Started conversation Oct 17, 2001
Hi Shorn, I spent this afternoon trying to find out more about hybridisation and found lots of interesting bits. One was a workshop report discussing whether 'Nativism' had any place in ecology or conservation, which might provide ammunition for letters to the RSPB. If you're interested I'll put a link to it on my links page.
I decided it was all too general to include on the ruddy ducks entry but it was interesting.
Posted Oct 17, 2001
Posted Oct 18, 2001
Posted Oct 19, 2001
That's just the ticket. I read item 7 first and now I'm about half way through reading the rest of it. Very interesting. Even though it's mainly about plants and invertebrates, it's full of ideas and sensible ways of looking at the issues. Ta very much!
I've just telephoned the RSPB to ask them to send me an explanation of their extermination policy so that I could address each point with a well thought out argument instead of going off half-cocked and just having a generalized rant at them. The lady on the switchboard put me through to a man who has some level of responsibility in the wiping out of ruddy ducks department and we had a bit of a discussion for 10 minutes. He started off sounding fairly aggressive and asking me if I would be happy to see the white headed duck become extinct. By the end of the call he was agreeing with me. The fact that a person working in that area of the RSPB can be persuaded after about 10 minutes suggests to me that either they didn't whole-heartedly agree with the extermination policy (I got the impression that he did whole-heatedly agree though) or they hadn't really given the matter enough serious thought and hadn't familiarized themselves with all the arguments.
I'll let you know the interesting bits.
Posted Oct 20, 2001
Please do! I'm impressed.
I have only read item 7 properly myself, looking for the bit that related to ruddy ducks, but its really a wider issue than the ducks. The definition of a species isn't clear cut, the usual one being that separate species can't interbreed. I asked another h2g2 researcher, ecotype, about this and they gave me another ruddy duck link - to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust page on the white-headed duck. I've added it to my links page if you want to read it too. There wasn't much new in it but it seems to confirm that the discussion started from having already accepted that the ruddy duck must go because its an alien species threatening a native one.
If the RSPB are taking the alien v native line because its easy PRwise they could lose a lot of ground with supporters who have two brain cells and can rub them together. I have two and occasionally get sparks out of them . I've been an RSPB member for over 25 years, I hope they have thought out their reasons for their stance on this.
Posted Oct 23, 2001
I sent the letter off this afternoon. The RSPB's leaflet about their ruddy duck policy arrived this morning. It didn't have anything in it that you hadn't already mentioned in your entry. I read the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust article on Sunday.
The letter took me 2 coffee breaks and a lunch break to finish and it's two A4 sides long. I didn't include every point I could think of because that would have made it very long and it seemed reasonable to keep some ammo in reserve
I'll let you know what they say in their reply.
Posted Nov 2, 2001
I've had a reply. It looks longer than my letter - although it's two A4 sides, the margins are much narrower, same font and font size. I had a quick read before I left home. I'll give you some details later but two important things you might like to know straight away:
1) The RSPB is *not* controlling ruddy ducks and is therefore not spending members' contributions/subscriptions on killing birds. It's the UK government that's doing the dirty deed, using tax-payers money. The booklet was published by the government (again using tax-payers money), not the RSPB spending members contributions.
2) The RSPB would have responded quite differently to the ruddy ducks if they had reached Europe under their own steam rather than being introduced by humans.
Beyond that, I can only offer an impression at the moment. The gent who replied, responded to my request for a clear definition of separate species by enclosing a photocopied set of pages from "British Birds" magazine. I think this may have been a cop out. I don't think the article clarifies the matter at all, but I'll have to read it again, more carefully when I get home before I can be sure of that.
I'll be able to give you a more detailed account of the RSPB's attitude later. I don't think I'll just leave it there. It's crying out for a reply and I'll probably pester the government about it too.
Posted Nov 2, 2001
I think its a bit of a cop out too. I got the distinct impression the RSPB had a role in the European group that led to pressure being put on the govt. to do something. The Govt. having been doing a very bit of foot dragging up 'til then. I'll have to reread a bit over the weekend to check that.
Not only that but the Govt. says its doing what the task force recommended. The 1 June 2000 Department of the Environment, News Release 390 says that the decision to begin a control trial was only undertaken after the Government had set up a Task Force which included representation from DETR, English Nature, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Trust for Ornithology, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Avoiornis UK, the Wildlife Trusts and BirdLife International.
It was following the recommendations of this task force that Michael Meacher announced a limited control trial to establish whether it is feasible to eradicate ruddy ducks in Britain within ten years.
I'm sure the real decision was made in Europe, probably by the Standing Committee for the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. They heard the views of Birdlife International. The RSPB is part of Birdlife International.
Shorn, I don't know how much background you want to go into, if any. I could find the websites to link to if you thought it would be useful. The sites I bookmarked are all via cached Google searches, so I don't have direct www addresses. They'd be easy enough to find however.
The Ruddy duck *could* have got to Europe under their own steam, some may have. It doesn't seem very relevant to me. Maybe they should test the DNA of every duck to distinguish between the escaped imports and the natural, windblown, arrivals .
A photocopied set of pages from "British Birds" magazine is not really impressive. The RSPB needs to know its own policy on defining species surely. The Ruddy duck isn't going to be the last of these problems.
My sister made a passing reference to this as conservational 'polital correctness'. I hadn't thought of it like that - I think there maybe some truth in it.
I think you deserve several s, s, s and s to make up for all those missing coffee breaks.
Posted Nov 3, 2001
Thank you very much. I just fancy a coffee and a doughnut
I'd be interested in any background you could point me at. I might not use any of it in the letter but it's good to have as much information as possible if you're disputing someone's ideas.
I think your sister put it very well.
I had another read of the "British Birds" mag pages last night. It really didn't answer my request for a clear definition at all. It was just a bunch of: this or that mitochondrial gene differs by such and such a percentage from the same gene in this other duck. For example "For cytochrome b, the genetic distance between nominate Ruddy Duck and the White-headed Duck is 5.65%. This value stands in stark contrast to a genetic distance of ... ". In other words, it was completely relativistic. It couldn't have seemed vaguer to someone looking for clarity.
More later. Duties call.
Posted Nov 3, 2001
How to blind someone with science, huh? That quote on species is all above my head. Do they have a plain english version ?
I reread some of the things I found for the ruddy duck entry and item 6.2 of the report of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Standing Committee's 17th meeting (at Strasbourg on 1 - 5 December 1997) includes this sentence;
'The delegate of RSPB-BirdLife explained the involvement of his organisation in the solution of this matter and criticised the failure of the United Kingdom government to take measures, as this aggravated the case.'
(The RSPB was only doing what the Govt. told it to, the Govt. was only doing what the Bern Cttee. told it to, the Bern Cttee was only reacting to what the RSPB said, the RSPB were only doing what the Govt. told it to . . . )
I put a link on my link page for the full report in case you want to read it, or Sal wants to read it.
Posted Nov 7, 2001
I don't suppose they do have a plain English version. The jargon is probably part of the policy. It makes it hard for non "experts" to argue if the "experts" argue back in their own private language. I recognise the use of "weasel words" too. Hmmm. Thanks for the links I've had a look but not yet a careful read. Got kidnapped and kept prisoner by real life, as often happens, but I should have a bit of time later today. Might even have time to do one of the letters I'm planning.
Here are a couple of bits from that RSPB letter:
"... we can predict that ruddy ducks and hybrids will become more numerous, and the genes of the white headed duck will become so diluted that eventually they will be untraceable."
How peculiar that the new scientific access to genetic information should have brought us to a situation where an organisation like the RSPB would think that was important.
"... many species of waterfowl are able to hybridise and produce fertile offspring. This unusual trait has led to many instances of native waterfowl hybridising with introduced species."
I bet they're closely related species though. I bet he's not talking about coots breeding with terns or swans breeding with ducks for example.
"We see this as being about the survival of the white-headed duck - a distinct and separate species - and its unique characteristics, including its plumage, calls and its amazing display."
I don't know about you but this seems very egocentric to me. Ducks (or any other birds) have flashy plumage, displays and call to attract mates, not to please members of another species. If they breed successfully with somewhat different looking birds and the chicks then go on to breed successfully, presumably the new or altered plumage, displays and calls are going to be attractive to members of the species otherwise they won't attract mates and the "problem" (as the RSPB insists on seeing it) will solve itself.
Oops. Time to go again.
Posted Nov 10, 2001
Just popped by to say bye bye, for a while. I've had a run in with the moderators over the past couple of days about my handy bird sites tips and tails entry (not the one that's pending but the one with links to various bird sites). They've left it alone for 2 whole months and now I've started updating it with, for example, a recipe for a high calorie winter bird food, they've started taking issue with some of the links on the page. First they said all except the RSPB link were acceptable but now they seem to have changed their mind and every time I update it, it gets taken out because they don't like some link. I can't tell you how much it's annoyed me so I'm going to have a little break and fume a while.
I wrote that letter on Wednesday night. It was very long and rambling so I have to redo it. Should manage to do it this weekend. At least I won't be sidetracked by h2g2 If the RSPB send me an interesting reply, I'll nip back and let you know.
