We must watch the birdies

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - NEWS -

THIS is a tough time for baby birds – in fact this par­tic­u­lar lit­tle fel­low is very lucky to be alive.

I was inches away from squash­ing him on a quiet road at Seaton Carew, mainly be­cause he was a lit­tle hes­i­tant in try­ing to get across.

I was driv­ing along when I had to brake quickly as a mother pheas­ant and five chicks am­bled across the road right in front of me.

I stopped to ad­mire the fam­ily, which was in the safety of the grass, but re­alised the mother bird was quite ag­i­tated.

Then my wife opened the front pas­sen­ger door to dis­cover this lit­tle chap stand­ing right next to my tyre, with his brother or sis­ter at a slightly safer dis­tance just be­hind.

A quick photo ses­sion and then we eased gen­tly away, giv­ing the two re­main­ing chicks the chance to join the rest of their fam­ily.

But the in­ci­dent brought home the fact that one of the big­gest threats to young – and old - an­i­mals is our roads. A re­cent sur­vey sug­gested that 50 mil­lion birds are killed on our roads ev­ery year.

It sounds in­cred­i­ble. We all see plenty of dead adult pheas­ants and a few gulls, but the smaller road­kill are harder to spot from a mov­ing ve­hi­cle. Ap­par­ently house spar­rows are the most com­mon vic­tims, even more so than pheas­ants.

There’s also an in­creas­ing num­bers of dead mam­mals. I’ve never seen a live badger, but on a trip to South Wales and back two weeks ago I spot­ted at least half a dozen dead ones.

Dead foxes were ev­ery­where too, and I’ve prob­a­bly seen more dead deer in 2017 than in all the pre­vi­ous years put to­gether. Nat­u­rally the plight of the hedge­hog is well cat­a­logued. This idea of rolling up into a ball only works on oc­ca­sions.

Frogs and toads also suf­fer in huge num­bers. Toads have a habit of get­ting mown down en masse as they head for breed­ing grounds. Even the small­est toad tun­nel ap­par­ently costs £30,000 to in­stall.

Of course many driv­ers have no chance of avoid­ing col­li­sions. Sev­eral years ago, on the A66 in heavy rain on the way home from a Boro night match, a fox ran into my car.

But there is a mes­sage there for all of us. We must al­ways keep an eye out for the wildlife as well as pedes­tri­ans when we are driv­ing, es­pe­cially in the coun­try.

And when you see re­duced speed lim­its in quiet ar­eas, re­spect them.

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