The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 675/Garden Lists of Birds

Garden Lists of Birds (1897)
by Murray Alexander Mathew
4064569Garden Lists of Birds1897Murray Alexander Mathew


By the Rev. Murray A. Mathew, M.A., F.L.S.

Much might be ascertained concerning the distribution of our British Birds, of which we are still very far from possessing a full knowledge, by close observation of them for a series of years in such limited areas as are provided by the gardens and pleasure grounds immediately surrounding our houses, if lists were kept of all the species seen, not only of those that constantly occur and nest, and of all occasional visitors, but even of those that are identified flying over, with dates and other particulars. These lists should be headed with a description of the environments, whether wood and copse, or meadow and pasture, &c, with the elevation above the sea, how far distant from water in the form of brooks, rivers, and ponds, or from the nearest point of the coast, arm of the sea, or tidal river, which might be expected to be a flight-line of migrating birds. If carefully kept, such lists would prove of great service for exchange or comparison, and might be forwarded to ornithological correspondents in other parts of the kingdom, who could send their own in return. Having kept such lists for the last thirty years in the three different homes which I have occupied in succession, each for nearly an equal term, and each surrounded by about the same extent of garden, it would appear from them that any observer in a similar area might expect to be able to record at least seventy species of our British Birds as visiting it; while, if he lived near to a tidal river or to a large wood, he might count upon a considerable addition to that number. In submitting my own lists, I am hoping to encourage the rising generation of bird lovers, and can assure them that the patient watchfulness requisite for their compilation will afford much pleasure and interest. Of course the greatest accuracy must be aimed at, and no species be entered unless its identification be complete. Even now, it is with a keen feeling of delight that I return to my house to note down any fresh bird that has made its appearance in my garden. Several of my correspondents have adopted my plan, and we have exchanged lists to our mutual benefit.

List No. I.—Bishop's Lydeard, West Somerset.

Birds observed in the Vicarage grounds at Bishop 's Lydeard,
West Somerset, between
1870 and 1880.

Bishop's Lydeard, at hardly any elevation above the sea, is situated at the western end of Taunton Dene, a celebrated breadth of rich meadow and pasture. Immediately to the north-west of the village the Quantock Hills rise some 1200 feet, opposing a barrier in the direction of the Bristol Channel about twelve miles distant. The Vicarage gardens, with a meadow adjoining, contain about eight acres; a warm ditch at one side was seldom without a Snipe in frosty weather, and enabled such species as Woodcock and Green Sandpiper to be included in the list. There was no large wood near, and the village brook was half a mile to the south.

B, after a species, signifies that its nest was observed.

Mistle Thrush, b. Red-backed Shrike, b. Green Woodpecker.
Song Thrush, b. Spotted Flycatcher, b. Kingfisher.
Redwing. Swallow, b. Cuckoo.
Fieldfare. House Martin, b. White Owl.
Blackbird, b. Sand Martin. Tawny Owl.
Wheatear. Greenfinch, b. Sparrow Hawk.
Redstart, b. Hawfinch. Peregrine Falcon, pass-
Black Redstart. Goldfinch, b. ing over.
Redbreast, b. Siskin. Kestrel.
Whitethroat, b. House Sparrow, b. Heron, passing over.
Blackcap, b. Chaffinch, b. Mute Swan, ditto.
Golden-crested Wren. Brambling. Wild Duck, ditto.
Chiffchaff, b. Linnet, b. Ring Dove, b.
Willow Wren, b. Lesser Redpoll. Turtle Dove.
Hedge Sparrow, b. Bullfinch. Pheasant.
Long-tailed Tit. Corn Bunting. Partridge.
Great Tit, b. Yellow Bunting, b. Land Rail, b.
Coal Tit. Reed Bunting. Water Rail.
Marsh Tit. Starling, b. Moor Hen.[over.
Blue Tit, b. Jay. Golden Plover, passing
Nuthatch, b. Magpie. Lapwing, ditto.
Wren, b. Jackdaw. Woodcock.
Tree Creeper. Raven, passing over. Snipe.
Pied Wagtail, b. Carrion Crow. Jack Snipe.
Grey Wagtail. Rook. Green Sandpiper.
Tree Pipit. Sky Lark. Curlew, passing over.
Meadow Pipit. Swift. Common Gull, ditto.

Total birds observed, 80; total birds nesting, 28.

Notes.—Besides the Birds on the above list, escaped Parrots of two species visited the garden without being secured; and a wandering Peacock spent several days with us, and then left again.

Black Redstart.—Only one example seen at the beginning of March; this proved a young male of the preceding year, and was in the Ruticilla cairii plumage.

Hawfinch.—A winter visitor, frequenting the gardens until April, and then departing just when we were hoping they would nest.

