Apr 152013
 

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Conservation charity Trees for Life is running a new ‘Iconic Birds of the Highlands’ Conservation Week from 25 May to 1 June 2013.
The programme of events offers people the chance to see and learn about the area’s magnificent and rare bird species, and to take part in hands-on habitat restoration work.

Highlights include a day trip to the Isle of Skye to see white-tailed eagles, the UK’s largest bird of prey, and to discover more about the programme that has successfully reintroduced these stunning birds to Scotland’s west and east coasts.

World-famous ornithologist and raptor expert Roy Dennis of BBC Springwatch fame will lead a guided walk at the biodiversity hotspot of Dundreggan near Loch Ness, and will discuss his pioneering osprey and sea eagle projects.

A trip to the world-famous viewing site at Loch Garten will offer the opportunity of fabulous close-up views of nesting ospreys, while a day’s birding with a local expert will include the chance to spot species such as Scottish crossbills and crested tits. There will be an early morning trip to the RSPB’s Corrimony Nature Reserve near Glen Affric to see a spectacular black grouse lek, and a warden from RSPB Corrimony will offer insights into capercaillie and black grouse management.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“The week offers people the chance to see and learn more about the world-class birdlife that inhabits the Highlands, while taking direct conservation action to help restore the habitats of these remarkable species. It will be an inspiring and positive way to spend a week during the Year of Natural Scotland.”

In September 2013, Trees for Life will also run two Conservation Weeks at Corrimony, where the charity is working with the RSPB to restore CaledonianForest and wetland to an area of former conifer plantation. This activity is benefitting a wide range of native birds and other wildlife, and provides an opportunity to observe rare birds in their natural setting.

Trees for Life is Scotland’s leading conservation volunteering charity. Its award-winning Conservation Weeks allow people from varied backgrounds, abilities and experience to help restore the Caledonian Forest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

Volunteers must be aged over 18 years old and have reasonable fitness. Weeks in the charity’s tree nursery offer a gentler option.

The ‘Iconic Birds of the Highlands’ week costs £250 or £180 for concessions, all inclusive. For more details, visit www.treesforlife.org.uk, or contact Becky on 01309 691444 or becky@treesforlife.org.uk.

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Feb 212013
 

By Bob Smith.

The whaup. Ma faavrit bird
wi its maist hauntin soon
a soond aat is embedded
sin i wis jist a loon

wi connach aa its habitat
its feedin gruns wi invade
wi really cwidna care a jot
as human arrogance wi parade

wi drain maist o oor weetlans
wi trumple doon oor grasses
why maan wi use up oor lan
jist tae satisfy the masses

we maan leave the whaup some space
fer it breedin an fer feedin
ere’s plenty room fer aa o us
if wi stop ayewis bliddy needin

© bob smith “the poetry mannie”  2013
Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth | Wiki Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 262012
 

By Bob Smith. 

I dinna myn a bittie rain
It fresh’ns aathing up
A haill month’s rain in a day
Fyles noo is bein dumped

Watter rins doon the streets
Drains canna tak the strain
Ony mair sic wachty shooers
Watter’s gurglin back oot again

Flooers are lookin drookit
Heids low wi the wecht
Wi aa the watter fae the sky
The bird bath sees nae fecht

Birdies look a bit bedraiglt
They’re hidin in the trees
Waitin for the sun tae shine
An feathers dry in the breeze

Fin the sun braks throwe again
An stame rises fae the grun
Kids’ll splash throwe the puddles
They’ll be haein lots o fun

Nae doot the morn wull be fine
Birds aa wull tweet and trill
Next wikk o coorse it’ll be pissin doon
O rain maist fowk hiv hid their fill

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
 Image Credit: SKY MOUNTAIN 1 © Alexandru Mitrea | Dreamstime.com

Jun 072012
 

What sorts of wild things are living in and around Aberdeen this summer? The RSPB would like to know.

As we sadly know, wildlife in our area is under threat on all fronts – over-development, environmental changes and unpredictable weather, and yes, culling.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds invites you to take some time to consider what’s in your own backyard

Get involved in the UK’s largest garden wildlife survey and help us find out how wildlife is doing this summer.

We’d like you to record the birds you see in one hour (on one day between 2-10 June), and let us know what other creatures visit your garden.

