The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, MAY 7, 1889. THE SMALL-BIRDS PEST.
Considerable interest attaches to the discuesion which took place at the last meeting of the County Council on the subject of the small birds pest, and we are glad to see that it has been determined to make a vigorous effort to prevent the extension and aggravation of what is already a serious matter, especially to grain-growers. As many people are perhaps unaware of the mischief wrought by the Bmall birds, and particularly by the sparrow, it may be worth while just to glance at the notual facts of the case. It will have been seen that m the Selwyn Council the other day it was estimated that the loss to the farmers this year m that county alone was not less than £15,000, and taking this as a basis of comparison, and assuming, as we believe we rightly do, that the evil is as pronounced m other counties of Canterbury and other parts of the colony as m Selwyn county, we arrive at the following results. Taking 3s as the average value of the grain consumed — wheat, oats and barley— it follows that the quantity destroyed by the birds m the county named is about 105,000 bushels — equal to about 5 per cent of the total produce of the county, and applying the same measure of proportion it follows that the birds have consumed this season, m Canterbury alone, well on for half a million bushels, and m the whole colony over a million bushels, representing a value of about £150,000. This is an annual earn sufficient to 1 pay m ten years for * Midland Bailway, without loan or land grant. What the loss would have been bat for the strenuous efforts which have been put forth by the County Councils, Road Boards, and farmers generally, m the way of distributing poisoned grain and destroying eggs and young birds, it is hard to say, but it is not difficult to see that those efforts must have largely kept down the amount of loss when we remember that one Road Board alone, out of the eight or ten existing within this county, hoe this season paid for no less than 90,000 heads and eggs. Having few or no natural enemies, the birds mußt be kept down by human effort, for if they were allowed to increase unchecked the toll taken of our grain would speedily rise to a very much larger per centage than it is at present. Even now m particular localities whole fields have been completely cleared of grain without the ! intervention of the reaper, and what is at present only an occasional experience might easily become a general one. We will not here go into the question as to who is to blame for the importation and liberation of this scourge to the farmer, especially as regards those winged mice tho sparrows, but we cannot altogether acquit the Acclimatisation Society, notwithstanding that m tbair laßt annual report it was asserted that they had not imported these destructive birds. Perhaps not, but if the Ohristchurch papers (circa 1862-3) are turned up we rather fancy it will be found that a loj; pf these little wretches were imported by an English ship — we think it was the Himalaya or Indian Empire — were purchased by or on behalf of the Socioty, and liberated m and about Christchurch. Anyhow we ourselves recollect sounding a warning note on the subject m a leaderette which appeared m a Christchurch evening paper of which Mr Oeorge Tribe was the editor all those years ago. Let that pass,however, it is not now of so much consequence to decide as to who is tp blame for initiating *-he small birds pest as to discover the best mear«o f ke^ng it within the narrowest possible hrn!!- A * to *» there was a difference of opinion * fc t" 6 Council meeting, some of the speakers pinning their faith to the distribution of poisoned grain, and others denying its efficacy and urging larger rewards for heads of old birds destroyed during winter. We think, however, that both are right, that is to say that both methods are effectual, and that both should be followed up. Ab was suggested by one speaker, why not try the capture of the old birds by the use of what are called bat-folding nets. At Home thousands of birds are caught at night m this way. >*en go down the hedgerows with lanterns and nets on one side of the hedges wile others go down on the opposite side beating the bushes with sticks or poles, and the frightened birds dashing out towads the light are enfolded m the meshes of the nets m large numbers. This would be fine sport for boys on the long winter evenings, and the head-money given by the
Councils and Road Boards should be very fair remuneration besides. Any and every means must indeed be used, for unless the birds are prevented from increasing m numbers the experience of the past as to their ravages will be as nothing compared to the experiences of the future.