See all Safaritalk Special Offers

douglaswise

Predators in anthropogenic environments, an English example.

42 posts in this topic

@egilio:

 

I'm very open-minded about re-wilding projects. In fact, one might argue that, were it not for the past elimination of our major predators in the UK, man would have less need to adopt their roles. However, I remain cautious. It is a glamorous idea, likely to appeal to "urban greens" and, thus, once a re-introduced species has successfully established, there may be going back, even if the downsides subsequently prove to trump the upsides for "country pragmatists". The grey squirrel is an example. It is demonstrably harmful, but animal rights protesters continue to object to its culling. Parakeets (non endemic/ invasive) and wild boar (once native) are probably about to become quite major causes of concern, but they have their urban supporters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not really advocating re-wilding, but more restoring of ecosystems. Obviously in an agricultural landscape the original ecosystem will never be totally restored, and that's perfectly fine. But when evaluating the animals which do occur, not only their costs should be considered, also their benefits.

It's well known that when an animal, and especially a predator, is eliminated from an area, people have a lot of difficulty to get used to living with them again. Look at the resistance in the US to wolves, and compare that to areas where wolves were never extirpated. Or wild boar in the UK. A few years ago a couple of dozen boar in the UK escaped and people were very very worried. Yet in the Netherlands there are thousands, which do indeed cause damage, but nationally it's not really considered an issue.

 

Just that an animal is demonstrably harmful, doesn't mean it's not also beneficial. But the focus is always much more on the (potential) damage/threats.

 

As for restoring areas...invasive species shouldn't be part of that.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@egilio:

 

I agree with almost everything in # post 27. Sometimes, I wonder about whether restoration may not, in exceptional circumstances, benefit from introduction of invasive species. I'm thinking of South America where, I think, cattle have improved biodiversity in the Llanos and Pantanal post the elimination of mega herbivores. Of course, cattle are domesticated and, in theory, their numbers are containable before they can do any serious damage (though feral pigs might provide a counter-argument). I have, on occasions, wondered whether exotic wildlife might be like cattle and have net beneficial effects (if, indeed, my assumption about the former is correct). Certainly, there are many red deer and wild boar on Argentinian estancias and I haven't heard much discussion about the harm they do - only the benefits of hunting income.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the thread concerning driven grouse shooting @@inyathi, with his usual, commendably cavalier approach to the niceties of punctuation, took issue with me when I apparently suggested that "its an urban myth that predators do not have an impact on their prey I would suggest to coin a new phrase that its a 'rural myth' that they do or rather its a myth propagated by supporters of shooting". He goes on to state that he has "never come across an urban myth supported by scientific evidence". His purported evidence relates to the observation that the tit population of Wytham Woods did not decline following the recovery of sparrow hawk numbers after the latter escaped the malign effects of organo chlorines and phosphates.

 

I am totally unable to see how the supposed evidence he cites supports the case he is claiming to make. I must admit that it doesn't disprove his case either. The the most likely explanation for the observation is that the tit population size was limited by its available food supply. When predation pressure increased, there was a compensatory increase in reproductive rate to compensate. This is totally unsurprising. What we don't know is what would happen if predation pressure continued to increase beyond the ability of the tit population to compensate through increased reproductive success. It would be totally reasonable to speculate that the tits would fall into a predator trap and that the population would fall to considerably lower levels than could be sustained by their food supply.

 

At the top of this thread, I attempted to explain that causes of population changes in a particular species were complex and multifactorial. Thus, any attempt conclusively to prove that predation pressure is causing a decline in, for example, any particular species of songbird is beset with problems. It is even more difficult to sort out the effects of one sort of predator from another and, in any event, their effects are likely to be additive (competition, say, between magpies and sparrow hawks.

 

In simple terms, prey populations tend to expand to the limit imposed by available food/habitat in the absence of any other controlling factors such as predation, disease or toxicity. In addition, weather conditions have an influence. One must also consider net immigration/emigration from the area studied.

 

I will make use of some observations that I recently stumbled across. They emanated from the Garden Bird Survey and compared differences in observed populations of various bird species between 1979 and the present day. I think they provide evidence for the tentative conclusion that several of our songbirds may be stuck in predator traps.

 

The maximally declining observations (with percentages in parentheses) apply to the following species: starling (84), song thrush (83), house sparrow (62), chaffinch (50), blackbird ((46), robin (45) and jackdaw (44). Those increasing most were as follows: wood pigeon (742), collared dove (315), carrion crow (182), magpie (130), great tit (39) and greater spotted woodpecker (11).

