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Duck stamp news from the United Kingdom

Established in 1986 by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Wildlife Habitat Trust (WHT) is an independent fund dedicated to the acquisition, creation and management of all types of wildlife habitat.

By the time Britain’s first waterfowl stamp had come into being, the Trust had already supported the purchase of over 1000 acres of wetlands conservation sites across England.

Each winter, many of the conservation projects play host to migratory wildfowl and game. However, there is a pressing need to safeguard habitats throughout the western Palearctic flyway which stretches across Europe and beyond. The European Waterfowl Habitat Fund, known as "Euroducks," encourages and coordinates the raising of funds by hunters and others for flyway conservation

The success of this has been demonstrated in North America by the charity organization, Ducks Unlimited. Euroducks extends the DU family into Europe and the Wildlife Habitat Trust is Euroducks’ representative in the United Kingdom. Its work is therefore part of a truly international conservation effort.

1991 saw the introduction of the British wildlife conservation stamp program. The stamps have a face value of £5, and, like the United States and other countries, are designed to raise funds through sales to collectors and hunters license fees. In Britain, BASC members affix the stamp to their membership card especially designed for the purpose.

Much of the revenue raised from the sale of duck stamps has already enabled the Trust to increase the area of prime habitat in the UK to over 3000 acres, which includes some 20 or more projects at important sites throughout the whole of the British Isles.

A portion of the funds raised from stamp sales is also set aside to help projects abroad for the protection of migratory waterfowl and game. The Trust is currently assisting in the safeguarding of important waterfowl staging grounds in the Baltic countries of Lithuania and Estonia. Stamp funds are also ensuring the future management of the Lake Engure in Latvia, which is a valuable breeding ground for waterfowl wintering in Britain.

In July each year the WHT, in conjunction with the BASC organizes a formal launch of the UK duck stamp. This event is incorporated with the annual three-day Game Fair, hosted by the Countryside Landowners Association, which attracts over 100,000 visitors during the three-day period.

The Game Fair is held at a different venue each year, usually within the bounds of a large estate since the sporting activities are many and varied. The year 2000 show, which took place July 28-30, was held in the beautiful 11,500 acre grounds of Blenheim Palace near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

The 10th UK habitat conservation stamp, depicting Black grouse at Lek, from a painting by wildlife artist Keith Brockie, was launched on Friday afternoon with a champagne reception and wildlife art exhibition. Clarissa Dixon-Wright, a keen conservationist and the surviving member of the TV duo known as "Two Fat Ladies," attended the launch ceremony.

The word "Lek" means moorland, a communal display area where the male black grouse fan their tail feathers, strut around and fight mock battles as part of the mating ritual, while the females wait silently nearby. After a short display, some will mate and the others will disappear into the moorland undergrowth or pine forests.

Black grouse feed on buds, young shoots, leaves, berries and insects, they usually feed on the ground but will feed in trees when snow covers plants. They are normally found in Scotland, Wales and the north of England.

For the benefit of hunters or anyone interested in field sports or fishing, who may be considering a visit to England next year, you may wish to note that the 2001 Game Fair, including the launch of the UK stamp will take place July 27-29 at Woburn Abbey, Buckinghamshire (located about 40 miles northwest of central London).

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