June’s Cliffhanger Article

10 Jun
The recent bout of sustained cold weather (which is thankfully now over) caused great concern for the animal life in the village. I suspect many of the birds trying to raise their broods were really struggling to find enough food and some chicks could well have starved due to the lack of insects. Having said that from the number of birds mating around the village it looks like a second round of eggs are on their way!
The impact of the unseasonal weather got me thinking about the unintended effect we have on our local wild life. I have been talking to a number of people in the village who grew up here and are of a ‘certain age’. They made observations such as “We used to hear cuckoo’s every year – I haven’t heard any for a while”, “My father used to take me out to pick mushrooms – you just don’t see any anymore” and “There used to be so many wild flowers in the fields but they have all gone”.
If you walk around the footpaths, the fields appear to be heathy and they are if you need to grow grass for cattle, fodder etc but from a bird’s or butterfly’s perspective the fields are mostly deserts – the is nothing to eat! Farmers have had a very real need to, for example, fertilise grassland to improve growth rates etc to earn a living and we need to respect this. This does mean, however, that flowering plants in fields have almost disappeared as the grass out competes them as they need poor quality grassland to thrive.
The consequences of this are, for example, a 50% reduction in the total number of birds in the last 50 years, a very sharp reduction in farmland birds such as Yellowhammers, some butterfly’s becoming locally or even nationally extinct, many meadow plants almost disappearing from around the village (when was the last time you saw a wild orchid?) and no cuckoo’s. These are all very real, local consequences from our demand for cheaper food.
There are some great examples around the village of farmers putting some land into ‘set aside’. I saw one patch of this last winter near Stanbridge with literally thousands of Goldfinches, Greenfinches etc. It was a stunning and very noisy spectacle.
We need to make more space for our local wildlife to thrive and if we provide the opportunity it’s amazing how quickly, maybe with a little help, plants, insects, reptiles and birds can bounce back. And it’s not realistic or fair to expect farmers to do everything – it’s in all of our interests to improve our environment. Wildlife needs ‘messy’ places to thrive and, with the pressure to increase yields, ‘messy’ gets tidied up.
I have a number of ideas which I will exploring with various people over the next few months but if you have any suggestions please do contact me on geoff_carss@hotmail.com or via my blog – sherstonwildlife.wordpress.com
And isn’t it great to have the House Martins, Swallows and Swifts back flying around the village.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: