Farmers and ecologists know that soil is the most important resource to protect in managing the land. But while it’s all around us, it seems far too easy to ignore, even though they are intrinsic to food webs and nutrient cycling in every cubic inch of land. Research by the British Trust for Ornithology, yet to be published but presented to a major conference in Edinburgh this week, pieced together more than 100 local studies from the last 90 years. They estimate that earthworm abundance declined by 33%-41% in the last 25 years, the greatest losses on enclosed farmland and in broad-leaved woodland. Earthworms feature in the diet of many birds, from thrushes to at-risk waders such as Curlews and Lapwings. If worms are in trouble, so too could other creatures such as beetles and fly larvae that are eaten by Choughs and Starlings.
It’s hoped that the assessment will lead to greater understanding of the effects of land management activities on soil invertebrates, since it’s in everyone’s interest for the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme to ensure we look after what we stand on.
If you’re heading out in search of birds over Christmas, a Long-tailed Duck was off Criccieth promenade on Sunday, 10 Goosanders on Rhyl’s Brickfields nature reserve and 17 on the Inland Sea at Four Mile Bridge. Three Surf Scoters off Llysfaen will be hard to locate in this week’s unsettled weather, but easier is a Great White Egret on fields at Glan Conwy. A Yellow-browed Warbler was among a flock of tits at Tesco in Llandudno Junction and Snow Buntings at Uwchmynydd and Horton’s Nose, the shingle ridge where the Clwyd estuary meets the sea at Kinmel Bay. The latter site also hosted a Black Redstart, with others at Rhoscolyn, the Gadlys Hotel near Cemaes Bay and Aberdaron churchyard.
A weekly update of bird sightings and news from North Wales, published in The Daily Post every Thursday.