This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

An Update From The Demise Of Radipole Lake Post

Well, I am told by somebody within the RSPB that my blog post about Radipole is helping. Hmmm? It seems rather odd to me that nobody within the Dorset RSPB team, especially the new reserves manager, has not taken the liberty to either comment or get in touch with me personally. Is this arrogance on their part? 

By certain members of the local RSPB team, when I have spoken to them, I have been spoken back to in a patronising manner. I have also been accused by a member of staff in the visitor centre at Radipole of making an intern quit their internship, something that I have subsequently found out to be untrue. Yet, no apology is forthcoming. 

And what about the future for Lodmoor. Again, there is no transparency as to what future management plans are on the table to improve the site for both birds and people. Oh, did I mention people? People are very important when it comes to urban reserves like Radipole and Lodmoor. If you make the sites good for birding potential, you know that non birdy people will see stuff and might just get inspired. Leading on from that is RSPB membership, which then equates to revenue. Also, it'll attract more people to Weymouth, thus contributing to the local economy. 

So, people out there, if you have any comments, I'd like to hear from you. I'm on about anyone, not just RSPB staff. The comments can be posted where it says comments below this blog post. Have your say, as it is extremely important.


Tim Farr said...

Whereas I'm not really in a position to comment as neither Lodmoor or Radipole are local reserves, what I am aware of is that ten years ago I would be making regular trips to Weymouth to twitch decent rarities/scarcities or just to get a decent amount of commoner birds on a day list. Those reserves used to be a given to start off a new year list, but to be honest I seldom venture down that way nowadays. This Autumn yielded some great birds, especially at Lodmooor, and was a throwback to years gone by, but was also a bit of an modern day exception.
I am an RSPB member, in fact I've just extended it to family membership in the hope my 6 year old some will get more interested in the environment, and the RSPB do some good work, but I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that they have overlooked the traditional birders that made up their membership before it became a more corporate machine.
Several RSPB reserves have been impacted by opening them up to dog-walkers (Ham Wall RSPB a prime example), providing more facilities, etc. More people is not always a good thing as by definition it creates more disturbance. I also feel that the days of an RSPB warden offering information on what was happening have gone. There is an element of dumbing down from staff, catering for the novice birder and with little or no interest in those who want to see rarer birds...ironically the same people who supported the RSPB in the days when it was a much smaller charity.
As mentioned, I am a member, and I will continue to be one, but I feel that there should be a more balanced approach from the RSPB with staff giving as much time and information to established birders as they do to potential new recruits. That's just my opinion for what it's worth and I'm sure there will be people out there who disagree...the joys of living in a democracy! Happy birding everyone.

Abi Jacobs said...

(The white writing on brown background really hurts my eyes for some reason)
I think it's appalling that a reserve is not going to be improved with birders in mind, by a charity called the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It doesn't sound much like they are protecting birds in this instance. The place seems unkept & just doesn't hold the quality. They seem so focused on gaining new members, which if the money they get from membership was being seen in the upkeep of reserves, then fine, however certainly in this instance I see no evidence of good money use. Then what about the naturalists, who are keen & a bit more knowledgable; there's nothing to target them, they are a massive resource yet the RSPB does nothing for those birders and certainly doesn't make use of the huge amount of knowledge those birders hold. For example, take yourself, spending hours upon hours at their reserves, you know so much about the reserve and it's residents that surely they should be taking your opinion on board? I cannot help but think them not doing so is arrogance - they know best. Unfortunately that arrogance is likely to have even more of a detrimental effect on the nature of those reserves.

Richard Webb said...

Brett’s largely right and Tim sums things up perfectly. I couldn't agree more and suspect he represents the views of many birders who don't comment for fear of criticism because we're all expected to think that the RSPB are wonderful. It's true that they do a lot of good work on acquiring and managing reserves but they need to remember that many of the old reserves are still just as important as new ‘fundraising’ reserves and still need managing properly. The comment about dog walkers is spot on. Dogs cause considerable disturbance to ground-nesting birds and dog walking on reserves should never be allowed unless there is a public right-of-way through the reserve and it cannot be avoided. It should certainly not be encouraged even if dogs are on leads. There are plenty of places for people to walk dogs without allowing them on RSPB reserves but sadly they don’t want to upset their members and prospective members hence the reason that in addition they won’t actively tackle the problem of cats killing 55 million birds in the UK each year. It is also right that more people means more disturbance. Even casual birdwatchers acknowledge that RSPB reserves are a nightmare for weeks after they feature on Springwatch. I resigned my RSPB membership over a number of things, the final straw being the RSPB allowing shooters into the reedbeds at Lodmoor near schedule one breeding birds in the breeding season in order to shoot two Ruddy Ducks. If this had to be done it should have been done outside the breeding season. The birds had been there for several months but the RSPB staff only realised when someone posted the news on Twitter, emphasising again as Brett says how out of touch they were with what was going on, on the reserve. In addition nationally too many experienced staff with years of relevant experience have either left or been managed out and replaced with inexperienced graduates with limited practical experience but who are good at fundraising and recruiting new members.