 

What has caused these declines over the last 25 years? I would suggest that, in the past, intensification of agriculture , herbicides , pesticides and hedgerow losses would have been the principal components. Over the last couple of decades, however, this trend should have slowed or reversed with the implementation of agri-environment schemes. However, over the same period, there has been a tendency for predator pressure to increase. Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suspect that predators are responsible for the recent declines. Of course, it may just be that farmland over this period has become so much more hospitable for songbirds that many have emigrated out of gardens. This does seem to me to be implausible in the case of starlings, song thrushes and sparrows, but one can't readily reject the idea. Perhaps @ inyathi could enlighten us with his views on the subject? It would, no doubt, be upsetting for him to have to admit that Songbird Survival and Mr Botham might have legitimate points to make. I should hasten to add that that the latter's comments on Malta most certainly don't meet with my own approval if they are as @@inyathi has reported.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have only just caught up with this topic and was in fact composing a reply to the grouse thread but I will add something here first. First of all I entirely reject your idea of urban greens versus country pragmatists speaking as a rural green and one who actually takes a pragmatic view on many conservation matters (despite the impression I may give in some debates here), it is a meaningless generalisation to suggest that there is as it were a unified urban or rural view on these matters. In my view the necessity of controlling predators to protect game makes it almost impossible to have a debate on whether or not predator control is necessary for conservation in the UK, as it is quite clearly in the interests of those involved in game shooting to promote predator control, this is not intended as an attack on shooting or the supporters of shooting it is merely an observation. Whether controlling buzzards for example would benefit wildlife is open to debate but it would benefit shooting interests and the only people currently calling for the control of buzzards are people involved in shooting. Just recently the State of Nature Report was published (I haven't had time to read it but you can find it online) according to news reports it states that 1,200 species in the UK are in decline, the response from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust was to write to the Telegraph advocating predator control of foxes and crows to protect lapwings claiming that conservationists are in denial about predation. It strikes me this is a pretty odd response, lapwings would I've no doubt benefit from predator control, but why focus just on this one species what about the other 1,199 species, that many species clearly haven't declined because of predation. My view on predator control is that it should be considered on a case by case basis some species need to be controlled in some circumstances but the idea that all species need to be controlled in all circumstances is one I reject entirely. Also I would add that the 1,200 species includes a lot more than just songbirds or so called farmland birds. I don't wish to get on to the subject of intensive farming and agri-environment schemes I may know a little about the subject but I don't have time at the moment to address the matter properly, but as I say you can hardly blame the decline of 1,200 species which would obviously include not just birds or mammals but invertebrates and plants on increased predation. I'm not arguing that it cannot be one factor in the decline of a few species but I think that far too often predators are being made scapegoats by people with a vested interest who want more predator control or by farmers fed up with being blamed for the decline of wildlife or just because it easier than addressing the real causes that may be many and complex.

 

As I understand it the population of sparrowhawks in the UK having recovered from the disastrous effects of the over use of pesticides is now stable and is not increasing, the population of sparrowhawks in Wytham Woods is not to my knowledge increasing and therefore predation pressure on tits by sparrowhawks will not increase. The Wytham Woods research showed that sparrowhawks did not have a negative impact on tit populations I fail to see @@douglaswise how you can describe that as purported evidence rather than actual evidence, since it supports my point that common predators do not negatively impact on common prey species.Wytham Woods is the most studied patch of woodland in the whole of the UK if there had been any change in the relationship between sparrowhawks and tits it would have been recorded. Predator traps invloving common predators and rare or at least scarce prey species is another matter entirely as I have I believe stated several times I accept that such circumstances can occur and I have not argued otherwise. I reject the notion that raptors are overpopulated in the UK, who actually says so? It is most often people either linked to shooting or pigeon keeping, or of course supporters of Songbird Survival, would it upset me if they proved to have legitimate points to make about as much as learning that moon is made of cheese. :D Well okay that is perhaps taking a bit far but in my view they are attempting to use science to support their predetermined position that there are too many raptors. Certainly no one in the birding world takes their views seriously, either way the prospect of Songbird Survival being proved right doesn't concern me, as for Mr Botham he may well have legitimate points to make I wouldn't know since so far he hasn't really made any. As mentioned in the grouse thread most of Mr Botham's points or at least his articles have been attacks on the RSPB accusations about their pensions or that they have spent money on homes for executives rather than homes for wildlife and such like that don't exactly have any relevance to this debate, as I pointed out in that thread the evidence he presented in favour of predator control in a BBC radio debate was seriously flawed. In any case as far as I am aware everything that Mr Botham has said in relation to conservation in the UK has been said in defence of either grouse shooting or fly fishing I fail to see how his views are of any relevance to this subject. I will though say one thing in defence of Mr Botham I didn't state that he has defended Maltese hunters I said that that some people within the UK shooting community have done so, the 'Field Sports Channel' on YouTube for example has several videos in defence of Maltese hunting underneath one of them it states

 

Chris Packham from #BBCCountryfile is spreading lies about hunting on Malta because he wants to close it down. Charlie Jacoby finds out the truth.

 

 

which is interesting as Mr Packham is not and never has been a presenter on CountryFile but the subject of spring bird shooting in Malta is getting a little of topic.

