Saturday, 21 July 2012

Shooting Quarry Species

It may come as a surprise to some that two of our declining wader species continue to be 'available' to shoot as legitimate quarry species in Britain. Both Common Snipe and Golden Plover are thought to have declined over the last 30 years yet both still have a season during which they can be legally shot. A decline in Common Snipe of -62% less birds breeding in wet meadows was recorded between 1982-2002 and the species is now listed as 'Amber' concern and the long term trend is one of 'rapid decline' (source). It is highly likely that when the new Atlas is published further declines will become apparent.

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'?


Pete Woodruff said...

Another excellent post Alan, highlighting the plight of 'our' birds and the shooting fraternity. I don't think its a question about ID to these people before they pull the trigger, too many species unidentifiable in flight anyway, particularly to the untrained eye of which there has to be quite a few in this group of 'sportsmen'.

To be honest, I had no idea about the Golden Plover being a quarry species, and reckon I'm not on my own on that one.

Killy Birder said...

Interesting post.
As a long standing member of the RSPB (as you know Alan)I can't help wonder how many members, who happily pay there subs each year, are actually aware that the birds you mention are quarry species. My thoughts are that the majority won't be aware, although I have no evidence, apart from my own experience of the organisation and its membership, to support this.
I confess I don't know what the RSPB policy is with regard these species. Perhaps a neutral one whilst saving their 'shot' for what they perceive as bigger and perhaps more winnable battles (and I stress the organisation's perception, not mine).
To change that stance requires questioning coming from members (over one million of them)without which the RSPB would not exist without their cash and volunteering.
The RSPB just a great job, but it does need pressure sometimes to take things in the right direction and I'm not convinced enough of that comes from the membership.

alan tilmouth said...

I think you're both probably right that there are an awful lot of people who are not aware that these species can be and are shot. I also agree with your statements about the RSPB Brian, I hope that by raising awareness others may start asking questions in the right places.

northernloon said...

The BASC maintain a list of shootable birds (what a great expression