Oxford

Oxfordshire bird recorder says farm birds 'in decline'

Pallas's warbler
Image caption Mr Lewington has been all over the world illustrating birds like this pallas's warbler

Oxfordshire's official bird recorder has told the BBC that the county's farming birds are in decline.

Ian Lewington, who describes himself as a receptacle for bird sighting, receives about 1,500 records a month from bird watchers in the county.

He said birds were a barometer for health of the environment and that the small sparrow and finch-like birds were being lost.

"Buntings and tree sparrows, they're all declining," he added.

Mr Lewington, whose role is a voluntary position appointed by the Oxford Ornithological Society, attributes much of the decline to modern "neat farming techniques".

"Practices like winter wheat are possibly one of the reasons for the declines of lap wings which are ground nesters," he said.

But the ornithologist, who was inspired to take up a career watching birds by his father and brother who were also keen natural historians, says there have been some gains.

"Little egrets, 20 years ago that would be a major rarity but now they breed in the county," he said.

Mr Lewington has worked as a bird illustrator all over the world since winning the title of British Bird Illustrator of the year in 1985.

"In those days it was a very prestigious competition and I got so much publicity from it I haven't looked for work since," he said.

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