Geographical : 2020-10-01

DOSSIER : 22 : 22


DOSSIER Bird declines developmen­t,’ he says. ‘Some birds can cope with the scrubby farmland that remains after forests are taken out, but others require rainforest.’ The expansion of the Sahara is a concern, as climate change influences the network of protected sites and demands that birds fly farther between stops. Birds also face the threat of shooting for ‘sport’ as they fly over Malta and Cyprus. ‘Getting stopover sites establishe­d where these birds can fatten up is important,’ says Noble. ‘We can work with local government­s and partners. We need much bigger areas. These benefit more than birds – they benefit humans, too, because of the ecosystem services they bring.’ The current focus of flyways is on nightingal­es, cuckoos and turtle doves (whose UK numbers have dropped by 95 per cent over recent decades). Cuckoos seem to suffer higher mortality if they fly over Spain than if they fly across Italy, but either way, they end up in the deep forests of the Congo. They spend a couple of months there, then head to Sierra Leone and return back up to Europe, more slowly than they headed south in the autumn. Yet even if birds such as the nightingal­e and cuckoo can cope with scrubland rather than primary forest, it doesn’t mean they cope well. ‘They face the same problems they do in the UK with the increase in farmland,’ says Noble. The problems facing turtle doves, however, also need to be addressed closer to home. ‘We know the decline in the UK is down to changing farming practices,’ says Harper. These changes mean fewer weeds around for the birds to find insects to feed their chicks. ‘They 22 . Geographic­al

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