Monday, 15 September 2014

Fair Isle cat says "bring it"

With autumn gearing up and the weather charts auguring well for an epic fall this week, Fair Isle’s premier bird finder is looking forward to a bumper season.

Thomas 'Lower' Logan, a cat from the south end of the island who’s seen more Sibes than you have remarked, “I can’t fucking wait. There’s nothing I enjoy more than stepping outside in the morning with a belly full of cat chow for a spot of pointless rarity hunting. At this time of year, you never know what you might find.

“Maybe it’ll be something dull and unlovable that nobody will miss, a Common Rosefinch say. Or perhaps it’ll be some pleasingly exhausted North American passerine from the boreal forest that’s no idea what a cat is, and can barely fly anyway.”

Thomas has been accused of targeting colourful and ultra rare passerines in the past, with the short stay of certain birds on the island being seen as particularly suspicious. Arthur Balsam, a frustrated twitcher from Stockport said, “Yeah, it’s funny how the Magnolia Warbler in 2012 vanished overnight. Or that Roller the other year. Though one of the former observatory staff members who really should have known better did unkindly suggest the latter bird might have been something else entirely, like a windblown salt and vinegar crisp packet, or plain fantasy...”

Thomas remains unrepentant and unperturbed. “That’s bollocks,” he said. “I’m completely indiscriminate. I don’t have colour vision - I'm a cat, for fuck’s sake. I had nothing to do with the Magnolia Warbler’s disappearance. Mind you, I’ve seen considerably more Siberian Blue and Rufous-tailed Robins than you have, that’s all I’m saying.”

As the observatory staff on census came into view on the horizon, Thomas set off to work the yard at Burkle.

“Bring it,” he said.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Scilly islanders relish chance to give birders a good kicking

With Rare Bird Alert issuing a rallying call yesterday for birders to participate in the once annual Islanders vs. Birders football match, locals on the Isles of Scilly were today relishing the chance to administer an overdue kicking to a birder or two.

Organisers of the football match are clearly worried that there won’t be enough able-bodied birders on the island at any given moment to muster an 11 man side, and have offered an initial wide window of 22 days in October during which the match may be held. Aware of the demographic of the average October visiting birder, incontinence pads will be offered alongside the traditional halftime oranges.

Arthur Balsam, a birder from Reading, said “I’m jolly excited about this! I’ve been a regular on the Scillies since 2011, and can’t wait to have a kick-around with the local chaps! I shall make sure my binos are nearby though in case one of the young Turks on the islands chances upon something mega. I’ll be wearing my pager on my shorts.

“I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to add a lifer to my tick list!”

Locals are more sanguine about the mooted football match. Tom Trelogan, creel fisherman and midfield general, said “I can’t wait to kick the shit out of an emmet birdspotter.

“That’ll teach the moaning twats to wander down the middle of the road in Hugh Town oblivious to anyone in a car needing to get to work. Or to trample through a bulb field they’re definitely not welcome in. Or to whinge about the price of the inter-island boats or accommodation.

“It’s all a bit rich when they’re all retired on a juicy pension and carrying Swarovski scopes over their shoulders.

“Still, at least the tea-rooms do a good trade when they’re here on holiday.”

Monday, 8 September 2014

Eastern Phoebe in Cornwall stuns Norfolk birders

Norfolk’s birders were today picking themselves up off the floor in shock at how far from grace the Cornish have fallen.

With news breaking shortly after midday of an Eastern Phoebe reported in Cornwall, Norfolk’s notoriously tight-lipped birdwatching fraternity howled with laughter at the low standards of news suppression on display.

“Once upon a time Cornwall’s birders were a by-word for not telling a soul about tanagers in the valleys,” said Arthur Balsam, a birder who moved to the North Norfolk coast in the 1980s and now considers himself a local. “Nowadays they’re just a joke. No sooner has someone found something good in West Penwith than they’re putting the news out for any old ticker to come and see it. They should have a long hard think about the message they’re sending to young birders.

“It shouldn’t be ‘MEGA Cornwall EASTERN PHOEBE reported 1.5mls south of St.Just’ – no, what they should be saying is it’s far more fun to keep news of a rare bird entirely to a small group of close friends, and only release the news once the bird’s long gone.

“Like we did with the Short-toed Eagle recently, to pick an example entirely and smugly at random.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the country’s birders flooded to Birdforum to ask themselves “are there any photos yet” and, in the absence of any immediately forthcoming, “are you sure it’s not a Spotted Flycatcher?”

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Great Maltese Bake Off contestant Diana quits

Popular, sparkly-eyed and genial Great Maltese Bake Off contestant Diana broke her silence this morning to speak openly about the furore surrounding her sudden departure from the show last night.

In the previous week’s episode it appeared as if Diana had sabotaged fellow contestant Iain’s exotic Hoopoe and Bee-eater infused Baked Alaska pudding by removing it from the freezer to make room for her own more conventional puréed Turtle Dove dessert filling.

Inevitably, the Maltese public were quick to take to Twitter to condemn Mary out of hand; but in the ensuing days speculation began that bearded Valetta hipster Iain may actually just have had a bit of a hissy fit when his pudding began to melt and reveal carelessly overlooked lead shot; and that the Maltese Broadcasting Corporation had edited the show in such a way as to incriminate Diana.

Last night’s show did nothing to allay the rumours, as viewers were told Diana had left the show ‘due to illness’. Speaking today from her husband’s hunting cabin in the Zejtun hills, Diana said “I certainly didn’t sabotage Iain’s dessert. There was no need to – the judges simply wouldn’t have approved of the strange marriage of species he was trying to make.