Siskin.—A cage containing two tame Siskins was hanging near an open window, when one day a small flock of wild ones visited them, several coming into the room, the rest remaining on an acacia just outside.

Although the Cirl Bunting was not uncommon in the district, and was several times noted just outside my bounds, I was never able to include it in my garden list.

List No. II.—St. Lawrence, Pembrokeshire.

Birds observed at Stone Hall, in the parish of St. Lawrence, Pembrokeshire, between 1880 and 1888.

Here the elevation was about 250 feet; the gardens and shrubberies extended to about twelve acres, with small woods adjoining. In the garden was a small stream and an old fishpond; below the house, a quarter of a mile distant, ran a good Trout stream. The sea, at St. Bride's Bay, was five miles to the west; the general character of the surrounding country was moory, with patches of meadow and arable land.

Mistle Thrush, b. Dipper, b. House Martin, b.
Song Thrush, b. Long-tailed Tit, b. Sand Martin.
Redwing. Great Tit, b. Greenfinch, b.
Fieldfare. Coal Tit, b. Goldfinch, b.
Blackbird, b. Marsh Tit, b. Siskin.
Wheatear. Blue Tit, b. House Sparrow, b.
Redbreast, b. Wren, b. Chaffinch, b.
Whitethroat, b. Tree Creeper, b. Linnet, b.
Blackcap, b. Pied Wagtail, b. Lesser Redpoll.
Golden-crested Wren, b. Grey Wagtail, b. Bullfinch, b.
Chiffchaff, b. Tree Pipit. Yellow Bunting, b.
Willow Wren, b. Meadow Pipit. Reed Bunting.
Icterine Warbler. Spotted Flycatcher, b. Starling, b.
Hedge Sparrow, b. Swallow, b. Jay, b.
Magpie, b. Tawny Owl, b. Pheasant, b.
Jackdaw, b. Sparrow Hawk, b. Corn Crake, b.
Raven. Peregrine Falcon. Water Rail.
Carrion Crow, b. Kestrel, b. Moor Hen, b.
Rook. Cormorant. Golden Plover.
Sky Lark. Heron. Lapwing.
Swift. Bean Goose, passing Woodcock.
Nightjar. over. Snipe.
Wryneck. Wild Duck, b. Curlew, passing over.
Green Woodpecker, b. Teal. Common Gull, ditto.
Kingfisher. Tufted Duck. Herring Gull, ditto.
Cuckoo. Ring Dove, b. Lesser Black-backed
White Owl, b. Turtle Dove. Little Grebe. [Gull, ditto.

Total species observed, 80; total species nesting, 45.

Notes.Chiffchaff and Willow Wren.—One summer thirteen nests of Chiffchaff and two of Willow Wren were detected in the grounds, probably the relative numerical proportion of the two species in North Pembrokeshire. Both nests of the Willow Wren were lined with the small feathers of the Heron, numbers of these birds frequenting the pond on the lawn near which the nests were found.

Icterine Warbler.—Was detected by its beautiful song in the spring of 1886. Many people used to come to listen to the bird, which I frequently saw while in song. As it remained for weeks, it might have had a mate and nest. It did not return the following year.

Tits.—As there were numerous evergreens in the plantations, all the species of Tit were abundant, and some beautiful nests of the Long-tailed Tit were found: one, in an oak, was constructed of dead oak-leaves mixed with the glaucous lichen from the trunk of the tree; another, in a willow overhanging the stream, was built of green moss, in which were worked numerous short and bright feathers from the Cock Pheasant.

Carrion Crow.—This bird was a pest, flocking into the shrubberies to nest from the bare country round. One spring I waged war against them, and destroyed over twenty nests, getting a fine series of nearly one hundred eggs.

Wryneck.—Was only once seen on passage in April.

Tawny Owl.—Semi-domesticated and very tame; nesting every year in old pigeon boxes against the house; and in old Crows' nests.

Turtle Dove.—Only one seen late in October.

Tufted Duck.—A single example visited the pond on lawn.

Woodcock.—Often flushed in kitchen-garden and in shrubberies. A small plantation of two acres adjoining the house was one morning beaten through, when fourteen were flushed.

By the side of the stream below the house the Common Sandpiper was regularly seen in the spring working its way to its nesting-station on the moors; and the Wood Sandpiper was once identified. Close outside the confines of the grounds Snipe occasionally nested, and both Whinchat and Stonechat; while Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, and Merlin were all noted.

Water Rails were common throughout the year, and it is believed that they occasionally nested in the shrubberies.

In one very severe spring, when snow lay on the ground until the middle of April, both Golden Plovers and Lapwings came into the garden; they were nearly starved, but would not eat the food put about for them.

