The Bay’s beautiful bunting

Cirl bunting

Cirl bunting - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As I wrote in an earlier piece, one of my favourite haunts around the Bay, is the majestic Berry Head.

I first visited it, many years ago, in the hope of witnessing a very rare and special little bird - the cirl bunting.

Our area is one of the best places in the UK to view this exquisite bird, a charming relative of yet another declining species, the Yellowhammer.

In spring and summer the male cirl buntings are particularly distinctive with their bright yellow heads, black chin, eye stripe and crown.

The bird was once quite widespread throughout the South of England but changes in farming practices led to catastrophic declines in numbers.

Now it is mainly confined to a number of areas along the South Devon coast and in South Cornwall, where it had all but vanished in the 1990s.

In a time of depressing species losses, the success story of the cirl bunting certainly gives us all hope for the future.

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It's a fantastic example of what can be achieved by conservation organisations working hand in hand with the people who really know and love the British countryside – our incredible farmers.

One of the organisations at the very forefront of saving the cirl bunting was Paignton Zoo. It deployed its world-leading avicultural skills and played a pivotal role in re-introducing this bird back to Cornwall.

A number of commentators have, after recent events - which ironically saw many of our zoos' existence threatened with extinction - stated that zoos should be allowed to close, be consigned to history, and that animals should be left in the wild.

Clearly ignoring the fact that, due to the staggering growth of our own highly destructive species, much of the 'wild' no longer exists.

Zoos are modern day arks, valuable repositories where species can be preserved until mankind finally learns how to respect our natural world.

Zoos aren't all about the large, headline-grabbing exotic species like lions, tigers and elephants; Paignton Zoo's cirl bunting conservation project perfectly illustrates the incredible work they do much closer to home and proves why good zoos need to be cherished and valued.