WHY CONNECTION IS KING
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