Altering nature?

I live on an island in the Outer Hebrides (think remote and rural and challenging weather).  There were just a few house sparrows, or so it seemed, around here 15 years ago.  Over that 15 years I have increased habitat including bushes, small trees, 'scruffy' areas and borders, ponds and bird baths, put up nest boxes and bird feeders (wild bird seed all year round, added fat balls in the winter and just recently nyjer seeds for the goldfinches and redpolls that have suddenly appeared).  House sparrow numbers have increased dramatically: I now feed a flock of well over 100 all year round.  In fact, in winter they seek me out, clamouring for me to refill the feeders.  I adore all birds and house sparrows in particular, so naturally oblige.

As well as the increase in house sparrows there has been an increase in the number and variety of other birds, including predators like sparrowhawks.  Although this could be down to habitat creation too, the sheer 'unnatural' number of house sparrows is worrying me a bit.  Have I altered the natural balance too much?  I feel I've created an unnatural oasis in the middle of wild moorland/coast land.  Should I wean the birds off the feeders or just carry on enjoying all these lovely birds?

  • You may be better off asking the local Hebrides bird group for their opinion,I think in general many folk would think you were doing a good job

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • Thank you Pete, a good idea.
  • I agree with Seaman's suggestion re the local bird group. I suspect you'll get a variety of responses if all members were able to reply. Personally, I am against 24x7x365 indiscriminate bird feeding, regardless of where in UK it occurs. It simply favours dominant species, and those species that are generalist feeders, or seed specialists. Very little to do with conservation and biodiversity. Science is very, very slowly moving in that direction. Specific data is being used to highlight competition issues (e.g. willow tit losing out to blue tit and GSW re nest sites and excessive predation resp).

    I would have thought the more remote the community, the more negative artificial bird feeding impact would be. The more prey, the more predators, and those predators don't just pick off common species.

    There is also the argument of sustainability. What happens when you move away?
  • As the others have said, though I will add, it is very likely that there will a variety of mitigating reasons, and food supply will be one of them, along with the prevailing weather and surrounding environment, and I don't mean immediately around you, it could be from miles away.

    If you do contact anyone regarding this, it would be interesting if you would share their response.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Robbo:

    I quite agree with your comments on feeding 24/7as some birds do become too reliant on this source. Our feeding is usually controlled by weather conditions as as we are on the edge of good mixed habitat there seems to be a supply of natural food available in most conditions. Let's be honest a lot of garden feeding is for our pleasure as well as helping the birds though that remark may upset a lot of folk.

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • Thanks everyone - I suspect I'm feeding them all the time because of the pleasure I get from seeing them. Whether it actually does any good in the long term [for them] is questionable.

    I will ask around here and if anything interesting/insightful comes back, I'll let you know.

    Many thanks.
  • Allthe gear, it would be interesting to hear what reaction you get locally I suspect it will be a wide range of thoughts. Despite my own personal thoughts on feeding I am sure most birds do benefitfrom supplementary feeding in extreme weather. Of our local reserves only one has feeders and that seems to be sponsored by the keen photographers. Other reserves control the habitat to encourage the wildlife

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • In reply to allthegearnoidea:

    allthegearnoidea said:
    Thanks everyone - I suspect I'm feeding them all the time because of the pleasure I get from seeing them. Whether it actually does any good in the long term [for them] is questionable.



    I will ask around here and if anything interesting/insightful comes back, I'll let you know.

    Many thanks.

    I'm definitely guilty of feeding wildlife for the pleasure of seeing them.

    However, for centauries, man has interfered/altered nature and what I'm seeing is more and more squeezing is being put on nature and the countryside to satisfy our demand for houses, roads, airports and other commercial aspects.

    I'm now retired, thankfully, but one thing that was often used to encourage the workforce to become more productive, was the terminology "work smarter"!

    Basically it was a way of telling the workforce to find ways to make themselves become more productive using what they already have, and I fear a similar application is being forced on the countryside and nature (I'm using nature rather than wildlife so to include plants, trees etc).

    Whilst the open countryside is being reclaimed for buildings, hoses, roads, etc, we're putting the pressure on wildlife removing their food and habitats, and thus indirectly putting the squeeze on people to feed these creatures.

    Not in my lifetime, r the next few generations, unless there is a stop to the incessant building programs we have, then those with gardens and many will be postage stamp gardens because of the demand for space to build, then wildlife feeding stations may be the only food source they have.

    Or perhaps I'm being melodramatic....

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler