farmland birds

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Juvenile starlings massing on my roof this week.

At this time of year their numbers have been bolstered by the new generation…..some of which noisily fledged above my bedroom window twice this summer.  You can tell which ones are this year’s youngsters, as they still have their pale-brown heads.  By winter they will have adopted the darker, oily-looking plumage of their parents.

We’ve always had a healthy population of starlings up here.  They flock together in a small murmuration of several hundred individuals all year round and are one of my favourite spectacles in the Lomond Hills.

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The WWF and the Zoological Society of London have released a new analysis that shows the earth has lost 50% of its vertebrate wildlife in the last 40 years.

This steep decline of vertebrates was calculated by analysing 10,000 populations of more than 3,000 species. The data was then used to create a ‘Living Planet Index’ (LPI), to reflect the state of all 45,000 known species of vertebrates. And the result is this - in the last 40 years, we have managed to kill 50% of all earth’s known vertebrates. And remember, this analysis didn’t include invertebrates, so the total overall loss could be much, much higher.

The fastest declines are in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have dropped 75% since 1970. Freshwater rivers often represent the end of a system, where effluent often ends up.

The graph above shows the causes of vertebrate decline based on analysis of 3,430 species’ populations. As it stands, we are cutting down trees for soy, timber, and beef faster than they can grow. We are hunting animals faster than they can reproduce. We are pumping water out of rivers faster than rainfall can replenish them. And we are pumping out carbon faster than can be absorbed (and even then, the absorption of carbon dioxide by oceans is another issue).

The photos above show just some of the animals that have been experienced serious declines in the last 40 years. As reported by The Guardian:

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. But 2015 – when the countries of the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends.

“We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

One of my absolute favorite parts of my trip were the Bempton Cliffs. A good stretch of the east coast of the UK ends drastically in chalk cliffs that go straight down into the North Sea. Hundreds of puffins and thousands of sea fowl make these unbelievable cliffs their home. The thing that I love the most, though, was how the land is perfectly flat farmland for miles and miles, covered in cows and sheep and fields of grain, but then it all just ends in a matter of feet. It’s one of the most incredible things I have even seen.