This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
This bird is wholly supported by the produce of the field - lowland and upland pastures and meadows, including rotation grasses or "seeds," with clovers and other legumes, taking toll when opportunity offers of pilfering seed-corn and sown-seed generally, while feeding largely upon the leafage of the nitrogenous legumes. In return for this forage the lark probably compensates by the consumption of weed-seeds and weed-herbage, along with decimation of insect pests feeding upon useful crops. But the farmer, instead of requiting himself for the keep of the larks, relegates the profit to bird-catchers - lowland men dragging a draw-net over the marshlands and fields, and hillmen, setting horsehair nooses on downs, thus capturing the larks reared at the expense of the farmers in the country generally, taking no account of the migratory birds that flock to this country or southward in autumn and winter, and thus placing the lark in the London and other markets in the primest condition, to the main advantage of the retail sellers.
Fig. 110. - The Horsehair Noose.
The horsehair noose, Fig. no, by which larks are captured is formed of a dark, preferably black, horsehair, and about 2 ft. long. It is doubled and held between the right-hand finger and thumb leaving a little loose loop of about ½-in. long. From this point the hair is twisted up by an overhand motion of the thumb. On reaching the bottom a knot is made to prevent it unrolling, then pushing the knotted end through the eye of the loop a loose noose is formed. A piece of wire attached to the free end of the noose by a twisted loop renders it complete. By means of the wire the noose is readily affixed to a whipcord string, stretched by pegs about 4 in. from the ground over a train of " hinderends " from the thrashing machine, the noose being so placed that a lark passing under is caught by pushing its head through the hanging noose. The line of nooses is more " deadly " if set at the edge of the train and has a companion line on the other edge. This snaring of larks is carried on in severe weather, especially when the ground is snow-covered. The nooses are affixed to the line as close as they may well be, so that while some larks are caught by the neck in reaching the food, others get their limbs entangled in the nooses; setting is evening, and collecting, early morning work, or varied according to circumstances.
Larks are sometimes decoyed by a cylinder of wood inlaid with pieces of looking-glass fixed between two uprights, and made to revolve by means of a small crank and wheel, to which a line is attached, and nets set between the uprights. The fowler retires to some distance, keeps the cylinder in constant motion by pulling the line, and with his mouth keeping up a soft whistling noise. The larks flutter over the twirler, see themselves, and dazzled, descend to the ground between the nets, which are then pulled over by the netsman.
Draw-net capture of skylarks is sometimes had recourse to by fenmen in autumn and early winter, the knolls on which the larks roost being noted (by their droppings) in the daytime and the dragging effected at night.