Blog about animals
Selected the best cow in Germany
Fishing ban proposed near Rockall after rare scientific finds
Life and death on the riverbank
Baboon shot dead after escaping from Knowsley Safari Park
Birdwatch: Peregrine falcon
Iceland's fin whales are endangered. Stop this bloody cull
The pitfalls of elderly dog insurance
Valley where Edward Carpenter, gay rights campaigner and socialist, walked
Green groups warn government of national parks hunting backlash
Demand for ivory destabilising central Africa
Dog walker found neighbour trampled by cows, inquest hears
Cat stands for election in Mexican city
I hear some hip cat's running for mayor in Mexico. That gives me an idea
Wader chick fever grips birds and spotters alike
Philippines destroys five tonnes of elephant tusks
The Dwyfor is surely one of the loveliest of Welsh rivers
New to nature No 107: Typhochlaena costae
How to beat the midges this summer
Controversial herring gull cull gets green light
Whaling's day in court is a sea change for conservation
Australia censures Japan for 'scientific' whaling
The young red deer stags were on their hind legs boxing, just like hares
Our garden's blackbirds started their nest-building early this year
UK wildlife and nature hit hard by erratic weather
  Birdwatch: Corn bunting
It looks like a sparrow on steroids, or a skylark that needs to go on a diet. Its best-known country name, 'fat bird of the barley', reflects its corpulent appearance and preference for arable crops. And, especially when heard at a distance, it sounds uncannily like someone shaking a bunch of keys.

The corn bunting, as its name suggests, has been living alongside us for at least five thousand years, ever since our Neolithic ancestors first cleared the forests to farm the land. It is not a showy bird, like the yellowhammer; nor is it celebrated for its extraordinary song like the skylark. So perhaps we have rather taken the corn bunting for granted.

But if I go to look for this bird in my home county of Somerset, I cannot find it. One is occasionally seen, each winter, on a specially planted seed crop for farmland birds. The others have, quite simply, vanished.

The reason is simple, and so obvious that even the most obtuse politician should be able to grasp it. If we treat the countryside as a food factory, with no regard for the needs of the wild creatures that live there, then we must be prepared to accept the consequences.

In this case, the consequences are that this unassuming bird so rooted in our farming heritage that it was named after our crops is rapidly disappearing from much of rural Britain.

What more proof do our decision-makers want that industrial farming methods are incompatible with nature? How many more studies, working parties, committees and surveys do we need? And of course the corn bunting is just one of many birds and mammals, and countless insects and wild flowers, to find that their traditional home has become a sterile, wildlife-free zone.

There is one small glimmer of hope. I recently heard the corn bunting's song on the Cholderton Estate, an organic farm on the border between Hampshire and Wiltshire, and also a few miles to the north on the Marlborough Downs.

Both these locations are filled with birdsong not just the common farmland species, but also those most under threat, including tree sparrows and yellowhammers as well as corn buntings.

These farmers have shown that by working the land in a way that takes nature into account, you can have a wealth of wildlife and still make a profit. Is it too much to hope that those who make decisions about our countryside that motley coalition of landowners, politicians and rural pressure groups could find out how they are managing to balance nature with food production, and do the same elsewhere in rural Britain?

If they cannot do so and soon I fear that the corn bunting's jangling song will soon go the way of the horse-drawn plough, and become a mere footnote in our rural history. And that, in an often overused word, would be a real tragedy.
'Wild' animals in travelling circuses benefit no one
The intoxicated world of the spotted flycatcher
Fishing quotas can be redistributed to favour smaller vessels high court
Madagascar battling worst locust plague since 1950s
A broody sparrow meets his match
Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt
The weird and wonderful world of the naked mole rat
Australian woman seriously injured during Spanish bull run
Spain's endangered Iberian lynx brought back from brink of extinction
One man and his sniffer dog help tackle Germany's hidden drug problem
The hotel that only takes dogs
T rex tooth found embedded in prey, restoring dinosaur's reputation
Bog cotton covers the summer Peak District moors in snow
Lifelike after death: the intricacies of a taxidermist's craft
The six-spot burnet moths complete their transformation
Research on animals in UK rises by 8% to exceed 4m procedures
Animal testing it's time to talk about it again
A pair of lithe animals are tumbling across the grass within feet of me
New to nature no 109: Anochetus hohenbergiae
England's ceremonial mayors eschew fur to support animal rights
Birdwatch: Corn bunting
Madrid declares war on plague of raccoon and parrot invaders
Snow leopards and wild yaks becoming 'fashion victims'
Horn seizure prompts rhinos warning
Threatened seabirds 'neglected' in plans for Scottish marine protected areas
Los Angeles campgrounds closed after plague-infected squirrel found
Only when I look down at the last second do I see it. I recoil instinctively
China's wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers
Let's not martyr the white-throated needletail to the anti-wind cause
Grasshopper breeder up for design award and educating western palates
Spanish national park could lose Unesco status over illegal boreholes
Dog mauls boy at primary school in Northern Ireland
Our dog walks are punctuated by the corn bunting's jingling ringtone
End in sight for painful branding of semi-wild moorland ponies
New to nature No 108: Carlia decora
Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat
Measuring carbon age in ivory could help combat poaching, study shows
How to survive a seagull attack
A walk by the river triggers memories of a bygone age
Whales flee from military sonar leading to mass strandings, research shows
Down among the grass stems, a ball of recently hatched orb-web spiderlings
Owen Paterson vows to rid England of bovine TB with badger culls
Gassing of badgers considered in plan to eradicate TB in cattle
Visitors to the Pamplona bull run have blood on their hands
Bats: they've never had it so good
These dew ponds have been on the Downs possibly since medieval times
Australian bushman claims to have footage of legendary night parrot
Secret badger shoots pose 'a risk to public safety'
Cheshire police seize dog believed to have killed Pomeranian
Whale watching season is back - but how close is too close?
Plan to ban wild animals in travelling circuses 'goes too far'
Morrissey donates Channel 4 payout to Peta campaign against foie gras
Visit Statistics