 

On the subject of cougar/pumas in the US they would eventually recolonise the East quite naturally were it not for the fact that hunters are killing too many of them in the West. Recent research conducted by Panthera's Dr Mark Elbroch in the Tetons indicates that the hunting of pumas is no longer sustainable and the reason for this is because for most of the 20th century the West's top predator the wolf was entirely absent from the Rockies. But now thanks to reintroductions and natural recolonisation from Canada the wolf is back, when wolves find puma kittens they kill them likely for reasons of intra-guild competition as described by @@douglaswise earlier, as a result far fewer puma kittens ever reach adulthood than was the case when wolves were absent and thus there is no longer a surplus of pumas for human hunters to 'harvest'. However the Wyoming Fish and Game Department benefits significantly from the sale of permits to hunters wanting to hunt pumas and therefore they are unlikely to reduce the hunting quota significantly or to ban the hunting of pumas entirely, as a result the population of pumas is declining. If there were no hunting of pumas in the West or hunting were substantially reduced then surplus animals would be forced to disperse to new areas from where pumas are absent and that would if allowed lead to the eventual recolonisation of the Eastern US to the benefit of deer populations there.

 

I don't really have time at present to fully engage with this debate as I intend to devote my time to writing a trip report which will I'm sure be of far more interest to SafariTalkers and I should really be carrying on with editing photos and videos rather than getting sucked into another debate I will though respond to the grouse thread in due course and read further replies to this thread with interest.

Edited by inyathi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

 

I will make use of some observations that I recently stumbled across. They emanated from the Garden Bird Survey and compared differences in observed populations of various bird species between 1979 and the present day. I think they provide evidence for the tentative conclusion that several of our songbirds may be stuck in predator traps.

 

The maximally declining observations (with percentages in parentheses) apply to the following species: starling (84), song thrush (83), house sparrow (62), chaffinch (50), blackbird ((46), robin (45) and jackdaw (44). Those increasing most were as follows: wood pigeon (742), collared dove (315), carrion crow (182), magpie (130), great tit (39) and greater spotted woodpecker (11).

 

What has caused these declines over the last 25 years? I would suggest that, in the past, intensification of agriculture , herbicides , pesticides and hedgerow losses would have been the principal components. Over the last couple of decades, however, this trend should have slowed or reversed with the implementation of agri-environment schemes. However, over the same period, there has been a tendency for predator pressure to increase. Thus, it is entirely reasonable to suspect that predators are responsible for the recent declines. Of course, it may just be that farmland over this period has become so much more hospitable for songbirds that many have emigrated out of gardens. This does seem to me to be implausible in the case of starlings, song thrushes and sparrows, but one can't readily reject the idea. Perhaps @ inyathi could enlighten us with his views on the subject? It would, no doubt, be upsetting for him to have to admit that Songbird Survival and Mr Botham might have legitimate points to make. I should hasten to add that that the latter's comments on Malta most certainly don't meet with my own approval if they are as @@inyathi has reported.

Hurrah! @@douglaswise is back, and I hope you had a splendid fishing trip, and here you are leaping from conjecture to unsubstantiated conjecture like a very leapy thing (as Buffy would no doubt have said). Still it is nice that you refer to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) garden bird survey, a very fine think indeed. The BTO carries out a great deal of research including the above survey where volunteers record what birds are in their gardens, and also wider surveys concentrating on different birds or areas such as farm land, and sometimes it carries out government sponsored research for a particular topic. It helps build up a picture of what is happening to birds in the UK. some birds ahve declined and some increased but what the BTO does not do is add 2 and 2 and come up with 124. The state of Nature report just released, and contributed to by the BTO, RSPB wildlife Trusts and a whole host of others squarely puts the blame for reductions in habitat degradation mostly caused by intensive farming. It does not say, and nor does any report that I have ever read, that farming is improving the lot of wildlife, rather that things are getting worse.That is not to slag off farmers.they are in business and they need to make money.It is to rather say to folk who pay taxes, how much do we value wildlife and the environment? what are we willing to pay to help farmers look after the environment in a better way? I don't know how many times i have mentioned that there is no evidence of any kind that sparrowhawks, squirrels magpies etc have an effect on songbird numbers in the UK. No doubt @@douglaswise has taken this on board and stopped his own personal crusade against magpies as a result of reading the evidence. Please everyone who is interested read the State of Nature Report. As an aside.Factors like climate change and the greater numbers of people feeding birds are likely to have a bigger impact on bird numbers, and of course weather has an impact on bird numbers in a more short term way.Still its more fun to kill things isn't it

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although I don’t want to contribute fully to this debate at present, I have to pick up on one point you made @@douglaswise

 

 

Re-introductions of such species as goshawks and red kites, made without any by your leaves to "country pragmatists", cause considerable resentment”

 

 

Really?

