May 192016
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

Seacroft West view3It has been at the heart of bustling harbour life in Aberdeen for centuries and now live images from the iconic Roundhouse are being beamed across the world.
Views from webcams recently installed at the charming historic building, which houses Seacroft Marine Consultants, give a fascinating insight into the hive of activity in and around Aberdeen Harbour and beach.

From bottlenose dolphins which are often spotted at the harbour entrance to impressive vessel movements, the variety of sights which the Seacroft team enjoy are far from the views you might expect from an office.

Michael Cowlam, technical director at Seacroft, was one of the first to share photos of a more unusual phenomenon witnessed in previous years from the Roundhouse, with his images going global and being shared on social networking sites.

Stormy conditions and high winds in September 2012 forced foam from the North Sea inland, transforming Footdee into what looked like a winter wonderland, with the spume making it look as if a snow storm had hit the area.

Michael said:

“While we can’t promise another incredible event like that, we are sure that images of the hustle and bustle of the port’s activities and the areas surrounding our office will be popular. The Seacroft team feel privileged to work in such a historic and unique building, particularly as we are the first business to call it home since it closed its doors as Aberdeen Harbour’s facility for controlling all vessel movements around the port”.

“We have been in the Roundhouse for seven years now and the view from our windows never fails to impress. This is one of the main reasons we decided to install webcams and share that with people around the world.”

“A particular favourite of ours is the large pod of the dolphins that are often visible around the harbour mouth. The RSPB’s Dolphinwatch is based close by so it really is a great position to observe them from. While based in Aberdeen we carry out work globally, which makes it even more special for us to open up Scottish harbour life to more people.”

The Roundhouse was reinvented as an unconventional office space by its owners, the Aberdeen Harbour Board, as they looked for other uses for a facility which had been superceded by the construction of the £4.5million Marine Operations Centre in 2006.

The four webcams set up from the C-listed building focus on Aberdeen Beach and Bay to the north, the harbour entrance and out to sea eastwards, across the harbour navigation channel to Girdleness in a southerly direction  and across the main harbour turning basin to the west of the building.

Seacroft East view2Established in 1995 by Captain Roderick MacSween, the firm has been owned and operated by the founder’s daughter Jennifer Fraser and Michael Cowlam since 2004.

Synonymous with its location, Seacroft has built its reputation in the marine assurance and consultancy sphere – and has expanded its expertise to offer a range of services to clients with maritime interests worldwide.

Specialisms include marine assurance packages, OVID and CMID inspections, International Safety Management audits and dynamic positioning assurance as well as simulator training in ship handling and bridge resource management. Seacroft have also recently appointed Paul Young as Marine Manager and continue to expand their capabilities into the Marine Warranty and Rig Move sectors.

Jennifer added:

“We could not have found a better fit for Seacroft than the Roundhouse and are so lucky to work in such an incredible and beautiful setting. We are delighted to be showcasing this and the hive of activity around our office to the public and hope people enjoy our scenery as much we do.

“Aberdeen’s rich maritime history surrounds the Roundhouse and it is very special for us to be adding our own chapter to it. We celebrated 20 years of business last year and are proud of the knowledge and expertise in our busy team. Everyone here is passionate about our surroundings and life in the marine sector and love sharing that.”

Seacroft North View 2Seacroft has also been at the forefront of innovations in emergency response and rescue vessel (ERRV) services, including in formulating vessel sharing arrangements which have been adopted by a number of oil and gas operators to streamline provision allowing oil companies to operate safely but more efficiently – a process that is now recognised in industry guidelines.

For further information visit www.seacroftmarine.com and click on ‘Webcams’ to see the views.

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Apr 262013
 

Scotland has five UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites. In no particular order of importance they are St Kilda, New Lanark, Edinburgh Old and New Town, the Antonine Wall and Skara Brae in Orkney. Duncan Harley writes.

Robert Owen’s New Lanark Industrial Village is of course currently under threat from open caste mineral extraction operations and was the subject of a recent Aberdeen Voice article entitled “New Lanark – A Mexican Menie”.

