We have challenged Sandwell council to present clear data regards “the significant increase” in adult goose numbers. This is important because it appears to be an issue with which John Satchwell/Sandwell council is obsessed. At different times he and others speaking on behalf of SMBC have made different claims about goose numbers, which taken collectively weaken the council’s case in that they are inconsistent. These statements concerning numbers are set out below chronologically and the source from which they are taken. The majority of these we have placed in the public domain on our website.
SANDWELL COUNCIL CLAIM TO HAVE CULLED 220 BIRDS- 50 AT VICTORIA PARK IN 2013 WHICH WAS VIDEOED BY MYSELF AND 100 FROM DARTMOUTH PARK- FOR WHICH THERE APPEARS NO INDEPENDENT CORROBORATION. A FURTHER 70 WERE NOTED TO BE KILLED IN 2014. 27 SURVIVING BIRDS WERE COUNTED THAT MORNING BY MYSELF, AT WHICH POINT JOHN SATCHWELL AND OTHERS CONTINUED TO LIE ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO THEM- THAT IS UNTIL I MADE A FORMAL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST WHERE THEN AND ONLY THEN THE FIGURES WERE REVEALED.
1. “Large numbers of Canada geese are reported each year on Sandwell’s Parks and Open Spaces; as many as 700 hundred birds may be present at any one time.”
Reported by whom, where is the evidence and breakdown of figures- and the change in figures on the two parks in question “year on year” which shows a “significant increase”. How can this have happened if egg pricking was being undertaken by the countryside rangers, as the 1997 policy claimed would be the case?
2 “It is clearly evident the numbers have significantly increased to a point where by they have become a concern to public health and public safety?”
What figures do the council have to justify such an action? By what numbers have they increased and over what time period?
Just two weeks later she appeared to have invented a number of geese
3. “With more than 1,000 geese grazing in our parks and a pair of geese rearing anything from four to eight goslings a season, the numbers had got out of control, especially at Victoria Park, Tipton, and Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich.”
Statement made by Maria Crompton via press release/SMBC facebook 27/8/14
4. “To answer your question regarding the variance in numbers I can inform you that counts have been undertaken over several years and there is clear evidence that geese can at times be migratory birds therefore numbers can fluctuate up or down.”
This statement makes a number of contradictions which do not help the council’s own arguments.
LET US SEE THE CLEAR EVIDENCE WHICH THE COUNCIL HAVE AS YET NOT PRODUCED. WHO UNDERTOOK THESE COUNTS? HE STATES THERE IS “CLEAR EVIDENCE” THAT GEESE CAN BE MIGRATORY- SO NUMBERS CAN FLUCTUATE. DOES HE NOT SEE THEREFORE THE MAJOR FLAW IN STATEMENTS MADE BY BOTH JOHN SACTHWELL AND MARIA CROMPTON REGARDS NUMBERS IN SANDWELL AND THE TWO PARKS IN QUESTION? YES THE BIRDS MOVE ABOUT AND FLY BETWEEN DIFFERENT LOCATIONS- SO ELEMENTARY THE NUMBERS ARE NOT STATIC AND THEREFORE HAVE NOT “SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED” IN THE TWO PARKS. THIS WOULD REQUIRE DAILY MONITORING- LET’S SEE THE COUNCIL’S FIGURES OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS.
5. “For a number of years there has been a significant increase in the Canada Geese population in our parks. In 2013 a count was taken which identified there to be in the region of 1000 Canada Geese living in these parks…
“The two parks in question had over 300 geese residing”
So from John Satchwell’s figure of 700 in April 2013 the leader of Sandwell council now appears to have acquired a figure of 1000 and now has arrived at 300 in just the two parks alone.
WE DISPUTE THESE FIGURES TOTALLY- THEY ARE INVENTION. THIS MEANS THAT JOHN SATCHWELL ESTIMATES THAT NEARLY HALF OF THE 700 GEESE HE QUOTES IN HIS ORIGINAL REPORT WERE RESIDENT IN JUST THESE TWO PARKS, WHICH IS ABSOLUTE UTTER NONSENSE. HIS BOSS STEVE HANDLEY HOWEVER RECOGNISES THEY ARE “MIGRATORY” DON’T FORGET and that
“therefore numbers can fluctuate up or down.”
6. “I would like to make it clear there still exists a significant number of Canada Geese within the two parks and at the last count in September over 120 geese were counted.”
With this figure and the reported 220 killed in 2013-14 we arrive at a figure of 340 for the two parks- A FIGURE WE TOTALLY DISPUTE WERE PRESENT. THERE HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE THAN 100 BIRDS AT EITHER SITE AT ANY ONE TIME- AND TO REQUOTE STEVE HANDLEY
“numbers can fluctuate up or down.”
7. “For a number of years the Canada geese population had grown to significant numbers, with recent counts identifying up to 1000 geese residing in parks across the borough.”
“I must emphasise that it is not the council’s intention to cull all geese. Presently there are still over 100 Canada geese living in the parks and other geese will be allowed to flourish in our nature reserves, alongside other wildlife.”
Letter from Darren Cooper to a campaigner dated 20th January 2015
So we get a slightly less accurate figure here, but still a rounded one which appears to be the council’s entire argument.
Cooper’s claim about allowing the geese to flourish was nonsense given that egg pricking took place on Forge Mill Nature reserve just 3 months after this letter– so his claims are lies and provide false information.
