Will fu­ture be bright for our yel­low fel­lows?

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

AS you snug­gle up in front of the tele­vi­sion with a nice cup of co­coa, it isn’t hard to ‘tut, tut’ at na­ture pro­grammes warn­ing of an­i­mal ex­tinc­tions in far-off places.

But, by the time you have your jim­jams on you will have forgotten about the plight of the po­lar bear and blue whale... be­cause they are on the other side of the world.

I was read­ing a heart­break­ing story about the Hawai­ian ’o ’o, which had the un­for­tu­nate dis­tinc­tions of hav­ing at­trac­tive feath­ers and be­ing tasty. The last pair of the birds was seen about 40 years ago and then, it is be­lieved, that the male sur­vived for three or four years af­ter that. Its ‘oh, oh’ mat­ing call could be heard by hun­gry Hawai­ians but un­for­tu­nately there were no ladies left to im­press and it even­tu­ally died a lonely death. Ex­cuse me for a minute while I com­pose my­self.

Yet some of th­ese ex­tinc­tions are a lot closer to home and the plight of many of th­ese an­i­mals is down to hu­man­ity.

Two of Lan­cashire’s en­dan­gered and bright­est coloured birds, the yel­lowham­mer and the yel­low wag­tail, have been caus­ing con­cern to wildlife ex­perts for the past 30-odd years.

How­ever, there is some good news, with lo­cal birder David Steel spot­ting the birds on the Chat Moss area of Sal­ford, a num­ber of times this year.

The yel­lowham­mer is well-known for sit­ting on top of bushes with its ‘a lit­tle bit of bread and no cheese’ song. It is about the size of a spar­row and in­hab­its wood­land edges, hedgerows and farm­land.

The male has a bright yel­low head and belly, with an or­angey chest and streaky, brown back. Fe­male yel­lowham­mers are a lot less showy, they are ba­si­cally a bit brown.

Ac­cord­ing to my trusty re­gional Bird At­las, yel­lowham­mers are seen around the south­ern ar­eas of the re­gion but num­bers have de­clined by about 19 per cent, com­pared with a na­tional fall of 15pc.

The at­las says: “It sug­gests that yel­lowham­mers may be faring slightly worse in Lan­cashire than in the coun­try as a whole.”

While pied and grey wag­tails have long tails, yel­lows are shorter. They like damp marshes, mead­ows and river­banks, and can be seen walk­ing and run­ning on the ground, chas­ing in­sects dis­turbed by cat­tle, horses and sheep. They are gen­er­ally seen in sum­mer hav­ing flown over from Africa.

Yel­low wag­tails are olivey-green above and yel­low be­low with a yel­low face and a black and white tail. Males are brighter than fe­males.

Again it is less-than­g­ood news in the Bird At­las which says: “Yel­low wag­tails have been in in­creas­ing trou­ble as a Bri­tish breed­ing species for many years, their pop­u­la­tion de­clin­ing by 72pc be­tween 1970 and 2010 and by 50pc since 1995.”

So the fact that both of th­ese birds have been seen on Chat Moss, where the Wildlife Trust has been cre­at­ing habi­tats for wildlife on its re­serves is great news.

With some luck – and good man­age­ment – yel­lowham­mers and yel­low wag­tails will be­come a pretty part of the land­scape in years to come.

The Bird At­las for the re­gion can be found at www.lacfs.org.uk/ Lancs%20Birds.html.

To sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070. To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

For in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

Darin Smith

●● A yel­lowham­mer

Amy Lewis

●● A yel­low wag­tail

●● Reader John Rid­ing has sent this pic­ture of a nuthatch af­ter read­ing Alan’s col­umn

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