What happened to the Cavalry?
The guy with the red asterisk above his head (no, it is not a halo and he is certainly not Simon Templar - aka "The Saint") is Aidan Lonergan, formerly Regional Director of RSPB Northern Ireland (posing with a bunch of grinning colleagues who are looking very smug for probably not having achieved anything at all).
The "top brass" at RSPB are allowed what is called a "sabbatical" every now and then in which they go off and do something totally different in order to refresh the brain cells and keep them motivated - you and I call it a "holliday".
Aidan Lonergan (formerly involved in RSPB "Overseas Operations") decided to take his sabbatical for a month (May 2008) to visit the Algarve with the intention of "looking" at the problems facing Lagoa dos Salgados. He had been well briefed and managed to make contact with most people involved, including myself. I, and an equally involved friend of mine, received an email from Lonergan requesting an on-site meeting at Salgados. We honestly thought it was a joke: the man cannot write English, his grammar is appalling and use of punctuation and upper and lower case letters non-existent. He came over as an idiot, and when we met him we were not disappointed.
This is the resumé of José Tavares' (RSPB Country Programmes Officer for Portugal) report on Lonergan's visit in his official update published in September 2008 on the SPEA website:
In May, Aidan Lonergan, the Director of RSPB Northern Ireland, spent one month at
Salgados as part of his RSPB sabbatical, mostly working on two issues
a) Development of a concept for the interpretation centre (target audiences, mains
messages, types of exhibits, etc).
b) Fundraising for Salgados Meeting with several company owners and wealthy
individuals, mostly British expatriates, who are very committed to Salgados, and
discuss and implement with them fundraising plans and strategies to get some
money for SPEA to continue with this campaign.
Aidan has met several of you. He is continuing to work on the issue, has made
connections with Academics from UCC in Ireland who have agreed to provide the
data from their field visits over many years and is currently working on getting more
RSPB staff out to Salgados to help with the work.
Aidan Lonergan stated in subsequent emails that he thought that Lagoa dos Salgados was one of the best birding sites in southern Europe and most certainly worth fighting to preserve (i.e. to try and get SPA status). He vowed to return with a "task force" in the near future to resolve the problems. I could almost hear the trumpet sounding "Boots & Saddles" and expected the cavalry to ride in in a cloud of dust to save the lagoon from all the ills of the world.
That was almost two years ago now. In the meantime Aidan Lonergan has been promoted to "Director of Futurescapes" and is now based at RSPB HQ at The Lodge at Sandy, Bedfordshire. Salgados has been forgotten.
Need I say more?