You’ll be joining thousands of other people as you step up for nature, helping us build up a picture of how summer wildlife is faring. Tell us what slithers, tweets, forages and snuffles in your garden this summer.

Here is a link to add your information to this survey: http://www.rspb.org.uk/naturecount/

The link below gives a wall chart of what birds you might encounter:-
http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/MYNC_sheet_2012_tcm9-309454.pdf

Why should I do it?

We’d like you to record birds that you see in one hour in the same way as Big Garden Birdwatch. But we’d also like to know about other animals that visit your garden, such as badgers, deer, moles, hedgehogs and, for the first time ever, slow worms.

The information we collect on birds and other wildlife through Make Your Nature Count is really useful – this is by far the biggest survey of garden wildlife! And it’s all thanks to people like you who take the time to tell us what they see.

Our Big Garden Birdwatch helps us to identify trends among wintering bird populations. We hope that, in time, Make Your Nature Count will build a picture of the wildlife that visits green spaces in summer – and increase our understanding of their importance.

Special visitors

The survey also includes a simple question about house martins. These small birds make a huge journey to the UK each summer, flying all the way from Africa. They nest under the eaves of buildings – but their numbers are declining. Make Your Nature Count will add to our understanding about how vital our buildings and green spaces are for them..

Chat about what you see

Take a look at our friendly online community. Here you can discuss your garden and the wildlife you see with lots of other like-minded people. Join in the conversations and see what other wildlife fans are talking about!

 Pictures: Bob the Robin by Elaine Andrews 2012

 

Apr 062012
 

Old Susannah comments on UK Government proposals to access emails between all citizens in the name of preventing Terrorism.

There will be dancing in the streets, celebrations at public squares (as long as they are vibrant, dynamic and have connectivity), and rejoicing all ‘round: the government has found the way to stop terrorism! Result! Yes, the government is getting rid of terrorism. And your basic right to privacy.

Why didn’t we think of it earlier, we are all wondering. Yes, the Government has decided it has the right to record each and every email you receive and send. And that is how terrorism will be stopped once and for all.

I’m happy to give up my private life forever in order for government snoops to be able to catch the bad guys. I’m thrilled to be treated like a new prison inmate every time I want to get on a plane. I’m sure you are as well.

So what if there are the occasional cases of disabled and/or elderly people being strip searched for having mobility aids. If the occasional frightened child is separated from its parents to be frisked, then so be it. It’s the price we pay for having the fantastic safe and secure lifestyles we have.

It was said by an American founding father, Benjamin Franklin that ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ How times have changed.

You could also wonder how secure your business secrets will be when they are intercepted by unknown government spooks. Do people ever mis-use information? Hardly ever. The slightly paranoid J Edgar Hoover kept files on American citizens, and would occasionally blackmail people into doing his bidding. Liberty and Justice for all, except if the FBI wanted you.

That would never happen here. Of course a senior police official was recently found guilty of accessing data on an ex-partner of his right here. I’m sure this was just a one-off, no need to trouble ourselves about it.

It’s also a very good thing that terrorists would never use the Royal Mail. Except for those charming people who sent bombs to Celtic’s manager, that is. No one would ever think of using the post for smuggling, planning terrorist attacks or anything else we should concern ourselves with. Phew!

It would be terrible if there were any civil disobedience over this great move. For instance nothing is stopping you from going to an internet cafe, and creating a free email account under the name of john smith. If enough people did this, and only sent or checked emails at internet cafes, then this little snooping plan of our kind government’s would be toast.

Old Susannah thinks this great scheme might run into a few wee problems anyway. For one thing, I keep getting all sorts of ‘spam’. Multiply all the emails selling you drugs or which try to get your personal details out of you by the country’s population, and you’ll need a bank of computer storage just to keep the spam.

Perhaps we should all go back to sending letters.

If anyone wanted to sign a petition against this great piece of legislation, although I can’t think why they would, the online petition is at http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_big_brother_law_a/?tta

Celebrity Blog from Cattie the Millipede and Milly the Caterpillar

Greetings everyone from our safe house in Torry, where we were airlifted to after our beautiful meadow home on Tullos Hill was destroyed – for a LibDem election pledge. We are surviving the cold snap OK, because we have lots of dead leaves to hide under to keep warm. (gardeners should always leave some dead leaves or other mulch around to keep plants – and creatures like us – warm).

