Feathers fly in battle of the twitchers and the shooters

The prospect of an internationally important bird reserve lying next to a popular bird shoot was always going to try the patience of twitchers and shooters alike.

However, a dispute over the leasing of marshes near Topsham, on the Exe estuary, Devon, has grown into a conflict between those who like to gaze at their birds through binoculars and those who prefer to view them through a gun sight.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) wants to extend its reserve at Bowling Green Marshes by gaining access to a stretch of muddy foreshore and imposing a no- shooting policy.

The Devon Wildfowlers also want to negotiate a lease with the Crown Commissioners, owners of the foreshore, to offer a generous section of shootable waterfront to their members. A local nobleman and a magazine editor have joined the fray and the wildfowlers are receiving anonymous hate mail, although not from the RSPB.

The RSPB fears bird-watchers will get a bad deal if they do not win the lease. The charity's regional manager, John Waldon, said: "Wildfowling has always gone on but we would like to see it zoned in an area that will not spoil people's enjoyment of the reserve. It's not asking an awful lot to have a no-shooting zone around the reserve. "Most of the time wildfowlers are very good but there is always the risk that they will shoot a rare bird by accident. If they win, they win, and I'm sure they will police the site well but I'm also sure bird-watchers will be disappointed that their bird-watching will be disrupted."

Although Mr Waldon accepted that while wildfowling has increased in the area recently, according to an RSPB study in 1986 it then accounted for 1 per cent of all shooting on the Exe estuary. The Devon Wildfowlers insist their leasing of the land would protect it from untrained, rogue shooters. The club's secretary, Peter Young, said: "All our members have to pass a very stringent test. Unless they get a 100-per- cent test on bird recognition, they cannot shoot. At the moment, this is crown land and anyone can shoot on crown land, no matter how poor their bird recognition might be."

In a recent disturbing development Mr Young received an anonymous hate letter on the issue of who should get access to this stretch of foreshore. Lord Courtenay, eldest son of the 17th Earl of Devon, whose family owns other large stretches of the foreshore near his Powderham Castle seat on the western banks of the estuary, has got involved, pledging support for what he terms the "working-man's sport of wildfowling."

Last week the editor of Field magazine, Jonathan Young, Peter Young's son, joined forces in the campaign to prevent the RSPB getting the remaining available foreshore, saying it wanted "to stop local people enjoying their old sport." Now, in mid-spring, the debate is intensifying as migrating birds return to the marshes from winter sojourns abroad. Last week the first sand martins flew in, swooping low over the marshes, and little egrets, rare in Britain until a few years ago, were also seen along the water's edge. Later this year, when many species are preparing to leave again for their flights south, the Crown Commissioners will make their decision on who gets the foreshore.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Business Studies Tutor / Assessor / Lecturer - Tollerton

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried