A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Let's hear it for the little black duck.....

We all know the toast to 'the little gentleman in a black velvet suit' [if not, see (Catholic readers grit your teeth) - 'King William III of Orange (1650 -1702)': "In 1702 William, while recovering from ill health, broke his collarbone when his horse stumbled over a molehill in Richmond Park. Jacobites later toasted the little gentleman in a black velvet suit - the mole. On March 4th William was very weak and had great difficulty eating. By the 7th he had a fever and was in great pain, but he accepted death in the same fearless manner in which he had lived. Early on the 8th March 1702 he received the sacrament and he died shortly after 8.00am. Around his neck was a necklace attached to which were a lock of Mary's hair and her wedding ring." ]

This Sunday lunchtime, I shall be raising a glass to the 'little gentleman with a black velvet beak'.

Bird names are always odd, so that our only entirely black male duck, the Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), is far from 'common'. But this teeny duck is about to do us all a mighty favour, as is well reported (now there's a change!) in today's Independent on Sunday (February 29): 'Rare duck may scupper plans for giant wind farm. Conservationists and migrant birds line up against developers of offshore turbine':

"Britain's largest ever offshore wind farm could be sunk before it is built - by a small but very rare black duck.

Naturalists have recently calculated that up to 20,000 common scoter - far more than previously thought - spend the winter on the wind-battered waters of Shell Flats, about 8km off Blackpool, making it the second largest home for the bird in the British Isles."

"... in a legal battle that threatens the Government's plans for a massive expansion of offshore wind farms, conservationists are preparing to take the Government to the European Court of Justice if the project gets the go-ahead.

English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have formally warned ministers that they believe Shell Flats threaten the area's scoter flocks, and are pressing for a public inquiry into the proposals."

Bravo to English Nature and to the RSPB - at last, they are doing what they should have been doing all along, namely protecting our land- and sea-scapes, not to mention our feathered friends, against the nonsense of wind energy, which will neither plug the energy gap nor have any effect on climate change whatsoever.

Somewhat smugly, I feel particularly pleased by all this, because I predicted that this 'little gentleman with the black velvet beak' would indeed prove the bane of the wind kings and the wind wolves last February (25, 2003) in a 'Thunderer' column I wrote for The Times, rather cheekily entitled: "Who'd give a black duck for 'renewable' energies?" "Quite a canard, don't you think, Jeeves?" "Perhaps at The Drones, Sir!"

Philip, looking for a quacking good wine with which to toast 'the gentleman' (actually the poor bird coos and titters, rather than quacks). But great to see big quacks appearing in the madness that passes for UK energy policy.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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