We are even more worried now about our old friends on Tullos Hill. The deer have nowhere near as much gorse to shelter in and it’s cold. The birds lost lots of their shelter too when the gorse was ripped out. We are fine – but we wish our friends were, too.

Election Notes

The Labour Party have announced they would – end the Granite Web in its tracks if elected! Rather than borrowing £140,000,000 to put concrete ramps over our garden, chop down 250 year-old trees to turn into wood chip, they seem to want to spend time and energy on helping people.

Gerry Brough, city employee who has generously volunteered to work on the project is said to be incandescent with rage. So no change there then.

Mar 252012
 

Aberdeen City Council has been warned today that its staff could face criminal prosecution for its activities on Tullos Hill.  Animal Concern’s John Robins issued a press release explaining all, and Aberdeen Voice brings you this latest development in the ongoing Tullos Hill saga.

 

Aberdeen City Council (ACC) has been warned that staff and volunteers involved in the controversial Tree for Every Citizen project could face prosecution under wildlife crime laws.

It is believed workers have started clearing gorse and shrubs on Tullos Hill in preparation for the planting of saplings which is due to start next month.

Gorse is a favoured nesting habitat for a variety of birds including members of the finch family. It is a criminal offence to disturb or destroy active nests or to harm eggs or chicks.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) has asked the Wildlife Crime Officer at Grampian Police to investigate the situation with a view to arresting anyone found to have broken wildlife protection laws. The SSPCA and RSPB have also been asked to intervene. ACAL have warned ACC that their staff and volunteers could be prosecuted for destroying birds’ nests and they have asked the Council to suspend all work on Tullos Hill until September.

John Robins states:

“This tree planting scheme has gone from insane to criminally insane. Who in their right mind orders clearance of nest sites just at the time when song birds are nesting and then sends in an army of tree planters when ground nesting birds are trying to raise their young?

“This latest development suggests that the people behind this project really do not have a clue about what they are doing.  ACC claim their Tree for Every Citizen project will provide wildlife habitat. All I can see is habitat destruction and disruption at the very worst time of year for that to happen. Will it take a criminal prosecution before ACC see sense?”

Gavin Lindsay, Wildlife Crime Officer at Grampian Police, has agreed to speak to Aberdeen City Council about possible breaches in wildlife protection laws.  The SSPCA have asked their Aberdeen inspectorate to look into the matter. We await a response from RSPB Scotland.

The Council have put up temporary fencing around and on Tullos Hill. These have yellow hazard warning signs stating “Warning Forestry Operations. Please obey all signs and restrictions.”

A copy of the warning sent to the ACC Chief Exec and the Councillor behind the tree planting project is as follows:-

 

Dear Ms Watts and Councillor Malone,

I note that Aberdeen City Council has announced its intention to commence ground preparation work and the planting of saplings on Tullos Hill. I understand that this work will involve the removal of bracken and gorse and that clearance of these plants may already have started.

Given the long period of unseasonably mild weather you’ve had in the Aberdeen area over the last few weeks it is highly likely that birds will be nesting early and there will be nests with eggs and chicks in the gorse and on the ground at Tullos Hill. Gorse, which provides prickly protection for nesting birds, is a favoured nesting habitat for finches such as Twite, Chaffinch, Linnet, Redpoll and others.  From photographs and descriptions of the terrain on Tullos Hill I expect there are also a fair number of native ground nesting birds such as Lapwing, Curlew, Skylark and perhaps Ring Ouzel nesting in the area.

Yesterday we had a report that someone has heard grouse calling on the hill so it is likely that grouse will be nesting there too. There will no doubt be many pheasant breeding on the hill as well.

As you are probably aware it is a criminal offence to disturb or destroy birds’ nests containing eggs or chicks. It is likely that it would be individual employees or volunteers who would be prosecuted should wildlife protection laws be breached while the gorse and bracken is removed or while saplings are being planted.

