In thinking of the different wildlife in and around Glen Lyon, I tended to dwell upon what was present within the wooded hillsides and leafy river valleys in comparison to our home in Orkney. What I didn't consider, until later, was the flip side of that, what was missing compared to home.
During the four days of the trip, we did not see a single House Sparrow or Starling, despite these two species being the most frequent visitors to the garden of Tense Towers. In fact, the sparrows nest under our eaves, and both species are always foraging along the drystone wall, through the borders and across the grassed areas.
I think this is known as locally abundant and widespread, which aren't the same thing, obviously. Both House Sparrows and Starling numbers are in decline, though there are still a great many of them, just not as many as there once was.
Here's a quote from the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) website:
"Starlings are not doing very well at the moment. The abundance of breeding Starlings in the UK has fallen rapidly, particularly since the early 1980s, and especially in woodland The declines have been greatest in the south and west of Britain; recent BBS data suggest that populations are also decreasing in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the trends were initially upward. The species' UK conservation listing has been upgraded from amber to red as the decline has become more severe. Strong improvements have occurred in breeding performance, suggesting that decreasing survival rates, particularly of young birds, may be responsible for the observed decline."
|Data from BTO survey|
And one from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' (RSPB) website:
"Monitoring suggests a severe decline in the UK house sparrow population, recently estimated as dropping by 71 per cent between 1977 and 2008 with substantial declines in both rural and urban populations."
|Data from BTO survey|
Due to their large population declines, both birds are Red Listed as species of high conservation concern.
It's a sobering thought that we need to appreciate them, and much else besides, whilst they're still here. The appointment of Michael "We've had enough of experts" Gove as the latest Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs does absolutely nothing to quell my fears for our wildlife and the habitats in which it lives.