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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thoughts on Duck Shooting and ornithology


A day off and duck shooting season has started and I am conscious of how hypocritical  I am.   I loathe duck shooting but so understand the exuberance of the morning hunt and the sheer pleasure of being outdoors with a purpose.  I remember years ago in a rural parish a trusting Reporoa farmer thrusting a shotgun in my hands and hauling me to go duck shooting by a small lake on his property.  I had never held a gun before and never actually fired this one - the ducks were uncooperative that evening, thankfully.

Yet in another parish I was grateful to be remembered by a parishioner who placed freshly shot ducks on the Vicarage doorstep - but the gratitude faded as we faced the task of plucking them and then, in the eating, cautiously navigating our way past the bits of shot.

I think my objection to duck shooting is how haphazard it is.  That birds are frequently wounded and have to be left to die.  The thought sickens me.  I remember the late Peter Scott, well known bird artist and conservationist, recalled in his autobiography The Eye of the Wind how he gave up duck shooting after watching an injured bird.

This Monday, Dunstan and I walked about the Island Bay Reserve checking for ducks, none about.  A solitary white faced heron (ardea novaehollandiae) and three Black Swan (cygnus atratus) and then the innumerable gulls, especially the ubiquitous Black-backed Larus dominicanus and similarly common the red-billed gulls Larus novaehollandiae.   Not a great morning bird-watching but the habit provides a sense of purpose; it enriches the pleasure of walking with your dog.  Dunstan is patient with me, enduring the delays as I scan with my binoculars; sitting at my feet with a long suffering sigh.
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