of the major conservation groups in the UK; The Plumage League was a protest group founded in 1889. It was opposed to the widespread use of feathers for decorating hats. This was for two reasons. First, the belief that killing animals just for decoration was wrong. Second, women were not just objects for men to decorate with expensive plumes so they could be shown off. The group went on to support the women's suffrage movement and to become the Society for the Protection of Birds. In 1904 it got its royal charter and became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Species: Ostrich (Struthio Camelus)   I-Spy Points: None

"A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room." - SIGN
It's a lamp. It's not a real bird. What do you want me to say? I suppose it sounds pretty but I can say nothing else. Let's move on.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant" - BRUC
"He’s a precise, tidy cat of a man in many of his ways, so maybe it is still in the pigeon-hole of the old bureau in the inner study." - ILLU
"...the secretary of the embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows of stuffed pigeonholes with which it was furnished" - LAST
"Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M." - FINA
Originally a pigeonhole referred, very literally, to a recess for a pigeon to nest in. These were not only used for the rearing of domestic pigeons, but were also a handy way for poorer folk to encourage wild pigeons to nest so that they could acquire an easy meal of young pigeon. It is not difficult when looking at a modern dove cote to see why the term would be applied to the sort of open fronted compartments for the separation of documents found in offices and the such like.
It is interesting to note that this use of the word was only beginning to gain common usage in the late 1800s. Watson and Holmes were quite the trend setters. The most common pigeon at this time would have been the feral pigeon, a distorted descendant of the rock dove which interbred with the many other species of dove and pigeon brought to the country by pigeon fanciers.
Species: Feral Pigeon (Columba Livia)   I-Spy Points: None

"I don’t stand for that, mister, but there’s a stool pigeon or a cross somewhere, and it’s up to you to find out where it is." - LAST
Holmes, in the guise of an Irish-American uses this US slang term for an informer. The meaning derives from a hunting practice of fixing a dead or replica pigeon to a stool as a decoy. Note that the stool in question may refer to a small piece of furniture or simply a tree stump. The analogy with a "decoy" criminal working for the police (hunters of criminals) is clear. If it was for hunting purposes, the actual pigeon in England would certainly have been a woodpigeon; a delicious plump bird.
Species: Woodpigeon (Columba Palumbus)   I-Spy Points: 5

"Even the rafters above our heads were lined by solemn fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from one leg to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers." - SIGN
"The third house on the right-hand side is a bird-stuffer’s: Sherman is the name." - SIGN
It's hard to imagine why a taxidermist has live birds and dogs. Given that we have nothing to go on to identify these birds and that they probably came to a sticky stuffy end, I choose to pass on without further thought.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"He had always laughed at what he called my cock-and-bull story about the colonel" - FIVE
The origin of the phrase "cock-and-bull story" has been contested for almost as long as it has been in use. It refers to an implausible tale, a massive exaggeration or a blatant lie. The first use of the phrase I have been able to discover was in a 1621 book by Robert Burton; "The Anatomy of Melancholy". The two main origins I have uncovered are that it is a reference to fantastical stories of magical animals, or it is a reference to the exchange of ever more implausible stories between the patrons of two pubs in Stony Stratford both of which were named The Cock and Bull. While the former is the most likely, I confess a preference for the romance of the latter.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled away like a lark while I meditated upon the many-sidedness of the human mind." - STUD
Watson is describing Holmes who, having just interviewed Constable John Rance is tra-la-la-ing Chopin. Watson must be comparing him to one of the three species of English lark; shore lark, skylark or woodlark. Shore larks and woodlarks are not very widely distributed birds, whereas the skylark has a massive UK population and its trilling song is well known. When an Englishman speaks of the lark, it is the skylark, spiraling down to earth and filling the air with its Springtime display song that he is picturing.
(While it would be delightful to spend some time punning about Shorelark Holmes, it would be beneath me, so such things will never see print.)
Species: Skylark (Alauda Arvensis)   I-Spy Points: 20

"Holmes and I walked along... rejoicing in the music of the birds and the fresh breath of the spring." - SOLI
Being near Farnham, I was excited by the prospect that they could have heard the birds at Birdworld ("A great day out!" it says on their map. When I went there my kids and I watched a heron eat all the baby ducks. Live.) Unfortunately, it turns out this exciting modern theme park only opened in 1968, which is seventy-three years too late for this story. Much more plausible is that they heard, among others, a woodlark. There is much to rejoice in in the beautiful flutey song of a woodlark. It certainly would be the right place and season to hear them at their best.
Species: Woodlark (Lullula Arborea)   I-Spy Points: None