 

There has never been an official reintroduction of goshawks anywhere in the UK, the current population is descended from escaped falconry birds and birds that were released unofficially (i.e. illegally) by breeders in the 1960s and 70s. So no one anywhere was given a by your leave and by “country pragmatists” what you really mean is “shooting interests” since the goshawk’s diet includes grouse, pheasants and partridges amongst other species. I can see no reason why conservationists would object to the return of goshawks, in fact given that they prey on other predators notably corvids their return is from a conservation standpoint arguably most welcome. Farmers who do not operate a game shoot on their land might also welcome the fact that their diet includes woodpigeons. Best of all they are significant predators of grey squirrels one pair on Forestry Commission land in the West Midlands was recorded taking 90% squirrels. Anyone concerned about the serious damage that alien grey squirrels cause to native broadleaved trees should welcome goshawks with open arms.

 

The goshawk is first and foremost a forest bird so in the UK their range is very limited as they only occur in areas of the country where there is significant woodland cover. Most country folks have never seen a British goshawk nor are they likely to unless they’re a birder or they happen to live in one of the very few places where they’re common. I have never made the effort to look for one here, consequently I've never seen one in the UK I have seen one in Poland. The idea that the presence of goshawks is a concern for more than a very tiny minority of country folks connected to shooting is well ridiculous.

The only people who resent the reintroduction of red kites are those who dislike raptors, in my part of the country I have not come across anyone who does not welcome their return. Most of the minor problems caused where there are large numbers of kites are the result of the public feeding them and this should be discouraged. The reintroduction of kites was only necessary because natural recolonisation of England and Scotland from Wales was going to take too long. However natural recolonisation would eventually have occurred. When it was realised in the early 20th century that the Welsh red kites were the last birds left in the UK the locals put a stop to the persecution that had wiped out kites everywhere else.

 

These birds went on to become the best protected birds in the whole of the UK (if not the world) since for a time at least their nests were guarded by both the Ghurkhas and the SAS. The latter who do much of their training in Wales are of course specialists in covert surveillance, keeping watch over red kites nests to prevent the eggs being stolen was an ideal way to hone their skills. When the head of the RSPB in Wales met a bronzed SAS trooper who had just returned from some altogether more dangerous mission in the Middle East, he said to him “it’s very important you don’t damage the egg collectors” to which the reply was “don’t worry sir they won’t get away”.

 

 

Thanks to the work of the army and civilian volunteers protecting the nests from egg collectors, kites were eventually able to spread out in to more favourable habitats. This allowed their numbers to increase and in time they would have eventually crossed the border out of Wales but it would have taken a very long time. Kites always return to the area from which they fledged when they are looking for nesting sites. The decision to reintroduce red kites was taken by the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee in 1989, should they have consulted with shooting interests first, I hardly think so. I cannot think of anyone else in the countryside that would have had any genuine reason at all to object to the proposed return of the red kite. Shooting interests should not have a veto on which species are allowed to live in the British countryside.

 

I don’t want to make this issue about shooting but when it comes to concerns about raptors it is impossible to distinguish between what you call “country pragmatists” and “shooting interests” It’s not concerned conservationists who complain about too many raptors it’s shooting interests and their concerns have nothing to do with ecology. There may be an economic case for controlling some raptors to protect shooting interests but that is not what this debate is about. Conservation concerns and shooting concerns are not the same thing and blurring the line is not helpful.

 

Your claim about considerable resentment smacks of the phoney claims put out by the fake anti-RSPB pressure group You Forgot the Birds. In that the only resentment in relation to kites is from shooting interests and certainly not country people per say.

 

Apart from the red kite and the reintroduction of the white-tailed sea eagle in Scotland, the only other official raptor reintroduction in the UK has been the reintroduction of ospreys to Rutland Water in England. Or perhaps that should be introduction since Rutland Water is a reservoir created by the damming of the River Gwash and didn’t exist prior to the completion of the dam in 1976. Therefore it's unlikely there were ever resident ospreys in this specific area, however the species was native to lowland England wherever there was suitable habitat until persecution drove them to extinction. Close to Rutland Water is the Horn Mill Trout Farm following the return of the osprey they were losing as many as a 1,000 fish a year, clearly this was unsustainable, though they were actually more concerned about other predators than ospreys. Well ospreys are more charismatic than comorants and herons.

 

 

Their solution to this problem was to net all of their fish ponds except for the largest one next to which they constructed a hide. They now charge photographers wanting to photograph fishing ospreys £60/person to book a session in the hide which can accommodate 4 people. The same outfit also run the River Gwash Trout Farm and they have a photographic hide there as well. I don't know how the economics compare but far from resenting the ospreys they have welcomed them. Since photographic sessions take place in the early morning and late afternoon I assume that visiting photographers must stay in local B & Bs or hotels which brings further benefit to the area.

 

 

Horn Mill Osprey Hide

 

As for sea eagles well certainly some Scottish sheep farmers may resent their return, but not anyone involved in tourism, it is estimated that the Isle of Mull benefits to the tune of £5 million/ year from the eagles.

 

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@intathi: re your post # 30.