Ken Tucker said...

I agree with most of the comments above. I am an RSPB member and used to pay more than the monthly membership fee every month. I cut this to the basic minimum several years ago, largely because of the way that Lodmoor and Radipole were run. Meaning the RSPB lost around £100pa of income from me. Small beer to them... but I can't be the only one.

The issue for me was how Radipole turned into a glorified coffee shop with a view... but not much of a view: the patio viewing area outside the reserve centre was fenced off and turned into an outdoor cafe and the reeds were allowed to grow up and obscure the view. Similarly, elsewhere around both reserves viewpoints became neglected so that viewing birds was difficult or even turned into 'story-telling' areas with no view of the birds. The enthusiastic and friendly staff were always too busy serving coffee to have time to manage habitats or even get out to do a daily reserve round. The ground management staff were spread too thinly across a number of reserves making showpiece walkways in the places that looked nice but weren't really suitable for bird watching (again, no view of the birds).

I think the RSPB does some astounding work around the world. Truly awesome stuff that is saving species from extinction. And I am grateful for this. But what about opportunities for local birders to actually watch birds on their reserves? This is important too. I feel the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has got a better balance and that is why they now get more support from me - e.g. Welly Boot Land and holiday activities for the kids etc. But also well maintained hides and trails in the right places to see birds, great habitat management to maximise opportunities for birds and birders and also fantastic dissemination of information from daily reserve rounds by staff who know their birds.

It is a shame that the RSPB has made such big cuts to staff on the ground and seems to value unpaid internships and very low paid wardens over paying a little more to retain and support knowledgeable and influential staff who instead have to leave if they want to support a family.

Something has gone wrong. There is a disconnect between the Charity and it's grass roots membership (rapidly becoming non-members) in favour of vaguely interested families, dog walkers and coffee drinkers who provide more lucrative pickings. I understand that the RSPB, and in turn birds around the world, benefit from this 'new' source of income. But there needs to be room for birders too. Unfortunately, I know that there has been a conscious effort to ditch the 'birder-in-khaki' image (a slide of birders at a volunteer's day when we were told that the RSPB didn't want people to think that when they thought of the RSPB). I think this is a mistake.

Richard White said...

Not sure that I have much to add that has not already been said, but here goes...

A lifelong RSPB member, 40 years and counting, and I don't see that ending. I was even an employee for 18 months. For anyone who thinks the RSPB does not do good work, I would like to know where else I should be putting my small amount of cash for the same benefit for birds and wildlife.

But the RSPB is not perfect - I don't think anyone is pretending they are. Their success with high profile flagship species and reserves, is undermined by their failure to address, for example, issues such as farmland bird conservation or hen harrier protection.

And then there are reserves such as Radipole and Lodmoor. As I see it, neither hold 'priority' species for the RSPB so neither attract £££ for habitat management. And as birders for life, we are already converts, and as a result our interests are low on the list of priorities for reserve management and personnel.

I don't believe that all RSPB staff see it that way, but in any charity someone has to make difficult decisions about how to deploy limited resources. I think Brett does well to give a voice to the concerns of many of us that the RSPB should not neglect the interests of birders. Some of us might just know what we are talking about.

Seems that 30 or more black-tailed godwits (among others) have found some good feeding on the newly exposed mud at Radipole. And will someone please get rid of the Canada geese and assorted plastic ducks at Lodmoor.

Tim Farr said...

Further to my earlier comments, and in response to some of the other points raised here, I recently visited an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve which only allowed dogs on a small part of the reserve, away from breeding birds, etc. This worked really well and kept dog-walkers and birders/wildlife enthusiasts happy...a lesson for the RSPB?

Brett, are you planning on feeding these comments back to the local/national RSPB representatives?