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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Four hours of cold-blooded killing - the murderous campaign continues

Thanks to a tip-off, I made my way down to Staines Reservoirs, where representatives of the governmental body DEFRA were undertaking their first Ruddy Duck cull of the autumn at the site.

Before game started play, 14 RUDDY DUCKS were in attendance, along with a juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER and large numbers of both dabbling (Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler) and diving ducks (Tufted Duck, Northern Pochard and Common Goldeneye) were present.

As usual, DEFRA came armed with 7 motorised speedboats, 7 guns and two stooges, placed at either end of the causeway. They had also been provided with excellent optical equipment, including a quality telescope and at least five pairs of expensive binoculars. It did not take them time to locate their quarry, all huddled close together in a tight-knit group on the South Basin.

As the boats were being launched into the SE corner of the basin, many of the wildfowl spooked and made their way over the causeway and on to the North Basin. This most likely involved the three juvenile COMMON SCOTERS that were located mid-morning feeding very close to the central causeway.

RUDDY DUCKS, unlike other wildfowl, are particularly reluctant to fly during daylight hours, mainly because of their poor flight making them susceptible to attack. They prefer to move by the hours of darkness. As a result, they are an easy target. It was not long before three birds were killed and bagged, followed most likely by two more. Several more sweeps of the reservoir were made, with the intention of killing the last two that remained present.

Coots were trying to escape the mayhem by frantically placing themselves in danger by running up the banks of the reservoir and then scooting along the main causeway and out through the fence and down the steep bank. They were petrified at the loud bangs going off all around them. Three first-winter Great Crested Grebes stuck it out and circumnavigated the outside edge.

Although it took just two hours to kill the first five 'bluebills', the remaining two took an age and I watched in disgust and horror, as the seven boats carefully, quietly and meticulously stalked their flightless prey. The 'watcher' clearly knew that two birds were still alive and there was no way he was going to leave before they had both been wiped off the face of the earth. Both were young drakes. Incredibly, time and time again, both birds dived and outwitted the wildfowlers, coming up behind the punts and then 'paddling' at full speed back towards the opposite end of the reservoir and bank. This was really frustrating the killers and after some consultation and radio-contact, they came up with a plan and slowly penned one of the two desperate survivors into the SW corner. All seven boats circled the bird and when it came up to breath, they all blasted at it at less than 30 yards range. The brave coloniser survived three uptakes of breath but sadly got nailed on its fourth surface, and was killed outright with one shot. It was then scooped up in a net by a delighted, beaming 'sportsman'.

The sole survivor then really made hard work and tricked the wicked brigadiers almost into submission. However, they would not be beaten and hounded the poor bird whilst terrifying Coot, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe alike until it could gasp no longer and had to admit defeat. It surfaced exhausted like a storm-driven Little Auk and was then obliterated - the 999th Ruddy Duck to be murdered in cold blood at Staines Reservoirs since the carnage began in 2004.

So that was it - a day's work was done. Seven dead Ruddy Ducks in the bag. Success - and time to get prepared for tomorrow's shoot at Pitsford Reservoir in Northamptonshire.

I didn't bother remonstrating with or brow-beating the two henchmen on the gates this time - it was futile. All I can do is pray that some of my Ruddy Ducks survive past March 2010 when this government-backed monstrous campaign falters and comes to its glorious end. It is then that I shall cheer and leap for joy. At least I could drive home knowing full well that seven Ruddies had lived to fight another day (Lee G R Evans)