by Harry Walton
FOREIGN hunters have decimated songbird numbers at Weymouth’s Radipole and Lodmoor nature reserves.
RSPB staff say that tens of thousands of birds are being illegally trapped or shot on migration route points such as Cyprus and Malta where famous wildlife presenter Chris Packham was recently arrested while highlighting the problem.
The huge impact hunting has on cuckoos, turtle doves, warblers and other migratory birds is having a devastating impact on numbers reaching Weymouth.
Radipole RSPB spokesman Luke Phillips said: “Cuckoos have been wiped out here whereas before we always had several on the reserves while turtle doves, which used to be regular migrants here, are now extremely rare birds.
“Hunting is a major factor in this but not the only cause. Others include loss of habitat which is another key factor.”
He added that the dramatic fall in migrant birds was a serious concern for Weymouth and also for Portland Bird Observatory which keeps detailed records of migratory birds.
PBO figures show that the number of turtle doves they record has crashed from nearly 900 in 1976 to barely a dozen in 2011.