11 Nov 2009

Follow up to BTO Birdwatching Conference 2009

In my last post about the BTO Birdwatching Conference I wrote that I wasn't that impressed by one of the talks and to be fair to the speaker, Ian Enlander, this is his email to me.

"I do usually enjoy your blog and was glad to see you did a write up about the BTO event last Saturday but sorry to see that you completely missed the point I was making about the absurd position that statutory requirements and European needs place on us in relation to positive conservation action. Creation of additonal tern islands does not miraculously increase tern populations - this will be a long term aim that may or may not succeed - no guarantees. In the short term there is a very high risk that sites end up competing against each other with the risk that they are in unfavourable conservation status i.e. show a significant population decline - whether you agree with it or not that then puts Northern Ireland plc at risk of infraction from Europe - trust me when I say that is not a good thing. The point is that collectively the conservation bodies at regional and national scales need to progress these initiatives collaboratively with our increasingly limited resources devoted to those actions that are likely to deliver the best outcomes - I do not believe that is currently happening.

I may be a bloody civil servant (that happens to be the position where I feel I can achieve most for conservation) but suspect I have done a damn sight more for bird conservation than most between a career of 18 years devoted to site designation, monitoring and management and over 25 years of volunteering for wetland bird surveys, breeding bird surveys, breeding and wintering atlas work and educational activities.

You may have noticed that the earlier projects which you so rightly praise were all entirely funded by NIEA, indeed through my section and supported by myself personally - only NIEA is in a position to fund this important work - so no civil servants = considerable reduction in the ornithological research and reserve management programmes in Northern Ireland. You might want to use your energies rather more positively to call for greater funding for NIEA, particularly our grant aid programmes, which fund so many of the conservation initiatives notably at reserves you frequent.

So please dont patronise me

There was ample opportunity through the course of the day to chat to me about my presentation but you clearly believed this was unnecessary - happy to meet up and chat about any of the above or anything else for that matter if you wish.

all the best

I still feel though as far as the Terns are concerned that as Terns breed in every sea lough around NI that have islands. Even on Lough Neagh and Lough Erne. By giving them SOMEWHERE safe in Belfast (and now Portmore) the birds can expand their breeding range. What about the Arctic Terns at Belfast Harbour Reserve? From whose colony have they been stolen? Arctic Terns are notoriously poor for breeding success - witness bad years at the Copelands and even Rockabill (where almost none were reared this year) yet the Belfast birds do all right and infact breeding success is increasing year on year , maybe since that they are not devasted by (localized) high winds and sweeping rain. Furthermore, if nest boxes at Rockabill and Coquet in (Northumberland) are doing the business for 95% !! of the eastern North Atlantic's Roseates, surely RSPB Belfast Harbour's attempt to draw the birds in - because they seem only to breed among concentrations of Common and/or Arctic Terns - is commendable.

I also would like to point out that I didn't call Ian a bloody civil servant in my previous post.

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