I ask Aberdeen City Council to suspend all activities on Tullos Hill until September to avoid disturbing or destroying any active nests. I have notified the Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Unit, RSPB and the SSPCA of the situation.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins, Secretary to ACAL

 

Mar 192012
 

A proposal to build a road through woodland in Ellon has come under fire from a group set up to support the management of the area. The intended purpose of  road is to provide access for the development of 250 new homes. Those opposed to the plan believe the road is unnecessary, destructive, and in contravention of a Blench Charter. Friends of McDonald Park founder member Lynn Gilbert brings Voice readers the story.

The plan is being opposed by Friends of McDonald Park, a group set up by Aberdeenshire Council in 1990 when the Council bought the superiority of the Park from the charity Barnardos.
The aim of the group is to support the management of McDonald Park for the benefit of the community. We have done this by planting bulbs, trees and a hedge as well as regularly clearing litter from the ground and from the Modley Burn.

The Park was given to the Burgh of Ellon in 1928 by Sir James McDonald and is governed by a Blench Charter.

The terms of the Charter state that the Park should be used for recreational purposes only, that nothing should be done which is detrimental to the Park and that its area is not to be reduced in any way.

In 1996, we successfully opposed a plan by Aberdeenshire Council to use part of Caroline’s Well Wood, the east section of McDonald Park, as a bus park for Ellon Academy. On that occasion we raised the terms of the Blench Charter and an alternative solution was found without destroying any of the Park.

In 2010, builders Barratt East Scotland and Scotia Homes were given Council permission to construct 250 houses in Ellon’s Castle Meadows but it was only when marks appeared on trees in the east section of the Park, that it became apparent that the plan was to construct a road through it, from the development site to Golf Road. I made enquiries on behalf of the Friends and was told that the road had been approved by councillors.

In August 2011, the Friends were informed in a Council Estates Department letter that an S75 Legal Agreement for the application had still to be signed, and were asked for their views on the proposed access. The same letter stated that legal advice given to the Council was that:

“vehicular access must facilitate/improve public access to the park and cannot be granted purely to allow development”.

The Friends voiced total opposition to a road through the Park, stating that it would be in contravention of the Blench Charter since it would not improve public access to the Park, but was solely for the development. It would also involve the felling of a large number of mature trees in an area inhabited by red squirrels, bats and spring/early summer migrating birds.

It would seem that councillors were not satisfied with the legal opinion offered and they sought further advice several times from Sir Steven Stuart QC. This was given in a privately-heard report presented at a Formartine Area Committee (FAC) meeting on 6 December last year. It suggested that temporary construction access could possibly be granted, subject to a number of safeguards and agreements being in place.

  The Friends and many others have lodged objections to the planning application

On 17 January, a report to the FAC, again heard in private, proposed a temporary five year construction access which would become a pedestrian and cycle path once the five years had elapsed. This temporary access would be a tarred road with lighting and other services and which would involve the felling of at least 99 mature trees.

It would take a fifteen metre slice of the woodland at the Golf Road end, this increasing to nearer thirty metres at the top, a significant area of the Park.

It seems that when councillors first approved this access, they were not aware that they themselves were in fact Trustees of McDonald Park. It was in this capacity that councillors had to consider the application at their 28 February meeting, and as Trustees they rejected it.

This application is to be considered at a Planning meeting on Tues 20 March.

The Friends and many others have lodged objections to the planning application, and I have asked to speak at the meeting should it be heard there. Quite apart from the effect of this road on the woodland, a precious asset to Ellon, there is another matter to be considered.

Construction traffic using Golf Road would access the Park at the rear of Ellon Academy, an area used by a large number of Academy pupils and mothers with buggies walking into Ellon. There are two other access roads to the development, but some residents along these routes would rather see part of McDonald Park destroyed than have traffic pass their homes.

Interestingly, the site of this proposed access is given as ‘Castle Meadows’ on the planning application, when in fact it is McDonald Park. This makes it easy to overlook the reality of the situation.

Further info: Save McDonald’s Park Caroline’s Well Wood Ellon : Facebook Page
Image credit: Ian Jukes 

Mar 152012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah considers the upcoming council elections, the UTG referendum result, the happenings on Tullos Hill, International Womens Day, blogging beasties and generosity. By Suzanne Kelly 

Tally Ho!  The May elections are coming, and not a second too soon.  Some of our tireless (or is that tiresome?) councillors are packing up and preparing to move on.  Let’s hope they bring all of their talents to their new areas.

