Revealed: Britain's transit camps for migratory birds

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THIS is, as you may have noticed, the bird-mating season. You can hardly pass a tree or hedgerow at the moment without being sung at loudly by some bird who is trying to tell you to get the hell out of it, as she is trying to build a nest there.

However nature, like everything else, is increasingly subject to European regulations, and birds are no exception. A new set of guidelines on nesting and mating has been issued by Brussels, and these have been translated by the environment secretariat presided over by John 'Gummo' Selwyn into an even firmer set of rulings, just published as Booklet E193, Birds '94 - a New Way Forward.

Birds are not, as the booklet admits, technically citizens of the EC or subject to the law, but you, as the garden-holder, will be held responsible for any breach of bird regulations that takes place on your property, so as a public service I am bringing the bare bones of them to you today.

1. Any bird nesting box installed by the garden-holder should have an adequately large front entrance and a back entrance, in case of fire, which must be kept clear at all times of obstructions.

2. The nesting box should have adequate room for up to six eggs.

3. In cases where the brood contains birds of different sexes (eg male and female) provision must be made for segregation of the differently sexed children after the age of five weeks.

4. Sufficient toilet arrangements must be made in each nesting box. In addition, there must be adequate arrangements for the disposal of all unwanted egg shell fragments after hatching has taken place. Unused egg shell fragments are a haven for dirt, and a ready source of bacteria and disease. Any serious or repeated infringement of this regulation will lead to instant closing down of the nesting box by the authorities, with no appeal against the decision.

5. Nesting boxes may be made to any design as long as it conforms to one of the two permitted designs detailed in the accompanying leaflet E432a (Permitted European Nesting Boxes '94).

6. In cases where birds are intending to build their own nests, and not to make use of nesting boxes, plans for the intended nest should be submitted to the planning authorities at least six weeks in advance of work starting on the nest.

7. In thoses cases where birds intend to build nests of the traditional variety, it is sufficient for the garden-holder to write (eg) 'Traditional Long-Tailed Tit's Nest' in the relevant space, together with a sketch of the traditional design and a note of the maximum dimensions.

8. Although it is considered normal to leave nests in trees after their family usage has been completed, these can in fact form very dangerous structures, threatening to fall and injure passers-by. ALL disused nests must be inspected at regular intervals by qualified structural engineers and instantly dismantled on request if requested.

9. ALL branchage and hedgerow space to be used for nest-building now has to be entered on a central computer to enable the central authority to calculate what your quota of nests will be, and what subsidy you will be entitled to. Plans should be calcuated in terms of hectares, grammes and centilitres, and should be submitted to John 'Gummo' Selwyn by the beginning of last week.

10. In the case of birds that habitually live in communities, such as rooks, a minimum distance between each rook's nest has been laid down and a stringent maximum permitted noise level has been established. (See extra booklet, which is available on request: Minimum Nest Separation Distance and Stringent Permitted Maximum Noise Levels for Community-Loving Birds eg Rooks, also including Twig Droppage Restrictions.)

MIGRATION

11. Any alien birds planning to reside in Britain for up to four out of the next six months as part of their 'migration' pattern, should report to the requisite local office on arrival in Britain with details of their case, so that their status may be determined.

12. While awaiting the outcome of their hearing, all birds intending to 'migrate' into Britain will be held in transit camps under the auspices of the UN, and will be allowed visits from their prospective garden- or hedge-holders at least once a month.

13. If they are a genuine 'migration' case, they will in due course be allowed to stay in Britain, unless, of course, their 'migration' period is already over by the time they leave transit camp, in which case they will be instantly regretfully deported.

These are just the bare outlines. In case of any doubt, please write to John 'Gummo' Selwyn for a copy.

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