The Zoologist/3rd series, vol 1 (1877)/Issue 9/Occasional Notes

Occasional notes (September, 1877)
various authors, editor James Edmund Harting

Published in The Zoologist, 3rd series, vol 1, issue 9, p. 379–391

4352469Occasional notesSeptember, 1877various authors, editor James Edmund Harting


On the Absence of the Weasel from Ireland.—As no Irish-killed specimen of the true Weasel is to be seen in any of the pubHc Museums, nor any authentic record of its capture in Ireland, it is much to be regretted that Mr. Mahoney, who states in 'The Zoologist' for July (p. 290) that it occurs in Donegal, did not send you a skin, or better still a specimen in the flesh. It is also to be regretted that Mr. Borrer did not shoot the specimen he saw hunting about a stone wall near Currawn, in the Island of Achill, last November. However, it appears to me that both gentlemen may have been mistaken, and that what they took to be Weasels were either young or very small female Stoats, which had either moulted or in some other way lost the black tip of the tail, and thus bore some resemblance to Weasels. The late William Thompson, of Belfast, during the many years in which he was investigating the Natural History of Ireland, never met with the Weasel, nor did he ever receive a specimen from any of his numerous correspondents in nearly every county in Ireland. I well remember asking him if he thought it possible it might yet be discovered as a native, but his reply was that he was very doubtful on the subject. Dr. Carte, who has been for many years Director of the Royal Dublin Society's Museum, never met with a specimen, nor is there one in that Museum. Again, in the South, Dr. Harvey, of Cork, a naturalist of great practical experience, has never met with, nor been able to obtain for his fine collection of our native fauna, an Irish-killed specimen of the Weasel. In a letter which I received from him a few days ago he says:—"I never saw the Weasel in Ireland, and I don't believe we have it. I have had over and over again to prove to people that what they thought to be Weasels were in reality Stoats. So, like yourself, I have still to look for the pleasure of beholding an Irish Weasel." Such being the experience of Thompson in the North, Dr. Carte in the East, and Dr. Harvey in the South of Ireland, there seems very little chance of this animal being found to be a native of Ireland.—Robert Warren (Moyview, Ballina).

