It's wrong to pass buck on collapse in bird numbers
Winter and the early months of spring are tough times for our farmland birds. Along with the resident population, we have many thousands of migrants that arrive here from mainland Europe to spend the winter and all are competing for increasingly scarce food.
As I write this it is snowing but the reasons for a scarcity of food are many. The decrease in wild meadows, hedgerows, uncut field margins and wetlands are big factors.
We all can, and should, help our birds survive and for that reason I was very disappointed to see how unhelpful the IFA was in a press release they issued last autumn in response to a survey outlining the huge fall in songbird numbers.
The survey I referred to on farmland bird numbers published by BirdWatch Ireland told of a catastrophic decline, with the numbers of some species falling by more than 50pc.
Undoubtedly, changes in farming practice are partly responsible, but the IFA's Tom Turley blamed the actions of environmental groups rather than IFA members.
"If the bird population is dropping, it's not down to changes in farming practice. Ninety percent of Irish farmland is in permanent grassland and this has not changed over the past 20 years, which totally undermines the BirdWatch claims. The impact of increasingly cold winters and the re-introduction of birds of prey are factors BirdWatch have failed to take in to account," said Mr Turley.
In other words, it's all someone else's fault. Indeed, it's nice to know where the IFA stands on the re-introduction of former native species and amusing to see how they blithely ignore the facts. Nowadays we have monocultures of ryegrass, heavily fertilised and the formerly common 'weed' species that provide so much food for insects and birds are sprayed out of existence.
As a farmer and lifetime member of the IFA, I strongly object to my representatives taking such a 'head in the sand' approach to this serious issue. Surely we can do better than making constant demands concerning our own self interest and, instead, try to show the rest of the community how the landowners of Ireland take their responsibilities seriously.