The Countryside About Us: October 1993

posted 29 Sep 2013, 11:15 by James Mansell
Many of our hedgerow bottoms are riddled with rabbit burrows.  Not content with eroding the banks, a network of burrows quickly extend into adjoining uncultivated areas. What might have been good pastureland quickly becomes a minefield of holes. The theory that rabbits are now living above ground and thereby remain free of fleas that carry the myxomatosis virus, I discount.  In any case “myxi” is also transmitted mechanically by thistles. Man’s efforts to control their numbers seem ineffectual measured against the doe’s great prolificacy. A long severe winter would drastically reduce the multitude, but when did we experience such a time in this “kindly” climatic area?  Incredibly a pair of little owls (or were they short eared owls) had nested in such a burrow. Disturbed by my arrival they flew up into a nearby ash tree.  Since my first sighting of these owls I have been pleased to see them on several occasions in that vicinity.

The cereal harvest, but not the beans and sugarbeet, is by now “safely gathered in”. How good it was that the conclusion was not accompanied by billowing clouds of black smoke where the straw was being burnt off. The recent past is quickly forgotten. I will, however, always remember driving South along the A1 in Lincolnshire a few years ago, seeing the great arable vistas framed in massive billowing clouds of smoke from the burning straw. Praise be the incineration of harvest straw has ceased.

Magpies are much in evidence in this locality.  On a farm near Brandeston village, I counted 10 of these cunning birds.  Rightly blamed for the raiding of our fledgling song bird nests, they are also, on the plus side, great scavengers. Squashed rabbits and hedgehogs lying on the roads provide dainty morsels for these birds, which incidentally pair for life.  Too many rabbits leave me debating in my own mind the wisdom of mankind trying to control these excesses. Nature left to keep its own balance might possibly make a better job of it?

Roger Sykes