Monday, 1 June 2009

Rabbit, snack and one?

When I was driving with Mike on Saturday we had two encounters with Rabbits as prey species. On the way to Stonehenge a Buzzard flew in front of the car carrying a small Rabbit and later at Thursley NNR a Fox crossed our path also carrying a small bunny. I both these cases I suspect that the adult was carrying a meal to present to its young.

Despite the fact that they seen very much part of our countryside, Rabbits are not native to Britain. They were introduced to Britain by the Romans who kept them in fenced off warrens and used them for meat and fur. They seem to be very common at the moment and as I came through West Langdon late this afternoon I noticed one field with a couple of dozen grazing. It seems that many have been able to overcome the affects of myxomatosis and now the disease only kills about half of the rabbits that are infected.

When the disease first reached Britain, in 1952, it reduced the rabbit population by about 95%. I wonder if the rise in Rabbit numbers has had a direct affect on the number of Buzzards. This one uncommon bird of prey in South-Eastern England has become increasingly common in the last decade and it seems pretty certain that it is destined to become as common as Kestrels or Sparrowhawks. I'm not sure what proportion of a Buzzards diet Rabbits make up, but it is certainly quite high and I suspect in times of high Rabbit population, as it seems to be now, they become a real cause of the upward trend of Buzzard population. Of course the law, protecting our birds of prey has also helped, but I can't help thinking that this would have done much less without the never ending food supply that a mammal that can breed four months after being born supplies.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Here in central France I am surrounded by places called la Varenne and la Garenne (and in fact, we are having rabbit for dinner tonight :-) Now I enjoy seeing rabbits in the countryside, but as an Australian, it took me a few years of living in Europe to come to terms with them.