Light Pollution: will reducing it save our birds and improve our driving?

Around 3am this morning I was woken by two things: firstly, the delivery lorries arriving at the shops across the street and secondly a chorus of birdsong that lasted nearly an hour.

Only one of these occurrences is out of the ordinary. It is usual for the shops to have their deliveries in the very early hours, due to the main road they are situated on becoming ridiculously congested from the moment the sun rises to long after it has set. However the local birds performing a cracking rendition of “Chaos in a Large Avery” is not of the norm. looking out of the window I saw that the shops have begun to turn on their external flood lights to welcome the deliveries, despite there being street lamps situated every few meters of the delivery dock. I can only make the connection that this is the reason the birds thought it was (extremely sudden) daylight.

In an ironic turn of events, I found an interesting article on the BBC Environment webpage today, explaining how a survey into garden birds will help to assess the light pollution situation (link at bottom of page). The intention is to have a continuous survey, carried out by the general public, in which people will record which birds they see, what time, how long for and when the birds are nesting among other factors. This will help to build a database that will differ depending on the locale and patterns will emerge. Will city birds stay up later and wake earlier? Will birds in the countryside have better nesting habits?

Light pollution is something that affects us all in some way every day; whether it be that lamppost outside your bedroom window leading to heavier curtains, children being unable to be amazed by the vast numbers of stars twinkling in the sky or simply that from planes areas such as London look like a major explosion in a light-works factory.

What we need to consider though, is how much light do we really need? It’s generally agreed that better lighting makes the streets safer and allows us to continue our lives after the sun has set. However there has to be a point where lighting is merely excessive and turning some off could save energy, reduce carbon and reduce the impact on local wildlife. I’m not just talking about turning off the porch light when you get in, or the kitchen light when you finish making your cup of tea, though.

Since 2011, over 121 miles of motorway lighting has been switched off. I personally find these roads much more nerve wracking to drive on, but it’s true that cars have headlights for a reason and what better place to save on the lighting than a very long, very straight stretch of road? Another consideration is that I find myself concentrating a lot harder on driving in such situations, and I can’t be the only one.

Research into the link between reduced motorway lighting and standards of driving is currently sparse, but with safety concerns being raised over certain stretches of road that have become accident hot-spots since the light switch off perhaps all kinds of research subjects will now commence.

For now I shall simply resolve to check my headlights more often, drive well and keep an eye on the feathery, winged locals.

Here’s the links I’ve been browsing:
Bird Survey:

A local paper highlights residents’ fears: … ime_fears/

Linconshire cost-Cutting makes national news: … e-25642122


Kathy Clements
Kathy Clements
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