HEARD a cuckoo this spring? Few people in the Yorkshire Dales have and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds issued a possible explanation: cuckoo numbers have slumped so far that it has been placed on their “red list” of species in danger of extinction.
Also on the ,list are two other birds once common in North Yorkshire, the plover – known as the “peewit” for its distinctive call – and the yellow wagtail, once a ever-present resident of Dales hay meadows.
Since most farmer stopped making hay in favour of easier-to-handle silage, hay meadows have become a rarity and the bird has virtually disappeared. Yorkshire Dales national park authorities launched a programme to save it some years ago ands there are grants available to encourage the re-introduction of hay meadows.
Silage, although less labour intensive than hay and easier to store for winter fodder, has another environmental flaw: effluent from silage clamps is one of the most devastating of all water pollutants, containing high levels of toxic chemicals like ammonia which can be fatal to fish and the marine life they feed on.