I hear that there is now a shortage of packing crates at the Fortress of Doom (aka The  Townhouse) as heroic councillors get ready to head into the sunset.  I hope they don’t let the doors hit them on their way out.

As to the UTG Referendum?  Well, I guess that’s it – it has been a totally above-board, fair-and-square contest.

The grapevine would have it that some of the rich and powerful secret members of the Vote for the City Gardens Project are less than pleased it’s cost so very much money to have such a small margin of victory, but they still got the result they wanted, if not the landslide they’d prayed for (or is that ‘paid for’).

In the next few days I’ll write about the dozen or so wee problems that some people have with the referendum and how it was run.

Did you know that over 300 votes arrived just a wee bit too late to be counted?  Did you know it would be totally illegal for any of the campaigning organisations to see the register as to how the votes went?  No, neither did I until recently.  I also have it on very good authority who some of the VFTCGP backers are.  Old Susannah is toying with the idea of naming them.

They would be free to deny the association – but why should they want to be secret in the first place, after all, they were the heroes behind the scenes helping us poor souls know how to vote.  Who could turn down their promise of 6,500 new permanent jobs or their £122,000,000 flowing into the city each year?  Think of all the parties and portraits that would buy!  Wow!

(You might be interested to know that PriceWaterhouse Coopers were asked by me if they had intended their projections about money and jobs to be used as the VFTCGP did in its propaganda.   PwC might have been expected to say they were delighted, and that they stand behind their projections 100%.  However, they said that as the projections were made for a ‘private client’ they can make no comment on them to me.  Of course the bills I’ve seen for PwC look like you and I paid for this great work out of our taxes, but there you go).

And other great news from Tullos  Hill.  HoMalone is having her way, backed up by impartial ‘expert’ C Piper (perhaps related to the CJ Piper firm which was already paid £42,000 for the bang-up job delivered on tree planting to date?).  Yes, the gorse is gone, and with it all those annoying butterflies, bees, moths, and insects.

The birds that would have eaten these critters and the small and larger mammals which lived in the gorse are homeless.  If only I had an environmental degree, then I could say we’ve interrupted the food chain and interfered with existing biodiversity on Tullos.  As it is, I’m not allowed to make any such observation, however obvious.

Any small mammals or deer rendered homeless should apply at Marischal College reception to declare their homeless status.  Of course these creatures are likely now to wind up as road kill.  Surely not even HoMalone or Ranger Bigboy will dare to claim any roadkill we see now will be due to overpopulation?  Well, we’ll see.

  Women around the world lack rights and comforts we all take for granted

Some of those animal-loving, meadow-loving radicals will be handing flyers out and collecting signatures on petitions this Saturday at 12:30 in front of Marks & Spencer Union Street.  The petitions apparently are to protest the use of school children to plant the 89,000 trees on Tullos.

Ms Malone indicates this will be an educational experience for the little mites, and I’m sure it will.

Having seen the state of the hill, they will learn about cuts, tetanus boosters, chemical pollution, industrial waste, and dead deer.  Thank you, Aileen.  I do hope she will make it to the hill to plant a few trees herself.  That would seem only fair to me.

For the paper petition, further info, and a PDF of the new flyer, visit:  http://oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com/

Finally, Old Susannah attended two events in the last week which celebrated International Women’s Day, a great Oxfam fundraiser held by Bead Crazy on St Andrew Street.  A dozen or so guests were treated to cocktails (thanks for the Black Russians), brownies and beads.  Everyone made pieces from recycled materials which was right up my street.

I’ve turned an old domino into a necklace that says ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, and a bottle cap into a brooch with an Oxfam fact.  Women around the world lack rights and comforts we all take for granted.  Thanks to Alex and everyone at Bead Crazy for the event.

Then at the Belmont last Saturday I ran into a collection of women celebrating Women’s day a bit differently.  They were all dressed as fairy godmothers, and were collecting wishes from the public as to what people would like to wish for our young girls’ futures.  My wishes didn’t include any granite webs or deer culls.  Thank you Merlyn and all the other women.

As well as a definition or two, this week I am pleased to announce that Aberdeen Voice has negotiated two new Celebrity Bloggers!  They will be featured in this column for the next several weeks.

And now – the first ever Millie & Cattie joint Blog!

