Wednesday, 22 February 2012

DOE Minister Attwood Stung by a Bee?

Possible conflict exists between officials in the Minister's Department of the Environment and those acting for agents of the Bushmills Dunes developer over the existence of the very rare Colletes floralis* mining bee in the vicinity of Bushfoot Strand:

DOE's Northern Ireland Environmental Agency: "Those at Bushfoot Strand and White
Park Bay, however, consist of only three small aggregations and may therefore be
vulnerable to minor disturbances and/or management changes."

RPS: "Previous surveys and reports have been submitted to the Planning Service and the NIEA that established that the site does not have any evidence of 'Colette' bees and it is not necessary to resubmit these reports."

Perhaps the Minister could clarify the matter. He could also outline his own NIEA's recommendations for or against the project. An objection from the Belfast Naturalist's Field Club contains the understanding that NIEA recommended refusal.

What impact will the construction and other works have on those Whooper swans who use this area as a landing and feeding area after their long flight from Iceland?

Diet: Aquatic vegetation, but they are increasingly being recorded grazing on grass in pasture and spilt grain, as well as potatoes from cultivated land.

Added February 24

According to a 'sting in the tail' article by Linda Stewart in today's Belfast Telegraph a DOE spokesman said, "In 2011 RPS undertook a further survey and found no evidence of the bee at this location." This survey may be accurate but it can't be considered independent.

Added February 25

Linda Stewart has a follow-up two page article in the Belfast Telegraph in which the NIEA is slammed as a toothless body by green campaigners. The Minister finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to ride two horses simultaneously, planning service and the environment agency. The Telegraph carries a DOE claim that the resort proposal received 26 letters of objection and 4 of support; perhaps the Planning Service will add the missing ones to the 20 letters of objection and 1 of support that it has published online.

David McNeill has pointed out that the Botanical Society of the British Isles should have been consulted by the Planning Service in light of the presence of legally protected rare native plants; David is the society's recorder for County Antrim.

DOE Minister Attwood and the Giants Causeway World Heritage Site

Current status
Nest aggregations were found at four sites on the north coast at Ballymaclary, Portstewart, White Park Bay and Bushfoot during a dedicated survey in 2003. These were the first Northern Ireland records since 1933, when it was found at Portballintrae. The species was also confirmed present at the Umbra in 2004. The largest populations found in 2003 were at Ballymaclary and Portstewart. None were seen at Portballintrae where there is no longer any suitable habitat.