WAS IT REALLY Dorothy L. Sayers who coined the famous advertising slogan “Guinness is good for you”? David Alderton (see page 12, March 13, writing mainly about toucans) is such a fount of information. I once read her crime novel about the ad agency and for me, as they say nowadays, it minged bad. She managed to fill me with class hatred, which is some achievement. Her toff detective (amateur, naturally) gets a job in advertising, incognito, to investigate a murder. There’s one lousy scene where he plays in the agency staff cricket match, at which an onlooker twigs his true identity by the distinctive late cut he perfected when batting for Balliol. Bleurgh… It’s a bit difficult to enjoy a story when you want to kick the hero’s sit-upon every time he appears.

Still, my respect for old Dorothy has just gone up a notch. Pity that advertising standards scuppered her nifty slogan.

■ And speaking of sit-upons (bear with me): our cover story on waxwings by Bill Naylor (see page 14) is full of good things, not least because he describes all three species of these tufty marvels, including the Japanese waxwing. Sadly, that’s a species I can never think of without remembering a friend’s cracking photos of a flock (in Japan) that had been gorging on berries. They sat there, fearless and perfectly lit, all contentedly pooping, so that each bird had several long glistening “strings” that ended in a berry seed dangling out of its… you get the idea. Most striking, but it’s the type of detail that tends to kibosh your bid to become Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I hasten to add that Bill has lots of more inspiring info to share about waxwings, reinforcing my conviction that if you are a bird fan, you must make sure to see a waxwing (or a flock) at least once in a lifetime.

■ I loved the story on page 5 about the lost parrot that was reunited with its owner after it had recognised a message he sent it in Slovak. Could this, rather than high technology, be the way forward with “bird barcoding”? Don’t microchip, simply teach your parrot its own unique password. Trouble is, as we all know, they can be exceedingly cussed about talking to order, can’t they?

■ As I write, winter seems to have returned, but the birds know better! I hope that yours have got the idea already and that, if you’re still awaiting the first results, your season gets off to a flying start.

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