Bird observatory could lose premises

THE Alderney Bird Observatory faces losing its accommodation next week as the island’s States prepares to debate a proposal to rescind the ABO’s lease on the Nunnery site.

Alderney Bird Observatory director Norma Paris outside the building used by the group as a ringing room, which is due to be demolished. (Picture by David Nash)
Alderney Bird Observatory director Norma Paris outside the building used by the group as a ringing room, which is due to be demolished. (Picture by David Nash)

This followed the General Services Committee deciding that a small building on the site, which is used as a ringing room, should be demolished.

It also decided to end the ‘temporary employment’ of the bird warden, although at the March committee meeting it said it would keep the position funded until the end of June. The Nunnery site was once a military installation and now can provide beds for up to 10 birdwatching visitors to the island in hostel-like accommodation. It also has a small flat which is provided free to a temporary deputy bird warden who assists in annual tasks, such as recording the spring migration.

ABO director Norma Paris said that at this week’s People’s Meeting States members would have seen how much support there was for the charity and its work.

‘We’re hoping to have the report pulled next week to have a further opportunity to discuss things with Policy and Finance,’ she said.

The provision of cheap accommodation has come in for criticism from the commercial sector but Mrs Paris said that the number of beds makes up only about 3% of the total available on-island.

When bird warden John Horton first arrived in Alderney he was unpaid in the role for two years, but after that the States took him on as an employee.

With this now being terminated, Mrs Paris said the ABO will be relying on the generosity of donors to keep him in post.

‘Our bird warden is highly regarded internationally,’ she said.

‘He was working for a pittance from the States so we have girded our loins and looked at our finances. We have a few very generous donors.’

He is currently involved in looking at setting up bird observatories in Guernsey, Sark and Herm and she said that there seemed to be more recognition in Guernsey of the value of this niche area to the visitor economy.

‘We’re all very committed to this,’ said Mrs Paris.

‘The committee, who all have experience of business and running things, feel that this is really good for Alderney. It’s obviously a great disappointment to us that the States can’t see our value.

‘We had had discussions on how best we can go forward from here and we have a Plan B and a Plan C. We’re very determined that we can pull this back.’

The ABO has attracted international attention, she said, most recently in a full-page piece in a New Scientist magazine section on charities that are working to conserve biodiversity and protect the natural environment.

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