The Zoologist/3rd series, vol 1 (1877)/Issue 6/Occasional Notes

Occasional notes (June, 1877)
various authors, editor James Edmund Harting
4140130Occasional notesJune, 1877various authors, editor James Edmund Harting


Breeding of the Otter.—I quite agree with Mr. Southwell, as regards the age of young Otters, that length would be much more reliable than weight (although I neglected to weigh three dead examples mentioned in my former letter), but think he will agree with me that it is practically impossible to measure a live Otter; even with a perfectly tame individual or a young one the result would not be likely to be very accurate. In 'Land and Water' for June 8, 1867, Mr. James Lomax writes that he has hunted Otters for forty years, and found very young cubs in almost every month of the year. With regard to the four last examples mentioned in my former letter (p. 100), I should be glad to correct a misprint: seven lines from the bottom of the page, "one of" should be inserted between the words "me" and "these"; and two lines further on, "specimens" should be singular.—A.H. Cocks (5, Radnor Place, Hyde Park).

Breeding of the Otter and Badger.—As any fact with regard to the habits or instincts of these two happily still indigenous British quadrupeds seems acceptable, I may add my mite, at least respecting the former animal, to the observations of Messrs. Cocks and Southwell (pp. 100, 172). I have only had young Otters sent me on two occasions, and not having my note-book with me I am not able to give the exact date, but one I know I received in January, and the other during the winter months. One of these was not much longer than a good-sized Squirrel, but the other was more bulky and evidently older. This happened several years ago, and I did not take either the length or weight of the juveniles, but their occurrence at that season of the year is in favour of Mr. Southwell's conclusions as to the time of breeding. How long a time does it take the Otter to attain maturity? About the middle of November last a young Badger was sent from the New Forest to my house in Hampshire, but unfortunately I was away, and consequently it was not preserved; it was about a foot in length, but my friends did not weigh it. A friend of mine in the forest asked me how long a Badger went with young, as he had kept a female a year or more, and then she had young, but died soon after. I confessed my ignorance of the matter, and told him I believed the period of gestation was almost if not quite unknown. Has the time been proved with certainty? I quite believe, with Mr. Southwell, that the pairing of any animal in confinement is not of much value as an indication of what takes place in a state of nature, for we well know that domestication, or even semi-domestication, often has strange effects upon the creatures taken under man's careful supervision.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Breeding of the Badger.—My Badger, which had her first family of one (a female) on February 27th, last year, presented me with another family on the evening of February 16th, this year. Naturalists will therefore be glad to learn that I can now settle that vexed question, the gestation of these curious animals, for this Badger has gone with young a year all but about seventeen days. I cannot say how many there are, for the apartment is a long hollow tree, which I cannot see far into. It was seven weeks before the young one turned out last year, and then its mother was very anxious that it should not be seen, and soon carried it back in her mouth. The reason I think there are several is from the music they make, which is very like that made by Ferrets. I have known a wild Badger have five young ones. It has been ascertained in Germany that the Roe has the power of suspending the time of gestation, and this seems to be the only way of accounting for the fact of wild-caught Badgers going as long as fifteen months with young.—F.H. Salvin (Whitmoor House, Guildford).

Marten cat in Lincolnshire.—I send the following account of a comparatively recent capture of a Marten-cat in Lincolnshire, as there are not many of our English counties that can still reckon this animal with any certainty among its fauna. It occurred in a large wood of more than five hundred acres, called South Wood, belonging to Mr. Thomas Drake, of Stainfield Hall. A cousin of mine, Mr. F.F. Morres, was shooting with a party of two or three others during the Christmas vacation of 1871–72 in the above-named wood, which was still famed as the haunt of Martens, one or more being generally killed there every winter. The owner has numerous specimens preserved in various attitudes. The party had been shooting all the morning, and had made a very varied bag, the sport being doubly interesting in consequence of the wood not being regularly preserved, and being still the haunt of many an animal and bird, such as the Marten-cat and Buzzard, which would have received but scant mercy at the hands of most owners. Would that there were more such refuges for the destitute still to be found! They had sat down to enjoy—and what more enjoyable on such an occasion?—their al fresco luncheon, and had not been long so engaged, when one of the boys who had been beating cried out, "I see a Marten!" and sure enough there was a fine Marten-cat peering down upon them from a Squirrel's "draw" just above their heads. There was a rush for the guns, but my cousin was quickest on his legs, and soon a fine male Marten-cat was lying at his feet, which now adorns his rooms as a memorial of a most pleasant excursion. I may add that up to this time this wood had been a well-known haunt of Martens, and although of course not plentiful, they are not considered rarities. I am afraid, however, this will not long continue to be the case, but I am sure that every one who is interested in the Natural History of our island will say with me, "The longer the better."—A.P. Morres (Britford Vicarage, Salisbury).

