As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Buzzards back in hunters’ crosshairs over threat to UK pheasant shoots

Licences for gamekeepers to kill the protected bird of prey will open the floodgates to illegal hunting, warn conservationists

Dan Glaister

Sunday 18 September 2016 00.04 BST
Tim Boxall points at a shape in the field bordering the seven-acre wooded pen where he keeps 1,500 pheasants. “Here you are,” he says. “Look! There’s one over here.” He bends down and prises the remains of a pheasant from the long grass. “That’s a buzzard kill, you can tell by the way it’s been eaten.”

Boxall is a gamekeeper, raising 10,000 pheasants a year to be killed in commercial shoots on the land he rents in Gloucestershire. This year, however, the pheasants have something other than Boxall’s clients to fear: the buzzard.

“There’s an old saying: where there’s livestock, there’s going to be deadstock,” Boxall says. “You accept the buzzards are always going to have some, but this year was horrendous. I lost 500 pheasants at £3.75 each. It cost me £75 a day to pay someone to sit there all day to watch over them, basically sunbathing for two weeks, but it did keep them away.”

The buzzard’s robust health – and its appetite for pheasants – has brought the protected bird of prey into the sights of the shooting industry. At the end of July, Natural England, the government agency tasked with protecting England’s wildlife, issued a licence allowing a gamekeeper to shoot up to 10 buzzards to stop them killing pheasants. Last week it announced that four more licences were under consideration. While the announcement couldn’t come soon enough for Boxall, it has left many conservationists up in arms.


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