“Hi I’m Millie, the Caterpillar!”

“And I’m Cattie the Millipede!  We’ve had a horrible, tragic few days:  our meadow home was destroyed and many of our friends with it.”

“Yes, sadly that’s true, Cattie.  Bulldozers showed up without warning to our Tullos Hill home, and ruined our wildflower and gorse home.  We had our rescue quite by chance.”

“That’s right Millie.  We were chewing on a Foxglove plant and suddenly it was ripped up and hurled into the air.  Sometime later the plant was found by a kindly passerby, and we were all taken to a safe house where we all now live.”

“We were both reluctant to launch this blog, but Old Susannah showed us the coverage Aberdeen was giving to a talking cactus, Morris the Monkey, and Jake the Ghost.  So we thought, ‘Why not try it?’   We know Spike the Cactus is very popular, and if people are willing to take voting advice from a monkey and a ghost (no offence), then people should know our story, too.”

“Yes Millie – we have a responsibility to let people know our beautiful home is gone, and an entire generation of moths, butterflies, bees have been wiped out.  What will become of some of our larger friends like the birds, small mammals and especially the kindly roe deer is our huge worry now.”

“Agreed Cattie.  We are grateful we were saved – we only hope our friends who haven’t been destroyed yet will be spared.  Got any lettuce?”

Cattie and Millie will give us an update next week and for the foreseeable future.

Charity:  (adjective) state of being generous, donating time or money to those  less fortunate.

While our very own local billionaire works selflessly to ensure his lasting granite memorial will bring his family continued and visible dominance over a certain city, a less savvy multi-millionaire has displayed a woeful lack of commonsense.

When it looked as if there would be some public outcry against his web, he calmly threatened to take his ball and go home.

J K Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter saga read the world over, has donated over £100 million to charity in the past year and a bit.  Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard hardly anything about her donations.  Where were the press cuttings, the headlines, the photos?  What did she get in return to show for it?

Ms Rowling has a lot to learn I fear.  Not only has she given enough away to nearly pay for the granite web we all long for, she’s dropped way down on the UK’s wealthiest list.

We will remember for quite some time how Sir Ian made his gracious £50 million donation to Aberdeen.  As long as we did what he wanted with it, and let unelected entities ‘manage’ our common good land, it was a great gift indeed.  When it looked as if there would be some public outcry against his web, he calmly threatened to take his ball and go home. Charity begins at home, and we’re going to take his charity, whatever form it takes, and like it.

Sure, Rowling may have made children all over the world discover the joy of reading,  and her books got people to read together in families and groups.   Her money may have helped countless people the world over across a wide variety of problems and concerns.  She may have made important points about the value of love, courage, kindness and friendship –  

But where’s the statue?  Alas, if there’s no granite monument and not a ton of press coverage bragging about the money, then the donations might as well never have happened.  Shame.  Perhaps a great PR firm could help…

One of the more radical points I picked up from these ‘children’s books of Ms Rowling’s ran along the lines of this (I deliberately paraphrase)  “One thing the tyrants of this world fear is that one day, one of the people they have oppressed will rise up against them.”  Can’t for the life of me think why that particular idea should spring to mind, but there it is.

New Acronyms!

Hooray!  We’ve more acronyms in this town than we know what to do with.  First it was the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ scheme or “T’FEC!’ as it is affectionately known in Torry.  The tree scheme’s supporters (all 3 of them) are so pleased with their recent successes that they have more plans up their sleeves, or so I hear.

‘Forget Allowing Citizens Anything for Free’  is a brainchild for the coming budget cuts which are  in the pipeline, reflecting the service cuts and support staff cuts.  It will be called ‘FAC AFF!’ for short.

If this proves successful, phase 2 may be launched.  Its working title is Forget Every Citizen Utterly – or ‘FEC U’ for short.

If you want to see these schemes enacted, then don’t rock the boat at the elections, and we will continue on our happy course.  See you down at the Granite Web or Monorail station soon!

Next week? – At this rate what our Council will dream up is anyone’s guess…

Mar 102012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly learned as we all did this week that the Council plans to push ahead with unsuitable and unpopular plans to turn one of our remaining meadows, Tullos Hill, into some kind of forest.

Just a few little problems:  they want to cull the half-tame deer that have lived in the area for decades, and then there is the small matter that the trees probably won’t make it – again.

