Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bird Life

It is so sad to read about the silence that has descended on many parts of the world. People say that they no longer hear birdsong. It's not rocket science to work out why many millions of birds have died since 1950 or so. The 2nd world war heralded the onset of commercial farming with chemicals: crime number one against the soil.No longer did farmers plough nice smelly manure into their fields, but happily sprinkled chemicals to provide the chemical elements, calculated to provide the basic requirements for healthy plant growth. Never mind about the soil microbiome and earthworms! Manure provides fibre and microorganisms for the soil, something that chemicals can't do. A healthy soil is teeming with insects, grubs and worms - brilliant for birds. But then on top of crime number one against the soil, came crime number 2 : Poison.
All over the world on farms, in parks and gardens poison has been sprayed to protect crops, flowers and vegetables from the creatures that might eat them. Unfortunately birds have eaten the poisoned grubs and have died as a result. Seed eaters also get poisoned when crops are sprayed.
Crime number 3 against the soil is the GMO story, and it will possibly take a long time to evaluate the true cost to the planet of genetic modification and glyphosate, which seems to adversely affect the soil microbiome. Are we going to see the results of birds and animals eating GM corn and other grains?

So to my garden and this spring, which has seen an explosion of nest building and bird breeding. There is never a quiet moment, even on the hottest day, some bird will be filling the air with a happy song. Quite a few visitors are rather pesky, but I put up with them and use nets to protect berries and grapes. The mousebird will happily chomp away at my spinach, bean leaves, granadilla leaves as well as fruits. It's such a pretty bird, I can't get too upset. One of my favourite visitors is the pied barbet, and I deliberately allow Solanum spp to grow as they love the berries. Recently the bokmakierie (Bush shrike) made a return to our area after a long absence and I was delighted when an Olive thrush made a nest in the wild olive tree, and hatched out a very sweet chick. Bulbuls, sunbirds, white eyes and Cape robin are at home here, but a newcomer is the greater honeyguide, no doubt attracted to the beehives. There are two in the garden, flitting about near the hives and pecking on any empty frames I leave out for the bees to clean.

Unlike in many parts of the UK and Europe that I have visited, my garden has a wonderful dawn chorus as well as sporadic daytime songs to gladden the heart. Our gardens make up suburban forests and we all need to be mindful of this and keep the environment poison free. This includes rat poison which affects owls and caracals (which still roam the hills and mountains surrounding built up areas.)

No comments:

Post a Comment