Millions of small birds put at risk

Writers Posted 04/07/19
What an extraordinary mess we have just seen in the countryside over the vermin shooting restrictions.

What an extraordinary mess we have just seen in the countryside over the vermin shooting restrictions. All brought about by two men, one a self promoting anti farming and bloodsports fanatic, with a high BBC TV profile, and the almost equally biased, anti farming head of Natural England. Indeed how come the, recent/then, Environment Minister, Michael Gove, even appointed such a person as head of NE, given the man’s anti farming credentials? Surely a position such as this requires someone who can cooperate with farmers rather than provoke confrontation?

But it doesn’t stop there. How was it these two men were able to create this mayhem by bringing about such a dramatic, ‘wildlife unfriendly’ overnight change in the law, to put at risk millions of small birds at their most vulnerable season of the year, nesting time?

It does appear the matter is slowly resolving itself but there has been much damage caused, both to vulnerable bird species, and to goodwill between the parties. All, it would appear, to satisfy the egos of two biased individuals. In the meantime the rules have not applied in the proximity of my garden.

The threat to Roundup seems to continue, based on reactions to an absurd judgement in the US, over a man who says he has been affected adversely over many years to the chemical’s effect, and was awarded over $2 billion in compensation. $2b…. The man could have got cancer from smoking, drinking or many other sources! The world gets madder by the day. Such rulings will always have adverse effects, so farmers will be nervously awaiting the next stage. Roundup is an absolute boon, a life saver, to most cropped land, particularly to light chalk soils, to protect them against the grass weeds’ fast spreading rhizomes. As someone who was farming before Roundup came onto the scene I know only too well how its appearance allowed Downland farmers the chance to actually grow crops, without losing some 50-60% of those crops to couch grass.

Ash Die back has hit our part of Sussex hard, quick and visually. It is a tragedy, comparable to the loss of the Elms back in the late 1970s. And then the toppling of the huge beech forests during that night of the great storm in October 1987? I have a forester as a neighbour and his attitude is to only take out the trees which are clearly dead. He says there is enough proof already that some affected ones, up to 25% of the total, can recover and we see no merit in taking down some of the most majestic specimens when they may well recover. If they were on roadsides they need felling on safety grounds but in open country one feels nature should be given a chance. Many have taken well over a hundred years to grow and it is just too easy to take a saw to them. So we will give them a bit of time. There is an upside for some in that the ash log is the finest cleanest wood for an open fire, doesn’t spit or smoke and burns right out hardly leaving any ash in the hearth. This will doubtless continue in many country hearths despite what legislation threatens about burning open fires in the future.

We have recently, once again, been suffering from the unwanted visitations of children from a new development nearby. They seem to want to destroy everything they find. Two years ago a stack of big straw bales had the strings cut and finished up as a pile of loose almost useless straw, mixed with strings and everything from empty drinks cans, bottles, to used condoms. I suppose it shows some responsibility that they used the latter? It would be better if they showed equal responsibility and stuck to their own territory.

This year a large, tidy stack of square silage bales became the target, and sharp shoes have punctured a good number and despite being patched its surely reduced their feed value. Additionally electric gates are opened and cattle allowed to roam.

Ringing the police is, as most farmers know, a total waste of time, call 101 and nothing happens even if you are eventually able to speak to a human voice. Ring 999 and you are accused of timewasting! The Police, it seems, only want to hear about serious car crashes and murders, I explained that if gates are left open cattle can easily finish up on the road and then animals and drivers can finish up dead. That seems preferable to the constabulary. Sadly the police service is, like almost everything else in this old country, being run into the ground.

Thankfully rain arrived just about in time to save this year’s maize crop, as I write we have had 1.6 inches with more in the offing and the change in the crops is almost beyond belief. From being hardly visible the Thursday before the rain started it was up to six inches by the following Tuesday, You could almost hear it growing. There will be a great many very relieved farmers around.

Our remaining youngstock are now approaching the third and last stage of their worming programme. With one ‘pour on’ treatment to go they are growing really well on nothing more than overgrown grass, which has got totally out of control. Neighbours may be mistakenly thinking I have gone in for the ‘rewilding’ craze, such is the condition of the meadows.

I didn’t want to ‘top’ them all off, and then run out of food if the drought had continued, but now we are about to have the whole lot cut to see us through the summer. I think hay will be needed next winter.


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