Coun­try Mouse

Wildlife af­ter Brexit

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

AT dawn, I was watch­ing the rooks once more as they bowled across the sky like some dark dream, when, al­most at my feet, a male yel­lowham­mer left its roost on some barbed wire shrouded by bracken. It looked a cosy place to have spent the night. Once, the rook’s dis­play and the ap­pear­ance of this yel­low bunting would have given a coun­try­man the hee­beegee­bees: the yel­lowham­mer was said to have a drop of the Devil’s blood on its tongue and the bird’s eggs, which are in­tri­cately marked with scrib­bles, were con­sid­ered the Devil’s writ­ing. To­day, due to the loss of win­ter stub­ble, they, like other graniv­o­rous passer­ines and the grey par­tridge, have seen their num­bers plum­met and I have wit­nessed very few in my life.

They’re best known for their repet­i­tive song ‘a-lit­tle-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’, which or­nithol­o­gists re­gard as se­cond only to the cuckoo as the best mnemonic for Bri­tish bird­song and was a sound that once dom­i­nated the dusty lanes and ar­eas of thick gorse in high sum­mer.

The Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions—es­pe­cially the de­ci­sions that are made with re­gard to farm­ing af­ter we leave the Eu—will have con­se­quences not only for the Bri­tish pop­u­la­tion, but our wildlife, too. The fu­ture of the yel­lowham­mer may de­pend on them. MH

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