The situation as regards New Lanark is far from being resolved although Historic Scotland have now, somewhat belatedly according to conservationists, drawn up a management plan designed to protect New Lanark.
Historic Scotland was labelled “an embarrassment to the nation” by heritage groups after it failed to lodge an objection to a quarry planned in countryside close to New Lanark.

St Kilda has thankfully fared much better. The group of islands was occupied up until 1930 by a population largely dependant on subsistence farming plus seabirds and seabird eggs as a source of food and raw materials such as lamp oil and feather down.

The largest island in the St Kilda archipelago, Hirta, was occupied until 1930 when the last islanders left after they asked to be evacuated because their way of life was no longer sustainable.

The population was down to a mere 36 from a reported high of 110 in 1851 and the remaining St Kildans were dependant largely on the charity of mainlanders and tourists to subsist in a harsh island environment 50 miles from the mainland and which for much of the year was cut of from the rest of the world by storms and bad weather.

After the evacuation the islands were sold to the Marquis of Bute who was an eminent ornithologist. He was keen to preserve St Kilda as a bird sanctuary due to the 28 species of birds which breed their on a regular basis and the million or so birds which frequent the islands in summer. As well as Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and Leach’s Petrels, the islands are home to almost one quarter of the UK’s population of those “clowns of the sea” the Puffins.

On his death in 1957, the islands were left by the Marquis to the National Trust for Scotland who have restored many of original island houses and worked to preserve the islands so that future generations may better understand the hard lives and realities which the islanders faced.

Today, three organisations, The National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the MoD, work in partnership to further a continuing programme of conservation and research on the islands to ensure the care and protection of this important UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Scotland of course has a great many deserted villages. The countryside and coastline is littered with abandoned settlements and clusters of deserted crofts dating in many cases from the Highland Clearances during the 18th and 19th century when whole townships were deprived of their land and people were replaced by more profitable sheep.

The Aberdeen area has at least one such deserted village although it appears to have been abandoned due to the decline in the fish stocks during the early part of the 20th century rather than due to the greed of landowners favouring sheep over people.

This is not of course the hamlet of Lost (population 24) near Bellabeg, which seemingly suffers from the regular theft of street signs bearing its name, but the village of Crawton a few miles South of Stonehaven, which was abandoned by its inhabitants in 1927.

In its heyday, it is said that up to 30 Crawton men fished the North Sea from the settlement with around 12 boats and the village even had its own fish merchant and school. However following reported over fishing and half a century of decline Crawton, was finally deserted by its last inhabitant in 1927 and now all that survives of the original village are the ruins of around 20 houses and a school on the cliff top above the shingle beach.

The cliff top location is quite stunning and the views are well worth the effort of the short walk in to admire them. There are sea caves and waterfalls and the cliffs faces are literally studded with thousands of nesting sea birds.

In common with the inhabitants of St Kilda, the folk of Crawton seemingly harvested the local bird population for food to supplement the farming and fishing.

Nowadays of course, there are strict laws against abseiling down a cliff face on a rope with a basket strung around your shoulders in order to steal wild bird’s eggs, or indeed to take sea birds for the pot; and the cliffs around the village now form the protected nature reserve of Fowlsheugh, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Puffins, Fulmars, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Razorbill are amongst the 170 thousand plus birds which inhabit the cliffs and skerries around Crawton during the breeding season between April and July with seals and dolphins often visible out to sea.

If you don’t feel like facing  the gruelling seven hour or so Atlantic boat trip to St Kilda then Crawton and Fowlsheugh come a close second with the added benefit of being right on our doorstep!

The Fowlsheugh reserve is owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and their website contains more information plus a map and guide to getting to the reserve.

Sources

St Kilda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Kilda,_Scotland
St Kilda: St Kilda/Artist in Residence: http://www.scotsman.com/st-kilda-artists-in-residence-
RSPB: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/f/fowlsheugh/directions.aspx
Fowlsheugh:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowlsheugh
Crawton Geology: http://www.aberdeengeolsoc.org.uk/pdf
Island on the Edge of the World – The Story of St Kilda – Charles MacLean – ISBN 1 84195 755 0

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Oct 112012
 

With thanks to Raptor Persecution Scotland.