British-killed Purple Gallinules.—In 'The Zoologist' for August (p. 339) my friend, the Rev. Murray A. Mathew renews his defence of the Somersetshire and other British-taken Purple Gallinules, Porphyrio veterum, against the imputation of being escaped birds and not boná fide wild visitants to our islands. From my experience of the habits of this species as observed in Spain and Sicily, it seems to me that he is arguing upon erroneous premises, especially as regards its assumed "migratory" instincts. When he says, "Bearing in mind that the birds are migratory, and that the mouth of the Rhone or the coast of Portugal is at no great distance from this country when fairly on the wing," &c., he is doubtless mindful of the exact words of the late M. Favier, and of Colonel Irby, in the 'Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar,' but I imagine that both of them use the expression in a far more limited sense than that in which Mr. Mathew has taken it. From the neighbourhood of Gibraltar, where it occurs in January and February, "doubtless on migration" to several marshes where it is resident throughout the year, is but a few miles, and there is a succession of these as far as the great marshes of the Guadalquiver, which are only seventy miles in a straight line from Gibraltar: whilst from the South of Portugal to Bath or Wells it is thirteen degrees of latitude, as the crow flies, or nearly eight hundred geographical miles! Mr. Mathew may consider this "no great distance for a bird when fairly on the wing," but there are birds, and birds, and the Purple Waterhen is one of those most difficult to flush, and settles down as soon as possible after a short flight, seldom, if ever, (o be flushed again. If a dog has almost got hold of one, it must perforce rise or be "chopped"; but when, after a short flight, it drops down into the sedge, it runs and clambers amongst the reeds, and is seen no more. It would take twenty couple of otter-hounds to thoroughly rout up a marsh of moderate dimensions so as to give any idea of the Porphyrios it might contain; and after working a couple of those marshes the staunchest padk would be pretty well "baked." Again, it will be observed that even its occurrence "on migration " near Gibraltar is in the months of January and February, the very time at which the officers of the garrison and other sportsmen are in the habit of going out shooting, and consequently many a bird might be seen at that time which at others might pass unnoticed; besides which in winter the cover is not so dense. If the bird were really " migratory," in the usual acceptation of the word, it is strange that it should have become scarce or almost extinct in the marshes of the Albufera of Valencia, in those near Murcia, in those of the Prat and the Almenasa, of the Island of Majorca, and other localities. That it is "more abundant in winter," as Von Homeyer says, merely shows that there are naturally more sportsmen about at that season, and that, the sedge being scantier, it is then more easily obtained. My impression, in fact, is that there are few birds which migrate less and are more locally restricted than this species. Nor can I agree to Mr. Mathew's assumption that any one of the captured specimens was proved to be a wild and genuine migrant because its plumage showed no signs of confinement, for the Purple Gallinule is one of those species which would least show marks of captivity, and to which much greater space and freedom are accorded than to many others. Even were this not the case, I can recall to memory many instances of birds in confinement in perfect plumage; and to cite but one, I may mention a young Golden Eagle taken from the nest on the 4th May, and killed, in default of a purchaser, by one of my Spanish collectors, in September, in which nearly every feather is like satin—a beauty never approached by any wild bird I ever saw, and I think the experience of my friend Mr. E. Hargitt, who now possesses it, will confirm mine. As for escaping from an enclosure, or anything short of an absolute cage, few birds could do so with greater facility, for this Gallinule can climb like a cat, whilst its skulking habits might enable it to remain unnoticed till all traces, if any, of captivity had passed away, and even till the clipped feathers in one wing had been replaced by new ones. To sum up, it seems to me that there are few European species less likely to have come to England of their own accord than the Purple Gallinule; but T will give Mr. Mathew the benefit of a suggestion as to the origin of the individual captured in Somersetshire. It is well known that the Romans kept these birds in captivity: they may have brought some to Britain. Bath was a Roman colony, and the courtyard of some Pro-consul of Æquæ-salis may have been enlivened with the imperial purple hues of this beautiful southern species. When the Roman power waned and "the heathen" poured across the Severn, necessitating those "great battles in the west" of which our Laureate has sung, the neglected Gallinules would naturally seek refuge, and also food (for probably at such times their owners forgot to feed them), in the peaceful marshes of the Parrett. Increase of population and drainage would in later times have diminished their numbers, and in the bird in question we have perhaps the last descendant of the original invaders, which, after 1400 years of occupation by its "forbears," may fairly lay claim to naturalization. On this supposition, and on this only, I should be inclined to admit that it has a claim to be considered a "British" bird.—Howard Saunders (7, Radnor Place, Hyde Park, W.).

Purple Gallinule in Lancashire.—Since the discussion in 'The Zoologist,' as to whether it is possible that a Purple Gallinule found at large in this country may or may not be a bonâ fide visitor and not an escaped bird, I have made further enquiries with reference to the specimen shot on the 2oth September, 1876, at Grange-over-Sands, North Lancashire, to which you allude in the May number of 'The Zoologist' (p. 228). Allan, the gamekeeper, who shot it, tells me that he saw it frequently for a month previously to any attempt on his part to shoot it. Generally it was in company with a large covey of Partridges, feeding on the stubbles, and when disturbed it invariably made for a large bed of reeds. On the first occasion of his seeing it, it ran some distance and then took flight across two fields into this bed of reeds, which is in reality a portion of the deserted channel of the River Winster. On the day on which it was shot it rose very wild from the reeds (some fifty yards off), and was brought down by a single pellet .through the head. I may add that the locus in quo is close to the shore of Morecambe Bay. The bird was most minutely examined both by the birdstuffer and Allan, and they both tell me it presented no signs whatever of confinement, the feathers being sound and glossy and the legs perfectly free from any mark. When I saw the bird it was already stuffed and mounted, so that I could form no opinion of my own on the point.—Edward T. Baldwin (Woodcroft, Ulverston).

