Readers make impression in correspondence
THERE is nothing surer than the need to be careful what you say in the papers, and I should know; last week I wrongly identified a dragonfly.
It was a ‘hawker’ okay, but not a ‘migranthawker’ as I called it.
Am I embarrassed? No. Am I shown up? No. Should I have said nothing? No.
I am in fact, delighted, not that I was mistaken, but rather because of the volume of communication I received and the healthy debate between novice and expert alike.
It was rejuvenating to hear from experts, who politely gave amazingly detailed diagnostic identification references, right down to individual colour characteristics. Not one expert scoffed, they all were helpful and measured in their comments.
Not only that, they were pleased to record the sighting for future reference.
The flurry of comments, also means that people read this column, so what more could any writer want?
Having said that, my labour of love is sometimes fraught with danger, and as I said earlier, one needs be so sure of what you say. Today’s stories might be next week’s chip paper, but every now and then, my best efforts miss something which is pounced on terrier-like by a reader.
A classic example once occurred in The Sunday Times, after I foolishly used an article which I had written several months earlier, but not published. It concerned the sighting of an osprey above Loch Ness in June, however the story appeared in December and I used the line, ‘Spotted last week’.
Of course any osprey worth its salt is sunning itself in Africa at this time. A female reader complained in the strongest terms to the newspaper, and before I even knew about her letter, or indeed had any chance to fight my corner, the letter appeared on one of the most prestigious letters page in the land.
Only then, after publication, was I presented with the opportunity to argue the case, it was a classic fait accompli.
Fortunately, the ST kept me on, and my bacon was saved by the fact that, occasionally Scandinavian ospreys are seen during the winter after getting blown off course. It was a fair cop as they say and something I’ve never done since.
As the summer wanes, my favourite bit of news to brighten up any winter days ahead, were the bee-eaters breeding in Cumbria, a rainbow bird to save the day; and then there are the barn owls and at least ten pairs of merlin, within a few miles of my gallery, and that is magic.
Reader communications continue to be the life-blood of this column, including the old teaching colleague of mine – Des Brown from Glossop, concerning the tawny owl which had crashed into his patio window. The owl was fine and left a Turin Shroudlike impression on the glass, seen here, and one more as I write: “Sean, I visited Kinvara, the village in Galway you often write about, thank you, thank you, thank you, I am in love.” Well, you can’t say fairer than that. And talking of Ireland, I’ve just had sight of some amazing photographs from off the coast of County Cork near the village of Baltimore, humpback whales and blue fin tuna. More of this next week, and in the meantime, I’m heading across the Irish Sea.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● The Turin Shroud-like impression of a tawny owl which had crashed into Sean Wood’s old teaching colleague Des Brown’s window