Saturday, 31 July 2010

RSPB Meeting Part I

I will admit to having been crestfallen yesterday, with no energy to go into detail about my meeting with the RSPB et al but now 'another day, another dollar'!

Early days yet, but I await the answers to a number of questions posed to Dante Munn RSPB and while trying hard not to be negative feel they will, if forthcoming at all, be ineffectual. The first of those questions related to the qualifications and professional 'managerial' attributes of Nick Tomlinson, the Manager of RSPB reserves in Weymouth. Both RSPB and NE responded by saying that prospective candidates are not necessarily selected by certificated credential but an overall feeling of competence for the job. Here I would reiterate Nick Tomlinson's own assessment of himself to the Out & About Forum a Web-site mainly for like-minded 'birders'. "While I freely accept that many, probably nearly all, of those on this forum have a far greater knowledge of birds and birding than I do, I pride myself that I have at least a MODERATE UNDERSTANDING of issues relating to how to manage a nature reserve. It was at this point that John Snellin the Dorset Police Wildlife Officer interjected by informing us that there are members of the Constabulary who have no certificated qualifications. I find this statement a little difficult to believe, but given the crime detection rate it may well follow. Fortunately, I have a dear friend an ex-Chief Inspector who I have spoken to at length reference the post of Wildlife Crime Officer and will look forward to seeking his view on this. Finally on this subject, it should be made clear that Nick does have some experience as he was, for a period of time, the Manager of the RSPB bookshop at Radipole Lake Visitor's Center, but you know I cannot for the life of me clear the word nepotism from the forefront of my mind.

Next on the agenda came Strimming and the destruction of plant life on the Weymouth reserves. I asked why, what seems like the continuous, cutting of the verges is necessary and what purpose it serves, especially as Orchids are being destroyed in the process. John Stobard NE described how he/his organisation write to dissuade various local councils from indiscriminately cutting public roadside verges for the same reason, then went on to say that on the reserves the Orchids will not tolerate much of the high vegetation around them. He disagreed that the process there is indiscriminate and that searches and surveys are carried out before proceeding. Why then was I able to produce 3 stalks of Bee Orchid to Nick Quintrell the reserves Warden last year which he or his cohorts had chopped down. John also disagreed that the colony of Lizard Orchids close to Farmer Palmers at Wareham was destroyed by strimming, as he quite rightly said colonies do die of natural causes. However, it is a fact that the council did cut these verges over a number of years, never allowing these plants to attain maturity which undoubtedly could have contributed to the destruction of yet another fragile site. Personal replies from councils have informed me that verge cutting goes to tender and is done on a rotational basis and pinpoint timing is not cost effective.

On the subject of the destruction of the colony of Southern Marsh Orchids during the refurbishment of the dikes at Radipole, both Dante and John NE were in agreement saying "once you let contractors loose there's no knowing what damage they might do". I readily admitted know little, if anything about watercourse and water-flow, but await particularly for Dante's answer to my question as to why the colony had to be grubbed out to provide a spur channel at this exact spot. I still maintain it could just as easily have been dug a few feet either north or south, but my own theories are either RSPB didn't know the Orchids were there, or they simply wanted to remove access to the waters edge to deter anglers. But hey much easier to blame the Contractor!!!

Finally on this subject and what I find most disturbing are some of the statements made about these precious plants. "No need to worry, there are plenty more of those on the reserve" attributed to both Nick Quintrell RSPB Warden and Dee Stevens of Natural England. "It is not a concern (the strimming) as they will grow again" John Stobard NE.

As there is much more to say, but other things to do, I will continue via tomorrows post and continue with far more serious matter

It was about this time that John Snellin once again offered a comment that in most of my submissions thus far the name of Nick Tomlinson recurred time and time again. Not surprising as he is the Manager and singularly responsible for everything that happens on our reserves, but he further claimed that I was making it personal. I had preempted such an inane suggestion might be made, and produced my passport to show Nick as, after my daughter, to be the second point of contact in the event of an emergency, proving how close we have been. This adequately endorsed my dilemma of challenging not only a personal friend but also a friend of my family, and his inability to contain these matters on a one to one basis. The sole reason for continuation of what has been dubbed 'my campaign' stems from the behaviour of Nick, in my house, when he stated "when I decide (and not RSPB higher authority) that the Sand Martin wall will be built in April, it will be built in April" (a position that Dante Munn assured me yesterday was patently untrue) for when I encounter the BIGOT there is no surrender, a point I made to Nick before I required him to leave my house.

