Birders were shocked today to hear the surprise news that the British Union For Ornithology, BUFO, have bowed to government pressure & disbanded BUFO's long standing Taxonomic Sub Committee, TSC. For many years the TSC had provides an independent assessment of Bird species & subspecies. Now in a stroke & with no explanation, BUFO's independent scientific committee has been shelved. A Birder was recently heard to quip, Fowl play was involved, but this is no laughing matter. It is being quietly whispered that the government Home Secretary, Mrs May, had been lobbying hard to do away with the TSC after 2015 has repeatedly shown that the government's has failed to secure the UK borders against arrivals of immigrants. The Birding world have been shocked to hear it was pressure from Mrs May, especially given her ancestral links to the world of Bird taxonomy. It was her Great Great Great Grandfather & pioneering naturalist, Cape May, who first described a small American Warbler.
Cape May Warbler: It is widely believed that Mrs May personally intervened to grant a visa for the visa of this individual to visit the May ancestral home in the Shetlands two years ago. Baltasound (29 Oct 13)
A BUFO spokesman said off the record, we believe the government is trying to look tough about immigration. They believe that by disbanding the TSC, they will fool the general public into thinking they are taking strong action against immigration. By stopping the TSC, they think the public will believe no new species will appear in the UK.
But a different viewpoint comes from the UK's leading NGO, Rare Immigrant Alert. They have been monitoring the arrival of these immigrants for 24 years. Their spokesman Mr 'Golly Its' Mark said 2015 is a year that has seen unprecedented waves of immigrants. They have many arrival routes. Mr Mark said that the Immigration Services should be commended for making good progress in a historically weak area of Scillies & the South West. Few immigrants have made it through that route this year, an area that has seen a lot of success over recent years. He added, I think that is a really good news story, it's a sod of a journey from my home in Norfolk.
But action has been poor at other traditional points of weakness such as the South Coast. In Sep, a major breach occurred with the well documented arrival of an American Acadian Flycatcher at Dungeness. This was seen perching on boats on the beach. Perhaps even the one that landed it. Large numbers of left wing do-gooders & environmental enthusiasts rushed there to welcome it, but not one member of the Immigration Services was seen. Mr Mark said the government have focused their staff on the Eurotunnel & the Dover ferries & have taken their eye of the ball off the UK coastline.
Acadian Flycatcher: This left egg on the face of the UK Immigration Services. Dungeness (22 Sep 15)
Another area of clear under-investment by the Immigration Services has been the Northern Isles. Mr Mark said this whole region had been totally ignored. There have been unprecedented arrivals of Yellow-browed Warblers from Eastern Russia. They came from well outside the EU. It is widely suspected that other Scandinavian EU partner countries were allowing the fast transit through the region to the Northern Isles. Once there, they quickly dispersed throughout the UK. A government spokesman, who refused to be named, said this has been devolved to the regions & its failure of the Scottish National Independence Party (SNIP).
Yellow-browed Warbler: The spokesman said the UK government had helped a number of these Yellow-browed Warblers get onto ferries from Portsmouth & Plymouth, to encourage them to travel down to Spain, once they got South of the border. This is our payment for the Spanish & French authorities helping to dump large numbers of Killer Jellyfish on our beaches (read the full exclusive by the Daily Wail here). Gisla, Lewis (16 Oct 15)
But there were many other breaches of the immigration in areas under SNIP's control, with a Wilson's Warbler, a Chestnut Bunting, as well as, a number of rare Thrushes & Warblers arriving throughout the Northern Isles & that was just this Autumn. Mr Mark said, SNIP has failed completely to get on top of immigration in the Northern Isles.
Chestnut Bunting: Papa Westray (28 Oct 15)
But the problem isn't confined to Scotland. The Welsh government has also failed when a new Welsh point of entry shown up in 2015 on the North West Islands of Wales. Here a Cretzschmar's Bunting arrived fresh from Turkey. It stayed for over a week & only disappeared when a Welsh government boat was seen approaching the island. This is another species which clearly arrived into Greece & should have said & sought residence there. But instead it appears to have been smuggled on its way to the UK, via Bardsey Island.