[We should be glad if any readers of 'The Zoologist' would enumerate any localities where the Marten-cat may yet with certainty be found.—Ed.]

Purple Gallinule in Northamptonshire.—In addition to the occurrences of the Purple Gallinule in the United Kingdom mentioned by Mr. Cecil Smith and yourself in the May number of 'The Zoologist' (pp. 227, 228), I beg to inform you that a very fine specimen of this bird was caught by a navvy on an embankment of the North-Western Railway, not far from Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire, and brought to me at Lilford, where it is now alive and well in my aviary. I am sorry that, as I have not my notes here with me, I cannot give you the precise date of this occurrence, but my impression is that it was early in 1873. This bird bore no traces of captivity.—Lilford.

The Somersetshire Purple Gallinule.—The facts forwarded to you by me relative to the occurrence in Somersetshire of the Purple Gallinule were supplied me by the owner of the bird, and by a gentleman who is his near neighbour. There can be no reason why their statements should not be received that one bird was captured and another seen. It is beyond me to understand on what grounds the Purple Gallinules, and some other birds, which have been obtained in this country should be set down as escapes. There is no antecedent impossibility in any bird that can fly finding its way to England; there is no great improbability in birds which belong to the South European or North African Ornis straggling occasionally to this country. It is not easy, it is well nigh impossible, to lay down any hard and fast rule, and to pronounce of one bird that it is an escape, of another that it can only be a genuine immigrant. Unless there are the easily-detected signs of captivity, or some private markings about the bird, the presumption should be that it was "a bonâ fide traveller." And private markings have sometimes upset the reputation of specimens of birds which are generally admitted as British visitants without any question. We have known a Welsh Rough-legged Buzzard proved in this manner to be only an importation and subsequent escape. When one meets a Parrakeet, a Whidah-bird, or a Canary in its yellow plumage at large, it is justly concluded, from sufficient grounds, that these must in some manner have escaped from their cages; but with birds which are not commonly kept in confinement and which might without any very great difficulty wander to these shores, in the lack of proof to the contrary, one would be disposed to pronounce them wild birds and not escapes. Purple Gallinules have occurred several times in this country, as your editorial note informs us. Mr. J.H. Gurney, jun., has been good enough to acquaint me that the Norfolk example is the Green-backed Gallinule, Porphyrio smaragdonotus, a North-African species, and that the Irish specimen, which, through the kindness of Mr. J. Marshall has been added to my collection, is the Martinique Gallinule, which differs from the Purple Gallinule of South Europe in its somewhat smaller size. If all these Purple Gallinules are escapes, is it probable that none of the owners would have advertised the loss from their aviaries of so valuable a bird, and thus have furnished proof of the fact? I shall not hesitate to admit the Serin Finch, the Calandra Lark, and the Purple Gallinule in my 'Birds of the S.W. Peninsula,' any more than I should feel disposed to close its pages against the Hawk Owl, White's Thrush, or the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.—Murray A. Mathew (The Vicarage, Bishop's Lydeard).[1]

Note on the Porphyrio killed at Tatterford, Norfolk.—Having had an opportunity of examining the Porphyrio killed at Tatterford in October last, and mentioned at page 228 of the current volume of the 'Zoologist,' I think it well to mention that it is not a specimen of P. hyacinthinus, but of the nearly allied P. smaragdonotus; and I think it would be desirable that the other British-killed Porphyrias which have been referred to P. hyacinthinus should be carefully examined, with the view of ascertaining whether any of these examples are also in reality referable to P. smaragdonotus. The latter species is readily distinguishable from P. hyacinthinus by the greener tints of its plumage, especially on the back: it is a South African species, but it also inhabits Lower Egypt, as recorded by my son in his 'Rambles of a Naturalist,' p. 186. I may add that the Tatterford bird shows no signs whatever of having been kept in confinement.—J.H. Gurney (Northepps Hall, Norwich).

