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Spring is sprung and here come the human midges

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 20, 2013

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Even though winter seems reluctant to get the message, spring is finally here. Buds are bursting, birds are nesting and the lawn needs its first cut. And more than that. Somewhere in a shed near you a team of chaps will be busy with spanners and cans of WD40 fiddling with their flaps. Yes, those painful pillocks who pilot light aircraft are gearing up for their annual assault from the air.

From here on in, every time the sun manages to peer through the clouds it'll be joined by a never ending succession of lumps of flimsy metal emitting an irritating drone. Enjoy each few seconds of unpolluted birdsong as long as you can because there will be another along very shortly.

"Oh what a lovely day," they'll be saying, blithely unaware that it's not so lovely for those on the ground whose long awaited taste of the great outdoors has been ruined by a machine that takes 20 minutes to haul itself from horizon to horizon.

Not so good either for the earth bound to be reminded that while they could scarcely afford a few gallons of heating oil to keep off the winter chills there are always plenty of folk about happy to show off the fact that they can fritter away a few hundred quid's worth of aviation fuel on a pointless airborne jaunt.

You will have gathered by now that I'm not over fond of small planes. The reasoning is simple. When, at long last, it's bright and sunny I don't go round to their houses operating a leaf blower or revving up a chain saw so why should they come round mine doing something very similar?

Not all flying machines, of course. One day I could well need the services of the air ambulance so that's welcome to buzz about as much as it likes and I've never shown any reluctance in boarding an airliner to be whisked away to somewhere exotic.

Military aircraft are also an exception. While I've always thought that, bearing in mind their eventual combat role, training would be better carried out over the skies of a city rather than open fields and moorland, the boys in uniform have a job to do in defending us all, so good luck to them. At least they come and go in seconds.

But even the armed services, I see, are now coming in for some stick over their aerial shenanigans. Low flying naval helicopters have been blamed for disturbing wildlife at reserves in Cornwall by continuing to operate while birds, many of them quite rare, are trying to nest. Merlins – that's the helicopters, not the squeaky ones – and Sea Kings have been a real pest over marshes at Marazion and along the Hayle Estuary according to the RSPB. Grey herons, egrets, oystercatchers and wigeon have all been affected.

Thankfully, it looks as if a compromise has been reached. The authorities at RNAS Culdrose have promised that low sorties will be carried out only in very poor conditions or on search and rescue missions.

However, no sooner had that little difficulty been sorted out, when along came news of another potential threat from the skies.

It seems that the League Against Cruel Sports is planning to use surveillance drones to gather evidence that hunts are breaking the law. As part of what they describe as "a war in the countryside" airborne cameras will follow hunts to make sure that packs follow legal scents – as they are now obliged to do – rather than the real thing.

Campaigners in camouflage jackets and hiding under hedges with video cameras are no longer enough, obviously, and newer, better technology must be brought in. How reassuring for the peace loving lot that it will work. They can rely on things that have been successfully tried and tested by the American military long skilled in blowing up wedding parties in remote parts of Pakistan from the safety of bunkers in Arizona.

The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance has questioned the civil liberties aspect of the proposed drones but surely they are missing the point.

What irks here is not the spy-in-the-sky aspect of it all but the damned noise the things will make.

Does no one understand the value of peace and quiet?

The one hopeful thing about the League's new weapon is that it will appear at roughly the same time as the shooting season.

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  • Roger_S  |  March 21 2013, 7:33PM

    As they'll be flying above 150m, they'll be a lot less noisy than a bunch of hooligans on horseback clattering down the road, or hounds in cry following 'a trail'. I assume that Mr Ron Bendell thinks he's being funny and intelligent by subtly advocating criminal damage by the statement "The one hopeful thing about the League's new weapon is that it will appear at roughly the same time as the shooting season"? Just for information - he isn't.

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