As the RSPB’s many retail outlets gear up for the Christmas market, visiting birders will have noticed their stocks swelling, most notably the sudden increase in fat balls on offer.
These tasty treats are sold to help attract tits to suburban birders' gardens, but behind their enticing putty-coloured facade lurks a darker secret. For some months now the RSPB has been disposing of ‘surplus’ wardens from their reserves under a top secret program known as the Reserves Strategic Review.
Arthur Balsam (not his real name), an older reserve warden from the north of England, said “It’s been horrific, not knowing when the knock on the door will come and you discover your time is up. I sit at home at night with my wife in terrified silence with the doors deadlocked, all the curtains closed and the lights off.
“During the day though, there’s nowhere to hide. They say it’s strategic, and that there will be jobs opening up elsewhere – that there’s a reshuffle going on. The dreadful reality is that they’re getting rid of the old guard, cutting out what they see as the dead wood, replacing them with young people with degrees and qualifications and, in some cases, even breasts.
“But the really awful bit is that nobody knows what happens to those old wardens once they’ve been removed. You hear things though, whispers traded on what remains of the grapevine. Stories of wardens being removed in unspeakable circumstances... People are calling it the Reserves Strategic Rendition. And when they say rendition, they’re not talking about some fluffy kidnap and overseas torture scenario, oh no...
“We’re talking about ex-wardens being boiled slowly down into tallow. Why else aren’t any of these recently axed wardens speaking out? You might think it's because they're the out-of-touch dinosaurs who don't use social media to announce their every bowel movement, let alone discuss in public their sacking...
"While we think it's because they’ve been turned into fat balls, and are being sold in their former reserves’ shops.
"It's so ironic it hurts".