One of the things that's taken up my spare time until recently was a Red Kite roost on a friends bit of land, got my nose put out of joint when I happened to mention he was also a gamekeeper.
In fact, when I mentioned recently of a local Hen Harrier that I saw. Another keeper who I've known since school told me where he'd spotted it on his land, we failed to relocate it. Nothing sinister just probably passing through yet several made snide remarks about 'gamekeeper shot it". Well my mate Pete (keeper at Harrier sighting) is actually more passionate about raptors than you and I. On his land he's got Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard all breeding successfully when the Kestrel failed to breed last year he was gutted and went to the trouble and expense of collecting the eggs and sending them off for analysis. The eggs were infertile and thought to be either an immature female or male (or both) .
I like many others are pissed off at our Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles amongst many other species being killed off.
BUT equally we need to start recognising and rewarding the good ones.
Personally I don't like going birding out in the countryside and receiving verbal, OK some of it harmless (tree hugger or urban leftie isn't that bad) but it's getting more common and also less subtle I can't visit three sites anymore as they're private land as a direct result of the petition to ban dgs shame but hey-ho. Bizarrely none of them are shooting estates!
Equally those that shoot, gamekeepers or land owners need to start to help root out the bad keepers. But there is a problem the two keepers I've mentioned here don't know each other but and wouldn't know how each other work, yet you and I expect them to know of others committing crime, yes keepers do talk but think about this, if you've committed a crime, are you going to brag about it even to your peers?
Just out of curiosity, how would they do that? I think if we're expecting information on the illegal activity then we need a 'hotline' where it can be done without leaving names and contact details. Going on my experience of egg collectors it's a waste of time for them to ring the police. Oh and that case by the way came from a bloke who shoots and is, judging from a sticker on his car a BASC member giving me the heads up about what he saw. He drove like many down that particular lane to walk his working dogs, pulled over and just told me about it, with both a description of the car and individual. There are good ones out there.
This year for reasons we can't explain its exploded, nuclear style. Starts off with a call "here Dougie the roost is about 17 birds so you want to help chop up some rabbit and pheasants"
"not really but I'll bring my camera"
I did some chopping and slicing left the skinning as I ended up slicing my finger lol.
I was excited when the roost got to 20+ but it went mental the roost peaked at 51 birds
You had Kites gliding feet above our heads just glancing down at us. The noise was remarkable when the pecking order for the best branches was sorted. Plenty of aerial combat
We only threw carrion down when the weather really got cold then snowy as you can see from the two images above there was plenty of more natural food available. The roost dispersed just after the snow fall about a week later or so. We've counted 7 definate nests on site and before any twat says anything, like previous years they will successfully fledge.
This one is pure record and a small part of the flock, this day I think it was 40+ birds roosted, never seen anything like it.
Best was probably one of the most confiding Kestrels I've ever come across and as a result probably the most photographed Kestrels lol. Not kidding on my first visit got talking to a good trio of toggers whilst waiting for Shorties and word had obviously got out about the owls as there must have been 40+ birders yet this bird hovered and hunted right on front of us all. Great little bird.
My favourite shot
Did get two Barn Owl's hunting together and going on behaviour a possible pairing.
It was grim first thing, low heavy cloud cover and a slight mist didn't help nor the fact they depart back to their nesting box quite early too :-( so sadly all shot with a ridiculous high ISO and having to get down to f4 just to achieve a paltry 1/250 second shutter speed, honestly with my old camera I wouldn't have bothered.
So two distant portraits of both birds.
This batch is from a previous trip.