The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 673/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Daubenton's Bat on the Derbyshire and Staffordshire Border.—Daubenton's Bat frequents the river Dove in some numbers at the spot where it is crossed by the Derby road, near Uttoxeter. The mill-dam below the bridge and the fringe of willows and alders on the banks furnish a quiet shaded pool such as this species haunts by preference. In the early part of June I had several opportunities of watching the Bats late in the evening as they flitted in their characteristic fashion across the shadows just above the surface of the stream. This species and the Whiskered Bat, unlike the noisy Noctule and Pipistrelle, appear to feed in silence. I have never heard either of them utter a note when on the wing.—Chas. Oldham (Sale).
Daubenton's Bat in Bedfordshire.—Whilst recently visiting Bedford I noticed that this little species was plentiful over the river along the promenade. By their habit of always keeping within a few inches of the water and circling about in limited areas these Bats can be easily recognized. I have previously recorded this species from another locality in the county, and it would undoubtedly be found a common one if those interested cared to seek in other parts of Bedfordshire for it. It is common at Southhill, over the lake in the park, where I have recently seen it.—J. Steele Elliott (Dixon's Green, Dudley).
Habitat of Ametrida minor.—A specimen of this rare Bat was recently presented to me. It was captured in November, 1896, in a house at Manaos, a town on the Amazons, about 1000 miles above Para. The measurements being rather less than those given by Dobson for Ametrida centurio, I sent it to Mr. Oldfield Thomas, who pronounced it to be A. minor, a species described from a single unlocalized specimen.—T.A. Coward (Bowdon).
Lesser Shrew in Anglesea.—On June 11th we obtained about thirty pellets from the roosting-place of a Barn Owl, among some ivy overhanging the cliff in a small cove near Rhos Neigir, a few feet above high-water mark. The bird flew out while we were collecting the pellets. On examination of the contents we found two skulls of the Lesser Shrew, Sorex minutus, and, as this is probably the first time this animal has been noticed in Anglesea, it is worth recording. The pellets also contained remains of the following:—One young Rabbit, Lepus cuniculus; four Rats, Mus decumanus; seven Mice, M. musculus; ten Long-tailed Field Mice, M. sylvaticus; six Water Voles, Microtus amphibius; twelve Field Voles, M. agrestis; two Water Shrews, Crossopus fodiens; nineteen Common Shrews, Sorex vulgaris; four small birds; and the elytra of five beetles, Melolontha and Geotrupes.—T.A. Coward (Bowdon).
Pine Marten in the County Waterford.—I was much interested in Mr. A. Heneage Cocks's note (ante, p. 270), and now write to say that I have had the pleasure of seeing for the first time, alive and in a state of nature, a fine Pine Marten. On the 21st of this month (June) I was walking through the beautiful woods of Curraghmore, which adjoin Coolfin, when I heard a regular uproar by birds. It came from a spot a hundred yards or so away. Walking in the direction as quietly as possible, I expected to see a Fox carrying off a young bird. Among the branches of some low oaks was a large party of Blackbirds; one of them, a fine cock with bright orange bill, being greatly excited, scolding away at the top of his voice, and with outspread wings facing a point from which he expected trouble for himself and family; and there among the leaves, lying close along a branch, was a Marten, crouching low as if he was going to spring. It was a most interesting sight, and neither the Marten nor birds seemed to pay much attention to me as I watched them. Nothing can exceed the gracefulness and quickness of movement in the Marten. It twists and turns its lithe and supple body in every direction, and with wonderful rapidity. One must see it in a state of nature to appreciate what a deadly foe it must be to birds both old and young. Having watched them for some time I went away, and on my return both Marten and birds had disappeared. He was probably having his supper on the old cock, or a younger member of the family.—William W. Flemyng (Coolfin, Portlaw, Co. Waterford).
Albino Badger in Hants.—On Feb. 9th of this year a Badger was caught near Basingstoke, exhibiting the following curious form of variation. The fur is quite white except at the tail, which is reddish brown; the eyes are pink, a feature correlated to albinism. The animal is mature, and a fine specimen; it is in the possession of Mr. Spriggs, of the Royal Hotel, Winchester, who will be glad to show it to anyone who wishes to see it.—G.W. Smith (College, Winchester).
