24 JANUARY 1936, Page 19



Skokholm is a remote island of 240 acres of rough grass and leather and sea pink and bracken off the coast of Pembroke- shire. I mention this because there may still be lovers of wild life who have never heard of it or its owner, Mr. R. M. Lockley, who , for the past eight years has attempted—the word is his own—to farm the island by grazing sheep on it, and who. has succeeded instead in establishing a bird observa- tory there and the first migrating bird-marking station in Britain. The story of Skokholm is one of the most fascinating in the history of English bird life and observation. How he took the island, transported his sheep there, fought a plague of rabbits, became engrossed in the rich bird life of the place and finally erected in his garden there the first bird trap of its kind in Great Britain, the Heligoland type for bird-ringing purposes, has already been described by Mr. Lockley in innumerable articles and some excellent books, and it is not for me to take the story out of his mouth. This bird trap, howevex, very much concerns the readers of The Spedalor, for it was in response to an appeal by Sir William Beach Thomas on this page that a " sum slightly exceeding the £21 17s. 10d. expended in the purchase and carriage of the materials for the new trap " was contributed in the summer of 1935. This trap was duly erected in the August of that year, and was an instant success. Birds of many kinds at once began to be caught in it—white and yellow wagtails, Greenland wheat- ears, ehiffehaffs, stonechats, snipe, meadow-pipits, rock-pipits, Manx shearwaters, spotted fly-catchers, redstarts—and were duly ringed by Mr. Lockley and enthusiastic friends. The work of trapping and ringing has gone on ever since, and Skokholm has now become as important in its way as Heligoland and a place of pilgrimage for many bird-lovers, who are accommodated and fed on the island at a charge which is " necessarily such as to cover the considerable expenses of catering under unusual circumstances, and the cost of the upkeep of the present buildings."

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An Appeal for

The concluding words of the foregoing paragraph are Mr. Lockley's own, and they are the real point of these notes. So long as Skokholm remained Mr. Lockley's private amuse- ment there was no question of it being helped or supported by public subscriptions. But it has already become some- thing more than a private amusement. With two exceptions, it is the only Bird Observation Station in Great Britain fitted with the Heligoland trap, and it has long since become a place of intense interest for all interested in the habits of birds at all and of rare migrants especially. Skokholm, therefore, is entitled to outside support. It does not get it. At least it does not get it from the source from which it might reasonably expect to get it, namely the Ministry of Education, which has recently withdrawn its ,contribution to the study of economic ornithology. This is in significant contrast to the attitude of a nation often condemned today on the count of barbarism—Germany, whose Ministry of Education finances the Heligoland station and maintains a scientifically equipped and staffed observatory there. And it is immensely to the credit of Biitish enthusiasts that they have ringed as many birds as the Germans have done at Heligoland. This, of course, makes nice readingbut what of the cost ? Rings akme, used by the thousand in Skokholni, are-responsible for a formidable item of expense. And ringing must be recorded in record books.; books in turn must be housed observers must be sheltered and fed and given congenial buildinga.in which. to work ; a new and more up-to-date trap, on- a new and superior .site, is needed. Mr. Lockley has asked me to announce, therefore, that the Skokholm Bird Observatory Fund, inaugurated on this page by Sir William Beach Thomas, is still open. It is not only still open, but very urgently in need of far bigger funds than were previously subscribed. Mr. Lockley is warm in his thanks to all those who responded to Sir William Beach Thomas' appeal, but clearly the Observatory is now in need of far wider support. The future of Skokholm as a bird observatory depends indeed upon the enthusiasm and generosity of the public. The smallest subscription will be welcomed, and donors should address Mr. Lockley at Marloes, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, crossing their cliques or orders " Skokholm

Bird Observatory Fund."

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—And one of its Problems

Mr. Lockley has another problem, and, as it happens to be a problem facing many more countrymen than himself, it seems well worth a note here. Ever since he took Shokholin in 1927 he has been at war with rabbits. In 1927, the island swarmed with them. It still swarms with them. During his first winter on the island Mr. Lockley employed traps and by the end of January he had trapped something like three thousand rabbits. Within two years, in spite of all trapping, there were more rabbits than ever. On Skokholm there are no natural mammal enemies such as stoats or weasels, and the old country adage, which is also scientifically true, " that the more you kill them the faster they breed " was borne out absolutely. Then Mr. Lockley made the unpleasant discovery that the traps were trapping not only rabbits but his own precious birds, and the traps went. The subsequent snares, ferrets and gas proved just about half as effective as the traps, and finally in 1934 Mr. Lockley, defeated, hired a steam tug and barge and removed his entire flock of sheep from the island. The rabbits are still there—at least 6,000 of them, in Mr. Lockley's owtt estimate. Chemical control, inoculation, specially trained ferrets, gas attacks and so on have all failed. The problem is not only Mr. Lockley's. If there are 6,000 rabbits in Skokholm, how many are there in Great Britain ? Supposing they were not rabbits, but rats ? We should demand legislation, Government control and the papers would be full of it all. Yet the destructive powers of the rabbit, as any grass farmer and in fact any cottage gardener will bear out, are at least equal to those of the rat. But the rabbit gets off. It not only gets off, but it even gets protection. No animal ever needed it less. And it seems quite time that the rabbit was deprived of its privileges and ranked, as in Australia, as a pest of the first degree. No doubt keepers, who generally regard the rabbit as a pretty good source of on-the-quiet income, would oppose this. But not Mr. Lockley, who is still crying aloud for his effective remedy. Nor his fellow sufferers.

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Fox and Sheep

I had not seen a fox, an English fox at any rate, for months. The last I had seen at all had been in France, somewhere between Rheims and Nancy. And then, coming down a Kentish lane, I saw what seemed to be a dog, a red setter, among. a flock of sheep. But curiously the flock was taking far less notice than it would have done of a dog. There was no panic or scuttling or silly flocking together ; only a casual uplifting of a head or two and a momentary staring of wooden faces as the fox came downhill across the field, as saucy and quiet as a backyard cat. And he came right down among the sheep, extraordinarily brilliant against their shuddered wool, before anything happened at all. And then it was I who upset both him and the sheep together. I shifted my ground a little and he saw me instantly. He stopped at once and the sheep looked up. a second later. And there we stood, for almost a minute, sheep and fox staring at me as the intruder, the sheep with silly reared heads ready to bolt, the fox sublimely casual and arrogant. Until suddenly he loped off again, taking his own time, threading his way among the flock with all the sauce in the world, disappearing finally into the copse, the sheep taking no more notice than if he had done it a thousand times before:



Thanks to many correspondents, I have been able to discover what wigs are ; and thanks particularly to the charming generosity of a lady correspondent in Dorset, I have been able to taste them. The wig is a species of tea- cake. It seems to have been made in the past in Hampshire, with a flavouring of caraway seeds and honey ; in Shropshire, also with caraway seeds and sugar ; in Herefordshire and Scotland ; and is still made today in Kendal. The Kendal wig, which I have tasted, is either plain or flavoured with sultanas or lemon peel, and is garnished with sugar. It is, it scents, always oval in shape, and is delicious. H. E. BATES.