The situation for Golden Plover is less clear currently but again I would suggest it is highly likely that there has been a significant decline in breeding birds in recent decades. As with many waders the annual inward migration from the continent of birds wintering in the UK leads to higher numbers at coastal sites during those periods.
Common Snipe - Long term decline but still shot
So just how low do the breeding populations of these species have to get before we think about affording them the modest protection of not reducing their numbers further by shooting them? Whilst organisations such as GWCT are keen to highlight the 'huge' nature of wintering populations from the continent, they appear not to offer any suggestion as to how an individual shooter may differentiate between a British Snipe and a foreign one before pulling the trigger. You also have to wonder just how many shooters can identify the protected Jack Snipe in flight and avoid pulling the trigger.
Perhaps it's time that the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts jointly began a campaign to have these two species removed from the list of quarry species and afforded full protection whilst they continue to decline as British breeding species. The game industry and the various gamekeepers associations will no doubt claim that very few are shot and that these are likely to be continental birds but is there any real need to be still shooting either of these waders given what we know about their populations? I think not.
It's only three weeks until Snipe can be shot and a further three after that before Golden Plovers are vulnerable to the same treatment. The evocative Spring sounds of Snipe and Golden Plover are increasingly absent and continuing to shoot them does nothing to benefit or restore the populations and really should be consigned to the history books in my view. So how about it RSPB, a bit more emphasis on 'protection'?