The Zoologist/3rd series, vol 1 (1877)/Issue 4/Occasional Notes
Beavers in Siberia.—The Beaver which, some centuries ago, was so numerous in Russia and Western Siberia, and which was supposed to have totally disappeared from both countries, continues to exist on the rivulet Pelyin. M. Poliakoff has procured from an ostyack on the Obi five skins of these animals killed last year, and he has engaged a hunter to procure this winter complete specimens for the Museum of the St. Petersburg Academy. No farther back than a century ago the Beaver was common on one of the affluents of the Irtysh, Bobrotka, but it has now totally disappeared from the locality, the last colony existing probably on the Pelyin.—'Nature,' 18th January, 1877.
On the Breeding of the Otter.—I am very glad to see that the breeding of the Otter is attracting the attention of your correspondents, and trust the result may be something more definite than the stereotyped "three to five young ones in March or April." I have long paid great attention to the habits of the Otter in the county of Norfolk, and so far as I have been able to ascertain with certainty, the young ones are almost invariably born in the dead months of the year. I read with interest Mr. A.H. Cocks' note on the breeding of the Otter (p. 100), but cannot agree with his conclusions that "Otters, with other animals, appear to breed most commonly in the spring"; and I am inclined to think that the instances adduced tend to prove that such is not generally the case. It is very difficult to judge the age of a young Otter, they differ so much in size and weight, but judging to the best of my ability, from the data given I should think the ten young ones mentioned by Mr. Cocks would be born somewhat as follows:—No. 1, early in September; No. 2, early in January; No. 3, early in August; No. 4, October; No. 5, February; No. 6, February; No. 7, November(?); No. 8, March(?); No. 9, October(?); No. 10, May(?). There is, I think, more uncertainty about the last four than there is about the others. This shows a sufficiently wide margin certainly, but if I am right in my estimate of their age, only two of the examples mentioned appear to have been born in the spring. One of the young ones now in the Zoological Gardens Mr. Cocks says must undoubtedly have been born in the autumn, and indications mentioned by that gentleman as observed in the case of the two females now in his possession seem to point to the dead season of the year as the most probable period for the young to be born. In 'Land and Water' for March, 1873, it is stated that a young Otter which could not see (sic) was picked up dead on the banks of the Want, a tributary of the River Don, on the 15th December, 1872. In the same paper for January 16, 1875, two young Otters are said to have been killed while in company with their mother near Maidenhead on 10th January, 1875; and "a little baby Otter" is said to have been caught by the tail in January, 1875, by a man lying in ambush for wild duck at Llechrhwyd, in the issue of the same journal for April 10, 1875. The following cases in which it is possible to form an approximate idea of the age of the young ones, or in which the condition of the female indicated the time of breeding, have come under my own notice since the paper to which you did me the honour to allude (p. 18) was published:—
February 23, 1873. A female big with young.
March 15, 1873. Female and young one; the latter 20 inches long and I¾ ℔. weight, probably six or eight weeks old.
April 12, 1873. Two young ones, both females, 25½ inches long and 4¼ ℔s. weight, and 25⅞ inches long and 4½ ℔s. weight respectively—probably rather under four months old.
End of November, 1874. A female giving suck (Rev. E.J. Blofield).
November 24, 1876. A female giving suck; three teats on each side all distended with milk.
December 26, 1875. Three young ones, one of which was taken alive: when I saw it on the 30th April following I took it to be about six months old.
January 5, 1877. An old female and three young ones. The female was still giving suck (three teats on each side all in use); although the young ones measured 35 inches long they still retained their milk-canines; the permanent canines were well grown—much larger than the milk-teeth: I have several times noticed this in young Otters. Of these three young ones I cannot guess the age, nor do I know the weight, as I did not see them in the flesh.
I mention these particularly, as they seem to tell against my theory as to the period of birth, and are almost the only instances I have met with in this neighbourhood. In my article on the Otter I was unable to say with certainty the number of teats found in the female Otter. I have now on several occasions found it to be six. As to the number of young produced at a birth, two and three appear to be about equally frequent; in only one instance have I known four—that number was found in a nest in the middle of February, 1865. The heaviest Otter I have ever seen (a male) weighed 37 ℔s., and measured only 48 inches in total length, whereas I have seen a male Otter measuring 53 inches which weiged only 27 ℔s.; so much for condition. A very poor female which I saw on the 16th of the present month (March) measured 43 inches and weighed only 10 ℔s. I have noticed in very young Otters that they differ almost as much in comparative weight and size; so that weight is certainly not a safe indication of the age of the little one; length would be much more reliable. But I should be very glad to hear that Mr. Cocks had mated his lonely females, and was likely to observe with certainty the period of gestation and progress of the young ones. The time of pairing in confinement I do not think would be of any value as an indication of what takes place in a state of nature.—T. Southwell (Norwich).
