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Parliament debates Wild Birds shock

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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 19:39   #1
peter hayes

 
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Parliament debates Wild Birds shock

Here is the transcript of the Wild Birds debate in the House of Commons - a rare event.


Wild Birds

11 am


Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): It is a pleasure to be here this
morning, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

This debate started in an unusual way. I was shocked last weekend when
Grace, my five-year-old¯like all five-year-olds, she knows everything
that there is to know about nature and wildlife¯asked, "Daddy, what is
a starling?" It occurred to me that she had never seen a starling. These
birds were once regarded as pests and they were all over the place when
I was a kid. However, it struck me that in our small garden at home in
Nottingham we have seen neither a starling nor a sparrow, although wood
pigeons, blue tits and robins have passed through, and we were thrilled
to see a weasel last week. Birds that were common a decade ago seem to
be disappearing, even from the acute radar screen of a five-year-old.
Alarm bells began to ring, and I thought about the thrushes, blackbirds
and many other species that are going missing. The purpose of the debate
is to ask the Minister, "What can we collectively do about it?"

We have recently debated the common agricultural policy, and I would
certainly hold the Minister tightly accountable on that issue. On this
occasion, however, I look to him to give us a few lines on what we can
do together to revive some of the species of urban wild birds. Wild bird
numbers matter in their own right, but they can also be regarded as a
thermometer with which to test the environmental health of the United
Kingdom. To their credit, the Government are using breeding bird
populations as one such thermometer, and it is obvious from reading it
that the UK environment is running a bit of a temperature.


Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): My hon. Friend will remember that five
or six years ago my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister used
starlings to monitor environmental pollution. Perhaps my hon. Friend
will induce the Minister to tell us how that survey progressed. It was
interesting that the starling was picked as a disappearing bird that
could reflect what was happening to its environment.


Mr. Allen : My hon. Friend the Minister is well known as a starlingist
in government circles, and I am sure that he will tell us about that
survey.

During the past 30 years the numbers of certain birds have drastically
declined. The numbers of some thrushes are down by 57 per cent.,
skylarks are down by 52 per cent., great partridge numbers are down by
58 per cent. and some of our closest neighbours at home have suffered
too¯starling numbers are down by 71 per cent. and house sparrows are
down by 62 per cent. These declines are catastrophic. If we were talking
about white rhino or panda populations, everyone would rightly be up in
arms. This is happening in the UK, and although the most recent surveys
show a modest recovery of common birds since 1998, especially woodland
birds, there is still a continuing downward trend in respect of farmland
birds.

To pick up on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich,
North (Dr. Gibson), perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to
bring hon.

4 Feb 2003 : Column 23WH

Members up to date on the state of research. What research is being
conducted, what have the researchers reported and what is in the
pipeline? We need to know why woodland and urban birds, and especially
the house sparrow, have vanished from many of their former haunts. The
decline in sparrow numbers has been so steep that many people have
commented on the situation. The Independent, to its credit, ran a
campaign to save our sparrows in order to bring the trend to the
attention of the public. There has also been a lot of publicity in
greater London that is intended to generate public awareness.
As far as I can tell, no one knows the reason or reasons for the
disappearance of sparrows, although it is evident throughout the country
from Liverpool to Glasgow, London and my own city of Nottingham. Man
y
explanations have been proffered. Perhaps the Minister can synthesise
the current thinking on which is the most likely and perhaps add some
further suggestions. The current explanations are as follows: that
pollution is killing off small insects and even young sparrow chicks;
that there is predation by an ever greater number of cats and birds such
as sparrow-hawks and magpies; that there is a lack of suitable nesting
nooks and crannies in modern buildings¯certainly the highest number of
sparrow nests were in buildings and houses dating back to at least
1919¯and that the use of pesticides by domestic gardeners, as well
as those that we are used to being used on farmland, may reduce the
availability of insects.

I spoke to Friends of the Earth this morning. Its representatives
talked about a noticeable reduction in aphid numbers and, because of the
use of slug pellets, a reduction in other bird foods that would normally
be available in domestic gardens. As well as telling us what research is
in the pipeline, will the Minister bring together some of the answers as
to why there is a clear decline in the number of urban birds?


Dr. Gibson : I wonder whether we might induce the Minister to reflect
and pronounce on articles that suggest that radiation from
telecommunication masts may have some effect on sparrows. I do not see
sparrows using mobile phones, so the masts must be the problem. It may
sound trivial, but the environment can change rapidly and have effects
on animal life. Does the Minister take this claim seriously?


