The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 671/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Long-eared Bats and their Food.—Along the valley of the Dowles Brook, in the Wyre Forest, this little Bat is numerous. Whilst watching their movements I found they were working the sallow-trees along the stream-sides, feeding upon the dissipated little Noctuæ that can always be found intoxicating themselves upon the bloom in the early spring. One or more Long-eared Bats could frequently be seen circling around the tops of the bushes; and when a moth attracted their attention they would steady themselves in their flight, and with quivering wings (which sometimes gave one an impression of their perching), seize their prey, frequently from off the bloom itself. After thoroughly working one bush they made off to another for the same purpose, when doubtless within a short space of time sufficient food for that night would readily be taken. Whilst watching these little creatures I was surprised at their inquisitiveness and utter fearlessness in my presence; occasionally one would leave the bush and circle around within a few inches of my face and body, its presence often only being recognized by the vibration of the air, which gave one a very uncanny feeling.—J. Steele Elliott (Dixon's Green, Dudley).
Lesser Shrew in Cheshire.—On March 27th I was pleased to find the skull of a Lesser Shrew, Sorex minutus, in an owl-pellet obtained in Dunham Park. This is the second example recorded from Dunham Park, and the fourth from the county. Fifty-four pellets, taken from the foot of two trees, showed the following result on analysis;—Eight Sparrows, one Blue Tit, one Rat, fourteen House-mice, twenty-six Long-tailed Field Mice, one Water Vole, sixty Field Voles, three Bank Voles, forty-nine Common Shrews, three Water Shrews, and one Lesser Shrew. Although the Bank Vole is common in Cheshire, it is very much rarer than the Field Vole on the park-land.—T.A. Coward (Bowdon, Cheshire).
Honey Buzzard in Staffordshire.—I have been fortunate enough to save from oblivion a beautiful specimen of Pernis apivorus. Acting on information received, I visited the cottage of a keeper, and induced him to sell me the bird for my collection. It was shot by this keeper at Little Aston, Staffordshire (within a few yards of the adjoining county of Warwickshire), on June 16th, 1894. It had been set up and made into one of those idiotic distortions which are so dear to the hearts of the old type of birdstuffer; but, thanks to the unrivalled taxidermic skill of Mr. F. Coburn, it has now been made into a specimen of rare grace and beauty. Judging by its large size, the specimen was evidently a female, and as there was a large patch on the abdomen denuded of feathers, it was probably breeding. The man said that the bird was on the topmost branch of a tall tree when he shot it, aud there were several large nests about, but they might have been Rooks' nests for all he knew. The bird is of the dark form, the whole of the upper and under parts being of a rich dark brown. I can only find one previous record for this bird in Staffordshire, and none for Warwickshire. Garner, in his 'Natural History of the County of Stafford,' page 271, says, "Shot this summer at Trentham," but gives no date; however, as the book was published in 1844, it may have been in 1843 or 1844. E. Baylis (Stafford Street, Birmingham).
Long-eared Owl breeding in Essex.—While walking through Pheasanthouse Wood, Little Baddow, with my boys, on April 15th, I noticed an Owl flit noiselessly out of a large Scotch fir; seeing a squirrel's drey or old crow's nest, one of my sons made an inspection, and soon disturbed the other Owl. The nest contained two eggs. We again saw the Owls in the same tree on April 23rd, so trust they may be successful in bringing off their brood. In Miller Christy's 'Birds of Essex' (p. 155) we read, "I never actually heard of its breeding in the county, except at Harwich, though it has probably done so elsewhere."—Edward A. Fitch (Maldon, Essex).
Food of the Knot.—In the early autumn the great stretches of sand which extend along the north Norfolk shore from Hunstanton to Blakeney are the resort of innumerable waders. Knots and Dunlins are perhaps the most abundant of these migratory hosts. The chief food of these two species is a little gasteropod, Paludestrina ulvæ (Pennant), which occurs in countless numbers on these sand-flats. I examined the contents of the stomachs of a large number of these birds last September, and in every instance the small mollusc above mentioned composed the principal food of the Knot. In order to render the identification complete of the Mollusca found in the Knots, I submitted the contents of the stomachs of five individuals killed in September to Mr. Edgar A. Smith, F.Z.S., of the British Museum (Natural History). With his usual kindness he sent me the following reply:— "The shells contained in the five bottles are Paludestrina ulvæ (Pennant), commonly called Hydrobia ulvæ in books. As Hydrobius, which is practically the same as Hydrobia, was preused in insects, I think it advisable to employ D'Orbigny's name Paludestrina. It is a common species in most estuaries. Bottle six (contents of stomach of Golden Plover) contains three species, viz. the same Paludestrina, several specimens of Littorina rudis, Maton., and a single example of Alexia myosotis (Draparnaud). The Alexia is also estuarine, and the Littorina may be found both on the coast and in the mouths of rivers."—H.W. Feilden (Wells, Norfolk).
