It’s dire in the countryside now, but probably only those living in the rural community really understand what’s happened. At any time of the year now, I can walk along Gower lanes, through woodlands, or visit Oxwich marsh and find very few small birds. I’m old enough to remember hedgerows alive with bird song, the loud buzz of insects, and myriads of butterflies in wild flower meadows. Feeding birds in our gardens has become the norm, providing tiny refuges away from a progressively sanitised world. I suspect that the majority of city dwellers are not aware of the hush that’s gradually spread into rural life.
It’s crept up on us, and there are many reasons for this demise. Pesticides, fragmentation of good wildlife habitats and the like, but at the end of the day it all boils down to big business and farming practices. I’ve heard it said that we’re lucky on Gower, we don’t have the prairies, which cover large areas of England, and we have our commons and cliffs, but in reality wildlife on Gower is nothing like it used to be.
I’m reminded of this once again as I walk the familiar cliff path between Caswell and Langland. The cliffs are eerily devoid of birds, no once-familiar stonechats, linnets, or greenfinches. A couple of rock pipits call from amongst the rocks down on the shore, and I get excited at a robin and a dunnock by the path. At Langland Bay, I’m depressed to realise that, apart from a few gulls and feral pigeons, these were the only birds I encountered along the entire mile or so of cliff path.