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Friday, October 19, 2007


I watched the Nature of Britain the other night. It was hardly ground breaking stuff. Mr Titchmarsh went to some farmland and oohed and ahed a bit. Yes some nice photography but that's about it. Personally I found the local programme following it far more interesting as it focused on places that were local to me. I really must go for a walk around Hunsdon Mead next summer.

Also better is the programme immediately following it on BBC4 (repeated on Sunday also on BBC4) presented by Chris Packham. This is a user's guide and shows you places you can go to. Yes it is a bit like Nature's Caldendar but I found this more enjoyable for some reason.

Anyway the last Nature of Britain was about farms. It may have been me but Titchmarsh painted a relatively optimistic picture, whereas the latest Defra report shows that the indicator for farmland birds is about 55% of its 1970 value, but that is has remained fairly stable since the early 90's. Stable after such large declines is not really good now is it.

The Woodland birds indicator for the UK is 20% lower than the early 70's and the most severe decline took place in the late 80's early 90's. Again it has been stable in recent years.

The seabird indicator is up as is the UK wintering wetland birds indicator.

The problem with figures is that they show a general trend. Large increases in some species masks big fulls in other species.

It is undoubtedly true that many farmland birds have been hit by intensive agriculture. That said it is not fair to lay the blame solely at farmers. Farming may have a custodial role to play but it is also a business. We need agricultural policies that take account of this. Obviously like any industry you have farmers who really don't care and those who passionately do. Dave commented to me last year in Norfolk how good it was to see so many farm edges left wild giving birds some space.

This may change though. I was told recently that farmers are moving away from Sugar Beet and so this may affect wintering geese populations. This would be a terrible shame since watching thousand's of Pink Feet in Norfolk is one of the sites of winter. That said farmers aren't charities.

There does need to be a dialogue between Farmers, Wildlife Organisations and Governments as to what we want from Farms. If we want cheap food from agro-deserts fair enough, but if don't then subsidies must be targetted to make wildlife conservation cost effective for farmers. Farmers own the land and we provide the subsidies.

It's a balancing act, to me farmers must act as Stewards of the countryside but they should expect some reward for doing so. Also there needs to be some access. Walking down a country lane without the sound of Yellowhammers, Skylarks etc would be a sad day.

1 comment:

st said...

The problems with trends and indicators, generally to late as the information is collated, digested,discussed then released. Followed by debate,then usually inaction.
Although all the big wigs of conservation, seem to be getting better with activation of policies.
As for mr T i hate his wildlife/ nature broadcasts. I belive that his 'auntie beeb' is grooming him for the legendary SIR A's role.