A golden eagle was found shot and critically injured on a Scottish grouse moor in Dumfries & Galloway on Saturday, 6th October.  The bird, which had suffered shotgun injuries, is receiving expert veterinary care at the SSPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Raptor Persecution Scotland- http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/– tells Aberdeen Voice all about this crime, and the latest Scottish Government hand-washing comment.

“Information from local sources indicates that the bird was discovered on the Buccleuch Estate, very close to the boundary with Leadhills Estate, just to the north of Wanlockhead (see map below – our thanks to Andy Wightman at www.andywightman.com for his help defining the estate boundaries: Buccleuch pink, Leadhills grey).

“It is not known where the actual shooting took place.  How far can an eagle fly with an injured wing and injured tail muscles?  

“When it was found it reportedly had extensive feather damage, suggesting it had been stumbling around on the ground for some time.  The SSPCA has said if it hadn’t been picked up on Saturday it is quite likely that it would have starved to death.

“The area where the eagle was found is managed as driven grouse moor, as is the land immediately on the other side of the border and while it’s been reported that Leadhills Sporting Ltd leases land on Buccleuch Estate (see here) the precise area leased is not known.

“Whoever did it, whether a gamekeeper, a member of a grouse shooting party or someone from the Wanlockhead silk embroidery club, they will escape justice.  That’s a certainty!  Along with all the other people who have poisoned, trapped or shot the 26 other dead or ‘missing’ eagles over the last six years (see here).  And these are just the ones we know about.  

“Every time, there is outrage.  Every time, there are denials from the gamebird shooting community.  Every time, there are calls for government action.  Every time, we’re fobbed off with platitudes about ‘partnership working’.

“Every!  Single!  Time!

“Is this bird going to be the one that finally galvinises a strong response from the Scottish Government?  

“It’s been 20 years since the RSPB first started drawing attention to the criminal and unsustainable activities taking place on driven moors. What’s changed in those 20 years?  NOTHING!  (Except we’re now much better informed about the extent of the issue….all those claims of “it’s just a rogue keeper” just don’t wash anymore.  We know better now!)

“It’s encouraging to see that Scottish Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, has already made a statement (see the SSPCA press release).  Now we need more from him and his government.  

“The game-shooting community continues to show utter contempt for the wildlife laws, despite all the chances they’ve been given.  Enough is enough! Estate licensing should now be on the cards.  No more excuses, just get on with it. Those who don’t persecute raptors have nothing to fear.  

“Please email Paul Wheelhouse at ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk and urge him to make a strong response.

“You might also want to mention to him how impressive the SSPCA response has been to this crime.  Eagle found on Saturday, press release out on Tuesday.  Mr Wheelhouse should soon be commissioning a consultation on increasing the SSPCA’s powers to investigate wildlife crime; let him know how effective they are.”

More Info:

The latest comments from the Government can be found at:
http://raptorpersecutionscotlandresponse-to-dead-eagle-found-in-grampian/

Press releases can be found from the SSPCA here and the RSPB here

Image Credit: ( home page featured image ) Creative Commons photo, Jason Hickey 

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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

 

Dec 222011
 

Temperatures are plummeting; Holiday lights are being blown down on Union Street, and it’s been snowing in Aberdeenshire.  Local wildlife needs your help to make it through another winter writes Suzanne Kelly.

Seasons are getting wetter; winters are more unpredictable – at least according to the Met Office data.  Animals need to be able to access clean water, food and shelter – your help couldn’t be easier or more important.

If you have a window box or a large garden; if you live near a park or open waste ground, here are some tips.

Water

All living things need water; birds need it to drink and to bathe.  Can you keep a shallow bowl of water outside, keeping it clean?  Then you’ll be doing a large service to wildlife.