Roosting Habits of the Starling.—During the past winter countless numbers of Starlings have been roosting every night in a wood on the left bank of the Liffey, about half-way between Lucan and Dublin. On several occasions, a short time before sunset, I have watched flocks arriving from all directions to this roosting-place, and, when several miles away from it, have seen flocks flying towards it. Many of these flocks unite on arriving, and spend some time in sailing and wheeling about, as if waiting for the arrival of others before alighting in the laurels, which they do quite unexpectedly, for when wheeling about they suddenly sweep down almost perpendicularly into the wood. After this, when they have disappeared from view, the noise they make is so loud that it is heard at a distance of several hundred yards, although there is a fall of water close by. The noise may be described as a harsh, half-hissing and half-whistling sound, and resembles the sound of water rushing through a narrow channel; it is kept up until after it is dark, I suppose until they have done disputing about the places they are to occupy. The number of flocks and the size of many of them make it difficult to conjecture the probable number of birds that came to the place each evening, but I think there must have been at least from 200,000 to 300,000. An uncle of mine, who saw these assemblages oftener than I did, thinks that there were 1,000,000; but the difference in these estimates only tends to show the impracticability of arriving at the true number. I do not know when the Starlings began to frequent this wood, but am told it was in October; they quitted it in the first week of April. Several authors allude to instances of Starlings roosting in immense flocks, as though this practice was an uncommon one; but I have heard of several similar instances, and believe it is the usual habit of Starlings to roost together in great numbers during the winter half of the year. Mr. Gould, writing of the Starling, in his 'Birds of Europe,' says:—"They congregate in large flocks in autumn and winter. On the approach of evening many of these flocks unite, and before going to roost this immense body may be seen traversing, with undulating sweeps and evolutions, the immediate neighbourhood of their resting-place. They prefer for this purpose secluded and warm situations, such as thickly set reedbeds, coppices, or plantations of fir."—J.E. Palmer (Lucan, Co. Dublin).

Crossbill Nesting near Bournemouth.—On March 16th a nest of the Crossbill was found by some boys in a fir tree on the outskirts of the town of Bournemouth. It contained four young birds, one of which escaped, one was killed with a stone, and two were brought to the birdstuffer, Mr. Green. Their colour was a dull green with blackish streaks; the mandibles very slightly crossed: the note much the same as that of the old bird. The nest was made of sticks, moss, and wool.—G.J. Dumville Lees (Woodhill, Oswestry).

[Many instances are on record of the Crossbill nesting in other parts of England, but this is the first occasion, we believe, on which it has been known to rear its young in Hampshire. One reason, doubtless, why the nest is not more frequently found is that the Crossbill breeds so very early in the year, the young being hatched before many other birds have laid their eggs.—Ed.]

Bearded Tit and Hawfinch in Aberdeenshire.—Being in Aberdeen recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Free Church College Museum, where I observed, in a case (said to contain birds of the locality), a splendid specimen of the Bearded Tit. On asking the keeper, Mr. Beaveridge, about its claim to be there, he told me that he himself had shot it at a place called Monymush, in the County of Aberdeen. I mention this fact because in all works on Ornithology to which I have access I find it stated that the Bearded Tit is not found in Scotland. In the same case I also noticed a fine Hawfinch, and was delighted to hear that it was procured in the same district as the Tit, and by the same individual.—Thomas Edward (Banff).

[The Bearded Tit is included in Don's 'Fauna of Forfarshire' (1813), and a writer in Loudon's 'Magazine of Natural History' for 1830 states that he saw a bird of this species at Inchannan, in Renfrewshire, where the River Gryfe joins the Clyde. These are the the only records known to us of the occurrence of this bird in Scotland. As regards the Hawfinch, although unknown in the West of Scotland, it occurs in the southern and eastern counties, where it has been traced from Dumfriesshire to East Lothian, thence to Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, and Caithness, in all of which counties several specimens have been obtained. See Gray's 'Birds of the West of Scotland,' p. 144.—Ed.]

