A Huge Thank You To Over 100 000 Great People Who Stood Up For Nature

Woodcock Finland 2017 1

Eurasian Woodcock a bird that needs all our help if we are to keep this bird here in the UK.

Last week we stood, with a small group of our guests, in the very first light of dawn looking up at the sky. Why had we forsaken our lovely cosy hotel and the promise of a freshly cooked breakfast to stand in below zero temperatures in the dark? It is a good question. I am sure most of you can guess the reason: a bird, a very special bird and one we knew we would not even get a good of view of, but that is not always the point of watching birds.

A lot of our experiences as bird- and wildlife-watchers comes from being in the moment with nature. It doesn’t have to be big and spectacular or rare or new, it is all about that connection with nature and the feeling of joy those moments give us. So, we stood in the bitter cold and looked up at the almost black sky. Minutes pased. A Tawny Owl hooted over to our left and a Grey Heron “franked” from the river below us; nature was going to bed and yet simultaneously waking up. There! Up there! There’s one! From standing motionless our little group became animated as binoculars scanned the dark sky for the wavering flight of bird making its way to roost, a Woodcock. A beautiful bird if seen on the ground in good light, gorgeous even, but here it was a dark shape with broad wings and a rather lost-looking flight. Yet that dark shape in the less than half-light made everyone smile and feel happier than they were a moment before. That is what bird watching does, it brings joy and makes us smile. Four more of these dark shapes flew low over us before the light levels rose enough for us to know the show was over. The Woodcock feed on the fields by the river at night and roost by day in the forest behind us. We can almost set our watches by their routine and on each of the four mornings of the trip we watched them waver overhead to roost, each morning they made us smile.

Woodcock Norfolk 2

A Woodcock in a wood at its day time roost, very hard to spot!

Sadly our UK population of Woodcock is in steep decline, everyone who has looked at the science provided by bird conservation and shooting groups agrees. There are a number of reasons for the decline, so often the case with bird populations. Yet somehow it is still legal to blast these beautiful birds out of the sky with shotguns for fun. The Woodcock is a small wading bird and no one can argue it is a good source of protein, it simply is not, a tiny amount of edible meat per bird compared to say a chicken or even Pheasant. But beyond the argument of not shooting a bird in serious decline, which you would think was a no-brainer, why and how could anyone destroy something so very beautiful for fun? I liken it to going into an art gallery and slashing the paintings because that was fun for a moment. You would be left with a mess, tattered paintings and broken frames. Killing a Woodcock is the same, a lifeless pile of feathers compared to a most beautiful living creature capable of bringing joy to so many. I think we would be very concerned for a person's mental health if they destroyed a fine art collection or burned down a library because they couldn’t read. We should be very concerned about those who seek to destroy beauty for their own brief moment of pleasure.

But don’t despair, we have some good news. In recent months over 100,000 great people stood up for nature and our beautiful Woodcock in particular and signed a petition to limit the shooting season for this bird. Not a total ban sadly, in my opinion, but a big step to reducing the number of Woodcock slaughtered in the UK each winter. Let us hope this shorter season becomes law and more of us can stand in the dark and look for dark shapes that make us smile and bring us joy.

Still time to sign that petition if you are quick, a Woodcock dozing in a wood near you would thank you if it could. Please keep standing up for birds and nature. We will win, however long it takes. Thank you.


Every single name adds to the weight of the message we are sending to the Government and to those who destroy our beautiful wildlife for fun. Let's make a stand and end it.

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