Sunday, 23 August 2015

Both sides of the argument

There are times when I wonder about my commitment to our birdlife. What do I actually do to help it? Going out and looking at them is just passive support. Identifying, counting and sending in the results to bodies such as the local bird clubs or the BTO goes a little way towards helping collate a database on which greater deeds can be planned and carried out. As much as we need foot soldiers to carry out the grinding work in all walks of life, some of us might have experience, spare time and a profile that can be used to great effect in the struggle to better the lot of our birds. I have plenty of the first two - experience and time - but do I use it? No, if I'm being honest, I don't...

I don't do work parties. I don't volunteer. I tend to get turned off by campaigns. Is it just me, or am I the only birder that is fed-up with hearing about Hen Harriers and driven grouse moors? I shouldn't admit to that, for fear of having Mark Avery and his giant stuffed harrier pay me a visit in the dead of night along with Chris Packham clutching a box of harrier-shaped Lush bath bombs. It's not that I don't want breeding harriers to be protected - I do - it's just that whenever we get into such emotive areas, plenty of people on both sides become polarised and will not listen to the opposing view. I haven't read Mark Avery's book on the subject (Inglorious), but have heard that it is a balanced work. But when all people in the countryside with guns are painted as Satan it is no different than hunters reckoning that all birdwatchers are twitching scum who chase tired migrants to death. Both are wide of the mark.

I blame social media for my apathy. When mildly-informed commentators send out inaccurate bile, or spout knee-jerk sloganeering (and this is retweeted ad infinitum), it is over kill. We can all laugh at Ian Botham for his ill-informed staunch support of hunting, shooting and fishing, but the manner of his quotes are no different from some of the tweets that I have seen from birder's regarding the world of shooting. And no, I'm not into field sports, but because I've birded in northern France over the past couple of years I've learnt to appreciate that not all hunters are oafs who blast anything that flies out of the sky. It is because of these French hunters that there is so much brilliant habitat and so many breeding birds along the northern French coast. Now, I know that this isn't Britain, and it's not moorland, but many of us tend to tar all with the same brush.

My outlook on farming has softened somewhat. I am not in denial that intensive agriculture has walloped our birdlife in the 20th and 21st century, but there are farms and farmers out there that do care about how they farm and strive to protect hedgerows, ponds and birds. They are not all money-grabbing subsidy-gobblers who plough Barn Owls into the dirt while exterminating bees with toxic sprays (although some undoubtably do carry out procedures that do not go hand-in-hand with a healthy environment). Until we all learn to listen to each other's viewpoints and are able to discuss how best to move on - so all can gain from the solution - then there will be conflict and there will not be resolution.

I bird over downland that is populated by cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, horse riders and flyers of model aircraft. They all have as much right to be there as me. Not all dogs are out of control. Not all cyclists ride to fast. And not all birders are twitchers who harass tired migrants.


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

The act of writing about is enough in many ways. Indeed, as is doing it. The more people outside, and seen to be enjoying "the outside" the better.

Derek Faulkner said...

Wow, the Messiah is re-born! - but seriously, you have said it all just about right. The countryside is getting smaller and smaller unfortunately but it belongs to all of us, not just a few who see themselves as perfect, and whether we like it or not, we have to share it with people who have different interests, such as shooting, cycling, dog walking. I have been trying to suggest that farming and shooting has a place in conservation for some years but continually come against the types that you quote - bloggers for instance, that hate just about anybody who isn't carrying a telescope or bird book, or these days, photographing odonata, people who call all farmers bastards and think children should be banned from nature reserves.
You got it dead right Steve, well done.

Dylan Wrathall said...

Steve - you make some fantastic points, although your post title is a little misleading? Both sides? Surely there are a multitude of opinions about any given facet of the use of the Great British countryside. However, from my position, I am far happier that you recognise the legitimate opinions of other user groups than sit, entrenched, in total oblivion to the views of others.
I, also, despise the crazy situation that surrounds the persecution of breeding Hen Harriers on the moors of northern England. I abhor the political apathy, despite many UK & EU statutes, towards all things involved in the protection of our natural legacy for the future generations. There is no quick fix, no easy answer, to the present status quo - birders, anglers, shooters, pan-listers, cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, sailors, wind-surfers, bait diggers, golfers, ramblers, horse riders and uncle Tom Cobbly & all - they all have a legitimate right to enjoy the outdoor experiences available in the UK as long as they remain within the law. - That's a big "can of worms" Steve - enjoy! (watch your stats!) - Dyl

Steve Gale said...

Thanks for all of your comments. I fear that there will be some that don't understand a liberal stance on this!

Derek Faulkner said...
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