To have the past, present and the future of birds in Devon described by Tony John was a sobering experience. He was describing the ‘Changes in Birds of Devon from 1900’.
He showed how evidence from surveys over the last half-century clearly illustrated declines of species such as grey partridge, lapwing, curlew, and turtle dove, starling and others. Altered farm practices of autumn sowing, ploughing and spraying to the edges of fields, reduced habitat and climate change all have taken their toll on bird numbers and have reduced their range.
He commented that more observation of the wintering grounds of migratory species such as whitethroat, pied and spotted flycatchers, and cuckoo is being given in Sub Saharan Africa, to understand the losses and changing habitat and an increase of human interference.
On the positive side, fulmars, manx shearwaters and puffins were highlighted as having increased their population by eradicating rats on Lundy. Collared dove, blackcap, little egret and peregrine have successfully increased their numbers and range.
As a ringer and a member of Dartmoor Study Group and with a scientific background Tony gave a knowledgeable yet thought provoking presentation of a wide range of birds in Devon. His enthusiasm was evident and he attracted 33 people on a lovely summer evening. Liz Harris