<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society Newsletter
Newsletter of the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society
Lancashire Bird Names : Billy Biter, Jitty-fa and Willy-wicket
Winter 2000
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By Ken Harrison

Derek Collins' article "What's in a Name" in the Autumn 2000 LDBWS Newsletter drew our attention to the change in the usage of bird names which has taken place over the years, but how many of you would know what a Billy Biter, Jitty-fa or Willy-wicket was?  These are all local bird names used in Lancashire in the past and mentioned in Mitchell's Birds of Lancashire (2nd ed., 1892).  I remember seeing a pub called the Yutick's Nest in East Lancashire many years ago and wondering what a Yutick was!  A Yutick is a Whinchat, although Mitchell also spells this as Eutick, with other local names being Whin-check and Grass-check.  The Stonechat was also known as Stone-check, Chapper or Flick-tail, while the Wheatear had several names, including Wall-tack, Stone-smatch and Clodhopper.  However, if you reported seeing a Peggy, this could have been a Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler, so was perhaps the equivalent of today's LBJ (little brown job).  The local name for Shoveler was Spoonbill, so room for confusion here!

Here a few more Lancashire bird names, or perhaps I should say Lanky brids!

Wood Warbler - Wood Wren or Fell Peggy                               
Linnet - Whinfinch or Paywee
Nightjar - Night-hawk or Flying Toad 
Pintail - Sea Pheasant
Oystercatcher - Sea-pie
Black headed Gull - Sea Maw, Gor or Turnock
Common Sandpiper - Summer Snipe, Sand-lark, Dicky-di-dee or Willy-wicket
Dipper - Water Ouzel or Bessie-dowker
Blue Tit - Blue Nope, Tit-nope or Jitty-fa
Yellowhammer - Bessie or Yuring
Merlin - Little Hawk or Tweedler
Ringed Plover - Whistling Tullot or Grundling
Dunlin - Purre or Sea-mouse
Puffin - Couter-neb or Old wife
Great Tit - Tommy-nope or Billy Biter

The Common Scoter, also known as Douker or Black Dyker, was "by far the most abundant of the Ducks which frequent the Lancashire coast, and is sometimes seen in Morecambe Bay in flocks of many thousands".  How things have changed, not only in bird names but also in distribution and number of birds etc.

So next time you are at Leighton Moss, if you hear a sound like a squealing pig, it is a Scarragrise (scared-in-the-grass), otherwise known as a Water Rail.  If you hear a shout of Bittery-bump, I'll have seen a Bittern.  However, I think I'll keep quiet if I see a Little Grebe, as Mitchell gives the local name as Foot-in-arse!

Anglo-Saxon birds (source: UK Birdnet discussion group)

Many surprising species have been literally unearthed and dated to Anglo-Saxon times:

Dalmatian Pelican

Bone finds indicate that this species formerly bred near the iron age village of what is now Glastonbury and even as late as Roman Times in at least Western Germany and Holland.  Therefore it may still have occurred as a post-breeding vagrant in early Anglo-Saxon times.

Pygmy Cormorant

Occurred in England at least as a migrant with bone finds at Abingdon dated as recently as the 15th-16th century.

Also some odd uses...

Anglo-Saxon medicinal practitioners or 'leeches' made some interesting suggestions.  The Sand Martin or 'staithe' nestlings were cooked in wine and eaten before going into battle.  Swallows, on the other hand, were 'burnt and used in several recipes' with "stones", allegedly present in the stomach, used in witchcraft   

Anyone found any historical references to birds relevant to this area (e.g. used to occur  in this area)?  I seem to remember the Dallam heronry going back to the ?Doomsday book era but have forgotten the source.

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