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Sparrowhawks responsible for House Sparrow decline says scientist (1 Viewer)

mjh73

Well-known member
For a topic that focusses on a very UK-based issue, one could also ask if this study was so good why it ended up in an American-based journal, rather than any of the respected UK journals.

Not good enough to get through UK peer reviews? Reviewers far afield might conveniently be less aware of failings in your data, such as urbanisation and bird data quality realting to the UK, etc.

You're clutching at straws when you start suggesting that the overseas journal is obviously the last refuge for an allegedly shoddy study. The Auk is a highly respected journal, and a quick glance at it's editorial committee will reveal that, whilst having a heavy US / Americas bias it includes members from such 'shonky' institutions as the Max-Planck Institute in Germany and Australia's CSIRO. It is a world class publication.
Regardless the actual reviewers will, as far as practicable, have been selected to have the background to be able to properly review the subject of the study and / or the methodologies used and might well have been English for all you, I or C P Bell know.

I'm not sure what makes me sadder on this thread. People's disrespect for science, or C P Bell's disrespect for people :-C
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
You're clutching at straws when you start suggesting that the overseas journal is obviously the last refuge for an allegedly shoddy study.

It remains that the obvious place for a very UK-based study would be a UK-based journal - given respected UK-based persons have rejected this paper, then I would see it a valid question as to why this hasnot made any of the UK journals.


I'm not sure what makes me sadder on this thread. People's disrespect for science, or C P Bell's disrespect for people :-C

I see little disrespect for science - most of the criticisms on this thread have related to obvious flaws in the work relating to sparrows and sparrowhawks.

If these are pointed out, a typical response by the author is one of attempting to belittle those with views that don't conform to his - this is hardly the standards of someone producing works of science.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
It remains that the obvious place for a very UK-based study would be a UK-based journal - given respected UK-based persons have rejected this paper, then I would see it a valid question as to why this hasnot made any of the UK journals.




I see little disrespect for science - most of the criticisms on this thread have related to obvious flaws in the work relating to sparrows and sparrowhawks.

If these are pointed out, a typical response by the author is one of attempting to belittle those with views that don't conform to his - this is hardly the standards of someone producing works of science.

It does however seem to be a more common affliction for the folks at UEA.
This is also the home of the Climategate hack, which has seriously embarrassed the entire field of climate science. The response recorded in those documents were very similar in tone.
 

Jane Turner

Well-known member
I'm not sure what makes me sadder on this thread. People's disrespect for science, or C P Bell's disrespect for people :-C

By both luck & good fortune I am in possession of a scientific PhD and I have to say, that shouting louder than anyone who dares to doubt your methods didn't used to be an accepted part of good scientific method.
 

CPBell

Well-known member
At the risk of drifting off-topic, I’d like to respond to some of the points made in recent posts.

I’m occasionally criticised for the tone of my responses, and Etudiant compared the language in some of the exchanges on the thread to the UEA Climategate emails from Phil Jones and others. Elsewhere there are regular palpitations whenever I dare to suggest that the motives of the RSPB or BTO are less pure than the driven snow.

Such reactions betray a failure to understand that events like Climategate provide a glimpse of the quotidian reality of academic life. Scientists in particular have been supremely successful in promoting themselves as noble seekers after truth, but what they really do is push their own interest and point of view by any underhand means necessary. Slander and vilification of rivals is a stock in trade, and those that have the power to obstruct potential competitors miss no opportunity to do so. As the saying goes, ‘academic disputes are vicious because the stakes are so low’.

The choice of the Auk as an outlet for the article is heuristic. Initially we submitted to the Journal of Animal Ecology, but after six months had gone by found that they hadn’t even sent the paper out for peer review. The idea of submitting to the Auk came from Dan Chamberlain, then of the BTO, as a means of ‘avoiding the politics’ in the UK/Europe, the signature of which is not too hard to discern.

Kicking the issue into the long grass is a popular ruse. Apart from the JAE incident, I’m still waiting for a response from British Birds to a sparrow manuscript I submitted in December 2009. Another trick is to write a review that ignores the submitted article completely, as in the case of a review of the sparrow literature that I sent to Journal of Avian Biology, which responded with two hostile reviews of the already published Auk article.

The truth is that science and academic pursuits in general, far from being pure and noble, are probably a good deal more sordid, nasty and malevolent than most other areas of life, and this is all the more unfortunate given the smiling image they present to the wider world. It’s for this reason I’d like to offer a word of advice for anyone planning a career as a professional scientist. Despite the general dog eat dog atmosphere, you’ll sometimes come across people who cultivate impeccably good manners, are unfailingly polite, and who are careful to wear their deprecation of discourtesy on their sleeve. Watch out for them – they are the biggest snakes of all.

http://www.cpbell.co.uk
http://www.youtube.com/CultoftheAmateur
 

CPBell

Well-known member
I've recorded a long interview covering my research on House Sparrows and Sparrowhawks with Charlie Moores, which he has uploaded as a two-part podcast on his 'Talking Naturally' website.

The first part (TN24) covers the background to the project and the science itself, and the second part (TN25) deals with the politics, including discussions of the RSPB, the BTO, and Songbird Survival.

Science and scandal: something for everybody!

http://www.cpbell.co.uk
http://www.youtube/CultoftheAmateur
 

CPBell

Well-known member
Thanks Spencer.