 

You quote a newspaper report on the State of Nature Report. On this basis, you state that 1200 species of UK birds are in decline. This mention of 1200 species struck me, as a non birder, to be somewhat implausible. Having looked into the matter further and claiming no special expertise, I appear to have discovered that the official list of UK birds comprises less than half this number of species and these include many which are rare vagrants. Of the more common species, approximately 60% appear to be in decline with the rest stable or increasing. This leaves me wondering about whether you really know as much about this subject as you claim. I would be disappointed to learn that I have spent hours debating with a propagandist intent on spreading misleading information. I would like to think that this is not the case, but I do think an explanation for readers from you would be helpful.

 

Your characterisation of the GWCT response to the State of Nature Report depended upon a single newspaper article. Readers would get a fairer idea of the Trust's response by referring to their 20th September newsletter.

 

You suggest that predator control should be considered on a case by case basis and that the idea that all species should be controlled in all circumstances is one that you reject entirely. I don't disagree and hence my championing of "zonal" models of conservation. However, I utterly reject your contention that only those with shooting interests reject the idea that songbird decline is unrelated to predation.

 

On the Wytham Woods study, my use of the word "purported" was not in any way to intended to question the validity of the observation itself, merely of your use of the data to make the generalisation that raptors can have no effect on songbird population densities. It is impossible to generalise - remember you "case by case" argument.

 

re your post # 32:

 

I'm aware that goshawks were not "officially" reintroduced. I think, because I once moved in falconry circles, that I know the identity of at least one of those responsible. Equally, I see both upsides and downsides to their UK presence with the latter likely to predominate on shooting estates and the former in most other non shooting areas. I think the jury is still out among the shooting fraternity about the likely effects of red kites. I accept that many like to see them and, rather than discouraging administration of artificial food, I would encourage it because it is likely to reduce such predation of live prey that may occur in the future as a result of its withdrawal.

 

It is the blanket protection afforded to these introduced species that concerns me. Should they prove damaging to landowner interests, I think it only proper that control be permitted even though they should be protected elsewhere. The same should apply in the case of buzzards, which did not increase in consequence of either official or unofficial re-introductions and are now extremely common.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Towlersonsafari, re post # 31.

 

You suggest, as a layman, that " there is no evidence of any kind that sparrowhawks, squirrels, magpies etc have any effect on songbird numbers. You must have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the relevant literature even to consider making this oft-repeated and unqualified claim. Although I would not, myself, claim to have your expertise, I do know enough to know that there is such evidence. I suggest that you study the songbird work undertaken at Loddington by GWCT scientists. This suggests - in fact, I would say proves - that the populations of some songbird species in the area they studied (typical mixed arable farmland) were suppressed by predation. If you are not convinced, tell me why and come back for more info from other sources. I would suggest that there are none so blind as do not wish to see. Please try to understand that your thesis can only be correct if songbirds have an inexhaustible ability to replace lost individuals by increasing reproduction rates or that such limits are never approached. It was interesting to hear the RSPB spokesman who appeared on the radio this morning reassuring the naive among us that domestic cats were an additional predator pressure of no consequence. Can't you appreciate that the additive effects of all predation can sum to exceed the reproductive system's ability to compensate? How frequently and to which species it applies is a more complex question and, to my knowledge, hasn't often been experimentally tested.

 

The authors of the State of Nature Report might be correct in their assessments of past and present species numbers. However, when they blame declines on continued recent intensification of agriculture and climate change and give no serious consideration to predation, one would like to see evidence rather than politically correct assumptions. No doubt, you can tell me what agricultural changes in the last 10 years have been major contributors to these declines. Has implementation of EU-endorsed environmental stewardship schemes, for example, done more harm than good? If so, I'm sure DEFRA would like to hear your evidence. Perhaps new herbicides of which I'm unaware have been introduced that are more efficient at killing host plants for insects. I would have supposed that most new pesticides are less rather than more toxic to wildlife, but you may know better.

 

Please rest assured that I won't be having fun killing things this season. My balance is such that I risk posing greater threat to adjacent guns than to more legitimate quarry. Instead, I'm off penguin and seal watching in the Falklands in December.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think if you read post 30 again you'll see that the 1200 species figure quoted was not just specific to birds:

 

"Also I would add that the 1,200 species includes a lot more than just songbirds or so called farmland birds. I don't wish to get on to the subject of intensive farming and agri-environment schemes I may know a little about the subject but I don't have time at the moment to address the matter properly, but as I say you can hardly blame the decline of 1,200 species which would obviously include not just birds or mammals but invertebrates and plants on increased predation."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@kittykat23uk thanks you got in just ahead of me. :)

 

@@douglaswise for heaven's sake I think you need to visit Specsavers, I wrote1,200 species not 1,200 bird species you have an unerring ability to acuse me of writing things that I have not written, if you have trouble reading my posts would you perhaps like me to enlarge the font size even further. :D

 

The one thing I dislike more than anything is propaganda and misleading information it is regrettable that you would acuse me of such a thing purely as a result of your own failure to read my post properly. :angry: I stated in the other thread some of the claims made by Packham and Avery I did not say that I believed them, except when it comes to the specific issue of raptor persecution where I tend to believe the RSPB when it comes to the extent of this crime.

