The results of the 2018 Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) have been published and they are far from encouraging. In addition to the steady decline in bird numbers over recent decades, the memorable Beast from the East appears to have taken its toll on both resident and migrant birds.
The Beast from the East
The Beast from the East arrived in March 2018, bringing with it unseasonal snow and ice. This seems to have had a serious impact on smaller birds as the goldcrest saw a decline in population of 38 per cent. The population of long-tailed tits fell by 22 per cent and the Common kingfisher also suffered severely. It is important to remember that the figures represent the fall in populations which took place in just one year.
To make matters worse, the Beast from the East was followed by strong northerly winds from the Sahara which hampered spring migrations and so many species arrived back on our shores in smaller numbers. There were 42 per cent fewer sand martins spotted, for instance.
Do birds have bouncebackability?
Birds do have the ability to bounce back quickly from short term declines and so it is hoped that the results of the 2019 survey will show that their numbers have recovered. But short term declines due to specific events are one thing, long term declines are always more worrying. The available figures suggest that we should be very worried indeed. But many people are not even aware that there is a problem.
People believe that nature is thriving
The latest statistics on British birds’ lost populations provided by the RSPB show that a shocking 40 million birds have vanished from Britain in the last 50 years. More than half of all native species are in decline. Incredibly, the available statistics also show that only 15 per cent of UK residents are aware that anything is wrong. 27 per cent of people apparently believe that nature is doing well.
Soundtrack for life
It is vital that awareness of the crisis is raised. To this end the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is launching the Let Nature Sing Campaign. This features a recorded track of endangered birds singing which is being released to the charts.
Everywhere you look there are signs that all is not well. Nature is falling silent as bird population diminish. The RSPB believe that there simply aren’t enough people talking about the problem and so have decided to let the birds speak for themselves. The new recording highlights what could be lost forever and provides a useful reminder of how beautiful bird song is.
It is possible for wildlife to recover and to be saved for future generations, but more people must become aware of the problems. The more people who talk about the issues or take positive action, the easier it will be to effect the required change. Birdsong is a crucial indicator of the health of our the ecosystem as a whole, meaning that the decline in birds is indicative of the potential for an even bigger disaster.
Hopefully the RSPB recording will raise awareness of the issues and inspire everyone to join the fight to save our birds.