The birds of the forest fill the emptied Catalonia | Catalonia

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The song of the nightingale is heard today louder than the noise of the tractor. The wild fauna of the sky makes its way where the human leaves the ancestral tools and farmlands.

The birds that inhabit forests have increased in Catalonia in the last 40 years, according to the last and third Atlas of nesting birds of Catalonia, which in general terms reveals the resistance of poultry fauna to the challenges of climate change. Experts attribute the expansion of birds among pines, firs and oaks to the progressive abandonment of the agricultural sector, which has led to a spectacular increase in the forest mass in the community. Today, 70% of Catalan territory is forest. In contrast, birds in rivers and humid areas, such as in the Ebro delta, suffer a decline due to the effects of storms and the presence of invasive species, among others.

Today, in Catalonia 233 species of birds habitually nest, 17 more than 40 years ago. Although among the 17 new ones there are also 8 exotics. It is estimated that there are between 8 and 12 million pairs of birds that breed each year. The sparrow continues to be the most abundant, with just under 900,000 breeding birds, all of which and its population has been in decline in recent years. It is followed by the little green, the European robin and the nightingale. On the other side of the coin are the ricotta lark, the harrier or the chick, with less than 10 breeding pairs.

Gaig blau, a species with few breeding pairs.
Gaig blau, a species with few breeding pairs.

What follows next is a classification by types of birds, their status and the environment they inhabit (forests, cities, rivers …), from the atlas, prepared by the Institut Català d’Ornitologia with data collected between 2015 and 2019 by almost 1,300 ornithologists and research from the European Bird Census Council, CREAF and the Center de Ciència i Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya, the CTFFC. The Atlas has been promoted by a challenge promoted by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona Zoo:

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More singing in the forest.

The winning birds in these four decades are forest birds. “As people leave the countryside, little by little the forest has been gaining ground, so there has been a colonization of what used to be agricultural spaces,” explains Sergi Herrando, general director of the Atlas and researcher at the ICO, CREAF and the European Bird Census Council. This is the case of the booted eagle or the lesser beak, which was very rare 40 years ago and has now undergone a spectacular expansion. Others, more linked to dry forests, such as the papialbo mosquito net have also been favored by the drier conditions brought about by climate change.

On the contrary, the losers due to the progressive disappearance of farmland have been the owls, the gray shrike (executioner) or the forest turtle doves, which have seen their population reduced. The reason, Herrando says, is also due to the transformation of the agricultural mosaic: today more characterized by monoculture.

Exodus and invasion of the city

The abandonment of the countryside by the city is also a matter of birds. Some of the conclusions of the atlas is that nowadays in the city birds are seen that before were not observed so much or were non-existent. This is the case of the Turkish turtle dove, which in the first atlas of the eighties was practically anecdotal and today it is very easy to see in places like Barcelona. Or the wood pigeon lungs ), a species “mainly forest but that over time has adapted and become accustomed to looking for food in the city,” says Herrando, who also emphasizes that this exodus to the city is a consequence of problems in other places.

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An example is the endangered Corsican or Audouin’s gull, which for years has been nesting and has become used to nesting among cranes and ships in the Port of Barcelona. The reason is that it flees from the Ebro delta, once the most important colony in the Mediterranean but where now its eggs are eaten by foxes. The corsa is an example of birds that have arrived by their own foot, or rather, by their own wings, to the city, to the city. This is not the case with invaders such as the noisy parrot, which has become strong in Barcelona.

Flamingos resist the storm. White herons suffer.

The great harmed in these 40 years since the publication of the first atlas of nesting nests in Catalonia are the birds that inhabit rivers and humid areas. This is the case of the white heron or the common redfish, species that noticed a remarkable growth after the declaration of protection of numerous humid areas at the end of the century, and that today are experiencing a regression. In part, due to the effects of storms in areas such as the Ebro delta. “There are species that have literally seen their nesting areas are now under water,” says Herrando.

Reducing the flood period of rice fields to control the spread of an invasive snail also affects them. The flamingos, which have been breeding for years in a single strictly protected colony in the Ebro delta, resist the waves.

The success of the reintroduction.

In Catalonia, between 90 and 110 pairs of lesser kestrel (xoriguer petit) breed. The species disappeared as a nesting ground in the mid-eighties, but the success of a reintroduction program has allowed its return, still under threat. This is also the case of the black vulture, reintroduced in 2007 in the Pyrenees. Herrando values ​​this work, and highlights that the improvement in these decades responds to the creation of natural parks throughout the Mediterranean community.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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