I’m no ornithologist…

…but I know a turkey when I see one.

Actually, I am an ornithologist.  Or, at least, I was one.  I vividly remember having a Young Ornithologists Club badge when I was a nipper, although I don’t actually remember undertaking any bird-related activities that might have earned it.  Possibly I got it at a jumble sale, or maybe stole it from my brother.  So, the statement in my title is probably true after all.

Anyway…this post is about the wildlife that lives in or visits Posties Park and will hopefully act as a reminder to all that we have a responsibility to be defenders of nature. Wildlife can’t vote or lobby the decision-makers, but you can on its behalf.

The River Clyde foreshore that borders Posties Park is an area that is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under European legislation because of its internationally important population of over-wintering redshank.  Redshank are wading birds which use the mudflats and sometimes the shore edge for feeding during winter months.  A Scottish Natural Heritage advisor was approached by West Dunbartonshire Council to give some general advice on how the Posties Park development might impact on the SPA, and advised that “both the construction and operation of the school could be issues for the SPA”.  Nick Everett from SNH goes on to suggest that, at minimum, an Environmental Impact Assessment* (EIA) should be conducted to establish these impacts.  You can find the full text of this communication between WDC and SNH in the feasibility report here, pages 94 through 96.

In the proposal document that has been prepared for the public consultation on this development, sections 3.12.2 through 3.12.5 summarise the key points from this brief, and very general, exchange and form the only reference to wildlife preservation in the whole document.  I feel it is worth mentioning that the Costing Summary (page 74) within the feasibility study makes no reference to special environmental investigations, nor indeed does it include any contingency in respect of the special construction methods and timetable that would most likely need to be employed to mitigate the impacts of construction on this site.

There is no mention at all in the proposal document of how the operation of the finished school might be designed to mitigate the impacts on the SPA.  Muzzles for the kids, perhaps?  A sponsored silence running from October to March?

So whether you’re a bona fide ornithologist or, like me, an enthusiastic amateur, I hope that you’ll challenge your council to get all of the answers on these points well in advance of any development, or, ideally, play it safe and ask them to leave Posties Park as it is and build the new school on the current site.  These are the ways you can get in touch :

  • by using the Council’s Contact Centre (tel: 01389 738282; email contactcentre@west-dunbarton.gov.uk)
  • by writing to the Executive Director of Educational Services at West Dunbartonshire Council HQ, Garshake Road, Dumbarton G82 3PU or
  • by e-mailing education.centralregistry@west-dunbarton.gov.uk

And please make sure that you make your preference known before the end of the consultation period – November 13th, 2013.

As well as focusing on the internationally important wildlife species that may be impacted by the development of Posties Park, I’d also like to give a moment over to the common-or-garden species that make living on Posties a joy every single day. There is a huge range of garden bird species which use the Park (and my garden), not least this cheeky little chappy…

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Yes, he really is standing on my doorstep waiting to be fed.  As well as the robins, there are blackbirds, thrushes, tits, finches, treecreepers, wrens, swifts, swallows, wagtails, and this wee guy came to visit me on my window ledge recently…

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I think he’s a chiff-chaff.

As well as these daily visitors, I have nesting ducks in my garden in spring-time, which is pretty special.  And Posties is always host to massive flocks of gulls and oyster-catchers. And, at night-time, the herons can often be seen patrolling Posties, although I’ve not yet been able to catch one on camera (due entirely to my photographic ineptitude…)

In addition to the feathered inhabitants of Posties, there are also loads of other furry beasts who make the place home (no, I’m not talking about Him Indoors…)  I have a night-time hedgehog garden inhabitant (also not photographed – see reason above), and occasional fox visitors. There are of course zillions of squirrels and rabbits on Posties…

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These three in my garden looked like they were having an important discussion when I snapped them.

And, at dusk, the aerial display of bats over the Park is amazing – I could stand and watch them for hours.

And let’s not forget the beasties – they need love too (although, admittedly, somewhat less full-throatedly by me, being a life-long arachnophobe as I am…)  But what about this douzy of a Red Admiral that dropped in to the garden, enjoying the autumnal sunshine…

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Now, I don’t know for a fact that turning most of Posties Park into a sprawling school development will eradicate all or most of this wildlife from the area; I’d like to think that most of the garden birds will remain.  But what I do know is that we will no longer have the lovely green expanse that is so attractive to local fauna, and that loss is something that we should be shouting about.

Please, please use your voice to let the local authority know that this development plan is a turkey.  Building on Posties Park, when there are other feasible brownfield options for this development, is environmental vandalism at its worst.  Save Posties Park, and protect our wildlife – common and rare.

– MAx

* lots of interesting case law on EIAs – worth a Google…

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