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Ford and Etal

Development comes at a cost, with wildlife struggling to cope

Other posts by  |  Kevin OHara on Google+ |  March 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
Kevin O'Hara

Kevin O’Hara

It sure is, as I write this, a beautiful and crisp day. The sun is out and there is warmth within it. The titmice and tree sparrows are checking the nest boxes Mr Blackbird is singing his little socks off and ‘rocky’ robin is courting his invisible lover around the shrubbery.

March, like February, is one of my favourite months, as I can usually get to my allotment and start things away in the greenhouse. Most of all there is usually an upturn in the weather. Even I find the cold a little too much these days, and by March I’ve had enough and need warmth.

So for me there are two things paramount on my mind at this time of the year; where to go for my holidays and recording the advent of spring. Not just the first daffodil but the first migrant bird species’ arriving, the first nest and eggs, where the foxes are denning this year, will the winter roe deer stay and can I pin down some decent images of mad March hares this year.

Last year March was remarkably warm and I like most thought we could at least have for once a decent year, but as we all know that was not to happen. Fingers and legs crossed this this year will be different.

Northumberland wildlife

Badger cubs getting ready for spring, by Kevin O’Hara

My favourite early arrivals are the first sand martins and the calls of early chiff chaff or willow warblers which oddly see’s me getting more competitive with each year – I’m always trying to find the earliest record. But checking my diaries it seems a bit pointless all my records are found within a few days of each other every year with the odd really early or late ones.

Last year for instance I didn’t see sand martins until well into April. I’m sure they were here before then but I didn’t see them until later, usually they are clustered around March the 22 last year it was April 15. I think the bad weather last year delayed many migrants. Indeed I would say last year was for me the worst in my records for everything not just birds, it was such a wash out with so many clutches and broods succumbing to the incessant rain.

Dawns are now so much better to get up in as there is light in the sky and the resident birds are in full song. I came across a large gathering of curlew this week inland ready to make their way to the nesting grounds and oystercatchers too are making their way to ancestral nest sites on the open gravel bars of the regions rivers. Some of these remarkable birds have been returning to the same sites for over 30 years.

Little stories like that often go unnoticed in today’s world but what will this place we call home be like without those dawn songs or the trill of a rising oystercatcher disturbed from it shingle beach. Personally, I can’t imagine it but it looms ever closer every year, fewer birds return to the nesting grounds and fewer residents return to the hedges, the pastures, even the rookery in the park. There are many reasons but nearly all have a common link to us as a species and our inability to accommodate other species within our lives.

Some might say I romanticise over past times and we should all move on with species coming and going but in my short life on this planet things have mostly gone and gone for pretty obvious reasons, i.e. the places where they lived are gone with parties repeating the same old phrases, ‘that there is always somewhere else for them’.

The demise of many species is very simple and easily corrected and yet we still prefer to see our countryside full of pheasants and pigeons, surrounded by well-worn quotes such as ‘well the British countryside looks like it does because of the way we manage it’, yeh hello, we know that’s why we have nothing else living in it.

Yes, I’m being flippant and there are places which are pretty good; but generally the countryside that most people get so protective over is a sterile wilderness of cereal crop rotation with pheasant feeders in the corner of the field and pigeons sitting in the tall tree above a flailed hedgerow. Depressingly, it’s going to get worse with the dramatic cuts coming within the agricultural budgets and environmental payments being drastically reduced.

There are gloomy times ahead for all but in the wildlife stakes the end result is often fatal. We will all eventually come out of this depression but for some species they may not. Hen harriers, though not directly affected by agricultural changes, are on the verge of extinction in England because of game preserves and the inability to share space over profitability in grouse. The badger, too, is a scapegoat for previously ill-advised practices and is set to be culled against every scientific and common sense policy. It will serve absolutely no good whatsoever but to simply will placate the landowning voters and is an utter disgrace and waste of taxpayers monies.

Here in the North East we have had badgers forever without any TB evidence and then post-foot and mouth we have cases all over the north – TB now firmly within the wildlife resource. This is not alone as we continually allow problems to arrive and then manage the issue after the ‘horse has bolted’, Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is now in the deer population and probably other wildlife originating from imported livestock.

Rant over – but some sobering thoughts on these sunny spring days when the lambs will soon be frolicking in the fields and swallows skimming the waters for flies. We all think that everything in the garden is rosy but beneath the surface all is never well. Still, there is still plenty to see at this time of the year.

Get up onto the moors if the weather is good and behold the spring abundance in the north Pennines of curlew, lapwing and the plaintive calls of the golden plover. On the seas the sea walls and stacks of the Farnes and the cliffs of the Berwickshire coast will soon be resounding, to the deafening chorus of thousands of seabirds. Get up at dawn and walk a woodland track (without the dog) you may be pleasantly surprised what is on your doorstep a fox returning with prey to an unknown den or even a shy roe deer browsing at the woodland edge.

Whatever you do enjoy it while you can you never know what around the corner.

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Category: Northumbria Wildlife

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