The Song thrush is becoming a bird of increasing concern to conservationists, as numbers have dropped dramatically since the 1970’s, as shown by the CBC (Common Birds Census) and BBS (Breeding Bird Survey).
As a result, churchyards and burial grounds, together with gardens, are becoming havens for Song thrush, along with other endangered species such as bumble bees. The charity Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) promotes the conservation of churchyards and burial grounds for exactly this reason because whilst they are places for quiet reflection, they are also areas where nature can thrive untouched.
A recent survey of a Shropshire cemetery, local to CfGA, by Colin Wright, one of the vice presidents for the Shropshire Ornithological Society (SOS), has established that there are Song thrush present.
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) research suggests the limited numbers of juvenile Song thrush surviving their first winter may be the cause of the drop in population. But why are they struggling? The decline has been greatest in areas where there has been damage to the hedgerow habitats and food sources. Therefore, churchyards are a welcome retreat for Song thrush, as there is a rich source of food, such as snails and fruit, and sheltered habitats.
To see if you can spot a Song thrush in your local churchyard or cemetery, you can distinguish it from the Mistle thrush by it’s “rich brown upperparts, smaller breast spotting and smaller size” (BTO).
By Stephanie James, Caring for God’s Acre.
There are over 12,000 burial grounds across England and Wales and it is well documented that they are a rich source of wildlife, often functioning as a sanctuary for flora and fauna which are rare and endangered elsewhere in the U.K. From song thrushes and swifts to hedgehogs, newts and slow worms, the biodiversity of these areas also encompasses species of international importance, for instance, Yew trees and bumblebees. They are also important for their historic man-made structures such as monuments and memorials, boundary walls, lychgates, preaching crosses and mausalea. This varied interest makes them ideal places for learning and for community activity such as practical conservation work and recording of the stonework and wildlife habitats. Caring for God’s Acre produces a special Churchyard and Burial Ground Action pack full of useful information on a wide range of topics to help people with their local sites. The pack can be downloaded from the website free of charge or purchased as a pack from Caring for God’s Acre.
Editors' note - For further information contact Stephanie James, Caring for God's Acre, 11 Drover's House, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY9 5DF. Tel: 01588 673041.