Food

If you can afford to buy specialist bird seed or suet and seed balls, that’s great.  But birds will also be grateful for your kitchen scraps, particularly in winter.   Bits of cheese, pet food, cooked pasta, suet, fruit, cereal, and nuts – even cooked eggs and eggshells will be appreciated.  Whatever you choose to feed your birds on, make sure it is kept clean and is out of the reach of predators.

Shelter

Insects, bees, butterflies and birds will greatly appreciate it if you can leave a patch of lawn to grow tall.  This is crucial for many species.  A pile of old wood makes a shelter for insects and small animals.  Bird houses and bee boxes can likewise be bought or made (you will find instructions on the Internet)

Domestic Animals

Domestic dogs and cats do not have the same qualities for surviving harsh weather as wild creatures.  Do not leave your animals outside overnight.  Some cats may like to come and go at all hours, if you can put in a cat flap that might be a solution.  But domestic animals will suffer or possibly perish in extreme weather.  Do not assume it is OK to leave them outside – it is not.

And just in case there are some people who have not got the message yet – do not leave animals unattended in cars.  This is advice from the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA.  In the summer we are still reading stories of dogs dying – they can’t sweat; a closed car which might be a bit uncomfortable to people is an oven to them.  And unfortunately there have been more than a few incidents of dogs being stolen from cars and from in front of shops.

Whatever the weather, if you are leaving an animal alone, if something happened to you out of the blue – what would happen to them.  The advice is – don’t do it.

Gardening for Wildlife

It might not seem like the ideal time of year to do any gardening, but it’s a great time to do some planning.  A wildlife garden even in the city can help our overall wildlife population.  Habitats are being lost at an alarming rate to development.  People are increasingly getting rid of their lawns in favour of parking or paving.

Grass is integral to wildlife survival – birds need to hunt worms; the soil supports all sorts of life, and plants are essential to all forms of wildlife.

It’s never been easier to plan a wildlife garden – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has an online service which will tailor a gardening plan to your exact situation.  The Homes for Wildlife scheme will give you dozens of suggestions – most of which couldn’t be easier to implement.

Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/applications/homesforwildlife/home.aspx for details.

Sep 222011
 

Techfest rolled into town last week; one of its attractions was a free session of whale and dolphin watching from Torry Battery.  Ian Hay of East Grampian Coastal Partnership led the event. By Suzanne Kelly.

Torry Battery – Saturday morning 10 September: it was a bit windy, rainy and overcast – so it was almost perfect. Well, perfect for whale and dolphin watching anyway. Expert and marine mammal enthusiast Ian Hay of the East Grampian Coastal Partnership met a group which had gathered this morning as part of Aberdeen’s Techfest. And the marine life did not disappoint.
There was a small pod of dolphins – but these decided to head north along the coast just as the talk was due to start.

Those who got there early saw an impressive display, and were able to make the dolphins out as they headed away from the harbour. Ian then delivered an amazing talk; everyone present took away new information however young or old they were.

As the dolphins headed away, Ian turned his attention to the rich, varied bird life.  He pointed out the cormorants and eider ducks on a harbour jetty.  He reminded us that bird watchers from all over the world come to our City and shire for the wealth of species that are found here. Some species are protected; but he mentioned that the eider ducks (from which eider down comes) were protected since the time of St Cuthbert in the 8th Century.

Some birds travel here in the winter from the north (soon the great geese flocks will appear); some come up in the spring from the south. The lighthouse in Torry is as useful to birds as it is to ships – it serves as a beacon and aids seabirds to find land. Aberdeen also has a famous Sycamore tree loved by bird watchers – any number of rare species can make their way here.

Ian then returned to his specialist subject, our marine mammals. He rightly called this harbour:

“The best place in Europe for watching whales and dolphins.”

Ian said there are locally five predominant types of mammals:  Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Minke Whale.

The Bottlenose are the animals most commonly seen here; they travel in pods of upto 30 or 40; and are a coastal animal. The Harbour Porpoises are the most common species in the area – but ‘they don’t do very much’.  The White-Beaked Dolphins are very special to the area, and the Risso’s dolphins are identified by their large heads.

