Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Fait Accompli

With yesterdays emphatic NO still ringing in my ears, and not a chance of stopping the building of the Sand Martin Wall at Radipole, I decided early morning to go down for a look see. With little more than a Sparrowhawk over the cemetery and seemingly less on the reserve, I noted the digger and tracked vehicle were no longer in close proximity of the 'building site'. Presuming they had been taken back to the roost, I was left with assurance, given to me by Nick Tomlinson, that according to his survey there was absolutely nothing to disturb in this area, so all the tooing and froing of mechanical plant was doing no harm. I discovered also that today's RSPB Bearded Tit survey had also come up with a 'BLANK' but not that I was associating one with the other!

Over at Lodmoor things were slightly better as within a couple of minutes I found a 'wild' Bar-headed Goose but suppressed this not wanting more disturbance from a gaggle of twitchers. There were a few things to see, including single Redshank, Common Sandpiper, c8 Bearded Tit and a small movement of Black-headed Gulls. My other observations there noted the similar survey team as Radipole had drawn the same BLANK, and that the Middle Class Vandals had once again been in business - but more of that later.

To continue on the theme of disturbance at Radipole Reserve, I decided very early in the day to publish just a précis of the list of concerns I had presented to Nick Tomlinson on Monday evening. Reasoning for this, was a sensible motto I picked up when working in close company with the Special Boat Service off the North Africa Coast (HM Submarine Alcide 1968) saying "don't fire all your bullets at once, and don't forget to save one for yourself".


but would deny them Carte Blanche to do whatever they like, whenever they like

It is often beneficial, in such situations, to state what is sought to reach an amicable conclusion.
In this case:-
1 Cessation of current building works immediately until a more appropriate time of year (non-negotiable).
2 For the professional RSPB to be more open to suggestion, advice etc from those outside of this group.
3 Reach the other side with friendships intact.

While I reserve the right to choose the path I take to resolve any dispute without recourse to reason or explanation, I will out of courtesy account for my progression.
a Emphasise the seriousness of my concerns.
b Announce my intent to a small audience (by way of a single ‘question’) as ‘third party’ witness to my concerns and your involvement.
c Stimulate prompt action.

As I highlighted in my e-mail from South America I had, maybe foolishly, shelved the idea of voicing my concerns (mostly about you personally) but would like the opportunity to do so on my return. At that time, although it had been muted, I had no idea of the imminent construction of the Sand Martin Wall, which as far as my restraint goes was a ‘final straw’. I feel most strongly that the timing of this build is ill thought out and highly likely contrary to the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act given the time of year. I will, until proven otherwise, do everything in my power to either curtail construction, or vociferously highlight this matter in the public domain. For information, I have recently visited the Sand Martin wall at Blashford Lakes which further endorsed my feeling of a ‘splendid idea’, so am in favour of your wall in principle.

Below are noted some of my concerns and disappointments regarding the RSPB management of both Weymouth Reserves, mostly wildlife related but also some of a personal nature. While there is no intent to represent or be influenced by others, there will be occasion to cite those you may wish to consult to verify my claims. Much of this is anecdotal, but offered as fact, and on the understanding that I would consider lying to save your skin, but sure as hell will not to hang it out to dry!

You will doubtless remember when shortlisted for the position of RSPB Reserves Manager (Weymouth) how delighted I was personally, but may not know how I championed you. This would have had no effect on the selection process, but my motive, knowing you as I did, was to make for a comfortable landing when the inevitable appointment happened, by pronouncing to everyone “this is the man for the job”! Unfortunately, since your appointment much has changed but certainly little for the better. As fellow matelots your ‘in’ joke at the time of describing the reserves as ‘MINE’ was considered very funny by me, but generally had an adverse effect. This in turn was extended to the successful breeding Marsh Harriers, which to some the term MINE or OURS was unacceptable. However, as the trait continued, as it still does, combined with other aspects of your personality, I believe it has turned into a mild form of megalomania, one RSPB member / employee describing you as a ‘pseudo feudal lord’.

Some, but by no means all of my concerns:-
On the morning of 31st March 2009 I was at the Radipole shelter watching, on the one hand a female Blackbird collecting nesting material while on the other a Blue Tit was doing similarly. At this point I heard the sound of high powered machinery coming from the direction of the North Hide, to where I hurried to investigate. There, I found Anne engaged in cropping vegetation with a high powered brush cutter, and when challenged and informed of what I had previously observed, her reply was (verbatim) “Oh, it all depends on where you’re doing it”. At which point, knowing well RSPB dogma, I walked away.

Later in that same spring (the BREEDING SEASON), Nick Quintrell was engaged (yet again) in verge strimming at Radipole, something you should all remember me being at odds with almost on a daily basis. Later in the day I found he had cropped a number of Orchids (Bee if I remember correctly?) and approached him on the matter. His reply (verbatim) “That’s alright, there are plenty of them”. Both of these incidents I attempted to highlight to you at Goldcroft, but in a jocular way was always overtaken by mild ridicule.

I also had great concern about the need for the aggregate spur road laid from Beechdown across part of Lodmoor, for which I received more ridicule (Bagsy’s Boulevard etc) but after a time accepted that you were the ‘experts’ and there was a need for cattle?? This year, just as 2 pairs of Oystercatchers started prospecting that area for a nest site it was found necessary to dump yet another large load of more hard core to affect road repairs. This disturbance flushed all of the Oystercatchers, which at one point were thought doomed not to return, but only by sheer good luck (and not management) they returned after 4 days. Daragh Croxson has details.