"Wordsworth Road," said my companion. "Priory Road. Lark Hall Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert Street. Cold Harbor Lane. Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable regions." - SIGN
Lark Hall was a large country house which later became the Lark Hall Tavern and which subsequently gave its name to lane on which it is situated. While it was converted to flats early this century, the building still appears to be there at 96 Larkhall Lane. It is difficult to envisage any larks frequenting the area now, but the scene would have been very different in the 18th century and beyond when the house was first built. If it was named after the local fauna, it is likely that the larks in question would have been skylarks, but it is just possible that it could have been shore larks coming too far along the Thames from the East coast in winter. Certainly, this would have been marshy, heathland so it would never have attracted woodlarks on the edge of their south-western England distribution.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"That’s true enough, and we’ll talk till the cows come home of the killing of Charlie Williams or of Simon Bird, or any other job in the past." - VALL
Unfortunately Simon Bird is almost definitely not a real bird, but simply a deceptively named past victim of the Scowrers.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I assure you that our most pan-Germanic Junker is a sucking dove in his feelings towards England as compared with a real bitter Irish-American." - LAST
A sucking dove is a dove which has not yet fledged. Tempting though it is to attribute this to the collared dove, the bird had not spread to the UK or Germany until the 1930s. The Stock Dove is the most likely candidate, being common in much of Europe. Incidentally the "stock" of its name refers not to it's being common or often traded, but derives for an old English word meaning stump and refers to it nesting in the hollows of dead trees.
Species: Stock Dove (Columba oenas)   I-Spy Points: 15

"Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house." - TWIS
This seems a very unusual description for Watson to give of his wife. While it is true that migrating birds are often attracted to the light emitted by lighthouses, it is not safety or comfort that they find there; a good many die as they are confused and batter themselves to death upon the towers. A 2003 article in the Journal of Avian Biology by Jason Jones and Charles M Francis reported on a study of the lighthouse at Long Point, Lake Erie from 1960 to 1989. On one particularly bad night two-thousand birds died there. Are we to imagine then, that Mary Watson (nee Morstan) was running some sort of back-street euthanasia clinic for troubled souls?
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

""I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase," observed Mr. Merryweather gloomily." - REDH
"I might have told him that he was clearly going on a wild-goose chase, but, on second thoughts, it seemed better to clear the stage by letting him go." - 3GAR
Originally a wild goose chase referred to a type of horse race in which all the horses chased a lead horse and would end up resembling the familiar v-shaped arrangement in flight favoured by flocks of geese. However, over time, the meaning of the phrase evolved. By the time it was defined in Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811, it had very much the modern meaning; a doomed enterprise, such as trying to capture a goose by simply chasing after it. What species are these wild geese? We will never know; no one ever caught one to have a good look.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I had just got past the goose-step, and learned to handle my musket, when I was fool enough to go swimming in the Ganges." - SIGN
To the modern reader the goose-step immediately conjures up images of Nazi soldiers, but it was once a much more common march. Due to it involving a leg bent only at the hip and not the knees, it is physically demanding and this is much of its military appeal. It is a demonstration of how fit and dedicated the ranks are.
The term ""goose-step"" is of British origin as the troops seem to have found their own one-legged stance similar to that of a goose at rest. Personally, I have never seen a goose step in any way other than a waddle.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"They were buzzards, the vultures of the west, whose coming is the forerunner of death." - STUD
""Cocks and hens," cried the little girl gleefully, pointing at their ill-omened forms" - STUD
"On the ledge of rock above this strange couple there stood three solemn buzzards" - STUD
These are birds seen by John and Lucy Ferrier in Sierra Blanco. Misidentified by Lucy as "cocks and hens", they are actually turkey vultures (cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the buzzard or turkey buzzard.
Species: Turkey Vulture (Cathartes Aura)   I-Spy Points: None

" creditors would be on to my estate like a flock of vultures." - SHOS
At the first sniff of trouble Sir Robert Norberton imagines his creditors falling upon him to grab whatever they can. It's not an entirely unfair simile; vultures, while usually scavangers, will occassionally finish off sick or injured animals to get a meal. There are twenty-three species of vulture and I doubt Sir Robert had any particular one in mind.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

"I heard no more about it until that lad came riding up with a note which made me walk in here, like a jay, and give myself into your hands." - DANC
This expression has often puzzled me. The inference appears to be that he walked in stupidly and boldly. Jays, though, are intelligent (like all the corvids) and extremely shy and retiring.
The use of the word jay came to mean a person who is either rudely or foolishly talkative. This  originated with the unpleasant and incessant call of the bird. Indeed, the genus name for jays is garrulus; Latin for garrulous. Over time this came to simply mean a foolish person. It is an American slang term and lends itself, also, to the word “jaywalking” (that is, walking in the road, like only a stupid person would).
In this instance, Abe Slaney is describing himself. Coming from Chicago he no doubt had the delightful blue jay in mind, but as he was in Norfolk, he will have to make do with the Eurasian jay.
Species: Eurasian Jay (Garrulus Glandarius)   I-Spy Points: 15

