A recent freedom of information request to Sandwell council has revealed the egg control measures employed for 2018 in their parks and open spaces. It is important that these figures are obtained and made public for evidence that the council are undertaking the “management” of egg numbers as they claimed they would. Of course we also don’t trust a word they say from past experience, so for this purpose it serves as a later reminder to potentially catch them out about certain matters if they go back on what they claimed that they would be doing.
I will look at the analysis of the figures below, but the main news this year is that SMBC have once again started to hire the services of a so called “pest controller” to do their dirty work for them. This is surprising given that in meetings with officers last year it was intimated that council workers would be doing this work, given the issues surrounding pestex and the impossibility of verifying their claimed figures. It would be possible for an outside contractor to sex up the number of nests/eggs just to keep them in business- particularly if they are being paid by the hour. How would the council verify any of the numbers? Even current manager Max Cookson said as much at one meeting that we had with him.
The new contractors are revealed to be “Betapest”, with Sandwell council paying them £3,250 to undertake the work.
The questions asked were as follows.
1) In 2018 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?
2) In 2018 how many Canada goose eggs were pricked and at which sites did this take place?
3) In 2018 how many Canada goose eggs were oiled and at which sites did this
4) In 2018 how many Canada goose eggs were removed from nests
and at which sites did this take place?
5) Please state which company was used to carry out this work, and at what cost to the council?
The council responded
“We respond as follows: 1) Please see attached documents for this information regarding Parks and Open Spaces. With reference to Countryside sites, although they were visited, no pricking, oiling or interfering with nests took place. Only a small amount of nests were found and the eggs had already hatched. Gosling numbers were extremely low this year on
3) Please see attached documents for this
5) Betapest – £3,250 ”
EGG FIGURES 2018
The following figures were presented in the council attachment for each park. I will look at each site in turn with issues raised about the claimed figures. It is apparent that this year the contractors made repeat visits to each site, with some receiving three, in essence doubling or tripling the work for themselves with often no new nests appearing. Whether this is a good use of council tax payers money is another question.
The key numbers are In total seven sites were visited. A claimed total of 29 nests bearing a total number of 156 eggs of which were treated 107 , which equates to 69%.
Three nests are claimed at West Smethwick Park with visits made on 11/5/18 and 15/6/18 with no new being found.
Just one nest was identified at Smethwick Hall Park with visits on the same days.
The Smethwick trio was rounded off with two nests being found at Victoria Park Smethwick. Much can be said about the current appalling situation at this park and the way in which birds have died on here, which is all down to Sandwell council and their wilful lack of action. At the time of the claimed visits, on the same dates as at the other parks, the pool had be now seriously depleted due to the unfixed collapsed vent. The island on the pool had also been cut back, supposedly by someone the council knew from the friends group for that park who is in the landscape gardening industry. It is unlikely that any of the geese at this park at the time are still alive, and certainly no offspring survived. Of course, the RSPCA had to cope with used syringes before they launched the boat to attempt to save birds.
And so to the scene of the much publicised culls of 2013/14 at Tipton. The first thing I would stress is that I would strongly dispute the figures of 13 eggs being found in a single nest, in fact all the numbers appear to be much higher than in the previous parks, which suggests to me that the geese were using nests from the previous year where the treated eggs from previous years were still in situ. WE KNOW FROM THE PREVIOUS FOI REQUESTS, THAT THE COUNCIL DO NOT REMOVE ANY EGGS FROM THE NESTS, BUT JUST PRICK THEM, AND THIS AS THEY HAVE REPLIED TO QUESTION 4 WAS THE SAME FOR THIS YEAR.
There is a disproportionate figure for this site, but what I am certain of, is that despite the contractors claiming to have left some eggs, not a single gosling at this site survived more than a few days. They were either predated, or killed by the swans. In fact on one visit to the site, I bumped into two pcso’s who had come across a commotion involving two woman who feed the birds at this park. They had seen the male swan attacking a gosling and had tried to stop him, to no avail.
Visits to this site were made earlier in April, then again with further visits on 11/5 and 15/6. Whereas I do not dispute the number of nests being plausible on the two islands, the numbers in each nest are unlikely, for the reason stated above.
Dartmouth park, scene of the other cull in 2013 appears to have had 14 nests identified, this on the two pools. There is once again one nest with a claimed 13 eggs in it which I do not believe to be plausible for the reasons stated above. This site also received three visits on the days parallel with Victoria Park Tipton.
I am not aware that many of the goslings that were allowed to hatch survived this year and the numbers were certainly down on previous years.
Three visits were made to this site with just one nest being found. I am certain that this figure is correct, given that two goslings did hatch. They only survived however due to the male swan at the site being killed by an out of control dog, something which Sandwell council has a big problem with at its formal parks.
This site which appears as a form of hybrid countryside and formal park identified no nests over three visits.
The lack of figures for the countyside sites identify that “Gosling numbers were extremely low this year on Countryside sites”. I would concur with this statement, but would also draw attention to previous years where SMBC had pestex interfering with nesting birds only for them to claim eye watering numbers of nests and eggs at places like Forge Mill Lake. Predators at the countryside sites, fox, crow , magpie, heron and also swans account for many goslings not surviving in any case.
For clarity and discussion, the following table shows numbers at the sites previously given in FOI requests to SMBC since 2013.
If you look at the figures for Victoria Park Tipton and Dartmouth Park over the five previous years, this years figures appear all the more dubious and inflated. So Victoria Park Tipton number of nests 2013 2, 2014 4, 2015 2, 2016 2, 2017 no figure. This year 7 claimed.
Dartmouth Park 2013 6 ,2014 3 ,2015 9 , 2016 6 , 2017 no figure. And this year suddenly we are supposed to believe that 14 appeared.
Whatever the motive for presenting these two parks as having the most number of nests/eggs, the number actually hatching and surviving cannot be disputed.
We will of course be asking the same questions next year, and reflecting on the results. But rest assured that we will always be watching Sandwell council and their actions , as they just cannot be trusted.