This species eat squid – and usually pick up a few scars in the process of catching them. The scars turn the Dolphin’s skin white, so if you see a white one, it’s going to be an older one.  This species is a bit more solitary than some of the other mammals which travel together in larger numbers.

If a Minke (or other) whale is around, a clue will be a large number of seabirds together at sea.

Their presence means a whale has found a shoal of fish and is rounding them up. Gannets, gulls and puffins will be seen picking fish up from the surface. Suddenly the birds will scatter as the giant whale’s mouth emerges to catch the fish.

Ian told us the unfortunate (if not heart-breaking) story of some humpback whales that appeared here each winter. There were a mother and her calf, and a male.  They made an impressive sight, however it is thought that the mother and calf were found on an Angus beach having become tangled in fishing nets.

Being mammals, they could not surface; they could not free themselves – and they died. Thankfully in general terms the population of the Humpback and other whales is returning. (Feel free to write to the Norwegian, Icelandic and Japanese Embassies and protest at their pro-whaling stance in the meantime).

Fisherman or not, we can all act responsibly to encourage and protect our marine life. 

For openers, don’t throw your plastic trash out near the shore, and don’t flush anything plastic down the toilet. You otherwise risk having your unwanted plastic junk (like cotton buds) ending up eaten by sea creatures that will probably die.

If you have slightly greater ambitions than not littering the sea with plastic goods, then by all means come to Torry Battery and look for marine life. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find something to see.

As our talk came to an end, the dolphins reappeared almost on cue. Many people had been surprised to know whales could be spotted, and many people planned to head back to Torry soon. I had been asking a family (originally from New York) for some comments on the morning’s activity.
The re-appearance of the dolphins left Iona and her brother little left to say except ‘did you see that one?’ ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Look there they are again!’

Things to do further afield

  • Visit Fowlesheugh RSPB site, south of Stonehaven. The quantity of birdlife (c. April to July) is astonishing.
  • Go watch the incoming, dramatic goose migration at Strathbeg
  • Join a beach litter clean-up. There is an upcoming event tomorrow – Don Mouth at 10am – and one in early December. Further information from Techfest offices – http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/tis/
  • Consider joining a Norcet as ‘Citizen Scientist’ marine life observer – get a free trip to the Shetland Islands and help watch sea life at the same time – details on this opportunity and a host of other marine life issues and events from http://www.egcp.org.uk/
  • Are you a jet skier? Then please stay away from the dolphins! It’s the law: the dolphins cannot hear you until it’s too late, and they can’t get out of your way quickly. Thanks.

Clock Ticking For Triple Kirks And The Peregrines

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Community, Featured, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Clock Ticking For Triple Kirks And The Peregrines
Mar 252011
 

In January 2011, Richard Pelling posted a blog entitled Triple Kirks Nonsultation?’ about what was going on at The Triple Kirks site. At this stage, the plans for the site had already been subject to intense local criticism, inspired a poem and had even received a bit of a national mauling in Private Eye (Eye 1279, page 16). Richard now brings us up to date.

In February,  Stewart Milne Group (SMG) submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening option request to determine if they would need to carry out an EIA prior to submitting plans – to which we of course made comment.

It turns out that given that the site is less than 0.5 hectares in size and “does not fall within a sensitive area”,  no EIA is required.

So, the presence of the Schedule 1 listed Peregrine Falcons on site apparently does not merit any special attention and no study of the potential impact on them is required. Sad.

While on the subject of the majestic Peregrine, it is worth pointing out that the registered address of SMG is, ironically, Peregrine House in Westhill. Want more irony? Of course you do! One of the items cited in the Corporate Social Responsibility section of the SMG website is Protecting our Native Birds.

With the pesky matter of the requirement for an EIA out of the way, the plans for the proposed development were duly submitted to Aberdeen City Council in March.

