Every morning I walk the dog and for twenty minutes celebrate the springtime, with the singing birds along my route. We share the sense of relief that we have got through another long, dark and dreary winter in one piece. You can hear it in the voices of the Song Thrushes. Spring time means the first golden yellow blooms of Celandines poking out among their glossy, heart-shaped leaves in the hedge bottom, the singing of Skylarks over the fields just south of the village and the return of Curlews and Oystercatchers to the Ings land along the local rivers. We, like them, can detect the increasing day length, warming sun and changes in the landscape as nature awakens once again. It is a great time to be alive.
Yesterday morning my Dad rang me on my mobile. I could tell from his voice that something was wrong. He plays golf on a course right next to Askham Bog YWT (a place Sir David Attenborough only recently described as a 'cathedral of nature conservation') on the outskirts of York. My Dad had delighted in the ongoing struggles of a pair of Oystercatchers that returned from the coast to the golf course every year to try to raise a family. He would always tell me as soon they returned. They are his Cuckoos, or perhaps Swallows. For him, they herald the spring. And yet tragically today he had picked up one of the pair, laying dead with a wound looking suspiciously like a gunshot on the golf course.
And now the bird, mere flesh and feathers, lay stiff in an old carrier bag on my garage floor. This iconic, charismatic bird, this harbinger of spring, should never have seen the inside of a carrier bag, or my garage. It should have never lain on my hall carpet to have its photo taken.
Could somebody have shot Spring? Would somebody really do something that callous, that pointless, that selfish?
I have today spoken to Jean Thorpe legend of bird rehab and am seeking a vet to give the bird an X-ray to confirm the method of murder. Then, if necessary, I will be in touch with the police and the RSPB.
I won't rest until I have found out how this beautiful bird died.
The vet who generously x-rayed and then carried out a post mortem failed to find evidence of a gunshot wound. He felt it had died through being struck with a small, blunt object, and given the location of death, may well have been a golf ball. This is a massive relief as whilst it is still tragic to have died in this way, it is heartening that nobody was out there shooting at beautiful birds such as this.