Keeping our National Parks full of song
Written by our friends from Campaign for National Parks
If you love wildlife you’re probably drawn to the incredible habitats of our National Parks, and if you love bird watching there are few pleasures as great as spotting a rare little brown job on the Broads or a soaring bird of prey in the Lake District. The National Park family across England and Wales provide protection for our wildlife but they also provide a chance to experience this wildlife in famously beautiful landscapes. However even the National Parks could and should be doing more for wildlife. National trends of declines in wildlife mean that the birds we love to spot are threatened and we cannot guarantee future generations will get to experience landscapes full of song.
The importance of England and Wales’ thirteen National Parks cannot be overstated. And when it comes to bird life the Parks have it all. It has waders: avocets, curlews, snipes and woodcocks. Songbirds: nightingales, skylarks and thrushes. Seabirds: gulls, guillemots and gannets. And even mysterious birds of prey: short eared owls, peregrine falcons and ospreys. In the Brecon Beacons you can see hundreds of red kites at special feeding sites, in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park you can take a boat to see the colourful puffins fly in amongst the crags and waves, and in the Broads a gentle boat down the waterways can provide glimpses of the UK’s rarest water birds.
For over eighty years, Campaign for National Parks has been dedicated to protecting and improving the National Parks and a core part of this small charity’s work focuses on helping the National Parks become even more beautiful than they already are. For many of us beauty simply means aesthetics, and while this is important, we take a wider view. We take the view set out in the legislation that founded National Parks nearly 70 years ago, beauty means the incredible array of animal and plant life, the bird song that brings alive the woodlands, and the scurry of species in our farmland hedges.
What a tragedy it would be to have the soundtrack of our most beloved landscapes fall silent. If our holidays weren’t punctuated with the excitement of spotting a swooping kestrel. But, nature in the UK is in serious decline. Species such as the turtle dove are at the precipice of extinction and if we don’t act decisively this trend is likely to continue. Campaign for National Parks is calling for urgent and big changes so that National Parks can lead the way in turning around the decline in nature. Our report, Raising the bar: improving nature in our National Parks, calls for change at the local and national levels to ensure the Parks are full of life.
If we want nature to flourish for everyone to enjoy we have to take a new approach to nature conservation. We must move beyond small-scale intensive management for limited species and look to restore functioning ecosystems on a landscape scale. This should include identifying some areas that are managed in a way that makes them feel relatively wilder – good for nature and visitors.
To achieve this National Park Authorities must grasp the initiative. They must drive forward some of the great work already being done by joining up with land owners and partners from across the Park and from outside the Park boundaries too. The many bird species we love and care for have no respect for National Park boundaries and neither should our thinking! This way National Parks can connect important habitats and bird populations can grow!
Of course it’s not just about the number of birds. Your favourite species are reliant on suitable habitat for food, shelter and to find a mate. However the effects of intensive agriculture and climate change have diminished habitats for many species. While these are problems that go beyond the National Parks themselves, there’s still an important role for the Parks to play. For example as we speak National Parks are important pilot sites for potential future agricultural schemes, which will replace the Common Agricultural Policy, hopefully to the benefit of our environment, including farmland songbirds.
Nearly a hundred million of us visit England and Wales’ National Parks each year, if we want it to flourish and if we want our children and grandchildren to experience the joys of Britain’s birds we have to work together to ensure our landscapes are kept alive with song!
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