Shooters. Wish they’d stop and think about it.
I think of my old home in Andalucia in autumn, when figs come dropping slow. (Sorry Yeats) And almonds, walnuts, fat raisins, olives, mangos and avocados; and pigs are slaughtered in lemon groves. There are hot chestnuts for sale on the streets, and it’s the time to head for the hills and eat melting casseroles of hind and boar cooked in wood ovens.
The animals have been hunted and shot of course. Plenty of crazed hunting goes on in Spain, but when we lived there we liked to think that in terms of hunting birds, everyone missed because they were such rubbish shots.
They fared well with partridges though, luring them into their sights with the plaintive cries of one they keep caged. The birds live in their owner’s patios when they are not luring their kin to a bloody death. You hear them lamenting from their cages as you walk down practically any village street.
Autumn in Uist and the turnips, carrots and potatoes in the sandy, salty earth have reached perfection. But here the slaughter is of innocent wild birds by people who feel it’s worth driving hundreds of miles north and paying a lot of money to slay them mindlessly, as if the islands exist only for their pleasure.
Today the shooters park themselves round the loch where we live and let rip, spooking livestock. I’m not even sure if it’s safe for us to go out, so close are they to houses and to the track we walk almost daily.
I ask them if they have killed any of our innocent snipe. The boy with peridot eyes doesn’t know where to look or what to say. His mother jumps in with, “No, mores the pity.”
I wouldn’t mind if they shot deer, because we have too many and they are straying into our gardens bringing with them a plague of ticks bearing Lymes Disease.
I wouldn’t mind if they shot greylag geese, because thousands now overwinter here and destroy spring grass and gobble every grain in sight at harvest time. Full time scarers are employed to try and keep them away from crops.
By shooting those animals, the southern blood-lust which is such a status symbol would serve a useful purpose. But by going for snipe, woodcock and duck at Sandary, the shooters ensure that the loch stays barren of birds for some time to come. There were a couple of seasons when there was no shooting on our loch and our neighbour said he heard 60 bird species there in one day.
I shouted at the shooters across the loch to **** off, but they were busy barking at each other so loudly and excitedly I doubt if they heard me and if they had, I doubt if they would have cared.