Now on the aforementioned Corporate Social Responsibility section of the SMG website, I was pleased to read the following :

“Protecting our Heritage – Historic buildings are a vital part of this nation’s heritage, and one particularly close to our heart”.

So in line with this statement, would the final plans represent a volt face, meaning that Archibald Simpson’s Triple Kirks site would be treated in a sympathetic manner? Would the soaring A-listed spire now be afforded the respect it deserves? Nae chance. Perusal of the application on-line – P110303 – reveals that they look remarkably similar to those being peddled during the nonsultation exercise – quelle surprise.

Surely the site deserves more than the bland and insipid glazed shed that that some would say desecrates the Triple Kirks site and detracts from the surrounding historic streetscape? Why bother to give a building A-listed status if it can be treated with such disregard? Please check out the plans and then make your comments on the application – you have until 31st March 2011 to do this.

Remember that if you commented in the initial nonsultation exercise or in response to planning application P110056, you need to do it all over again for this one – P110303 – in order to make your views known.

If you have concerns on the impact on the spire, it would also be worth contacting Historic Scotland directly – I’m sure they will have something to say in response to seeing the plans anyway – but it’s good to let them know that you care about the fate of the Triple Kirks spire (Historic Building No. 19940).

As for the fate of the Peregrines, if you are worried about how this development may impact them it is certainly worth contacting Scottish Natural Heritage to express your concerns. The SMG website shows that they have apparently been funding some RSPB projects in Scotland, so could this mean that the RSPB may be reluctant to stand up for the Triple Kirks falcons? If you are an RSPB member perhaps you might consider dropping them an e-mail to ask them to fight for the falcons.

Anyway, whatever you feel like doing, please do it … the clock is ticking on Triple Kirks! So as the saying goes, act now or forever hold your peace.

As a footnote, it was nice to see the Rosemount Review report that :

‘ Rosemount Community Council rejected new plans to develop the derelict Triple Kirks site last night. The community council concluded that the new designs were “not in keeping with the area”. ‘

Dec 312010
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City and Shire needs to help its over wintering birds, and there is something everyone can do to help.  Whether you can spare a few scraps of food or put up bird feeders, any and all food and water is greatly needed.

Aberdeenshire is home to a wide variety of birds; it is a destination for bird lovers from around the world who can find Yellowhammer, Starling, Song Thrush, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Woodcock, Barn Owl, Corn Bunting, Linnet, Dunnock and Buzzard – to name just a few.  Most of these birds are considered high or medium conservation priority species according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

birds are virtually helpless in the face of these harsh conditions

Not only are these birds losing habitat at an alarming rate in our area due to changes in the countryside, but also the winters we’ve suffered through recently have been extremely damaging to our bird populations.

An RSPB spokesperson comments that the last three winters we have had are the hardest in the last three decades, and that the effect has been tremendously bad for species such as Kingfishers, Kites and common garden birds, such as goldcrests and long-tailed tits, which are struggling to survive as temperatures plummet and food cannot be found:  it is clear that many populations will be further reduced.

The RSPB website recommends various ways to help wild birds survive, which include:-

“Leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also a good source of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital”.

1.       Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather.  Set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen scraps such as grated cheese, pastry and porridge oats.

2.       Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.

3.       Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water.

4.       Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family.

5.       Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.

6.       Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year. When the weather conditions take a turn for the worse there is often a noticeable change in the behaviour of wildlife.  Birds will try to replenish energy lost overnight first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon with a spurt of activity”.

Please visit the RSPB website at http://www.rspb.org.uk/ for further details on how to help birds now and year round.

You might be able to hurry into your heated house and get a hot snack when the snows fall, but these birds are virtually helpless in the face of these harsh conditions.  Sparing a few minutes and a few scraps of food will definitely make a huge difference to them.

Oct 152010
 

Old Susannah gets to grips with more tricky terms.

Firstly, two men here in Aberdeen held down a pet cat so their pitbull could savage it.  Let’s find them quickly.  Well done to the Council official who wrote to me a while back to say we didn’t have any problems with banned breeds, dog fighting, or dog owners who are encouraging problems.  That’s all I say on the matter without becoming less polite except keep an eye on your pets and keep them in at night.