Mr. Allen : Indeed. In a previous debate we touched on the common
agricultural policy, which because of its subsidy regime has undoubtedly
contributed to predation of bird populations throughout Europe, not only
in farming areas but also in urban contexts. When the Minister goes
invigorated¯as I know he will be¯from our debate to seek further
reform of the CAP, I hope that he will feel that he has the massed ranks
of bird lovers at his side as he tries to resolve some of the knottier
issues. They do not affect only householders and farmers; they have a
drastic impact on wildlife in general and wild birds in particular.

I hope that my hon. Friend will seek to use the good work carried out
by him and his Department in respect of farmland birds and to point that
effort also at urban wild birds. The Government have done a great
deal¯I

4 Feb 2003 : Column 24WH

commend them for that¯and I am sure that he will give us a list of
things that they are doing. A great deal is also being done by the
voluntary sector. Perhaps I may focus on what is happening in my own
county. In Nottinghamshire, the wildlife trust is working closely with
farmers and the farming wildlife advisory group to advise them on how to
manage their land more sympathetically given the current crisis.
At Attenborough in Nottinghamshire, the trust is creating reed beds for
the endangered bittern. The Sherwood Initiative, thanks to a lottery
heritage fund, is working towards restoring Sherwood forest as a
stronghold for the woodlark and nightjar. The Nottinghamshire wildlife
trust is working with a variety of farmers, local authorities and the
Environment Agency to restore habitats along the Trent valley. Wet marsh
land is being created for lapwings and waders, reed beds for bittern and
marsh harrier, and shallow water to create habitats for thousands of
wildfowl and waders.

This has knock-on benefits because we can combine enhanced amenities
for birds with economic regeneration and the establishment of
sustainable flood defences. That focus is clearly on farmland birds. I
seek to draw the Minister not necessarily away from them but into a
broader focus to encompass the urban bird population as well.

There are some greater problems that I do not have time to mention.
Certainly, we should commend the Government's effort to slow and check
global warming. If left unchecked, it will have catastrophic effects on
all species, including human beings. However, in the medi
um term, we
must plan for the impact of climate change, which is likely to alter the
mix of species in the United Kingdom, with some habitats moving
northwards and the complete loss of other habitats due to the rise in
sea levels.

Bird habitats in the UK are highly fragmented and often isolated, which
means that it is more difficult for species to shift naturally if their
habitats migrate. The Government should consider that as part of their
land use and development policies. The combination of rising sea levels
and hard sea walls leads to coastal squeeze with habitats such as
inter-tidal mud flats and salt marsh often being lost to the sea because
they cannot move inland past artificial man-made barriers. In turn, that
has an impact on the numbers of wintering wading birds such as red
shank, curlew and wildfowl, including Brent geese and widgeon, for which
the UK is internationally renowned.

Wildlife and wild bird numbers in the UK tell us much about the health
of our environment. They also matter to those who elect us. I do not
need to talk crude electoral politics to my hon. Friend the Minister
because although it is part of his Departmental brief, his heart also in
the issue. However, it may serve a purpose to remind Ministers and other
Members that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more than
a million members, a figure for which any of the parties represented in
the House would be most grateful.

Given the importance of the issue, can the Minister assure us that the
Government will specifically investigate the plight of urban wild birds,
especially the fate of the sparrow, to try to get to the bottom of the

4 Feb 2003 : Column 25WH

decline in numbers and to find solutions to the problem? Do the
Government intend to use planning legislation to protect birds?
Rather than this issue being an aside in diary columns or a funny piece
in newspapers, I hope that it is mainstreamed, which I believe is the
Minister's intention. There should be a public campaign led by the
Government to alert farmers and town dwellers about the problem of the
decline in wild bird numbers and to recruit us all to assist with
solutions.

Without wishing to sound like a "Blue Peter" presenter, we would
welcome the Minister's advice on nesting boxes, the sort of food that
householders can supply to assist bird populations and other hints of
that type. I do not know whether I should embarrass the Minister by
asking whether he has a bird box at his Department or in his garden,
but, knowing him, he has several.

Advice on avoiding the use of pesticides should be given across the
range to householders and gardeners who care about their environment but
may unwittingly add to the problem. They need to grow more shrubs and
trees to provide more habitats for the insects that birds feed on.