Bank Vole in Denbighshire.—As little appears to be known of the distribution of the Bank Vole in Wales, it may be well to record its occurrence at Colwyn Bay. Early in May last I trapped two in a roadside hedge on the borders of the Pwllycrochon Woods. Colwyn Bay is in an isolated portion of Carnarvonshire, but for distributional purposes should be considered as part of Denbighshire.—Chas. Oldham (Sale).
Black Rat in Bedfordshire.—I was recently shown, by Mr. Wright, taxidermist, of Clifton, two Black Rats, Mus rattus (male and female), which he received on Dec. 9th last. Mr. Bowman, to whom they belong, informs me that they were caught at Stotfold, near Shefford, and that he believes there are still a few left in that locality, one or two having been previously taken. I should be pleased to hear of any additional information respecting this Rat in that locality or other parts of the country.—J. Steele Elliott Dixon's Green, Dudley.
Honey Buzzard in Staffordshire.— I should like to suggest, in the interests of our rapidly vanishing Accipitres, that idiotic and wanton massacres such as from time to time are recorded in the 'The Zoologist' and elsewhere as having taken place on this, that, or some other estate, should be promptly, when possible, brought to the notice of the proprietors of such estates. The present generation of country squires are not without an intelligent appreciation of what tends so immeasurably to the varied natural attractions of their woodlands, and a continuance of the senseless slaughter by ignorant and irresponsible keepers of Common and Honey Buzzards, Kites, and Hobbies—not to mention the more familiar Kestrels—would in many instances doubtless receive a very summary check could those in authority be made acquainted with the murderous proclivities of their underlings the moment they espy a rare and harmless bird upon their beat. To quote a case in point: in the October number of 'The Zoologist' for 1895 was recorded the attempt of a pair of Honey Buzzards to breed during the summer of that year at Bishopswood, in Herefordshire. The nest was found, the eggs taken, and both birds fell victims to an undiscerning keeper's gun. Mr. Harry M'Calmont, the owner of Bishopswood, happened to be a friend of mine, and I at once notified him of the occurrence, of which he knew nothing until the receipt of my letter. The upshot of my mediation resulted in the keepers at Bishopswood receiving strict injunctions to henceforward protect and preserve all the rarer Accipitres seeking to establish homes on the estate. The communication from Mr. E. Baylis in the May issue (p. 232) of 'The Zoologist' has reawakened my active sympathies for a beautiful, inoffensive, yet much persecuted species; one, too, which most field-naturalists will ever sentimentally associate with Selborne Hanger and Gilbert White.—H.S. Davenport (Ormandyne, Melton Mowbray).
Little Owl near Newark-on-Trent.—A bird of this species was shot at the above locality in September, 1896. The late Lord Lilford turned out a number of these birds in Northamptonshire, but this, the first recorded occurrence in Notts, is worthy of mention.—F. Whitaker (Rainsworth, Notts).
Hybrids in St. Stephen's Green Park, Dublin.—We have at present a brood of hybrids between a male Ruddy Sheldrake, Tadorna casarca, and a female Egyptian Goose, Chenalopex ægyptiaca. In shape they are decidedly like the Goose, having long legs and depth of bill, but in colour the Sheldrake shows out unmistakably. Some years since a brood of hybrids between the Paradise Sheldrake of Australia (male) and a Ruddy Sheldrake (female) were hatched out, producing a lot of exceedingly handsome birds, in which a rich mahogany-brown was the predominant colour; the top of the head being pure white. This year one of these birds, a male, has bred with a female Ruddy Sheldrake, having a brood of six. At present they are not old enough to exhibit the colours distinctly. There is another curious cross—Bar-headed Goose and White-faced Bernacle; but both birds are so mixed up in the plumage that they are certainly anything but handsome. The White-faced Bernacle bred two years ago, but from some cause forsook the nest. The eggs were then placed in a Sevastopoll Goose's nest, and were hatched out and reared successfully. Ever since they have been inseparable companions of their foster-parents.—E. Williams (2, Dame Street, Dublin).
Scaup inland in Lancashire.—Late in November or early in December, about five years ago, Mr. George Parker shot a Scaup on the reservoir near Hyde Road Station, on the outskirts of Manchester. The bird, which Mr. Parker has kindly allowed me to examine, is a female or an immature male.—Chas. Oldham (Sale).
Night Heron in Derbyshire.—I have recently had an opportunity of examining a Night Heron in adult plumage, which was shot by the late Mr. William Jackson at Coombs Reservoir, a large sheet of water near Chapel-en-le-Frith, some time in the early sixties. This species has not, I believe, been previously recorded for Derbyshire.— Chas. Oldham (Sale).