With no warning, and while Councillor Cooney was attempting to forward the idea of preserving Tullos Hill as the meadow it is, we learned this week that the cull and tree scheme is on.

Aileen Malone is in the news this week, saying the scheme will work and ‘a lot of hard work’ has gone on the scheme. I’m sure it has. Pity the hard work was against the wishes of the community councils in the area, 3,000 facebook ’cause’ supporters, and nearly 2,500 petition signatories.

It is also a pity that the scheme simply is not going to work. Following my visit to Tullos Hill tonight, I can confirm that the area of gorse just cleared for the trees is far stonier – and far more polluted – than I could have imagined. It is testimony to the resilience of gorse that it managed to grow there at all.

But the gorse is largely gone; the birds that lived in this patch are dislocated; the deer and other mammals have lost a huge amount of shelter.

(Should any deer die on Wellington Road in the next few weeks, I am personally of the opinion that it will be due to the removal of this gorse habitat).

I never saw a finalised funding application, and the draft I received was a work of fiction in places.

The draft seemed to claim that the hill was disused farmland. Part of it indeed was – but the rest was either a tip, or too stony by miles to grow any crops on. I certainly hope the finalised application was accurate.

I have asked for a copy of it, so has Councillor Cooney – who arguably should have had sight of it before it went to the Commission; he is on the Housing Committee, and I know he wanted to see it. How precisely his draft paper in support of the meadow scheme has managed to sink without trace without going before his committee is a matter I hope the relevant Councillors and officers will research with some speed.

Earlier articles are on Aberdeen Voice, and research and backing documents (and an executive summary) can be found at http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/

If you were not previously aware that a soil report says the soil matrix on the hill is poor and not suitable for trees, or that the Council had to repay £43,800 for the previous failure of trees to grow on Tullos (largely due to weeds), you might want to start reading there.

But the subject of this article is the alarming amount of industrial waste that has been uncovered where the gorse has been cleared – and the extremely poor soil quality. The debris was everywhere: tubes, parts of rusted machinery, giant pieces of wire – it is all there where the gorse was, above and below the soil.

I am now more convinced than ever that the trees are not going to stand a chance. We are throwing good money after bad, and are going to sacrifice deer in the process.

Now our city’s tree expert has been in the news this week, saying the city has a responsibility to cull the deer anyway, because Tullos is small. He seems unaware that the deer move fairly freely in the area between Kincorth and other areas.

Of course, with the over-zealous housebuilding programmes coming soon to Loirston and Cove, we are losing more meadowland forever. This is bad news for all the local animal populations.

Why in the circumstances turning this meadow into a non-workable forest experiment is considered a good idea is a complete mystery to me, to animal welfare experts, to forestry experts I have consulted, and the local residents.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SP8qb4j32Qc 

I do apologise – my voice is awful, but I did my best to think on my feet as the light was fading, and as I was shouting into the wind. (Wind is the very thing that will get rid of any trees that begin to grow. Winds of over 90 miles per hour were a fairly frequent occurrence this winter). In a random wander into the cleared area (which should ideally have warning signs on it), I found the soil to be only a few inches deep, and with the heel of my boot I was unable to go more than say 4″ into the soil before hitting rock.

The debris was everywhere: tubes, parts of rusted machinery, giant pieces of wire, broken glass, fibreglass  – it is all there where the gorse was.

More on this story later. If you want to help: tell the City Council you oppose the scheme and are concerned about the soil’s suitability and health and safety. Parents – tell your school your child will NOT be planting any trees. Voters: vote for people other than the ones that pushed this scheme on us (a list of how councillors voted on environmental issues is coming soon).

Feb 032012
 

By Bob Smith. 

Trees are fair perfection
Shapes ti please the ee
Soughin in the  gintle breeze
Hames fer the birdies ti

Green fin in first canopy
Syne gold in autumn’s glow
Stark fin in winter’s depths
Gales blaw them ti and fro

Shelter ti a traiveller
Fae the faain rains
Hivven ti danderin luvvers
Waakin doon widdit lane

Deein leaves fae the trees
Turn inti a gweed mould
Gairdeners ken the value o
Aat fit is naitur’s gold

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
Image Credit: Mike Shepherd