Truth-telling changes

Yet another duck shooting season has been called in Victoria – but some truth-telling changes have been made.


Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800


Pacific Black Ducks are the iconic ducks that frequent ponds, lakes and wetlands. Just this week I watched young children feeding blackies at a local park, and they were all using proper duck food pellets. It was a blissful childhood scene, the kind that I’m sure many of us remember. It is far from the scenes that will mar our waterways in the coming months.

The length of the 2018 season (twelve weeks) and the bag limit (ten birds per shooter, per day) have remained the same. As in some previous years, the Australasian Shoveler (Blue-winged Shoveler)  is not supposed to be shot. Seven native species can legally be shot, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood Duck (Maned Duck), Australian Shelduck (Mountain Duck), Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck and Hardhead – no non-native species are on the list.

Opening day is on Saturday 17th March, and the changes begin here. The Game Management Authority (GMA) announced that shooting will commence at 9am on opening Saturday and 8am on the Sunday. During the season shooting usually starts half an hour before sunrise and continues until half an hour after sunset. It’s obvious that identifying birds in such low light is ridiculously difficult, and that identifying specific species in a mixed flock of waterbirds would be virtually impossible – no wonder so many protected species are killed and maimed.

Opening weekend gets more publicity than other days in the season and last year the public got to hear about the blatant disregard for rules and the wanton killing perpetuated by many shooters – they behaved this way with the press and enforcement agencies on site so one can only imagine how they behave on multitudes of isolated wetlands across the state. The massacre at Koorangie State Game Reserve was sickening. Shooting began well before sunrise and many hundreds of dead and injured birds were left floating in the water and hiding among the reeds. Brian Hine, GMA Chairperson, said, ‘Last year’s opening weekend saw some hunters engage in entirely unacceptable behaviour including early shooting, shooting protected species and failing to retrieve shot birds.’

Truth-telling changes: birds cannot be properly identified in the dark, many shooters aren’t ‘responsible’, protected species are shot, many ducks are shot and wasted.


Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
1/640, f/7.1, ISO 400


I had to share the image above as it looks as though this blackie is shedding a tear. I’ve heard a lot over the years about it being inappropriate to think about animals anthropomorphically but the more time I spend with nature the more appropriate it becomes. Animals want the same as us, food and shelter, and often company. I’ve seen them fight fiercely to protect their young and grieve when a partner loses its life. Though having said that, I’m not suggesting that this bird is actually crying (just in case any shooters accidentally read this post and give me a hard time about it).

Under the heading ‘New regulations’ the GMA says that ‘Hunters will now be required to retrieve all game ducks they shoot and harvest and will be required to at least salvage the breast meat from a duck to ensure that harvested game is not wasted’. Duck rescuers found more than 1200 dead birds abandoned at Koorangie.

Truth-telling changes: official acknowledgement that shooters don’t always retrieve birds they shoot and some ducks are shot and ‘wasted’ and that others are killed for a minuscule amount of breast meat.

The pass mark for the Waterfowl Identification Test will be increased to 85% from next month but as the test continuing to be totally unrepresentative of conditions in the field, it’s hardly reassuring.

The Field and Game Association chairperson, Bill Paterson, is upset about the changes and thinks that Australasian Shovelers should still be on the list. This is despite Professor Kingsford’s aerial survey results showing that, ‘Most game species abundances were well below long term averages, in some cases by an order of magnitude’.

Sigh. How can we be so cruel to our wildlife?


Australian Wood Duck (Maned Duck) (Chenonetta jubata)
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 3200


To finish on a happier note, many thanks to everyone who speaks out against this abhorrence. Over the past few years I’ve noticed that many more people are willing to be heard. I was blocked from a major birding facebook page for sharing one of the Season of Shame posts – I don’t understand how people can profess to love nature but condone the shooting of 100,000s of native waterbirds. Now I’m seeing it discussed much more openly in social media.

So, thank you for caring

Happy birding



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16 comments to Truth-telling changes

  • Marg Morris

    Kim thank you for your heartfelt article. Having been surrounded by native wildlife, farm animals and pets all my life I am sure animals have bonds and feelings like humans. We have had horses seek another for weeks when mate is gone, cats sleep on dog beds for the first time after the loss of a dog they appeared to merely share space with and witnessed numerous acts of attachment our ringtail possums have for their families as well as devoted native birds being lifelong partners and caring parents. It is totally irresponsible to have any open shooting season in Victoria. If they must accountability needs to be strictly applied including large fines where the money is put into the wetlands. Those who shoot during the duck season do not represent the culture all shooters, especially those who only use their license to target foxes to protect sheep and cows who are down calving. There should be a ban on alcohol matching that of driving.