 

With regard to the GWCT I was merely pointing out that to single out just one species to make a point about predator control in response to a report that states that 1,200 UK species of animals and plants are in decline is a little odd. I have as I said not read the report but it does state that 1,200 species are in decline since it would appear from your subsequent post that you have looked at the report you must be aware of this. This was not intended as an attack on the GWCT it was simply an observation and incidently as I am sure I have stated several times I have no issue with the humane control of non endangered mammal predators, however I hold a different view with regard to raptors.

 

As pointed out in the other thread there has been an appalling history of raptor persecution in the UK, in the case of red kites this goes back to Elizabethan times but was at its worst in Victorian times and this led to the extinction of goshawks and white-tailed eagles and the very near extinction of hen harriers and red kites. In light of this history and the fact that raptors are still be killed illegaly and that gamekeepers are calling for the legal control of buzzards to protect pheasant poults and other game birds, you have to recognise that any suggestion that raptors need to be controlled on ecological grounds will be treated with the utmost suspicion. You will not succeed in convincing conservationists of the need to control buzzards for the benefit of wildlife while you have gamekeepers demanding the right to control buzzards to protect pheasant poults. The decision to allow one keeper to control buzzards was based on the fact that pheasant poults are considered livestock and he has a right to protect his livestock and ultimately his livlihood it had nothing at all to do with ecology.

 

I have read countless letters in newspapers, in the Farmers Weekly, the Country Landowners Association magazine etc complaining that there are too many raptors and that they are causing the decline in songbird numbers but these are generally just from ordinary countrymen or at least ordinary people. Often as not their views are based on the perception that we now have huge numbers of raptors because they grew up at a time when raptor numbers were artificially low. The State of Nature report as stated on the news and in the newspapers lays the blame squarely at the door of intensive agriculture, however farmers have merely responded to government policy and the need to produce food, they have not set out to deliberately cause wildlife to decline. What's more many farmers do a huge amount to protect wildlife and increase biodiversity on their land however they do also have an understandable tendency to not like being blamed and therefore quite a few tend to blame other causes and raptors are an obvious choice. I have never once heard an actual credible (i.e. not Robin Page) conservationist say that we have too many raptors and that they need to be controlled. If you can point me in the direction of genuinely unbiased scientific research online that makes a link between raptor numbers and the decline in songbirds or other wildlife I will read it with considerable interest. But and this is really my point by unbiased I mean with no connection to shooting or game at all I do not regard the GWCT as being unbiased I don't as it happens regard the RSPB as being entirely unbiased either. The loudest voices calling for the control of raptors are from people involved in shooting or pigeon breeding, were that not the case calls from conservationists to control raptors might be taken seriously. It appears from their website that the GWCT believe that some buzzard control may be necessary in extreme cases and that does not include on farmland or the countryside generally. However their one page on buzzard control is far more about the issuing of licences to protect game that wildlife.

 

Buzzard Control

 

Coming from a shooting family (and that includes grouse) I am most definitely not anti-shooting at all despite some of what I may have said in the other thread however first and foremost I am a birder and conservationist who cares passionately about all birds equally. I am willing to accept that in some extreme circumstances the control of some very common raptors may be necessary, however you stated in one of your posts that we do not live in Victorian times that maybe true but I simply do not believe that there is not still a lingering prejudice against raptors and other predators and I will not accept that there is a general need to control raptors in the countryside as a whole.

 

I also as it happens profoundly disagree with the RSPB on the subject of domestic cats I think that their decision has more to do with not upsetting cat owners than it has to do with science, I agree with the scientist who has stated that all free range domestic cats should be eliminated. However domestic cats especially pets are not a natural predator before you falsely accuse me of being inconsistent yet again. I am extremely pleased that Australia has decided to wage war on feral cats as one of the greatest threats to their biodiversity.

 

This is as much as I want to say on this, given that you did not read my first post properly I see little point in continuing to debate with you unless of course you wish to apologise for you entirely unfounded accusations. However I will still leave this debate for the forseeable future because as I have stated I have better things to do, besides which it may take me a while to calm down.

Edited by inyathi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@inyathi:

 

First, an apology for having spelt your avatar wrongly.

 

Second, an even deeper and sincere apology for having misinterpreted the figures in post # 30 and, in consequence, for having questioned your competence and good faith. As a matter of fact, while I feel very embarrassed for my cock up, I'm also relieved to learn that I was mistaken because I had developed a sincere respect for your knowledge and logic - not that we've always agreed.

