Sunday, 30 June 2013

Solving the Persecution Problem

I read with interest about the launch of a multi-organisation campaign involving pretty much all of the shooting/country sports organisations such as BASC, NGO, Countryside Alliance, GWCT etc. The campaign is aimed at bringing about culture change in shooting with regards to the correct and law-abiding use of lead shot. The campaign is driven by the prospect of a ban and the briefing notes on the campaign website make illuminating reading (see below). All of these organisations are to be applauded for an attempt to encourage such change and bring about compliance with the law, kind of made me wonder though what it might take for them to tackle the issue of wildlife persecution with the same vigour and resolve.

  1. There is a concerted campaign to achieve a total ban on lead shot. It is directed by powerful organisations with considerable financial and political resources. Although the current government has no desire to ban lead, politicians will be swayed by evidence and public opinion.
  2. At present there is no evidence to suggest that existing legislation is inadequate – if it is observed. And that’s the problem; enforcement is difficult and is largely in our own hands and at the moment we are not handling it well.
  3. On the issue of compliance we are extremely vulnerable. Provided we abide by the restrictions there is little immediate threat. But any lapse lays us wide open to claims that the law doesn’t work; that a partial ban is unenforceable and that the only solution is a total ban. Our opponents are deploying this argument to considerable effect. (See the WWT’s lead shot policy statement at and search lead policy).
  4. When the RSPB purchased shot duck from game dealers in 2002, shortly after legislation was introduced, it found that 70 per cent contained lead shot. A follow up by Defra eight years later showed that 73 per cent of game suppliers still sold duck containing lead.
  5. In 2010 a report commissioned by Defra revealed that 45 per cent of shooters surveyed did not always comply with the law and a similar percentage of shoot providers failed to make compliance a requirement for Guns. That sustained level of illegal shooting is enough to secure a total lead ban.
  6. The principal reason for non-compliance is the belief that lead is not a problem and a ban is unjustified. You may think that a 70mph limit on motorways is unjustified, but would you drive at 100mph with a police car on your tail? That is the situation we are in. Obey the law or lose your licence, and in this case it’s the licence to use lead –a licence we’ve fought hard to maintain.
  7. There is no question about the toxicity of lead – it has been removed from petrol and virtually all other sources of contamination that might affect people or wildlife. In the public and political perception the use of lead shot is an anomaly. It’s an easy peg for health and environmental scare stories in the media and it’s an easy subject for legislation.
  8. By ignoring restrictions we are – literally – giving our opponents ammunition. The evidence shows a significantly higher proportion of mallard carrying lead, compared with other species. On the coast wildfowling clubs enforce a strict ban on lead cartridges and these considerations, together with the fact that ducks tested for lead were bought from game dealers, strongly suggest that the problem derives from inland duck shoots.
  9. Those who provide shooting should be aware that vicarious liability applies – that means when a duck is illegally shot with lead the shoot owner, shoot captain and possibly the gamekeeper could all be committing an offence. Significantly, Defra emphasises the role of shoot providers in ensuring compliance and the importance of pressure from other Guns on those who ignore the law.
  10. In all other areas of shooting self-regulation works. Think how quickly we crack down on the selfishness or stupidity of others when it comes to safety. We know that breaking the firearms law will lead to harsher regulation. Lead is no different. We hold the future in our own hands. Comply with the law, and ensure that others do, and legislation is not an immediate prospect. Flout the law and we could face a ban within the next few years.
  11. We must not only comply with the law but be seen to be complying; our success will depend on good PR as well as good behaviour.
  12. This is a serious problem and we are tackling it seriously. All the major shooting organisations are working together on an urgent and determined campaign aimed at the whole shooting community.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Terning Slowly

After a slow sea-watch on a flat calm sea this morning produced few birds, a single Red-throated Diver and 5 Wigeon south the 'highlights', I headed along the beach to Beacon Point as a few terns had gathered on the falling tide.

A total of 17 Common Terns as well as 5 Sandwich Terns loafed on the rocks occasionally heading off to feed with others dropping on. Amongst them were two 'immature' terns that I (eventually) concluded were Arctic Terns as a result of the short bills and legs, rounded heads and grey primaries.

I'll stop short of trying to attribute an age to them, whilst the first appears to be a classic first-summer, the second seems to show a mix of features (a more adult-like head and reddish-brown legs) and it seems likely that aging immature Arctic Terns is as problematic as in Common Terns in that  birds that look first-summer can often be older and vice versa.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Hair at the Fair

Morpeth Fair Day used to almost guarantee rain but today with the sun shining and kids eager to ride the ghost train and the helter skelter for the first time we headed down as a family and mingled with the smell of candy floss and chip fat.

As always the fair brought in a mix of folk from surrounding towns and villages and I'd decided before we went that I'd try a little street photography with the 55-250mm lens, so given that almost every bird blogger I read is posting colourful creatures from dragons to moths, indulge me this one post and have some hair from the fair.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Starting Summer

Having had a fairly quiet period I planned to do some birding this morning, I was looking forward to getting out after a double-shift yesterday. Arriving at school we began to notice that all the other kids were in 'non-uniform' and it began to dawn on me that I really should start reading the newsletter emails more thoroughly. So forgetting non-uniform day cost me an hour as my conscience forced me to drive home, ransack the kids wardrobes and head back to school to confess my guilt to the office and put smiles back on the kid's faces.

Having thumped the patch for little reward for weeks I opted for a change of scene and decided to head to the Wansbeck and walk a couple of miles to the coast. As expected it was generally quiet, 48 species recorded, the pick of the outward journey being a single Little Ringed Plover. The estuary held 2 Common Terns and a female Eider. A drake Eider was just off the estuary on the open sea.

Feeding on the edge of the incoming tide was a single summer-plumaged Sanderling perhaps my last for this Spring. I watched it for a while, trying to keep up with it with the Meopix ( see pic and video) in the brisk east breeze with Sand Martins from the small colony nearby darting past now and again.

The return walk was faster, I stopped less but I was surprised to find 5 Barnacle Geese had dropped in at Castle Island. Presumably naturalized birds, perhaps dragged north with some of the Canada Geese that have been moving along the coast in recent days on moult migration. Checking my notes later I find that I didn't hear a single Willow Warbler singing in the 2-3 hours I was walking.