Nesting of the Brambling.—I think a statement of Mr. Mitchell's, in the 'Zoologist' for May is calculated to convey an erroneous impression. He states that the nests of the Brambling "are usually placed in the birch trees at heights of from four to eight feet, and the number of eggs never more than four." I have found several nests at double the greatest height mentioned, and I think the birds must have been laying when Mr. Mitchell found his nests, as, out of nine nests found by myself and friends in Norway only one contained so few as four eggs, and the bird was not sitting. The other nests contained respectively five, five, five, five, six, six, seven, and eight eggs. One of these nests may possibly have been a Chaffinch's.—John P. Thomasson (Alderley Edge).

Moorhen defending its Young from a Stoat.—Some time ago a parishioner of mine (Mr. John Gay Attwater), a keen observer of Nature, was walking by the side of the river, when he was attracted by the gambols of a newly hatched brood of Moorhens with their mother. While he was watching them the parent bird gave its peculiar sharp cry of warning, and the young ones scuttled under the friendly shelter of the bank in various directions. On looking about to discover the cause of alarm, he perceived a Stoat on the opposite bank of the stream to that to which the Moorhens had fled for shelter, which was sniffing up the air in an ominous manner, having evidently scented his prey before him. After having settled to his own satisfaction the whereabouts of the Moorhens, the Stoat without hesitation entered the water, and began to swim across to the opposite bank; but before he had half-way crossed the stream the old bird, which had been keenly watching her enemy's tactics, flew directly at him, and as she passed over struck at him with her long sharp claws, and turned him completely head over heels in the water. At this unaccustomed treatment the Stoat fairly turned tail, and returned to the bank from whence he had started. But he was not to be vanquished in a moment, and the scent of his prey being too alluring he once more started on his voyage, when once again the Moorhen courageously dashed at him, and treated him in an exactly similar manner, repeating her attacks in this way until the Stoat, being half-drowned, thought that discretion was evidently the better part of valour, and gave up the pursuit; but his troubles were not then ended, as the farmer's gun prevented him from ever repeating a similar attempt.—Arthur P. Morres (Britford Vicarage, Salisbury).

Partridges coloured like Red Grouse.—The Editor's remark, page 229, in connexion with this subject, was evoked partly by the omission, in a newspaper report which he had for reference, of the words "Not having seen Sir William's account" before the words (in the said report) "one is at a loss to know," &c. If this clause be inserted in the page referred to (ninth line from bottom), before the words "and he was at a loss to know," &c., it will, I think, somewhat modify the responsibility of my statement and apparent misquotation. I have taken the opportunity of amending it in the proof of the paper for the 'Proceedings of the Glasgow Natural History Society.'—John A. Harvie-Brown (Dunipace House, Larbert, N. B.).

Buff Variety of the Song Thrush.—A beautiful variety of the Song Thrush was shot in September last by Sir Henry Boynton, Bart, of Burton Agnes. It retains all the normal markings, but the colour is of a rusty buff or yellowish sandy hue throughout. I may perhaps mention that I have just such another one in my own collection, and always considered it a very rare variety. It is singular how many different birds change to this pale rufous colour. I have three Hedge-sparrows, one Redbreast (similar, though somewhat paler), and a Sky Lark, all of this hue, and have seen others.—F. Boyes (Beverley).

Gregarious Habits of the Longeared Owl.—If one scrap of evidence may be added to the testimony of Messrs. Gurney, Boyes, and Corbin, I may observe that I met a gentleman lately who assured me that the Long-eared Owl is often met with in small "coveys," but being rarer than the short-eared species it does not so often come under the observation of naturalists. He met with a small party of six individuals a little while back in a fir-wood, and, as generally seems to be the case, could have shot them all; only one bird, however, was killed, being all that the shooter required for his collection.—C. Matthew Prior (Bedford).

