Biodiversity Crisis in UK

I have just returned from a short break in Cyprus, an island notorious for bird persecution.
You may be wondering why this is relevant to this group, but please bear with me.
Cyprus has widespread illegal shooting and trapping of birds and animals eg mouflon, a kind of wild sheep.
But it's mainly the birds that this post is about.
Every year in Cyprus during Spring and Autumn migration, many so called "protected" species of birds are shot and trapped by a variety of methods.
Despite this biannual slaughter, the island seems to be teeming with birds, compared to the UK.
Please do not infere I am pro hunting ! I absolutely abhor it.
I weep when I see Twitter posts concerning wild bird slaughter whether it be Malta, Lebanon, Italy, France or Cyprus.
But on returning to England this week and walking in our green and pleasant land ? the lack of bird life,the lack of any meaningful nature is in stark contrast to the island where the previous week I was almost falling over birds in terms of quantity and variety...
This evening there was a report on the news that the UK is one of the most depleted countries in Europe and this made me think why ?
Why is it that we can have so little wildlife compared to many European Countries some of who, persecute birds and yet have a richer and more biodiverse environment ?

If you walk in many areas in Britain today including our National Parks, the landscape is pretty devoid of birds apart from Corvids and the ubiquitous Wood Pigeon.You may say I exaggerate and yes nature rich areas do exist in some of our reserves and the more remote islands around our coasts, but the vast majority of our  landscape is pretty sterile and depleted in wildlife.

So why ?

Well the overwhelming and obvious reason is intensive agricultural and farming : monocultures,fertilizers, pesticide and herbicide use,the senseless flaying and mismanagement of our diminished hedgerows,usually in Autumn when their fruits and berries are needed most by our wildlife, to help sustain them through winter, Autumn sown wheat etc.The lack of winter stumbles and spilt seed, the lack of weeds and wildflowers and consequent lack of insects so crucial to breeding birds.

But in my opinion it's more than that.

Our woodlands are in a poor state due to huge numbers of invasive species and poor management, grey squirrel, muntjac and the annual uncontrolled release of millions of pheasants into our countryside for shooting causes massive damage to our native flora and fauna.
Key woodland birds are in decline, Redstart,Pied Flycatcher, Nightingale, Willow and Marsh Tit,  Wood Warbler, as well as  dormouse , all in serious trouble as are our amphibians and snakes and lizards.

Our rivers and lakes polluted with agricultural pesticides , nitrates, sewerage, litter and again suffering with alien species, Signal Crayfish, Red eared Terrapin for example.

Our uplands are on the whole, devoid of native trees and are overgrazed sheep wrecked deserts , managed for driven grouse shooting and all the associated negative practices, Heather burning, Raptor persecution and so called "vermin" control.

Our ecosystems are broken and lack the top predators need for a healthy, biodiverse environment.

Our marine and coastal environment is damaged and suffers from overfishing, illustrated by the recent mass dying of emaciated guillemots on our coast.

Feeding birds you may feel is good for them, I would say the opposite. It may be good for you but it has benefited few species, Blue and Great Tit, House Sparrow, Robin, etc, but to the detriment of those less able to compete:
Willow Tit, Marsh Tit for example and spread disease through our Greenfinch and Chaffinch populations.
Another Tit box erected in the garden is only helping Blue/Great Tits to become even more populous and out compete other Tit species etc...
Good quality habitat is  fragmented and isolated.

Our modern housing and industrial/agricultural buildings are designed with no provision for birds to nest, they are effectively excluded and denied breeding sites.

While our planning laws fail to value and protect good Brownfield, Woodland and Meadow sites and build on these, while protecting  intensively farmed agricultural "ecological deserts" in preference, we will continue to lose habitat that we so crucially need.

