My local patch is a stretch of the Great Ouse at Kempston Mill in Bedfordshire. I consider myself to be fortunate, living in an urban area but having the river on my doorstep. This area has great potential and indeed has met much of that potential with Otters regularly seen here and as many species of bird as you would expect and some bonus species you certainly wouldn't, Short-eared Owl being one that springs to mind.
Along with the good stuff there is the bad side to being so close to an urban area. Dog walkers like to bring their pets down to the river for a stroll and who can blame them. I have no problem with those responsible owners who "clear up after their animals" and "have control over their animals". In fact I chat to many of those that I see on a regular basis, however dog mess is a significant issue at this site with many owners not picking up after their dogs. Most just leave it, others pick it up and toss the bag in the nearest hedge, to hang for months like some grotesque Christmas decoration.
This morning I found the following:
This dog bin was missing it's liner but rather than carry their bags a few extra yards the dog owners just dumped their bags by the bin! It turned out the liner had blown away, a few yards along the path but nobody had seen fit to replace it in the bin. I should be surprised but sadly I have seen it all before, or at least I thought I had, at Biddenham Loop CP I found the following:
Is this the start of something? Will more and more bags be tied to the fence until it is lined with them? Frankly it would not surprise me!
Then there is the issue of uncontrollable dogs. I regularly see a women on my walks and her terrier always runs up to me barking aggressively, in fact one of her other dogs went to bite me the first time I saw them, fortunately only managing to grab my trouser leg in it's teeth. My suggestion that "she keep her dogs on their lead if she is unable to control them" was met with silence and the same thing happens every time I see them unless she manages to grab the dog and get it's lead on before it comes running at me. I'm not unduly bothered by dogs but what about those people who are? Many dog owners seem to be completely oblivious to the fact the some people don't like or are scared of dogs. Even a small terrier running, and barking, towards a small child is likely to be a frightening experience for that child.
So dog owners please pick up after your animals and dispose of the bag appropriately. And to those who struggle to control their dogs, how about investing in a little training, surely being able to walk your dog under your control at all times would make the process a whole lot more enjoyable.
The other problem of an urban patch is littering. Bread bags tied to trees seems to be the latest thing. Seems parents bring their child down to the river to feed the ducks and then tie the bag to a tree rather than disposing of it in a bin. What a great example to set!
Others bring food down to the river for a picnic, a lovely idea if you can find a patch of grass not covered in dog mess. Having carried the bags, bottles and cans down to the picnic place it seems they find it impossible to take the empty packaging home, or to the nearest bin.
It being New Years Day, this morning I came across the remains of a firework party from the previous evening. Packaging, spent fireworks and the odd bottle scattered all around with 2 bins within 30 yards! I retrieved the rubbish before it blew into the river, it being quite breezy today.
I ask you, why do you come down to the riverside in the first place? I suggest it is because it is a nice place to be, so if the rubbish was piled high and the river was a stinking polluted mess would you still want to come down? I suggest not. But of course it doesn't get that way because a nice man from the council turns up every few days and clears all the mess away. But who is paying for the council to do this, why you and me of course. And who complains when their council tax increases each year, why you and me of course! So before you open your mouth to complain think of the savings to be made if the council did not have to clear up after all of us. It's not hard to carry your rubbish to the nearest bin or even back home with you where much of the stuff can be recycled. If we all did it then the council could redirect the money spent on cleaning our green spaces and streets to other more important areas.
And then there is the good part, drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker and birds singing today including Stock Dove and Chaffinch for the first time this winter. Fieldfare and Redwing were back and forth in small flocks, particularly noticeable at Biddenham Loop CP. Also on the river at BLCP were a couple of Little Grebes. A couple of Bullfinches were seen along the north side of the golf course and I finished off the morning with a singing Skylark by the Back Channel as I crossed the wooden bridge at the Mill.I also heard Kingfisher this morning but failed to spot one.