The Curlew of the Wiltshire Downs.—Perhaps the remarks I am about to make have not much bearing upon the point at issue, as to the supposed nesting of the Common Curlew in Wiltshire (p. 183), but may serve as an illustration of how mistakes of the kind are made even by those whose knowledge naturally points to a different conclusion. Some few seasons ago an oologist—whose name I purposely reserve—paid me a visit, and having amongst other things looked over my small collection of eggs, I asked him if he saw any error in nomenclature; he replied, he had noticed one egg marked Numenius arquata, which certainly did not belong to the Curlew, it being much too large as well as of different markings; and he further added, that the eggs of the Curlew were taken not uncommonly on the downs in the neighbourhood of Winchester, &c. I suggested that he meant eggs of the Stone Curlew or Thick-knee; for Gilbert White, in his 'Natural History of Selborne,' mentions the breeding of that species in his day not very many miles from the same place, but my friend still held to his opinion that my large egg was not that of a Curlew. If I mistake not the downs in question form a continuation of those in Wilts, and if this is the case it seems somewhat remarkable that the same error has been committed in two separate instances. Whether my friend has ever altered his opinion I am unable to say, yet, if this should meet his eye, no doubt he will remember the incident, and will perhaps give us a note on the subject.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Red-winged Starling in Yorkshire.—On March 31st last, while on an entomological tour between Askern and Barnsley, just after leaving Adwick-le-Street and crossing the Pontefract and Doncaster turnpike-road, I saw laying among the grass on the roadside what I took to be a dead Blackbird; but, on picking it up to examine it, I found it to be a fine male of the above species; it had apparently flown against the telegraph wires during the night. This rewarded me for the otherwise fruitless journey.—S.L. Mosley (Primrose Hill, Huddersfield).

[This makes the tenth recorded instance of the occurrence of the American Red-winged Starling in the British Islands. For the other nine, see 'Hand-book of British Birds,' p. 117.—Ed.]

Note on the Willow Wren.—Notwithstanding the intensely cold weather which we had early in April, the willow warblers arrived here in their usual abundance. One was seen for the first time on April 12th, and by the 15th they were somewhat plentiful, although not generally distributed, owing no doubt to the cold wind, which induced them to affect such localities as were screened. It may be noted that I never heard their song from their arrival until the 19th April; on the 20th, however, their clear, sonorous notes may be heard almost in every grove. I saw a Pied Wagtail for the first time on March 10th; a few hen Chaffinches on the 18th; and a friend told me he observed a female Wheatear on April 1st. I believe the females generally make their appearance a few days before the males.—E.P.P. Butterfield (Wilsden).

[Our correspondent's observation with regard to the Willow Wren confirms a remark which we have before had occasion to make, namely, that the song of a summer bird, when heard for the first time, does not always indicate that the author of it has only just arrived; on the contrary, for the reason above stated and from other causes, the bird may have been here many days before announcing its presence by a song.—Ed.]

Blackcap's Nest suspended in a Fir Tree.—I came across a very unusual site for a Blackcap's nest last summer, well illustrating the old proverb that "Necessity is the mother of invention." This bird, as every one knows, usually builds amongst brambles, grown through with nettles, &c., but in this instance a marked deviation from the usual mode had been resorted to. In a fir plantation, consisting chiefly of spruce without any underwood (indeed nothing will grow beneath spruce), a Blackcap had suspended its nest in the hollow formed by the downward growth of the spring shoots of a spruce branch stretching out from the tree and a few feet from the ground, exactly in the manner of the Goldcrest.—F. Boyes (Beverley).

Black-throated Diver on Fresh Water.—A female Black-throated Diver was shot during the third week of April on a fresh-water pond at Trengwainton, which as the crow flies is about a mile from the sea. The Divers are oceanic in their habits; and at this season of the year, when mackerel and other fish are abundant, it is curious that the bird in question should have strayed inland to the pond referred to. We never see the Blackthroated Diver in its full speckled plumage with black throat, but we get the other two species occasionally in full ornate plumage. The Black-throated Diver is much the rarest of the three.—Edward Hearle Rodd (Penzance).

[Our correspondent's remarks are no doubt accurate enough as regards Cornwall, but will not apply to Scotland, where both the Black-throated and Red-throated Divers are eminently fresh-water species. There is, perhaps, scarcely a loch of any size in the north and west of Scotland that is not tenanted, for a considerable portion of the year, by one or more pairs of Divers.—Ed.]

Rough-legged Buzzard and Peregrine Falcons at Harwich.—A beautiful dark-coloured specimen of the Rough-legged Buzzard was shot here in November last; and in December two female Peregrine Falcons were shot on the River Stour—one in the act of stooping at some Sea Gulls; the other, after it had pounced on a Wood Pigeon flying across the river, which it carried to the shore and there killed by tearing out the windpipe and breaking the neck at the back of the head; it was extremely fearless, as it allowed the person who shot it to approach as near as he liked.—F. Kerry (Harwich).

