The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 669/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries (March, 1897)
various authors, editor W.L. Distant
4035137Notes and QueriesMarch, 1897various authors, editor W.L. Distant




The Serotine near Hastings.—On September 3rd an example of the Serotine, Vesperugo serotinus, was sent to me. A few days previously I had noticed three bats leave an outhouse belonging to one of the farms on Mr. W. Lucas-Shadwell's estate, and I asked a farm hand to endeavour to capture one and send it to me that I might determine the species. The animal was killed with a hop-pole; the man seems to have been afraid to take it alive as I desired him to do. A figure of the Serotine, from the graceful pencil of Mr. G.E. Lodge, may be seen in 'The Zoologist' for 1891, pl. I., facing page 201.—W. Ruskin Butterfield (10, Stanhope Place, St. Leonard's).


Marten in the County Waterford.—The year before last I chronicled, in these pages (Zool. 1895, p, 301), the occurrence of two specimens, male and female, of Martes sylvatica in this neighbourhood. I have again to mention the capture, on December 1st, last year, of a fine male specimen of the same species. It was taken in a rabbit-trap. It measured from tip of snout to end of tail, 26 inches; same measurement to end of tail-hairs, 30 inches; length of body, 17 inches; length of tail, 8½ inches. It weighed 3 lbs. 2¼ oz. Throat yellow, with small brown spot.—William W. Flemyng (Coolfin, Portlaw, Co. Waterford).

The Grey Seal in Carnarvonshire.—In July, 1895, I found an example of this species, Halichœrus gryphus, between seven and eight feet long, on the beach near Afonwen. It had apparently been dead for some time, and much of the carcass had been devoured by crows and gulls. — G.H. Caton Haigh (Grainsby Hall, Great Grimsby).


Bank Vole in Jersey.—I have pleasure in confirming Mr. Barrett-Hamilton's record of the Bank Vole from Jersey (Zool. 1896, p. 98). Four specimens were trapped on that island by Mr. D. Francis last August, and these have been shown to me. I have not yet had an opportunity of examining and comparing them carefully, but from the impression left on my mind I should hesitate to describe them as "perfectly typical examples," although without comparing them I cannot say wherein the differences (if there be any) lie.—W. Ruskin Butterfield (10, Stanhope Place, St. Leonard's).


The Common Rorqual on Lincolnshire Coast.—An example of the Common Rorqual, Balænoptera musculus, came ashore at North Cotes on Nov. 2nd, 1896. It was first seen by a Grimsby fishing-smack in a dead or dying condition floating in the North Sea and towed into the Humber by means of a hawser attached to its tail. Before, however, it reached Great Grimsby the tail came off, with the result that the carcass went ashore as above stated. The animal measured about forty feet in length. — G.H. Caton Haigh (Grainsby Hall, Great Grimsby).

Correction.Mr. T. Southwell desires to correct a local and a vessel's name in his "Notes on the Seal and Whale Fishery, 1896":—p. 58, line 4, for Fogs Head read Fogo Head; line 14 from foot, for 'Arctic' read 'Active.'


Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the Isle of Wight.—In 'The Zoologist' for 1896 (p. 473) I mentioned the reported occurrence of Coccyzus americanus at Ventnor in October. I have since, through the kindness of Mr. Smith, at Newport, and Mr. Kent, at Ventnor, been able to verify this report. Mr. Smith writes:—"I beg to say there is no doubt whatever as to the proper identification of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo; it was found dead at a cottage-door by Mr. Kent, of Old Park, Ventnor, who may let you see it if you still have a doubt." Answering my letter asking for particulars, Mr. Kent writes:—"I picked up the bird early in October, 1896. It was lying in the pathway outside my door. The place is in an exposed situation, and about 400 yards from the sea facing west. There had been a storm and strong winds from the west, and most probably the bird was drifted here by the force of the wind coming across the sea. It could not have been dead more than an hour or so, as it was in a perfect state of preservation, and an hour previous was not in the place where I found it. The bird is an adult male." I have not actually heard of the occurrence of this bird in the Isle of Wight before, but several instances of its appearance in Devonshire and other counties on that coast are known.—G.W. Smith (College, Winchester).

Egg of South African Golden Cuckoo in Nest of Cape Wagtail.—For some four years past a pair of Cape Wagtails, Motacilla capensis, have nested in the shrubs in my garden, and have generally succeeded in rearing a fairly large family during the season. They are so tame as to come within a couple of yards of the observer when in search of the insects upon which they feed. This season they have nested in a hedge consisting of roses and pomegranates, and have been somewhat seriously imposed upon. A female Golden Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx cupreus, has deposited an egg in the nest of the Wagtails, with the result that a very sturdy young Cuckoo has monopolized the space usually occupied by some four Wagtails, and has secured for himself the nutriment which should have been divided amongst the whole family. The bird in question is so far advanced as to have left its borrowed home, and may daily be seen with gaping mouth awaiting the visits of its foster-parents, whose energy is somewhat severely taxed in supplying the wants of their giant offspring, whom they doubtless regard as a very undesirable boarder.—F.G. Nicholson (Pretoria, Transvaal, January, 1897).

