Saturday, 23 October 2010

Firing Blanks


The Kent Wildfowlers that shoot the saltings in front of the reserve are not having a good season so far and I should be jumping up and down with joy and to a degree I am, but unfortunately it also indicates that the reserve is having a disappointing autumn. The photo above indicates why, no water means that the reserve is not able to attract the normal numbers of wildfowl that it would expect to see and wildfowl are what the reserve is all about at this time of the year. Its no real fault of the reserve management, water storage is very difficult on the site and its therefore very depedant on rainfall. It makes for some pretty boring reserve patrols but at least I'm not having to share the area with those killing and maiming the birds.

Talking to some of the wildfowlers recently they allege that membership of the KWCA has dropped this year, presumably as a result of the recession - at least the recession has had one positive effect! Apparently membership is almost £200 a year now, a lot of money when you're taking nothing home a lot of the time. Couple that with the fact that some of the cartridges that are favoured, or indeed necessary now since the banning of lead shot over wetland areas, cost £40 for ten - that amazingly equates to £4 a shot and often, a miss!
Also, the wildfowlers allege, the membership fee does not allow them to shoot all the Association's sites, no, in order to shoot some of the better and coveted sites and extra payment is necessary.

Perhaps the decrease in both local birds to kill and membership is one of the reasons that the KWCA are now expanding into other counties. Looking at their website it appears that not only have they now purchased/leased sites in Sussex and Essex but their latest aquisition is a 10 year lease on 564 acres of saltmarsh on Thornham Marshes, North Norfolk, apparently a site bursting with Pinkfeet Geese targets. I wonder what the local Norfolk wildfowlers make of this intrusion by those from Kent.

One last comment on the wildfowlers concerns the punt-gunning in the Swale, where unfortunately at least one person still pursues this somewhat barbaric sport fairly regularly. This "sport" involves laying flat in a punt that is very low in the water and quietly and slowly paddling it towards a flock of ducks that are floating on the tide. The aim is to get close enough in order to discharge the punt gun at the birds, the gun being something that resembles a length of drainpipe facing forward along the top of the punt. As you can perhaps imagine, if "successful" this can leave a mess of dead or maimed birds on the water, with others perhaps getting away badly injured.
I have a coloured brochure put out by the KWCA, I don't know how recent, and inside alongside a caption that states "Punt gunning on the Swale" is a photo of a punt gunner standing alongside his punt and on its deck are three pairs of wildfowl. No one that I have shown this too so far, including wildfowlers, has failed to identify these birds as either Red-breasted Mergansers or Goosanders, neither of which are able to be legally shot.
Make of these things what you will.


  1. An interesting incite into the more unsavoury part of our population Derek.

    I think the more expensive shooting becomes, the more of a 'cult' will grow around it, a snob factor if you like, just like some of the horsey lot I get down here, they are a law unto themselves

  2. Warren,

    On your "cult" theme, Harty is seeing an increase in the pheasant shoot type duck hunter. The type of person that doesn't like getting his clothes and hands dirty, just turns up, is driven to the site, i.e. a corn fed duck pond, and stands there shooting the birds that come for their feed and then is driven away again. That's why we have new ponds being dug on the farmland alongside the reserve.