Thursday, 29 October 2015

Puffins, Pochards and Turtle Doves

The sad and shocking news today that some of the UK's most iconic birds are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature(ICUN) Red list of endangered species reflects the failure of both habitat conservation and unrestricted hunting.

The most shocking new addition to the list is the Atlantic Puffin, probably one of the most loved British Birds. Their decline is less obvious than some of the others as millions of the birds are still around the coast, but the research shows far fewer birds are reaching sexual maturity. This is due to habitat destruction wiping out the population of sand eels on which these birds depend. In 2004 a Royal commission into Environmental pollution recommended that 30% of the UK's coastal waters should become reserves in which no fishing was permitted, this was then backed in 2009 by a 500,000 strong petition, to date the UK has protected 0.01% of it's waters. Trawling and oil pollution have destroyed the beds of Eel grass in which the eels live, without their recovery the future is grim for puffins

Pochard and Turtle dove numbers are both dropping rapidly, on a personal note this was the first year that a Turtle dove didn't return to our garden in 9 years. The decline in these birds seems to be due to hunting pressure. The Turtle dove has to fly the gauntlet of the guns of Malta. Malta recently voted in a referendum to retain the spring hunt of Turtle doves and other migratory birds dispite international pressure to halt the annual slaughter.

Other birds that have joined the Red List are Slavonian Grebe , Lapwings, Oystercatcher, Bar Tailed Godwit and Curlew Sandpiper, two other birds the Black Tailed Godwit and the Curlew were already on the Red List. Some of these are probably due to changes in farming practices as several of the waders feed and breed inland during the year and with more intensive farming there is less food and more habitat disturbance.

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