Welcome to 2012. Welcome to the world of austerity birding...
North Downs and Beyond has gained access to a secret document that has been prepared for the government by DEFRA. In it there are proposals for further expenditure cutbacks and the saving of energy, but it is obvious that there are going to be big implications for birders up and down the country.
Partial ban on twitching. To conserve fuel, car journeys of over fifty miles will be banned. The government have identified twitching as one area where this restriction may be flouted, so a rapid response team will be dispatched to all rare birds where car registration plates will be scrutinised and the offenders taken away and put on a 'local patch watching' course. To discourage repeat offenders, the confiscation of life-lists is being considered.
Selling of off-shore islands. The government are in talks with 'interested parties' to sell all of the UK's off-shore islands (The Isles of Scilly is rumoured to be in the final stages of completion with China and even Sheppey has been subject to a bid from a Russian oil-baron). If these sales do go through then birds seen on these islands in the past will have to be removed from the British list. To help birders get back species that they may lose, there is a proposal to sell off unwanted species from lapsed birders lists. It has been suggested that a mainland Black-and -White Warbler could be sold for as much as £750. The government would take a 30% cut from all sales. Companies like e-bay will be monitored to stop re-sales by profiteering naturalists.
Species lumping. Most worrying is the suggestion that vast sums of money can be saved by lumping species so that the need to conserve the rare ones becomes redundant. 'Warbler', 'Raptor' and 'Birds found by water and reeds' are just some of the suggested new species names.
European exchange. To foster relations within the EU, shooting parties from the southern european countries are to be invited to spend the spring and autumn at specially selected headlands. This will enable the shooters to finally kill those birds that 'got away' earlier in the year and also boost the economies of seaside towns the length and breadth of Britain. 'A shot in the Turtle Dove and a shot in the arm of our dying bead and breakfasts' is how the report puts it.