Thursday, 23 October 2014

Natural yoghurt shortage hits Out Hebrides

The Out Hebrides today is suffering the effects of a sudden shortage of natural yoghurt, believed to have been caused by Hurricane Gonzalo.

Dr Tom McLogan, the GP for Stornoway, commented “We understand that the extreme weather conditions caused by the remains of Hurricane Gonzalo striking the west coast may have disrupted supplies of natural yoghurt to the islands.

“The dairy section shelves of the Co-op in Stornoway are empty, and I heard the rural shops ran out of yoghurt yesterday too. I'm told some of the white settlers may have limited supplies of natural goat yoghurt, but that’s not going to help us as the crisis develops.

“Because everyone knows that goat-derived dairy products are bogging, and only fit for hippies, druids and special, home-educated children”.

The effects of the yoghurt shortage are already being felt in the Hebrides, with the first reported cases of thrush coming to light in the past 24 hours on North Uist and Barra. Dr McLogan added “I’ll be candid with you. These are probably just the tip of a big thrush iceberg. For now, the first cases appear to be relatively mild, the easily treated Grey-cheeked and slightly more contagious Hermit strains of the disease. God help us all if the outbreak mutates and spreads...

“At the first sign of cases of Bicknell’s or Wood Thrush we’re going to have to seal ourselves off from the mainland, and stop all travel into the islands. It'll be for your own safety.

“In the meantime, I’d ask you all to pray for us. Things are getting pretty yeasty here in the hot-zone right now”.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Alarm as large extinct mammals to be released in British countryside

The debate continues to rage this week about the ethics of reintroducing endangered or entirely lost large mammals back into the British countryside.

Opinions remain divided. On the one hand, supporters of the principle argue that the reintroduction of iconic species will have a trickle-down benefit for wildlife of all shapes and sizes, and will encourage wildlife tourism in remote areas.

“The environmental benefits will be considerable,” said Arthur Balsam, professor of ecology at the University of St Ives. “But we shouldn’t underestimate the economic benefits that will also accrue. People will come a long way and pay good money to see an iconic large mammal that once graced our green and pleasant land but has been lost for some years.

“And let’s be frank, our large mammal fauna is seriously impoverished and imperilled these days. At the top of the food chain we still have David Attenborough, but for how long? Beneath him you’ve got Chris Packham, clearly the beta male aspiring for alpha dominance. And then what? Bill Oddie is evidently a spent force these days, and then there’s the rest of them all wittering away about the ‘most deadly’ this and that, and appearing on Strictly Come Dancing, for fuck’s sake.

“With a little imagination and some considerable scientific effort we could reintroduce some lost species. Imagine, if you will, a British countryside reinvigorated with Gerald Durrells and H.G.Alexanders. The passion for conservation, the dedication to the study of natural history... It’d be amazing to bring these big beasts back”.

Some however remain less than convinced by the concept. Enid Felcher, a keen rambler and committed Daily Mail reader, said “I’d not feel safe in the countryside with these large, dangerous mammals on the loose. Where would it all end?

“I’d be walking the North Downs way and would find myself confronted by Johnny Morris in a 1960s zookeeper’s uniform, carrying a bemused penguin, and doing strangulated anthropomorphic voices for the Kestrels and Field Mice.

“Which would be properly scary shit”.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Shetland about to go critical

Scientists today issued a stark warning that Shetland is likely to go critical over the course of the coming weekend.

Professor Arthur Balsam, currently studying the fabric of matter itself at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, said “There’s a very real danger that things are going to get seriously fucked up this weekend on Shetland.

“It’s like the perfect storm – a conjunction of circumstances that may cause the archipelago to go critical. There’s a powerful south-easterly weather system due to strike Shetland over the weekend, potentially bringing with it a deluge of Siberian vagrant birds. Already present on the island are a number of serious birders – and I can’t stress this enough, they’re the worst kind of all.

“Normal birders are faintly nerdy. Serious birders on the other hand are much further up their own arses. The ones who go to Shetland are terrifyingly unstable – a combination of intense focus and dangerously laddish bravado. All this talk of ‘crews’ and ‘scoring’ is merely symptomatic of a syndrome we know as Avian Twattishness.

“All it could take is one hair-trigger causal event to set off an unstoppable chain of reactions that could signal the birth of a supermassive black hole that engulfs us all. Consider if you will the following scenario:

“A local who takes himself entirely too seriously as both a photographer and a finder of rare birds happens across a Siberian Accentor. He puts the news out to his ‘team’ first, and then to the local grapevine, and eventually the national news services. Serious birders converge on one point, all taking photographs of the accentor and posting them online in an orgy of self-indulgent proof that they were there.

“Meanwhile said local puts an article online ostensibly bigging up Shetland as a birding destination, but mainly lauding himself. He uses the phrase ‘find tackle’ to describe the act of chancing upon a rare bird. A nation’s birders simultaneously curls its toes and does that little wince you do when you eat a bad olive. All that concentrated embarrassment tears a little hole in the fabric of time and space, and before we know it we’re in deep trouble, going critical.

“Or as we prefer to say here at Cern, going Unst”.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

David Miliband declared a Marine Protected Area

Former leader of the Labour party David Miliband was today declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA) by the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands.

Tomas Logasso, spokesman for the Chagossians, said “David Miliband’s pristine coral reefs and unique ecosystems will be preserved by the restrictions an MPA imposes on any activity in his vicinity”.

When it was pointed out to Mr Logasso that David Miliband’s marine fauna was in no way remarkable, and the decision to award him MPA status was lacking in both scientific credibility and diplomatic integrity, he shrugged dismissively.

