Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Residents source lovely new nesting rafts for Rotherhithe docks

Thanks to local residents, a sorry history of neglect and decay has a happy ending.  The disgraceful sunken pontoons on Greenland Dock and Surrey Water are being replaced by brand new custom-built rafts funded by Cleaner Greener Safer Awards that were applied for by people living in Rotherhithe who were appalled by the condition of the pontoons, and the unprecedented lack of provision for our local water birds.

Attempting to nest on a semi-submerged nesting
pontoon in 2013. Photo by Andrea Byrnes
In 2013 and 2014, as many readers will recall so vividly, there was a somewhat acrimonious exchange with Southwark Council over the desperate state into which the pontoons on Greeenland Dock and Surrey Water had fallen.  Southwark Council eventually decided to abandon its obligations in this area. This led to various completely submerged and semi submerged pontoons, many of which swans and coots attempted to nest on.  The results were really sad.  At least one nest, with eggs, was destroyed in bad weather on one of the semi-submerged pontoons in Norway Cut, in spite of efforts to secure the pontoon to the side of the dock.  More about this can be read in my posts in 2013: "Plight of Nesting Swans and Coots at Greenland Dock," "Nests abandoned," and, a year later in 2014 "Nesting pontoons still in a ruinous condition." The photo to the left shows a swan on her nest, on a partially submerged nesting pontoon in 2013. 

At that time the whole problem was taken over by local residents.  In the short term, this involved local people shoring up existing pontoons, roping them to dock walls to prevent them sinking, and providing much-needed nesting material (all of which can be seen in the above photograph).  This enabled a family of swans in Greenland Dock to survive (hatching all but one egg) and several families of coots to hatch eggs in Greenland Dock and Surrey Water.  But with 2015 looming, these were temporary measures.

Palatial home for a family of coots on Surrey Water.
Photograph by Steve Cornish.
For the longer term, as the Council were still adamant that funds were not available to repair or replace the nesting pontoons, other measures needed to be taken.  So the same local residents again stepped in and applied for Cleaner Greener Safer Awards, and this enabled the construction of some fabulous new rafts and a couple of very palatial duck houses.  The total amount of Cleaner Greener Safer money allocated to all above was 10.5 K. This was from successful bids by local residents, which is probably the best news of all.

In the photograph on the right (click to enlarge) you can see a very upper class residence for a family of coots on Surrey Water, who are already in there with their nest. There is only one of this type which is on Surrey Water, the others are plain flat rafts, but they are all very well built.  The others will be going in tomorrow, Wednesday 31st March 2015.

Nesting rafts ready for deployment
Photography by Steve Cornish
Between 12 and 20 in number will go along the entire length of Albion Channel. They will be hexagonal shaped.  Approximately 15 will go into Surrey Water - all shapes and sizes. Some of the old waterlogged pontoons will be removed as they have been in there for about six years and have served their purpose.  Approximately 15 will go into Greenland dock.  Some are to be at the Tesco end, where they are disparately needed, some have already gone in at the others end in the middle finger, and two have been placed in Norway Cut. 

Canada water has one side as a nature reserve with nesting facilities and an abundance of reeds and bullrushes for nesting therefore is not as critical as the other three bodies mentioned. It is also a popular fishing area so would be problematical for floating pontoons chained to the bottom which could be highly dangerous for fish being inadvertently feathered by the fishing line if snagged up.

Thanks to Steve Cornish for all the information in this post and for the photographs of the amazing new rafts and duck houses!  As in previous years, Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill Ecological Park have joined forces to provide nesting material.

Fantastic news!  And many thanks to Steve and the local residents who applied for the Cleaner Greener Safer Awards and to those who are helping to launch them and fix them into place tomorrow.  It's glorious what people can do when they join forces.


Joe Beale said...

Well done to those residents who managed to make this happen. A rare good news story!

Andie said...

It's nice to have a good news story for a change! Looking forward to seeing them when they are all in place.