[The nest of the Cape Wagtail is usually found in wall-crevices, banks, crannies of rock, or in some creeping vegetation on a wall or tree. Mr. Nicholson now records it as found in garden shrubs, and I have seen it in thorn-bushes on the veld. Mrs. Barber has stated that the Golden Cuckoos lay pure white eggs in the nests of the Cape Bunting, Fringillaria capensis (F. vittata, Lay.) and all the Nectariniæ (Sun-birds). Mr. Jackson found pure white eggs—which have been considered to belong to this Cuckoo—in nests of the Rufous-chested Weaver-bird, Hyphantornis capitalis.—Ed.]

Unusually large number of Pintails in Co. Mayo.—The unusually large numbers of Pintails visiting the estuary this season is very remarkable, when the mildness of the weather is considered, and except during the hard frost of January, 1881, when the mercury fell to 7° on the night of the 15th, I have never seen their numbers equalled. We usually have a little family party of twelve to fifteen birds regularly visiting the sands in company of Wigeon every winter; but last month a flock of eighty birds was seen by Capt. Kirkwood, of Bartragh, feeding in a sandy bay within sight of his parlour-windows, and I have myself on several occasions counted upwards of fifty feeding together. It would be interesting to learn if there has been an unusually large migration to other parts of the coast this season.— Robert Warren (Moyview, Ballina, Feb. 6th, 1897).

Green Sandpiper in Co. Waterford.—Two specimens of this species were shot in Curraghmore on the 23rd and 25th November last year. They frequented the sides of the pond, and were very wild. Mr. E. Williams, who is mounting them for me, says that the contents of the stomach of both birds were in such a soft and liquid state that it was impossible to know on what they had been feeding. Thompson states, on the authority of the late Dr. R.J. Burkitt, that "the Green Sandpiper is very rarely seen near Waterford." My friend Mr. Ussher informs me that he has shot it on three occasions in the county.—William W. Flemyng (Coolfin, Portia w, Co. Waterford).

Vultures and the Towers of Silence.—In connection with the bubonic plague now decimating certain parts of India, the following facts, communicated to me by a friend out there, may be of interest, as showing that the supply of Vultures is equal to the demand at these well-known Parsee institutions:—"An unfounded report gained currency some days ago that the Parsee deaths from the pestilence having increased considerably, the Vultures kept at the Towers of Silence were unable to dispose of all the dead bodies exposed there. The secretary of the Parsee Punchayet Funds made personal enquiries into the matter, and has published an authoritative contradiction of the report, from which it appears that in the Tower of Silence known as Kappis Khaoo's there is ample space for 237 corpses, which are chiefly those of Shenshahi Parsees. In the Banajee Tower of Silence there is space for an equal number of dead bodies, chiefly those of Iranees and Kadmee Parsees, while there is no objection to Shenshahi corpses being laid therein. There is also space enough in the Anjuman and Manockjee Sett's Towers of Silence for 262 and 141 corpses respectively. The Mody Tower of Silence is used only for members of the Mody family. During the last fortnight (first half of January, 1897) about 150 dead bodies were consigned to the towers, most of them in the Kappis Khaoo Tower, while the corpses of Iranees and Kadmee Parsees were laid in the towers kept apart for them. According to the testimony of the corpse-bearers who enter the towers, the appearances in them were in no way different from their normal state, while the Vultures were sufficiently numerous to respond to the extra demand made upon them. According to an exact calculation made, the Vultures sitting on the walls of one tower were found to number 195, exclusive of the large number of other birds perching on the walls of the several other towers and on the trees. While the former number of Vultures was 250, there are now over 400 waiting daily at the towers."—Oxley Grabham (Flaxton, York).

Ornithological Folk-Lore.—In Mr. P. Ralfe's interesting paper on Manx Bird-names (p. 71) mention is made of the Wheatear and Swallow as two of the "Seven Sleepers." Could he tell us what the other five birds were which indulged in supposed hibernation? On the Dorset coast I was told that the Wheatear was one of the seven sleepers, and was always visible at Portland on the first foggy day in March. Referring to my note-book, I find that the following eleven birds have been given me in various places as representatives of the lethargic heptarchy, the Wheatear always being included, and generally heading the list of every combination, probably in consequence of its early migration and conspicuousness on the coast, where more notice is taken of birds than is the case inland. I have found the first-named seven to be the most frequently mentioned:—Wheatear, Swallow, Sand Martin, Martin, Swift, Cuckoo, Landrail, Spotted Flycatcher, Nightjar, Wryneck, and Nightingale.—M.C.H. Bird (Brunstead Rectory, Norwich).