Of Birds & Dogs & Archaeology......

by Bernie Bell - 15:27 on 23 July 2022

Of Birds & Dogs & Archaeology......

The Orkney Bird Report for 2020 arrived – if you’d like a copy you can email orkneybirdreport@hestily.co.uk

Something to tempt you….there’s a photograph by Sandra Otter entitled ‘Ruff displaying to a dead goose.’  Unlikely as that might seem, if you look at the picture you can see why the Ruff might have got confused - lust has a lot to answer for!

Should have gone to Specsavers…….

And while I’m on the subject of observing birds…….I previously wrote about the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory which is a most excellent place for many, many reasons. They also produce a Bird Report, as mentioned here……  https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/11/19/north-ronaldsay-bird-observatory/ 

Orkney…..bird life…..’Nuff said.

I’d written the above when I remembered a poem by Bartholomew Barker about ….observing birds…. https://bartbarkerpoet.com/2022/05/18/feathers-at-spillwords/

Another BB – on the other side of the world.

And also re. birds – Jeanne  https://jeannebouzarose.me/ emailed to say….....”If you find any feathers, could you put them aside for me?  Going to be doing a painting on stone thing for the Ness Open day and I thought feathers might be a nice try for a paintbrush??? “ 

And I replied…. “Feathers – we do find feathers – Mike finds them on his after-work walks down to the bay, and we sometimes find them in the garden.  And that’s a good idea – using them as ‘paint brushes’ – maybe ‘they‘ used them as such ….as you‘d say - it figures!  If you’re lucky – we might find you a pheasant’s feather.

You’ve got me thinking – they might have used feathers for all sorts - as folk did until relatively recently – large feathers, such as Goose, in bundles for sweeping or dusting – burning feathers to make bees sleepy so’s you can take their honeycombs.  Hmmmmmmm…..”

I’ll be very interested to see what she produces….what Jeanne produces is always interesting!


I’ve been thinking some more about Jeanne’s idea of painting with feathers – the edges could be used to place fine lines, the widest part could be used for wide sweeps of colour, the fluffy ones could be used to fill in, fluffily.  And, of course, there are the quills/nibs – also used until relatively recently for writing.  Were they maybe used at the Ness for writing on materials which have long since perished?  https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/29/writing-symbols/

It does add up – we know that the ancient folk at the Ness of Brodgar used pigments – a lot of evidence has been found, both of ‘paint’ production https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/about/the-structures/structure-ten/  and of painted stone https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/painted-walls/ …..so….what did they use as paint brushes?  Over to Jeanne for a bit of Experimental Archaeology.


First birds – then dogs…..….  https://www.swandro.co.uk/post/bone-thingies-and-gigantic-dogs .  You can just feeeel what it feels like to cuddle Miski.

The Swandro Open Day is on Saturday 30th of July

All visitors welcome between 10 and 4. Come and see the Iron Age Roundhouse. Plus an Added Extra -  A living past interpretive team will be there bringing the Iron Age to life.

I have an extra interest in the Swandro dig as I was born and grew up in Bradford – memories – it’s a different Bradford today though, to when I lived there….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/08/26/solastalgia/

Memories - things do connect up – re. Star-the-Dog minding the kittens…… years ago, I worked in Stroud Unemployment Benefit Office. On one occasion I was helping a young woman to fill in her application form and asked what line of work she was looking for.  Her answer was….”I wants to stay ‘ome an’ look aaaafter kittens.”  Which was very sweet, but not a response that would be acceptable to The Powers That Be.  I think we decided to put ‘pet-sitting’ – like Star!


Here’s one I made earlier…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/04/18/spaghetti-alla-puttanesca/


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