On Thursday evening we headed over to the Bulwark on Gower after work. Remarkably it’s the first time I have ever visited the huge Iron Age hill fort there and boy am I sorry about that. Occupying a huge site just beneath the summit of Llanmadoc Hill it offers stunning views down the Burry Inlet towards Loughor and across to Llanelli. Although we were there just a few minutes before dusk, the patchwork of marshland, sand and water looked fantastic and is definitely a candidate for a future sunset/sunrise shoot.
The main reason for our visit was to try and see Badgers, another in a long line of forays around our local area that ultimately left us empty handed. Disappointed we may have been but certainly not disheartened, safe in the knowledge that there is a healthy population out there and that one day we’ll hit lucky. Sadly this is a state of affairs that may not last much longer as in recent weeks the government has announced plans to go ahead with a cull of Badgers in England. The justification for this needless slaughter is to prevent the spread of TB (which some Badgers are known to carry) to cattle. No one can argue that bovine TB is not an issue and I sincerely sympathise with the anguish of farmers who are faced with the disease each year. However, a cull of Badgers is not the answer, nor will it ever be. The science simply doesn’t stack up. Although the transfer from Badger to cattle has been established, the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB ruled in 2007 that a widespread cull would not have any meaningful effect on transfer rates after they themselves slaughtered 9,818 Badgers. Here in Wales we faced a similar threat a couple of years ago but thankfully overwhelming public opinion saw that shelved and a cattle vaccination program adopted instead. Why the same approach can’t be taken in the rest of the UK where similar public outrage is being expressed baffles me. Instead we find ourselves on the brink of a precipice with the future of our Badgers at stake.
So what can we do? As Andy Rouse has pointed out on his blog here, individually we are alone. Together however there might just be a chance that we can make our voices heard. Firstly I recommend heading over to the Team Badger website where many of the organisations involved are coming together to speak with one voice. Have a read of the information there and hopefully you’ll agree that the Badger cull is something that simply cannot be allowed to happen. Secondly sign the petition on the Direct Gov website so that this government can truly see how unpopular their Badger cull is. If we don’t make a stand now then who knows what the future may hold for the rest of our native British wildlife.
With such serious issues hanging over our countryside it was perhaps appropriate that we managed to get out and enjoy it for a few hours on Saturday. I was feeling a little bit defeatist after my talk of not being able to identify a juvenile Garganey in a past post, so it was back to the Llanelli WWT reserve for round two. From the British Steel Hide we were treated to large flocks of Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshank and even a Ruff, whilst out with the Cormorants the long staying Spoonbill continued to snooze (I swear that’s all it ever does). On the NRA scrapes things were relatively quiet apart from a few Wigeon and several Gadwall, not forgetting of course the three juvenile Garganey! As it turns out they stand out really rather well in the flesh (feather?) and we had no trouble picking them up as they swam from cover to cover. They represented both my second, third and fourth sightings of Garganey as well as Emma’s first. Elsewhere signs of autumns advance continue to present themselves with much reduced Swallow numbers, an increase in Wigeon to 150 individuals and the reappearance of two Kingfishers from both the Michael Powell and Peter Scott hides. Saying that, it is still raining almost every day here so defining ‘seasons’ is becoming something of a mute point.