For the third morning running I was on the reserve at first light this morning. The sky was cloudless and blue apart from one small bank of grey clouds on the horizon behind Shellness Hamlet. They sat there like some miniature mountain range and as I walked across the marsh their top edge changed from red, to orange and to yellow as the sun quickly rose behind them and broke free into the sky. One other thing, whilst inland in sheltered woods and fields early this morning, it may have seemed chilly and breezy, across that marsh and the seawall early on it was blowing a gale and was bloody freezing. No doubt those hardy birdwatchers arriving to sit on the beach and carry out seawatching in near perfect conditions will also be able to testify to the same.
My reason for being out so early was one, because I normally am, and two because I was expecting to bump into a particular wildfowler on the seawall. For several years now he has always sat along there at dawn, a few days before the start of the shooting season, always with his two superbly trained gundogs and often with his wife, simply to get an idea of what wildfowl there are about.
Now my dislike of these people and their activities is well known but here is a guy who I have a lot of respect for and who I also enjoy sitting on the seawall with once a year and discussing each others views on the subject. He is also a KWCA committee man and will also be there for just the first day's shooting in front of the reserve in order to evaluate the members' activities. I won't mention his name because he also has similar views to me on some of the more modern "wildfowlers" that unfortunately make up some of the membership of the KWCA, or shoot round the corn-fed duck ponds on Harty, and I wouldn't want to embarrass him.
No, this guy is the same kind of age as me, has been involved with the countryside and its sports all his life and therefore has huge experience in the subject, and more importantly, shoots with proper restraint and experience. By sitting and talking to him for an hour or two it allows me to bring a degree of rationale into my dislike of the wildfowlers, he knows he'll never change my views but if all his Association were like him it could be a lot different. Unfortunately as he accepts, its too easy to simply buy a gun and some fancy clothes and become a "wildfowler" these days - its the respect and experience that those guys don't bring with them.
Apart from seeing him out on the saltings at dawn on Wednesday morning, that'll probably be the last time that I see him for another year because he mainly shoots elsewhere in Kent and once a year, Scotland, but I felt much better for the chat.