Monday, 9 April 2012

Reflections on a Rainy Day

Well I guess it was pretty much guaranteed, announce a hosepipe ban and shortly after it will rain. Its cold and windy today with rain for much of it, and while the rain amounts are not going to make the slightest impression on ditch levels they could at least encourage the grazing meadows to green up and grow a little, and perhaps also, help a few crops. It'll mean for a little while longer that people won't have to disconnect the outside security lights so that their furtive midnight excursions with the hosepipe and sprinkler aren't suddenly lit up for any insomniac neighbour to spot.

I went to the reserve earlier today and endured a cold and wet hour walking round with the dogs while I carried out my daily checks of things. I saw little of note and it seemed hard to imagine swallows wanting to be here on such a day, insects must of been at a real premium.
In the book "The Wind in the Willows", the swallows spoke to Ratty of their reasons for returning each Spring - "the call of lush meadow-grass, wet orchards, warm, insect-haunted ponds, of browsing cattle, of hay-making..." - not too much of that today I think.

While writing the above, two horse riders went by on the road outside my study window. Now I have absolutely nothing against horse-riders, I love to see the countryside being enjoyed by most people, but I have never been able to understand what enjoyment that both horse and rider get from this form of it. Galloping a horse across open fields, or along a sandy beach, must be very exhilarating for both, but sitting astride a horse going at a speed that quite frankly my two tortoises could overtake, I don't get it and the horses always look bored rigid.

Reading an old diary the other day, I was reminded of the old trot-line days. When I was on the Kent River Authority in the 1960's and we were working along the sea walls of The Swale, we would often put out trot-lines in order to catch fish. Trot-lines were simply two posts pushed into the tidal mud a few yards apart. Between the two posts would be strung a length of fishing line with baited hooks hanging from it at regular intervals. Leave the line slack enough so that the hooks were just touching the mud and that was it, the next day at low tide there would hopefully be a flatfish or two caught on it.

On the subject of countryside matters I have been heartened in recent days to receive a few lengthy E-Mails from people praising my recent and previous blog postings concerning both rabbiting and a less blinkered approach to wildlife and conservation. These people were a mixture of hunting naturalists and naturalists who have never hunted but who firmly believe that realistic conservation requires a degree of pest control. I also had confirmation of the fact that many nature reserve wardens don't always practice what they are paid to preach, i.e. behind the scenes they do employ pest controls - you simply have to. In these current drought conditions locally, early Lapwing breeding counts have already shown a greatly reduced number of pairs actually nesting, a nature reserve would not being doing its job of conservation if it simply stood back and watched crows for instance, remove eggs from those few nests that there are.
The people that I have mentioned above, are those that have many years of experience actually out in the countryside, that have sat and watched life and death amongst wildlife at all times of the day and sometimes night, and know exactly what management is required to achieve the best balance for all of it. It is far too easy to dismiss them as people who simply like killing things because some are simply birdwatchers and photographers.
Without doubt, some of those that have criticized these views in the past rarely, if ever, actually get involved in proper countryside management - simply volunteering on a nature reserve would give them a wider perspective on what actually happens. You cannot limit your experience to watching Countryfile or filling up the bird feeders every day and then try and tell people that you know what's best for the countryside, its a million times bigger and more complicated than that.

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