It is a sorry state of affairs and until these major issues are addressed and we turn this around, we will continue to lose numbers and a slow "death by a thousand cuts"
will occur.
Our environment will continue to become more impoverished and species and diversity will continue to decline.
Not out to diminish the great work of NGOs and environmental charities and the many passionate people who try to make a difference everyday and
I would like to be more upbeat and positive but I feel there is little to celebrate ...
Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2
  • Sorry no one replied. I agree with the vast majority of what you've written, esp regarding blue tits, indiscriminate bird feeding 24x7x365, planning laws, invasive species and poor woodland management etc. I'd have thrown in reference to great spotted woodpeckers and also irresponsible pet ownership in UK. The biggest issue I'd have with what you wrote is comparing us with Cyprus in early October. Many Winter migrants haven't arrived in UK and most Summer ones have left. I've not been to Cyprus and don't want to go, but I'd have thought Oct is one of their busiest months for bird numbers. I would also add UK isn't alone. I've been to France for example a number of times. Vast areas of countryside, and urban areas for that matter, have next to no birdlife.

  • Thanks Robbo for bumping this post back up. Very interesting to read your comments David, and very well put too, I also agree with what you say and indeed it has been mentioned before on here how fabulous the bird life is in Cyprus, again though I love Greece it is an island I wouldn't want to visit specifically because of the slaying of the birds. Maybe the comparison should be the size of Cyprus against Britain, we are trying to support and feed a great too many people over here, could that be one of the reasons.
    I don't know, wish I knew the way forward but maybe with a few more people like you pushing for our environment to be cleaned up, could it start to happen one day? There is certainly a much bigger number of people interested in the way we grow and cultivate our crops, and look after the animals,
    Here's to our "green and pleasant land" returning one day.

    Lot to learn

  • I wondered why no-one was answering.

    David, I can't argue with any of the points you make.

    I'd only say (perhaps because the sun is shining here) that our feeders (when stocked) are frequented by Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, and Nuthatches (and Red Squirrels).

    And that in 5 minutes in a UK supermarket car park this week I found at least thirteen species of bird. (Probably "the wrong birds", but not for the birds in question.)

    Perhaps when we've all fast-fashioned ourselves to death (replace "fast fashion" with whatever the next harmful first-world fad will be), non-human fauna will happily fill the void. (Attempts to strike a cheery note.)

  • I think the reason why it never had any replies was the post disappeared, I tried to reply and then I got a message saying "not found"

    I never saved a copy of my original reply, but it went something like this:

    Money shouts loud, while the environment is just the argument to make it seem good.

    The powers that be talk the talk, but don't walk the walk, unless, there's money in it for them.

    Here I see only too clearly the devastation to nature and the countryside being very close to the Birmingham HS2 Hub, mass destruction of countryside and woodland plus incessant house building programs, and most of the housing isn't affordable housing.

    As for the National Parks, my own experience as a former hill and moorland walker (no longer able to partake after having major lower leg reconstruction), I walked and camped responsibly with a lot of wild life in the National Parks. However, if could be that I've been lucky and not seen a massive issue with wildlife in the National Parks, and I am aware there are planning issues, especially with greatly reduced government funding forcing National Park authorities to concentrate on making money to finance what little they can.

    People today generally seek thrills, so National Parks are coerced in to these thrill rides like the Zip Wires in the Lake District and Snowdonia where it induces tourism, in the hope of getting visitors to see the countryside and marvel at its beauty, but the vast majority don't and never will.

    The root cause is money, if green spaces were made more fruitful financially, then perhaps, it may be a different story.

    If you are able to look back at many of the government spending reviews on HS2, you will see it is just a lip service job, no matter how wrong or far off budget HS2 Ltd goes, they are still keen on it happening, at almost any cost, and that includes financial as well as the environment. Leeds and the eastern section were after thoughts, and not in the original plans drawn up around the early to mid 2000's, so could easily be shelved.


