It must seem odd that I’ve started this post with an image of Red-necked Avocets (and two other species you may be able to identify). The image is in honour of the first bird taken to the RSPCA Mobile Vet Clinic on the opening day of last year’s shooting season at Lake Burrumbeet. Yep, someone shot an avocet. Someone lifted a shotgun and took aim at an exquisitely beautiful bird that looks absolutely nothing like a duck. It didn’t survive*.
Red-necked Avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae) – reflections
1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800
Laurie Levy from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting said, “Too many shooters either can’t recognise what they are shooting at or simply don’t care, and there are too few authorised officers available to regulate the hunt”. After photographing numerous shot birds, including endangered Freckled Ducks, swans, coot, Whistling Kite, pelicans, a cormorant, a Musk Duck … remembering the list is making me feel ill, and not seeing a single compliance officer, I agree with Laurie’s statement.
The Victorian duck shooting season starts tomorrow, Saturday 18 March; it is not sustainable. Professor Richard Kingsford’s annual aerial waterbird survey counted 71,993 waterbirds at the end of 2016, the least since his surveys began in 1983. The average over these years is 393,000.
Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides)
1/2500, f/8.0, ISO 160
Shooters refer to Australian Shelduck as Mountain Duck. They are large, easily identifiable birds measuring between about 55-75cm and weighing about 1.5kg. Apparently they are tough to eat and can be abandoned (illegally) by shooters who manage to bag something they consider tastier.
If a shooter fired a shotgun towards these eight birds they would be sprayed with 150-200 pellets; one in four birds hit by pellets is left injured to die a slow, cruel death. This wounding rate comes from Tom Roster, an independent US ballistics expert and shotgunner, and has been acknowledged by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, Field and Game Australia and the Victorian State Government. I can’t understand why birds that are protected for nine months each year can be treated with such horrendous and unnecessary cruelty for the remaining three months.
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 400
The first shot and abandoned bird I found during a duck season was a wood duck. It was lying, discarded among a miniature sea of empty alcohol cans and shell casings. Such a shameful waste.
Grey Teal (Anas gracilis)
1/1000, f/8.0, ISO 800
Grey Teal seem like the epitome of sweetness. They are so tiny, hardly a mouthful.
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 800
I’m an optimist and have included this image with the hope that it won’t be long before all our native waterbirds can swim off happily into the sunset every night of the year.
I have never liked the thought of duck shooting but it was only a few years ago that I realised the enormity of it. I hadn’t known that shooting is permitted at many thousands of sites across Victoria, I hadn’t realised that more than 400,000 birds could be shot, I hadn’t realised that more than 100,000 could be left to die slowly.
With only 0.4% of Victorians choosing to shoot ducks, I look forward to the day when our state government follows the lead of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia and puts a permanent end to the shameful cruelty of recreational duck shooting.
What can we do?
- Write or re-write to Premier Dan Andrews – email@example.com
- Write or re-write to Minister Jaala Pulford – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write or re-write to Minister Lily D’ambrosio – lily.d’email@example.com
- Write, re-write to, or phone your local member of parliament, regardless of which side of politics they support
- Comment on social media, especially on bird-watching and environmental pages – let’s support each other and make it okay to speak out, ignore the trolls
- Donate to the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, Animals Australia and/or similar organisations
- Support the group Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting by voting ‘yes’ in the poll
- Help to raise awareness by sharing this post, and others like it, on social media and with family and friends
- When at lakes, wetlands and reserves report sighting of listed species as this can close the area to shooters
- When at lakes, wetlands and reserves be watchful for injured birds that need assistance
Thank you for caring.
* Footage of the Red-necked Avocet shot during the 2016 season can be viewed here (Graphic)
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