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G R E A T G L E M H A M M A M M A L S IN T H E 1920s E A R L OF C R A N B R O O K

Among my father's effects is a loose ring-binder containing 'Natural history notes: Great Glemham'. Entries cover the vertebrates known or expected in the Parish, each of which is given a page (occasionally more). Internal evidence identifies the year of writing as 1926. Coverage is uneven; some species are treated in a word or two (e.g., 'Green Woodpecker: Very common'), others more fully - especially those with sporting connections! There is no foreword, and no purpose indicated for this collection of notes. My father clearly never returned to them and they are not up to the Standard of original work he published in the pages of this journal in later life. My excuse, in this jubilee volume, for offering a selection of his entries dealing with the mammals, lies in their impact as a reminder of change over the intervening decades. Changed attitudes are refiected in the prominent place of vermin control in the 1920s. But there are also changes among the mammals: Otters and red squirrels have gone; rabbits have been cut down by myxomatosis; foxes are now ever present and deer (red and fallow) are frequent visitors to Great Glemham. Change in the Suffolk countryside will continue. To take account of change properly, we need to record not only novelties or rarities but also, from time to time, the everyday commonplace features of the wildlife around US.

Natural History Notes: Great Glemham Mole Very common in spite of constant trapping. I think if weasels were left alone there would be fewer moles, as weasels are always using mole runs. When the price of moleskins is high there are very few moles, but when the price is low they increase enormously! Just after the war, moleskins fetched from l / - d to l/6d a piece and everybody had a trap down. Now (1926) they are 3d or 4d and the keeper has to do it all. [The war referred to is of course the 1914-18 war, and one Shilling to one S h i l l i n g and six pence, although only the equivalent to 5 to 15 pence, was a lot of money w h e n f a r m wages in Suffolk were 30 Shillings per week, i.e. ÂŁ1.50 in modern currency, but enough to pay the rent and buy food and clothing. Ed.] A cream-coloured mole with a dark line down the centre of the belly was caught here on March lOth, 1926. The last white one I heard of was caught at the White House Farm about 50 years ago. Fox O f t e n reported here, or in the neighbourhood, but I have never known this verified. Stoat Very common. Very variable about changing its coat in the winter. I have seen them white, parti-coloured and their ordinary colour in the winter.

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 25


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Suffolk Natural History,

Vol. 25

and the severity of the winter seems to m a k e very little difference. It gives off a very foul smell if wounded, but this is not noticeable if it is killed dead straight off. I have known a ferret kill one when rabbiting, and dogs will always kill it and do not mind the stink. T h e y live on rabbits, rats, mice, moles etc., and also will take game birds, especially hens sitting on their nests. I am also told that they will carry off and eat eggs, but I have never seen a case of this myself. Both stoats and weasels are like dogs, they go and cock their legs at a well-known place and a trap set there will often catch one. In hunting a hedge they never seem to be able to resist running through a pipe laid there, or in and out of a hollow tree stump, and they are often t r a p p e d like this. T h e y say that the number of teats in use on a female stoat shows the n u m b e r of young in her litter, just as it does in a ferret. I have never been able to verify this, although the n u m b e r of teats in use varies in different females I have seen shot in the spring. [Several reports of stoats in ermine have appeared in the Transactions, the most recent by D . R . M o o r e , Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 24, 99. Ed.] Weasel Very c o m m o n . H e r e people refer to two kinds, the 'weasel' and the ' m o u s e - h u n t ' , the latter they say being the smaller variety. H o w e v e r , this is mostly due to the great Variation in size which occurs all over England. I think that weasels live mainly on mice, rats and moles. I have often known them caught in mole traps, in fact I am not sure that it isn't rather a mistake killing t h e m as the good they do amply makes up for the few game birds they kill. [See page 14.] Otter

Occasionally seen in the river (Aide).

Squirrel ( R e d ) U n c o m m o n . I have seen them fairly often but they seem to c o m e and go. Since the war I have seen very few, as all keepers kill them because of their egg-stealing habits. I have seen one or two caught in traps baited with eggs. This year (1926) they are much more numerous. Brown Rat Very common in spite of persistent trapping and ferretting. It is to all extents and purposes omnivorous and seems to be always breeding, so is very hard to keep in check. I have known u p to 10 in one litter. They collect stores of acorns and beach-mast for the winter and bury t h e m underground. A n old rat will sometiems have two or three storehouses, each containing a couple of pints of acorns etc. near his 'nest'. T h e nest is a comfortable sleeping place lined with grass, dead leaves, feathers, moss and even scraps of paper where the rat lies u p during the day. It is quite different f r o m the nest m a d e by the female for her family, as a rat will live by himself in his nest and apparently doesn't encourage visitors. When chased by a ferret he retreats t h e r e at the last resort, and it is there that one usually kills him in the end. A cornered rat will fight like fury to the last, and will sometimes kill a ferret, and nearly always gets his mark on dog or ferret before being killed.

