Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Dark Side of the RSPB

While the wind remained chill and the scarcity of migrant birds continued through an otherwise beautiful day, there has been little time for anything save preparing to reveal some serious misgivings that have concerned me for a long time now.

Mallard Ducklings at Radipole, showing that Spring has really got cracking.

I must stress from the start that I am not anti Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (having been a staunch member and money raiser for many years), although at times it may seem like it, but will, as I have in the past, question and vehemently protest against detrimental practice against our wildlife. Learning, a little too late I fear, of the ongoing construction of a concrete block, Sand Martin Wall in the heart of OUR (mine and yours) unique Nature Reserve at Radipole Lake was beyond belief. With Robins already feeding young, the reed-beds starting to jingle to the sound of Sedge & Reed Warblers and the prospect, albeit mighty unlikely since the custodians burnt the nest site to the ground, of the return of last year's successful breeding pair of Marsh Harriers, I had to take a look for myself. Sure enough, a structure I can only describe as a monolith was rising from the 'ashes', with a supporting cast of a small tank-track vehicle, a digger, dumper truck, gang of brickies, tons of concrete blocks and enough bulks of timber to build a hide, I had to check the calendar. Yes, it was APRIL!

I would point out that, having visited an 'active' Sand Martin Wall at Blashford Lakes just a week ago, it is living proof of a very sound and inventive idea, of which I am totally in favour.

Before embarking on this painful venture I sought the advice of those around me searching for a right balance and to be sure I was not over reacting. Unfortunately, the human trait is to believe we are all forthright in voicing our opinions and prepared to stand up in the face of adversity, but when the chips are down for 'most' the opposite is true. Those who did venture an opinion were by and large in agreement, (including, unarguably the most respected naturalist in the borough, Mick Shepherd who shook his head while repeating "unbelievable" 3 times) so with that plus my own resolve I continue. Regrettably, all of this involves a dear friend not only to me but also to my family, so the dilemma is clear. I have tried every avenue I know to avoid this exposé but through blind bigotry and arrogance on his part, find there is no other choice.

At a meeting in my home last evening with Nick Tomlinson, RSPB Reserves Manager here in Weymouth, I began by saying that these kind of differences can lead to the cessation of a friendship, citing a previous, painful experience. Caught red handed lying to me, I confronted the individual who called me 'Best Friend' for 35 years and was also my greatest critic, since when my criticism plus his cowardice has prevented him talking to me. Continuing in the hope that we could avoid such an end game, I further explained that if a choice were needed between Nick's demise and a Blue Tit, then the wildlife would surely win.

Well aware of the possible consequences for Nick, I related the story of two of his predecessors, which some readers will doubtless remember, hoping to instil some sensibility towards self preservation if nothing else. Both self styled bigots, one unsavoury individual was 'hoist by his own petard', when eventually his shenanigans became too embarrassing for the RSPB to tolerate and he was cast to the hinterland of Suffolk, while the other was given the option to quit or be pushed. It is my view that when anything gets in the way of the RSPB 'priority' of gathering money which, apart from bird preservation, goes a long way to giving a chosen few a more than comfortable lifestyle, then it is eliminated, Wardens included.

For the sake of brevity I had compiled a list of many, but not all, of my concerns, The Wall only being the tip of the iceberg, which I suggested he read then discuss each individually. At this point I am still undecided whether to publish the list in it entirety or in précis, but will have made my decision by noon tomorrow! Before pressing the Publish Post button this evening, I text Nick to ask if there had been a change of heart on his decision to continue the build, the reply was an emphatic NO, so unfortunately I won't be getting back to my retirement for a while.


Bearded Tit, a fine shot, taken on 12th April 2010, of 3 birds flying straight over what used to be a Nature Reserve.