More than a billion sparrows in the world, study finds

Sparrow photo by Stewart Black under Creative Commons

BBC News reports there are at least 50 billion individual wild birds in the world and house sparrows make up 1.6m of these. Three other species: European starlings, bran swallows and ring-billed gulls also have populations exceeding one billion.

However, most bird species are rare, with about one-in-ten species down to fewer than 5,000 individuals. This “snapshot” of the global bird population will help in conservation efforts to save birds from extinction.

Have you seen house sparrows near you? Let us know on our sightings page.

‘I’m seen as the fool’: the farmers putting trees back into the UK’s fields

The Guardian reports the trial, involving seven farms in Devon and scientists from Rothamsted Research and the Organic Research Centre, is the brainchild of Luke Dale-Harris of the charity Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. It is being co-funded by the Woodland Trust and Innovative Farmers, a Soil Association programme helping farmers participate in agricultural research.

Lowland Britain’s prevailing livestock tradition of fields stocked with a high number of animals grazing near-monocultures of grass only works in the landscape and economy of the past 50 years that provided predictable weather and artificial fertilisers, argues Dale-Harris.

The climate crisis, and a series of recent spring and summer droughts – including this year – have driven farmers to look for alternatives. Plenty of Devon farmers were keen to join the trial. The climate emergency, he says, is a catalyst for change that “involves working more closely with natural processes, which can only be a good thing”. 

Government pledges to treble England tree planting to tackle climate crisis

Photo by Linda Pike

The Mail Online and Sky News report tree planting rates will increase from current levels of 2,340 hectares to 7,000 hectares (5,800 acres to 17,300 acres) a year by the end of this Parliament, under a long-awaited England trees action plan launched on Tuesday.

However, campaigners warn the goal for England is less than a quarter of the Government’s UK-wide target to plant 30,000 hectares a year (75,000 acres) by 2024 and fails to rise to meet the nature and climate crises.

The action plan is expected to set out how woodland cover will be increased with tree planting, focusing on broadleaf native trees, as well as processes such as natural regeneration, where trees grow back naturally on the land. 

Climate change clips wings of moths, NatureScot study reveals

The Times reports Scotland’s moth population has been badly damaged by climate change, experts have said. The latest research shows that moth abundance has almost halved, falling by 46 per cent between 1990 and 2018 and still dropping. Yet the study showed moth occupancy — the distribution of the insects across Scotland — has risen by 16 cent between 1990 and 2016.

Climate change is likely to be an important factor behind the trends, driving some species north, with corresponding surges in occupancy. At the same time, warmer, wetter winters have been shown to affect some moths badly while others suffer from detrimental land management and habitat changes. 

‘Love our bogs’: UK should harness all its landscapes in fight for climate – report

The Guardian reports regenerating native woodland, restoring grassland and rewetting peatland must be priorities when tackling the “two defining crises of our age”, according to the first complete assessment of how UK nature-based solutions can combat the climate and biodiversity crises.

More than 100 ecologists examined how all kinds of landscapes – from urban to agricultural to coastal – could be enhanced to maximise carbon retention, biodiversity and human wellbeing. 

Rare fish set for return to River Severn breeding grounds

The BBC reports one of the UK’s rarest fish is getting a chance to return to its historical breeding grounds on the River Severn. The little-known twaite shad, a member of the herring family, was once common in British waters with thousands of the fish migrating upstream in spring. Numbers dwindled after weirs constructed in the 19th Century posed barriers to migratory fish. A conservation project is trying to unlock the river for fish by creating routes around several weirs. 

Four rare male corncrake birds recorded on Rathlin Island

The BBC reports four rare male birds have been recorded on Rathlin Island, off the County Antrim coast.

It is the highest number of calling male corncrakes to be confirmed on the island in about 40 years. The corncrake is one of NI’s rarest birds, known for its distinctive call. Rathlin is the only place in NI where the species can be found, and is the focus of conservation efforts by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds NI (RSPB NI). 

River Otter flood plain work delayed to protect nesting birds

The BBC reports plans to go ahead with the restoration of mud flats have been put back after concerns were raised by campaigners about the effect on nesting birds. The project would have involved the removal of vegetation on the River Otter estuary in Devon, starting on Tuesday.

The Environment Agency (EA) said the start of work was “being reviewed”. The rescheduling followed involvement from the RSPB and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham. The RSPB said it supported the restoration scheme, but it was the wrong time of year.