A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Did you know that we now have more birds in the UK than in 1800.....?

Congratulations on this excellent piece from Tony Gilland in Sp!ked: 'Bird-brained theories' (Sp!ked, November 27). The idea that all our birds are under threat has always been somewhat feather-brained. This is what Tony says:

"The population levels of different bird species within the UK have always been subject to change in response to changes in human activity. Changing bird populations are neither new, surprising or worrying. There is a danger that for cultural and political reasons we are becoming overly sensitive to having any impact on other species. Consider the following points:

# An authoritative review of historical ornithological literature conducted in 1944 found that '132 out of 189 breeding species, or 70 per cent, have changed markedly in status during the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries'. The authors noted that widespread species 'could probably double or halve its numbers without the fact being noticed'. Today a 25 per cent recorded decline in a bird species prompts a Biodiversity Action Plan being put into place; it seems that today's government is unwilling to allow bird populations to fall as well as increase, though this has always been the way of things.

#The number of species breeding in the UK is thought to be around 20 per cent greater today than in 1800, despite the intensification of agriculture on the 75 per cent of the UK's land surface that is farmed. 'The number of breeding species in the UK is increasing, with nearly 40 more species breeding at the end of the twentieth century than at the beginning of the nineteenth.... In the last 30 years there has been a net increase of four species per decade.'"

What is more, I add, the new nesting bird species are not just the ring-necked parakeet and the infamous ruddy duck (oversexed and over here [and on sex tours to Spain]!), but the goosander, the pochard, the tufted duck, the collared dove, the little ringed plover, the golden oriole, and the little egret. And, with some benign 'global warming', we might yet see the penduline tit, the bee-eater, and the cattle egret (that would be nice on the North Kent Marshes - granted no stupid airport at Cliffe).

I suspect Tony's rationality will cause Much Twittering in the Marsh.

Philip. Now what 'tweet' do we have for dinner tonight?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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