Rare Birds in the Humber District.—During the past autumn and winter I have noted the following uncommon birds in this district:—On the 6th September a rather rare wader was obtained at Spurn Point—namely, the Spotted Redshank. This example, now in the collection of Major Seddon, of Waltham Cross, is a female bird in immature plumage. Between the 21st and 27th September three Black-tailed Godwits, all females and immature, were obtained at Spurn. Also, in the same locality, a remarkably fine old male Velvet Scoter, shot October 18th. It is very curious how rarely we meet with the Velvet Scoter in any stage of plumage near our coast or within the estuary of the Humber. It is essentially a sea duck, and rarely occurs close in shore. It is far commoner at sea off the Norfolk coast than along the Lincolnshire or Yorkshire seaboard; in the former locality nearly every flock of the Common Scoter will contain one or more pairs of Velvet Scoters, readily distinguishable by the white speculum on the wing. North of the Wash it is quite a rare occurrence when at sea to come across any of these ducks. On January 21st I saw a Great Ash-coloured Shrike within a short distance of the town of Grimsby. I first noticed it perched on an upper twig in a quick-fence; on leaving this it fortunately flew in my direction, passing within twenty yards with an undulating jerky flight, much like a wagtail's; it was apparently a bird of the year. I followed it for some distance along a double post and rail fence, the shrike keeping about five and twenty yards ahead, flitting from post to post—but always in a very dodgy manner—on the off-side of the fence, and in each flight, short as they were, dropping near the ground and rising suddenly to the post-top: when perched the tail was never still for a moment. Mr. Bailey, of Flamborough, has informed me of a Goshawk in his possession, an old female, shot by the gamekeeper to the Rev. Lloyd Greame, of Sowerby Hall, Bridlington, about the 24th of January. Mr. Bailey says the bird measured four feet one inch from tip to tip of wing, and was two feet one inch in length; it was seen by the keeper to kill a full-grown rabbit and carry it twenty yards or more.—John Cordeaux (Great Cotes, Ulceby).
White-tailed Eagle in Herefordshire.—On the 18th November, 1876, I was in Henry Shaw's shop in Shrewsbury, and found he had just commenced skinning a fine specimen of the White-tailed Eagle, which had been received that morning from Berrington, near Leominster, the beautiful seat of Lord Rodney. The bird had been trapped a day or two previously, and, having been caught by only one hind-toe and not in the least degree injured, it was a thousand pities it was destroyed. It was a female, probably of the second year, as although the plumage was very handsome, being a dark mottled brown, there was no indication of the "white tail." This eagle was a very powerfully made bird, full of flesh, very muscular, and altogether in high condition. As Berrington is situated nearly in the centre of Herefordshire, and as I believe the nearest sea coast is about eighty miles distant, it is very difficult to conjecture from what locality so remarkable a bird could have wandered.—John Rocke (Clungunford House, Shropshire).
Peregrine Falcons near Wareham.—A fine pair of Peregrine Falcons have been lately trapped near Wareham, one about the 26th February, and the other—of unusually light colouring about the head and neck—on March 9th or 10th. They are apparently birds of last year, in the characteristic plumage of the first year, with longitudinal markings down the breast. It has been asserted that certain strains of this falcon, from different districts, retain their first plumage for two years sometimes, or even more. I should be glad if any of your readers can substantiate this.—A.P. Morres (Britford Vicarage, Salisbury).
Rough-legged Buzzards near Tisbury, Wilts.—In the last week of December four specimens of the Rough-legged Buzzard were trapped by the keeper in a large wood at Fonthill, near Tisbury, in this county. One, a male bird, was of a light colour; two others were females, and much darker. There was a fifth bird of the same species seen about the place at the time, but this fortunately escaped. The rough winds of the past winter would doubtless account in some measure for the unusual number of this species and that of the Short-horned Owl which have visited us this season.—A.P. Morres.