Black Tern in Anglesea.—On June 10th, Mr. T.A. Coward and myself watched a Black Tern for some time on one of the lakes near Valley. The bird flew leisurely to and fro at a slight elevation, making frequent stoops to take food from the surface of the water, on which it once alighted for an instant. At intervals of a few minutes it returned to rest on a small bank of pebbles a few yards from the shore, from which it had taken flight on our approach.—Chas. Oldham (Sale).
Black Terns in Warwickshire.— During the afternoon of May 16th two Black Terns, Hydrochelidon nigra, were seen over Bracebridge Pool, Sutton Coldfield, and in the evening I found them again at Powell's Pool, in company with some hundreds of Sand Martins, hawking flies over the water. By their graceful movements and activity they seem in this pursuit as equally adept as the latter. They had disappeared the following morning. This makes the fourth recorded occurrence of this bird on these pools.—J. Steele Elliott (Dixon's Green, Dudley).
Occurrence of a rare Plover, Charadrius dominicus, on the River Thames.—On August 6th, 1896, I shot a small Golden Plover off Shell Haven Point, opposite Hole Haven (River Thames), which I sent at once for preservation to Mr. Cook, taxidermist, of 31, Lower Road, Rotherhithe. I recently took it to the British Museum (South Kensington), where it was instantly identified as the Asiatic species, Charadrius dominicus. As this bird is, I believe, of very rare occurrence in this country, I thought the record might prove of interest to your readers. It can be seen at any time at my address, and I shall be happy to afford any of your readers further information as to where and how it was shot. I may add in corroboration that a friend, Mr. Herrtage, of the firm of Smith and Herrtage, 22, New North Road, City Road, was with me when I shot the bird, and he got out of the punt and picked it up.—H. Nunn (5, Spurrow Corner, Minories).
Memory for Locality in a Nightjar.—During the summer of 1894 I more than once flushed a cock Nightjar from a certain rock among some gorse on a hill about nine miles from here. One day, with the hope of seeing the bird before it flew, I approached cautiously, and was rewarded by seeing it squatting on the rock, and at a distance of only a few yards. The bird's plumage harmonized so well with the rock that it was not only difficult to see at first, but also required a good deal of directing to show it to friends I had with me. This is now the fourth summer in which the Nightjar has regularly occupied the same spot during the daytime, for I found it there as usual on June 12th. I feel sure it must be the same bird, for it is always in exactly the same place; and I take friends with full confidence that it will be there.—Herbert C. Playne (Clifton College).
Blackbird stealing Eggs.—While sitting by the side of one of the numerous small streams near here on May 20th, watching a Dipper diving in a small pool, and securing food for its young, which were in a nest in an old water-wheel close at hand, I was suddenly attracted by a noise a little urther up stream, where a hen Chaffinch was sitting on her nest in the fork of an alder. On creeping up behind a big boulder, to within about five yards of the nest, I saw a cock Blackbird, Turdus merula, which had made his way to the nest,—in spite of being mobbed by the cock Chaffinch,—peck at the hen-bird till she flew off, and, deliberately picking up an egg in his bill, fly away with it. I was so astonished that I jumped up the bank to try and mark him down, and see what he was going to do with the egg, but unfortunately he entered a small but dense plantation, where I lost all trace of him, and could find no Blackbird's nest with young or eggs. I wish now I had waited to see if he came back for more. I visited the Chaffinch's nest two days afterwards, and the eggs were all gone, but whether taken by the marauding Blackbird I cannot say.—Oxley Grabham (Heathwold, Goathland).