I have two comments on your notes of yesterday’s (30th) meeting. Please see below.

RE: Dante did agree to investigate a number of my concerns (well documented in this Blog) and so I await his findings……

Comment: The meeting attendees presumably knew of your specific concerns a long time before the meeting, so to say that ‘they will investigate a number of (your) concerns' suggest to me that they did not plan for the meeting, despite knowing the main agenda items in ample time. Such behaviour would be considered unacceptable in modern business good practice and says a lot about the organisations the attendees represented and suggests that you were onto a loser even before you started.

RE: The final issue discussed was the Little Tern colony at Ferry Bridge, and while I requested to look at the documentation allowing both 'ringing' and 'disturbance' no fewer than 4 times I never did get to read them. I had Paul,

to agree (wholeheartedly) that success at the colony was most welcome, but will at some stage write to The British Trust for Ornithology to confirm that all forms of disturbance (photography particularly) are covered by these documents.

Comment: Naturally I agree with the second part of this paragraph and commend those who contributed to the successful outcome at the colony. Concerning the documentation you wished to see I see no reason why the attendees should not allow you to see the Schedule 1 licence for the Little Tern ringing and/or photography; I can only assume that as any Schedule 1 licence is issued in the name of an individual then the licensee would be in possession of the appropriate documentation and that it would not be immediately available to the meeting. Nevertheless, once again it would appear to indicate a lack of planning on the attendees part. (For your information, any BTO ringer would be required to obtain such a licence before embarking on a Little Tern pullus ringing programme and other participants would be covered by the same licence so long as the licence holder was present.)

I hope these comments are useful.

Kind regards,


Friday, 30 July 2010

Onward to the Gobi Desert - Mongolia Continued

So, the day of the meeting between myself, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Natural England (NE) and the Wildlife Crime Branch of the Dorset Police (DP) finally arrived. Held at NE's offices in Dorchester, I was well met by Dante Munn RSPB, John Stobard NE and John Snellin DP but overall felt there was an inherent policy from which none of them would be wavering. Dante did agree to investigate a number of my concerns (well documented in this Blog) and so I await his findings, but by and large came away thinking little will change and all too mundane to detail.

The final issue discussed was the Little Tern colony at Ferry Bridge, and while I requested to look at the documentation allowing both 'ringing' and 'disturbance' no fewer than 4 times I never did get to read them. I had to agree (wholeheartedly) that success at the colony was most welcome, but will at some stage write to The British Trust for Ornithology to confirm that all forms of disturbance (photography particularly) are covered by these documents. John NE did say that there is doubt that funding will be available next year to protect the colony which would be a tragedy indeed. After the meeting I felt that this David didn't even get the pebble in the sling and that Goliath will be trampling Nature Reserves, both locally and nationally, for evermore. This was more or less a single struggle, with many viewers sat on the proverbial fence, but I do commend those who did put their names in the frame.

So now back to the Lightheartedness this Blog is really about!

Jim the Medic and I boarding the train at Ulaan Baatar bound for Saynshand in the Gobi Desert

About 200Km from civilisation.

Me, Billy and Jim at one of many religious monuments on the way.

Travelers leave this blue scarfs as a token to the Gods.

Surprisingly, we found a family 'picnicking' miles from anywhere who, in true Mongolian style, invited us to join them.

Another encounter at Roc Oil, in the deep Gobi, where once we had convinced the armed guards on the watchtowers we were friendly they summoned the Site Manager. Here we were also afforded excellent hospitality.

Another religious shrine.

Not many Sand-grouse out here, but as can be seen by the footprints the sand was nonsupporting.

Back to civilisation, and after the heat of the Desert the soaking from the heavy rain was most refreshing.

and finally, the Statistics have reached yet another all time high with the 'readership' total now having past the 5,000 mark and with Montenegro, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Guatemala and Sudan joining the ranks our output now covers 80 countries.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Looking Forward to Tomorrow

A 'Mackerel Sky' greeted the morning and with the sun already trying to break through and virtually no wind, it was set to be fine! In the cemetery the only creatures of note were singles of Common Blue and Gatekeeper Butterfly, so it was quickly onward to the bus for Portland. With the moon being close to 'full' high tide is early morning and of little use for Wading birds at Ferry Bridge so I continued on to Barleycrates. Bird-less here too, interest was raised by my first sighting this year of

Chalkhill Blue Butterfly and a lone

Hummingbird Hawk-moth which appeared to be feeding on the ground?

