Thursday, August 5, 2010

First amongst equals!

Well, three days on from being behind a computer and I'm beginning to feel restless!!! Seeing the results of one's efforts in data input, being able to summarize, manipulate , extract previously unseen connections and so on, is eventually extremely satisfying, but not at this stage!! Not hearing of anything on Islay is also a worry. Does that mean nothing of interest is around, that people aren't looking, looking but not finding or simply are behind computers too!!

Such being the case I feel like a rant to raise my spirits!!

{At this point my concentration has lapsed, and my spirits risen, on receiving the welcome news that my daughter, Rachael, has passed her Maths exam. Well done,number two daughter!! }

Re-introductions, now there's a thing. We've all recently learned of the decision by Natural England to abandon its idea of reintroducing White-tailed Eagles into East Anglia based on Government cutbacks. For once, thank goodness for accountants and politicians. Following on from that is the £1.5 million scheme ( if intentions and quoted figures are to be believed ) of the RSPB's Common Crane re-introduction scheme at the Somerset Levels. For many years a very small population of these birds occurred and managed to thrive in East Anglia. Nowadays they breed in slightly increased numbers there and at other places too, an extension which has occurred naturally without the expense of labour intensive re-introduction schemes. Alongside this I'm minded ,therefore, to consider what motivates the decision making behind such proposals when, in times of economic severity, significant expenditure of this sort is being considered. To what end and to what real purpose one might ask?

In the light of recent annual, sometimes dismal, status reports on our "commoner" bird species, whose fortunes appear to be in continuing decline, particularly those associated with farmland, ought we not to be trying first to reverse the situation of species like Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer,Grey Partridge and, in woodlands Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and others? Even ubiquitous species like Starling and House Sparrow are seemingly not immune from the relentless pressure!! The series, "The State of the UK's Birds", produced annually by the RSPB, the BTO and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, has occasional references to stability but, overall , makes depressing reading. Notice as well that I have not included migrant species and so we can't fall back on the problems in wintering grounds or similar. Efforts put the way of the Tree Sparrow, through feeding stations and nest box schemes, and targeted efforts at Cirl Bunting too, have shown some success and at a fraction of the cost of the above proposal. I'm bound to ask why some (all?) of the current re-introduction schemes involve large, iconic species. I sincerely hope it's not an equivalent to the latest feature being promoted at a theme park with the concomitant intention of raising visitor numbers and revenue! In that context , when decisions have been made to end the re-introduction of Red Kites by RSPB, do we see the Forestry Commission entering the fray with a proposal to do just that in Cumbria? Perhaps the difference is that this is public money!!!

I would be the first to congratulate the RSPB and others at the success of the Red Kite scheme, and take enjoyment from improved opportunities to see these magnificent birds but, at a time, when repeated statements are made on the seemingly endless reductions in our commoner birds, ought not that latter situation to be the absolute priority? Ought we not to concentrate on improving the lot of our time honoured "residents" with the resources available, particularly in times of financial strictures? And ought not a much higher profile be taken in combating the absolute disgrace that is raptor persecution within the UK, or are further resources to be squandered in a succession of reports, hand wringing statements and the like on the continuing demise of Hen Harriers?

Or is all this modernism a reaction to the need for "exposure", "market share" and "promotional opportunities" and that it is these aspects which are actually driving the policies, as opposed to conservation need? I'm sure a plea of clemency would arise from our conservation bodies with them saying that they are trying to advance on several fronts by purchasing reserves, giving out advice on habitat management and so on, of which re-introductions are but one element, and that is perhaps understandable. But not acceptable in my view! I think an increasing body of opinion is beginning to emerge that suggests the time has come to set aside all current expensive, attractive diversions and treat our resident bird species as "First amongst equals" and leave our higher aspirations to later!

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