Cormorants were frequently noted passing over, and were only too often found poaching in the Trout stream below.

List No. III.—Buckland Dinham, E. Somerset.

Birds observed in the grounds of the Vicarage, Buckland Dinham, East Somerset, between 1888 and 1897.

The parish of Buckland Dinham is in the East of Somerset, three miles north of Frome, and only three miles from the borders of Wilts. It stands 420 feet above the sea-level on a hill which rises gradually above it to over 600 feet. It contains rich meadows and pastures, and some of the finest Cheddar cheeses are made in the dairies. A large wood of over 200 acres is within half-a-mile; the local ornis is rich in Warblers and Woodpeckers. A small stream runs at the foot of the hill on which the village is built.

Mistle Thrush, b. Blackcap, b. Nuthatch.
Song Thrush, b. Garden Warbler. Wren, b.
Redwing. Golden-crested Wren, b. Tree Creeper, b.
Fieldfare. Chiffchaff, b. Pied Wagtail, b.
Blackbird, b. Willow Wren, b. Grey Wagtail.
Whinchat. Hedge Sparrow, b. Yellow Wagtail.
Redstart, b. Long-tailed Tit. Tree Pipit.
Redbreast, b. Great Tit, b. Meadow Pipit.
Nightingale. Coal Tit, b. Red-backed Shrike, b.
Whitethroat, b. Marsh Tit, b. Spotted Flycatcher, b.
Lesser Whitethroat, b. Blue Tit, b. Swallow, b.
House Martin, b. Magpie. Peregrine Falcon, pass-
Sand Martin, b. Jackdaw. Kestrel. [ing over.
Greenfinch, b. Rook. Heron, passing over.
Hawfinch. Sky Lark. Bean Goose, ditto.
Goldfinch, b. Swift. Ring Dove, b.
House Sparrow, b. Nightjar. Stock Dove.
Tree Sparrow. Wryneck, b.[pecker. Turtle Dove.
Chaffinch, b. Great Spotted Wood- Pheasant.
Brambling. Lesser Spotted Wood- Partridge, b.
Linnet, b. pecker. Corn Crake, b.[over.
Lesser Redpoll. Green Woodpecker. Stone Curlew, passing
Bullfinch, b. Cuckoo. Lapwing, ditto.
Crossbill. White Owl. Brown-headed Gull.
Yellow Bunting, b. Tawny Owl. Herring Gull, passing
Starling, b. Sparrow Hawk. over.
Total birds observed, 76; total birds nesting, 36.

Notes.—The absence of any pond or stream close at hand occasions this list, in spite of its greater richness in the Warblers and Woodpeckers, to contain fewer species than the preceding ones.

Redwing.—Has not been seen for the last five years, and from some cause appears to have deserted the immediate neighbourhood.

Nightingale.—Only occasionally seen in the shrubberies, and does not nest; the situation is apparently too high for it. About a mile away, in thick hedges on lower ground, it is numerous.

Just outside my bounds several other Warblers, not included in the list, are common; these are Wood Wren, Sedge Warbler, and Grasshopper Warbler. Sitting on the lawn one beautiful midsummer night, at least half-a-dozen Grasshopper Warblers were heard "reeling." It was between ten and eleven o'clock, and the village had become hushed in quiet, when first one of these little Warblers began to "reel" in the valley below; another soon started singing, and then another, until their song was heard proceeding from all directions. I have twice identified the Marsh Warbler by the side of the Vallis brook, about a mile to the south of us; on one occasion I watched the bird while it was singing in a poplar by the side of the water.

Sand Martin.— Has been detected nesting in some holes left in the garden-wall where scaffold-poles were once inserted.

Hawfinch.—Barely seen in the garden in summer; a pair or two nest annually in the parish; the village boys have taken the eggs.

Tree Sparrow.—Has only twice been identified in the garden, and does not appear to nest with us.

Lesser Redpoll.—A brood of young birds seen in the garden were supposed to have been reared there; nests and eggs have been taken close at hand.

Crossbill.—A small flock, about fourteen or fifteen; two broods got together and probably reared at no great distance; visited an avenue of Scotch firs in August, 1894; and early in July in the following year a flock of about the same size attacked the ripe raspberries.

Great Spotted Woodpecker.—Nests annually in Orchardleigh Park, about a mile distant, always selecting a lofty abele, and excavating its nest in the trunk at a great height from the ground.

Stock Dove.—Has only once been seen.

Brown-headed Gull.—One spring about half-a-dozen appeared in the meadow before the house; others were seen flying about. They were probably a detachment from some gullery questing about for a new breeding station. Small flocks have been noted passing over at various times, one at the end of July this present year. We are thirty miles from the Bristol Channel, and about sixty from the nearest gullery near Wareham, in Dorset.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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