8. “Regarding specific matters you raise, over 100 geese continue to reside at the two parks where culling took place. In the region of 600 geese can be found in our parks, nature reserves and canals within Sandwell. “
So John Satchwell now states that 600 geese are present, including Sandwell’s canal system for which the council has no management responsibility. THIS OF COURSE MEANS THAT THERE ARE LESS THAN 600 ON SANDWELL’S FORMAL PARKS. IT ALSO MEANS THAT THERE ARE LESS ON THE TWO CULL PARKS.
9. “2.9 A report was undertaken in March 2013 which identified in the region of 700 Canada geese residing within our parks and green spaces. The count identified that two parks, namely Victoria Park, Tipton and Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich , had in excess of 300 geese within these two parks alone.”
This obviously refers to John Satchwell’s original report, which did not identify any figures for the two parks, so one questions where these figures which we totally dispute suddenly appear from. WE ALSO QUESTION HOW THIS FIGURE “SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED” IN THESE TWO PARKS SINCE 1997 WHEN THEY CLAIMED THE COUNTRYSIDE RANGERS WOULD BE UNDERTAKING EGG PRICKING ON ALL OF SANDWELL’S POOLS?
Recently we finally after “significant” (to use Sandwell council’s favourite word) delay got an answer to a question posed in a freedom of information request regarding how the council had arrived at their conclusions regarding numbers of geese at the two parks.
Q1. Whether the Council holds any recorded information which confirms that adult goose numbers have increased on the formal park sites, as well as confirmation of whether the Council has any recorded counts of adult birds on the formal parks- specifically Victoria Park Tipton and Dartmouth Park West Bromwich.
A “I can confirm that in 2013, the Wardens undertook a visual count of all venues where Canada Geese were present and, in total, over 700 were identified. However, no recorded information is held.
With regards to numbers within formal Parks, Dartmouth Park and Victoria Park were identified as having the largest populations of Canada Geese within the Borough, the visual count identified over 300 adult Geese.”
So we therefore finally have confirmation from Sandwell Council itself that Sandwell council’s cull took place on the basis of a one off count undertaken by their dog dung finers, AND THAT THEY CANNOT EVEN PRODUCE ANY EVIDENCE WHICH RECORDED THIS LET ALONE GO BACK TO 1997 TO PROVE HOW MANY GEESE THEY HAD STARTED FROM, OR THAT THERE HAS BEEN A “YEAR ON YEAR” INCREASE AS SATCHWELL CLAIMED. THAT IS NOT A “SIGNIFICANT” INCREASE IN NUMBERS, IT IS SIGNIFICANT PROVISION OF FALSE INFORMATION ON WHICH TO BASE SUCH A DRASTIC POLICY!
It is clear from this that the council’s records are poor, and also we believe contrived even since after the cull took place which raises the question as to what real, credible and independent documented evidence the council has to prove that goose numbers have “significantly increased” or if they have even gone up at all?
Did the park wardens have nothing better to do with their time than start counting geese, and who (baring in mind that they come under the direct control of John Satchwell), instructed them to undertake the exercise? Why is there no consideration for other species being counted? It is evident that the reasons for the cull do not identify the geese as being a threat to other species, given the licence that the council applied for was ; “threat to public health and public safety.”
Given that it is claimed that they undertook the count in March (no date or time recorded or over what time period), are they not aware that numbers at this point in time would be different to those later or earlier in the year? Did they synchronise watches and station themselves in all of Sandwell’s parks and open spaces when undertaking the counts?- Given that geese have wings and travel as Steve Handley acknowledges, there is the distinct possibility that they may have logged the same birds in different locations. Unfortunately controls and discussions on fallibility of statistics, which the council apparently have no recorded data for did not make it into John Satchwell’s briefing report.
The council also claim to be following Natural England Guidance, yet numbers alone do not constitute the need for a lethal cull or demonstrate a public health issue, especially when the council cannot when challenged produce any recorded evidence of an increase in numbers.
- “Culling the adult population at a site may simply allow non breeding adults from nearby waters to move in to vacated breeding territories. “
- “Before embarking on the large scale destruction of geese it is important to be sure that the birds that you are removing are actually the ones that are causing the problem.”
“Natural England Technical Information Note TIN009 The management of problems caused by Canada geese: a guide to best practice”
It is not evident that there is “a problem” in terms of public health at all with goose numbers- as was revealed at the scrutiny meeting where the council could offer no direct evidence from within their own sites. It is less clear as to how the council were aware that birds counted in March at the two parks were the same ones there in July that were killed. There is no mention of this in John Satchwell’s report, indeed we pointed this out at an early stage. The only strategy promoted in John Satchwell’s report which was entitled “options” is for culling. Thus he does not take into account integrated management techniques mentioned in the Natural England guidance.
Finally in the week that the press finally caught up with health and safety failings regarding a firework fiasco in Brunswick park where a certain someone in SMBC claimed that they would “take responsibility” for failing to adhere to health and safety legislation if something went wrong, it is quite ironic that the council appear to have little regard for the members of the public that they claim to be protecting from harmless geese. Indeed statements of description of the high numbers in the human crowd, (estimated 12,000+ did the wardens count them 😆 ?) being “aggressive” and “intimidating” appear to almost be strangely familiar to the council’s portrayal of less than “700” birds.