 

You are asking a lot when you ask for evidence that raptors cause harm to wildlife when it is illegal to manipulate their numbers. I appreciate that you think the GWCT is biased in favour of shooting, but I don't think you should ignore the results of their field experiments. By all means, look at the raw data and draw your own conclusions. You could reasonably retain suspicion over studies that are based on computer models (I'm suspicious about the latter from whatever source they emanate.) The best I can do is to draw your attention to the Langholm studies. the second of which involved organisations other than the GWCT. As I've mentioned before, there were differences between the 2 studies and, during the 5 year course of the second neither harriers nor grouse responded as well as previously to predator control. The researchers tentatively blamed the big increase in buzzard numbers in the intervening years, but did not claimed to have obtained definitive proof because their experimental design wouldn't permit it. If you want evidence relating to sparrow hawks and songbirds, the best I can quickly come up with is the reference in my first post of this debate under Point 4 of the Theory section (Mass- dependent predation risk). I doubt you'll find it compelling, but, in my view, it's interesting and may well have validity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@douglaswise Thank you for you apology :), I think that although we are often on different sides of the fence we have a similar tendency to be suspicious of ulterior motives.

 

I don't actually see the GWCT's science as being compromised as such. However predator control is clearly an essential part of game managament and therefore the GWCT is naturally predisposed to favouring predator control and obviously a good deal of their work is related to game shooting so they have to defend shooting and the role it plays in conservation. I would simply prefer to read science papers that cannot be perceived as being biased one way or the other particularly when there is a propaganda war going on and not just over grouse shooting, however I accept that papers that fall into that category may be as rare as hen's teeth. The RSPB's view as I understand it is to get the habitat right first and only consider predator control as a last resort and obviously they would never advocate raptor control but they do sometimes control corvids. I believe that they cannot advocate raptor control as a result of the history of raptor persecution and the fact that it is still going on. When it comes to their members they have far more to fear from losing birders who are passionate about raptors as most are (and as I am), than they do from losing cat owners. Softening their stance on raptors would be seen as kowtowing to the shooting lobby and would I believe do irreparable damage to their reputation in the eyes of birders. This is why I have a slightly contradictory view with regard to hen harriers and believe that the RSPB's position on enforcing the law is correct (which from a legal standpoint it clearly is) even if in the long run it is unrealistic. Also as the RSPB has as I've pointed out been the victim of a misguided smear campaign I feel compelled as a member to defend them when they are attacked even though I certainly do not agree with them on everything.

 

As I have said before it is impossible to ignore the history of raptor persecution as I am sure is the case with many other birders my passion for birds of prey and desire to defend them at all costs stems from this history and not just from the fact that they are magnificent and beautiful birds. I might also add as I mentioned in the other thread that Victorian predator control was responsible for the loss of polecats, wildcats and very nearly pine martens from England and this has clearly influenced my views on predator control. The entirely misguided control of wild dogs that was practiced in various national parks in Africa even relatively recently based on nothing more than ignorant prejudice has also influenced my view on predator control. Pine martens have recovered sufficiently well in Scotland that on occasion they have caused problems for some rare birds, it has been my view for sometime that an ideal if temporary solution would be to remove some of these troublesome martens and send them south of the border to Southern Britain to deal with some of our grey squirrels. They are in fact still just clinging on in the North of England and I believe that the Vincent Wildlife Trust will before too long start a project to reinforce this population with Scottish martens as they have already done just recently in Wales and will eventually look for sites to establish entirely new populations in the South.

 

Before I got sucked into responding to this topic I was in the process of uploading more photos and videos to the web and I shall now return to doing that and leave debating for the time being.

Edited by inyathi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@inyathi:

 

Thank you for your gracious acceptance of my apology and for summarising your position. Actually, I don't think that we're miles apart in our views.

 

I, too, may be absenting myself from the thread because a new computer is replacing my present one this morning. I am used to Windows Vista and the new on will be Windows 10. Many with whom I've spoken think that the new OS will be beyond my capabilities or that it will take me ages to come to grips with!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @@douglaswise for mentioning the Loddington farm project.Run by the GWCT. It seems to measure effects of different factors on different wildlife and of course a large part is considering the effects of predator control.Obviously if peer reviewed research can show wider benefits of predator control that is a good point in mitigation.I assume that the game in question would be pheasant and partridge. The actual research I cannot see but the website starts it's section on songbirds with this " Since 1970 some of our most beloved songbirds have declined drastically.Scientific evidence shows that substantial changes to farming practices have had the greatest impact on songbirds.Around 77% of the UK is now farmland" I did try to tell you. There is some very interesting summaries on studying song thrush and blackbird nesting success in woodland and gardens with winter feeding and with predator control.Now what predators is not mentioned.Nesting success increased with better cover and with predator control.BUT it fairly concludes that actual populations of birds did not change when predator control was removed.So even with the GWCT predator control did not impact these birds populations.