We are all enthralled when we see David Attenborough on television
creating brilliant and beautiful documentaries about the global ecology
featuring whales or primates, such as in Sunday's episode. They are
riveting to us all. This environmental crisis, however, is literally in
our back yard. I hope that the Government agree that this problem is one
that they need to address. They need to gather all the different layers
of UK society together into one family¯farmers, ordinary householders,
Members of Parliament and the voluntary sector, which is working so hard
on the problem. The Government have some great ideas, especially about
farmland birds. With a great public campaign, we may see the revival of
some of the species that were once commonplace in our back yard.


11.14 am


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the
Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) on securing the debate, and on
the knowledgeable and enthusiastic way in which he presented the issue
of bird populations in this country and the undoubted problems that many
of them face, which the Government acknowl
edge. He is right that, with
about one million members, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
is the largest conservation body in Europe, which illustrates the wide
public interest in issues such as birds and conservation.


Dr. Gibson : Will the Minister give credit to the work of the British
Trust for Ornithology of Thetford in Norfolk, whose news is regularly
distributed to many Members? It works in isolation, in some ways,
although Norfolk is a great county¯a mecca, indeed¯for many birds.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North has visited it several times to
see the migratory bird life.


Mr. Morley : I am happy to compliment the work of the BTO, which works
for the Department and undertakes a great deal of scientific analysis.
Indeed, I

4 Feb 2003 : Column 26WH

shall say a few words about that organisation, as I had the privilege
of launching a joint BTO-RSPB woodland bird study at Thetford not very
long ago. I should say for the formal record that I am a member of the
BTO, the RSPB and various other conservation organisations.
My hon. Friend raised the issue of the decline of starlings and house
sparrows. They were once common birds, but their numbers have seriously
declined over the past 25 years. The starling is now on the red list of
high conservation concern. Its numbers declined by 65 per cent. between
1970 and 1998. Recent research by the Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs shows that over the past 30 years, house sparrow
populations have declined most in the south-east of England. Urban and
suburban gardens have seen the most marked fall. In contrast, however,
the good news is that they are thriving in urban and rural areas in
Scotland and Wales, and there has been a slight increase in populations.


House sparrow breeding, however, has fallen from about 12 million pairs
to fewer than 7 million. About 60 per cent. are found in rural and urban
gardens. There is no doubt that a combination of factors account for the
decline, such as food source and food availability, including for the
young, and nesting availability. House sparrows, in particular, nest in
old buildings. These days, farm buildings are much tidier and more
modern, and modern houses are insulated and draught-proof. It is
believed that insulation has denied nesting to house sparrows and
starlings.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, pesticide use has had an impact on the
availability of seeds and insects. Predation is also a factor, although
separate studies of sparrow-hawk predation indicate that it is unlikely
to have affected these populations, as sparrow-hawk populations and
those of many other birds of prey declined significantly in the 1960s
due to the use of pesticides. I am glad to say that many of these
species have shown a recovery, but populations are much dictated by food
availability. Interestingly, principal prey for sparrow-hawks, such as
woodland birds, has increased over the same period, so there is no
evidence that they are having a detrimental impact.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North asked about the theory
of increased telecommunication use and telecommunication masts. I have
heard that theory, and have discussed it with some of our scientists. It
does not stand up to examination. In Paris, for example, the house
sparrow population has not declined. I am sure that my hon. Friend will
agree that the French are no less averse to using mobile telephones in
Paris than in any other city in the United Kingdom. They might, in fact,
be a little keener. I do not believe that there is a correlation between
mobile telephone masts and the decline of sparrows. It seems more
complicated than that. A study is being conducted by several
organisations. The BTO common bird census provides an invaluable
database for observing trends in British birds. The Joint Nature
Conservation Committee is examining the research and will produce
recommendations on the problem of house sparrows.


Mr. Allen : I want to underline the Minister's person
al reputation on
and commitment to this subject, not only while he has been a Minister,
but since he first walked

4 Feb 2003 : Column 27WH

through the portals of this place. Whenever we received queries about
the subject, we always referred to him, even before he secured his
current exalted position. I will not go into the stories of the Minister
doing bird imitations in Committee, because I know that you want me to
get on with my point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
When does the Minister think that the committee is likely to report?


Mr. Morley : I do not have the details on that, but I will write to my
hon. Friend. Indeed, he may want more details on what is being done
about house sparrows, so I will arrange for that to be done, too.

My hon. Friend asked what the public can do to support birds generally,
and house sparrows in particular. Many people feed wild birds in their
gardens, which is important, especially during the winter as it means
fewer mortalities and a larger potential breeding population in the
spring. It is sometimes useful to provide food throughout the summer for
supplementary feeding, and water availability is important.