The Voices of the Blackbird and the Nightingale compared.—There are some slight traces of generic vocal resemblance between these two birds. The Blackbird's rattling alarm, it is true, is widely distinct from the croak of the Nightingale; but the latter exclamation is sometimes spread out, as it were, in a succession of ticking sounds, reminding one of the "lit it it" cry of the Robin, the more simple rattling alarms of the Blackbird, and the rapid "chick ik ik" alarm of the Whitethroat. The Nightingale employs these clicking notes especially towards the young, to whom a single "tick" appears to be addressed as a parental hush. The connection between these sharp sounds and the croak is obvious, for often an exclamation begins with the croak, and merges into a succession of ticks. Similarly the Robin has the habit of beginning the "lit it it" alarm very quickly, and ending slowly. Another note, apparently an alarm, which I have heard (I think) from the female Nightingale, is a single, short, full whistle, closely like the "quilp" alarm of Blackbird and Redwing. I have also heard a Nightingale near its young utter a long high "distress note"—practically the same as the high "distress note" of the Robin; and Dr. A.G. Butler informs me that he has heard the same note in the Nightingale. It has also a simple short squeak, closely like the call of the Robin, but less like the call of the Blackbird. When living at Stroud, I had some difficulty in observing the Nightingale, which was not common there. One day I followed a family party of two old ones and three young, in a thicket, and watched the feeding of the young, having often a very clear view of the whole operation. It was then that I came to the conclusion that the cry of the young Nightingale was practically identical with that of the young Blackbird of the same age, and I so stated my opinion ('Evolution of Bird-Song,' p. 103). Near Eltham I have observed many young Nightingales, and I find that their cry is not like that of the young Blackbird. In making my former observations I must have been misled by the notes of some young Blackbirds in the surrounding bushes; but as there is so little variation in the cries of the young of any species, I felt justified in describing the note of the young of a species from the observation of only one family of nestlings. It is curious that while the songs of the Blackbird and Nightingale are so dissimilar, several of the strains of the latter have the same intervals of pitch, and practically the same rhythm, as some of the more elaborate rattling alarms of the former. Often have I heard a Nightingale sing a phrase which if heard in winter, at a distance, would be easily mistaken for a Blackbird's alarm.—Charles A. Witchell (Eltham, Kent).
Nightingale near Scarborough.—In 'The Zoologist,' 1896, p. 304, Mr. W.J. Clarke records a Nightingale near Scarborough in the summer of that year. This year, in the second week of June, I saw a Nightingale within two miles of Filey, in a thicket near the roadside, with a caterpillar in its beak, and within a few feet—a bird of the year. The range, however, of this species is now recognized as extending to the extreme north of England, and Mr. Bolam, of Berwick-on-Tweed, records an undoubted instance of its occurrence, in the 'Annals of Scottish Natural History,' in Northumberland, near Callaby Castle, in the summer of 1893.—John Cordeaux (Great Cotes House, Lincoln).
Icterine Warbler at Lyme Regis.— While staying at Lyme Regis during this last May, I several times heard and identified the beautiful song of the Icterine Warbler, Hypolais icterina, in the wooded undercliff at Ware, about a mile to the west of the town, and well within the Devon boundary. I heard the bird first on May 4th; it was singing in a large whitethorn, quite in the centre of the bush, and although I waited for some time with the bird singing away within a few feet of my head, it did not come into view. The next time I heard it was on the 15th. It was in the same bush, and again would not show itself. On this occasion I was accompanied by a friend, who exclaimed, "How delightfully that Nightingale is singing!" but I was able to point out to him the differences between the trills of the Nightingale and the clear Thrush-like notes we were listening to. On the 17th the bird was heard singing from the same bush by my wife, who is well acquainted with the song of the Icterine Warbler; a keen N.E. wind then set in, stilling all bird-song, and, although I revisited the spot several times, I did not hear the bird again. I may add that on May 4th I heard a second Icterine Warbler singing, also in the centre of a dense whitethorn, about a quarter of a mile away from where I heard the first. I call this Warbler the Icterine Warbler, although the Melodious Warbler, Hypolais polyglotta, is the western representative of Hypolais, and therefore the one most likely to visit our southern shores. Still, the song I heard was certainly that of the Icterine Warbler. There can be no doubt that this bird is a regular summer visitor to this country, only requiring those acquainted with its song to identify its presence.—Murray A. Mathew (Vicarage, Buckland Dinham, Frome).
Rare Warblers in Sussex.—On May 1st last two Warblers, male and female, were sent to Mr. Bristow, of St. Leonards, for preservation, from Burwash, in Sussex. The female, which turned out to be Hypolais icterina, I exhibited at the May Meeting of the British Ornithologists' Club. The male I did not have an opportunity of seeing till to-day (June 24th), and on comparing it with the female I was struck by its relative shortness of wing. I then examined them more closely, and found that in the female (H. icterina) the first primary was just shorter than the primary coverts, and the second intermediate in length between the fourth and fifth; whereas in the male the first primary was longer than the primary coverts, and the second intermediate in length between the sixth and seventh, the third, fourth, and fifth forming the tip of the wing. This, I see, is just the difference given by Herr Gätke between H. icterina and H. polyglotta. It is curious that these two birds, male and female, should have been shot on the same day and at the same place, and a pity that in May they should not be safe from persecution.—A.F. Ticehurst (Guy's Hospital, S.E.).