“My Turtle Dove filled Baked Alaska was a triumph – all of them blithely slaughtered by my brave husband, and picked from his bulging game bag by my own fair hands. It took a while to find enough amongst the innumerable Hen Harriers, Little Bitterns and Swifts he’d also shot that morning, but we got there in the end.

“I have no regrets whatsoever about my participation in the Great Maltese Bake Off. I left due to a sudden illness, and not because of any scandal involving Iain. I just wish I could have stayed in the competition - it was ever so much fun from start to finish. What larks!

“Mainly Skylark and Short-toed Lark – we baked dozens of them in earlier episodes. It made a pleasant change from just shooting them for shit and giggles.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Measures announced to deal with IBIS terror threat

The British Government this morning announced new measures to tackle the growing threat to national security posed by ibis. The threat level in the UK was raised this weekend from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ as officials reacted to recent movements of ibis towards Britain.

Tom Logan, a security specialist from the BTO said, “The threat level posed to Britain by ibis has been growing substantially in the past year – increasing numbers of Glossy Ibis chose to overwinter here last winter, and news emerged last month that a pair of them attempted to breed in Lincolnshire. That’s a worrying development.

“That’s not even taking into account the threat posed by Sacred Ibis – they’ve been moving steadily towards Britain for a number of years now, and it’s only a matter of time before they establish a beachhead at Dungeness.”

David Cameron meanwhile is expected to sanction direct British involvement in Syria to counter Northern Bald Ibis. “They’re a particularly unpleasant threat,” he said, “with their sinister black plumage, bald heads and weird eyes and everything. We need to eradicate them before they migrate from Syria. Current intelligence suggests their leaders go to hide in the remote highlands of Ethiopia, but who knows where newly radicalised, or fledged, juveniles get to. We need to deal with them before they bring terror to our streets.

“We’re not ruling out the use of military force in Syria, but think we’d like to deploy Owen Paterson there in the first instance. He’s the most effective, proven environmental scourge we have at our disposal.

“Mind you, he made an almighty fuck-up with those badgers. Maybe we will need boots on the ground after all...”

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Maybe you can hire the A-Team...

In an autumn that’s already seen another public confusion over the identification of Sykes’s and Booted Warblers in Shetland, and a retrospective re-identification of said bird by online birders, a new force for settling birding disputes is emerging from the shadows.

Known as the Assessment Team, or A-Team for short, the group comprises four quirky but competent birders outcast from the mainstream birding scene for a birding crime they didn’t commit, neither self-styled ‘punks’ nor come-lately retirees – instead, birders from the almost forgotten New Wave of the late 80s and early 90s, deeply unfashionable by contemporary standards.

John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, the group’s leader said, “We’re not cool, young nor callow enough to call ourselves punkbirders; nor have we just retired and kitted ourselves out in Swarovski. We represent the forgotten generation, birders from a time when birding was about enjoying going out looking at birds, and wasn’t about scoring points over other birders.

“None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Take the Essex ‘Eastern Olivaceous Warbler’ in August 2002, for example. The photo was in Birding World, but nobody cried foul at the time. In due course the BBRC picked up that it wasn’t one, but where were the keyboard warriors when Birding World was published? Did you see anyone online saying “surely this isn’t an Olivaceous? Surely this is a rama Booted Warbler?”? No, us neither.

“So if you’ve got an identification problem, and nobody else can help, and you don’t fancy being pilloried online for getting it wrong, maybe you can hire... the A-Team.”
He added, “dah dah dah dah, DAH DAH dah, dah-dah-dah-dah, DAH-d-d-dah dah!

Monday, 25 August 2014

RSPB squirrel in drug and hooker scandal

The poster boy for the RSPB’s latest campaign to compel political parties to put conservation issues on the agenda in the run-up to next year’s general election has this week immersed the bird charity in a mire of sleaze and scandal.

The carefully cultivated image of Bob the Red Squirrel as a wholesome, cute and somewhat endangered front for the RSPB began to show signs of strain when his drey was raided by police as part of the ongoing Operation Scots Pine Tree. As yet, Bob has not been interviewed under caution, and it is understood that no charges will be forthcoming in the absence of any hard evidence.
A police spokesman said “We found nothing but some soft moss, pine needles and grass lining the drey. We think he may have buried what we’re looking for somewhere in the forest floor. Unfortunately, Bob claims he can’t remember where.”
Rumours had abounded for some time that Bob was operating a crack-drey, with nervous squirrels seen coming and going in the area at all hours of the day and night, muttering something about “Bob’s massive stash of nuts”. ‘Nuts’ is believed to be ancient Caledonian forest slang for crack cocaine.
Matters deteriorated when Bob was photographed outside an Inverness nightclub indulging in mutual grooming with a female Red Squirrel who was clearly not his established mate. A press release was issued denying any wrongdoing, stating, “it’s a well-established fact that Red Squirrels are polygamous, and may have more than one mate in any given breeding season”.
It came as a shock then when a Grey Squirrel escort known as Saucy Beechmast came forward to claim she’d spent a night of wild passion with Bob after he picked her up in the woods outside Aviemore. “He was branch-crawling, looking for a good time,” said Ms Beechmast, “and I certainly gave him one, the dirty forest-dwelling beast!”

Bob was seen visiting an SSPCA clinic this morning, complaining that he’d contracted squirrelpox from Ms Beechmast, adding “She said we could do it bareback, but now I’m oozing from every orifice.