Birds observed in Glen Spean.—The Golden Eagle breeds on Ben Aonoch More, the next mountain east of Ben Nevis, and but 400 feet lower. From Ben e Bhean (pronounced "Vahn"), a few feet lower and still more east, I have watched the magnificent flight of this king of birds, and have seen it wheel round over my head so near that I could distinguish its eye, then glide away in a straight line till lost to sight, without apparently moving a feather, but seeming to go at will on outstretched pinions in any direction it chose. On the latter mountain I have seen several pairs of Snow Buntings, Plectrophanes nivalis, in July, and listened to their song whilst smoking a pipe, in company with Mr. Howard Birchall, at the foot of the cairn on the summit, near which is a vast heap of quartz-stones of all sizes and shapes, and bad to walk on, which—but for the impossibility of the thing—have the appearance of having been dropped from carts over some acres of nearly level table-land. Amongst these stones, no doubt, these pretty birds breed, but I did not succeed in finding their nests. At the foot of this mountain, near the River Spean, the Woodcock breeds. Ptarmigan frequent the stony parts on all these mountains, and Red Grouse abound in the moors. Below Roy Bridge Black Grouse are plentiful on the south side of the river. In the low, wooded and cultivated parts of the valley the Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cuckoo, Chaffinch, Yellow Bunting, House Martin, Sky Lark, Titlark (Anthus pratensis). Rock Pipit, and Redstart are to be met with. On the banks of the streams that feed the Spean numbers of Common Sandpipers breed. On the marshy ground near the river the Redshank and Snipe, and on the banks of the river many pairs of Oystercatchers also breed; and last year, on a gravel-bed in the middle of the river, twenty-three miles from the sea, I took a nest containing three eggs of the Herring Gull, Larus argentatus. I ascertained with certainty that there was no mistake about this, by the aid of a telescope, as the pair of birds stood on the sand at the side of the river, a few hundred yards from the nest. On islands in Loch Laggan, as well as sometimes on the shore of the Loch, the Common Gull breeds. I took about a score of eggs and a pair of young birds of this species last summer on one small island. The Redbreasted Merganser and the Wild Duck also nest on the shores of the Loch. On the moors I have seen the Golden Plover, Peewit, Curlew, Dunlin, and in rocky places the Ring Ouzel, which breeds here, making its nest sometimes on the ground, as does the Blackbird. On all the mountain streams the Dipper is numerous, and on the ridges of Oreag Meaghaidh (pronounced "Maige") U last year saw a Dotterel, Charadrius morinellus, with young ones, one of which I caught, but it was so extremely beautiful that I could not find it in my heart to kill it, although a specimen would have been worth securing. The first time I ascended this grand mountain (about 3700 feet above the sea), on the summit, a Sea Eagle, Haliaëtus albicilla, flew past me, and in following to see where it went I found the most remarkable rock I know of, where the nest then was; but two or three years since some one shot the female bird, and since then there has been no nest. The rock is, at a guess, 1000 feet high, rising from the bottom of the gorge called Corry Arder, 100 feet wide at the part joining the mountain and 30 feet wide at the part farthest from the mountain. It juts out into the gorge perhaps 500 feet. A more secure place for an Eagle's eyrie could scarcely be found. A little to the west of it is a rock face, about the same height, and a quarter of a mile long, nearly perpendicular, which forms the head of the corry, and between these rocks the snow drifts to a great depth, and the stream from the top finds its way down to Loch Arder under the snow, forming an archway down which a man may creep to the bottom. At the base of the rock is Loch Arder, a small lake swarming with trout. My son and I one day caught six dozen with artificial flies in about two hours, pulling them out frequently three at a time. Between this mountain and Ben Tulloch runs a stream called the Altooma, in which the Dipper delights to sport, and before it reaches the coach-road from Fort William to Kingussie it makes three magnificent falls, the lower one being nearly equal in beauty to the celebrated falls of Foyers. These wonders are not mentioned in any guide-book, and few if any tourists ever visit them. The Raven and the Hooded Crow breed on Oreag Meaghaidh, and the Heron may be seen on all the lakes in and near the Glen. Having spent only two or three weeks each summer for several years in this Glen since 1866, I may not have noticed all the birds that frequent it, but the absence of the House Sparrow is very remarkable. I feel sure a species of Owl lives near my sugaring-grouud, for several times when out moth-hunting my hair has been made to stand on end by an unearthly noise which nothing but an Owl could have made.—Nicholas Cooke (Gorsey Hey, Liscard, near Birkenhead).

