Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Birdwatch - latest editorial

January 2015 | Issue 271

It is generally accepted that the key to preserving species diversity lies in protecting habitat hot-spots. At a national level in Britain, many such areas lie in rural countryside – think of the mosaic of habitats in Scotland’s Spey Valley, scenic Poole Harbour with its tidal creeks, bogs, heaths and forests, or the rambling coastal marshes of Norfolk and Suffolk (where the flagship RSPB reserve of Minsmere alone regularly boasts 90-100 breeding bird species).

At a local level, however, and especially in built-up areas, biodiversity is sustained through an alternative network of smaller wildlife oases and green corridors which are every bit as important. They may be less rich in species but, with more than 80 per cent of Britain’s population living in built-up areas, they are no less significant in other ways: from gardens and parks to reservoirs and former industrial sites returned by accident or design to nature, they provide not just local birding havens but an essential connection to the wildlife around us.

It is these ‘built-up birding’ sites that we celebrate in this special issue. Our towns, cities and conurbations offer far more than ‘urban birding’ alone – indeed true urban sites are generally poor in terms of biodiversity (albeit with a few notable exceptions such as Peregrine Falcon and Black Redstart, this month’s cover bird). Instead, what we highlight in this month’s choice of where-to-watch guides, featured local patch and major focus on man-made habitats is the wealth of opportunities to watch birds, maintain our link with the natural world and motivate our interest to preserve biodiversity, wherever we can. As much as we love to visit the Scottish Highlands, Suffolk or the south coast, it’s that direct doorstep connection to birds that constantly emphasises the intrinsic and aesthetic value of the wider natural world, and reinforces the need to protect it.

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