Rough-legged Buzzards in East Yorkshire.—These birds appear to have been uncommonly numerous in different parts of the country during the past autumn and winter months, and this district has also been visited by them in some numbers. Four to my knowledge have fallen victims to the gun, and I have heard of others having been seen. The last obtained was a very fine old male, shot at Patrington on the 24th January last. This bird was very fat, and in its stomach was a quantity of fur and the remains of one or more field voles. A Rough-legged Buzzard frequented our low grounds all the winter, and was at length shot. It proved to be an immature female. The stomach contained mouse's fur, and the bird was very fat. This low-lying country has been inundated for many miles, with here and there little islands studded about, on which the rats, mice and moles were driven to take shelter, and on these there is little doubt the Buzzards fared sumptuously. I quite endorse what Mr. Sclater says about second-hand information. I have had so much of it, and found it so wholly unreliable, that in a very great majority of cases it certainly is not worth printing. The so-called "eagle" sent to Beverley has come under my observation, and Mr. Sclater is quite correct in his surmises. It is an immature Rough-legged Buzzard, and is at present alive and well.—F. Boyes (Beverley).
Merlins in Kent.—On February 4th I saw a magnificent old male Merlin here, with bright blue back and orange breast. Since that I have seen another blue male rather paler in colour, and a female. As mentioned in my note in February's 'Zoologist,' this is somewhat earlier than I usually see male Merlins here. As a general rule, females predominate in autumn and males in spring about here.—Clifton (Cobham Hall).
Late Assumption of Adult Plumage by the Male Kestrel.—About the second week in January a male Kestrel was shot here, which was hardly distinguishable from an old female, except in slightly smaller size and a warmer tone of rufous on the back. The tail was slightly washed with blue, but not so much as in some old females. Even the upper tail-coverts were rufous, and the feathers on the nape were whitish, forming a rather merlin-like collar. I took it at first for a small female.—Id.
Tengmalm's Owl in Essex.—One day towards the end of January last some boys noticed a bird in a tree near the iron bridge in the Barking Road, Poplar. They frightened it out, and as the poor Owl was not used to flying by day it soon paid the penalty for its rashness in venturing out. It was brought to my office in the flesh, but as I was away the person who had it thought best to make a skin of it for me. It is a very nicely marked specimen of Tengmalm's Owl, but I am not able to record the sex. The majority of specimens of this Owl which have been obtained in Great Britain appear to have been killed in the winter months.—Edward Bidwell (Richmond, S.W.)
Eagle Owl in Yorkshire.—My brother saw an Eagle Owl which was captured by two farm servants in July, 1876, on the edge of Rombald Moor, near Ilkley. I think Pennant mentions the occurrence of this species in this county.—E.P. Butterfield (Wilsden).
[It is Montagu who mentions the occurrence of the Eagle Owl in Yorkshire. The specimen recorded by Pennant, in his 'Caledonian Zoology,' p. 18, was killed in Fifeshire.—Ed.]
Snowy Owl in the Lewes.—About the end of November, 1876, I received a fine adult male Snowy Owl from the island of Lewes. A friend of mine who had the shootings of Bervase, in the northern portion of the island, had seen this bird on several occasions, but both he and his keeper failed to obtain it. When he returned south, word was left with the keeper, that if he could get it "clean-killed" and would send it to Shrewsbury, he knew a collector who would be glad of it. I was much pleased shortly afterwards to find that the bird had arrived in a most beautiful state of preservation, and was nearly as white a specimen as I have ever seen. These birds have been so numerous of late in "the North" that this additional capture is not very remarkable. Still, as I believe this is the first recorded instance of its occurring in the Lewes, a notice of it may be interesting.—John Rocke (Clungunford House, Shropshire).