White Wagtail nesting in Suffolk.—On April 26th I took a nest with five eggs of the White Wagtail, clearly identifying the hen bird on the nest, and also when she settled on the ground a few yards off. The nest was built in the side of a cattle-shed, and the farm-lad who showed it to me had watched it for some time, and assured me that both birds were alike. We have had more than one instance of the Pied and White Wagtails interbreeding in the Eastern Counties. I refrain from recording the precise locality of this nest, as I do not wish the parent birds to be killed; but it is in West Suffolk, and within an easy walk of this house.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds).
Red-legged Partridge Migrating.—Supplementary to Mr. Clarke's note (ante, p. 166), it may be worth while stating that on the 16th March last one of Mr. Edwin Baylis's boatmen found a Red-legged Partridge dead on the beach at Bournemouth, and forwarded it to him here. The bird had been washed in by the tide, and was so exceptionally clear and brilliant in its colours that it has been mounted for Mr. Baylis's collection. This seems to point to the fact that a considerable migration of these birds may have taken place between March 16th and 22nd. I thought the fact that these birds did occasionally migrate was now fairly well established.—F. Coburn (7, Holloway Head, Birmingham).
The Australian "Rock-Lizard."—This species, Amphibolurus muricatus, White, is one of the commonest of Australian Lizards, and abounds principally in rocky situations. Its habits are sharp and active. When watching an object it raises its (comparatively) large head high above the ground and, twisting it on one side, blinks in a comical manner. In shape the head is not unlike that of the Frilled Agama, Chlamydosaurus kingi. I have been much struck with the habit this Lizard has (in common with many other animals) of feigning death when caught or wounded. I once gave one a pretty severe knock with a stick, and, supposing it to be dead, put it in my pocket, from which it escaped half an hour after as I walked along. Once more I struck it, and thought there could be no doubt of its death; but, happening to look about ten minutes after, I noticed it cautiously opening its eyes. On another occasion I experimented with one which had been in my possession for some time. I took it up by the middle, when it directly let its head and tail droop and closed its eyes, simulating death. I then laid it on its back (which was a very uncomfortable posture, considering that its back was bent into a bow-shape), and it remained in that position with its head and long tail quite stiff and not touching the ground. After about fifteen minutes had elapsed it cautiously opened one eye, but otherwise did not move until half an hour had elapsed, when it slowly turned its head round, suddenly jumped up, and ran away. When chasing its prey, or when being pursued, this species darts along with great rapidity, but often takes no notice of an intruder, relying on its colour, which assimilates so readily with the surrounding rock that it is sometimes very difficult (even when quite close) to distinguish it. It is oviparous. The tongue, which is full and rounded at the extremity, is covered with a viscous fluid, by help of which it secures its prey, which consists of spiders, insects, &c. The ordinary length of a full-grown specimen is about fifteen inches, two-thirds of which are taken up by the tail.
I have never met with a more variable species. Specimens taken from each end of the scale of variation would undoubtedly be regarded as distinct species were it not for the connecting links. Some have the dorsal ridge distinctly serrated, while in others it is quite smooth. Again, as regards coloration, many of them have a row of oblong-ovate spots of a light French-grey colour (quite distinct from one another) on each side of the dorsal ridge, while in others these spots are so connected as to form one straight wide band. Another noticeable character is change of colour by heat. The largest specimen I procured, and which was found under a stone on a cold day, was, when caught, a dull slaty colour, almost black; but, on looking at it after a few days, I was surprised to find it changed to a mottled grey colour, with light spots along each side of the median ridge. I have observed since that on cold mornings before the sun shines it is the dark colour, but as the warmth increases it gradually becomes lighter in hue, until it assumes the pale colour before mentioned. This Lizard is sometimes externally infested with a species of tick, and internally with two or more species? (or varieties) of Entozoa.—David G. Stead (Sydney, N.S.W.).
