20 DECEMBER 1940, Page 14

Fewer Starlings ?

For years we have been confronted with the increasing menace of the rabbit in agriculture ; in six weeks the weather of early 194o did more to solve the problem than all the machinery of Westminster. In that period thousands of rabbits died, not frozen, but starved to death. Holly trees stripped as white and bare as skeletons stood everywhere as their memorial. Before the war, agricultural authorities were similarly concerned about the rapid increase in the numbers of starlings, of which I believe an approximate census was at one time being taken. It now seems likely that the starling must have suffered as severely as the rabbit from the unforgettable period of frost and starvation that began the year. That intense sunset congregation of thousands of birds, reinforced by smaller quivering companies that bore down on the same trees evening after evening, until the whole flock exploded into a flight of communal ecstasy, has now become a rare instead of a common sight. In my own district at least that evening gathering, with its excited stormy vibration of wings and voices, can no longer be seen.