Variety of Grasshopper Warbler.—On July 10th, 1892, Daws, the taxidermist at Mansfield, and a friend, were seeking butterflies near Mansfield, and when beating some sedges on a brook-side a small bird flew up, which Daws caught in his net. This proved to be a variety of the Grasshopper Warbler, and as it is the only variety of which I have ever heard, think it, though so far back, as worth mentioning in 'The Zoologist.' The plumage is paler than usual; the first two flight-feathers in right wing are white, as are the first four in the left; there are also a few small white feathers over the flights. Daws most kindly gave me the specimen, which I value as a very rare variety.—F. Whitaker (Rainsworth, Notts).
Variations of Habit in the Blue Titmouse.— In 'The Zoologist' for 1896 (p. 103), I recorded the unusual habit of a Blue Tit in soaring on motionless wings from perch to perch. I afterwards saw this bird often, and this year it exhibited exactly the same behaviour. On one occasion it rose from the top of an oak, and then sailed along, in the manner of a Tree Pipit, to the top of a lower tree. The best "sail" it executed was when passing over a road to the lamp-post in which its nest was afterwards built; it was going against the wind, and seemed to creep along the air in a charming manner, and was closely followed by another Tit, to which it had been addressing ardent call-notes. The Blue Tits here nest in the lamp-posts. The lamplighter tells me they all rear their young, and I lately heard the cry of a young one from the top of a lamp-post, and several others, just able to fly, were around the spot. An old Tit occupies about a minute in descending and re-ascending a lamp-post, and probably it proceeds by rapidly hopping from side to side; there is not enough room for the spreading of its wings.—Charles A. Witchell (Eltham, Kent).
Red-backed Shrike near Rainworth.—I saw one of these birds in a garden near the village here, and sent my son up to look for the nest, which he soon found. In it there were five eggs. This is the first time this bird's nest has been found in these parts, but not first in the south part of the county, though it is far from common there.—F. Whitaker (Rainworth, Notts.)
A probable Second Brood of Starlings.—In Yarrell's 'British Birds,' 4th edition, vol. ii. p. 234, it is stated respecting the Starling that "occasionally the same hole may be tenanted twice in the season; but such an occurrence seems to be very rare in this country." A pair of these birds had a nest this spring under the eaves of a house close to this. The young appeared in the gardens about three weeks ago, but for fully the last ten days they have ceased to be fed by the parents. These latter are now (June 13th) busily engaged in carrying nest materials to the spot where the old nest was situated. A quantity of bean-sticks in my garden, which were put in the ground scarcely a week ago, have already been nearly decorticated by the birds. I look forward with interest to the advent of the second brood.—R. McLachlan (23, Clarendon Road, Lewisham).
[As we go to press, Mr. McLachlan informs us that the young of the second brood have appeared and are out of the nest.—Ed.]
Unusual Position for the Eggs of the Starling, Song Thrush, and Sparrow.—While staying in Gloucestershire last April, I was surprised at finding the eggs of several birds, namely, the Starling, Song Thrush, and Sparrow, laid on the ground. I was walking in a field one day, when I found a Starling's egg on the grass. About twenty yards from the spot was a tree in which I knew some Starlings had a nest. I turned round and began to walk to the tree, in order to pace the distance, when I found another egg, also a Starling's, about five feet from the first. They were both uninjured, and, on blowing, proved to be fresh. About three weeks afterwards I climbed the tree, and found the nest in a hole. It contained two young ones. The fact of there only being two seems to prove that the eggs on the ground were laid by the owner of the nest. About an hour after finding the Starling's eggs I startled a Thrush from under a hedge in the same field, and on looking found a Thrush's egg on the ground. In the hedge just above the egg was an empty Thrush's nest. A week after this a friend found another Thrush's egg on the ground in a field, and I myself found a new-laid Sparrow's egg in the middle of a tennis-court. It seems to me that the most probable reason for eggs being laid on the ground is either that the bird has been disturbed while in the act of laying, and has been obliged to lay the egg before it was able to get back to the nest, or that the bird has deserted its nest when it has only laid, say, two eggs, and has been obliged to lay the remaining three (in the case of its laying five) somewhere outside the nest. Are not these cases rather unusual?—Bernard Rivière (Flaxley, 82, Finchley Road, N.W.).