Cretzschmar's Bunting: The start of a new Welsh smuggling route for immigrants? Bardsey (18 June 15)
Many Birders are worrying now about who will decide about future splits which might be allowed onto to the UK List. A government official said the UK Treasury has this in hand. The TSC is to be privatised in the next year. His Secretary of State, Mr Bornin-Oz, has been holding high level talks with a number of interested parties. Recent discussions have included meetings & a state visit from the Chinese President, See Dis-Pingu. Birders feel their lists might be devalued if Pingu the Penguin, Peking Duck and Mandarin Duck are fully admitted onto the UK List.
Ring-necked Parakeet or Green Squawker: Presumed to be the former. Bharatphur, India (27 Jan 14)
Another more recent state visit was from the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Moody. Birders were less sure about this. Many were critical that they will be expected to fully tick Ring-necked Parakeet & how to separate it from the near identical Green Squawker Parakeet. The latter has been claimed on a number of occasions in London, but so far hasn't been accepted onto the UK List. Birders have said, if Martin Garner hasn't figured this out on the excellent Birding Frontiers website, then what hope have we got.
Indian House Crow: Some Twitchers were pushing for the Indian Birding Club to take over the role of the TSC, hoping they will go soft on any future Indian House Crows records. Port Blair ferry, Andamans, India (23 Dec 13)
A few years ago, the obvious Atlantic partner organisation would have been the American Ornithological Union. But following a recent & bitter bidding war, the AOU's Taxonomical Committee was recently sold to the Disney Corporation. This has been watched with interest by members of the UK government who couldn't decide if they preferred the rival bid by the Fox Corporation or whether they would prefer to see the Fox bid hunted to extinction. Birders expect to lose out, if the privitised AOU Taxonomical Committee take over the UK List. This would be a double whammy, with the loss of species such as Green-winged Teal, but also having to pay huge costs of taking the family to see Donald Duck, following the recognition by the AOU of the offshore UK dependency of Disneyland, Paris.
Teal (left) & Green-winged Teal (right): One of several potential losses to the UK List as the AOU Taxonomical Committee can't tell the difference (once the specimen has been shot & cooked). Brands Bay (31 Dec 14)
Many Birders feel the obvious choice for maintaining the UK List (if the TSC couldn't be saved), would be the Association of European Records & Rarities Committees, AERRC. But it is widely believed that Tory back benchers have already nobbled this option, as it is one of the government's demands over the future of the UK in Europe.
But perhaps Birders biggest fear is that the role of the TSC will go to the lowest bidder. Many Birders feels this could be sold cheaply to 'Bare' Lee Credible who is Life President of the IQ40 Club. Mr Credible has been lobbying hard for this in recent weeks, including a recent statement on Twitter of "It is crazy that an out-dated committee is making decisions of what listers can tick. That is a job I should be doing". There are rumours of a secret pact between Tory back benchers & Nigel Farfetched, the leader of UKIQP, the political wing of The IQ40 Club. This has increased the fear that the role will go to the IQ40 Club to 'buy off the Tory back bench rebels'. Birders on recent twitches having been overheard discussing this worrying scenario.
Crag Martin: Why aren't Birders on BF calling this an escape? It's a worrying time. Chesterfield Zoo (14 Nov 15)
A Birdforum spokesman said, there has been so much worry about the disbanding of the BUFO TSC on BF, that we had to upgrade to faster servers. He added, there has been a near total absence of anybody stating the Crag Martin was an escape. A year ago we would have expected the escaped Crag Martin theory to be a big discussion point on BF given the crazy date, ridiculous location, the end of the Autumn & the long dark nights. We even tried adding our own inflammatory statements to encourage people, but we have been unable to get Birders to say they wouldn't go to the end of their own road to see a Crag Martin. This is unprecedented for a top ten rarity. That's how much Birders are focused on the replacement to the TSC. What is clear is Birders will be spending the Winter months worrying about the future credibility of their Lists.