Cockney News

To: "knightl" <>, "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: Cockney News
From: "Penelope Drake-Brockman" <>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 21:27:55 +1100
Re: the flight of House Sparrows from Central London, I lived there from
1956 to 1983. When I first arrived, there were still many bomb sites covered
in shrubs, grasses and herbs, such as buddlia, nettles, brambles, syringa.
These were an eden for small birds. Buildings that had survived the bombing
were unpainted, often dilapidated and their gardens overgrown. As the years
went by, Central London became more and more tidy. Bomb sites were built
over, usually leaving no garden areas, garden squares and parks were tidied
up with shrubberies cleared (partly as a precaution against robbery and
partly because of the advent of motorised or electrical garden equipment
which made it easier to do.

I lived for 11 years in Little Venice, north of Paddington. The house
besides ours had a huge Russian Vine climbing up the back wall to the 4th
floor. This was full of House Sparrows. The tenants left, the owners had the
place modernised and cleaned up, including the vine, and the sparrows were

I really think it is the loss of habitat which is to blame, which means
people are to blame. It applies to the English countryside as well - hedges
removed or now machine cut too close so that the dead leaves that used to
remain on the shrubs until spring, are removed, leaving the creatures that
sheltered in them exposed to predators and the elements. Arable fields
ploughed to within a foot or so of the fence or hedge, instead of the yard
or more as was the case earlier. And the excessive use of pesticides and
other chemicals. I find this so obvious I can't see why they are still
surprised at the decline - you just have to look around you. To say that no
one knows the reason is just avoiding the responsibility. If we were honest
with ourselves, we would admit it is us with our concreting over of our city
centres and tidying up of every square inch, and not have to hide behind yet
another survey.

It is happening here in Australia in our city centres and suburbs with
obsessive mowing of every inch of grass throughout parks, or half acre or
100 acre blocks. Whipper snipping around the trunks, everything swept away
and just short grass and tall trees and, if you are lucky, a few isolated
shrubs. A haven for Noisy Miners, Pied Currawongs and Common Mynas that
drive out the little birds, not counting of course the foxes, dogs and cats,
feral or otherwise.

Centennial Park has in the time I have walked it (1984 - 2002) carried out a
fair amount of native planting and left areas of grass to grow wild - where
one can usually find Red-browed Finches, New Holland Honeyeaters and
thornbills,amongst others. This is a step in the right direction, I wish
more could be done by private individuals who build on large blocks around
the perimeter of Sydney.

The plea is, leave some messy bits in your back yard for the little birds to
forage and shelter in. I'm doing it in my new place but so far (been here 3
months) have only achieved a clearing up of exotics planted around an
expanse of central grass, but eventually my new plantings of native trees
and shrubs will become a nice mess of vegetation for the wrens, thornbills,

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