Large Holibut at Isle of Man.—A fine Holibut, Hippoglossus vulgaris, was brought into Ramsey Market on April 8th, having been taken by the trawl-boat 'Swift' off Bahama Bank. I saw it at the fish-dealer's (Aldritt's), and found it measured 6 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in., and 8 in. thick. I asked that it might be weighed, but on my return found that it had been cleaned and packed to be sent across the water. I now hear that it was then weighed at 200 lbs. About 14 lbs. had been removed in the cleaning of it. In its stomach was a whole cod and many fish-bones. I have a note of one taken at the same place in November, 1891 (140 lbs.), in which was a recently swallowed cod. Day, in his 'British Fishes,' quotes Lacepede to the effect that in Greenland these fish "appeared to prefer localities also frequented by the cod, as they probably seek the same food." Evidently it simplifies matters to make one mouthful of the cod and his food together. It appears that in April, 1829, an example, 7½ ft. long and 320 lbs. weight, was taken off the Isle of Man, one of the largest recorded in the British Islands.—P.M.C. Kermode (Ramsey, Isle of Man).
Occurrence of the Cuckoo Ray at Great Yarmouth.—Couch, in describing this Ray, remarks that "this well-marked species has been overlooked or mistaken by many naturalists." Such appears to have been locally the case, for, until Feb. 4th, it remained unidentified in this neighbourhood, when a message from a fish merchant reached me to the effect that "a queer Skate had turned up." The gentleman referred to (amongst others) keeps an eye open for "strangers." Hence the opportunity afforded of examining what turned out to be a very interesting take. This fish was caught on the hooks of a steam long-liner sailing out of this port, and fishing along the coast as far as Grimsby, returning every two or three days with her catches. The Ray was yet "stiff" and ungutted. It was a 26-inch female, and contained eggs running from the size of snipe-shot to chestnuts. Couch hints that its spawning-time may be December, but leaves a wide margin when remarking he had seen eggs just ready to be shed in July. The fish much resembles a "Honer," Raia maculata, in shape and build. Colour yellowish drab, verging on to red at the fin-borders. The surface of the disc (back) is adorned with short spines, a half-circular row of which defend the back of each eye; a triangular group decorate the "shoulders," whilst the tail, which is stout at the origin, tapers off posteriorly, and has two fins near the end. It has a gutter-like depression running its whole length, protected on either side by five rows of spines. The pair of marbled circular blotches, of black and white, each the size of a half-crown, are very distinct. The specimen has been preserved for Yarmouth Museum.
A somewhat smaller male came to hand on Feb. 16th, whilst a third I secured on April 16th was forwarded to Norwich Museum. Two, which I did not see, were brought in contemporaneously with the last, and were cut up for sale. Thus in a few weeks, and of a species not before locally identified, five specimens have occurred off the coast, and it may undoubtedly lay claim to insertion in the county list.—Arthur Patterson (Yarmouth, Norfolk).
Birds feeding on the Larvæ of the Magpie-moth.—I was interested in reading the note in connection with this species, Abraxas grossulariata (ante, p. 169). I see that Mr. Butler, in the work on British Birds and Eggs, with illustrations by Mr. Frohawk, now in course of publication, states "that no bird will touch the larvæ of the Gooseberry Moth," by which, I take it, he means Abraxas grossulariata. I can assure him that the Cuckoo will do so readily. Some years ago, in a large orchard of ours, the gooseberry and currant trees were infested with this pest, and at the same time numbers of Cuckoos appeared. We did not connect the two at first, but my father shot one bird, and its stomach was found to be crammed with these obnoxious larvæ.—Oxley Grabham (Heathwold, Goathland).
Early Snails.—On Christmas Day, 1896, at about 10 a.m., I saw a Snail, Helix nemoralis, adult, extended at full length, and crawling along the road. A good deal of rain had fallen during the previous night. On March 2nd of the present year I again met with this species abroad. This also was a full-grown specimen, and was found crawling on a wet piece of wood at the edge of a ditch. Limnæa peregra is often to be seen here crawling about in numbers as early as February.—G.T. Rope (Blaxhall, Suffolk).