by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The starling is a familiar visitor to a number of different gardens in Britain; with its chirpy song and glossy green-purple coat. In fact, starlings often tend to overwinter in the south of the country even rather than, unlike their cousins elsewhere in Europe, traveling to North Africa.
However, recent figures show that the amount of starlings in UK gardens over the last 25 years has fallen by 80%. The startling figures have lead to the RSPB launching an investigation into why the decline of those birds is so high.
It is thought that one reason is that there has been a change in the soil which has affected the insects they feed on and has lead to them going elsewhere for a fresh source of food. In the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979 the amount of starlings seen in a garden was 15, this year that number had dropped significantly to 3 per garden.
The change in soil, and I am going to stick my head out here, is more than likely due to our farming practices, and the overuse of chemicals on the farms and even in our gardens. Instead of putting manure into the ground too many rely on Grow-More and other such chemical plant foods which change the composition of the soil.
The numbers of starlings are also decreasing across the rest of Northern Europe and it’s thanks to these figures that the starling is now listed as a bird of high conservation concern.
However, it is not all bad news as other figures from the Big Garden Birdwatch show that the more colorful goldfinches are coming to gardens more often.
The loss of the starling population, however, should concern us as it may be a sign of soil health, or the lack of it, and this could be also something that the gardener and farmer needs to be aware of.
I would suggest that it is time that we went back to some older methods of farming and gardening and that manure and compost needs to be put into the soil rather than all those chemical fertilizers and plant foods.
Soil needs organic matter and this organic matter needs to be replenished on a regular basis. And it is not just that but soil needs organic matter than is also capable of aerating it.