Farmers and ecologists are replanting hedges to save birds

Freycenet-la-Tour (Haute-Loire)

Knees on the ground, hands in the ground, Ethan focuses on the bush he is planting. The teenager tampers the earth, checks that the roots are firmly planted, and water. Around him, other little hands are busy. One by one, young plants are lined up: wild pear, rosehip, black currant, gooseberry, hawthorn, white service tree. On bare trunks, buds are still waiting for the right moment to hatch. Alternate between a low bush and a tall growing tree »describes Sebastien Notlett, today’s coordinator, project manager at the Bird Conservation Association (BPA).LPO) Haute-Loire. The presence of a low and high density will allow the hedge to serve as a windbreak. »

In mid-April, the sun finally rises on Haute-Loire, a light wind revives its enthusiasm, and a blue sky punctuates some clouds. In the middle of the tree-lined lawns, five young men, aged 16-17, are with their leaders. In school dropouts, they are part of a specific youth support program [1]. In the program, participate in the hedge planting project organized by LPO. Seventy trees, one tree per meter, should be planted at the edge of the local orchard and vegetable garden of Freycenet-la-Tour.

The mulching technique consists of covering the soil with organic, mineral or plastic materials to nourish and protect it. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

Some townspeople also came to lend a hand. Manon Moret, first assistant, grabs a wort: Between the roots and the future stem, you have a collar. When planted, it should be equal to the ground. »

At first, when I was told “Earth, trees”, I felt like it would be difficult »Comments: Leah, 17 years old. But, to save the animals, I am always there. » She retained the main objective of the operation: replanting hedges helps protect the shrike.

Sebastien Notlet, project manager at Haute-Loire University for Bird Protection, explains in detail how to plant shrubs. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

There has been a sharp decline in population since the 1960s, since agriculture began to intensify », sorry for Sebastian Notlett. Shrikes especially like environments in which hedges, orchards and flowery lawns alternate: they nest in trees, standing on the edge of open spaces to hunt insects and mice. Measuring between 17 and 26 cm depending on the species, a black mask over the eyes, a curved beak, the bird resembles a small bird of prey. It is an amazing habit: it overwhelms the tree thorns of its prey. A way to chop them up more easily, or to build a kind of pantry called larder ». It is also a migratory that only comes to our latitudes to live in the spring, with the exception of the gray shrike, which is also present in winter.

But the disappearance of the meadow hedges and trees, and the insects that feed on them, has made it an increasingly rare bird in France. Six species were present until recently in urban France [2]. They are only five since last year. rose cry (lanius minor), no longer nests with us. The next gray shrike might be on the list (Lanius Executor), listed as critically endangered on the French Red List of Threatened Species. The NAP counted just over 1,000 pairs of this species in 2021. 85 % of them live in the center of the massif.

A few Freycenet-la-Tour residents came to lend a helping hand to the site. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

So the aura area is on the front line to conserve the shrike. The LPO Auvergne Rhône-Alpes focuses its work on the three species found on its territory: the gray shrike, the red-headed shrike (Senator Lanius) and player (Lanius Colorio). The latter is not yet considered threatened. Her Less Fit Sisters: The gray shrike and the red-headed shrike are experiencing a sharp decline in their numbers, as well as an alarming shrinkage of their ranges »explain LPO. The gray shrike is found almost only in the center of the massif, While nesting almost all over France ». The red-headed shrike, We observe a contraction to the southeast that has been going on for about a century, with an apparent acceleration since the 1960s. »

Dialogue with farmers

In an attempt to stop the retreat, he did LPO Auvergne Rhone Alps has a full programme, first with farmers. Reduce the plastic waste, which you pass to the nests, suffocating the chicks ; Reduce animal pest control treatments Because it is found in cow dung, it kills insects that eat this dung, thus reducing the prey of the shrike. »As Sebastian Notlett says, ; Favor Diverse meadows in terms of their flora, and therefore diversity of insects, and therefore a greater amount of food for birds », continued. Above all, plant trees and hedges in the fields, an essential habitat for them.

Foot in the water, Donnell fills watering cans. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

The LPO Contact farmers and municipalities, provides trees for free, offers the right species for each situation, and organizes the site if the farmer does not plant himself. Here’s how the municipality of Freycenet-la-Tour asked for it. Around us, the landscape is still relatively preserved, the hedges are numerous. But farmers see hedging as a limitation, because it must be preserved »notes Manon Morey, the municipality’s first deputy. Here, we’re totally protected, but this can change quickly. It is important to inform everyone [de l’intérêt des haies]. »

The LPO Subtly highlights the agricultural interest in hedges: windbreaks, animal shade, soil erosion control, shelter for birds of prey and other predatory mice invading fields … shrike is Types of Umbrellas »Sebastian Notlett explains. Conservation measures are being put in place, which benefits many other species that inhabit these agricultural grassland landscapes. This is a good excuse to act more globally for the biodiversity of agricultural environments. »

70 trees should be planted, at the rate of one per meter, on the edge of the municipal orchard and vegetable garden of Freycenet-la-Tour. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

Hedges are a shelter, habitat or place of movement that is safe from predators of many animals. The naturalist lists the birds: European goldfinch, yellow hammer, linnet rakeem, siren sene. They are all deteriorating », He says. Mammals: hedgehog, weasel, seal. Reptiles: boa viper, green lizard. but also Most species of amphibians that spend the winter in a fence or low walls attached to it, such as the common frog, spotted salamander. As for the largest birds, there is also the little owl, which is an owl that can nest in old hedges. »

If we don’t preserve them, they can disappear »

Many species encountered difficulty due to the disappearance of hedges. We moved from two million kilometers of hurdles in the beginning XXᵉ century at 566,000 km in 2006, notes a brief study. This is a decrease of 70 %. The peak of clearing occurred in the 1960s to 1980s, and this has since slowed, and hedge uprooting is now under strict supervision. But there is the unauthorized destruction, urbanization, and aging of hedges »Sebastian Notlet notes. If we don’t replant trees, if we don’t conserve them, they can disappear. » So he modestly participates in this hard work. Since 2020, it has become LPO I planted 4.2 kilometers of hedges in the Haute-Loire in twenty different places. We cannot meet all demands »notice.

After planting, the bushes are fixed with a straw substrate and earth. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

I didn’t think hedging could be so important »Leah admits. Agriculture is advancing rapidly. The second line starts at the edge of the vegetable garden. Motivation in young people weakens. It’s annoying, it’s teasing. Teamwork is what we love ! » Donnell laughs, wearing a blue pyrotechnic business suit. The teenager takes things in his hand, pulls out the hemp to prevent weeds from growing at the foot of young trees. This time, willows are planted: we are at the edge of a stream. I love it because I love farms and green spaces »rejoice. His companion Damien, who leans carelessly on a spade, watches him in action.

Heads are raised, thinking about the work done. Buds are still stuck. You’ll have to come back to see when you slept », Manon Moreh introduces the young band. Before you can observe the shrieks there, it is necessary to be patient: It takes four to five years for the first effects of hedges to appear, and ten to fifteen years for them to achieve all their ecological functions. »says Sebastian Notlett.


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