Cheerier note – Old Susannah saw a man with a young child stop in the streets today, pick up someone else’s litter, and put it into a bin.  Can we have more like him please?

Dream Job

There are certain industries where there are so many perks and benefits, people are willing to take low paid jobs just to get their foot in the door and be part of the excitement.  In the film and television world, people willingly take lower salaries than in other business sectors – in exchange for this they get to go to film premiers, mingle with stars on occasion, and get access to movies.  People go into the music business to get free CDs, go to concerts, etc. and therefore happily accept less pay than they might get elsewhere.  And so it is with Council staff – they get the honour of walking the corridors of power and even sometimes getting a glimpse of Kate or Stewart – if they’re lucky.  Sometimes meetings (of which there is no shortage) have biscuits as well as tea and coffee.  You would think in those situations people wouldn’t ask for more money.  However, the local Unions have wild ideas.

First, there is some silly notion that men and women doing the same work should be paid the same amount of money.  Then some people actually want to be paid overtime for evenings and weekends.  Finally, the unions are asking for a pay rise higher than 1.5%!  Do these people really think that’s fair?  After all, for most of them, that would probably mean an extra candy bar a month.

If the experts nationally are correct, then inflation is running somewhere around 3%, so a 1.5% raise is perfectly fair for these privileged personnel.  Of course there is the odd suggestion now and then that the atmosphere in some of the Council departments is less than friendly, but that no doubt is sour grapes. I hope the Unions will realise just how lucky they are to be connected with our fantastic Council – perhaps they should all take a voluntary pay cut?  After all, the City does have serious expenses – such as finding some £235,000 to pay for 8 ’European and Diversity’ people.

Sustainable Growth

Sustainability is the watchword in public and private sectors these days; it’s almost as if there was some kind of limit on our resources.  Luckily past generations had the foresight to put land aside for ‘wildlife’ and ‘recreation’.   Examples of these can be found in Union Terrace Gardens, Loirston Loch and Sunnybank Park.  Thanks to those who preserved these lands, we are in a good place for some ‘sustainable growth’.  In order for Builders to keep growing their businesses, they have to keep building more things, and that means they need places to build on.  In order for the Council to keep growing, it needs more taxes from residents and businesses, so it needs to keep making new housing and new shopping malls and the like.  It would hardly do to use the existing buildings that are boarded up – that won’t help the builders.  Of course, a system based on continuous building can go on forever – well at least as long as there are green spaces to build on.

“On The Map”

Thank goodness:  Scotland is going to be “On The Map”!! Old Susannah’s invitation to RGU to see Sir Ian Wood give Donald Trump an honorary degree got lost in the post.  However, my spies told me Sir Ian’s immortal words which were along the line of thanking Mr Trump for his golfing development, which is going to put Scotland on the map for golf!  Is it possible Scotland will become a destination for golfers?  Watch this space!

Oct 082010
 

Old Susannah gets to grips with more tricky terms.

Two bits of good news this week – it seems a possible New Best Friend has been identified for fox batterer Derek Forbe.  Enter Mervyn New, 45, operations director for Marine Subsea UK, reported to prosecutors for shooting baby seagull chicks (too young to fly) from his Aberdeen office window. One was killed, the other suffered in a wounded state until put down.  Perhaps like Forbes it was a case self-defence for New.

It would have come as something of a surprise to find seabirds nesting near the Aberdeen coast, and hopefully Mr New won’t find the media attention too distressing.  After all, office workers are historically known to surf the web, hang around the water cooler and kill things.  No doubt New and Forbes can go ‘clubbing’ together sometime.  My other cheery news is that Donald Trump is considering running for presidency of the United States.  Break out the champagne (but drink responsibly – see below)

RSPB

We wouldn’t have have our poor, hardworking executives falling foul (or is that ‘fowl’?) of silly wildlife laws if it weren’t for organisations like the SSPCA and the RSPB.  The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is an organisation that exists to stop people like Forbes and New having any fun.   It seems the RSPB has just issued a report saying that the situation is serious for wild birds in Scotland.  Apparently things called ‘loss of habitation’ (like when parks are turned into car parks) and fragmentation of habitation (like when parks are turned into football stadia) are bad for birds and other wildlife.  So there you have it – the less green space, the less wildlife.  Yes, that sounds like a very farfetched conclusion.  But if we keep going the way we are, then the world will be a safer place for Forbes and New.   Birds apparently pollinate wild plants and food crops, and feed off of insects, so they won’t be missed much.

