What a waste!

If this stop-start spring is frustrating for us humans, just imagine the affect that it is having on wildlife. Birds that time their nesting activities to match the opening of tree buds must be very confused, as the buds are held in suspended animation waiting for warmer weather. The migrants that came in on the plume of hot air last week surely feel like packing their bags and heading off south again. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs have arrived in good numbers, along with Pied Flycatchers and Barn Swallows, but there is no sign of Wood Warblers, Redstarts or Spotted Flycatchers yet. There was a Cuckoo calling on the League’s wildlife sanctuary on Dartmoor this week, which is great news, but not so good for the unfortunate bird that will raise their young for them.

Flycatcher in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

Covert cameras have caught the nocturnal wanderings of badgers on many of the League’s sanctuaries and any time now the young cubs will appear above ground. Once again foxes are proving to be elusive, with good reason given the level of persecution in the area, but field signs show that they are around and hopefully raising their cubs in secret.

The photo that sanctuaries officer Graham Floyd took of a stag on Baronsdown, with its antlers entwined in silage wrap from a neighbouring farm, was a graphic illustration of the threat that plastic and other litter poses to wildlife. It is not just an issue in the oceans, but also in towns, in cities and in the countryside.

Duly inspired by the image, I set out with a sack and a pair of gloves to pick up the litter on the roadside between the main entrance to Baronsdown and the end of Barlynch Wood, a distance of about 300 metres. It soon became apparent that I had greatly underestimated the size of the problem and one sack quickly became 2 and then 3. The range of litter items was quite staggering too; from masses of plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans, to snack packaging, one old boot and a broken plate. I was intrigued by the back stories behind some of these items. I guessed that some of the litter was accidentally dropped, but more was thoughtlessly discarded, and a small proportion was maliciously dumped. The number of empty alcohol bottles was a big concern, but why would someone drive for 20 minutes before they threw their McDonalds packaging out of the window? What was going through the mind of the person who had ripped a ‘steep drop’ warning sign off a fence and broken it into pieces? Did they object to warning signs in general as a symbol of the nanny state, was it wanton vandalism, or was it just this particular sign that sent them over the edge? Unfortunately, I shall never know the answer to these questions, but for now the roadside is litter free and no wildlife will get accidentally injured or killed by the careless acts of humans.

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