Occurrence of the Stock Dove in Ireland.—I have to report the occurrence here of the Stock Dove, a bird of this year beginning its first moult having been shot here,—on the borders of Armagh and Louth,—on the 12th August. I saw a pair of these birds here last summer. They were nesting in the crevice of a rock on a hill-side covered with heath, at an elevation of about 800 feet above sea-level, and brought out their young. The keeper had observed a pair of pigeons every year in the same quarter, breeding, and reported them to me, but until now did not succeed in shooting a specimen, and neither he nor I could get near enough to determine whether they' were Blue Rocks or Stock Doves. Taking this report in connection with the first known occurrence of the species in Ireland in October, 1875, in the County of Down, which I had the honour to report to ' The Zoologist' soon after (February, 1876, p. 4798), and with another in the same county last June, which I believe Mr. Darragh, of Belfast, has already communicated to you, it does appear probable that the extension of the Stock Dove northward in England within the last ten years, as chronicled in the columns of 'The Zoologist,' has led to its further extension across the narrow channel, to the north-eastern parts of this island.—Clermont (Ravensdale Park, Newry).

[The occurrence of the Stock Dove in Ireland is very noteworthy, as until within the last three years it was quite unknown there. A specimen was shot last year in the Co. Down, and presented by Mr. A. O'D. Taylor to the Belfast Museum. During the present summer, as we learn from Mr. Darragh, a pair bred near Comber, in the same county, and a young one, shot after it had left the nest, was obtained by him also for the Belfast Museum.—Ed.]

Imitative Powers of the Whinchat.—On the 15th May last, as ray brother and I were taking a walk in the fields near Wilsden, we observed a Whinchat, Saxicola rubetra, fly from a wall into an oak tree a little in advance of us. When within about forty yards from the tree we sat down, and my brother called my attention to its singing. To my surprise, it was imitating the song of other birds. During the short time we listened, it imitated in quick succession the song of the Wren, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Tree Lark, Greenfinch, and Starling so successfully that the most practised ear could scarcely have detected the difference. I remarked it again on May 17th; but a swollen stream separating me from the whitethorn in which it was singing, I heard it to great disadvantage. I could hear, however, a few strains which resembled the song of a Linnet, the two shrill call-notes of the Yellow Wagtail, and a note, which it kept repeating, very much after the manner of a Cole Tit. There was no mistake as to the identity of the species in question.—E.P.P. Butterfield (Wilsden, near Bradford).

Ornithological Notes from Dorsetshire.—With reference to the Cormorant of unusual plumage, referred to in 'The Zoologist' for July (p. 280), as seen by Mr. Gatcombe at Wembury, and the same or a similar one by Mr. Clogg on the Cornish coast, I think it probable I saw the bird in Swanage Bay on June 23rd. My attention was attracted to a bird approaching me whose flight resembled that of a Cormorant with a Gannet's plumage; it fortunately passed within fifty yards of me, and I had no difficulty in identifying it. That it was a Cormorant I have no doubt, and corresponded with Mr. Gatcombe's account of the Wembury bird, with this difference—the wings and body appeared to be the normal colour of the species, rather than " silvery gray." The difference might only have been, through optical delusion, caused by reflection, the sky at the time I saw it being clear and unclouded. If it is the same bird, and seen in three successive counties, it must be making a tour of the English coast, and by practical experience finding the most favoured spots to satisfy its voracious appetite. Two colonies of Black-headed Gulls have established themselves on lakes between Poole and Studland. At one of these lakes Pochards have bred for the last three years. In the spring of 1875, a male Pochard, incapacitated from accompanying his companions northwards by a fractured wing, was fortunate enough to induce a female to remain with him, and a brood of young red-heads appeared on the lake, which was so carefully and successfully watched that the following year (1876j three broods were hatched. Having only just returned after a long absence from home, I have been unable to assure myself of the progress made in the further propagation of this bird. My friend Mr. W.M. Calcraft writes me word that a few weeks since he observed a hawk (a Peregrine probably) swoop down upon a Black-headed Gull on the wing, but failing to capture the bird he quickly returned and took it up as it floated on the water, and alighted on the ground a short distance off, with the intention of making a repast on the remains, but on the approach of Mr. Calcraft he flew away, leaving the gull in his possession. Curlews have bred this season on the heaths between Poole and Wareham. An egg of this bird was sent me last April, containing a chick just ready to enter upon subaërial life: its length was four inches; bill, three-quarters of an inch. Choughs and Ravens have returned to their old nesting-places on the rugged coast of Purbeck, after extermination before the passing of the Wild Birds Preservation Acts. The Peregrine breeds in Gadcliff (the noble headland on the western side of the so-called "island"), which is happily so steep and precipitous that no human hand can rob it of its young, although it not unfrequently falls to the gun or trap of the inexorable gamekeeper.—J.C. Mansell-Pleydell (Longthorns, Blandford).

