Friday 12 February 2016

A Fine Morning

It was nice to get back on the reserve again this morning after a week off due to my oldest dog having to wait for a burst abscess on her foot to heal. Marsh water, mud and cow poo are not best allowed to get into an open wound! But now it has healed and so we were champing at the bit to get back out, it's funny how being there every day can get a tad boring but have a few days away and you miss it like mad. Arriving at the barn at 07.30 a magnificent orange sun had just come up above the sea wall and we set off, out into the grazing marsh.

It all looked quite magnificent - a white frost, blue skies and a bright sun that is increasing in strength with every day. The sounds of birds were everywhere, with the geese being especially vocal as Canadas, Greylags, Brents and c.170 White-fronted Geese all regularly whirled about in the sky around me. Many of them were now in pairs and with Skylarks also serenading from above, the morning had a real feel that Spring is just around the corner.
Making my way across the marsh, I stopped a while on top of one of the old salt-working mounds and looked east across the reserve towards the distant Shellness Hamlet (see below).

Slightly to the right of the above view the marsh ends at the sea wall reed beds - they are the pale band just behind the splash of water. The darker band behind them is the sea wall with the square blob that is the sea wall hide and behind them are the saltings on which the wildfowlers shoot.

The particular mound that I was standing on is Ellie's favourite place on the whole reserve and she was dashing about all over the place.................

............the reason being, it's the home to a couple of dozen rabbits. They run her ragged, disappearing down holes and then re-appearing behind her before running off to disappear down other holes. It's a kind of animal version of the teasing, "chase me charlie" but as much as they usually leave her breathless, they sometimes do pick the wrong hole, one that's quite short, with the obvious consequences. If you look hard below, you can see the rabbits sitting outside their burrows.

We carried on and it was nice to see that the Hooded Crow was still on the marsh, enjoying it's holiday down from Scotland. Last Friday, crow shooting was taking place on the farmland alongside the reserve, an unfortunate but necessary pest control ahead of the breeding season, and I thought that it might of got caught out by that. While many of us see something special in a Hooded Crow being this far south, I guess to a guy shooting crows, a crow is a crow, which of course it is.

On the subject of shooting, a thought came to me this week while reading the latest British Trust for Ornithology news magazine. An article in there mentioned the fact that the fourth Birds of Conservation Concern report was published in December last year. Apparently Woodcock and White-fronted Geese have now joined Grey Partridge on the Red List, the highest level of concern about various birds breeding, wintering numbers and rarity status. In respect of the above three species, it beggars the question, if there is a high level of concern over their diminishing numbers, why are they still allowed to be shot each winter in un-limited numbers, surely that's like throwing petrol on the fire.
Now clearly the shooting fraternity, driven to a high level of paranoia in recent times by various attacks on their past-time, (hen harrier deaths, using lead shot, buzzard controls), will defend to the hilt maintaining these birds as quarry species, scared to give an inch in case it becomes a mile. Now, whatever their answer is, I'm not expert enough to answer either for or against it, but as a simple layman, defending the un-restricted killing of birds that are diminishing in numbers does seem a tad odd.


  1. I believe your last sentence is an understatement, Derek!
    Glad your old girl has healed enough to go out again.

  2. Another lovely vicarious trip around Sheppey... but can you tell me this Derek - why does the hamlet at Shellness exist? Old fishermen's village? ,

  3. Derek, sadly we now enter the realm of the statistician - "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics!" It will depend upon how the figures are interpreted to allow whatever conclusion is drawn. The RSPB are masters of distortion of the truth - they can't raise funds with good news?
    Without getting into specifics - just think about your thoughts on the latest government advice concerning alcohol consumption. Yep, just like me - complete bollocks! Dyl

    1. "RSPB"? Oh dear, prejudices to the fore. No mention of the RSPB in the article.

      As I understand it the argument regarding shooting woodcock is with regard to the UK breeding population which is swelled by approx 1 million foreign birds during winter. So while the UK breeding population is red-listed there is a shootable winter surplus consisting mostly of European (non-UK breeding) birds.

      Of course I'm only an ignorant townie but I have been educated by a true countryman that woodcocks carry neither passports or ID so we'll probably never know which category any shot birds belong to.

      In addition, a lot of shoots have imposed a voluntary halt to shooting until later in the season in order to allow these European birds to arrive so helping to limit the chances of native UK breeding birds being shot.

    2. Jeff, as you quite rightly point out, the RSPB didn't appear in Derek's post. My point is that they, as a major player in the conservation game, are willing and able to distort statistics to their own purpose - just as any other political group do. I am not anti RSPB, nor shooting, just simply wished to point out the flawed logic that can be implied by the one sided interpretation of data. Dylan

  4. Wilma, Dylan makes an interesting comment on the figures quoted.
    Steve, Shellness began life as a cluster of coastguard cottages, which gradually expanded as first military cottages and then the holiday cottages that they are today.
    Dylan, having just drunk a large glass of red wine, I have to agree with you.

  5. Our shooting syndicate rarely if ever see a Grey Partridge, but on that rare occasion they never, ever shoot it. They are in very short supply - and the same goes for woodcock.

  6. I agree Pat, let's hope that many more shoots show the restraint that your's do.

  7. Derek, this link to GWCT policy on Woodcock might be of interest:

  8. That's excellent Kev., thanks very much.