The very fickle finger of blame.

I’ve got to admit it. I have to write this down. I’ve got to get it off my chest. My tongue is bleeding I’ve been biting on it for so long. OK, here goes.

Here in the west of the Cairngorms, our local newspaper attracts regular correspondence on a whole range of wildlife issues from a variety of perspectives and agendas. No surprise there, but just recently something caught my eye and if I’m honest, raised my hackles. A doctor (not sure of what to be fair) had noticed a decline in local garden birds. Now given that science is likely to form the basis of much of the good doctor’s thinking, I’d have thought a bit of research might have been in order – you know, to see if ‘the problem’ was seasonal or localised perhaps? No research or detective work necessary apparently – his less-than-scientific conclusion (and I quote): ” I have no doubt that rooks are responsible.”

Before going further I need to tell you that I’m not a bobbledy-hat rook lover, but to jump to such an ill-informed conclusion with no scientific evidence to back up his assertion is to my mind, irresponsible at the very least. People listen to ‘doctors’ after all.

The following week it got worse. Another doctor (same village) was keen to add her tenpenneth to the verbal assassination of corvids. In her opinion it wasn’t rooks that had decimated garden birds, it was jackdaws. And her proof? “They are noisy, greedy things.”

So what to do? Well the original doctor had a well conceived scientific strategy: “I feel an organised cull is the only solution to restore finches, tits and sparrows.” So doctor(s), this cull – how many birds need to be killed to solve ‘the problem’? 10? 100? 1000? And is it rooks or is it jackdaws? Or doesn’t it really matter – they are after all just noisy, greedy, troublesome black birds – not the sort of things that a quiet Highland village should have to put up with.

I welcome most things that benefit biodiversity (and that may or may not involve controlling corvids) but surely such ill-informed, anecdotal outpourings are outdated, unhelpful and unwelcome. Assuming one or both of the correspondents are doctors of medicine, GPs even, I’d suggest you don’t go to see them – especially if you’re an overweight, talkative Afro-Carribean.

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6 thoughts on “The very fickle finger of blame.

  1. There has been a lot of discussion over this in the last few months and the main culprit behind this current ideology is a group called Songbird Survival. The RSPB did a bit of digging and actually it doesn’t take much, to find out that the people behind this group are involved in the main with running Game Bird Estates, which I have no problem with as long as they are run correctly. Some have also had links with employees carrying out dubious practices involving raptor persecution.
    I have feeders set up in my garden and they attract garden birds as well as the local corvids. Now they will try all sorts of innovative ways to raid the feeders BUT I have never seen them attack the smaller garden birds. However I did come back from walking the dog a few months ago as a local cat predated a fledgling sparrow sat on the fence.
    It is a well known that the loss of habit is leading to the decline of certain birds and also recent research shows that the cat is also happy to predate a fair amount of garden birds.
    Has the said Doctor recently acquired himself a new moggy friend 😉

  2. Hi,
    Birders in Norway started culling crows after the garbage fills was closed with nets.
    The hope is to get the population down so that the natural predators can keep the population under control.

    The carcasses are often used as bait for raptors. They also use hens as bait, but that does not give as spectacular images.

  3. I guess this gets my good friend Mr Pine Marten off the hook for a while? If you listen to the local gossip up here on the Black Isle, the marten is responsible the death of everything from cute defenceless kittens to squirrel’s. Whilst there is no doubt that Mr PM will have a go at these when the chance comes around, the decline of the poor little red in my area is perhaps a consequence of the slaughter of large areas of forest that seems to be going on everywhere I look. This will also have an impact on birds such as cresties and crossbill as well as other species I can’t name for legal reasons. Will they now suggest we cull the PM? Maybe it’s a bit like the badger debate, we (man) needs to blame something so our hunter instincts kick in and the obvious outcome is to kill something feathered or fluffy.

    Rant over, have a nice day.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how much hostility is caused by ill-conceived opinions on corvids but particularly magpies. I’m pleased to have raised a pair this summer in our garden (not personally you understand) and enjoyed watching their development. Without doubt they are very smart intelligent birds. Sadly the parents (one without a tail) raided our blackbird nest but that’s nature and who are we to interefere? They manage perfectly well without us and without the need to consult doctors I suspect.

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