It’s usually the Scottish Gamekeepers Association making complete fools of themselves with wildly hysterical claims about the ‘damage’ that raptors might do to babies and toddlers, but never far behind is the massively ecologically-illiterate charity, Songbird Survival (SS).
The SS Chairman, Colin Strang Steel, is no stranger to these blog pages (e.g. see here and here). And here he is again, this time on the letters page of the Scottish Farmer (30 January 2021), calling, again, for licences to kill birds of prey (buzzards and sparrowhawks) in response to an earlier editorial about killing sea eagles (here).
His latest clamouring for licences is reproduced here:
Sir, – Your Editorial in The Scottish Farmer, January 16, made some eminently sensible proposals for dealing with rogue sea eagles.
The net needs to be widened, though, to include other avian and mammalian species which are largely responsible for the natural balance in this country having become so out of kilter, in favour of predators.
It is all very well for armchair conservationists to howl with protest at the mention of ‘control’ and trot out the usual platitude that nature will find its own balance. This, of course, is never going to happen while we are around, since man has controlled nature since Neolithic times.
At the top end of the apex predator lists are badgers, buzzards, foxes, and sparrowhawks, to mention just a few. They have no natural enemies and so it is hardly surprising that with the added benefit of protected status (except foxes) their numbers have just gone on multiplying, while their prey, like songbirds and waders, have gone in totally the opposite direction.
This has, not surprisingly, resulted in nature being out of balance and unless man is allowed to intervene more than current legislation permits, it is almost certain that we will not only see the demise of some of our best known and loved bird and small animal species, but attacks on livestock will only increase.
In an article about the threat posed by growing deer populations in The Scotsman on January 19, Duncan Orr-Ewing, of the RSPB, stated: “Nature seeks balance to thrive and by managing our deer populations, we can help nature to flourish.” It is not just deer populations which need managing for nature to thrive.
The idea of introducing even more apex predators, like lynx and wolves, should be treated with extreme caution as they can only contribute to the balance of nature going even further in the wrong direction once they become established and allowed to multiply unchecked.
Colin Strang Steel
Chairman of SongBird Survival,
I can’t think of anyone within the conservation community who takes SS seriously – whenever its name is raised, eyes roll, there are a few chortles and the conversation moves swiftly on. The SS is largely seen as an irrelevance and its Chair’s ill-informed views, made so frequently in publications like the above, do nothing to change anyone’s views.
The SS has recently announced a new CEO, Susan Morgan, who appears to be an experienced administrator but by her own admission is inexperienced in the field of conservation. She’ll fit right in at the good ship SS then. Perhaps her first project could be to fundraise for some much-needed training for SS trustees on the ecology of predator – prey relationships.