Rory champion photography


Killing birds that kill birds to kill more birds

The above title sums up a news story I read recently which brings into sharp focus the notion of managed conservation. Pheasants are a common sight in the countryside, but there is only one reason for the existence of the majority of them and that's so that on a Sunday morning in the colder months, people can get into their Barbour gillets and Hunter wellies, load up the twelve bores and head out to the local estate for a morning of blasting these fairly brainless, and almost flightless, birds out of the sky. Whilst I don't particularly object to this (although it doesn't seem particularly skillful or difficult) - being a keen angler would make me a hypocrite if I did - it seems that there is a conflict of interest between landowners who breed pheasants for the hunting season, and birds of prey which see them as the 'easy pickings' for which the Sunday hunting party who blast them out of the sky know they are. So, as a result of this, a gamekeeper on an estate in North Norfolk has taken matters into his own hands to rid his [landowner's] estate of these aerial threats, and the result makes grim reading - the RSPB have found 11 birds of prey (10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk) poisoned with pesticides. The gamekeeper has since been convicted and sentenced, and the RSPB called it the worst case of bird of prey poisoning recorded in England. Over the summer, I noticed quite a few buzzards around my neck of the woods, and I was slightly concerned that their presence was the reason for barn owls, usually a common sight, being absent. I was also concerned about the affect their presence would have on the number of hares, which are fairly minimal anyway and confined to a specific copse and adjoining meadow. So what's to be done if their numbers are growing at the detriment of other species? Well, in my view, wildlife diversity is paramount, and if their is an explosion of any particular species which has a detrimental effect on the biodiversity around them, then actions should be taken. It has been reported that buzzards have been seen attacking smaller birds of prey in my area that share the same hunting territories. And perhaps because of their willingness to feed on carrion has helped their ascendancy. However, I find it quite disturbing that people will take matters into their own hands and dish out such targeted methods of despatch. When one boils it down and reads it out loud, it's merely:

Killing birds that kill birds so that men can kill more birds.

There's something fundamentally and absurdly wrong with that. Picture: Common buzzard, taken in summer 2014.    

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