Ornithological Notes from the West of England.—Mr. Hayden, of Fordingbridge, in the New Forest, informs me that an example of the Red-legged Hobby was killed close to that place in December last. It is singular that several birds which are only summer visitants to the South of Europe should from time to time be obtained in this kingdom in late autumn or mid-winter. Another instance of the Red-legged Falcon's having been procured in England in the winter time is mentioned in Dr. Bullmore 's 'Cornish Fauna.' This specimen was shot near Falmouth in the month of February. A Peregrine Falcon was killed at Bagborough during the severe north-westerly gale which swept across Taunton Dene on the night of the 19th February last. Many trees were blown over, and by the side of a fine elm was picked up the crushed body of an old tiercel which had been roosting in the tree, and had perished with it—a singular death for a noble Falcon. The first "cold snap" (as the Americans say) brought Hawfinches into this village; on most days I see one on my lawn feeding on the red berries which strew the ground under some whitethorns. The Acts for the Preservation of Birds include several which are only rare visitors to this country, and only to be distinguished by experienced ornithologists, which might justly be termed "fancy birds," while some which are most useful to the agriculturist have no protection, and are in consequence in great danger of extermination. There are no two more deserving members of the rural police than the White and Brown Owl: the foolish fashion of exhibiting the masks and wings of these birds in the form of hand-screens is leading to their constant persecution and slaughter, and in some parts of the country they are fast becoming scarce. A birdstuffer in Taunton informed me that on an average he mounted fifty Barn Owls and forty Brown Owls a year, and, as I have sometimes seen half-a-dozen fresh victims brought into him at once, I can well believe that these figures are not over-stated. There is another birdstuffer in the town who seems to do an equally large trade in mounting unfortunate owls. So keenly are they looked after that when a short time since a White Owl was so ill-advised as to show himself in the Priory Meadows five gunners watched patiently for him evening after evening until one succeeded in bringing him down. The natural result is an inconvenient increase of small vermin. One of the villagers here told me that last spring he trapped more than sixty field mice by one row of peas in his allotment, and that unless he had been thus vigilant in destroying these small depredators his crop would have been quite lost. Years ago he stated it would have been unusual to have trapped more than two or three. Surely it is time that something was done in the interest of poor gardeners to protect their best friends, the owls, from senseless slaughter.—Murray A. Mathew (The Vicarage, Bishop's Lydeard).
Purple Gallinule in Somersetshire.—The following are the particulars of the capture of a bird of this species, as sent me by Mr. Filleul, of Biddisham:—"A Purple Gallinule was caught in a ditch at Tarnock, in Badgworth parish, on August 25th, 1875. It is now in the possession of a farmer of the name of James Burrows, whose lads caught it. It was caught alive, and kept for a few days in a hamper. It died of starvation, I suppose, and was then stuffed. I have seen it twice: it is a very handsome bird, shaped like a Coot, but the legs are longer." I understand that another was seen at the same time.—Id.
Singular Accident to a Kingfisher.—While Snipe-shooting one winter round Hickling Broad, in Norfolk, I noticed some small object splashing in the water at the side of a dyke, and on proceeding to the spot I discovered an unfortunate Kingfisher, which had come to grief in a very singular manner. The bird had evidently at some former time been struck by a shot which had passed through the upper mandible. This wound was quite healed up, but a small piece of the horny substance of the beak had been splintered, and into the crack produced by the fracture two or three of the fine fibres which form part of the flowers or seeds of the reed were so firmly fixed that the bird was held fast. It must have been flying up the dyke, and, brushing too closely to the reeds that grew on the banks, got caught in the manner described. The struggles of the captive had broken down the reed, which was lying flat on the water, except when lifted up by the victim in its vain attempts to escape. On being liberated it flew off, apparently none the worse for the mishap.—E.T. Booth (Brighton).
Goshawk and other Birds in Yorkshire.—On the 30th October last I was at Filey, where Mr. Brown showed me a Long-tailed Drake in most perfect plumage, which had been shot while flying over the Brigg the previous week. During the present winter several other examples have been met with, but all females or immature birds. Both the Black-throated and Red-throated Divers have been very abundant off the Yorkshire coast. On January 29th I went over to Flamborough to see Mr. Bailey; he showed me a fine adult female Goshawk, just mounted, which had been killed at Sewerby on the 23rd. This bird had frequented the neighbourhood for some time, and was shot at near Flamborough on Christmas Day, but unsuccessfully; length 2 feet, expanse of wings 4 feet 1 inch; irides, brilliant orange. On February 8th I saw in Mr. Brown's shop, at Filey, an immature Hen Harrier, killed a few days before near the cliffs. Long-eared and Short-eared Owls have been very common this winter, and many, I am sorry to add, have been killed. On February 4th a Raven was seen by Mr. Roberts flying along shore to the southward of Scarborough; twenty-five years ago he can remember a pair breeding annually in the rocks near Scarborough Castle. In our immediate neighbourhood this winter rare birds have been "conspicuous by their absence."—Julian G. Tuck (Old Vicarage, Ebberston, York).
