Monday, 20 April 2015

Enough to make you weep

I saw a picture on Twitter today of a hunter standing proudly behind his latest haul - about 50 Turtle Doves and a Golden Oriole. I don't know what part of North Africa or the Mediterranean that the picture was taken (and am assuming that it was taken this Spring). Don't assume that this post is now going to take off into a rant against the evils of hunting 'our' birds - I don't agree with the killing of them, but then again I haven't been born into a culture where such practices are part of the way of life. It's also rich that 'we' can preach to so called 'backward' people about their environmental disgraces when we have clear-felled our forests, over-fished our seas, more or less wiped out our farmland birds, poisoned our pollinating insects and are having to re-introduce raptors because we murdered the bloody things in the first place...

Seeing those lifeless doves drove small nails into my heart because it becomes less likely that I will hear one of the finest sounds in nature this coming summer - the soporific purr of the Turtle Dove - redolent of balmy days, verdant hedgerows and lazy torpid air.

In just one birder's lifetime we have gone from this species being a staple of the countryside to becoming a bit of a rarity. I can scarcely believe that at Walberswick, in 1976, I saw a flock of over 150. I doubt that I'll see that many in the UK again, even if I live to be 100.

I don't mourn the missing of a rarity, but do the absence of such a charismatic bird. I'd swap every last decent species on my worthless life list to return them to their former glory. Purr on, my little beauties, purr on...

8 comments:

  1. I saw that photo too Steve, and wondered where and when, and thought how selfish it was. Surely the people doing the shooting must realise that it becomes harder and harder every year and that there must be a reason for that? Do they not put two and two together. Those guys doing DoveStep are doing an amazing job, but when faced with slaughter at this level, from just one guy..... I'm obviously (!) a lot younger than you, but that photo showed more [dead] Turtle Doves than I've seen live ones in my entire life. It makes you sick.

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    1. I don't agree with the hunting Jono, but I'm also aware that the society and culture in which the hunters live is different from ours, and their way of life is exactly that. It doesn't make shooting birds right, but to persuade them to desist from hunting is going to take more than us claiming the moral high ground. We used up all of our right to tell others how to live centuries ago. But, try we must, and as you rightly say, there are those out there actively campaigning.

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  3. You put into words exactly, the complexity of the problem Steve and like you say, we can be a tad hypocritical ourselves when criticizing what other countries do. Photos of such slaughter abroad should sicken us all and it appals me the same.
    I support some forms of shooting in this country because in a lot of cases it means that valuable habitat is maintained for the benefit of far more endangered species than pheasants but look at the Grey Partridge. It is now a rare bird in much of the countryside for several reasons but it is still legal to shoot them each winter, hunters in Malta could ask why.

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    1. Derek, I have watched several documentaries recently where the intention of the British crew was to report on, and confront, illegal activities such as rainforest felling and overfishing. When they dug deeper they found complexities that made them questioned their perceptions. A European hunter is unlikely to need to shoot birds to stave off starvation, but the cultural imperative to hunt may be deeply ingrained and possibly tied up in some form of machismo and identity. Complex indeed. One fear is that although the want to hunt may lessen with subsequent generations, it might be too late for some species. Let's not get started on the environmental problems these migrants also have to contend with.

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  4. Dead right again Steve, it's not as simple as the less well informed of us all make it out to be, but I guess some people would say that you have to start somewhere. The whole reason that we are still debating these problems is that no one has ever found a solution.

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  5. Steve - a superb post and a reminder of how complex these, seemingly straightforward, acts of environmental vandalism really are. Turtle Doves, fortunately for me, remain a realistic expectation, during a year in East Kent The village in which my daughter lives had at least three males present in 2014 and they are still clinging on, as a breeding species, within the Thanet boundary.
    I have recently made comment upon the state of Song Thrushes in my local area - times they are a changing and with it the flora and fauna; with a bias to the detriment of what we once considered to be "regular" species. I'm sure we all have our own theories - but the hypocrisy of the situation of a UK resident complaining about ecological impact of shooting Turtle Doves whilst still paying their water rates/gas bills is ludicrous. The UK is on the brink of ecological abyss - better we sort our own problems out before pointing fingers elsewhere? - Loving it! Dyl

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    1. Thanks Dyl. I was in two minds about posting something that might appear as if I were somehow condoning hunting migrant birds - which I'm not - but I cannot help but see the hypocrisy in our lecturing of other people and their way of life. Envious of your Turtle Doves!

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