"...the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to the public." - VEIL
Presumably the bird in question has been trained for cormorant fishing. This is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Using a ring placed around the birds neck to prevent it swallowing, the cormorant catches fish and drops them into the fisherman's boat. Once it has caught a few, the ring is briefly removed to allow the bird to eat one of the fish, then the process is repeated. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan, China and Korea since about 960 AD. In the 16th century it began to be practiced in Western Europe, primarily in England and France but it died out again in the 17th Century. It was resurrected by Captain Francis Henry Salvin in 1846 and he published a textbook including a chapter on cormorant fishing in 1859 (Falconry: its Claims, History and Practice). It was a short lived fad and had died out again by the 20th Century.
It is unclear whether Salvin used imported species of cormorant, but by far the easiest species for an English cormorant fisherman to acquire would have been the native one; the great cormorant (known in England simply as "cormorant").
Species: Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Carbo)   I-Spy Points: 15

"See how that one little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo." - SIGN
Holmes is being unusually poetic. He is probably visualising either the greater flamingo (which is the most widespread species) or the lesser flamingo (which is the most numerous species). But all six species are pink, so he could be referring to any or all of them. I have plumped for greater flamingo purely because I happened across an 1852 photograph of a greater flamingo at London Zoo (Royal Collection Trust, ID number RCIN 2905528), so this is a species which he would be more likely to be familiar with.
Species: Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus Roseus)   I-Spy Points: None

"One great gray bird, a gull or curlew, soared aloft in the blue heaven." - HOUN
It is unlikely to be a curlew; you generally only get curlews in the coastal areas of Dartmoor. They are also unlikely to be seen soaring across the moor as they are very wary birds. For Watson to believe this bird may have been a curlew, it must have been a similarly sized gull. I've dismissed Lesser and Great Black-backed gulls as too big and black-headed gulls as too small. The closest in size are herring gulls and they can look grey from beneath although they are actually white bellied. In fact, juvenile's are slightly browny grey all over. They are present in Dartmoor all year round and when the mood is upon them, their flight can certainly be described as soaring.
Species: Herring Gull (Larus Argentatus)   I-Spy Points: 10

"There was excellent wild duck shooting in the fens" - GLOR
There are eight main types of duck which would be common quarry in the fens. They probably also took shots at other game such as pheasant and goose, but as only ducks are mentioned I can only include them in my list. Mallard are the most commonly eaten duck, but, heck, I'm going to opt for all eight species.
Species: Mallard (Anas Platyrhynchos)   I-Spy Points: 5
Species: Gadwall (Anas Strepera)   I-Spy Points: None
Species: Shoveler (Anas Clypeata)   I-Spy Points: 30
Species: Teal (Anas Crecca)   I-Spy Points: 20
Species: Widgeon (Anas Penelope)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Goldeneye (Bucephala Clangula)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Pochard (Aythya Ferina)   I-Spy Points: 25
Species: Tufted Duck (Aythya Fullgula)   I-Spy Points: 10

"I wish you to understand once for all that I love him and that he loves me, and that the opinion of all the world is no more to me than the twitter of those birds outside the window." - ILLU
The birds twittering in Berkeley Square in Autumn 1902 would have to be one of the species that has adapted well to the way humans have developed the city. There are not many species that fit this and can be described as producing a twitter. The autumn call of the robin is more of a scratch and the starling is more of a cacophony. The only sensible option seems to be the house sparrow whose twittering I can hear right now in my own city garden.
Species: House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)   I-Spy Points: 15

There is a cold partridge on the sideboard, Watson, and a bottle of Montrachet.” - VEIL
The partridge in question could quite easily be either red-legged or grey partridge. With the suggestion being that this was a bird to picked at by both Watson and Holmes, I am inclined to opt for the larger red-legged partridge, which was introduced as a game bird to the UK in 1673 and has flourished ever since. This selection is made all the more likely by Holmes's previous involvement with the red-legged league.
Species: Red-Legged Partridge (Alectoris Rufa)   I-Spy Points: 15

“...there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.”
Bird’s eye is a type of shag tobacco traditionally favoured by fishermen. It is comprised of whole leaves. It is rolled and sliced which gives it the appearance of a bird’s eye. No one seems to know which bird. It certainly does not look like the eye of any bird I have ever seen.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None