Hawks in Suffolk.—In the month of September, 1876, an adult male Merlin (Falco æsalon), in exquisite plumage, was shot at Westley, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. A Hobby (Falco subbuteo) was shot in the covers at Finborough Hall, near Stowmarket, Suffolk, the latter end of January, 1877, and another was killed in the same place some months previously, but whether they were male and female I have not been able to ascertain. One or two Rough-legged Buzzards (Buteo lagopus) were shot in the neighbourhood of Newmarket during the month of December, 1876, but whether on the Suffolk or Cambridgeshire side I am unable to say.—H.K. Creed (Chedburgh Rectory, Suffolk).
[The occurrence of the Hobby in this country in mid-winter is noteworthy, for this bird is a summer visitant, and generally leaves us about September, or at latest in October, just as the Merlin arrives to take its place for the winter.—Ed.]
Scarcity of the Wood Pigeon and Increase of the Stock Dove in the County Durham.—In answer to your editorial remark, and as an addenda to my note (page 55), I beg to say that Stock Doves are now quite common here. They could not have chosen a safer retreat than the Denes in this neighbourhood afford them. They almost invariably nest amongst the roots of the yew-trees overhanging the tops of the rocks, and are thus comparatively secure. I saw several yesterday, and also heard their grunting notes in different places, but not a Wood Pigeon was to be seen. Perhaps I ought also to have added that there were more Sparrowhawks found nesting in this locality last year than I have ever known; they may have scared the Wood Pigeons away, but they certainly killed but few; when they do kill them the act is easily traceable.—John Sclater (Castle Eden, Durham).
[The circumstance of Stock Dove frequenting and even breeding amongst rocks is, we believe, unusual, although not unnoticed. Some years ago the fact that the Stock Dove occasionally breeds in the rocks on the Dorsetshire coast was recorded in 'The Field,' 14th April, 1866, and quite recently a correspondent writing in the Natural History columns of that journal (3rd March, 1877), stated that he had observed Stock Doves congregating amongst rocks at Merthyr Tidfil. He shot two of them in order to identify the species.—Ed.]
Passenger Pigeon in Yorkshire.—In the last published part of the Nat. Hist. Transactions of Northumberland and Durham (vol. v., part iii.) Mr. John Hancock records the capture of a Passenger Pigeon in Yorkshire. At p. 337 he says:—"On the 13th October, 1876, I received a specimen of this North-American bird from the Dowager Marchioness of Normanby, who stated in her letter which accompanied the bird that 'it was shot here to day by Lord Harry Phipps.' The bird must therefore have been killed on the 12th, and as her ladyship's letter is headed 'Mulgrave Castle,' it is clear also that the bird was obtained at Mulgrave, the seat of the Marquis of Normanby." Mr. Hancock adds that "the quill-feathers in the wings are much worn and broken, and on the forehead above the bill they are apparently worn off to the skull, as though the bird had been trying to get out of a cage or some other enclosure; therefore I cannot come to any other conclusion than that this specimen, a female, had made its escape from confinement." It may be observed that the Passenger Pigeon has been previously recorded to have been met with in the British Islands on five different occasions as follows:—One, Monymeal, Fifeshire, December, 1825 (Fleming, Hist. Brit. An. p. 145); one near Royston, Hertfordshire, July, 1844 (Yarrell, Hist. Brit. Birds, vol. ii., p. 317); one near Tring, Hertfordshire (Yarrell, op. cit.); one near Tralee, 1848 (Thompson, Nat. Hist. Ireland, Birds, iii., p. 443); and one near Mellerstain, Berwickshire (Turnbull, Birds of East Lothian, p. 41). With regard to this last, however, it is stated that a gentleman in Berwickshire had turned out several Passenger Pigeons shortly before it was shot.—Ed.
Black Stork in Oxfordshire.—A gentleman residing at Bicester has an immature example of this rare bird, and has very kindly collected for me a few particulars concerning its capture. It was shot on the 5th August, 1865, on Osmoor, a large tract of low-lying land some nine miles N.E. of Oxford, by F. Gorum, who is well known in the vicinity of Oxford as a good shot. From him it passed to its present possessor, who preserved it. The Stork was at first mistaken for a Heron.—C.M. Prior (Bedford).
Wild-fowl in Bedfordshire.—Wild Duck, Snipe, Golden Plover, and Lapwing, have been unusually plentiful in this county this winter. The last two species might be counted by thousands, and I saw over fifty ducks reposing on the floods near to the road. There were also occasionally a few gulls. Wherever a green patch appeared above the floods it was literally crowded with Plover: I repeatedly saw a Sparrowhawk, evidently a male from his small size, dash at them, but from their habit of rising from the ground and meeting him, I could not perceive that he was successful. Owing to the extensive floods very few of these birds have been shot.—Id.
