The pheasant shoot
I knew it was going to be one of those days when I arrived before dawn at Tophill Low only to realise that I’d left my flask of green tea on the kitchen table. The weather was perfect; cool with a light S.W. wind and with the promise of a good morning’s photography. The warden Richard Hampshire, had erected a few cautionary signs near the hide to ask visitors to be quiet so as not to disturb the resident Kingfishers. This later proved to be quite ironic as the morning’s events unfurled.
Nothing much to see for the first couple of hours except for three Roe Deer at the far end of the marsh and a lively Wren that bobbed in and out of the willows. I expected that there might be quite a few visitors to the hide that morning as a short article had been published the day before in the Hull Daily Mail. Around 10.00 the shooting started! Not from me this time with my trusty Nikon but a party of Pheasant shooters on the far bank of the river Hull. I watched an listened in horror as I saw pheasant after pheasant tumbling from the sky. Shouts and whistles from the hunters could be heard for miles—and I was just one hundred yards away.
Richard turned up a little later and we both witnessed a rain of shot as it landed in the lagoon. The Kingfisher did turn up but only stayed less than a minute. Richard left to remonstrate with the shooting party and I left shortly afterwards.
Most game in the UK is shot with lead. However, in England and Wales the lead shot regulations ban the use of lead over all foreshore, over specified Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and for the shooting of all ducks and geese, coot and moorhen – wherever they occur.
BASC say: “Increased monitoring of shoots and game dealers is likely this season (2006/7). Remember shoot organisers (landowners, shoot captains, gamekeepers, agents and club chairmen) can be prosecuted, as well as the individual gun, for allowing lead shot to be used illegally. Prosecution may also lead to loss of shotgun certificates and BASC insurance cover.”
I know that Richard intends to write a strongly worded letter to the organiser(s) of the shoot. Were they using lead shot cartridges? I don’t know. Even if they were using a safer alternative (not safer for the pheasants), the noise and the disturbance was quite intolerable. I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has strong opinions on holding a pheasant shoot so close to a wildlife nature reserve.