19th July 2009
My beer glass is usually half empty rather than half full which is supposed to make me a pessimist . What it really means is that I enjoy my beer. I do get pessimistic about the rapid decline in many of our birds populations though, amongst other things. Its easy to get depressed about the price of beer, politics, the state of the nation and Cricket but its the countryside I worry about most. Where are our Skylarks? Birds have given me so much pleasure since I were a lad, its sad that future generations will only enjoy many species as scarce vagrants rather than as part of our local wildlife. I must be careful not to sound like an RSPB leaflet.
I said yesterday I hadn't seen many birds, that wasnt true, I saw alot of Woodpigeons and Corvids and quite a few Swallows and a few Swifts. What I should have said was I didn't see or hear any Songbirds. It was fairly typical English farmland fields of Cereals, beans and Hay with hedgerows, ditches and scattered bits of woodland. There were good numbers of Butterflies mainly Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Whites but no Skylarks, Yellowhammers or Linnets.
I read an article in the Daily Mail yesterday by Robin Page, farmer and broadcaster discussing the reasons for the decline in Song bird populatons. Many are well documented such as changes in farming methods but he also cited the 'bunny hugging' mentality of many conservation bodies.
If we want biodiversity and balanced ecosystems we must address the issue of predation as well as creating more reed beds and putting up nest boxes.
Nobody likes to see animals injured but lets get real. I saw a piece on some TV programme last week which showed the work of an Wildlife hospital. The time, money and effort wasted on 'rescueing, Magpies, Crows, foxes and Grey Squirrels was beyond belief. Somebody thinks they're doing a great job in keeping a three legged fox alive in a cage for the rest of its life. Would they show the same compassion towards a rat. They're all 'vermin' species. All these predators take a huge toll of Song birds. Perhaps saving vermin species eases our consciences as we teararse round the country lanes mowing down rabbits and anything else that gets in our way. I'm not too worried about rabbits. Their breeding rate will ensure a healthy if fluctuating population. Its the supply of winter food their carcasses provide for predator and scavenger species that creates a problem. Robin Page pointed out that the populations of predator species such as Magpies, crows and foxes are being maintained at artificially high levels because of the smorgasbord of food on our roads during the winter months when normally only the strongest individuals would survive the lack of food. You only have to look in your back garden.The dominant species in my garden are Blackbirds, Magpies and Woodpigeon.
I rarely see a Song thrush or a Wren. Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Turtle doves and Grey Partridges have declined dramatically in North Warwickshire in recent years. They may soon become extinct unless we take steps to improve their habitat and control predation with actions based on fact and common sense rather than 'bogus sentimentality' and emotion.