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