Dine in for Two for £10
Loss of green space and loss of wildlife are as nothing compared to some social ills.  Sometimes a problem is so dreadful the temptation is to sweep it under the carpet.  Therefore we should give thanks to the SNP for its bravery and sense of priorities:  Is it going to tackle pollution?  Crime?  The economic crisis?  Decaying schools and hospitals?  Better:  it is going to stop supermarket offers such as ‘Dine in for Two for £10’ once and for all.  Old Susannah understands they have their best people on this full time (doing field research).  Their backbench MSP, Dr Ian McKee, is going to cure Scotland of its alcohol problems in one go by stopping these meal deals.  Once the deal is gone, we’ll all go teetotal.  There are some people who can handle alcohol, and some who cannot.  If we stop everyone from having a glass of wine with their shrimp cocktail, chicken casserole and profiteroles, we’ll have a better society.

You see them —  couples, pensioners, working people –  racing to grocery stores when these specials are on, behaving like wild animals, grabbing main courses, side dishes, desserts – and a bottle of wine (although non-alcoholic drinks are clearly offered as well).  Don’t be fooled into thinking these people are going to eat any of the food.  It’s the wine they want.  After ‘scoring’, they go home and ‘prepare’ – this ritual might involve plates, cutlery and glasses.  Delirious on the wine, they then go to the town centre, fight, commit crime, get sick in the streets, and so on.  Apparently a kidney charity says that such deals make taking alcohol seem socially acceptable.  You could be forgiven for thinking that 8,000 years’ worth of human civilisation had something to do with the concept that having wine was mainstream, but the SNP says otherwise.  Encouraging people to have a glass of wine alongside a three course meal is just wrong.

Cheers

Freedom of Information Act
A law came into being some years ago giving the public the freedom to ask for information; this law was cleverly called the Freedom of Information Act.  Since then, many government agencies have worked tirelessly to evade complying with it.  Some suspicious people have the nerve not to trust their local governments, and write to request information.  Unfortunately this creates work for the Information Officers (who were put in place to deal with requests).  Kevin Stewart of Aberdeen City Council has said that many of these requests are ‘absurd’.  If anyone knows about absurdity, it may well be Mr Stewart.  Such crazy requests might include questions on what happening to the Common Good Fund, why old buildings are occasionally sold for less than market value, how much money is spent on outside consultants, why the previous promise to leave Loirston Park alone is being ignored and so on.  One question was asked about the Council taking over Marischal College and spending £80 million in the process.  What were the alternatives?  Who suggested this?  Were proper costing’s done and analysed?  After a bit more than the maximum time allowed, the Council replied that the financial data used to select Marischal College as the best way forward was Copyrighted by the consultants who did the study – and could not be released.  The word absurd springs to mind again.

Copyright
A copyright is a form of protection which can be used to secure a creator’s rights over their creation.  The Harry Potter books and films are copyrighted; ‘Led Zepplin IV’ is copyrighted; ‘Gone with the Wind’ is copyrighted.  This stops unauthorised people passing the work off as their own, stealing parts of the work, or making unauthorised use of these creations, particularly for profit.  Old Susannah cannot find any form of copyright that would stop Aberdeen City Council from showing its figures for Marischal College expenditure and alternatives – unless the Council is planning a book or a film that is.  If anyone out there wants to ask the Council for the figures – or an explanation as to how such figures could possibly be copyrighted – please do send the Council a Freedom of Information Request.