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Climate change is for the birds

08 May 2024 | News Roundup

In a moment of uncharacteristic enthusiasm Scientific American forgot the iron rule that climate change ruins everything and blurted out “We Are in the Golden Age of Bird-Watching/ There has never been a better time to be or become a birder”. How can it be? Isn’t global warming killing everything nice, including migratory birds? Yet now a mere eyewitness says “one of nature’s greatest spectacles is unfolding: the migration of billions of birds to their breeding grounds. They’ve spent the winter in balmier locales to the south, getting fat on insects, seeds, fruits and aquatic plants and prey. Now they’re winging their way north to establish territories, find mates and raise their young” as it, uh, gets warmer and balmier and more life-friendly. But not to worry. Climate doom is never more than a few paragraphs away.

Or a few clicks. Thus we note that something called Nature Canada declares “Migratory birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change effects, because they depend on multiple habitats and sites.” And urges us to “Enjoy Nature” before telling us the thing’s a flaming wreck in which:

“ * Climate change is now affecting bird species’ behaviour, ranges and population dynamics;
* Some bird species are already experiencing negative impacts; and
* In the future, climate change will put large numbers of birds at risk of extinction.”

A Google search will yield endless variations on this theme. Like “UK migratory birds ‘in freefall’ over climate change | WION Climate Tracker”. And Canada’s state propaganda outfit the CBC sobs that:

“Climate change is impacting bird migration patterns. Here’s what we know/ ‘Birds are like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, telling us about climate change and its impact’”.

And here you thought all that chirping was mating calls and signals about food sources.

But back to the exuberance. Our initial response to Scientific American news item was joy at the abundance of nature and a vague FOMO because we are not ourselves birdwatchers. Author Kate Wong writes that:

“Before 2020 I had no interest whatsoever in this avian extravaganza. I barely registered its existence. I knew only a few of the birds that show up regularly in my yard – Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee. Gulls were just ‘seagulls’; terns were just terns.”

And yes, the Seagull Fanciers’ Club may be able to hold its meetings in a small room, with everyone holding tight to their snacks. What changed it all for her was the pandemic, so evidently higher tap limits on credit cards weren’t its only positive effect. Rather:

“I started watching the birds in my yard out of sheer boredom, using the Merlin bird identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to figure out which species were visiting my feeder and recording my observations in the eBird online database, which helps me keep track of the species I’ve seen and supports scientific research.”

OK. A possible warning sign there that you are a nerd. But if so, good choice of nerdery:

“Four years on, I have a full-fledged case of birding fever. I’ve driven to Maine at 2 A.M. on New Year’s Day to see a Steller’s Sea-Eagle, sat in mud and chiggers for three days waiting for a Fan-tailed Warbler in Texas (and missed it), sustained legions of bloodsucking mosquitoes and sand flies while searching for a Crescent-chested Puffbird in Brazil and logged countless hours prowling an urban cemetery near the town where I live that I suspect has the potential to attract some great birds.”

Which sure sounds better than curling up under the bed in a state of paralysed ecodepression. She goes on to describe her delirious worldwide chasing of the Island Scrub-Jay, the Wrentit, Heerman’s Gull, Allen’s Hummingbird, the Yellow-billed Magpie, the Snowy Plover, the Black-legged Kittiwake and the superbly-named “Elegant Tern.” But, nature will out and soon enough Scientific American is back to form:

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that birds around the world are in a state of dramatic decline because of climate change and habitat loss from human activity. In 2022 researchers estimated that the North American bird population had lost nearly three billion breeding adults since 1970.”

So there it is. Birds are dying off not because of the erection of glass-and-steel skyscrapers along migratory roots, or for that matter giant spinning blades of death across the countryside, no it’s you-know-what. But did man-made climate change really hit in 1970? We know the date moves around a lot, issue by issue and often within issues, whatever is required to link anything bad to man-made climate change. But the problem really looks like habitat loss only partly offset by a mild warming that marginally improves the prospect of “getting fat on insects, seeds, fruits and aquatic plants and prey” before “winging their way north to establish territories, find mates and raise their young” in vast numbers.

So there it is, happy time is over, back to gloom. It’s all climate change all the time so let’s all sob together on cue. Can these monomaniacs never be happy or let anyone else be?

Right in front of you is a bonanza of birds, a source of joy and fun, and then you or your editors suddenly remember that actually it’s all a disaster. It just looks like a cornucopia.

Indeed, as Wong ends the piece: “We’re living in the golden age of birding, and like any good cult member, I’m recruiting people to the cause.” Sounds like a plan. What is that thing at our feeder enjoying the seed we so thoughtfully provide for our fine feathered friends? Oh right. The common vexing squirrel aka Sciurus carolinensis obnox.

6 comments on “Climate change is for the birds”

  1. David Suzuki made a career out of the hysteria behind the premise that everything above the level of stone age hunter gather was destroying the planet and in doing so warped the minds of a couple of generations of Canadians. What he was doing for the CBC, Attenborough and others were doing for the BBC. Don't expect much diversion from that premise from media parrots. Money flows to where hysteria grows.

  2. I'm sorry folks but anybody who boasts that they "sat in mud and chiggers for three days waiting for a Fan-tailed Warbler in Texas (and missed it)" has more than enough screws loose to rattle when they walk!

  3. Climate change means there will be more birds to die when they die from climate change.

    Yes, it’s all bad.

  4. Sitting in the glorious sunshine in UK, listening to an abundance of birdsong. Temperature showing the heady heights of 19 c at present......but , yes, you've guessed it....we're all gonna die.....(apologies to you John for borrowing your phrase)

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