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Lune birds are suffering from changes in Africa
AN ecologist who has spent 40 years studying wildlife in the Lune Valley says there are fewer birds in the area than just a few years ago.
Dr Kevin Briggs, of Warton, believes the growing urban-isation of Africa could be disrupting the migration pat-terns of birds that winter on the Continent, having a knock-on effect on numbers in the UK.
The increase in farming and population in Africa is impacting on birds – meaning fewer make the migration to the UK in the summer.
“There have been massive changes since I first started studying birds here,” said Dr Briggs, a former ecology lec-turer at Lancaster and Morecambe College.
“There is not a lot you can do about what is going on in Africa but there are lots of good schemes which are going on in this country which can benefit wildlife.”
He said the number of Oystercatchers on land at Arkholme had gone down from around 150 pairs in the 1990s to just 40 pairs now, and there had also been declines in the number of Ringed Plovers and Yellow Wagtails.
One of the ways Dr Briggs studies wildlife is by filling margarine tubs with cow pats to take to an area of study. He scatters the droppings in different places and counts the dung flies that gather.
He said there had been a 40 per cent reduction in dung flies in recent years, – which had an effect on birds such as the Yellow Wagtail, which fed on the insects.
“By counting flies on cow pats and sheep droppings you can tell how birds’ food supplies are coping, which in turn can tell you how the birds are doing,” said Dr Briggs.
As well as cow pats and sheep droppings, Dr Briggs also studies caterpillars and their droppings, or frass, as an indicator on the fortune of birds such as the blue tit, grey tit and pied flycatchers.
But it is not all bad news , for Little Egrets bred in Arnside for the first time recently and Ospreys have also migrated to the area due to the warmer climate.
One of the highlights of Dr Briggs’ years of study in the area has been the return of otters and badgers to the countryside.
“I know they present certain kinds of problems for farmers but I think they’re absolutely brilliant,” said Dr Briggs.