WHY CON­NEC­TION IS KING

Bird Watching (UK) - - Conservation Bird Population -

Con­nec­tion is why you will travel to the High­lands in 50 years’ time and feel that spring thrill, even in the lull of sum­mer, at hear­ing a Cuckoo – one of thou­sands con­nected in a vast un­bro­ken food-scape. Lack of con­nec­tion is why those two pairs of Wil­low Tit at your lo­cal gravel pit, or the Spot­ted Fly­catcher hawk­ing your lovely bud­dleia in a ster­ile vil­lage, are al­ready his­tory. That is why the lit­tle Alder wood near you, the wood where “noth­ing has changed”, has lost its Lesser Spot­ted Wood­peck­ers – but the New For­est has re­tained 100 pairs, each one con­nected to the other. One of the many won­der­ful things about the New Bird At­las is the rel­a­tive abun­dance maps. I’d par­tic­u­larly rec­om­mend the Cuckoo map (see right) as an ex­am­ple of how tightly you can cor­re­late a sav­able pop­u­la­tion to food and habi­tat at a land­scape level: just look at the New For­est and Dart­moor – bursts of red hope on a des­o­late English map. I’d also rec­om­mend the Tur­tle Dove map for un­der­stand­ing how few land­scapes are left for them. We might save the odd farm, but you’d need to buy most of Es­sex to stand any real chance of sav­ing Tur­tle Doves, to­day. More op­ti­misti­cally, look at the Whin­chat map to see a blast of red over Sal­is­bury Plain – 300 pairs of birds de­fy­ing the chem­i­cals of the 20th Cen­tury, feast­ing on in­sects pre­served by the mil­i­tary since 1898. Con­nec­tion is king. If we can con­nect and re­build our birds in land­scapes, we will win. If not, we have al­ready lost – land­scapes are as op­tional as food. Over time, the rein­tro­duc­tion of sum­mer mi­grants, like shrikes and Wry­necks, will boost a Bri­tain whose wetlands are ex­pand­ing and whose forests and grass­lands are slowly join­ing up. For most of Bri­tain’s birds, it’s not up to farm­ers or game­keep­ers, it’s up to con­ser­va­tion­ists and it’s up to us. Deep down, we al­ready know which is moral, and right, for the fu­ture. Nov­el­ist Jules Verne de­scribed iso­la­tion as a "wretched thing, be­yond hu­man en­durance". Why then, should we in­flict it on our birds?

Re­search car­ried out in Poland sug­gests what is needed to en­sure the Red-backed Shrike still ex­ists in 50 years' time

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