Throughout history, migration of birds has been a universal phenomenon. Many animals migrate in response to biological requirements, such as the need to find a suitable location for breeding and raising their young, and to be in favourable areas for feeding. In some cases, these specific requirements are fulfilled in locations separated by distances of thousand of kilometres. During their migration, these animals cross political boundaries between nations; boundaries that have no inherent meaning for animals, but which have a dramatic influence on their annual life-cycles and their individual survival chances, due to the great differences that exist between countries in conservation policy. Migratory species are dependent on the specific sites they find at the end of their journey and along the way. These sites can be regular haunts, revisited over decades or centuries; however their popularity can vary for numerous reasons, sometimes due to disturbance and habitat degradation. but also to climatic conditions; either more favourable elsewhere – tempting species to remain at new locations, or less favourable – e.g., in breeding grounds resulting in lower hatch rates & thus fewer numbers.

As wildfowlers we endeavour to only take a sustainable harvest of quarry species that show in the short, medium and long term that quarry species populations are not affected by hunting. In addition, where possible we try to reduce any possible impact of wildfowling on quarry species by reducing natural loss through improvement of habitat. As a local club our conservation efforts tend to be concentrated in Norfolk, such as our regular rubbish clearance of Rockland Broad and all our marshes. Future conservation plans involve additional nesting boxes in suitable sites for Mallard and small birds that are susceptible to predation by the uncontrolled numbers of Magpies evident in today’s urbanised world and other introduced predators such as released Mink (accidental or otherwise). Many local populations of Mallard have been decimated if not wiped out by these ferocious predators. In addition, we are building bat boxes to be sited in areas to help these nocturnal insect predators on the road to recovery. In addition Rockland Wildfowlers’ Association pride themselves on a responsible approach to hunting by opening individual marshes for shooting only two days a week. This in no way reduces our opportunity to shoot, since our land portfolio is so varied and expansive and we allocate days of the week such that there is still an enviable choice of marshes to visit six days a week. It does however underline our commitment to sustainable wildfowling and reducing to negligible, our effect on wildlife.

Our national and global efforts tend to be coordinated by the Wildlife Habitat Trust (WHT) for which RWA raises money. The WHT then distributes funds to help with the acquisition of land for nature conservation and provides grants to help manage sites for wildlife and is now turning its attention to providing some support for local and national Bio diversity Action Plans. Most recently, grants have been given to help with the conservation of Grey Partridge, Water Voles and Dormice. These grants support the conservation objectives of the RSPB, the Environment Agency and English Nature. To date, the WHT has provided assistance to conservation projects where the total land acquisitions have exceeded £1 million. Although lead shot can still be used legally for shooting in the United Kingdom it is no longer used by members of Wildfowling Clubs in England. Instead we use non-toxic shot such as steel and tin reducing the possibility of lead poisoning in the event of ingestion of lead shot by wildfowl, which can lead death or reduction in fertility rates. The biggest threat to wildfowl comes in the form of loss of habitat, such as the draining of meadows, marshes, fens and ponds. New Zealand has lost 90 per cent of its marshy terrain, and more than 70 per cent of European wetlands have disappeared. Although we are only a small club, either directly or through the WHT we will endeavour to purchase wetlands in order to conserve animals and wildfowl for future generations to enjoy.

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Rockland Wildfowlers Association Shooting and Conservation