I find the constant reports of dwindling biodiversity, increasing numbers of creatures at risk of extinction, and the destruction of the environment to build yet another road quite depressing so it’s nice to be able to write about a conservation success story. Though the Cirl bunting was once a common bird throughout southern England and Wales, changes in farming practices meant that its population had plummeted to just 118 pairs in 1989. But, thanks to the RSPB and a small number of supportive organisations, plus environmentally aware farmers and The Countryside Stewardship Scheme (which compensates farmers for making small areas of their land more wildlife-friendly), the Cirl bunting population has increased to at least 862 pairs, and the birds have been reintroduced to an area in Cornwall where they had previously died out.
On a Glamorgan Bird Club trip to England’s south coast last weekend, our group called in at the RSPB’s Labrador Bay reserve, which was created especially for these gorgeous little birds and, despite the freezing cold, strong winds blowing over this stunning coastal site, we were privileged to see three Cirl buntings dotting about in the hedgerows.
You can read more about the Cirl Bunting Project on the RSPB website. Oh and, in case you’re wondering, Cirl is pronounced Sirl, and the word comes from the bird’s Latin name Emberiza cirlus, which, apparently, comes from the Italian zirlare, meaning to chirp. Let’s hope these little birds keep on chirping, and increasing, in the years ahead.