Tuesday, 29 June 2004

The problems besetting wildlife in a man made world

I have been following with interest the debate on wind farms. There are some considerable data concerning the mortalities of birds and bats at windfarms, and with the British Government proposing to establish hundreds of wind turbines, there is good cause for alarm. Already hundreds of birds have died in collisions with the huge rotor blades of the turbines, in places as far apart as California and southern Spain. But wind turbines are only one in a long line of hazards that migratory birds now have to avoid. It's a miracle that any survive at all.

The ‘modern’ hazards that spring to mind, that have an impact on wildlife I have noted below, but would be interested to hear from anyone that has any hard data or can provide good references to such data.


One of the first modern hazards, and still kills animals such as deer, foxes and badgers. Often when I travel to London, there is a strong smell of fox, where the train has obviously hit a fox earlier. The electrified linea often kill wildlife, such as badgers as well, even when no trains are passing, though this can be reduced by having overhead cables.


Once cars started moving at more than about 10 miles an hour they started killing wildlife on an ever increasing scale. The dead hedgehogs, birds and other larger animals are easily see, but what about insect life? At the end of a journey a car windscreen will often be smeared with the remains of butterflies, moths and other insects, and the radiator will be clogged with them. What impact does this have on populations? Another effect of roads on wildlife is the fragmentation of habitat -- they are so wide that some species cannot cross them – they are barriers as effective as rivers.

Overhead Cables

Back in the 1960s I remember walking across Dungeness peninsula inspecting the ground beneath the powerlines that ran from the newly built nuclear power station. We were collecting corpses of birds that had crashed into them I don’t recall how many we found, but however small the number, multiplied up across the country the number will be significant. And most are never noticed as we found that foxes soon learnt that there were rich pickings.


Birdwatchers have known for years that lighthouses attract birds by disorientating them, and until the towers were floodlit, thousands of birds were killed when they crashed into the towers. They still kill birds, albeit fewer. What is not so widely known that almost all tall buildings are potentially dangerous to migrating birds. And world wide, probably resonsible for thousands of deaths.


The impact on wildlife of pesticides is well documented – but it is probably in suburban gardens that the impact is now the greatest. And many wood worm treatments are know to be detrimental to bats. But what impact do all the garden pesticides have on butterflies and moths? Why are there so few flies in modern towns?

Fishing tackle

Tons of lead from fishing weights (as well as from shotguns), together with miles of nylon thread present yet another hazard to any aquatic wildlife.And in the oceans miles and liles of monofilament nets kill birds in their thousands.

Garden and agricultural Machinery

When I was in Belize, I once watched an Ocellated Turkey following a gardener with a rotary mower. The turkey was picking up the bits of mashed insects, lizards and frogs. Every time a gardener uses machinery of this sort they are probably reducing the populations of grasshoppers and other wildlife.

Farmers with time on their hands flail hedges. Most farmers are now conscious of the fact it is illegal to do this in the breeding season when it might destroy the nests of protected species. But they are now just as likely to flail the hedges in September, and destroy the berry crop on which so many winter migrant birds, as well as voles and mice, depend.

Street lighting and lighting on tall buildings

Both are known to either disorientate migratuing birds, or cause actual collisions.

These are just a few of the modern hazards that wildlife faces – comments on others you may have concerns about would be welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment