Tuppence a bag



Can you hear it?

Listen again…listen harder…can you hear it now?

No, nor can I. There is no birdsong. The silent spring has come.

Gone are the cuckoo, the lapwing and the willow tit; gone are the skylark, the barn owl and the mistle thrush; gone are the linnet, the whinchat and the yellowhammer; gone are the wagtail, the warbler and the nightingale…gone, gone, all gone…all flown…to other orchards…

Even the robin has gone. Even the blue tit has gone. And even the blackbird’s time-honoured solo serenades, virtuoso improvisations, tumbling cadenzas, atonal fugues and sweet dusk lullabies are heard no more.


This is how it will be: the microbes, the soil, the nectar, the pollen, the seeds, the invertebrates, the insects, the birds, the amphibians, the smaller mammals, the larger mammals…and then us.

A world without the blackbird is a world not worth the saving. A world fit only for one species is a world beyond the saving. We are doing this. We are knowingly, even enthusiastically, committing a crime of unimaginable magnitude; we are committing biocide.

Only house sparrows live in my back garden now. Their UK numbers have fallen 60% in a century, for no more complicated a reason than that the UK’s human population has risen by the same proportion over the same period. They don’t ask for much, these old companions of mankind: a few plants, a bit of undergrowth, a patch of earth, a source of food and somewhere to nest and to shelter. They find a home in my hydrangea and clematis and holly and privet and hawthorn, there to chirrup and chatter and squabble and roost and live out their lives and hand down the infinite complexities of sparrow-ness to the next generation. But my little garden is the exception in this grid of streets; the rest have been concreted over for conservatories and extensions and hard-standing and decking and barbecues and gravel and garden furniture and all the pointless, tawdry distractions demanded by the Great God of Growth. “Bloody birds,” my next-door-neighbour mutters as he plugs the tiny gap below his eaves where sparrows once nested. We don’t like to share. We are selfish, greedy and stupid. We  think we matter. We worship our own image. And how we hate to be reminded of the wild from whence we came and the animal we harbour within.

A glance at the 10,000-year catalogue of what we are prepared to do to our own species puts our cruel annihilation of birds and their habitats into context. We will reap what we have sown unless we change quickly, and profoundly.



Before it’s too late.


Picture: ’ö-Dzin Tridral (see http://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2968140)