It appears that nesting sites are a factor for the house sparrow. Many
people are keen on nest boxes, and my hon. Friend asked what I do. I
have a range of nest boxes in my garden¯I think that I have seven.
They are designed for a range of species including tits, and I have
open-fronted nest boxes for robins and two colonial nest boxes that are
designed for sparrows. I have my personal biodiversity action plan on
tree sparrows in my garden, as I am trying to establish a breeding
colony. I have established a wintering flock in a feeding station in my
garden, and they are colonial nesters, so I have two boxes of three,
which is like a little tenement block for sparrows.

The difference with house sparrows that most people do not understand
is that they have a problem with nest boxes. Most nest boxes that people
buy are for blue or great tits. That is understandable, as people like
to see them in their gardens, but the holes are generally too small for
sparrows, and if one wants to encourage breeding sparrows in nest boxes,
one needs a larger entrance hole. The boxes are easy to make, and they
can be bought. I have specialist boxes and know that as part of several
studies into sparrows, suitable boxes have been erected with
considerable success. I know that one farm has a line of them and, with
it, a successful colony of house sparrows, so the boxes are significant
for populations. I also have boxes for breeding tawny owls and
artificial house martin nests. I have perhaps gone a bit overboard on
boxes, but most of them are occupied and effective.

DEFRA has committed £600,000 to the woodland bird study, which has
already received contributions from English Nature and the Forestry
Commission. The study is being carried out by the RSPB and the BTO. It
is a detailed examination of our woodlands birds, which is interesting
in itself, as there appears to be a decline of certain woodland species.
There is a decline in the south-east of England, which is strange
because it is one of the better forested areas, but an increase in the
midlands, including Nottingham. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know
that. They are thriving in different parts of the country.

4 Feb 2003 : Column 28WH

There are some issues that we have to understand about why certain
species¯the woodpecker and marsh tit, for example¯have declined,
while other woodland species, including most of the tit species and the
greater spotted woodpecker, have increased significantly. There have
also been increases in a number of wetland species. We have sites of
special scientific interest, which are important protected habitat
areas, and that protection has been strengthened by the Countryside and
Rights of Way Act 2000. In the area of my hon. Friend the Member for
Nottingham, North, there are three SSSIs: Sutton and Lound gravel pits;
the River Idle washlands
; and the Welbeck estates, which are well known
not least for the honey buzzards that nest there.

As my hon. Friend says, in many instances the numbers of farmland birds
have declined catastrophically¯the tree sparrow population, for
example, has declined incredibly by 95 per cent. Much of that is linked
to changing farming practices. These changes are not in any way
malicious; they have been driven by intensification, trying to achieve
outputs, economies and efficiencies. I have to agree with my hon. Friend
that many of them have been driven by the common agricultural policy,
which has had a negative effect on the way in which the inducements have
encouraged intensification in certain farming practices which, in the
longer term, may not be desirable or sustainable in relation to the
climate and habitat.

It is likely that we will see changes over time. In the interim, we are
arguing for changes to the CAP. We are also extending the countryside
stewardship scheme and the environmentally sensitive areas scheme, which
have been very successful. Schemes targeted at species in decline such
as stone curlew and red kite have had considerable success in
rehabilitating the populations. I was pleased recently to be in
Derbyshire to launch the first RSPB's peak birds project annual report.
Part of its purpose is to examine how to arrest the declining population
of twite, which breed on the Pennines. I am confident that we will make
progress on that issue.

Our new entry-level agri-environment schemes, as part of the reforms
recommended by Sir Donald Curry, will have benefits in relation to the
measures that we can implement in farmland areas. The organisation of
our agri-environment programmes is undergoing its mid-term review. I
know that concern has been expressed about the specialist schemes that
can be targeted on species recovery. I would like to reassure my hon.
Friend that in terms of future reforms there is no reason why we cannot
continue to have specialist schemes designed to bring about species
recovery within agri-environment programmes.


Mr. Allen : As time is running out, I am keen that my hon. Friend
should refer to my point about wider public awareness and a possible
campaign, not least on urban wild birds. Would it be possible, even
arising from today's debate, for the Department to issue, if not
guidelines, a press release listing some of the things an average person
without a great deal of knowledge who wants to do their bit, as well as
the farming community, can do to help?


Mr. Morley : That is a practical suggestion. We support the Farming and
Wildlife Advisory Group, which works with farmers and landowners on

4 Feb 2003 : Column 29WH

conservation. English Nature does a good job with its range of leaflets
and information on how people can support biodiversity and wildlife. It
is the Government's main conservation arm, and perhaps the most
appropriate body to deliver that advice. I shall speak to its
representatives on how we can collaborate with non-governmental
organisations and wildlife groups on the matter.
I recently took part in the national garden birdwatch, which is run by
the RSPB every year. It is a good awareness raiser. I am glad to say
that it was launched in No. 10, because it demonstrates our commitment
as a Government to biodiversity, conservation management and the issue
of wild birds. As my hon. Friend rightly stated, the Government have set
public service agreement targets, both in terms of restoring farmland
birds but also in relation to birds as a quality of life indicator,
which is important.

I appreciate my hon. Friend raising this serious quality of life and
conservation issue today. We take it seriously and I shall look closely
at his helpful and considerate suggestions.

Sitting suspended till Two o'clock.
 
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 19:46   #2
Andy Bright
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Many thanks for transcribing, Peter.
"Starlingist" That was a good one!
Andy B.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 19:59   #3
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PETER,I would like to have seen you type that lot, I am impressed, but I suppose you had some female assistant somewhere along the route!! [play on words]

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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 20:12   #4
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It's good that they should be talking about such issues, but why do they have to be so verbose ? More action and decision making would be more appreciated - but then that's politics !

Thankyou for posting this Peter.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 20:59   #5
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Ian you are right: verbosity is par for the course - de rigeur in fact. I suspect they will never change. That's probably why they fail to connect with the electorate who in turn can't be bothered to vote.

Martin: yes, female assistants are the ultimate accessory in this pc age. To be fair, I have tried the odd male, but you know - I just don't like them as much. As we all should all have realised by now, females are a superior breed. At least that's what my wife keeps telling me as she beats me about the head.
 
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 22:13   #6
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This was fascinating reading! Sounds much more intelligent and civilized than what you'd find in the Congressional Record!

A couple of thoughts and questions come to mind:

Are native British birds protected by law? In the US we have the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, which does protect native birds, although there are some horrific (to me) exceptions made for hunting season on some species, like ducks, crows, geese, and mourning doves.

Would you all accept some shipments of House Sparrows and Starlings from the US? I can think of millions of birdlovers (especially those with nest houses) here who would happily send them your way -- here, they remain ABUNDANT!!

What is a "Blue Peter"?
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 22:53   #7
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Beverly: We'll be delighted to have some Starlings and House Sparrows back..... and you can have back your 'Tree Rats' or better known as Grey Squirrels.
On the whole, I think British wildlife is better protected than in the U.S....it helps that hunting and gun ownership isn't widespread over here.
Certain birds can be shot .... most of the Crow family (including Jay!), Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Starling, House Sparrow and maybe a few (Gulls) that I've forgotten. You do need reason to shoot most of these.
Hopefully things will change, though Woodpigeon is a genuine problem for arable farmers.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2003, 23:24   #8
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No wonder they fall asleep in Parliament, no sorry thats the House of Lords! Glad to see someone battling our front and reminding Morley of his duties. Can't have faith in them though cos they are all Blairites and don't impose their own characteristics and desires on their departments. They have to toe Blair's line or face losing out in the next reshuffle. But this should have no bearing in the need for encouraging the public to assist birds in their gardens as this won't cost the Government or upset big businesses as in the Cliffe matter.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 10:38   #9
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Agricultural (and gardening) practices have an enormous impact here, too -- think 'factory farms' -- and I can't begin to imagine the amount of chemical poisons that get dumped on Mama Earth in the name of fertilizers, herbicides, etc.

That's one reason I enjoy driving out into the parts of the county where there's a big Amish population. Their practices are 'old-fashioned' and don't SEEM to employ poisons in the same degree -- not to mention all the 'natural' fertilizer made in the form of horse poop!

I shudda known you 'bad brits' were all over the bird protection thing!
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 10:39   #10
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Oh, and don't get me started on gun ownership, lobbies, and the NRA!
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 11:53   #11
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Just got back from a 3 hour walk and when I saw this thread thought I'd mention that I was amazed to see a collection of upwards of 50 sparrows in a row of field maples on my way home. I haven't seen anything like this many for years now.

I'm very pleased to know that the issue has been brought up in the house at last.