The Song of the Greenfinch.—I have stated, in 'The Evolution of Bird Song' (p. 126), that the "tewy" alarm (a slurred whistle) is never uttered in the song of the Greenfinch. I regret to say that this statement was inserted in the correction of the proof, and was made from memory, without reference to my notes. I find that the cry in question, the true danger-cry of the Greenfinch, is sometimes included in the song. Also, it is not always slurred upwards, but sometimes remains at the same pitch, when it much resembles a note given by the common Canary in the presence of a stranger. The Greenfinch employs the note in the presence of a Hawk, Cuckoo, Cat, Dog, or Weasel. One day last spring I heard a kind of rhythmical repetition of this note, it being alternately slurred upward and downward by some Greenfinch, so that the song seemed to run: "tewy tewoo, tewy tewoo, tewy tewoo," and so on. After listening to this for a minute I thought I had discovered a new strain in the Greenfinch, namely, one composed entirely of the danger-cry. On investigation I found a female Greenfinch, evidently disturbed, on the lower branch of an oak in the thicket. She was watching something below her; and soon a Cuckoo flew up, and, seeing me, went off. The notes of the Greenfinch immediately ceased, and were not renewed. On other occasions the single cry has been given when a Cuckoo was near.—Charles A. Witchell (Eltham, Kent).
Change of Plumage in the American Nonpareil Finch.—In answer to Mr. Graham Renshaw, my experience of examples of this species, which I have kept at various times, is that (when kept either in cage or aviary) abundance of insect-food retards the loss of colour, but does not prevent it. If but little insect-food is given, the crimson of the under parts disappears in patches, each moult leaving the bird with more yellow and less red in its plumage, until, by about the third or fourth moult, the red has wholly disappeared. If, after the under parts have become wholly yellow, the bird is removed to a sunny and well-ventilated aviary, and plenty of cockroaches are daily supplied in a "demon beetle-trap," so that the bird can freely help itself to as many as it requires, the plumage becomes deeply tinted with orange at the following moult. I regret that, owing to the death of the bird with which I experimented at this stage, I am unable to say positively that perseverance in the same treatment would have completely restored the wild plumage; but it is quite reasonable to suppose that such would have been the case. I should judge that the gradual and uniform change of colouring from red to orange in Mr. Renshaw's bird was due to his giving it abundance of insect-food; similarly treated in a large sunny open-air aviary, it is probable that the typical colouring would have been retained.—A.G. Butler (124, Beckenham Road, Beckenham, Kent).
Nest of the Reed Bunting.—I found a nest of this species on the 2nd of this month (June) built in a somewhat unusual position. It was at the extreme edge of an osier-bed skirting a small tributary of the river Suir. The nest was built at the junction of two branches of willow, crossing each other, and was perfectly suspended, and overhung the water, from which it was distant 5½ ft. I watched the hen for some time. She uttered occasionally a single note, and behaved quite differently to a pair of Lesser Redpolls which had a nest close by, and which were very noisy and excited. There were four young birds in the nest. They were apparently four or five days old, and the hen had her mouth full of small pieces of willow-leaves, which I saw her gather, evidently for the young. It was a very untidy nest, composed of moss and catkins of willow roughly put together.—William W. Flemyng (Coolfin, Portlaw, Co. Waterford).
Grey Wagtail Nesting in Lincolnshire.—When recording this in the last number of 'The Zoologist,' I forgot to mention that the nest was lined exclusively with white cow-hair, a material which appears to be invariably used by the Grey Wagtail. Also that within an hour of the young leaving the nest the old birds had succeeded in getting them to the nearest running water, about three hundred yards from their nesting place.—John Cordeaux (Great Cotes House, Lincoln).