“David Miliband completely ignored the advice of his civil servants and fisheries advisors when he rushed through an MPA covering 640,000 square kilometres of British Indian Ocean Territory before the last general election. So rushed was it that despite ensuring displaced Chagossians can never move back to their home islands, they somehow forgot to include Diego Garcia. Which, coincidentally, houses a notoriously shady US military base.

“It was almost as if that MPA was all about politics and nothing whatsoever to do with conservation or sound science”.

Arthur Balsam, professor of marine ecology at the University of St Ives, remarked “David Miliband’s new MPA status is going to stifle all activity for miles around him. I wonder if someone slapped an MPA on the entire Conservative party when they were elected in 2010 and forgot to mention it?

“There’s certainly been no positive environmental activity happening anywhere near them in the last four years”.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Shetland shafts Scilly. Again.

As Scilly began to flicker into a semblance of life this weekend with a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers reported from the fortunate isles, Shetland came roaring back with yet another mega bird.

Initially reported as a Western Bonelli's Warbler, the pagers sprang into life this morning with the bird re-identified as the considerably rarer Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, a subtly different species altogether.

Whilst planes were being chartered from England for chequebook birders to catch up with this challenging species, some birders were fortunate enough to be on-site already.

Barry Gagwell, a twitcher-type and media whore from West Sussex said eagerly, "I was already in Shetland, so this was easy for me. As soon as I got on site, I knew this was an Eastern. Identifying it was a complete piece of piss. I heard it called as one".

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler is said to have a distinctly different call from its Western counterpart. Arthur Balsam, a birder from East Yorkshire who had spent the past fortnight hacking through iris beds in Shetland's south mainland remarked, "It's true. Barry actually did hear a couple of credible local birders say they thought it was an Eastern after all.

"Granted, he's fucking hopeless at identifying birds, but he's red hot at repeating what other people have told him. Credit where it's due and all that".

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

UK400Club members call for day of rage

Members of the niche birdspotters clique the UK400Club today called for a ‘day of rage’ this coming Friday to highlight the continued devaluation of all the onetime blockers on their collective lists.

It is believed that the recent upsurge in numbers of Siberian Rubythroats has proven a tipping point for the reclusive, shy and retiring founder of the UK400Club and its shadowy political wing the British Birdwatching Association, Lee Evans. Whilst typically unavailable for comment this week, it is understood that Mr Evans and his followers are dismayed at the continued and baffling popularity of twitching, the name given to the hobby of travelling around Britain and the conveniently adjacent and English-speaking Ireland to see rare birds, and the ease with which new twitchers can 'tick' previously exclusive rare birds on their lists.

Arthur Balsam, a twitcher from Basingstoke who’s been birding since the 1970s said, “I reckon yet another long-staying and reliable male Siberian Rubythroat in Shetland was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Lee. Bad enough that Red-flanked Bluetails suddenly got common, but after slating the provenance of the Osmington Mills rubythroat Lee surely thought he’d done everything to protect the sanctity of the previous rubythroat records.

“Turns out he was wrong. And now every man and his dog has had a chance to catch up with a Siberian Rubythroat, and they’re being talked about as “annual Shetland padders” on Birdforum. Which means it must be true.

“Next thing we all know there’s going to be a run of Little Whimbrels and Hudsonian Godwits, and then we’ll have literally nothing left to be smug about.”

Quite what form the day of rage will take remains unclear, but early indications are that it may involve some furious bitching, sly backstabbing, outrageous exaggeration and bare-faced lying.

“I’m not sure how we’ll know the difference from how we usually carry on,” added a worried Mr Balsam.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Hipster birders flock to Scilly

The Isles of Scilly (or ‘Scilly’, as the cognoscenti knowingly refer to them) are this weekend bracing themselves for their usual annual invasion of keen birdspotters. But this year, there will be something different walking the lanes of St Agnes and gorging the scones of St Mary’s.

This year, Scilly is to be visited by hordes of the new wave of young birders, uber cool hipster types sporting ironic beards and getting down with the old-skool Scilly vibe. “It’s like, going to be happening,” said Tom Logan, a heavily bearded birder who lives in a loft near Brick Lane. “We’re going to totally rock the 1980s look.

“I’ve picked up a pair of Optolyth Alpin 10x40s, a Mirador Merlin scope, and a laughably heavy Slik tripod. Trudie, my girlfriend, has got me a Barbour jacket and some Hunter wellies, and I’ve sourced some original YOC badges to pin to my woolly hat. I'm trading my iPhone for something called a CB, though I'm not entirely sure if one of those is compatible with the Rare Bird Alert app. I’m going to sleep in the public toilets on my first night there, and after that I might try camping in an orange nylon tent with my mate Hedgehog”.

Hedgehog (or Mark, as his parents prefer to call him) added, “Everyone says Shetland’s where it’s happening. But that’s like, so lame. Scilly is the new Shetland these days. We’re breaking new ground here, scoring rares heavily, doing a pioneering kind of thing”.

Scilly’s handful of regulars appear perturbed by the imminent arrival of their young counterparts. Enid Felcher, a retired librarian from Reading who’s been visiting Scilly since 2009, said “I’m quite concerned. What are these ‘rares’ this young man speaks of, and how on earth does he expect to see them? Surely he doesn’t think he’s going to find them all by himself? Isn’t he coming here to see the locally distinctive and delightfully tame Song Thrushes?

“I shall be most upset if all these young men get rowdy and eat all the scones and crab sandwiches. I find their beards frightening too”.