This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
Thank you for the interesting information that songbirds have declined because of increased predation. How will this stabilise? Presumably the number of predators must decline as they deplete their food source - unless they find some other food source. Will there be a cycle of songbirds rising and falling, or a slow recovery, or maintenance at a low level? Will predator numbers be kept relatively high by them adapting to other food such as human rubbish, so that songbirds can never recover and may become extinct? Don't biologists now study environments as a whole rather than single species?
There are many simulation programs and games based on the predator-prey relationship, such as “rabbits and foxes”, which you can find with a web search. They are mostly naïve in assuming only two components and restricted conditions. They do, however, illustrate how the two populations tend to oscillate 180 degrees out of phase with each other. In the real world there are many different predators and a great variety of prey. The key point is the fundamental non-linearity that, if one population ever gets to the point of zero survivors, the game for them is over. For many generations an artificial equilibrium has been maintained by restricting the number of avian predators. This is based on the fact that many of us humans have a sentimental love of bird song, to which I subscribe. My personal observation is that the song thrush is effectively extinct where I live. It is a plump mouthful for a hawk family and it advertises itself by singing from a high point. The spring dawn chorus is now a pathetic remnant of what it was.
The point of including this in that essay, however, was not so much what the RSPB and their media allies have done in this respect, but rather the lengths they have gone to hide their responsibility for the consequences. Even more reprehensible is the way they have sought to cast the blame on others.
"lengths they have gone to hide their responsibility for the consequences"
That sort simply don`t "do" consequences , to repeat a comment I read some time ago from an American website which suits this case as well ,
"Hippies and unintended consequences are like bugs and windshields , They never see them coming "
There is another example in the UK of a predator species being given excessive protection whilst a species that it may prey on goes into substantial decline, with the Greenies generally ignoring the idea that the predator is in any way responsible for the decline. The example involves two of Britain's favourite animals, the badger and the hedgehog.
The densest populations of badgers in Europe are in the UK, specifically in the south-west of England. The UK is I believe the only country in the world that has specific badger protection legislation (with badgers named in the title of the law), consisting of a law introduced by the Heath government in 1973 followed by another one introduced by the Major government in 1991 which extended the protection to include the badger's underground home (which is called a 'sett').
In contrast to the thriving well-protected badger population, the hedgehog is in a state of steep decline, with the estimated UK population falling from 30 million in the 1950s to less than a million in recent years.
Badgers can prey on hedgehogs as they are strong enough to get through the hedgehog's well-known defence mechanism of curling up into a ball, and many objective experts think they are a major cause of the decline in hedgehog numbers. The Greenies tend to blame the decline in hedgehog numbers on such things as climate change, motorists running them over and the increased use of garden strimmers.
Showing unusual reasoning ability for an environmental journalist, the Independent's Michael McCarthy wrote an article earlier this year suggesting that badgers may have a lot to do with the decline of the hedgehog (though in the final section of the article he switches back to the climate change explanation):
A more well-known consequence of the thriving British badger population is that it is thought to be a major contributor to causing TB infection in cattle, and a badger cull was going to start about a month or two ago which has now been postponed. The coverage of the TB and badgers issue by the British news media around the time of the proposed cull provided an interesting demonstration of their Green bias. Unlike AGW, the sceptical position in regard to badger cull science was given a lot of publicity and there was sparse coverage of the scientific argument by DEFRA experts that saw the cull as being necessary.
Another interesting issue is why the badger enjoys so much legal protection in the UK. Noting that the laws have been introduced by Conservative governments, my theory is that the Conservatives are keen on pandering to two powerful SIF groups - the Greenies and the fox hunting lobby. In order to compensate for being seen as the pro fox-hunting party, they have decided to crack down on the 'plebs' that carry out badger hunting (known by the pejorative term 'badger-baiting' in the UK, which implies it is only carried out for sadistic purposes and provides no benefit to society such as pest control).
I thought I'd revive this old thread as I noticed an interesting confirmation of my claim that the Greenies tend to suppress the idea that the decline in hedgehog numbers in the UK is in any way linked to the thriving population of badgers.
The Daily Telegraph's countryside columnist, Robin Page (who used to be the presenter of the BBC's "One man and his dog" TV programme in the 1990s), has noticed some jiggery-pokery going on in a fairly recent edition of the BBC's TV programme "Countryfile":
Page happened to know that a person interviewed in Countryfile was a strong proponent of the view that badgers are a substantial threat to hedgehogs, but strangely there was no mention of this issue at all in an interview she gave to John Craven where she talked about the decline in the hedgehog population. When Page contacted the interviewee she confirmed that she had mentioned the badger predation issue several times in the interview, but the Countryfile TV producers had edited it all out.