Posted Nov 10, 2001
Sorry to hear that Shorn. I wonder if h2g2's increased profile on the BBC's site (which I welcome - there's no point in us being virtually invisible there - which we were 'til now) has anything to do with 'tighter' moderation. If it is its an unwelcome side effect and I hope it sorts itself out soon. Its always been a grey area to me, linking to sites which have items for sale, - they used to say it was ok to link to the homepage but . . .
A break to sounds a good idea, just hope its not too long. I used to want to get on top of hills and yell when I got wound up at work. Or belt up and and down the swimming pool - that worked too.
I would appreciate hearing of any replies from the RSPB. Does this mean uninterrupted and s now .
Posted Nov 29, 2001
Hi Waz. I see you've changed your name again. Lovely . I've fiddled with my bird page a bit more and the moderators haven't hidden it again. I might have been a bit paranoid and over-sensitive about their moderating activities. They only hid the page 3 or 4 times. I'm sure they persecute other people far worse than me. I must try to be more tolerant
Got a reply from the RSPB's Species Policy Officer this morning (well, yesterday morning technically now it's past midnight). I refined my letter and sent it off a couple of days after the long rambling first draft. I was quite pleased with it by the time I'd finished.
The RSPB reply was long but not very satisfying. I feel a bit guilty about tying up their species policy officer for how ever long it must have taken to produce such long replies but really, he seems to have just stuck his fingers in his ears and sung la la la very loudly. We agree on a couple of things, but beyond that, he completely ignored most of my points and just repeated what he said in his first letter. It feels as though I'm addressing a religious zealot who can only trot out the dogma in response to any questions regarding the logic of the RSPB's position on the ruddy duck question. He seems a nice person and I don't think I have the heart to beat him forcefully about the head with the inadequacy of his response. Perhaps they feel they have to defend the policy, right or wrong, now that they've pressured the government into adopting it.
Anyway, I think I'll have to get a "strop" on with the government about it next, since the RSPB can't provide any convincing argument in favour of their nasty policy. Not sure who to address the letter to though. Do you have any idea? If not, I'll just address it to the Prime Minister's office and ask them to forward it to the appropriate department.
Thanks for the and . Keep 'em coming
Posted Nov 30, 2001
How about a and for a change? Glad to see you back .
I tried a letter, eighteen months ago, to the PMs office (BSE related). I got an aknowledgement saying they'd passed it on to Dept. X and that was the last I heard. I didn't follow it up because foot & mouth hit about the time I thought of doing so. I should chase it up now really.
It was the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions that dealt with Ruddy Ducks. They issued a press release which I have a link to. I assume it would now come under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Rural Affairs is obviously appropriate .
I wonder if the RSPB would publish a letter in their magazine? Very frustrating when you can't get an answer isn't it. Maybe the dogma is all he *can* say.
The name change is a long story that was the last one.
Posted Dec 3, 2001
Ooh cappuccino and cake. Yum. Thank you.
Yep, DEFRA sounds likely. The PM is focused on stamping on foreign soil at the moment so I don't suppose it would be very easy to get his attention. I'll write to DEFRA and send him a copy. They might respond if I put 'copy to PM' at the foot of the letter. Probably won't have time this week though.
The RSPB might publish a letter in the mag but mags normally require shortish letters and this seems to require a long detailed argument. The dogmatic answers are just so easy for them and, unless they publish a reply to their reply, it could look as though they've justified themselves. I don't know. What do you think?
Did you see the bird and cat article is on the front page today? I'm thrilled to bits Have a on me
At least your name stays recognisable and you still answer to Waz.
Posted Dec 6, 2001
I answer to most things , cheers , and I think s with that rather than . I saw your article, (good picture) and I noticed the subed for my Ruddy Ducks entry has put a link in it to your article too. The comment about tinititus was interesting.
I think you're right about the magazine letter. The only way it would work would be if your first letter included quotes of their replies so far. And they may not publish that - you'd have no control over it. With my BSE letter I thought that if I got brushed off I could write to the newspaper quoting my question and their answer.
Posted Dec 24, 2001
Posted Jan 29, 2004
Goodness gracious, is it that long since I've been here. Hope you had a good one. Just noticed you in the who's online window and thought I'd say hi (wonder if you're still subscribed to this thread). When I tried to get back in after all that time, I was challenged to single sign on and failed - so now I have 2 pages because I finally found the scrap of paper with my ID and password written on it. Anyway, good to see you're still here
Posted Jan 29, 2004
So how was 2002? Not to mention 2003! Oh and it must be ok to wish happy new year while it's still January; Happy New Year for 2004 .
Great to hear from you! I must have just missed you last night. It's good to see you back. Where's your new page, or are you abandoning it for the old one?
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