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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Catastrophic declines in Bird Populations

This is a response I published recently addressing Steve Dudley (BOU) and Richard Broughton (ecologist) sums up my feelings........

Steve and Richard may point towards 'reasonings' behind the declines in some species but lest remember, we are seeing something in the magnitude of 44 million birds lost from the equation, in a relatively short time span (50 years). This is catastrophic, and talks of a 24% increase on a vastly reduced Song Thrush population is glossing over the situation

I really cannot see how bird populations can sustain long-term such devastating effects on population indices, especially when one considers the continual carnage in the Middle East (Kuwait and the UAE mainly, but also in Turkey and Egypt), Malta and other countries still intent in murdering each and every migrant they can get their hands or guns on. They are killing literally millions of birds per annum, wiping out entire flocks of birds such as Black Storks and White Pelicans. Vast numbers of migrating raptors are slaughtered, and passerine numbers are just too frightening to comprehend. If you spent just four weeks in Kuwait, you would see the magnitude of the killing.

And look what has happened in China in recent years - entire populations of the likes of Yellow-breasted Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Mongolian Lark and an assortment of Rosefinches virtually wiped out - and a frightening increase in markets trading in small wild birds for food

Just look at the recent slaying of 160,000 migrating Amur Falcons in India - it just does not bear thinking about, the scenarios bird populations have to put up with

Pressure needs to be placed on the door of these countries supporting such devastating slaughters with not just idle threats. In the case of Malta, they continually flout EU directives on wild bird protection, so why have they not been thrown out. Just like Israel I suppose, nobody really cares who has the power to do anything about it. Another old boys club

I believe we are going to see Turtle Dove become extinct as a breeding bird in Britain in some of our lifetimes' - and this was once a very common bird of our countryside. Likewise, Willow Tit's days must surely be numbered.

Red-backed Shrike was still locally common when I took up birdwatching in 1968 but where is it now, some 44 years on. Gone - and a fading memory.

Velvet Scoter was once a common sight on a trip to Scotland in winter, particularly in the Moray Firth, with huge diving flocks of 6,000 birds or more - but now, Scottish wintering population now possibly as low as 650 birds in total; Long-tailed Duck and Greater Scaup gone the same way too. And it's not just a case of them reorienting north to winter in the Baltic or elsewhere, I struggle in Varanger Fjord (Arctic Norway) now to record the numbers. The RSPB recently found that horrendous numbers of seabirds (including wildfowl) were being caught in fishing nets and drowned off of the NE coast of Britain - and in just two days of secret filming, revealed the deaths of over 400 birds in just one small area. Just extrapolate those figures over an entire winter and over a vast stretch of coastline and see how much carnage that would cause - and these often being species that perhaps fledge just one young in 7 years. Catastrophic

Defining potential causes of steep declines is one thing but actually taking measures to counteract them is another - and I see far too few signs in this happening. The reason that the story is not entirely bleak and has some plusses is that many households in the UK are bird-friendly nowadays and feed them throughout the year - but could this too play catastrophic as birdtable-borne diseases strike hard. And the rise in many Mediterranean species to our shores is only resultant upon changes in climate and the effects drought-like conditions are having in countries such as Spain and Portugal.