At the Bird Observatory, Martin Cade had departed for his family holiday leaving Professor Peter Morgan at the helm, ably assisted by the Chairman Edwin Welland who had absented himself - must have known I was coming. There too was David Bull long time visitor, with Peter to the Obs and frequent 'ringer' at Radipole in days gone by - both are from South Wales. They were also having some success with the 'mist nets' and had caught, among other things, Sedge & Grasshopper Warbler plus Pied Flycatcher.

On my way back to Weymouth, but still on the Island, I encountered a small colony of these

Great Green Bush Crickets (not particularly good photographs I'm afraid)

At Tout Quarry I saw my first Greyling Butterfly which are reliably none photogenic. On perching they immediately fold their wings and retract the fore wings into the hind-wings, probably to present a small target to predators and photographers alike?

From this elevated point on the Island it was easy to see the dozens and dozens of small yachts in both Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay,

mostly manned I am delighted to say by young, budding sailors.

While at the Obs we were visited by a Dutchman named Paul who had come to advise, and leave leaflets about the up and coming celebration of the regeneration of Tout Quarry as a practice area for 'sculptors' of all standards.

These days the Circle of Stones and the accompanying 'throne' is used by Witches, Druids, Dolmen to name but a few.

Who knows who might turn up on the day, but I am advised that everyone will be welcome.

and finally, just a reminder that tomorrow is the day of my meeting with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Attending the meeting will be Dante Munn the Dorset Manager for RSPB, John Snellin the Wildlife Crime Officer (Dorset Police) and John Stobart, Senior Advisor (Natural England). My only hope is I have something POSITIVE to report tomorrow.

We may well return to MONGOLIA also!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

See My Baby Jive - Wizzard

An early post yesterday, means I have to return to last evening to complete the day. Andy had booked a table at The Bull's Head, Repton and on past experience I was already anticipating a great night. In company with his 2 lovely children (grown ups) Sarah, now an Arts Teacher, and Shaun who has just completed an apprenticeship at Rolls Royce Nuclear Division, and about to embark on a full time job there, we were able to sit in the garden for pre-dinner drinks.

Andy, Sarah, Moi and Shaun

In the sumptuous setting of the upper dining room, it is hard to believe you are in a 'pub' and along with impeccable service and even better food I have to recommend this to anyone who happens to pass that way.

After a fine dinner of among other things Cod's Tongues and Soft Shell Crab and Malbec wine, there was time for a little

'high jinx' before we returned to the bar for a night cap. It was thought that the evening couldn't have been better, when suddenly, with the arrival of 'rock legend' Roy Wood (The Move, Wizzard, Electric Light Orchestra etc), it was. Taking the time to say hello and a handshake all round this too brought back many memories of his career. Apart from the 'hits', his cheeky little offering 'Curley', complete with children's choir is one of my favourites, and I remember not being lucky enough to get tickets when he played Weymouth Rec (now Asda Supermarket) and stood outside the Fire Station listening from afar.

The Move circa 1969 - Rick Price, Roy Wood, Carl Wayne & Bev Bevan

and a little how he looked last night.

Roy Adrian Wood (born 8 November 1946, Kitts Green, Birmingham) is an English singer–songwriter and musician. He was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of the bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. As a songwriter, he contributed a number of hits to the repertoire of these bands.

Wood's first group in Birmingham in the early 1960s was The Falcons, which he left in 1963 to join Gerry Levene and the Avengers. He then moved to Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders (the band later became The Idle Race). During this period, Wood attended the Moseley College of Art, from which he was expelled in 1964. From this basis, and other Birmingham-based groups, was formed The Move, and they quickly entered the UK Singles Chart. Their single, "Night of Fear", climbed to #2 in early 1967. Their third hit, "Flowers in the Rain", helped launch BBC Radio 1 in 1967 and was the first record to be played on that station, and the band evolved over a three year period. After the departure of The Move's lead singer Carl Wayne, Wood's influence became more prominent. In 1967 Wood supplied backing vocals on the track, "You Got Me Floatin'", on The Jimi Hendrix Experience's album, Axis: Bold as Love.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Site-Seeing in Derbyshire

With heavy and frequent showers early on, it looked very much as if it was going to be a 'stay at home' day. Fortunately, by mid-morning things had improved a little so once again Andy and I opted for a walk through the wood at Melbourne pool. Breakfast was calling by about 10-30 so we popped into the Welcome Cafe before driving to Staunton Harold Reservoir, one of our fishing spots during my previous visits. Here we saw one of no fewer than c3 broods of young Mandarin ducks with female parents.