Varieties of the Sky Lark.—With the exception of the House Sparrow I think the Sky Lark is more subject to abnormal variation of plumage than any other British bird. The commonest phase is buff, but I once bought a singular slate-coloured one in Leadenhall Market. Another curious Sky Lark in my collection was netted near Stockton-on-Tees by a birdcatcher, and it appears to me that at the time it was caught it was pied, and that a diet of hemp-seed afterwards has, in addition, operated on its plumage, and turned the portions which were brown, black, so that now it is black and white—a much greater anomaly than a brown and white one would be. At one time I considered this a unique specimen, but I believe others have occurred, and one similar one is described by Mr. Hele, as a great curiosity, at p. 95 of his 'Notes about Aldeburgh.'—J.H. Gurney, Jun. (Northrepps Hall, Norwich).
Woodcocks frequenting the Sea-shore.—Mr. Roberts, of Scarborough, tells me that in the winter of 1863–4 Woodcocks frequented the harbour to dig for worms in the mud. As some of the birds were shot there was no mistake about the species.—Id.
Winter Visitants to the Isle of Wight.—Mr. Smith, the Newport naturalist, informs me that he has lately received the following birds for preservation:—A Common Buzzard, shot in the parish of Shalfleet, on the 23rd December; an adult female, measuring twenty inches in length, and fifty in extent of wings. The stomach contained a vast number of earthworms, also a quantity of grass. I am reminded by Mr. Smith that a Common Buzzard was procured at the same date in 1873. A Spotted Crake was shot at Arreton. Two Gray Phalaropes were shot in December, one on the 4th, the other on the 23rd. This is a somewhat late date at which to find this migrant; in former years they have been generally met with early in the autumn. The Gray Phalarope is either more abundant than of yore, or our naturalists more observant, hardly a year passing without some appearing on our shores and inland pools. It seems somewhat strange to find Macgillivray remarking that only one individual—unmutilated—had come into his possession; and even Mr. Morris, in 1870, refers to the Gray Phalarope as a rare visitant, saying that one had been procured here and another there. A Fork-tailed Petrel was found on the 25th December at Alverston, near Sandown, lying dead in the mill-dam, uninjured, and in good condition. The tarsus of this specimen measures but one inch, and the bill three-quarters of an inch; the closed wing exceeds the tail by a quarter of an inch; rump white, exterior tail-feathers margined with the same, and the quill-coverts have a dusky gray tinge.—Henry Hadfield (Ventnor, Isle of Wight).
Pomarine Skua in Mount's Bay, Cornwall.—During the first week of March a specimen of this Skua, approaching to maturity, as indicated by the lower part of the breast and belly being white, was obtained in Mount's Bay. This bird at times is not uncommon with us, but it generally appears in its dark sooty plumage, with ferruginous edgings to the scapularies and dorsal feathers, indicating immaturity. There is nothing remarkable in the rest of the plumage of the present specimen, except that the whole of the upper parts are unusually dark, and there is no sign of the filamental yellow feathers on the sides of the neck, which I believe are found always in the mature-plumaged birds.—Edward Hearle Rodd (Penzance).
Gannets off the Cornish Coast.—In our western seas there has been an unusual number of Gannets this winter, and they have extended in many instances inland, apparently in a state of destitution. This is probably owing to the disturbed state of the sea, arising from a succession of westerly winds, which has rippled the surface and prevented fish from being seen except on the very surface. Gannets not being submarine hunters have fallen short of food, as they had nothing to pounce upon. If I were inclined to collect a series of birds in different stages of plumage, from the immature to the adult state, I should have a good opportunity of doing so now, for I observed lots of specimens at Mr. Vingoe's laboratory just now in all stages of parti-coloured plumage.—Id.
