French birds ‘moving northwards’

Anyone who’s lived in London over the last decade will confirm this news story about the increase in foreign birds:

“French birds are moving northwards in response to climate change, but not fast enough, scientists have found.”

It’s certainly true that French birds tend to slow down a bit when moving northwards; often they get stuck around London, with Bute St being their favourite roost. No arguing with this paragraph.

“Their data came from a large survey in which volunteers counted more than 105 species of bird.”

105 species? Yeah, that sounds about right too. London is full of foreign birds: not only French, but Scandinavian, Polish, Czech, and Russian. They’re everywhere!

“In the Royal Society journal Proceedings B, researchers say that the birds are lagging some 182km behind the increases in temperature.”

Hmmm, well it’s cold up north, and these birds generally prefer to nest in the warmer areas of Kensington and Chelsea. Maybe they just like the atmosphere there enough to stick around all winter, although most of them seem pretty keen to fly off to warmer climes if the offer’s there.

“This lag may be of particular concern to rare birds or species that have very specific food requirements.”

Right again: foreign birds aren’t particularly rare in London, but you do sometimes see ones that stand out from the flock, and whose food requirements are indeed extremely strict, often limited to the Ivy or an occasional Fat Duck. I’ve got a pal whose Polish girlfriend says how difficult it is to get decent sausage in Fulham.

” “The flora and fauna around us are shifting over time due to climate change,” said Vincent Devictor, who led the research project from the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris.”

Well, he’d know – with a name like ‘Vincent the Victor’ he’s the preferred nesting mate of many of London’s foreign birds: the name practically confirms ownership of an SLK at least. And while the increase in foreign birds in London seems permanent, few would refuse a quick trip to Paris and a look round the museums.

“The result is desynchronisation. If birds and the insects on which they depend do not react in the same way, we are headed for an upheaval in the interaction between species,” he told the AFP news agency.

True again. I feel pretty ‘desynchronised’ with most of London’s foreign birds, and the way they react to me is indeed different to ten years ago. I’ve found that quite an upheaval, indeed, with a big effect in my interactions with these species.

“Ben Sheldon from Oxford University, who also studies nature’s response to rising temperatures, commented: “At any one site, the community of birds you find there has changed over time.”

Well, an Oxford man would know. When the heat’s on, the birds congregate at specific sites, but the community definitely changes over time – take Chinawhite, for example. Once it was inhabited by rare and beautiful birds; now it’s all common Eastern European species with fake plumage.

“A recent study of great tits in England found they were coping well with rising temperatures, changing their egg-laying times in order to adapt to the earlier emergence of prey.”

Some guys get all the best jobs. The temperatures in London this summer haven’t really been high enough for those tits to emerge in their full glory, though, however early the guys go out to view them.

“The French team suggests more research on the issue is vital if better conservation options are to be developed.”

A sentiment with which I heartily concur. Let’s hear it for foreign birds!

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