Staunton Harold

We walked around much of the reservoir stopping here at another of our favourite fishing spots.

Next stop was Calke Abbey a Grade I listed country house near Ticknall, Derbyshire, in the care of the charitable National Trust. The site was an Augustinian priory from the 12th century until its dissolution by Henry VIII. The present building, named Calke Abbey in 1808, was never actually an abbey, but is a Baroque mansion built between 1701 and 1704. The house was owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years until it was passed to the Trust in 1985 in lieu of death duties.

Part of the herd of Fallow & Red Deer at the Abbey.

Including a 'White Hart'.

View of the Ha Ha looking towards the church.

The Ha Ha looking at the Abbey.

A Ha Ha is a hidden wall or fence, keeping at bay unwanted visitors, such as deer etc, while being invisible from the 'Big House' - you wouldn't want to see a 'wall' from the house would you now?

Calke Abbey Church

Moving on to the picturesque village of Repton, we first of all visited the 'world renowned' Public School.

Always nice to know where you are going.

It is claimed that from this arch, the entrance to Repton School, it is possible to see an example of architecture from every century of the past thousands years.

Students from many nations throughout the world study at Repton, but now the school also has an annex in Dubai as well.

Included on campus there is a full size and well appointed cricket pitch, complete with pavilion, left. The pitch has also been used for charity 'rock' concerts, including a performance by Jules Holland and Brian Ferry (Roxy Music). On that occasion (tickets only) local builder Roland Beeston drove his 'digger' to the wall, hoisted the bucket and watched the gig in comfort!

The church spire peeks above school buildings,

and also overlooks ancient column bases that once formed much older buildings.

Local cottages, just across the road from

the Parish church of St Wystan's, Repton.

Monday, 26 July 2010

It's Been A Hard Day's Night! - The Beatles

With the brightness of the morning matching the forecast we decided to make an early start and visit the world famous city of Liverpool today. Andy knew the city quite well in the 80's when he studied for both Second Engineer (Merchant Navy) and his Chief Engineer's ticket, whilst I had paid just a single visit in 1967 onboard HM Submarine Alcide.

Unfortunately, the weather started to 'break' around Uttoxeter, Staffordshire and hardly improved all the way to Scouseland. There was some relief as we left the car park, but the sky was still full of it and could have opened at any minute.

We never did discover what this building was, but it looked very grand for all that.

Lime Street Railway Station.

As we approached the Walker Art Gallery

and the impressive fountain in front, the light rain started again, the sort to get you very wet, very quickly. Fortunately, the Walker was one of our planned stops, if only to view the 'jewel in the crown',

'And When Did You Last See Your Father' by William Frederick Yeames (1878)

This painting of a fictional event from the English Civil War (1642 - 1646) is perhaps the most popular work in the Walker Art Gallery. It shows a Royalist house under occupation by Parliamentarians. The young boy is being interrogated as to the whereabouts of the master of the house, while behind him, a soldier gently holds the boy's crying sister. To the left can be seen the children's mother, her fear and anxiety at the boy's possible answer written in her face.

The gallery is full of works by Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Turner, Degas et al, but the highlight was the 'special exhibition' High Kicks & Low Life, a series of Prints and Lithographs by the astounding Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (no photography allowed).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), 'Divan Japonais', 1893.
Colour lithograph in black, orange, yellow and olive green ink

Andy studies the present day layout of La' Pool while the reclining nude looks on!

Law Courts

Passing the Cunard Building the rain started again, this time not even looking like it was going to stop.

Royal Iris is still one of several ships that can claim to be the original "Ferry 'cross the Mersey

cus this land's the place I love, and here I'll stay" - Gerry & the Pacemakers of 60's fame.

The Liver Building is an absolute must, so we braved the elements a little longer to view this and

the Cunard Flagship Cruise Liner Queen Victoria.

It was most definitely time to beat a retreat now and seek the sanctuary of 'good old' JD Wetherspoon for a 'babies head' (steak and kidney pudding) and fish and chips, after which we returned to Melbourne. We had a really good day up at The Pool, which would have been great if the rain had held off allowing us a look at the Catholic (Paddy's Wigwam) and Anglican Cathedrals, but maybe another day. We didn't see Ringo either!