It was certainly brass monkeys weather on the reserve earlier this morning. Under grey skies and in the relentless ENE wind the wind chill was quite severe. It certainly made for very taxing conditions to be standing around in on the seawall and was too much for my old bones and I have to admit, I didn't hang around down there very long, I went home, whereupon blue skies and sunshine broke out!. It certainly didn't encourage any thought of Sand Martins and Wheatears being missed either.
I was interested to read a letter in the Daily Telegraph today from some guy from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. He began by rejoicing in the delights of his favourite British mammal, the Brown Hare, which he then ruined by going on to state how there is no close season for shooting hares because they're classed as an agricultural pest and have been since the 1880 Ground Game Act. He states that hares are shot where they are numerous and damaging crops. I imagine that that Act was introduced when hares were far more abundant than they are now and is probably as out-dated as the thinking behind the need to continue hunting them nowadays.
Anybody who has seen a large area of growing corn reduced to something akin to a bowling green by a nearby colony of rabbits, that sit out in large numbers munching away each day and night, could hardly argue against them being referred to as a pest. But hares - even when abundant, can never be witnessed doing what rabbits do and in such tight numbers, a nibble here and a nibble there, yes, but I challence anybody to show me anything that resembles damage warranting being classed a pest like the rabbit.
Finally, on the subject of rabbits, they too, as a result of both virus and pest controls, have gone down severely in numbers on Harty in my opinion. Too often these days people see a few rabbits out there and go away stating that there are hundreds about, believe me, as somebody that walks a lot of that area, there aren't anywhere near the numbers that there used to be. I have video footage taken on the reserve one summer's evening about fifteen years ago, that shows just one of the salt-working mounds there, covered in around four hundred-plus rabbits. That used to be repeated across the reserve and surrounding farmland to create consistant numbers of many, many thousands of rabbits, including the reserve's speciality jet black ones. On a recent walk round the reserve I found around fifty!
A good or a bad thing, there will probably be many views from both sides and Land managers would probably consider that a job well done, especially bearing in mind their legal responsibilities in respect of rabbit damage and controls. Me I'm not so sure, I think that they form a vital part of a nature reserve, if only as part of the food chain for other species and to reduce them to such low numbers, or eradicate them all together, would lose the reserve part of its long-term heritage.