Helping the birds and animals

Oh, be careful for what you wish for! It is 14 degrees, grey, 84% humidity day in the ‘Peg. An overnight rain has made the leaves smell like fall but the cool reminds us of what is to come. Today as I look out the window few of the big old Maples have any leaves left on them and the lilac hedgerow, of sorts, is almost bare. Today, I am missing those 28 degree temperatures of two days ago!

The Superb Fairy Wren won The Guardian’s Australian Bird of 2021. They are such beautiful little birds.

“Superb Fairy Wren” by James Niland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These gorgeous song birds are rapidly declining in numbers with the loss of territory due to human construction. There are many other birds that are dropping significantly in populations also – everywhere!

Some are dying due to the lack of water. An article in today’s Guardian, ‘The water used to be up to your armpits’: birds starve as Turkey’s lakes dry up provides a stark warning to all of us. This migratory period between 3,000-5,000 flamingos died of starvation in Turkey in July at Lake Tuz because the shore of the lake had receded so far from their nests that they could not reach it. It also caused mass gull deaths and our raptors are getting sick because they are having to change their diet. Many are having to eat rubbish and carrion to survive. Others are killing one another they are so hungry. The deaths have been caused by lack of water and food resources as well as parasites. Unmitigated agricultural practices, large construction projects using the lake water, and pollution are causing all of the wetlands to dry and this is a primary corridor to Africa for migrating birds. This past summer there were also the wild fires. Environmental researchers categorically state that there must be a balance between humans and the natural world if we are to hope of avoiding catastrophic damage/extinction to the planet.

Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin have packed a lot of good information into their book, Back to Nature. How to love life- and save it.

It is a great book and everyone should have a copy. It is choked full of ideas on how we can help our planet. The book is excellent at provoking thoughtful responses to the challenges that the authors put forth. At the same time, they provide easy and sensible solutions and a backdrop of positivity that makes us understand that acting together can produce great benefits to all life. The paperback is $20 in the US and Canada and 8.99 GBP. Well worth it!

I only want to mention two things. Turkey is often called the dumping ground for the EU as plastics are sent there for recycling. According to today’s article in the Guardian about the lakes drying up, much of that plastic is burnt causing pollution or simply left to clog up the earth for millions of years. In one section, Packham and McCubbin write about the Scavenger works. These worms that have existed for 100 million years eat everything from bones to maggots and mealworms to organic matter in our gardens. “Scientists have recently tested the larvae of these superworm species called Zaphobas atratus to determine whether it could successfully consume styrofoam.” The scientists were shocked at the ability of the worms to survive completely on plastic. They are hopeful that the use of these superworms could stop the plastic apocalypse in the world. And that is good news!

Packham and McCubbin also address the issue of the lack of proper ‘avenues’ if you like for birds. Since the studies by Robert MacArthur and Edward Wilson in the 1960s, it has been recognized that large parks and nature reserves are better ecosystems than small parks or nature reserves. They developed the concept of ‘island biogeography’. “Species richness will be higher in larger areas and the species richness will decrease with increasing isolation.” A good example would be Central Park versus the little parks scattered throughout my city that are a city block square. The landscape of almost every country is fragmented. Hedgerows used to be a way for the wildlife to move but much of those are being cut down for development. Packham and McCubbin suggest that it is up to the members of the community to now create these areas of species richness through their own gardens. It can be private gardens, public gardens, or even balcony or patio gardens. They argue that adding up the land areas of the private gardens gives you a huge area but people must work together. Plant trees, native grasses. The idea is to create a series of gardens so that the wildlife and insects can move around freely. One house on one block will not create this. You have to get your neighbours involved by educating them to the importance of greening and wilding. Some cities, such as Portsmouth in the UK, are wilding their streets. People are adding insect hotels, bird boxes, hedgehog highways (holes in fences) and greening their yards not cutting them and fertilizing them to be manicured lawns. It is expected that these wild streets will have a very positive impact on the insects, animals, and birds —- and, ultimately, on us! If you want to find out more, I am including the link to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. They say their goal is: “In the next ten years we must create a much wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight. We want nature’s recovery to be at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis. We want broken ecosystems to be restored and missing wildlife to return. We want people to benefit from a healthy natural environment.” Maybe you can take a page from them and start your own wilding!

https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/our-strategy

It is true that we can all do something but working together in our communities can have an even bigger impact.

A quick check in on Xavier and Diamond, the adult Peregrine Falcons waiting for their second hatch today, sees Xavier sleeping on the ledge with Diamond brooding the first hatch and incubating the two remaining eggs.

The second feeding of the chick will be coming soon. If there is a crack or a pip, I cannot tell.

Enjoy your day everyone. Take care and pick up a copy of Back to Nature. It is full of ideas and great things happening around the world to save our wildlife, our planet, and us!

Thank you to Charles Sturt University at Orange for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.

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