J O T T I N G S ABOUT OUR
JOTTINGS ABOUT OUR MAMMALS. BY
FOR the past year or two I have kept infrequent watch upon some Roe Deer (Capreolus caprea, Bell) on the Breck sands. Though this is perhaps the shyest of all deer, Observation is rendered easier by their curious habits. These are quite distinct from the roaming and herding customs of the Red and Fallow species ; for Roe are strictly monogamous, pair for life, and keep in family parties which were termed ' bevies ' by the huntsmen of the Middle Ages, consisting of the buck, doe, one or two fauns and perhaps a young deer of the previous summer. As soon as a young male deer approaches maturity, he is incontinently ousted from the family circle. The bevy is restricted to a very clearly defined ränge : each family holds undisputed possession of an intricate ramification of pathways covering as great a variety of ground as possible—most particularly is plenty of cover essential—sometimes extending to a mile or even two in diameter; within this ramification are two or three lairs, or ' harbours,' in regulär use. Whenever a Roe is found to be wandering far from the animals' usual haunts, it is almost certain to be a young buck in search of a mate and a ränge of its own. The Roe is essentially a woodland deer, though if given ample cover close at hand it does not mind displaying itself, and often goes so far as to linger in the open. They are not especially fast animals, but tremendous jumpers ; and their very canter is accomplished with a jerky motion as though Clearing a series of small obstacles. Nowadays they are not hunted with hounds in this country ; but incredible numbers are thus captured on the Continent, where they run like a hare with numerous turns and doublings, frequently evading their pursuers b y sheer cunning in such arts. Their colouration during the winter is a dull greyish-brown, with a most conspicuous white patch on the buttocks that is known as the ' target.' During summer the tips of the hairs assume a reddish tinge, so t h a t the entire animal becomes a rieh rufescent-brown, whereinto the 'target ' is almost merged. I have seen several at quite close quarters in the New Forest during the course of the present summer and the last one : no more beautiful sight could be desired. The particular bevy t h a t I had under Observation on the Breck last winter was composed of a buck with a fine ' head,' a doe, and one young female of two seasons. I do not believe the doe fauned at all during the previous summer, as when first noted in March 1929 she had a yearling identical, I believe, with the two-year-old of last winter. They were always in the same
JOTTINGS ABOUT OÜR
place, Walking slowly in single file alongside a thick pine-belt, browsing as they w e n t ; and not only were they there at the same time of the day, but a system of ' one-way traffic ' seemed pursued, though this may have arisen merely from coincidence. However that may be, it is noteworthy that they appeared thus active at midday, because the wild deer of Exmoor and the New Forest lie-up or ' harbour ' at dawn and do not stir from their lairs tili the end of the day, unless they be disturbed. Apart from these habits, the Roe is somewhat of an anomaly among deer in that, although the does produce their young about the same time as other species in the late spring and although the period of gestation is the same, the mating or ' rutting ' season of the Roe is in late July and early August, while the Fallow and Red Deer rut in autumn. The reason is that with Roe the ovum lies dormant for four and a half months, the period of gestation occupying five months. Ancient writers were under a delusion in this respect, and place the rutting season of the Roe at the same time as other species. Roe does usually have two fauns at a birth, which practically never happens in the case of the other kinds. Upon being disturbed at close quarters, a Roebuck Utters an amazingly harsh and gutteral barking noise, especially during summer time ; the antlers of the buck, apart from their small size, differ considerably in the system of 'tines ' from either of the larger deer. The bucks stand about six-and-twenty inches at the withers, and the does rather less ; but they frequently appear to be larger, on account of their ' cobby ' build. I know that Roe from the Breck have reached Sir Pierce Lacy's Livermere estate, for I examined some of their undoubted slots crossing the bridge that spans the canal between the two lakes, while I was fishing there last winter. Our Hon. Secretary teils me that he saw two Fallow Deer (Cervus dama, Linn.) in woods near Ipswich last May: curiously enough, one of my sisters also obtained a glimpse of what she took to be a couple of deer at about the same place and time. Not infrequently I have seen black-and-white Rabbits (Lepus cuniculus, Linn.) on the Breck near Icklingham, though never a pure black one to the best of my recollection. There seems to be a slight local form inhabiting the Stretch of heath between Drinkstone and Woolpit ; without exception, all those I saw there last winter and spring possessed a rieh sandycoloured pelt, that was a good deal more pleasing to the eye than the usual drab colouration. [N.B.—Will Farmers throughout the entire County of Suffolk kindly take care to KILL THEIR T R A P P E D R A B B I T S , because the Editor no less than all other Members of this Society greatly objects to the revolting, but
JOTTINGS ABOUT OUR MAMMALS.
