Dawn this morning found me driving along the Harty Road with both the road and the surrounding fields glistening from a severe overnight frost. The sky was just starting to brighten and turn a light blue and along its horizon were those lovely pre-sunrise colours of pink and yellow.
Just as I went past the Raptor Viewing Mound the sky suddenly became full of wave after wave of geese, mainly Whitefronts and Barnacles, as they came out of the dawn sky and began to whiffle down into the fields either side of Elliots farmhouse. That magical clamouring of around a thousand plus geese calls was stunning and without wishing to get too romantic, the whole scene was like a typical Peter Scott painting coming to life.
Euphoric from such a start to the morning I made my way across the reserve to the seawall, to where the first reddening of the sky from the imminent sun was taking place - it was then that my day fell into depression - strung out along the short stretch of saltings in front of the reserve were 15 KWCA wildfowlers. Yes 15, which is more than I've seen on any one morning this whole shooting season and all despite a call by the shooting associations for a Voluntary Restraint on shooting because of the severe weather.
When severe weather is continuous, the shooting associations, in association with weather stations and government bodies, begin a countdown and on the 15th day of continuous severe weather (in this case Thursday 30th) a statutory ban on the shooting of wildfowl will come into place for to 14 days. In the meantime, from Day 7 a call is put out to all wildfowlers to take into consideration local conditions and where severe to show Voluntary Restrain and refrain if necessary from shooting where birds are seen to be weak or will be disturbed into burning up much needed energy flying around, disturbance relating to nearby waders as much as to wildfowl.
Now the whole of Harty is, and has been for some time, completely frozen up, with no free water and extremley limited feeding possibilities, the neighbouring farmers are in some places are putting out corn to attract ducks for shooting purposes, but I hardly expect that this is feeding most of the several thousand ducks that are currently in the eastern Swale.
I spoke to several of these wildfowlers and quite frankly they showed no remorse whatsoever for the wildlife in the area and didn't feel that they were doing anything wrong, which legally they weren't. But one thing that I do know, is that a lot of responsible KWCA members have actually stopped shooting because of the conditions and will no doubt feel quite let down now by these fellow members.
After that I felt so peed off that I went home.