Birds are pollinators, their forgotten acorns often become trees

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According to Patrick Smiddle, co-author of The Birds of County Cork coming out next month. Smiddy, based in East Cork, is a former editor of the newspaper irish birds and is an Honorary Research Associate in the UCC Ornithology Group. He retired from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2008, but continues to work in wildlife consultancy and has fifty years’ experience in Irish ornithology.

The aim of the book is to examine the status, distribution and migration patterns of birds in County Cork (not Ireland, although trends for many species are similar across the country) from first recordings dating from the work of Charles Smith in 1750, The ancient and present state of the county and city of Corkuntil 2018.

It is a topical book. On the one hand, significant conservation efforts are being made to restore lost species such as two species of eagles and the red kite. On the other hand, climate change is causing an unprecedented decline in many bird populations while allowing colonization by new breeding species.

Of interest to ornithology students, conservation agencies, planners, environmental consultants, farmers, industrialists and the growing number of citizen scientists, the publication, with photographs by Richard Mills, includes a systematic list of 427 species of birds on county list.

“Birds are considered by the government to be important aspects of biodiversity,” says Smiddy. “And there is hardly a county council left that does not have a diversity action plan. Birds and other wild animals and their habitats are protected by legislation at EU and national level. A small number of species can be legally shot in “open season” and the current level of shooting is not a threat to biodiversity.”

Pat Smiddy photographed in 2000. Photo: Richard T. Mills

But problems arise “from unintended consequences of government policy and other actions.” Agriculture, for example, has reached a stage of intensification through government policy and scientific research. Due to intensification, a wide range of farmland birds have been affected and some have stopped breeding, such as the corncrake, gray partridge and corn bunting, while others have declined, including yellowhammer, skylark and meadow pipit. This trend is not unique to Ireland; this happened all over Europe.

“More products can now be extracted from a given area of ​​land than at any time in the past. This is achieved through high inputs of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides. Birds in hedgerows have been reduced by the removal of hedgerows to allow large machinery to operate. “On the other hand, corvids and gulls positively exploit exposed food after silage cutting and slurry spreading.”

Apart from the fact that people derive great pleasure from the wildlife around them, birds can also serve useful functions. “We often hear about insects being pollinators. Sometimes birds are also pollinators. The jay, for example, can plant a wood.

They pick up acorns and hide them and the ones they forget to rediscover can become trees.

Smiddy says the forest policy is to increase the area under trees, mainly but not exclusively, conifers. “If these plantings are placed on poor agricultural land in the uplands – and most have been – then they remove that habitat, but create new one. Open moorland bird species may decline.” This affects skylark, meadow pipit, willow ptarmigan and hen harrier. “But species such as the golden crest, great tit, siskin and red crossbill could increase.”

It is not a simple image. “It’s a mix of decreases and increases in populations, with a tendency more towards decrease than increase for the most part.”

The book is not intended to hold any sector to the test, “just to state the trend species by species, and hope that at least some of what we conclude could be taken into account by the authorities in the ‘policy making for the future’.

The Birds of County Cork
The Birds of County Cork

Global warming, says Smiddy, has been going on since the industrial revolution and is now known to be driven by human activities, in particular the increased use of fossil fuels. “Global warming has caused population shifts – as well as declines – in many species across Europe, the most obvious being a trend towards a northward shift in range for many. Indeed, the southern regions are becoming less suitable than before while the northern regions are becoming more suitable.”

With the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels involving the production of energy from onshore and offshore wind as well as solar radiation, this may lead to a reduction in some species. “Most onshore wind turbines are placed on the highlands, which are an important habitat for several bird species. The construction of wind turbines results in the fragmentation of large swaths of upland areas. -Martin and black grouse.”

While Smiddy says he’s not an expert on climate change, he thinks it can’t be reversed, “certainly not in the short term.” Most people alive today will not see a significant change for the better. think we have to lose a lot more before we take the necessary action. Climate change is going to have a huge impact on everyone. Really bad pain has to hit people before there are any significant changes.

And he adds that even if Ireland does all it can to reverse climate change over the next fifty years, “it will make little difference unless the effort spans continents and the planet”.

  • The Birds of County Cork by Patrick Smiddy, Mark Shorten & Russ Heselden will be published by Cork University Press in June for €39. corkuniversitypress.com
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