In the interests of full disclosure the summary of the research on spotted flycatchers a summer migrant in dramatic decline does suggest better breeding success with predator control and populations are still falling so their case is perhaps not proven.Th main cause of decline is generally thought to be a lack of insects here and climate change in The parts of Africa they overwinter. My solution help insects not kill predators.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Towlersonsafari:

 

I'm glad that you have had a look at some of the GWCT's work at Loddington. Why you should have thought that I needed telling by you that changes to farming practices had had the greatest adverse impacts on farmland birds, I'm not sure. I have been aware of work undertaken at Loddington since the start of the project and have visited the site several times. I was a one-time trustee of GCT. However, I am concerned that many species have continued to decline over the last decade despite the best efforts of those planning and carrying out agri-environment schemes designed to prevent such declines. The important point being made vis a vis effects predator control on songbirds is as follows: "While predator control may not necessarily be a primary cause of population decline, it has a role in the reversal of that decline at the farm scale for some species."

 

You suggest that a large part of the Project's work is considering the effects of predator control. This is absolutely not the case. It is aimed at finding ways to make farming ecologically sound without destroying profitability. Please look at the Allerton Project Research Blog. However, if it is the subject of birds that primarily concerns you, I'd recommend that you read Chris Stoate's article in it of 21st July 2016. This should demonstrate to you that predator control did, indeed, impact songbird populations. You mention not knowing what predators are controlled. These are, of course, those that can legally be controlled - foxes, small mustelids, corvids, grey squirrels and rats. Obviously, raptors were not controlled because it would have been illegal. However, it is a great shame, in my view, that limited experiments can't be licensed which would allow assessment of their (possibly) additional effects on farmland bird populations. I also would like to suggest that it is highly likely that ground nesting species (e.g. sky lark, partridge etc) are more adversely impacted by predation than are songbirds.

 

You may also like to look at the GWCT NewsBlog of September 2016: "Predation control - two very different debates."

 

I am very interested in the nutritional requirements of farmland birds and would like to know a lot more about which foodstuffs can meet these requirements as they change throughout the year and how agri-environment schemes could best be tweaked to meet them. I suspect that more information is needed here (although I may be ignorant of what's already out there). I suspect that most ecologists don't know much about nutrition and most nutritionists are not sufficiently au fait with the preferred feed selection by birds of different species. It's intriguing, for example, that some, but not all, species that are declining on farmland are also declining in both rural and suburban gardens. One might have supposed that garden bird feeders would make up for the supposed lack of winter feed on many farms. I have no answers, but will pose a few questions along with the odd statement or two to see if others can enhance my knowledge.

 

1) Is the mix of feedstuffs offered to garden birds appropriate over winter? Most garden birds won't accept nutritionally balanced compound feeds in the form of crumbs or mini-pellets. Wheat is a man-made cereal. We have, effectively, taken a wild grass seed and increased its starch (carbohydrate) storage capacity while diluting its protein and fat proportions. Fat contains two and a quarter times the energy of carbohydrate. Small birds need a lot of energy to get through cold winter nights (they have very high metabolic rates). Relatively few species take wheat (house sparrows do). Are typical mixes offered adequate in minerals and vitamins? It seems that a good case, for example, could be made out that they tend to be deficient in vitamin A. However, this can be stored in the body for quite long periods.

2) Do artificial feeders in gardens lead to aggregations of birds and encourage spread of disease? Greenfinches come to mind (virus) and, to a lesser extent, other finches. Salmonella is a common infection of garden birds and one unlikely to harm adults. Could it be adversely affecting nestlings?

3) If artificial feeding continues into the breeding season, could it possibly be very harmful? Parent birds may hang round the feeders and satisfy their own needs without foraging for appropriate feed items for their progeny. If they attempt to take seeds from feeders to their nestlings, the latter will die if for no other reason than water deprivation. Dried insects will be as bad. When pheasants hatch, the hen birds have lost a lot of condition during incubation. They take their broods to find insects. This isn't because they know that that is what their chicks need (it is), but because they also need a similar diet themselves to replace lost tissue. If you put a wheat feeder near them during incubation, they wouldn't lose condition and, in consequence, may not take their chicks to good insect areas.

4) Agri-environment schemes encourage the growth of special crops or the leaving of uncultivated areas for the benefit of wildlife. Are these schemes having much effect on farmland birds? Would you get "more bangs for your buck" by putting out and filling artificial feeders along farm tracks?

 

I think we should be dealing with this whole subject in a less "Punch and Judy" manner. I have never suggested that predator control is the only way to protect endangered species. However, in some situations more than others, it is a very important management tool.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello @@douglaswise glad to see you have the new computer sorted! I would love to not to have to resort to punch and Judy tactics but you really don't make it easy! Still in a new spirit of discussion I offer this. I will let others look at the site and take what they want from it.I can help with the generally held position backed up by my own simple observations regarding artificial feeding at breeding times.looking at the blackbirds tits etc they use the sunflower hearts etc as fuel for them they don't take it to the nest.watching tits fly to nests they have insects not artificial food. The only exception that I have seen is a blackbird stocking up on dried mealworms and flying off so for the very reason you raise i made sure the mealworms were soaked in water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2017 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.