Thanks for that Peter

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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 11:54   #12
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Wow!! I am genuinely impressed by the Ministers' personal commitement to conservation! Of course politics is another kettle of fish, but I felt that as a human being he is obviously a bird lover. Wouldn't affect my vote, of course. I couldn't imagine a French Minister admitting to membership of a bird protection group, he'd probably be shot by the hunting lobby!!
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 12:22   #13
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The debate is online in a more readable format at
http://www.parliament.the-stationery...t/30204h02.htm
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 13:42   #14
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Peter,

That made very interesting reading, thank you.
One point annoyed me however:-

I cannot believe that predation by magpies and Sparrowhawks can be mentioned in the same sentence as that by cats. Surely the number of birds and animals killed by cats every year is astronomical. The magpie always seems to get a bad rap, but the sparrowhawk?!

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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 14:24   #15
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Rob,

I used to blame the cats too, for all the feathers found on the lawn and in the borders. However after witnessing Sparrowhawks taking / pursuing half a dozen birds in the last year and no cats at all, my tally makes Sparrowhawks the biggest offenders. I don't hold that against them though as to me that is a part of nature and the food chain. Cats just do it for fun rather than for food.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 15:07   #16
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IanF,

Whilst I agree with you about the position of the Sparrowhawk in the foodchain, as a top predator Sparrowhawk numbers must pale into insignificance against the millions of cats that live outside of natural constraints in the UK.

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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 17:39   #17
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Spuggies

It is interesting to hear the various opinions concerning the disappearance of sparrows and starlings. My parents live in a fairly rural area of Hertfordshire in the Chiltern hills and have lost their large house sparrow population completely and rarely see a starling anymore.

I have a house in rural Northumberland that has a large (and getting larger) breeding sparrow colony. They nest and roost in the roof and in the ivy that grows up the cottage. In fact the cottage is really one huge nest box, however the starlings that used to be plentiful are now few and far between. There are a few cats about but sparrowhawks are much more plentiful, and there are lots of broken down farm buildings which are frequented more by Jackdaws than starlings.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 19:31   #18
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Blue Peter

To BeverleyBaynes

You ask what is 'Blue Peter'?

Well, as any UK birdwatcher will tell you, it is very similar to the better known 'Norweigan Blue', a particular favourite with the British bird watcher as it often winters in the UK.

The 'Blue Peter' is a distant cousin to the 'Norweigan Blue', first spotted in western Scotland in 1948 by the famous naturalist Sir Peter Scot and so named after him as the 'Blue Peter'.

British birdwatchers who have on their bird life lists both the 'Norweigan Blue' and the 'Blue Peter' feel very priveleged indeed.

I hope this helps.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 19:35   #19
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Blue Peter

Oh, I forgot to mention, the Norweigan Blue has beautiful plummage
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 21:05   #20
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You can stick to your Blue Peter, I'd rather see Magpie
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Old Thursday 6th February 2003, 21:09   #21
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God remember mick's perm??? You've got me all nostalgic now Andy, and now I've just started thinkning about why don't you! Not that it's anything to do with birds mind.

I wonder if anyone can think of any TV shows named after birds apart from those two?

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Old Friday 7th February 2003, 10:00   #22
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Thanks, Denise!
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Old Friday 7th February 2003, 11:50   #23
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TV shows-The Liver Birds, Robins Nest, The Partridge Family, The Cuckoo Waltz, Falconcrest.
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Old Tuesday 11th February 2003, 12:45   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by Beverlybaynes
This was fascinating reading! Sounds much more intelligent and civilized than what you'd find in the Congressional Record!

A couple of thoughts and questions come to mind:

What is a "Blue Peter"?
This reference is to a childrens television program that has been around since I was a child and that is a good few years ago.

It's also the name of the flag hoisted to the top of the mast when a sailing ship comes into port.

Happy birding..
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Old Monday 17th February 2003, 16:50   #25
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Re: Spuggies

Quote:
Originally posted by Denise Stabler
It is interesting to hear the various opinions concerning the disappearance of sparrows and starlings. My parents live in a fairly rural area of Hertfordshire in the Chiltern hills and have lost their large house sparrow population completely and rarely see a starling anymore.

I have a house in rural Northumberland that has a large (and getting larger) breeding sparrow colony. They nest and roost in the roof and in the ivy that grows up the cottage. In fact the cottage is really one huge nest box, however the starlings that used to be plentiful are now few and far between. There are a few cats about but sparrowhawks are much more plentiful, and there are lots of broken down farm buildings which are frequented more by Jackdaws than starlings.
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