Sunday, 23 September 2012

I wish it was sunnier!

I have just been reading through and catching up on whats on the Raptor Politics site and also Raptor Persecution Scotland blog.

I read a piece on the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog relating to a game keepers diary which had made me thinking back to conversations I have had both recently and in the past relating to my passion, Birds of Prey. I wanted to share them with you in this post because although I'm a glass half full kind of guy when I read and hear things like this it brings me crashing back down to earth.

The RPS article which can be read here relates to a gamekeepers diary. It really doesn't make pleasant reading and as I read it further and the blatant illegal activities grew I thought this can't be true, can you be so stupid to write this stuff down? Yet maybe it is because I have read equally upsetting diaries from Victorian times and the game keepers gibbet is a not to distant memory. This made me think of some conversations I have had with people from all walks of life relating to raptors in the wild.

I have friends who shoot, the majority farmers as I'm from a farming background and I get told the odd story ludicrous story from a rough shoot one in particular that a Barn Owl got flushed over the guns and shot accidentally! Is that really a case of misidentification and if so they shouldn't be shooting or is it something more deep rooted that when man has a gun anything with tooth and claw should be shot dead to help the shoot? Needless to say I never got any further trying to find out if this story was just a pub tale.

I spoke to a farmer who is a good friend of my fathers and someone I respect. He also has links with an urban nesting pair of Peregrines which I had recently found out about. I mentioned I would like to see the pair one day and does anyone monitor their activities each year. His response surprised me when he said "I was hoping you could come and remove them as they make a right mess each year!" I quickly pointed out that they are Schedule 1 birds afforded the highest protection and he should be pleased to have them. He happily let me visit the site which was outside of the breeding season so no sign of the birds but it was an interesting site and also interesting to speak to the maintenance chap who said they were actually no problem at all. It was the pigeons who made the mess and the falcons regurlarly hunted them so they were more than welcome!

I have also had my fair share of run ins with gamekeepers and one local keeper in particular who I'm sure would eradicate me if he could. I have been in the same pub with him a couple of times and have mutual friends and on one of these meetings I plucked up the courage to ask if I could monitor the birds of prey within his woodland. The response I got was sharp, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to set foot in his woods and if I were ever to ring a bird of prey he would shoot it! Needless to say I never tresspass and wouldn't want to monitor birds within his woods for fear of letting him know where they are!

My final story was the most recent as it is on my patch that I montior and ring birds of prey on. I bumped into one of the chaps who runs a small rough shoot on the land who I get on well with, he mentioned he had seen a winged tagged buzzard and I explained my mentor had tagged the young from this year to montior dispersal. The next part of the conversation baffled me though! He asked if buzzards had bred in a small copse where they have a release pen, they hadn't so I told him this and he then told me he had been in their feeding the poults when a Buzzard flew up from the ground and into a tree. On closer inspection he found a dead poult but imagine how amazed I was when he said "I had my gun with me but I decided I couldn't shoot it"!!!! So not 5 minutes before we were talking about me closely monitoring the buzzard then he mentions contemplating shooting one! I pointed out that really wouldn't  be clever and it is a criminal offence that I would report immediately to both land owner and police if I heard or found this going on.

I have also read on a falconry forum the call from some members to cull Buzzard because of the effect they are having on their hunting trips and attacking their birds. I've also lost count of the amount of back garden bird feeders who have played hell with me about Sparrowhawks killing their little birds, my own Granma was the last one!

Maybe the extracts from the RPS gamekeeper diary are true then based on my experiences! But it just brings home that birds of prey are still under immense pressure from all walks of life! I believe anyone who comes across such stories needs to keep a calm head and explain things in a polite manner! Whether the authorities will back the persecution up is still to be seen!

Maybe it will be sunnier for some species of birds of prey soon  but education is the main key in my opinion!

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