Following conclusion of the 2017 nesting season, we once again asked Sandwell council for information concerning their egg pricking arrangements in their parks and open spaces via a freedom of information request. There was some delay in answering this but the figures are now in.
Of course, we all know that this was not being done historically, and that in 2013-16 Sandwell had hired the services of the vile murderers “Pestex” to do their dirty work for them, which also included the killing of an alleged 220 adult birds in 2013-14.
Having had some site meetings with Sandwell council staff and new cabinet member earlier in the year, it was apparent that they stated that they were considering dropping the external contractor altogether this year. Concerns had been expressed about what value they were actually offering, as well as our concerns that no one from Sandwell council was actually checking on the figures they claimed to be pricking and oiling.
It is worth at this stage offering their figures of claimed work between 2013-16 in order to draw a comparison with the now released 2017 council figures. Click tables below.
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
1) In 2017 how many Canada goose nests were identified, how many eggs did each of these nests contain, and at which Sandwell sites were these nests located?
1) We did not record the total number of nests or eggs at each site as a large amount of the nests were empty and the eggs had hatched. We only recorded the number of eggs pricked as listed in response 2 below. Sites included Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve, Swan Pool, Priory Woods Local Nature Reserve, Forge Mill Lake, Dartmouth Park.
2) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were pricked and at which sites did this take place?
2) The following sites have been egg pricked to control geese numbers, egg numbers in brackets. Sheepwash (5 eggs), Swan Pool (5 eggs), Priory Woods LNR (6 eggs) and Forge Mill Lake (8 eggs) Dartmouth Park (3 eggs)
3) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were oiled and at which sites did this take place?
3) No eggs were oiled.
4) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were removed from nests and at which sites did this take place?
4) No eggs were removed from nests.
5) Please state which company was used for this operation and also the cost. Please also confirm whether any of your own staff were involved in this work.
5) We did not engage with any company. The work was completed by our own staff as part of their normal duties.
The first thing to be noted is that the council claim to have discovered “empty nests” which suggests that goslings had already hatched. We would like to state that the pestex earlier figures may suggest that no egg pricking would produce large numbers of goslings, if they did not prick the eggs. Their claimed figures of 22 nests and 144 eggs at Forge Mill in 2015 may suggest that numbers of goslings would be massive here without control.
It can only be concluded this year that the numbers of goslings were not high at all at this site and certainly not anywhere near these claimed figures.
At Victoria Park Tipton and Redhouse park, all hatched goslings counted numbering 7 and 4 respectively were lost- due to attack by the swans and or predation.
At Sheepwash around 40 goslings were noted, and as usual this figure declined to around 1 quarter left after predation from the usual crows, foxes and dogs and swan attacks.
The other park figures did not produce numbers of more than a handful of survivors. West Smethwick park saw all geese chased off by the swans with none attempting to nest. Hydes Road also had none, though a family arrived presumably off the river.
Taken together our knowledge of the number of goslings hatched, and the fact that the council do not have figures of nests suggest the hatched gosling population to be sustainable without having to undertake mass egg pricking. It is certain that culling adult birds is definitely NOT a proportionate action that could be justified on this basis, not that we would agree with this under any circumstances.
We would also advise that the goslings hatched and the geese did not have any adverse impact on any other species at these sites. Breeding success at some sites was raised this year- particularly swans.
Whatever the council decide to do going forward with egg pricking , negative environmental impacts continue to be poor natural vegetation at some formal parks and poor maintenance of them- even at the so called “green flag” sites. We have attempted to get the council to undertake an integrated approach to managing certain areas and discouraging geese from others, but to date can only report negative actions having been undertaken. There will be more discussion about this in upcoming posts.
We therefore have to look at the figures that Pestex were offering, and as far as I am concerned they were just not truthful figures. Increasing or exaggerating the figures is I am afraid typical pest control industry fare. The idea that all eggs on all nests would hatch is disingenuous to start with, but the presented figures do not tell that story, they just give the impression of large numbers. It is the “pest” controllers intention to secure future demand for their services.
Hopefully, the council can reflect on this year and realise that they are saving money by not hiring external companies to do what their staff are perfectly capable of doing. This is after all the original 1997 council policy, which for whatever reason, those in control of the parks department in those subsequent years were obviously incapable of accepting or managing.