Saturday, 1 May 2010

Arrogance, Apathy and Anger

At long last, some positive progress on the RSPB front, as late yesterday I was able to speak with Dee Stephens who is the Dorset Coast Team Leader for Natural England. Dee herself was once Manager of a major wetland in Great Britain and seemed, without taking one side or the other, to have a real concern about my misgivings. Talking for nearly a hour she went on to tell me that it was her society that had provided the monies for the construction of the Sand Martin Wall at Radipole Lake, but logistics, construction and 'time of build' had been left to the RSPB (or as Nick Tomlinson has told me, him).

Dee allowed me time to state my case in full, during which time I made ALL the points that I have previously highlighted through this Blog, especially the destruction of rare plants on the reserves, the dog control issue, the great fire and, of course, the extremely poor management decision to undertake any building project in the heart of a Site of Special Scientific Interest during the month of April. She agreed the timing ill considered and said she thought this was being undertaken in March, but gave me an assurance a thorough investigation would be carried out.

She continued that Nick Tomlinson was only known to her by reputation, but this was soon to change when they would have to meet professionally to discuss the promotion our nature reserves during the upcoming Olympic Games. By contrast, I informed her that while he has been a close family friend for a number of years, this would not be reason to dissuade me from pursuing this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. The meeting at my home with Tomlinson was also raised and how I curtailed this at short notice as blind arrogance and bigotry was all he had brought to the table, which further heightened my anger but spurring me further to continue my plight.

She also asked me about feelings among the local community, and with a heavy heart I could only report 2 people (that I know of) having made representation to Tomlinson personally, a further 3 who have written to the RSPB and a massive majority, especially among the 'birding' community (many of whom privately congratulate me on my efforts), stand in silent apathy!

Dee concluded that all of this would take time, asking me what would be a favorable outcome? With The Wall now built, I pointed her to the questions I posed in yesterdays Blog post. Nick Tomlinson is rarely out of the local press, which under any other set of circumstances would be a great promotional accolade for the RSPB. As an ex-manager myself (ships Captain for over 30 years) it is easy to see that he has huge difficulty in identifying his foibles and addressing them, who was it who said "it is human to err"? To reiterate, some of the questions that need answering 'publicly' are:-

1 Why was the Wall built at the height of the breeding season in the heart of an SSSI?
2 Why was a fire started, in the heart of an SSSI, on a day when weather conditions were clearly not suitable?
3 Why was a thriving colony of Southern Marsh Orchids destroyed during dike renovation?
4 Why was the Branched Bur-reed pulled from its moorings in the north east corner of Radipole Reserve?
5 Why don't RSPB employees set the example for dog control on our reserves?

Finally, it begs the question why Nick Tomlinson has not answered these questions before (concluding this sorry state of affairs) or made some kind of representation if I am making liable or slanderous representation.

So, back to the good stuff

It was a quiet day all round today, with my usual walk from home, through the cemetery, around Radipole Nature Reserve, along the Weymouth sea front and on to Lodmoor bearing little in the way of fruit (birds). However, there was more than enough of interest happening in the Bay as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary seemed to have most of its fleet sailing up and down. Apart from the decommissioned 'Sir' landing-craft, now permanently secured in Portland Harbour for Special Boat Service Training, there were also 2 large, grey vessels secured alongside.

Out at sea there was one of the new generation of RFA tankers used for 'refueling at sea' (RAS) in the main Royal Navy ships. The design of this one runs on the lines of the old 'Rover' class tankers but about twice the size.

There was also:-

RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

is a combined fleet stores ship and tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). She was ordered from Harland and Wolff in 1986, and was launched in 1990, but just a few weeks after being christened, on 6 September, she became the target of two IRA bombs. One of them was successfully defused, while the other device exploded, causing extensive damage to the engine room. Flooding was only brought under control after hours of work by emergency teams, with this incident, and other problems with the construction of the vessel, causing a delivery delay until 1993, three years after originally planned.

Condor Ferry leaving Weymouth Harbour (it may look as though she is entering harbour but in fact is going astern). These huge cathedral hulled vessels ply the Weymouth routes to Guernsey, Jersey (in the Channel Islands) and St Malo in France.

With no view of her name plate or pennant number I a at a loss to know which ship she is. Seen here entering Portland Harbour, this morning, via the East Ship Channel she is a part of the RFA Fleet. At the beginning of the Falkland's conflict, 2 Diving Support Vessels were bought from Stena Shipping and I believe her to be one of those, maybe the Stena Inspector as was.

Later in the day I visited Ferry Bridge to watch the high tide fall away, hoping for a Wading Bird or two, but I was unlucky. In the Fleet Visitor's Center I came across this rather interesting object, which the caption suggests might be a 'Bouncing Bomb'. It is well known that scientist Barnes Wallace, of The Dam Busters fame, trialed the revolutionary bombs on the Fleet and to my knowledge 2 of these were recovered at the end of the 70's and sent to rest in the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon. I don't believe this object is a bomb at all, but a well decayed Dan Buoy. The metal body shown would have been a watertight cylinder through which a long spar would pass topped with a flag or radar reflector, and by means of rope, chain and a sinker (or anchor) become a temporary marker buoy. These were used extensively in the Minesweeper service, so it is no surprise that one washed up in the Fleet.

The Lunatics are Definitely Running the Asylum

Fortunately, just before pressing the button to publish today's post a friend, one of only a couple with the bottle to show concern and write to the RSPB NATIONALLY hoping for a little sense from 'higher authority, sent me their reply. It is copied here in full, except for name.

Dear Mr,

Our visitor centre has passed me your e:mail expressing your concerns over the construction of the sand martin wall at Radipole Lake, concerns which I hope I have addressed below, but let me first of all say that we take our duties as guardians of the reserve and its wildlife very seriously and would have not undertaken these works if we felt they were going to disturb breeding birds.

The sand martin wall was part of a programme of works to enhance the site, for both wildlife and people, the planning for which has been ongoing for the last three years, involving a wide range of people and organisations to ensure our wildlife and our visitors get the maximum benefits and, key to that, has been ensuring that we do not disturb breeding birds.

Accordingly, we undertook surveys prior to the work starting and continued to monitor the area throughout the construction phase and if we had felt, at any time, that disturbance was taking place then we would have stopped work immediately.

With regards to the timing of the works, they could not have taken place during the early winter, as we were undertaking extensive habitat management works in the northern parts of the reserve and, constructing the sand martin wall (in the southern parts of the reserve) at the same time would have meant there was very little refuge area left for birds to move to. We therefore took the decision to build in the late winter period to both provide this refuge area during the habitat restoration works but also to offer the best chance of encouraging sand martins to take up occupancy this year.

You are, of course, correct, it is indeed illegal to disturb breeding birds, which is why we took so many precautions to ensure that we did not do so, before or during construction.

Thank you for your concern and I do hope the above puts your mind at rest that, far from causing disturbance, we did, in fact, take extreme care to ensure that these works did not impact on our breeding birds.

Kind Regards

Nick Tomlinson

Weymouth RSPB Reserves Site Manager

My reaction :- The Gloves are Now Off!

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