“…I heard a shocking story of how he had turned a cat loose in an aviary…” - NORW
Let’s face it, after Jonas Oldacre’s stunt, there were no birds in this aviary. Just some feathers and assorted gore.
Species: None   I-Spy Points: None


It seems that I should also mention the frequency with which characters in The Canon are described as being bird like in appearance. They are especially frequently described as being akin to a bird of prey. This is not just limited to Watson’s descriptions of Holmes. It is just as often remarked about clients, victims and villains. One could almost suspect that Watson and Holmes were, in fact, living among Brian Blessed’s Hawkmen from Flash Gordon. None of these hawks, eagles or others can be identified by species, so they add nothing to my I-Spy book points. There follows a simple list of these descriptions.

"A red-veined nose jutted out like a vulture’s beak, and two fierce gray eyes glared at me from under tufted brows" - BLAN
Mr. James M. Dodd's description of Godfrey's father, Colonel Emsworth.

"He was a remarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached" - SCAN
Holmes on Godfrey Norton

"...the cruel, unfriendly features of Baldwin, the vulture face of Harraway, the secretary, and a dozen more who were among the leaders of the lodge" - VALL
Unknown third party on Harraway

"...a handsome face with fierce, domineering eyes and a curved hawk-bill of a nose looked savagely at the pair who sat by the stove." - VALL
Unknown third party on Ted Baldwin

"Only when all these precautions had been taken and tested did he turn his sunburned aquiline face to his guest." - LAST
Unknown third party on Von Bork

"The huge body, the craggy and deeply seamed face with the fierce eyes and hawk-like nose..." - DEVI
Watson on Dr. Leon Sterndale

"She bore upon her aquiline and emaciated face the traces of some recent tragedy." - WIST
Watson on Miss Burnet (AKA Signora Victor Durando)

"It was a gaunt, aquiline face which was turned towards us..." - GOLD
Watson on Proffessor Coram

"His dark, handsome, aquiline features were convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred..." - ABBE
Watson on Sir Eustace Brackenstall

"...his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high, thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey." - SPEC
Watson on Dr. Grimesby Roylott

"His mouth was open, and for the instant he looked like some horrible bird of prey." - RETI
Watson on Josiah Amberley

"The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger..." - SECO
Watson on Lord Bellinger

"...a formidable dark moustache shading a cruel, thin-lipped mouth, and surmounted by a long, curved nose like the beak of an eagle." - MAZA
Unknown third party on Count Sylvius

"He curled himself up in his chair, with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose, and there he sat with his eyes closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of some strange bird." - REDH
That's two beaks! This is Watson on Holmes

"...his beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a bird." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black top-knot." - DANC
Watson on Holmes

"He leaned forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision" - STUD
Watson on Holmes

"...while the fierce glow from below beat upon his eager, aquiline face." - SIGN
Watson on Holmes

"...the blue smoke curling up from him, silent, motionless, with the light shining upon his strongset aquiline features." - TWIS
Watson on Holmes

"...there was a dead-white tinge in his aquiline face which told me that his life recently had not been a healthy one." - EMPT
Watson on Holmes

"Holmes hunted about among the grass and leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird." - DANC
Watson here is describing Holmes not as a bird, but as a retriever dog sent to fetch shot game. Which makes a change.


All that remains then, it to tot up my score. The total I-Spy Birds book points I could score by spotting birds in The Canon was 545. This is 455 points short of being to send off for my badge and certificate. It is tempting to reread and try to find more birds or possibly to cheat and re-identify some of my non-scoring spots, but this is hardly in the spirit of either Game. Perhaps I should, instead, invest in the I-Spy Dogs book…


Further Reading

There are three books which assisted me in writing this. I would recommend all three:

A Few Hours to the Birds by Donald Girard Jewell, Pinchin Lane Press, 1991
A much more informed monograph on birds and birding in the time of Sherlock Holmes.

Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenschmidt, Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978
A wonderful foray into the epicurean world of 221b with plenty of information on how many of the edible birds in this essay would have been prepared.

Falconry: its Claims, History and Practice by Captain Francis Henry Salvin and Gage Earle Freeman, Green, Longman and Roberts 1859
For anyone interested in further research into the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant, the chapter on cormorant fishing would be invaluable.
For anyone interested in ornithology in the UK, the British Trust for Ornithology are the people to go to for the studies, facts and figures. They wouldn’t say no to your financial support either.
And for anyone interested in conservation in the UK, I can’t recommend the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds highly enough. Check out their website. Join. Make the planet better. Go to a reserve. Be happier.

Any Other Business:

There was no time for any other business.

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