Grumpy Old Birder

Bo Be­olens says mess­ing with our parks ru­ins the chance for some de­cent bird­watch­ing

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

Bo says stop mess­ing with our parks and driv­ing birds away

REG­U­LAR READ­ERS will know how gen­uine my af­fec­tion is for undis­ci­plined dog walk­ers. They will also know how I be­lieve that our over­ro­man­ti­cised idea of the coun­try­side cou­pled with the idea that na­ture should be tamed, is lead­ing to habi­tat loss and evic­tion of wildlife. Land­scape ar­chi­tect Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown looked at the farm fields and for­est of aris­to­cratic es­tates and, in the words of the film in­dus­try ‘re-imag­ined’ them. Like an artist ig­nor­ing a tree if it spoils their com­po­si­tion, Mr Brown re­moved any­thing that in­ter­fered with his idea of how na­ture should be. And so, dear read­ers, the con­cept of the ‘park’ was born. It was not, of course, meant for the hoi pol­loi. The high-born and high-handed de­mol­ished vil­lages, turfed tilth toil­ers from their ten­ant farms and ripped up trees in the wrong place to add them in the ‘right’ place. Dry val­leys were dammed and streams re-routed for their own view­ing plea­sure and to show off to other high-born en­vi­ron­men­tal hooli­gans! This was good news for Roe Deer, game­birds and foun­tain mak­ers. It was not so good for na­ture. Un­for­tu­nately, we have re­tained this ideal ever since.

So, thanks Mr Park Keeper for tidy­ing up the ram­pant ‘weeds’ so favoured by skulk­ing war­blers

When I moved here, my lo­cal park was a well-known au­tumn hotspot for Firecrests and Yel­low-browed War­blers, Pal­las’s War­blers and even Col­lared Fly­catch­ers. An al­most hid­den gar­den was sur­rounded by a fence cov­ered in Ivy. The play­ing fields were sur­rounded by shrubby bor­ders and copses of trees, through which win­ter flocks fid­dled in the fo­liage, with maybe an over­win­ter­ing chif­fchaff and a black­cap or two. I, and other town-bound na­ture ap­pre­ci­a­tors, could see Red­starts and fly­catch­ers on their way to Africa or Red­wings and Field­fares avoid­ing the frigid north. Ad­mit­tedly, ev­ery now and again, a per­son walk­ing by hold­ing their dog’s lead would in­ter­rupt our tran­quil bird­ing. But then, Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown’s de­scen­dants de­cided that the hid­den gar­den should be view­able from a path, that no one uses, and the Ivy was stripped from its perime­ter. Of­fended by Cow Pars­ley and el­der­ber­ries, Ground Ivy and Dog­wood, ev­ery nook and cranny was cleared of ground cover. NOTH­ING is now al­lowed to live un­der the trees ex­cept clipped grass. So, now, the off-lead dogs can run through ev­ery shel­tered cor­ner, and the pass­ing mo­torists have un­ob­structed views of stark trunks and bare fences. So, thanks Mr Park Keeper for tidy­ing up the ram­pant ‘weeds’ and un­nec­es­sary un­der-storey, so favoured by skulk­ing war­blers, and also for rak­ing up all that leaf lit­ter that the win­ter thrushes loved to scratch through! Bo Be­olens runs fat­birder.com and other web­sites. He has writ­ten a num­ber of books

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