Partridges by G R Potts
ISBN - 978-0-00-741870-1 [hardback] ISBN – 978-0-00-741870-8 [softback]
Published by Collins [New Naturalists series]
Pages – 480, Published in October 2012, Price - £50 [hardback] and £30 [Softback]
This is another great addition to the New Naturalist series standing in at number 121. The title of this book may not excite everyone in the bird world but the sub title is ‘Countryside Barometer’ which the book definitely is. Starting with the fact that the Grey Partridge has fallen from 75 million pairs in Europe to 3 million may actually make you want to read the book and find out ‘why? The main gain in the population has been thousands of years of agriculture but that same agriculture with the event of mass spraying of herbs and insects has created this massive crash. The book is not just about our native Grey Partridge but also the Red legged Partridge and the Chukar.
Dick Potts is from a farming background being brought up in Yorkshire. He soon started on his love for partridges which led him to work with the Game Conservancy progressing up to became the Director General. He was also the Chairman of the World Pheasant Association and Vice president of the British Ornithologist’s Union where he was awarded the Godman-Salvin medal for an individual as a signal honour for distinguished ornithological work in 1999.
With such a massive crash of the population of Grey Partridge the British figures are from ½ million to 60,000 pairs in just under 30 years. It is not long before the remaining birds need protecting not only by habitat management but predator control on shooting estates. Dick is very keen on the ‘top predators’ and there is a fantastic piece about the effects of Eagle Owls on Goshawks and Buzzards. Sadly the mammal top predators are long gone from many areas so the word ‘game keeper’ comes into the book acting out that role. High level Stewardship seems to be the way forward in this country and for a similar Europe scheme. Given that 11 other red listed farmland birds are also protected by this method of land management along with countless rare plants and insects you would hope the money will keep on flowing. But some how I doubt that will be the case.
Some amazing facts coming out of the book include the grassland habitat in the USA - rope dragging produced 21 Grey partridge nests but 112 nests of Northern Harrier indicating how hard Grey partridge nests were to find even when they were far commoner than the harriers. 90,000 Roe Deer killed by silage mowing in Germany every year. How many partridge destroyed! Loss of rabbits increased predation on partridge. Reduction of badgers increased hedgehogs that then predated the partridge nests. Between 1705 and 1800, 600,000 Birds of prey removed in Germany resulting in no overall decline in BOPs! As you see there is plenty for everybody in this book. Well worth reading.