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England is a tract of boggy land about fifty acres in extent on Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft. It is known as Whitecast. Ever since snipe shooting was, these fifty acres or so have been incessantly and remorselessly shot over by succeeding generations of gunners, the attraction of the spot for the birds having always remained undiminished. Naturally the quantity of lead put into the ground has been very considerable. For long it had come to be said that, so great must be the number of pellets in the soil, a square foot of solid earth taken from any part ought to contain an ounce of shot. Then a bet was made that three square feet of earth a spit deep dug up and washed would yield three ounces of shot—and the bet was

Colonel Leathes, in a letter to Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, vouches for the fact. One has thought at times that an old-established rabbit bank might contain even more lead per square

foot. Though a season's total like Mr. Halloran's 1,376 head sounds enormous to the ordinary every-day snipe shooter, it is probably almost a modest performance compared with what must have been done in India during a season by keen sportsmen: there it is certain that hard shooting would soon top such a total. A good shot on good snipe ground in India can kill his hundred couple or more in the day. Unfortunately

won.

I can find no authentic record of a season's bag to a single gun in India. There are various weirdly tall Indian snipe shooting stories which, like a good many snake and tiger stories, lack what would be called strict corroboration, but, after making all due allowances for climate, one fully recognises that snipe shooting in a good corner of India is one of those things which must be seen to be rightly appreciated.

NATURAL HISTORY OF THE WOODCOCK

BY

L. H. DE VISME SHAW

CHAPTER I

THE WOODCOCK AND HIS WAYS

PERHAPS the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) stands among British birds as the finest example of nature's many wonderful instances of protective colouring. How thoroughly Nature studies the hues of those of her creatures whose habits or disabilities of movement would make them almost certain victims to the hunger of predaceous foes! In the insect world we find protective colouring the rule in all three stages of life, the colouring being dependent upon the surroundings into which the habits of the insect take it. To birds which by instinct squat instead of fleeing at the sight of an enemy, nature has been equally beneficent. The partridge, to all intents and purposes invisible to a hawk flying overhead, is a typical instance.

Those rich, beautiful mottlings of the woodcock, so strikingly noticeable when we take the bird into our hands and examine it closely, render the plumage

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