Little Gulls and Kittiwakes in Essex.—On the 29th December, 1876, an immature specimen of the Little Gull, and on the 8th January, 1877, a mature bird of the same species, was shot in the Harwich harbour. The old bird had lost a portion of the upper mandible, and the wound appeared to have been of long standing, as the lost portion was being reproduced. On the 11th January last a mature Kittiwake was shot on the River Stour; and on the 12th February an immature bird of the same species was seen to alight in a farm-yard at Great Oakley, where it was caught, being too exhausted to fly further, and being literally nothing but feathers and bones.—Id.

Little Bittern in Guernsey.—In November last a Little Bittern was caught in the Vale Road, Guernsey, and brought alive to the shop of Mr. Couch, the bird-stuffer. I did not see the bird at the time, but it has since been sent over to me: it is a young bird of the year, and Mr. Couch informs me a male by dissection.—Cecil Smith (Bishop's Lydeard).

Nightingales in Brittany.—I have been reading your interesting book 'Our Summer Migrants,' and have just come across a notice of the Nightingale, at page 34: at the bottom of the page you say, on the authority of Mr. Blyth, "There are none in Brittany." Some fifteen years ago, one May night, there were plenty. In the evening I left Nantes, near St. Malo, in one of those odd little conveyances common to country parts of France. I was with a Scotch cousin who had never heard a Nightingale; well, we jogged along, much cramped, weary and hot, far into the night. On nearing Chateaubriant the little conveyance was stopped at the foot of a steep hill, for all to walk up. There was a forest on each side of the road—it was a dark, still night; both sides of the road, among the trees, seemed to be alive with Nightingales singing their loudest. You may imagine my Scotch cousin's astonishment, he being a keen observer of such things. I was so impressed with the circumstance that I cannot forbear writing to you to contradict Mr. Blyth's statement, as I know the Nightingale's note well; and, at the time we heard it, no other birds in that place could have been singing as they did.—H.V.M. Wilson (33, Spencer Road, New Wandsworth).

Birds Impaled by the Wind on Weather Vanes.—At page 271 of the 'Zoologist' is a letter from Mr. A.P. Smith about a Woodcock which struck against the vane of a church at Ipswich, and was impaled on the arrow. As some may hardly have credited so extraordinary a story, I may quote a corroborative account from the 'Manchester Courier' of a similar accident to a Jackdaw:—"During the recent gales the inhabitants of Aspatria were surprised to observe a dark-looking object attached to the end of an arrow-shaped vane on the summit of the lofty tower of their church. On a nearer examination it proved to be the lifeless body of a Jackdaw, which the violence of the wind had driven upon the arrow and literally impaled." The one story corroborates the other.—J.H. Gurney, Jun. (Northrepps Cottage, Norwich).

Cuckoo laying in a Swallow's Nest.—The Cuckoo's egg I mentioned to you as having been deposited in the nest of a Swallow was taken by one of my boys from a nest built under the bridge in Cassiobury Park. I have never met with or heard of another instance of this egg being found in a Swallow's nest, nor do I think that the fact is recorded in any book on Natural History. The small size and peculiar position of the nest preclude the possibility of the egg having been laid in it in the ordinary manner, and I do not doubt that it was conveyed there in the Cuckoo's mouth. I believe this mode of depositing the egg to be the ordinary one adopted, as few of the nests selected would admit of so large a bird sitting in, or even on them.—George Rooper (Nascott, Watford).

[At pp. 222, 223 of 'Our Summer Migrants' will be found lists, from various authentic sources, of the birds in whose nests the egg of the Cuckoo has at different times been found. The number of species amounts to fifty-six, but the Swallow is not included. The instance above narrated by Mr. Rooper is the first of the kind that has come to our notice, and is extremely interesting.—Ed.]

Kite at Northrepps, Norfolk.—This afternoon (May 2nd) I saw, at Northrepps, a Buzzard going south, and immediately afterwards a second, and then a Kite. I was very much surprised at seeing the Kite, although it is not long since my father saw one at Northrepps; and it was still more unusual to see it so late in the year in company with Buzzards migrating southwards. They were high up, but the sky was very clear, and I could plainly see the light head and forked tail of the Kite, and observe every now and then the tail turned rudderwise.—J.H. Gurney, Jun. (Northrepps Cottage, Norwich).

