The first was just a bit of fun, the latter is a matter of life and extinction. The Puffin is one of those species mostly concentrated in our continent (the North Americans have a few too (and there are some east of the Urals I think)) and declining in most parts of its range. This came as a little bit of a surprise to me, but then that is what these reviews are all about.
I was also surprised to see that the Fulmar is also listed as Endangered in Europe. On my recent trip to Scotland I spent several days saying ‘I’m surprised we haven’t seen a Fulmar yet’ but maybe I should not have been.
The list of threatened and endangered European birds is not full of seabirds (though there are quite a few) – in fact one striking aspect of the list is its diversity. There are farmland birds, woodland birds and wetland birds alongside the seabirds, and there are essentially rare and localised species, and species which are widespread, mixed up together here.
I find the the section on the reasons for declines in species rather opaque. ‘Biological resource use’ is the greatest threat to Europe’s birds – you what? And within that category ‘hunting and collecting of terrestrial birds’ is important – you what? All the data are in the report but they become difficult to read sideways on-screen so I did what lots of other people will do too – I gave up.
But we must not give up on conservation efforts! Many of the species listed here would be in a much much much worse state were it not for protection from the EU Birds Directive (and other EU instruments, most notably the EU Habitats and Species Directive). This document is a rather thinly disguised advert for the EU and its nature protection efforts and, actually, that case is a very strong one. Species protected by the Birds Directive fare better than those not so protected, and sites protected by the Natura 2000 network are some of the richest for wildlife in Europe. Added to which, much effective conservation effort has been funded by EU funds (including your and my taxes), spent on continental priorities, based on the best possible science, and making a real difference. So the case for remaining in the EU in terms of having a proper strategy and taking joint and effective action for nature conservation is very clear. That’s why you should support this initiative please.
It’s not been a good couple of weeks for the Puffin. It’s not been a good couple of decades for Europe’s birds. But it isn’t they who should feel red-faced with embarrassment – it is we human Europeans. We aren’t doing as well as we could, and we certainly aren’t doing as well as we should.
The continent that gave the world Beethoven and van Gogh, Shakespeare and Cervantes, Plato and Wittgenstein, James Joyce and Lasse Viren, Eddy Merckx and Agnetha Fältskog, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leonardo da Vinci, Ernő Rubik and Eugen Ionescu, [that’s made the point – Ed] can’t hang on to its Puffins, Turtle Doves, Lapwings, or Slender-billed Curlews.
Slender-billed Curlews? you might be asking. Yes, let’s not forget the Slender-billed Curlew – once an abundant species which migrated across the Mediterranean to North Africa and which bred in European and Asiatic Russia but it now regarded by many as being extinct as confirmed records in recent years are like hens’ teeth. There are plenty of people alive who have seen SBCs (and rather more who think they have!) because there were small numbers wintering in Morocco in living memory, but no-one alive has seen vast flocks of these birds as our great, great grandparents could have done.
Let’s not forget the SBC, and let’s not add to its fate any more formerly abundant species. Let’s do better (please). Let’s be good Europeans and save our natural heritage rather than continue to wreck it.
Add your name here to protect the EU Nature Directives.