Saturday, 29 October 2016

Another Day

It was one of those mornings this morning, pitch dark when I rose at 5.30 and no matter how many times I paced the house, looking for a hint of dawn breaking out to the east, it just stayed heavily gloomy. Eventually, at 7.00 with the dark sky turning slightly lighter grey in colour, I gave in and headed for the reserve with the dogs anyway. By the time that I got there it was a kind of gloomy half light, just right for the Barn Owl that was hunting ahead of me.
Halfway across the marsh, heading for the sea wall, I heard the clamouring of the Greylag Geese before I could vaguely make them out in the distant gloom, a wide number of dark shapes lumbering slow and low across the saltings from the mudflats of The Swale. I stopped and held my breath, would they make it to the reserve, would there be wildfowlers waiting to intercept them. All hell broke loose, shots and more shots echoed round the sky, some birds dropped from the sky, some possibly injured, made a long and struggling glide towards the safety of the reserve, before suddenly dropping from view. As sudden as the shots had been it went quiet again, the remaining geese went inland to the stubble fields and myself and the dogs climbed up on to the top of the seawall.  Four wildfowlers were easily identifiable, they were walking the saltings hunting with their dogs for geese that had dropped and were as yet un-found. Two others remained tucked down and half-hidden, clearly they had been unsuccessful in what had gone on. Much walking and shouting at dogs ensued and eventually three dead geese were found and the wildfowlers began to pack up and I had a chat with four of them as they made their back along the sea wall, carrying their dead geese. It transpired that a total of six geese were shot but one remained un-found out on the saltings, as were the two that were last seen dropping into the reserve, did they die, are they out there somewhere injured, not a good result and one heavily regretted by all sides.

Two weeks ago I hastily predicted, after a brief flirtation with some rain, that the drought here on Sheppey was now over. No, that brief spell of dampness that saw grass begin to turn green and crops in the fields begin to germinate, has been followed by non-stop drying winds and some sunshine. In short, the moisture that fell on that gloriously wet weekend was gone within 24 hours and we haven't seen any since. Today as I write this, the sky may be grey but it's almost warm and walking the reserve is no different to walking a concrete road, it's bone hard and dust dry. Looking at the Met. Office long range forecast well into December, it is set to stay mostly dry and increasingly cold and so the drought goes on.


  1. Nicely written Derek; I really enjoyed reading this. Do the wildfowlers eat the geese? If not, what do they do with them? I always regret

  2. (sorry I accidentally pressed the wrong button - so I continue -)when some of the shot birds can't be found and could easily die horrible deaths, which is why I could never shoot.

  3. Derek, I agree with Pat about enjoying the opportunity to read this post. I would not otherwise have even a glimpse of what you described from your early morning walk. I am also curious about the fates of the geese that disappeared.

    I'm glad that you had a chance to take a look at the Library site. It is a wonderful resource and being able to wander through its stacks can be true joy. I will be checking out one of the Library's copies of of the Dylan Thomas, and will also be listening to his reading...perhaps just a little bit closer to Christmas. Thank you.

  4. Pat/ Frances,

    The wildfowlers do religously eat the birds that they shoot, they don't shoot them for fun. Unfortunately, despite much searching with their gundogs, some birds do die and remain un-found and some do get away with unpleasant injuries. We currently have a goose on the reserve with a shattered wing, presumably as a result of being shot, and it's mate stays with it at all times, it's sad to see.

  5. Derek - a nice post and one which highlights the "problem" with legitimate shooting and the perception of others. Those guys weren't sitting on the foreshore, by accident - they'd deliberately made an effort, at some ungodly hour, to ensure they were in position for that magical moment.
    The birds which fall are eaten, those which are injured also find their way into the food chain via foxes and buzzards, etc. I concede that this is not ideal, but can have no more impact on wildfowl numbers than the accidental collisions with powerlines which result in similar injuries and deaths to our wildfowl as they fly around the marshes of our county. I've been out with Emily and Harry (my grandchildren), this afternoon, and have been witness to the wholesale slaughter of pheasants at a commercial shoot - that's far less defensible than anything that those guys on the seawall have to explain. I have no problems with birds being shot (fish being taken) for the table - if a man is hungry, then it's a much braver thing to shoot it yourself than rely on the supermarket to ease your conscience by providing meat pre-packaged! - Dyl

  6. Agree entirely Dylan, it's the toughest and often hardest form of shooting. I do have a problem with seeing an injured bird wandering about, possibly in some pain but hopefully they do quickly end up as food for other animals.