Imagine my dismay this morning as I drove along the Harty Road, to see yet another digger clearing yet another area of water especially for duck shooting. This was taking place in the stretch of Capel Fleet immediately before the Raptor Viewing Mound, where the Fleet is little more than a ditch and is crossed by a wooden footbridge. Admitedly the guy that shoots there, does so very sensibly and sparingly but it can only increase his opportunities.
To put all this into context lets take the Raptor Viewing Mound as the centre of a three mile circle around that part of Harty and tot up how much the wildfowl shooting has increased in recent years.
Firstly, along the saltings in front of the Swale NNR we have the members of the KWCA, up to 20 a day during the first week. Some of the local, retired members, will often shoot there twice a day, seven days a week for a lot of it as well.
Secondly and not far away from that at the rear of the reserve, we have a newly created and large duck shooting pond just yards from the reserve's boundary. This same landowner also has another pond alongside the wide reed beds of eastern Capel Fleet. Both of these ponds are leased to syndicates who then charge guests to sit round them and kill incoming wildfowl, attracted to corn.
Thirdly, on the grazing marsh between the Shellness track and Muswell Manor another landowner also shoots specially deepened and widened ditches that are corn fed to attract wildfowl. This landowner also shoots along the wide reed beds of eastern Capel Fleet. Bear in mind that eastern Capel Fleet is a favourite roost site for both Marsh and Hen Harriers during the winter, when undisturbed!
Fourthly, we have the guy I first mentioned above, who is the least disturbing of them all.
Lastly, we have another set of shooters who regularly shoot the stretch of Capel Fleet from Capel Corner westwards, sometimes twice a day. Currently, because this is the best stretch of water on Harty at the moment, each morning it contains around a 100 ducks and 4-500 Greylag Geese. You can imagine what is going to happen to them in the darkness of the 1st September next week.
All in all that is an awful lot of wildfowl that will potentially be taken out of just that 3 mile radius this winter and also, at least three of these operations take place inside SSSI areas. A good reason for feeling depressed I think!