Many rea­sons for de­cline of birds

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, I write re­gard­ing un­ac­count­able omis­sions in the ar­ti­cle ti­tled ‘Care needed around nests dur­ing breed­ing sea­son’ (The Oban Times, April 13).

We, the pub­lic, it seems, needed ‘re­mind­ing’ about the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of birds’ nests in spring. Ac­cord­ing to Andy Turner, of Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage, and Ian Fran­cis of the RSPB, tree felling, build­ing work, hedge trim­ming, block­ing holes in houses and so on should be post­poned un­til af­ter the end of the nest­ing sea­son (date?) be­cause ‘many of our gar­den bird species are de­clin­ing’.

It was also ob­served that ‘ Dogs can be a risk if not un­der con­trol’. How true. A dog roam­ing around un­con­trolled, though an in­creas­ingly un­com­mon sight, can find the odd ground nester and maybe eat its eggs. It is odd, though, that dogs, who are not given much free­dom to roam, are not renowned for bring­ing home dead birds and are not great tree climbers, come in for crit­i­cism and yet cats don’t even get a men­tion.

It is es­pe­cially odd when you go to the RSPB web­site and find that it is say­ing ‘The most re­cent fig­ures from the Mam­mal So­ci­ety es­ti­mates that the UK’s cats catch up to 275 mil­lion prey items a year, of which 55 mil­lion are birds.’ That’s right - 55 mil­lion birds a year and that is just do­mes­tic cats, so who knows what the sub­stan­tial feral cat pop­u­la­tion is slaugh­ter­ing. Af­ter all, they have to kill to sur­vive – no tinned stuff for them if they miss the birdie.

It is sur­pris­ing, too, that they don’t men­tion the wide­spread use of pes­ti­cides, her­bi­cides and ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers on farms and gar­dens, creep­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion, the drainage of marshes and the scarcity of hedges in the in­creas­ingly mono­cul­tural agri/forestry UK land­scape all of which has led to a 45 per cent drop in all in­sect life over the past 40 years.

De­clin­ing in­sect num­bers are the source of the drop in bird num­bers and it isn’t just birds - it is many other an­i­mal groups as well. Per­haps Andy Turner and Ian Fran­cis would be bet­ter off aim­ing their warn­ings at the Scot­tish and UK gov­ern­ments to form a bet­ter strat­egy as we un­dergo our un­cou­pling from EU di­ver­sity leg­is­la­tion rather than re­mind­ing us that birds nest in spring.

Peter Isaacson, Coll.

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