Sunday, June 15

Compulsory Service in the Territorial Army

Dear diary,

I am sorry I have been missing for some time again. My parishioners believe me on a Monastic retreat, whereas I have in fact been up my Priest Hole once more. The papers I now attach should provide explanation as to why I might remain up in my own Hole a little while longer. I have, at no little risk, obtained copies of the two most important Appendices to the final ever meeting of the Executive Committee of the Listershire Ornithological Society, held May 30th last;-

Appendix IX:

The Reverend Bandwell Ringmore Fumblefinch;-

A report upon the usefulness of the present reporting style of annual records for common migrants, as published within the Listershire Ornithological Society Annual Fowle Reporte.

(The following document is based on an analysis of Listershire published records of one species, specifically the Nightingale. Please note I have compared them against a second, unnamed, local county by way of a blind control experiment, and I am pleased to report the similarities were 'uncanny'.)

Just over sixty years ago our Annual Fowle Reportes commenced. Life and a'birderers were both much simpler then, so much simpler that it was not felt necessary to include all of the common species in all of the reportes, indeed the Nightingale did not feature until the sixth year. Unless it did not occur in county. I think it did, but I cannot tell.

When finally included, all writings were but snippets on a'breeding details from dedicated a'patchers, but by our ninth Reporte the Society felt confident enough for the first 'first date' to be included, and has never been missed promoting since. (Well, missed but once actually, in the infamous Reporte of '98 that led to rioting in the hides. Such a mistake has not a'happened since.) 'First dates' are a most useful piece of phenology. (For example, from these published dates I have discovered that 87% of all first dates a'happen on a weekend, closely followed by Bank Holidays.)

It took until our 13th Reporte to have enough informed sigthings to recognise a 'main arrival period'. Again, these occur most often at weekends. (And I now have a new ornithological theory to prove in coming years, namely that migrating fowle are affected by workhouse noise from Spinning Jennys and Puffing Billys on weekdays.)

By our 17th publication ('68) the county was divided to the four points of the compass. Some historians might claim this as a first sign of independence movements for (regrettably in my eyes) the following year saw the first attempt at independence, with one tribe conducting their first East Listershire Nightingale survey.

Struck into action by their finding something useful to say, the next year our Committee retake the high ground and a county-wide survey was carried out, and was even repeated in the following year. For Masonic reasons, results of the second survey were suppressed from the Reporte;- "full census details to be printed elsewhere". I understand all who knew exactly where it was published met painful and grisly ends during that winter's wetland counts, so the survey results have become known as one of the greatest ornithological writings lost to man. The famous relic hunter Sir Nicholas of Cagge seeks out this not-quite national treasure to this day.

By our 26th Reporte that most useful of phrases, 'widespread by end of the month' had come into common usage. The general tone was now set for years to come.

By the 33rd Reporte someone had discovered that coastal recordes might just very well belong to migrants, and these were then highlighted for a few years, but this too soon disappeared.

The infamous 47th, of '98, when shockingly dropping the 'first date' tried to replace it with the short-lived 'KBI' (Kleptoparisitised Bird Index), an attempt to distill a short sentence upon county trends from Tukogbani Trust for Ornithology national surveys. This proved to be too much like real analysis for our writers and was soon quietly given up. The county did take up the County Wildlife Trust's 'Red data' status statement from that time, which continues to this day thanks to the famous device of 'cut'n'paste'.

In short, 60 years of data in our fine county provides a superb overview of when Nightingales arrive, when they sometimes show at the coast, that they a'breed and departe, all mainly upon the weekends.

So confident were we in our abilities we even claimed the last national survey as our own initiative in this county. Quite honestly, what more would the Watchmen wish of any county(?) More detail would surely be to the detriment of the pages of most useful to conservation;- numbers of  uncommon, scarce and rare fowle recorded each year, which is surely all that really interests dedicated county a'birderers(?)

I would urge our committee to stay true to our present reporting style. First date, main arrival, mention of any a'breeding count (should anyone have bothered, last date). This is all the recordering fowle in Listershire really required.


Sir Ronald of Holy Wood & Sir Nicholas of Cagge, those most famous hunters
 of lost relics, depicted at the Siege of Newport Wetlands,
contemplating their course of action at what was to become known as
Savi-ge Slaughterre of the Toggers'


Appendix X:

Watchman-General Yew-Ahn;-

An appeal for glorious co-operation


I must thank Brother Bandwell for his most detailed report. It simply confirms what I must now to present to you.

I know your county has voiced grave concerns about a short paragraph in our latest "Written Orders to our Most Glorious Volunteer Regiment of Tukogbanifek Ornithological Foot-soldiers" magazine, commenting on the results of a Watchman survey which had shown that our vols cry out for more contact and more co-ordinated manoeuvres within their local collectives. We have kept a distance from this sort of thing in the past, preferring to support our glorious County Societies in their own efforts. What we printed of late was but merely a suggestion to improve matters, which I repeat here;-

"...perhaps it is time for a radical change in the way we work, even to consider a local group scheme akin to the fps's*, but with a narrower focus on surveys..."
(*Feather Preservation Society, formerly FFPS, Fur & Feather Preservation Society)

The war against the ruling capitalist elite is a most bloody one in our countryside, and all we politely suggest is that it might be better for us to be a little more involved in bringing together logistics at the local level. We cannot keep just recording first dates and then say 'all is over 'til autumn, let us forget about our fowle'. Comrades, our foot-soldiers cry out for leadership. Together we can form a caravan upon the Cart track, end any division on distribution work and halt a'birderers wasting June 'togging common moths and instead mobilise to map out nesting territories and survey their populations.

But time is against us, so I must inform you we have already moved forward internal consultations on this suggested course. We have formed a working group to conduct tests on such 'reforms', known as Current Ornithological Unifying Practices, and I am proud to inform you that, due to your lack of any locally-led a'surveying this year, Listershire has been chosen to be a glorious experiment for the rest of Tukogbani to admire. The Proletariat has spoken. Sixty years of 'first seen, bred here and there, last seen', is long enough'. This COUP has assumed control.

We next intend to remove your present Honorable Glorious Leader Chairman Shinawatra and place him under Local Nature Reserve a'rest with his much-loved duckpond collection. After this a body to oversee all Joint Utilitarian Non-voluntary Tasked A'birderings will be appointed to run all 'in the field' survey operations. The JUNTA will direct and enforce all field operations from that point forward.

Those of you completely loyal to our cause will be summoned to attend the first planning Congress, Tuesday next. Those of you still drawn to petty bourgeois listless meanderings will of course be more than welcome to continue such a'birdering, but only once rounded up and resettled alongside your Chairman within the confines of his enclosure.

I finish by thanking you, my Comrades in the now renamed county of The Tick-markist State of Listergrad, for volunteering unanimously and for giving your total unceasing support to our glorious experiment. Together we shall make the toils of every prole a'birderer count.

You are dismissed.


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