What a June it was! Rain and yet more rain in hugely ferocious downpours interspersed with a few sunny intervals. The vegetation grew and grew so that it was full on with the strimmers, mowers and blowers to keep everything as it should be. It is important to ensure that footpath access is maintained without vegetation flopping over the paths so that people can enjoy the beautiful riverside amenity. Praise to members of the Riverside Projects Team for working hard to clear this cut material along the Valley Trail.
Of course, the benefits in between the action is seeing the birds come and go and the plants come into bloom or even, perhaps a real wildlife moment such as a grass snake taking a rare meal. Kingfishers appeared to be having a very good season until the June deluge and it is always a joy to see their small aquamarine bodies winging their way up or downstream or across the Floodgates pool. Here too, the flitting grey wagtails bob their way jauntily over the shingle bars picking out invertebrates to feed to their chicks. Sadly these birds, as with so many other species, seem to be in free-fall decline with numbers down by fifty four percent since the 1970s. They now feature on the growing red data list of species in trouble and at serious risk from extinction. That said, even Kingfisher numbers have declined by twenty one per cent over the past twenty years and this bird is now amber listed and all it takes is a thoroughly wet month such as we have just experienced to drown out their nests and young. We are, however, very fortunate indeed to be able to see and enjoy both these charismatic birds and long may they find suitable habitats on the Sudbury Stour.
Extinctions on a very local scale are happening all around us. One author describes this as the ‘great thinning’ for we hardly notice the reduction in wildlife as it quietly dwindles away. One immediate example of this on our doorstep is the loss of nesting swifts this year from the Middleton Road cottages. Swifts are amber listed and are in trouble even though parties can be seen feeding over the riverside meadows on most summer days. Eventually populations become so small and fragmented that the recruitment of young in each breeding season does not keep pace with the losses.
The purpose of the red and amber lists is not merely to highlight the declines in our fauna and flora but to try and identify what factors are responsible for those declines and to come up with management strategies that will give a helping hand to the threatened species. Some species have very exacting habitat requirements and have always been scarce but, to be honest, many birds and other species that were considered very plentiful just a few decades ago have declined because of huge habitat loss. Give them the habitat that they require and they will return.