backwater of the Calder

Moorhen; the Movie

Tuesday 3rd October 2000, West Yorkshire
moorhen A MOORHEN stalks along over the debris in the shallow backwater behind the silt island (which over the summer has become a lush, grassy island). The flicking of its tail seems to be a signal to the other moorhen that is swimming across to the willows on the bank, also flicking its tail as it goes.

We take moorhens for granted. From a distance they're just dull hen-like waterbirds, skulking about. But they've got a remarkable amphibious lifestyle - walking over, swimming through, bobbing under or, occasionally, even flying over the water.

Java Jive

I tried to capture its mincing steps and flicking tail, but my animated version, which is made up of four frames, reminds me of someone strutting along absorbed in the rhythm of the music on their Walkman.

This is evidently one cool moorhen. A 10cc song Dreadlock Holiday has a similar kind of rhythm;

'I was walkin' down the street
Concentratin' on truckin' right'

The Truck, according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, was; 'A dance popular esp. in the US in the 1930s and 1940s, similar to the jitterbug, and characterized by shuffling steps' . . . and, I guess, inspired by the moorhen.

The Java Jive was a song by the Inkspots, performed with the sort of polish and style, a relaxed precision, that I associate with art deco furniture - radio sets, cocktail cabinets and so on - of a 1930s.

'I love coffe, I love tea,
I love the Java Jive and it loves me . . .'

I remember it from a 78 r.p.m. record of my Dad's. Like so many 78 records, I believe someone sat on page

Related Link

Thank you to Joseph Court for information on the 10cc lyric, which can be found in full on

My Java script typing effect was created using a free version of J-Perk, which is included on the cover CD of this month's .net magazine. It's great fun to use and, thank goodness, you don't have to learn Java script. So my grateful acknowledgements to Who knows, I might be inspired to upgrade to the new version and get this subdued Internet nature diary jitterbugging, jiving and trucking.

And while we're on the subject, Ulead Gif Animator 1.5, also from a cover CD, which I used for the moorhen animation, is equally enjoyable to use;

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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