Breeding of the Pochard and Black-headed Gull in Dorsetshire.—In the early part of June, I was informed that there were some curious birds breeding at a pool well known as a favourite resort of wild fowl in this vicinity, and that the keeper had never seen any like them there before. So one fine morning I got on board a sailing-boat, and ran down the harbour to the point of land nearest to the pool. From here a short walk leads one to the brow of a small hill looking out over the waters of the English Channel. The sheet of water I purposed visiting lies between this hill and the sea, separated from it only by a low line of sand-hills, and in one place by a flat plain which in gales of wind is completely inundated. At a glance one could see what a place it naturally is for wild fowl. A wide piece of water in the middle, the south-west end being closed in by a large and very thick reed-bed, the other extremity tapering off into a long series of narrow ponds and bogs,—something like Slapton on a smaller scale, but with the advantage of having a large mud estuary at its back, and of being in a more retired position,—having no roads near it, to say nothing of "Sand Hotels," the only habitations being an old hulk drawn up on the beach for the coast-guard, and a deserted and ruinous cottage which has sheltered many a wild-fowler, with his death-dealing punt-gun and almost invisible punt close by, among the rushes within a few yards of the door. I walked down across the rough heath and furze to the edge of the pond to meet the keeper, who was rowing across in a canoe. Getting in this we started to visit the strange birds. As we went along, I questioned the man as to Ducks, &c., breeding, of which there were plenty, as well as Teal, although I did not see any of the latter. Coots, Moorhens and Dabchicks we saw in numbers; and, what is much more interesting to ornithologists, about thirty Pochards had been hatched out there this year, but the eels or other fish had destroyed the greater part of them. We were now approaching a long outstretching rushy point, which divided off the broad sheet of water from the ponds—a place much appreciated by the Coot-shooter. At the end of this point were several small rushy islands, and these had been selected for the breeding place of a party of Black-headed Gulls; and this bird it was that had puzzled the keeper. He did not think it could be "a Gull, as it was so small and had a black head." I told him not to disturb them, as they would do no injury, and were a great addition to the charm of that lonely sheet of water, which, without its bird-life, would serve one's mind to look back upon as an image of desolation. On returning from the Gulls' nests, one of which contained a young bird—the colony consisting of about seven pairs—I expressed a desire to see the young Pochards. The keeper said there were little lots of them in several places, and that one in particular used a small pool called the "little black pool" at the extreme end of the pond. We paddled slowly up through the winding rush-bordered lanes of water connecting the ponds, through the "big black pool," much loved by the Pochards in winter for its abundance of weed. Here it was that some years ago above eighty of these birds were killed by the discharge of two punt-guns, one fired at them on the water, the other just as they were getting on wing—the best chance for killing this sort of bird, as their feathers are then more open, and they give plenty of time while "skittering" before they can get their plump bodies well into the air. At the end of the little black pool, I discovered the birds we were in search of. They seemed not the least alarmed at our presence, being, I suppose, accustomed to the keeper's boat. They swam rapidly along within ten yards of us, the old bird and three young. There had been five, but something had destroyed them; the keeper blamed the big eels, of which there are quantities in the pond. I left the man here, lauding close by the old cottage, and walked across the heath down towards the harbour. About thirty Curlews got up from the top of the hill as I came up over the brow. The keeper had previously informed me of their breeding in the vicinity of the pond. As I got within a quarter of a mile of the beach my attention was attracted by some small white object running rapidly along the turf, which had been cut for peat. I soon made it out to be a Ringed Plover, and after a little search discovered its four eggs, in a very poor apology for a nest, on the bare turf at least three hundred yards from the water. I came out upon the shore close to a long tongue of gravel, the end of which was absolutely covered with birds, of two kinds only—Herring Gulls and Cormorants. As I approached the Gulls flew off, while the Shags walked slowly into the water, swam across a small creek and waddled out on the mud, with a look of lazy unconcern, which was justified by the extreme heat of the day. A pair of Oystercatchers, with their shrill cries and prettily contrasted plumage, accompanied me on my walk back to the boat, while a handsomelooking Shieldrake, whose nest was probably in one of the numerous rabbitholes near the beach, flew uneasily round my head, and was no doubt relleved to see the brown sail of our una-boat hoisted to a favourable breeze.—T.M. Pike (Westport, Warehara).