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 25


GREAT GLEMHAM MAMMALS IN T H E

1920s

9

They kill and eat young rabbits, birds and mice, and I have been told they will band together and kill cats, but I have never known a case myself. They will carry off eggs - how I have never seen, and eat them. Acorns, beachmast, walnuts, potatoes and com are more their natural food. In the house they will eat everything in the larder, and I have often known them eat dead rats. A favourite place to lie up is in an ivy tree or well into the roots of a tree where they cannot be easily got at. They are good swimmers and divers and often live alongside ponds and streams, taking to the water if pursued. Water Vole (= Water Rat) Very common in the lake and on the river. Lives principally on water plants. I have known them lie in the thatch of the boat house. Hare C o m m o n . If left alone they soon increase and do a lot of harm, but are easily kept in check here. There was a white hare at Cransford in 1922.1 never saw her close but she was hunted twice by the Harriers. I never heard what happened to her in the end, but she had disappeared by 1923. Rabbit Very common and very hard to keep in check in spite of constant trapping and shooting. They breed very prolifically, starting in January and going on tili October. They take to water fairly readily and are good swimmers. I have often seen one swim the river when the Ash ground is being beaten out. They can also climb up almost perpendicular trees, and I have seen one climb up wire netting about 4 ft. high like a cat. They can easily jump 3 ft. into the air and I have known them get over a 6 ft. high brick wall. In wet weather they die of some stomach trouble, especially young ones. They get 'pod-gutted' from eating wet grass and you find quite a lot dead above ground, so a lot must die underground. Their stomachs get distended and the above is the elegant local name for this complaint. Variations in colour are fairly common. A white star on the forehead is often seen, and I have seen them with black patches on various parts of the body. The injuries they will recover from are amazing. Ones which have lost a leg in a trap are common and they always seem healthy and fat. I once found one which had had both its eyes taken out and all the skin off the top of its head by a stoat or ferret. The wound had completely healed and it was fat and well fed when I shot it. It had strayed out onto the park in broad daylight and couldn't find its way back and was running round in circles about 20 ft. in diameter. I suppose eventually it would have found its way home again, like it must have done every night for months before I got it. When breeding, the female very often digs a hole about 6 ft. long and away from the main earth where she deposits her young. They are born naked and blind, and she makes a nest of grass, leaves etc. for them, lining it with fĂźr plucked off her own belly. Rabbits occasionally suffer from a sort of liver disease which is apparently Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 25


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Natural

History,

Vol. 25

very i n f e c t i o u s a n d kills t h e m off w h o l e s a l e . If d e a d o n e s are cut o p e n t h e y a r e f o u n d t o h a v e s p o t s o n their livers. R a b b i t s a r e always c o v e r e d with v e r m i n , fleas especially, w i t h which t h e y crawl. R a b b i t fleas*, h o w e v e r , s e l d o m s e e m to c o m e o n t o h u m a n beings: 1 h a v e n e v e r b e e n b i t t e n by o n e myself. * Spilopsyllus

cuniculi

[John D a v i d G a t h o r n e - H a r d y , C B E , F L S , F o u r t h E a r l of C r a n b r o o k , w a s P r e s i d e n t of t h e Society f r o m 1950 t o 1977, a n d it was largely d u e t o his l e a d e r s h i p t h a t t h e Society g r e w f r o m a b o u t 250 m e m b e r s t o 850. H i s o b i t u a r y , by H . E . C h a p p e r f i e l d , a p p e a r e d in t h e J u b i l e e E d i t i o n of Suffolk Natural History ( V o l . 18, (1) 1979) t o g e t h e r with t h e history of t h e Society f r o m 1929 t o 1979. E d . ] T h e E a r l of C r a n b r o o k , Glemham House, Great Glemham, Saxmundham, S u f f o l k , I P 1 7 1LP

Trans. Suffolk

Nat. Soc. 25

Great Glemham mammals in the 1920s  

Earl of Cranbrook

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