Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/266

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sacrifice at the altar of game-preserving. Sometimes a land-owner who is a fishing enthusiast will put a ban upon the heron, with the result that it fills a space, by no means a small one, upon the wall of the kennels or upon the vermin rails.

Such, then, are the condemned. Now let us look into the counts of the indictment, for a first glance suggests that there may be degrees of guilt and in fact that the innocent, or relatively innocent, have in some cases suffered for the misdemeanours of villains of a much deeper dye. It must not be forgotten that the gamekeeper's motto is "when in doubt, kill," also that he is in no wise likely to give bird or beast credit for being better than it appears to be. Upon weasels and stoats one need waste no sentiment; they are notorious little cut-throats, though the weasel destroys a large number of field-mice, but one is sorry to see the hedgehog—quiet, inoffensive seeker of grubs and earth-worms in the twilight—in such company. Sad to say, the hedgehog's occasional lapses from the path of virtue are but too well attested, when temptation presents itself in the form of a partridges' nest or a young leveret hidden in the grass.

The Sparrow-hawk deserves no mercy, but how about the Kestrel? Its manner of hunting, examination of its castings, too, if further evidence be needed, proclaims it a destroyer of insects, chiefly beetles, and of small rodents. The gamekeeper, if pressed,