Wildfires and Sky Tables – the birds need our help

All across the Mediterranean, wild fires are burning out of control. The impact on the storks migrating to Africa from Northern Europe is nothing short of devastating. Storks have been falling from the sky and dying in Greece. The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said it is his country’s “greatest ecological disaster in ages.” Anticyclones (areas of high atmospheric pressure bringing hot dry summers) have hit Italy and caused extremely high temperatures and fires. Now Turkey is also ablaze. Spain and France are on high alert as temperatures reach 40 C or 104 F.

“Forest Fires” by RobW_ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The areas of the fires or the high heating that could lead to more fires cover both routes of migration for the birds – the eastern one previously known as the Asia Minor Route and the one over Spain. As it stands, this will not only impact the storks that have already begun their migration and are dying from the flames or smoke but also the Osprey, the Eagles — but all of the birds that make their way to Africa for the winter months.

Look closely at the map below and you will see that every migratory route is set to be impacted by the smoke and fires around the Mediterranean.

Let us all hope that rains come. Right now I want all of those Ospreys I have been writing about and the storks and eagles to wait before leaving. Sadly, we can only wait and watch.

With all the frightful news of the changing climate and the impact of the heat on the wildlife that are beginning their migrations, it is nice to find a good news story. It helps to give us all some balance and some hope for the future. This is just how I felt when I read an article titled, “Guess Who is Coming to Dinner” in The Guardian this evening.

In the United Kingdom, farmers and large land owners are banding together to provide food tables for hawks and vultures. Many of our beautiful raptors get injured or killed trying to get road kill off the highways. Farmers in the UK wanted to help the raptors as well as helping themselves.

“Turkey Vulture & Road Kill” by goingslo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Guardian reports, “A solution from some bird-lovers is to build a “sky table”, on which they put carrion – dead foxes and deer – and leave it to be fed on by corvids and raptors. The grubs and maggots which feed on the decomposing body also provide food for smaller birds.”

The tables are about 2.5 m off the ground or 10 ft. The table is about 2.5 m square. Pieces of the carrion are left for the raptors. It looks like this could be a win-win situation for everyone. One of the farmers said, “The eagles follow the ravens to see where to eat,” he said. “We’ve had ravens, magpies, carrion crows, buzzards, red kites. Woodpeckers have used the carcasses too, and starlings have fed on the grubs and maggots there as the carcasses decompose. It’s providing a wide range of food.” Another man said that he slapped together a 2 m or 8 foot table and left out a deer. It was gone in 3 days. He noticed a buzzard and some Red Kites circling the table. As Britain works hard to rewild and to reintroduce bird species this is a great way to help them by providing food that would otherwise be burned.

“Road Kill – Dining on Deer” by Larry Lamsa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This idea should take hold around the world. If you know a landowner or a farmer where there could be dead animals at one time or another, tell them about this approach. Tell anyone you know. Spread the word! The fires and the extreme heat are limiting the food for the wildlife. Many other animals are dying. It is a great way to clean up the environment and feed our beautiful raptors at the same time. The report in The Guardian mentioned that Spain has such a programme and offers legal exemptions for farmers who leave dead animals out for the vultures to eat as there simply is not enough food for them otherwise.

The entire article is here. I hope that you can open it.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/14/guess-whos-coming-to-dinner-roadkill-placed-on-sky-tables-to-lure-rare-birds-of-prey

An alternative would be for motorists to pull over when they see carrion, take out the shovel that we are all going to keep in our vehicles, and move the road kill way off the pavement where the cars are located so the raptors can eat it safely.

Now if we could get another movement started for building fish tanks and stocking them for the Osprey in areas where the heat is killing off the fish – wow. That would simply be grand. I am so hopeful that humans will take our responsibility for what is happening seriously and find ways like the ‘sky tables’ or ‘fish tanks’ to help the birds and other wildlife whose lives we have so horribly impacted.

You might have other ideas of ways to help the birds in your area. Try it out and please let me know how it went. Urbanites can help by leaving out clean water bowls – old ceramic dishes are wonderful. Because so many cities spray, there is often a lack of insects. Our local shop that sells bird seed has special summer suet cylinders with bugs, lots of nuts, and berries. The little woodpecker at our feeder loves it. All of them are keeping us busy with the water bowls. It is wonderful. The Blue Jays have learned to squawk really loud – they have trained us.

Take care all. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe.

4 Comments

  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Prayers for everyone and al birds and animals in the track of these fires 🙏
    Fires have been very bad in Turkey as my husband has been following it on the news.
    The last report is they have it under control so thank Heavens for that.
    It’s very sad to know that so many birds and other wildlife perished in these fires accross Europe and Africa. Also here in California and Canada as well. I pray there will b something to do to prevent it from happening again in the future.
    Thanks Mary Ann for this newsletter

  2. Linda Kontol says:

    Thanks Mary Ann. We have some water bowls and also some fountains. My husband has pans under the bird feeders so the seeds drop in there as they are eating and knock some off. Other birds like doves and also squirrels come and eat from the pans too.
    Any way we can help to feed and water them we do our best.

    1. You are doing your part for sure! That is a great idea about having the pans under the feeders. Our garden rabbit when it was only about a month old would sit under the feeders. The seeds would rain down. Now when he comes he always goes under the feeders to eat the seeds. He is 4. The squirrels do, too!

    2. This is just heart-wrenching. Makes you feel so helpless. Sadly so many humans start the fires. It is so hard to deal with. Take care. Thank you for joining us here! Did you see that Malin had six fish today! He could only eat 4.5 of them. So he has breakfast on the nest already.

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