Correction of an Error.—In my 'Notes from Beverley,' p. 157, in mentioning the note of the Spotted Crake, I am made to say—"The males begin to call at dusk like Corn Crakes or Quails, only the note is very different, and may be imitated by pronouncing quickly the word 'gluck'—'gluck' every three or four seconds." Please read "quick"—"quick" for "gluck"—"gluck," as the latter would make it very like the note of the Quail, which bird I frequently hear in the summer here; though when the corn is reaped they seem to leave us, judging by the very few that are killed in the shooting season. I should liken the notes of the Quail to "ghut, ghut it"—"ghut, ghut it."—F. Boyes (Beverley).

Introduction of Foreign Land and Fresh-water Mollusca.—With reference to the occurrence in this country of foreign land and freshwater shells (p. 232), I may mention that they are now very frequently introduced. I myself turned loose on a moor in the county of Durham, some twenty-five years ago, several specimens of Helix villosa which I had brought alive from Switzerland, and I know that they or their posterity were living in the same place ten years later. I saw a few weeks ago a couple of splendidly-grown Parmacella, which had been found in a garden near Newcastle, and which will doubtless, if they are properly fed, establish a colony in our neighbourhood. These, of course, must have been introduced accidentally with plants; but many other species have been intentionally transplanted. A friend of mine, many years ago, brought a number of Helix lapicida from the South of England, and established them on some rocks on the banks of the Wear: they are now one of our recognized local species. I have also turned out Clausilias from Africa and from Syria, and various species of Helix from the latter country, in suitable localities in the county of Durham. But the latter perished the first winter: they could protect themselves against heat better than cold. Knowing how rapidly gasteropods modify under dififering conditions, it may be interesting to note in what time, if in any, a change takes place in these new colonists. Fresh-water shells are transported, I believe, on the feet and tarsi of ducks and waders, in those cases—as in Physa, Limnnæa, &c.—in which the ova have a glutinous covering. I once shot a mallard a hundred miles away from water, in the Sahara, and noticed the ova of some mollusk—probably Succinea—adhering to one of its feet. I suspect it will not be very dificult to extend the catalogue of British Land Shells, just as it has been for three-quarters of a century swollen by the addition of Bulimus Goodallii—a common West Indian shell now acclimatized in our greenhouses.—H.B. Tristram (Durham).

Breeding Season of the Edible Crab.—With regard to the time of year at which the Edible Crab (Cancer pagurus) spawns, I may observe that my friends at Porthgwarra, Messrs. Jackson, put female crabs into their large tanks there in December last, having the spawn developed under the apron; and on taking them out again, on 15th February last, found that all had shed their spawn. This agrees with the fact already known, that impregnation takes place with this crab about August and September.—Thomas Cornish (Penzance).

Lobster burying its Prey.—Towards the end of February last we had occasion to empty a tank containing flat-fishes, and a flounder of eight inches in length was inadvertently left buried in the shingle, where it died. On refilling the tank it was tenanted by three lobsters (Homarus marinus), one of which is an aged veteran of unusual size, bearing an honourable array of barnacles; and he soon brought to light the hidden flounder, with which he retired to a corner. In a short time it was noticed that the flounder had disappeared. It was impossible the lobster could have eaten it all in the interim, and the handle of a net revealed the fact that, upon the approach of the two smaller lobsters, the larger one had buried the flounder beneath a heap of shingle, on which he now mounted guard. Five times within two hours was the fish unearthed, and as often did the lobster shovel the gravel over it with his huge claws, each time ascending the pile and turning his bold defensive front to his companions. I am not aware that this canine propensity of the lobster has been before recorded.—Ernest E. Barker (Rothesay Aquarium, Bute).

Dr. Bowerbank's Collection of Sponges.—We are glad to hear that the entire collection of Sponges and microscopical preparations left by the late Dr. Bowerbank have been purchased by the Trustees of the British Museum. This collection, which comprises the specimens referred to and described by Dr. Bowerbank in his four important volumes published by the Ray Society, will be most useful and valuable to all who are interested in the examination and study of the Spongiidæ.

  1. See also: p. 293 f. (Wikisource-ed.)