Will future be bright for our yellow fellows?
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.
●● A yellowhammer
●● A yellow wagtail
●● Reader John Riding has sent this picture of a nuthatch after reading Alan’s column