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