Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

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.

I did a bit of research when I returned home and found the following piece from Two paragraphs that caught my attention are quoted from their web page:

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.

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6 thoughts on “The pheasant shoot

  1. Chris Cox on said:

    They were shooting near there all day Thursday though I don’t think as close as we didn’t experience any shot landing and it didn’t stop the female kingfisher paying a 20 minute visit.
    It is not only annoying but when you consider people walking around the reserve and on nearby footpaths it is positively dangerous.
    It does happen sometimes at gravel pits near Burstwick where there are also people around, fishermen having reported shot falling in the water just in front of them.

  2. Richard Hampshire on said:

    Hi Tony – apologies for your somewhat noisy morning. It had not crossed my mind when we spoke – but in conversation with Doug and Martin we too raised the topic of lead shot. It will be interesting to see what we find in the hide guttering…
    Ultimately we know we are in a rural area so expect that shooting will occur to some extent on surrounding private land and recognise its necessity to the local rural economy. But to impact on neighbouring land so insensitively – particularly a nature reserve / SSSI to this level was a tad excessive.
    I will let you know how we get on…but congrats on the coverage and thanks for being in front of the camera for a change!

  3. Martin on said:


    This is a problem that has gone on for a long time, albeit occasionally, and it pretty much winds everyone up the wrong way when circumstances occur like what obviously happened today. From past experiences undertaking, how can it be put, useful passerine surveys, I’ve been on the end of being sprayed with shot on the river bank from shots fired into the air.

    However, shooting is not an uncommon event to happen next to nature reserves. OK today was Pheasants but other days its ducks and geese and its a balance between having birds there for ones enjoyment, and watching them go to maybe feed offsite were they are at the temptation of someone elses enjoyment.

    Shooters create habitat to shoot birds – the ponds to the NW of D Res an example, and there is some good rough ground to the east of North Marsh which is more than useful to have next door to TLNR.

    Birding, photography and shooting all require great habitat to attract the birds… working together, and a tolerance, unless it goes beyond reason… which would be the case in the use of illegal shot… is a way forward.

    The disturbance argument works for somes sites… but in this case birds will just fly to WNR or to flooded/water areas to the south or east so therefore they are safe.

    While annoying, it is something that can be tolerated, and attempts to build bridges with all involved means we can all take out of the environment what we enjoy.

  4. Whilst I acknowledge the arguments for and against shooting, is there not some law, as well as a moral obligation, not to invade the privacy of people how are taking part in a perfectly legal activity on private land. The fact that the faces have been blurred out is irrelevant as the invasion took place when the photo was taken. The talk above is of mutual respect so why take the photos in the first place?

    I have very strong feeling about this as I was once photographed “taking part” in a fox hunt. I was actually just walking back from my local shop but the photo was published out of context and I actually received death threats for the lunatic fringe. The published image is a very dangerous thing.

    If the fieldsports and conservation parties are ever going to work together, which I believe they can to further enjoyment of both parties, then they need to start treating each other with trust and mutual respect. By the way I’m a member of the BTO and RSPB and have never taken place in a Shoot but I do know enough about the activity to realise that it is greatly misunderstood by the majority of people.

    • Tommy – Firstly, there is no law in the U.K. that prevents me taking pictures of people on private land. I obscured their faces out of my own personal sense of moral obligation not a legal one. However, there is a legal requirement for shoot organisers to restrict the use of lead shot cartridges where there is a chance of it entering a watercourse. I respect the right of everyone to follow and indulge in their own leisure activities but mutual respect works both ways.

  5. The use of lead shot over the foreshore and specific SSSI is indeed restricted by law, and rightly so, lets hope that the strongly worded letter does the trick. I still believe that you are wrong to have published that photo but it just goes to demonstrate that everybody has different opinions and that not everybody’s moral compass point in exactly the same direction,

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