I’m currently reading the third volume of the Ladybird Book of British Birds and their nests from the 1950s.
Times have changed:
“You must know the House-Sparrow very well already, for it is a very common bird both in town and country, and is never found far away from buildings and cultivated land.”
How wrong can you be? You just need to check out Facebook bird groups every day to find someone asking what sort of bird is shown in their blurry garden photo to realise many people don’t recognise the House Sparrow.
According to the RSPB:
“House sparrow numbers were not monitored adequately before the mid-1970s. Since then, numbers in rural England have nearly halved while numbers in towns and cities have declined by 60 per cent. Because of these large population declines, the house sparrow is now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern.”
House Sparrows must have been very rare birds before humans and houses. They became super-abundant as colonial travel spread them throughout the world. Now they’re at risk from changes in agriculture and building. The human population has doubled since the 1970s. That’s putting immense pressure on the natural world.
Here’s a female glimpsed through the fresh leaves of a Hawthorn in May:
And here’s a beautiful male.
This pair are nesting below the roof of a metal industrial building.
My view is that House Sparrows are a gateway drug to hardcore conservation:
Here are my childhood nature notebooks:
The look on their faces still makes me smile.
And here’s my attempt at art as a twelve year old, with the concrete path down the back yard of our Oldham terrace and a beautiful dandelion:
We need other 12 year olds to be similarly inspired if the natural world is to have a chance of prospering in the next fifty years.