• Christopher Mounsey

Tying bean canes

Some jobs machines just can't do.

As the beans start to grow, each plant needs a cane for support. And each cane needs tying to others for support. Not fun in the baking June sun. Especially when you've got acres of fields.

The plastic rope is strong but course. Tie more than half a dozen and your skin will tear. When you have to tie thousands, some protection is needed.

And as is so often the case, the fearless red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) is easy to photograph, unperturbed by human presence and noise. Perched on a nearby cane, he looks out for his next meal. Once it catches an insect, it takes it back to a 'store room', where they are impaled on a thorn or branch.

From the IUCN Red List

In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 7,440,000-14,300,000 pairs, which equates to 14,900,000-28,600,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.60% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 24,800,000-47,700,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. Trend Justification: The population is estimated to be declining overall following a dramatic decline in the west and north-east of its breeding range from 1970 to 1990 at least (Harris and Franklin 2000). However in Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 show that the population is stable (EBCC 2015).

Threats: Declines are probably due mainly to the loss and fragmentation of habitat resulting from afforestation and agricultural intensification, and the increased use of pesticides causing loss of food resources (Yosef et al. 2012). The heavy application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer causing the earlier and denser growth of vegetation may also be a threat (Tucker and Heath 1994). In northern and western edges of range, its breeding is affected by cooler, wetter summers (Yosef et al. 2012).

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