    • lirralirra

      What beautiful things you have witnessed with animals of all kinds. I think the shooting season would be impossible to properly regulate as there are about 20,000 sites in Victoria where birds can be shot and only a handful of officers to ‘police’ it. I agree that controlling feral animals is a different story, still sad, but sometimes necessary and shooting them is a very different activity to blasting a mixed flock of birds with 100s of pellets. And definitely ‘yes’ regarding alcohol!

  • Chris

    Wonderful Kim. Having watched a single striated pardalote feeding young through these hot hot days – I wonder is this instinct or love – just like how we care for our young, I am sure both are there. Important that we see other living creatures as being like us – the empathy that we can feel is powerful and should create compassion.

    • lirralirra

      What an exhausting time for the pardalote parent, I hope it successfully raised its nestlings, and hopefully its tunnel is deep enough to stay reasonably cool. Empathy and compassion would solve so many issues, thank you for sharing yours

  • Barbara Devine

    Congratulations to every wildlife loving person who stands up for the voiceless in our community. A world without birds and wildlife would be appalling and this carnage must stop. Yes some of the so-called bird groups refuse to get involved and as you said prefer to just buy calendars and look at beautiful pictures (note from Kim: I didn’t say this but I understand the inference) and pretend life for these amazing, unique and beautiful birds is all OK.

    Please keep supporting in any way possible whether publicly or in social media and, of course, donating to the incredible groups and people who donate their time, money, efforts and mental, physical and emotional well being to protecting, saving and conserving wildlife.

    Please keep an eye on the people being elected – the new leader of the National Party – a woman is a gun toting politician who has publicly stated ‘she gets enormous thrills when she loads her guns and shoots and kills’. The Gun Lobby is very happy to see these politicians in power – make your vote count come next election.

    As Martin Luther King Jr said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

    To all those amazing people who will be at the wetlands please stay safe.

    Kim your editorial and pictures are as usual fantastic.

    • lirralirra

      Your passion for animal welfare shines through your words Barbara, you cover some many important aspects of the issue. Hopefully social media will help alert everyone to the true horrors of the season.

  • Gai Collens

    Wonderful photos Kim accompanied by an excellent read. Margot’s compassionate and succinct response sums up my feelings to a tee.

  • Margot

    Beautifully and truthfully expressed , Kim, with your usual heartfelt passion. I endorse your comments re-animals feelings. One only has to be surrounded by animals to know the extent of their feelings which they clearly express in many ways.
    Seeing your amazing photos of these beautiful creatures makes me weep at the fate that awaits many in 2 months time. It is impossible to understand the sadistic joy that some humans derive from killing.

    • lirralirra

      It really is impossible to understand the ‘sadistic joy’ that some people feel, it’s sickening. I can’t begin to understand it. Our connection with creatures is precious, I feel lucky to be sitting her with my dogs at my feet and a garden full of sleeping critters, along with many nocturnal species … blissful.

  • Lyn Young

    A very balanced, clear, concise and lovingly expressed article Kim. The voice of reason and the presentation of field gathered information is making it so much harder to deny the reality of this annual devastation. Slowly, slowly your voices are being acknowledged. I really like your take on this article – truth telling !

    • lirralirra

      I think so too Lyn. If everyone realised the true horrors of it then I think we’d get enough letters written to politicians that it would be banned with haste.

  • Hiss and spit.
    Some tiny steps in the right direction, when giant strides are needed.

  • Lilla

    It would be great if more of the everyday pro shooters read this. Possibly they could continue to be pro shooting but have a very different idea of what might be an acceptable pro shooting policy. Eg only non natives, only day light, no wastage. From an economical perspective it would be great if the govt would invest in strict enforcement with on the spot fines and use the money to protect the wetlands.

    • lirralirra

      You’re right. The government would make an absolute fortune if fines were charged for killing and injuring non-game species, abandoning game birds and trashing the wetlands. And if there isn’t a law against being drunk in possession of a fire arm then there definitely should be.

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