3 DECEMBER 1937, Page 16

Are Keepers Keepers ?

No member of our community is more freely abused on account of his profession than the " keeper," so called, who for the first time is to come under the unemployment scheme ; and there are a good many unerr, ,red keepers. The satirists say that he is named on the principle of lucus a non lucendo : called a keeper because he is a killer. Keepers undoubtedly exist whom most naturalists would like to see out of employment ; but on the whole the English game-keeper is of a fine type. Many o£ them are exceptional naturalists, with a particular knowledge of the feeding habits of birds. They all have their " larders " which make a grim and unlovely spectacle ; but one of them in the West Country provided me with a symbol of the keeper's activities and interests. He found a wren's nest built inside the skeleton of a carrion crow suspended from one of the " larder " beams. The queer association suggests what, I think, is an unquestionable fact : that the destruction of predatory birds, the carrion crow above all others, is the chief reason why small birds flourish peculiarly in this island. The landowners are often much more to blame than keepers where the rarer finer birds, peregrines, buzzards, harriers, barn owls and the rest, are shot. Shooting syndicates are often much to blame. They demand their tale of pheasants and nothing else ; and give rio sort of instructions for the preser- vation of hawks and owls.

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