On the subject of dogs (which you know is a pet hate of mine, if you’ll excuse the pun) plus litter and cycle riding, each being a major headache which even Draco would have trouble resolving. However, in that respect I, and others, are prepared to stand up and be counted. Dogs are now at epidemic proportions with both reserves almost sinking under the weight of dog shit (please excuse the Anglo Saxon) with owners, on occasion, throwing balls along the pathways and sticks into the reed-beds. With the emphasis on extreme politeness, on average I engage one of these individuals each time I visit the reserves, receiving in the main a verbal tirade, while on one occasion being physically ‘body checked’ by one woman. All of this is well within my control but it does not help to find RSPB employees walking their dogs ‘off lead’ on the reserves, blatantly ignoring the signs and presenting an altogether wrong example to others! Names available on request.
As for litter, I have discontinued my daily collection because since Daman left attention to this by other members of your staff has diminished. For example, a bag of dog shit hung in the bushes just inside the kissing gate (a primary entrance to the reserve) for 6 days, not considered conducive with a warm welcome. Finally, while Daragh champions this cause actively, there is a little kink in English law called Custom & Practice which would probably make it impossible for any of us to stop cyclists.

Other incidences which have been by and large forgotten, swept under the carpet or little known include:-
The destruction of an entire colony of Southern Marsh Orchids during the dike refurbishment work, speak to Lorne Edwards or myself for detail.

The 2009 Radipole and Lodmoor Annual Report, - A JOKE! I no longer submit my records to RSPB.

The Great Fire, which contrary to the report in the Dorset Echo was the result of a freak gust with little or no loss of wildlife, was in fact a culpable act of gross neglect and incompetence. As a weather gatherer and occasional forecaster during 20 years on a North Sea Oil Installation that doubled as a World Weather Station, I have more than a cocked eye on the weather daily. On that day the wind speed was never less than 25 knots, increasing by the hour, and a pyromaniac is let loose in a reed-bed with a box of matches?? It begs the question; does the RSPB have a system of Risk Assessment in place, or indeed a ‘Permit to Work’ practice?

One or two minor points, no names no pack drills
Quote from one of your employees, “if Nick spent as much time promoting the RSPB as he does himself, things would be a lot better”.

Another questioning the waste associated with the erecting of ‘goal post’ fences all over the place. My own view being, do we really need to ‘fence in’ the existing wire fence and hedge fence? There are those who believe this is Nick Q marking his territory.

The RSPB Belt, Braces and Blu Tack fence initiative - or is it just an innocent bit of territorial scenting?

As you probably know I have had major run-ins with the RSPB in the past. I dislike bigotry, intransigence, single mindedness and blinkered vision etc – just a few of the reasons why I also surrendered my ‘long standing’, ‘loyal’ RSPB membership. Sitting here writing this reminds me so much of those unfortunate days, when I protested about 72 sign posts being erected between both reserves, the installation of 3 ‘squawk boxes’ as I dubbed them, a tap rail for the blind around every footpath on Radipole and the digging of a perimeter ditch around Lodmoor. I was told at the time, in the presence of the then Warden and full Weymouth Town Council, that I was interfering and should leave such matters to the ‘experts’, in my view the said ‘matters’ were not in safe hands. Within 21 months, all but 2 sides of the Lodmoor ditch had been refilled; boxes and tap rail grubbed out along with the majority of the signs. I asked at the time, at what cost to the Membership, but RSPB HQ fell silent on a reply. We all know what happened to the incumbent then.

Destruction becoming a National Pastime

The female resident of this house, 28 Southdown Avenue, Weymouth, on the northern perimeter of the Lodmoor Reserve, spent much of Tuesday 12th April 2010 doing

this. "I can see clearly now the hedge has gone". Which represents at the very best 'gross vandalism' and at worst - no better not mention the W&C Act.

Has anybody seen the nest I was building? A male Chaffinch.

The really good news is that she fell fowl (sic) of a gentleman who will tolerate NO destruction, damage or disturbance of of our Wildlife (something you might say is becoming difficult to find hereabouts) and reported her to the Police. Now, some might say our Boy's in Blue are a little less that efficient, but before you could say 'secateurs' they were on the scene - well done lads, that's the way to do it. Unfortunately, this is where the story gets a little blurred, and I cannot for the life of me find our what has transpired since - but I know someone who should be able to? Anyway, I though as she had made such a neat job of it, that little pile of branches and Chaffinch nest, I'd take a couple of photos and keep them for future reference. In the meantime perhaps, with such an insurmountable dossier of evidence (Police and General Public eye-witness accounts, the damage itself, photographs etc) , could not the RSPB afford a couple of bob, go round there and 'sue the arse off her'. I think that way the other residents, some of whom have also been active in this direction, might just get the buzz that the Wildlife Patrols are fit and well and monitoring our wild places?

and it may be an interesting snippet to close this post, that contrary to what I was told by a RSPB employee last year and posted on this Blog earlier, they ARE financing Little Tern Colony protection this year. This will be done on a 3 month contract involving 3 personnel on a salary of £12 - £13,000 p.a. on a 24/7 rota.