Wednesday, 14 April 2021

the lost birds ...

This morning my first swallow. A single. Above the coach road, then low over the trammelled soil of the
arable fields.

And bird song. Song thrushes notable: four singing males on my daily tour of this end of the country park. This, despite the persistent morning frosts, indicating a 'Blackthorn winter': one where blackthorn blossom coincides with winter's lingering cold fingers. A long dry spring with fields already being irrigated.

But with the promise of spring and the arrival of the swallow, it is easy to ignore how silent this spring truly is. Dunnocks still flutter. Chiffchaffs tick-tock. Great tits ''teacher-teacher'. Goldfinches' tinsel song. Above the stumpery, the night time ululation of a male tawny suggested a breeding attempt. A female was in the box when we checked - with take-away remains strewn around the bedroom.

But nowhere our proper entitlement of yellowhammers, corn buntings, marsh tits or tree sparrows.

The hedgerows, fields and margins are devoid of the wildlife that has been resident here for perhaps thousands of years. We are living Rachel Carson's Silent Spring nightmare. News this week that the pesticides used in agriculture now have twice the toxicity of early ones suggests part of the problem..  

'Shifting baseline syndrome' tells us that young people growing up will expect the wildlife they now experience as being the norm.

I'll tell you what the 'norm' is.

Or rather Norm himself.

We met Norman (80 this year) half a century ago. He is now a dear friend and local birdwatching legend. He graces us with visits to birdwatch in the garden.

I'll let Norman tell you what's missing from the walk I currently undertake each day:

This is what 'shifting baseline syndrome' means..... I find this living testimony truly sad.

And it takes us in one of two directions. We either accept the loss as remorseless and inevitable.

Or we use it as a battle-cry that takes us forward to regain what has been lost.

I'm for the fight. You?


welchs said...

Saw the Tweet*, interestingly here in East Lothian we'd agree with all of those - though decades since some disappeared, with exception of the very last, Grasshopper Warbler which are still pretty widespread and had a small net gain in local atlas 2007-13 - though I see this is not apparent on national atlas maps where all of the increase is north/west, mainly Ireland: *

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

The one bird I remember being incredibly common when I was a child was the lapwing, all the fields were full of them it seemed. Not so now.

Rob said...

We've even lost house sparrows and starlings here. Fragmentation of habitat and over-intensification of agriculture have contributed to the eradication of what were once seen as 'common'. And then there's the climate crisis ....

Rob said...
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Rob said...
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