Grumpy Old Birder

Here, Bo Boe­lens high­lights the con­ser­va­tion work car­ried out by three of his fe­male friends…

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - Bo Be­olens runs fat­birder.com and other web­sites. He has writ­ten a num­ber of books

Bo Boe­lens is proud of con­ser­va­tion work car­ried out by three of his friends

IN THE 1970’S TV sit­com I Didn’t Know You Cared, Un­cle Mort says that women are made for the frip­peries of life, like DIY and car­ry­ing in the coal, whereas men do im­por­tant stuff like sit­ting in their shed think­ing. Women have long been so­cialised into car­ing, nur­tur­ing roles and, whether by na­ture or nur­ture, many feel the same way about the planet’s wild places. Like chil­dren, they must be pro­tected with ti­gress-like ferocity. Since the last Bird­fair, I’ve been try­ing to give sup­port to two such women and have cor­re­sponded with another for nearly two decades. I’ve known Denise Good­fel­low for longer than ei­ther of us care to re­mem­ber. She has spent half her life stand­ing up for the rights of na­tive Aus­tralians so tena­ciously that she has made many po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. An artist, author and guide, she has bat­tled away for years to get lo­cal tourist au­thor­i­ties to recog­nise the im­por­tance of bird­ing tourism. She has set out to com­bat the in­va­sive species on her property – a relentless two-year bat­tle with Mis­sion, Rats-tail and, in par­tic­u­lar Gamba grass… and this means pulling out acres of the stuff by hand! She is sin­gle-hand­edly demon­strat­ing that it can be done… not many peo­ple are thank­ing her, but a lot of en­dan­gered Par­tridge Pi­geons are qui­etly ap­plaud­ing. Do you care enough about na­ture to spend your own money to lease a lake, sav­ing it from de­struc­tive fish­er­man who shoot all the birds? Well Alex Ap­pleby does. She fell in love with the lake and has ever since been try­ing to raise money to sus­tain its con­ser­va­tion. Well, what do you ex­pect from some­one who once lived alone on a small trop­i­cal is­land. Talk­ing of is­lands, there’s my third friend who cur­rently lives on the pop­u­lar hol­i­day is­land of Lan­zarote. Car­men Portella runs a small tour com­pany there and in­vited me to take a look at the birds (try mi­gra­tion times when any­thing from Europe or Amer­ica might turn up). Less well-known is El Jable, a unique desert formed in the Ice Age when lower seas ex­posed the sea-bed and trade winds blew the sand against the tow­er­ing cliffs of this At­lantic is­land. More than half the plants that live there are en­demic, as are a num­ber of races of birds like Lin­net, Lesser Short-toed Lark and South­ern Grey Shrike along with some other won­der­ful desert species like Houbara Bus­tard, Cream­coloured Courser and Stone-curlew. De­spite the fact that the en­tire is­land is designated as a World Bio­sphere Re­serve, the desert is un­pro­tected. The prob­lem was bought home to me when Car­men told me how a lo­cal farmer had said that when he had shot and eaten Stone-curlew he al­ways found that their crops were packed with desert snails. She is do­ing ev­ery­thing she can to en­sure the desert is not ru­ined by grant-gen­er­at­ing ‘agri­cul­ture’ and dune-buggy de­struc­tion. Th­ese strong women, and oth­ers like them, need the sup­port of both gen­ders!

Denise has bat­tled for years to get lo­cal tourist au­thor­i­ties to recog­nise bird­ing tourism

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