Iceland and Glaucous Gulls at the Land's End.—Early in March I had occasion to examine a stuffed specimen of what I have no doubt is the Iceland Gull, which had been recently killed somewhere in the Land's End waters; but at first sight on looking at the bird I was never more puzzled in determining whether it was the Glaucous or Iceland Gull. It is an unusually large specimen, and I suppose it is in fact a very fine male bird, but its general appearance gives one the idea of its being an under-sized Glaucous Gull. To give a notion of its size from dimensions I may state that I made the length from the carpal joint to the end of the wing (which exceeds the tail by two inches) eighteen inches, but perhaps Mr. Vingoe may be more correct in putting it at seventeen inches and a half. A specimen in the same state of plumage, obtained here some years since by the late Mr. D.W. Mitchell, measured fifteen inches and a half from the carpal joint to the end of the wing. Some of your readers might very properly remark that from my description this specimen might as well be a small Glaucous as a large Iceland Gull, but I think the length of the quill-feathers beyond the tail shows its character against the Glaucous Gull. It will, however, be necessary to be cautious in dealing with this point—viz., the length of the quill-feathers of this bird, as mentioned by authors. The quill-feathers of the Glaucous Gull are spoken of by most of our authors as scarcely equalling the tail-feathers in length: this, however, is a mistake, for in my specimen, and in one in Mr. Vingoe's possession, the feathers exceed the tail, slightly certainly, but by an inch at least. In Mr. Gould's figure of the Glaucous Gull, in his 'Birds of Great Britain,' I see he makes the length of the quill-feathers exceed the tail, in accordance with the two specimens I have mentioned.—E.H. Rodd (Penzance).
Curious Effect of the Recent Floods.—During the month of January last one or two Kingfishers were picked up dead in the water, close to the Vicarage, apparently from starvation, the flood rendering it impossible for them to find their usual sustenance. I may add that these birds have been unusually plentiful in the neighbourhood this winter, and very tame.—Arthur P. Morres (Britford Vicarage, Salisbury).
King Duck in Orkney.—On the 31st January last I was out shooting in the String of Shapinsha, and came across a solitary specimen of the King Duck (Somateria spectabilis); which I bagged. It was an adult male bird, and I have sent it to be preserved by Ward, of Vere Street, London. The man from whom we hired the boat, and who accompanied us, said that although he had been in the habit of shooting and fishing about the islands for years he had never seen one before.—R.P. Harper (2, Royal Crescent, Scarborough).
The "Curlew" of the Wiltshire Downs.—With reference to the remarks which appeared in the January number of 'The Zoologist' on the supposed breeding of the Common Curlew (Numenius arquata) on the Wiltshire Downs, as mentioned in the Appendix to the 'Birds of Marlborough,' it may interest you to know that I have made some enquiries on the subject. Marsh, a labouring man, one of the two Marlborough men who took the eggs and captured an old Curlew, on being shown a stuffed Stone Curlew (Œdicnemus crepitans), immediately identified the bird which he had taken with that species, and when shown the head and wings of the Common Curlew said he had never seen a bird like that before. The only authority, therefore, for the breeding of the Common Curlew near Marlborough is now the list published some fifteen years ago in the 'Flora of Marlborough,' and as only one specimen of this bird has ever been recorded to have been taken near here, there can be little doubt that the species found nesting was the Stone Curlew, or Thick-knee.—T. Graham Balfour (Cotton House, Marlborough).
Pilot-fish and Gray Mullet.—On February 14th a Pilot-fish (Gasterosteus ductor) was taken in a herring-net off Plymouth, and on the 20th of that month an immense shoal of Gray Mullet was captured when the water was pumped out of the "graving" or dry dock of the Great Western Docks, Plymouth. This shoal consisted of many thousand fish, which were sold for the large sum of £215 for the Paris market. A large number of these fish measured nearly twenty inches in length, and weighed four or five pounds each, many of them much more.—John Gatcombe (8, Lower Durnford Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth).
Angular Crab near Falmouth.—I have lately received a specimen of the Angular Crab (Gonoplax angulata) captured in Veryan Bay, near Falmouth.—Thomas Cornish (Penzance).
[This Crab has been frequently taken on the South coast of England and on the Irish coast, but does not appear to have been met with on the eastern seaboard or in Scotland.—Ed.]
Unusual Hiding-place for Frogs.—One of my farmers, who is very observant in matters of Natural History, told me that about a month ago, on taking in a straw-rick, he had found a party of five or six frogs all comfortably nestled together on the very apex of the rick, which was some fifteen or sixteen feet high, and that he had found them in the same kind of place more than once. This says a good deal for the frog's power of climbing, for the straw having been ricked as it came only from the threshing machine, they could not have been carried up in it inadvertently. I did not know before they had such a claim to be ranked amongst the Scansores.—Arthur P. Morres (Britford Vicarage, Salisbury).
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