Ring Ouzel Nesting near Malvern.—This bird has nested on the North Hills this summer, and has succeeded in rearing its young. On two other occasions the Ring Ouzel has nested on the hills, but in both cases a mishap prevented the hatching.—Isaac Harding (10, Lansdown Crescent, Malvern).

Scarcity of the Corn Crake in the West of England.— A few years since I wrote to 'The Field' on the almost complete disappearance of the Corn Crake in the West of England, where it used to be one of the commonest of our spring migrants. I was not led to do so from the phenomena of an exceptional season, but from the observation that year by year the Corn Crake was surely deserting us, and many meadows and clover fields which used to be vocal with its familiar "crake, crake" seemed destined to re-echo those sounds of spring no more. At Lundy Island Corn Crakes used to assemble in large numbers in September on their autumnal migration, and afforded good sport for a few days. The Rev. H.G. Heaven tells me that Corn Crakes are now rarely seen on that island. The last place where I came across these birds in any number in the West of England was Dartmoor, and here in August I found them on the very wettest bogs. This year I have not heard the call of the Corn Crake once in "West Somerset, and last year I only heard it twice. Probably the increased drainage of land has something to do with the scarcity of the bird. Its favourite food consists of small snails, and it through any cause the supply of these becomes diminished we need not wonder at the birds forsaking localities where they can no longer feed. — Murray A. Mathew (Bishop's Lydeard, Taunton).

Migration of Rooks.—In 'The Zoologist' last year appeared some notes from Messrs. Stevenson, Cordeaux, and others on the migratory habits of Rooks (see vol. 1876, pp. 4776, 4837, 5105). Few people, perhaps, are aware that numbers of these birds arrive here from the north for the winter. When fishing and shooting in the North Sea during October, I have often met with large flocks of Rooks on their way to this country. It was seldom that they flew in straggling parties like the Gray Crows; those that were seen singly appearing to have fallen out from the ranks through fatigue. After a gale of wind from the south-west, I have seen several floating dead on the water between twenty and thirty miles off the land. I have also received a few wings from the light-ships off the east coast during the winter months, the birds having fallen disabled on deck after striking the lamps. From never having observed them on their return journey in the spring, or obtained any wings from the light-ships at that period, I am not sure whether they take up their residence in this country or again return to the North of Europe, from whence they appear to be making their way when met with in autumn.—E.T. Booth (Dyke Road, Brighton).

Curious Nesting-place for a House Sparrow.—An instance of a singular place chosen by the House Sparrow for nidification has come under my notice this year. The nest is built in a cavity formed by the left arm, and half-encircled by the drapery, of the statue erected in 1870 to the Earl of Carlisle, in that part of the Phœnix Park, Dublin, called the "Peoples Garden." The combined height of the statue and pedestal is fourteen feet six inches, and the place where the nest is constructed is about twelve or thirteen feet from the ground. It was very amusing to observe the saucy way in which the cock and hen were accustomed to perch on his lordship's robes of state before and after visiting the nest. The head gardener informs me that a pair of House Sparrows began to build in the same place the year after the erection of the statue, and that they have done so regularly every year since. He says that two broods have been successfully reared this year.—William W. Flemyng (18, Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin).

Squacco Heron in King's County.—We have received for preservation a beautiful specimen of the Squacco Heron, forwarded by Lord Carbery from Castle Bernard, King's County. The bird proved to be a female, and in very good condition, the intestines being loaded with fat. The ovary contained eggs, some of them as large as b b shot. The stomach was filled with the wing-cases of small beetles and the remains of small caterpillars.—Williams & Son (2, Dame Street, Dublin).

[The Squacco Heron is a very rare bird in Ireland. Thompson, in his 'Natural History of Ireland' (vol. ii. p. 158), states that one was shot in Killeagh Bay, near Youghal, in May, 1849, and another, also obtained near Youghal, is preserved in the Royal Dublin Society's Museum. A third, shot at the mouth of the Laune river, County Kerry, on June 10th, 1875, will be found recorded in ' The Zoologist' for February last (p. 57). It is somewhat remarkable that these specimens, as well as a score of others procured in different parts of England, were nearly all obtained in the summer months. As a rule, the grallatorial birds which visit this country but do not breed here, come to us in spring and autumn. The Squacco Heron seems to be an irregular summer visitant.—Ed.]

