15 JUNE 1929, Page 16


An amusing story is current of John Know-little's skill in identification. It was reported that an unknown species of swan had been shot, and the specialist hurried to the house of the discoverer. He asked to see the bird and was told it was in the saucepan. The rare swan was being boiled down into soup, or what not. The news disappointed but did not daunt. He lifted the lid of the seething pot, looked in and, without further investigation, said : " Oh, it's a Bewick's swan." The head had been put into the saucepan with the rest and the size and shape of the beak were enough for identi- fication : ex pede Herculem. This was some while ago ; and one hopes that the promiscuous shooting of rare birds is ceasing to be a general practice. Keepers are, in general, wiser and humaner than they were. During the week I met one keeper who was loath to kill even the little owl. On the other hand, I heard of two crimes: the shooting both of an osprey and a Montagu Harrier. Why is there never a penalty for such breaches of the law, which are generally known locally almost as soon as they are committed ?