    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • In reply to Robbo:

    Hi Robbo,
    Thanks for you opinion.
    Not sure what you mean about GSWs? Yes irresponsible pet owner's cats and dogs can wreck havoc with wildlife.
    I've been to Cyprus in Spring and Summer so can assure you that October is not atypical.
    The agriculture is less intensive and a more natural looking landscapes with lots of weedy fields is the norm.
    A lot more insects in evidence and lots of old traditional buildings and half built structures scatter the landscape.
    There's always a joke that Cyprus "will look good when it's finished !"
    I've also birded in France, Hungary, Spain, Ukraine, Belarus and Crete I admit a while ago, but found a good population and variety in these countries,although it may be different now.
    I just feel things are not as they should be here and it seems harder and harder to find a good variety of birds without travelling to wilder and more remote areas. It shouldn't be like that ! a good healthy environment should be universal !
    I suppose everyone's perspective is different depending where they live.
    Probably we are more nature depleted here in the South East.

    My list of problems and observations are not definitive and I'm sure you can think of many other problems we face.

    I always used to feed the birds and have done since I was a boy,but came to realise that the numbers and variety of species has diminished over the years and although I can't prove that feeding birds is detrimental to their survival, I believe what my eyes are telling me !
    We have created an artificial world of bird feeders and food on tap that have boosted some species to a completely unnatural level to the detriment of other species !
    The RSPB back year round feeding ,Why ? Bird feeding is a multi million £ business and there probably lies some of the reason.
    Feeding birds during extremely cold weather may be justifiable,target feeding of struggling species I would support completely eg Turtle Dove and helping rare birds breed successfully,whatever that involves, in the name of conservation undoubtedly ! But erecting more and more Tit boxes in the neighbourhood ? No.

    The problems faced by birds in the UK are complex and varied, bigger brighter brains than mine are working on these problems and trying to find solutions, often meeting huge resistance from vested interests.
    I would be interested in an official response from the RSPB about some of the points I have raised.
    We can all do fluffy and cute when it comes to birds but sadly that doesn't help the Environment and Biodiversity in this country....
  • In reply to gaynorsl:

    Thanks for your reply Gaynor .I don't know all the answers but the problems are obvious to anyone who cares to look. It is a worrying time and not just here, but worldwide.
    Please read my response to Robbo. I love Crete btw ! and the bird life was wonderful !
  • In reply to Dave - CH:

    Hi Dave,
    I guess you live north of me, having wonderful Red Squirrels and not those pesky Greys !
    I envy your situation.I'm guessing Siskins in Winter too ?
  • In reply to Mike B:

    Hi Mike,
    Don't get me started on the HS2 abomination ! I can never forgive the Government for giving it the green light !
    Money does rule the world at the expense of all else. Contracts signed, deals done and many becoming rich in the process ! for what ? A railway line and train that doesn't stop and serve the communities it passes through and has blighted ! The destruction of ancient woodland and habitat that should in a sane world, have the same protection as a listed graded building ! a natural heritage destroyed and discarded when it should be revered and held in awe !
    We never learn from our mistakes and in 10 years time this white elephant will be shown for what it is and those responsible should hang there heads in shame ! They should be tried for environmental vandalism but that will never happen....
  • In reply to David M:

    Very much further south, in fact, David. Crossbills and Nutcrackers in winter.
  • A point on international comparisons, picking up Gaynor's point on not wishing to visit Cyprus.

    Like you all (I imagine), I'm aware of what goes on in the Med and further south. Personally, I try not to think about it too much, and instead opt to help, as far as I can, those organizations that are genuinely working to combat it.

    On June 9 this year, the European Commission commenced legal proceedings against a Member State for non-compliance (infraction) with various regulations related to wildlife and habitat conservation. The case was prepared by the country's own BirdLife partner. As the organization's president wrote recently, what a state of affairs when one has to take one's own country to court. The culprit? Italy.

    And my own adopted country is looking more and more like it's sitting in a corner at the front of the class wearing a cone-shaped hat with a D on it.

    On Mike's and David's point, while I don't think that you're particularly far of the mark regarding money (although there's a meta-driver above money: power) I suspect that there's something else significant at play. People don't really care. Or, put differently, not enough people care enough. If a significant number of people cared, there would be opportunities for change. But that won't be happening any time soon. More chance of seeing a Long-toed Stint in Yorkshire.