On my daily walk from Waterloo to the office, I used to pass a Pyracantha tree on the corner of Theed Street: nothing remarkable in that, except that it housed hundreds, if not thousands, of increasingly rare sparrows. It was like an avian Shanghai; the chirping of the argumentative little birds filled the air and brought a smile to the passers-by. But, last week, someone cut it down. When I passed, the locals were standing beside the bare stump with a mixture of sadness and horror.

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The tree had defined and brought character to the area. Its thorns gave the sparrows protection from cats and, despite originating in South East Asia and southern Europe, Pyracantha has become their preferred abode. Now, the Theed Street sparrows will have no safety and no home. In truth, a preservation order should have been put on such a special tree.

I hope others will now be issued to protect other sparrows. This brutal attack on some of London’s precious wildlife is being repeated in the countryside, where hedges will continue to be cut despite the birds starting to nest in them. Later, in May, the verges sun-kissed with cow parsley will also be laid to waste by the councils. A little wisdom and common sense could make such a difference.

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