Here's an interesting paper from the Comoros Islands between Africa and Madagascar. It shows an inverse correlation between the presence of Frances's Sparrowhawk and abundance/diversity of small birds across the archipelago, which can't be explained by differences in character among the islands.

House Sparrow is one of the species contributing to the pattern. On the single island where the Sparrowhawk is absent sparrows are widespread, but on the rest of the islands it only occurs in coastal towns which the Sparrowhawks avoid.

http://www.cpbell.co.uk
http://www.youtube.com/CultoftheAmateur
 

earleybird

Well-known member
sorry for the slightly off-topic post but you all seem to know your stuff about hedges etc.

Our neighbour has cut down all the trees and bushes the House Sparrows used to use to congregate in before feeding and roost in at night. A beech hedge is planned because its dense and retains its leaves throughout winter but its going to take upwards of 6 years to get sufficiently established.

What trees/shrubs/bushes etc would you recommend to plant that either obtainable well established or is fast growing and a suitable alternative until a hedge gets established .? bearing in mind that ideally all year round cover would be preferable ?
 

spencer f

Well-known member
Hawthorn is probably the fastest growing native. I don,t know how you feel about plant fertilizers but regular feeding would speed the process up. An idea that is occasionaly suggested is aquiring dead branches or prunnings from a parks department or neighbour, partialy burying them and trailing a fast growing climber up it. Wire mesh fencing can provide protection from predators and you can train climbers up it also, honeysuckle, climbing rose, clematis montana, ivy, and russian vine if you can stand its rampant nature, are all recomended and will green up quickly.
 

earleybird

Well-known member
Hawthorn is probably the fastest growing native. I don,t know how you feel about plant fertilizers but regular feeding would speed the process up. An idea that is occasionaly suggested is aquiring dead branches or prunnings from a parks department or neighbour, partialy burying them and trailing a fast growing climber up it. Wire mesh fencing can provide protection from predators and you can train climbers up it also, honeysuckle, climbing rose, clematis montana, ivy, and russian vine if you can stand its rampant nature, are all recomended and will green up quickly.

thanks Spence there is some excellent ideas there. I did consider errecting some dead branches for constructing a feed station closer to my window for photo opportunities. Never thought about using it as a base for climbers etc.
Have looked at some nice 8 foot high reed fences at B&Q
Thanks for some excellent ideas.
 

bitterntwisted

Graham Howard Shortt
In Leeds the House Sparrow population seems to be entirely concentrated in the few remaining strips of beech hedge. (where hedges have not been dug out to accommodate car parking, panel fencing etc.)
 

bluechaffinch

Well-known member
Getting back to House sparrows, I picked up an old book about the British monarchy whilst staying in a B&B in Northumberland last year, one chapter of which was about the Great Exhibition of 1851. Apparently there was somewhat of a hoo-ha about the mess that House sparrows were causing inside the great pavilion, ruining the many displays with their droppings. When Queen Victoria asked her staff what could be done about this problem, the Duke of Wellington replied "Sparrowhawks, ma'am".
 

CPBell

Well-known member
Getting back to House sparrows, I picked up an old book about the British monarchy whilst staying in a B&B in Northumberland last year, one chapter of which was about the Great Exhibition of 1851. Apparently there was somewhat of a hoo-ha about the mess that House sparrows were causing inside the great pavilion, ruining the many displays with their droppings. When Queen Victoria asked her staff what could be done about this problem, the Duke of Wellington replied "Sparrowhawks, ma'am".

The irony of which is that the Great Exhibition building or Crystal Palace was in Kensington Gardens, from which sparrows disappeared 150 years later following colonisation of the Gardens by Sparrowhawks. Very prescient!
 

earleybird

Well-known member
The irony of which is that the Great Exhibition building or Crystal Palace was in Kensington Gardens, from which sparrows disappeared 150 years later following colonisation of the Gardens by Sparrowhawks. Very prescient!

As a matter of interest how many House sparrows and Sprawks were recorded in ,or in the direct proximity, of the gardens ?
 

CPBell

Well-known member
As a matter of interest how many House sparrows and Sprawks were recorded in ,or in the direct proximity, of the gardens ?

I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago.

The 1995 autumn count for sparrows in Kensington Gardens for was 81, which was an 85% drop from the 1975 figure (no counts were done in the interim). Breeding by sparrowhawk in the grounds of Kensington Palace (which adjoins Kensington Gardens) was first confirmed in 1995, but they had been breeding in nearby Holland Park and Regent’s Park since at least 1993.
 

earleybird

Well-known member
so, no recorded numbers of Sparrowhawks during the period of HS decline !? just that some has been observed in the vicinity. Not very convincing evidence of any significant correlation I shouldn't have thought.
 

CPBell

Well-known member
so, no recorded numbers of Sparrowhawks during the period of HS decline !? just that some has been observed in the vicinity. Not very convincing evidence of any significant correlation I shouldn't have thought.

Perhaps you can describe the quality of evidence you would have found convincing?
 

earleybird

Well-known member
Perhaps you can describe the quality of evidence you would have found convincing?

I'm not being funny but you are claiming as a scientist that your studies would suggest that the primary reason for UK Housesparrow decline is Sprawk predation and you highlighted the Ideal Home Exhibition building as being a case in point so I am asking to see the evidence you have to support that claim.
 

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