Organic farming: help the birds.

The number of birds decline gradually, including many well known and loved species such as the song thrush, skylark, lapwing and house sparrow. Most of the declining species are farmland birds. This phenomenon has not only happened in the UK, birds in the United States and Canada also have fallen by 29 percent since 1970.

The disappearance of the birds is mainly due to the decline of farmland and the damaged of the ecosystem. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote a book called “Silent Spring” which mentions the harms caused by pesticides. Pesticides effectively help the farmer to protect the crops but it also damaged the environmental balance. However, the problem is still not completely solved after 50 years.

Is it so difficult to promote organic farming? Why has the situation not improved in 50 years? Maybe we need more encouragement and inspiration. Let’s take a look at a story about farmers and a bird in Taiwan.

In winter of 2014, a young lost Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus), arrived in Taiwan unexpectedly. The young male Siberian crane should migrate from Russia to Poyang Lake of China with its flock for the winter. There are only less than 4000 left in the world and is listed as critically endangered (CR), which is very close to extinction in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in the wild and its population is decreasing.  Since Siberian cranes are very precious, conservationists were very concerned about how the crane can grow up safely and fly 6000 miles back to its hometown in Russia.

Map captured from BirdLife International and label by me

To ensure the crane had enough food, the conservationists convinced two  local old farmers to use their farmland as the home for the crane. The old farmer rehabilitated the farm  to bring in water to the farmland for agriculture, in order to ensure the crane had enough food to feed on and provide suitable wet land environment to crane. The farmer worry the food may not be safe to the crane, the area stops to use chemicals to assist farming and start to promote environmentally friendly farming.

Capture from YouTube 小白鶴的報恩預告片(老人與鸛篇)

The local government arranged a  full-time bodyguard to look out for the crane to protect the crane from sightseers who came to visit the bird as they wanted to touch, take photos and be too close to the crane. The bird’s guard also guarded it from feral dogs and typhoons.

Capture from YouTube 小白鶴的報恩預告片(老人與鸛篇)

 The old farmers treated the crane just like grandchildren. On typhoon day, the olds farmers worried about the crane’s safety and the wind was too strong. The crane flew to a train station in the city centre and was captured by government officers and sent to the animal protection shelter. The old farmer was so worried, he was afraid the crane would be sent to a Zoo for the rest of its life. With the help of conservationists and the zoo, the crane was released and finally returned to farmland. As the crane grew up, the crane finally took off on brave wings after 521 days of waiting; to his homeland.

Capture from YouTube 小白鶴的報恩預告片(老人與鸛篇)

The local farmers decided to promote organic farming after the crane left. One year later, the organic farmland area has increased twenty times. It is a beautiful and encouraging story. It also left us one of the most beautiful stories of man and bird. You may take a look at the full version of the video at YouTube 金鐘影片 小白鶴的報恩 中文字幕 精華版.

From the story, we learnt that organic farmland is very important to birds. Organic farming specially brings benefits to the birds by providing food and birds are important predators of insects, which help to protect the crops from damage. That is a win-win situation. In Hong Kong, also have old farmer feeding bird and so happy to see endangered bird, Yellow-breasted Chinchilla, coming back again.

Capture from HK01 and labelled by me

Around 26,000 hectares of agricultural area has declined per year in the UK. The cause include building, transportation infrastructure etc. We, humans, change the farmland and forest for residential areas that is taking away the bird’s homes and their food source. Should we consider how to protect the birds? Not everyone is a farmer. However, we can place a bird feeder in the garden to provide food for them as little compensation.