imperative, task of doing so. Farmers at Benacre, Sutton, and other places owe us thanks in this respect.—ED.] The presence here of a Stoat in füll white winter peltage during the middle of last March, reported at another page, is very well noteworthy. Not only does the Stoat rarely adopt its winter change of coat upon our side of the Scottish border and, if so, but imperfectly and in the northern part of England alone, but for it to retain such a coat well into the spring and that after a winter so mild and comparatively snowless as the last, is most remarkable. Some years ago I witnessed a pair of Water-voles swimming and feeding in a little side-stream of the River Lark. One was of the usual dark brown colour ; but its mate, slightly the smaller and probably the female, was of a pure glossy black from nose to tail-tip. The latter was a true Vole (Microtus amphibius, Linn.) and must not be confused with the Black Rat (Mus rattus, Linn.), which now is practically extinct, I believe, in this country excepting a few odd specimens near docks that are brought over on ship-board and here they doubtless find short shrift at the teeth of their loathly cousins, the too common Brown Rat (M. decumanus, Pall.). [It is presumably the latter pest that constitutes the ' rat ' which, a few years ago near Donegal, " was observed going down in thousands to the beach, never to return. A fisherman found the reason : a rat crept up to an oyster in shallow water; there was a high-pitched screech, and the next wave covered both bivalve and rodent, for the rat's nose was caught between the oyster's shells and he had been dragged to death. The shellfish is inevitably the victor. The appetite for oysters around Donegal has, consequently, diminished ; but so has the rat menace ! "-—ED.] Allow me to add a note of protest against the populär name Water " Rat : " Voles and Rats are poles apart in every respect and, in both structure and diet, the former are more akin to Guinea-pigs. Thanks to the sporting spirit prevalent in our County, eliminating Vendetta of guns and traps and poison, Foxes (Vulpes vulgaris, Bell) and Otters (Lutra vulgaris, Bell) are numerous : the latter far more so than most folk imagine. Otter sign has not been noticed on the River Lark of recent years, I suppose owing to its pollution by beet factory ; but last winter a decided improvement became apparent and no further pollution is noticed hitherto. With the extensive restocking of those waters by the Lark Angling Society last spring, I expect to see this neat ' seal' upon stretches of mud and runways in use again ere long : indeed, recently I found plenty of sign in the Cavenham tributary [Bourn River—ED.] of the Lark. Throughout the unrideable parts of the county and where the
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Pheasant reigns supreme, of course poor Vulpes is held in abeyance ; but certainly elsewhere he amply makes up for such restraint. I have absolutely no data as to the presence of either Badgers (Meies taxus, Bell) or Polecats (Mustela putorius, Linn.) in our County. The latter—cf. Trans. Norf. Nat. Soc. vii, p. 580— I do not expect although, if any country would suit them, our Breckland has preference. But I can hardly believe that inoffensive ' brock ' does not exist on some Suffolk estate ; our lätest record is that of a male, taken in a heath rabbit-trap at Elveden during mid-summer 1903 (loc. cit. viii, p. 387). Just over the border it pretty surely occurs about the west Norfolk Meres ; Dr. Haines has ' earths ' in his wild New Forest garden ; and I shall be obliged for Members' records of any recent occurrences in Suffolk.
LINN., IN NEEDHAM MARKET.—" I have
pleasure in sending particulars of Camberwell Beauty Butterfly :—It was seen by me at noon on 19th August 1930, Coming in rapid flight across my front garden, that of ' Brseside ' no. 66, abutting upon the road to Stowmarket; it passed diagonally over the next garden, and went on towards the river Gipping." The day was gloriously hot and sunny, bat became duller after noon.—Yours faithfully, J . E . Steggall, County School. [The last Suffolk specimen of which Dr. Vinter has heard was noted by Mr. Gray in his garden at Benhall, where it lingered for some time in the summer of 1923.—ED.] A RARE COAST Noctua-MoTH.—Our
reports the capture of three, doubtless male, Aporophyla australis, Boisd., at light at Thorp-by-Aldeburgh on 15th September by our Member, Mr. Carley. The species was first noticed in Suffolk so recently as 1895 (Bloomfield's Supplement); was taken at Felixstow in September 1902 ; and at Kessingland soon afterwards by W. J . Ogden (EMM. 1904, p. 81).
CLOTHES MOTHS' PARASITE.—A woolly case, containing a
larva of the all too-common Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella, Linn.), was found in my Monks' Soham bedroom on 24th May last and put into a box. From it I was delighted to find had emerged by the following October an Ichneumon Fly (Polyclistus mansuetor, Grav.), a species I had expected in my British Ichneumons, vol. iv, p. 27, to prey upon Tineae, though the present is the first instance in literature of its actually rearing from that genus.—CLAUDE MORLEY.