I’m enjoying leafing through a copy of Lilliput magazine from February 1955. ‘Lilliput is a man’s magazine’, it declares on the cover. In it is an article written by Colin Willock with stunning illustrations by Raymond Sheppard:
The article is called ‘The Snare of the Fowler’ and recounts the daily life of a man, Herbert Jackson, who set up fine nets on poles to trap birds. He was, “The last flight-netter in England.”
Here’s a taste of the article: “It is only when, at close range, the hanging blobs resolve themselves into ten pinkfeet geese, three widgeon, a curlew, and a miscellaneous parcel of golden plover, grey plover and redshank that the whole plot becomes clear.
“The cause of the birds’ destruction is a fine net with a six-inch mesh, made from fishing line and stretching one hundred yards across the marsh between ash-poles.
“The man now disentangles the birds, wringing their necks for good measure, and slips them into a sack.”
Over 60 years later I’m glad that some of the birds are protected species.. or are they?
Pink Footed Geese are regularly shot, including in Orkney. Wigeon are ‘an important quarry species’. Curlew were finally protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, despite vigorous efforts in the House of Lords. ShootingUK describe Curlew: “As those who have shot them will testify, they are far from unsporting.” I think that means they are difficult to shoot. I’ve not seen a Golden Plover in the UK. Wondering why, I check ShootingUK and find, “In the days of the punt-gun, commercial hunters could harvest 100 or more birds in a single shot, but a modern-day wildfowler with a shotgun will do well even to get close to a flock of these nervous waders.” It’s still legal to shoot them ‘in season’.
No wonder it’s difficult to get close to birds with a camera.
Herbert Jackson may not be trapping birds with flight nets now, but shooting in the UK still takes a massive toll of many important and declining species.
What about flight netting then? Has it ceased completely. Reading The Guardian newspaper I see an article entitled, “One million birds killed illegally every year at a wildlife site in Iran“. “An estimated 3,000 of these birds are currently being killed daily by local hunters to sell at local markets,” is their disturbing message.
It continues, “Their slaughter has also been made easier recently with the use of cheap transparent plastic nets which are not seen by the birds and which have proved highly effective in catching dozens in a single haul.”
Wild birds: still being killed in their millions.
The illustration in this article is by Raymond Sheppard. Even over 60 years later it’s still full of drama and beautifully executed within the limits of the printing techniques of the time. Raymond Sheppard illustrated Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea followed by success as the story illustrator for Lilliput. I really admire his work.