Nesting of the Grey Wagtail in Leicestershire.—Mr. John Cordeaux always wields an attractive pen, but, so far as I personally am concerned, exceptional interest attaches to his note on the breeding of the Grey Wagtail in Lincolnshire—the first recorded instance for that county—as detailed in the June issue of 'The Zoologist.' Mr. Cordeaux, apart from the intrinsic interest of his narrative, has eloquently demonstrated the unwisdom of placing too much reliance on preconceived ideas; in other words, the mistake of assuming that because such and such a bird has never been known to breed in such and such a county, it is next door to impossible for it ever to do so. In 'The Vertebrate Animals of Leicestershire and Rutland,' published in 1889, the author refers to the Grey Wagtail as follows:—"A winter migrant, sparingly distributed, and not recorded as remaining to breed in the counties." The sentence italicised is wholly misleading and contrary to the fact. In the spring of 1878 I found the Grey Wagtail nesting in the bank of the Eye Brook, close to Skeffington Wood; the young were fledged by the end of the first week in May, and there was an addled egg left in the nest, on which, by the way, I one morning discovered the hen-bird sitting. This was the first verified instance of the species breeding in Leicestershire; yet, in spite of remonstrance, my note on the subject was discarded by the author of the work quoted above on the score that I must have mistaken the Yellow, or Ray's, for the Grey Wagtail! Nevertheless, apart from the fact that, according to my experience, Yellow Wagtails do not repair to the banks of streams for purposes of nidification, I should consider the end of the first week in May in any year an early date for a full clutch of eggs of this species (vide Zool. 1896, p. 354). I should add that the Curator of the Leicester Museum has since expressed regrets at having excluded—on no other grounds but those of unwarranted scepticism—a perfectly authenticated communication on a subject of interest to all scientific ornithologists in this midland county, he himself having chanced upon a pair of Grey Wagtails breeding within the last half-dozen years somewhere or other in the Loughborough district. It has been well said that seeing is believing! While recognizing and making full allowance for the difficulties encountered by compilers in sifting the wheat from the chaff when engaged in ornithological researches with a view to publication, and, at the same time, cordially approving of the judgment which prompts the suppression of the thousand and one notes which deal with the fancied identification of rare species here and there as they momentarily flit across the gaze of the observer, one cannot help regretting that duly authenticated discoveries, backed by "chapter and verse" and all the proof that can be considered needful, should be excluded from embodiment in what purposes to be the trustworthy history of a county's avifauna, and so lost to science. And my lament, too, is the more emphasized when I reflect that such exclusion is capable of being based upon what I can only designate as mere editorial caprice.—H.S. Davenport (Ormandyne, Melton Mowbray).
White Wagtails in Warwickshire.—Amongst the many Pied Wagtails that visit the locality of Sutton Coldfield during their spring movements, I have for years been on the look-out for the White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, amongst their numbers. On May 2nd I was pleased to be able to identify a pair of these birds along the dams of Wyndley Pool, which were so tame as to allow me to advance within a few feet of them. Walking thence to Powell's Pool, another pair were noticed amongst a quantity of Pied and Yellow Wagtails, which I believe were also these birds, but which were too wild to allow me to fully identify them by a nearer approach.—J. Steele Elliott (Dixon's Green, Dudley).
Avicultural Notes.—Canaries in my out-door aviary, at the autumn moult, had their yellow feathers almost obscured by long grey hairs; these are now shed, and they are their usual bright yellow colour, so that it would seem as if in the first year of turning out they revert back to nature in this respect also. Dr. Butler is clear, and I think evidently correct, in his article on Foreign Finches and their combative qualities in aviaries, notwithstanding some of our experiences may vary a little first one way or the other. In my own little experience, birds whose behaviour last year left nothing to be desired are this year quite pugnacious; therefore to be in a position to dogmatise one must, as Dr. Butler says in his opening statement, be an observer over a number of years.
I am much interested in the manner in which those birds whose summer and winter plumage is dissimilar assume their gaudy summer attire. In such birds as Chaffinches and other Fringillidæ, whose plumage, though the same, is yet much brighter during the breeding-season, the result is brought about by the abrasion or wearing away of the fluffy hairs produced in the autumn moult; but this is not the case with such birds as Weavers, &c. Now, in the case of two Black-faced Weavers which I have successfully wintered in my garden aviary, during this change I have noticed all over the head, shoulders, neck, and breast—the principal parts affected—spines were produced so thickly as to resemble moulting; but there certainly was no moult, save with a few of the larger primaries. Can these spines be colourglands? I much regretted that my aviary was so full, and with one or two pairs sitting it was not possible to catch them and make a close examination; but they are very tame, and by close observation I ascertained these facts. I shall certainly alter my arrangements and increase my specimens for next season, so as to ascertain fully and clearly the detail of the whole process. I believe myself that these spines (as I have called them) are produced in the quill of the existing feathers—visible, as before recorded, just before and while the change is taking place; and that these spines—or as I have called them colour-glands—bursting, the transformation is brought about, or else a new feather is almost produced on the old stem from these spines, and the whole matter shed and the change produced that way. I shall increase my specimens of Ploceidæ and extend my observations upon this interesting point. Will other fellow-aviarists do likewise, and I am sure much interesting and instructive data will be the result?— W.T. Page (6, Rylett Crescent, Shepherd's Bush, W.)
Toad attacked by a Weasel.—On May 20th last, while walking by a pond not far from St. Andrews, I came suddenly upon a Weasel, which, on being roused, immediately took refuge in a drain. On coming up to the spot I discovered a Toad, evidently much exhausted, with its hind limbs terribly lacerated. The Weasel had, in all probability, been trying to drag the Toad towards the drain-mouth, as far as one could judge from the marks on the soft ground. The Weasel, from its small size, was evidently a female. Is it not unusual for a Weasel—or any carnivorous mammal—to prey upon the Toad? I can find no allusion to it in Mr. J.E. Harting's article of two years ago.—A.H. Meiklejohn (St. Andrews, N.B.)
[There is apparently little record of any carnivorous mammal attacking the Toad, especially in Britain, though the American Skunk is reported as not only doing so, but eating that Amphibian as well. If we substitute Frogs for Toads—and it is probable that both frequently come under the same category—the information is not so scanty. In this country the Rat, Weasel, Badger, and Polecat have all been reported to eat, or at least attack, Frogs. Going further afield, we find similar habits ascribed to the crab-eating Mungoose of the Indian subregion, Herpestes urva; the common Raccoon of North and Central America, Procyon lotor; the Beech-Marten of Europe, Mustela foina; the American Mink, M. vison; and the Cape Polecat, Ictonyx zorilla. It seems too much to affirm that where the Frog is eaten the Toad is avoided, without very much further and stronger evidence.—Ed.]
Notes from Great Yarmouth.—Strange Position of a Lesser Weaver.—A very unusual thing in connection with this fish occurred on May 15th. I was asked to go to a cabstand and name a strange fish which had come up out of the salt-water pipes, and which was then swimming about in a basin of water. I found it was a full-grown Lesser Weaver, Trachinus vipera. Our streets are watered with salt-water, sewers flushed with the same, &c, so that many thousand gallons are pumped up weekly. I have before seen Gobies' tails protruding from the pipe-holes at the back of water-carts and pulled them out; but a five-inch fish must have been particularly unfortunate to have been sucked in with the indraught.
An Albino Turbot.—A perfectly white specimen of this fish was brought in on May 24th. Length 15 inches. I have seen albino Brill previously.
Bull-dog Variety of the Sapphirine Gurnard.—Another specimen of this variety, recorded and figured last month (pp. 275–6), and of the same size, came in on May 28th. It is most remarkable that when a rare or curious fish appears it is seldom a solitary specimen. This was most notorious in the case of the White Goby, Latrunculus alba, which appeared some few years ago. I obtained a specimen and put a premium on others, but the smacks-boys then obtained such a quantity that I was compelled for financial reasons to withdraw my offer.
Large Angler Fish.—An extraordinarily large specimen of this fish was brought into Yarmouth on June 3rd. Its weight I estimated at 1 cwt.
Variety of the Common Mackerel.—On June 15th I secured the first—out of the thousands I have seen—concolorous variety of the Mackerel, Scomber scomber; length 15 inches, The back was of a deep blue-black colour without a single dot or stripe. I sent it to the Norwich Museum.
Pilchards.—Some of these fish, Clupea pilchardus, was taken here on June 23rd.—Arthur Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
Meristic Variation in the Edible Crab.—On May 29th I received from one of the stall-keepers—who recognise me as a general repository for all kinds of monstrosities—a strangely malformed claw of the Edible Crab, Cancer pagurus.
It had three points, but I am sorry to say the under half of the pincer had not been preserved.—Arthur Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
[Bateson has already given illustrations of variations in the chelæ of this species, but with none of these does the above agree.—Ed.]
The Scutellated Star-fish.—At p. 170 Mr. James Sutton recorded the occurrence at Lindisfarne of a species of Starfish he identified as Asterias tessellata, considered as a synonym of Pentagonaster granularis, Retzius.Mr. Watson has since obligingly submitted this specimen to the examination of Prof. Jeffrey Bell, who reports it as Hippasterias phrygiana, not uncommon on the eastern coasts. Mr. Watson, however, states that such is not his experience on his part of the coast—Ed.
- ↑ We suppose F. Whitaker in this volume to be Joseph Whitaker (Wikisource-Ed.).