Odd Materials in a Cormorant's Nest.—Cormorants breed not only on high rocks and cliffs, but also at times on low islands, where their nests are elevated only a few feet above high-water mark. Amongst the sticks and other litter which they make use of for building, I have seen children's whips and spades, a gentleman's light cane, and part of the handle of a parasol, all of which I suppose the birds had picked up floating at sea.—E.T. Booth (Dyke Road, Brighton).

Pied Flycatcher Nesting near Malvern.—This beautiful little bird has been seen in and around Malvern on several occasions during the present summer. A pair nested at the Rhidd, but fell victims to the raids of the village lads. Another pair is evidently intending to nest, and is being closely watched by Mr. Edwards, a local naturalist. With the exception of one in my possession, shot two years since, I am not aware that there has been a recorded appearance of the Pied Flycatcher in this part of Worcestershire before.—Isaac Harding (10, Lansdown Crescent, Malvern).

Bartram's Sandpiper in Somersetshire.—In the collection of birds belonging to Dr. Woodforde, of Amberd House, near Taunton, and chiefly obtained in the county of Somerset, is a very perfect example of Bartram's Sandpiper, which was shot at least thirty years ago on the banks of the River Parret, in the parish of Combwitch. It was shot in one of the winter months, and appears to be in complete winter plumage, being more ashy in its coloration than any other example of this Sandpiper which I have seen. So far as I am aware, this specimen has not hitherto been recorded.—Murray A. Mathew (Bishop's Lydeard, Taunton).

Osprey near Bridlington.—On June 30th an Osprey was captured near here, at a place called Gransmoor, the property of Mr. Robert Medforth. It was found by his keeper caught in a pole-trap by one claw, and was not at all injured. It had been seen for five or six months previously in that neighbourhood hawking about a trout-stream. It is now in confinement, and seems to be doing well.—J.H. Hutchinson (Bridlington).

Habits of the Great Pipe-Fish.—In a glass vase in the east saloon of the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, is a fine brood of the Great Pipe-fish, Syngnathus acus, recently developed there, affording a good opportunity for observing a portion of the economy of this curious animal. The parent of these little strangers (the male) was received some weeks ago, and on arrival it was observed to carry ova, which had been previously transferred to its "pouch" by a female, before captivity. How long the ova had been thus carried I am unable to state, but they then appeared to be in an early stage of development, for they visibly enlarged in the pouch, causing it to distend very considerably. As most naturalists know, this curious transference of the eggs from the female to a pouch-like process of the male is a part of the life-history of this species. It has not yet been satisfactorily decided how long the ova are carried by the males, but that it is for some time has been proved in this instance; for the actual separation of the young from the parent occurred at least seven weeks after the arrival of the latter in this Aquarium. I cannot corroborate the statement of some authors that the young, on alarm, return to the pouch of the male for safety. On this occasion the young seemed, immediately after birth, to disperse in any direction over the tank in which they were confined. This being a large one, some of them were at times several yards distant from the parent, which, when touched, simply looked after its own safety, and the young had to take care of themselves. These little Syngnathi are now (July 4th) about three weeks old, and are an inch and three-eighths long, having grown double their own length in about fourteen days. They are feeding well upon minute organisms, which they find amongst the vegetation growing in the vase. I have every reason to expect rearing them to maturity, which will be a matter of great interest, for I am right, I believe, in stating that this is the first instance of the development of the youug of this species in a public Aquarium.—John T. Carrington, (Naturalist and Curator Royal Aquarium, Westminster).

Long-legged Spider Crab at Penzance.—I have taken in my trammel here a specimen of the Long-legged Spider Crab, Stenorhynchus phalangium, having conspicuously the small single bristle at the apex of the eye, noted by Prof. Bell. It is stated by him to be common, but that is not my experience of it in Mount's Bay. I have neither taken nor seen a specimen of it for several years.—Thomas Cornish (Penzance).

Correction of Error.—In the reports of the Linnean Society in our August number a few misprints have accidentally crept in, for which the reporter is not responsible, as no proof for correction was sent him. Adopting the official routine, the printer also added "Secretary" to the writer's signature without warrant, and this unfortunately passed through press, escaping our notice.—Ed.