speckled wood

Lac du Heron

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Thursday 12th August 1999

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dabchicksparrowhawk mobbed by starlings BESIDES ATTRACTING fishermen, windsurfers, walkers, cyclists and wildlife, the Lac du Heron, at Villeneuve d'Ascq , near Lille in the north east corner of France, plays an essential role in flood control.

whitethroatlilac weed Herons nest on a small island, Dabchicks, dive in the lake. A Sparrowhawk is mobbed by House Martins and Starlings. A small flock, including Whitethroats and Spotted Flycatchers, flits about in a weedy area of ditches and thorn bushes.

speckled wood In an adjoining field there is a dense growth of a lilac-flowered weed. A Speckled Wood flies alongside the path by a row of tall Poplars.

La Chasse

men and dogs (mon hommage a Herge) As we walk the lakeside path, two dog walkers pass us in animated conversation, making the circuit in the opposite direction;

'C'est un totalitarisme ecologique! . . .'

Half an hour later they pass us again at the far side of the lake;

'. . . parce que la chasse garde les fleures et les animaux.'

He's right of course; the survival of hedges, copses, rough areas and marshes in amongst the intensively farmed countryside of today owes a lot to the management put in by the hunting fraternity. I don't agree with everything they do, but really they're our partners in the conservation of wildlife habitats rather than the enemy.

In France there is a strong hunting lobby. In parts of the country, such Peronne, the candidates representing hunting interests won a large percentage of the vote for the European elections.

While I'd be happy if people stopped killing animals for the fun of it, my ideas of what the countryside should be like are framed by my memories of Terrington, at the edge of the North York Moors, where father was a member of a shooting syndicate. There was a copse full of pheasants, a small dam full of fish and a reedbed full of wildfowl. It looked natural but it owed a lot to Mr Green the gamekeeper (an appropriate name really), who lived in the adjoining cottage.

But I'm glad that I don't know what his policy on birds of prey was!

This evening in the garden we look skyward for the Perseid meteor shower. Everybody sees one or two of them . . . except me!

Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; 'richard@daelnet.co.uk'

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