The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 684/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries (June, 1898)
various authors, editor W.L. Distant
4079751Notes and QueriesJune, 1898various authors, editor W.L. Distant




Albinic Example of Long-eared Bat.— I have just found (May 3rd) what I venture to think is a rather unusual case of albinism in the shape of a white Bat (Plecotus auritus). When first seen it was nailed up in a barn, having been picked up dead by one of the farm lads. It is pure white, without the slightest suspicion of dark tinge. It was in a rather advanced stage of decomposition, and I omitted to examine the eyes. It has been sent for preservation to Mr. Chalkley, of Winchester.—A.H. Baring (The Grange, Alresford, Hants).


Stoats turning White in Winter.—In answer to Mr. Barrett-Hamilton's enquiry on the above subject, I may say that during the past very mild winter I knew of five such specimens of Mustela erminea in this immediate neighbourhood, one of which was almost wholly white, except a little brown patch near each eye, and of course the usual black-tipped tail; in another specimen the top of the head was brown, and a thin brown line extended down the vertebrae from head to tail. My experience is that the head is the last portion of the body to assume the white colour; indeed, I have sometimes thought that the change must begin from the always white under parts, and gradually creep up the sides, as often the sides are quite white, whilst the back retains all the brown tint of the summer coat, the latter seeming to be invaded irregularly by the winter pelage, the line between the two colours being ill-defined and obscure. I have never seen a specimen with a light back and dark sides, though such may occur; but I have frequently noticed that the so-called white parts are often tinged with yellow. How is the change effected? Not by a new coat, for that would necessitate two apparent "moults" in a year, and one of these at a very inconvenient season, but by a gradual change of colour, for it is certain the hair is as firmly fixed in the skin during the change as it is at any other time. If we get a Squirrel with white hairs in its tail or other parts of its body, we find they easily drop out; but of course the two cases are different, and the carnivora and rodent widely separated in their constitution and habits. With regard to the Stoat, the question may be asked why do they not all assume the ermine dress in winter? I have never seen a white Stoat in summer, but I have seen dark Stoats in winter, and it is quite certain that cold is not the cause of change to a lighter garb, as the past exceedingly mild winter has proved. Our scientific friends will tell us it is a case of heredity. In North America it seems that the colour of the Stoat is almost entirely regulated by the presence or absence of snow, and it has been stated that at the first fall of snow the change begins, and within forty-eight hours the alteration of colour is perceptible, so rapidly does it take place. Such, however, is not the case with us, for in this neighbourhood we had no snow until near the end of February; whilst the whitest Stoat I saw during the whole winter was obtained early in January. I have seen a partly white Stoat as early in the autumn as September (Mr. Harting has recorded one in August, Zool. 1887, p. 345), and I have seen them more or less frequent till near the end of April—I have a record of one on April 26th—and occurrences in May are recorded (Zool. 1892, p. 310); but most of them occur, so far as I have observed, in the early part of the year, from January to March.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Otters in South-western Hampshire.—That this amphibian (Lutra vulgaris) is still to be found in some numbers in this locality the following facts will prove. The river Avon and its tributary brooks have during the past twelve months been unusually productive; I have heard of several being met with in the lower parts of the stream, and I know of one man who caught no fewer than eight specimens in the above-named period in this neighbourhood, seven of which were trapped in less than half a mile of water, and two of those (males) scaled twenty-eight pounds each, whilst the smallest weighed fourteen pounds. In February, when the snow lay on the ground, an Otter was "tracked" from one of the forest brooks to a large furze-bush at some considerable distance away, and there worried to death by two large dogs. Several of these forest brooks flow into the Avon, and it is possible that during the daytime Otters that fished the river during the night have retired to the quieter and less frequented brooks for their repose, as they are very seldom seen or their retreats discovered by fishermen and others who frequent the river banks. This no doubt arises in a very marked degree from the nocturnal habits of the creature; but that they sometimes travel long distances is well known, as their nightly depredations are visible where there is no apparent "cover" or hiding place. I once knew of an instance where a female Otter had her lair under some planks of a boat-house close to the weirs, which were the "hunting-grounds" (if such an expression can be rightly applied to an aquatic situation) of herself and mate; but it is not always the case that they take up their quarters so closely to the scene of their labours. Some of the forest brooks to which I allude are often productive of numbers of small Trout, so that Otters may find food even there; and we well know they do not confine themselves to a fish diet. Young Moorhens and Coot are often taken, as well as young Wild Duck. I am informed that in April, the Otter-hounds—from Devonshire, I believe—which usually make an annual visit to this neighbourhood, killed one Otter and lost another in the small stream that separates the counties of Hants and Dorset; and only a few days ago (May 16th) I saw one that had been killed near the same place; it was a male, and weighed sixteen pounds. Some time ago a gamekeeper told me he had several times, in the early morning, seen what he thought was an old Otter and young ones disporting themselves in a particular part of the river, and in the dim twilight had once had an unsuccessful shot at them. One morning some time afterwards, however, about 9 a.m., he saw two Otters, about the size of terriers, playing like puppies in the sunshine, on the river bank. One of these he shot (which I saw), but he said he had no sooner shot than (what he supposed was) the old female and another young one made their appearance out in the stream, the larger of the two raising itself in the water, at the same time uttering a loud and shrill whistle, repeated again and again, as if anxiously calling the slaughtered cub. As far as I can learn, none of the Otters of which I have spoken were preserved, except as skins for the sake of the fur, which is much sought after for dress trimmings, &c. The man who caught the eight Otters before mentioned has been a river keeper all his life, and during the time has shot and trapped some scores of them; but he tells me that only in one solitary instance has he trapped an Otter by the hind leg, and he is under the impression that on occasions when his traps have been "thrown" and unoccupied, the Otter has managed to withdraw its hind foot from the jaws of the trap; and this supposition seems very feasible, if we note the difference in the form of the hind and fore feet, for the latter are comparatively (I use the word advisedly) soft and fan-like, whilst the former are tapering and rigid; and any person who has inspected an Otter must have been struck with the wonderful strength that must be developed in the short thick limbs, neck, and jaws of the cylindrical body, which, together with the glossy close-set hair and under fur, adapts it so admirably to its mode of life, and the element in which it delights to live.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).


The Scientific Names of the Badger and the Common Vole.—In the list of British Mammals (ante, p. 97), by a slip the Badger was accidentally omitted, although a passing reference to it as one of the animals for which Scomber-scomber names were necessary was made on p. 99. As is there indicated, its technical name should be Meles meles, based on Linnseus's "Ursus meles," instead of the current but incorrect Meles taxus, a name (in the form Ursus taxus) originally based on the American Badger. Since my list was published Dr. Collett has brought out a most interesting contribution to our knowledge of Norwegian Mammals (Nyt Mag. Naturvid. xxxvi. p. 204, 1898), and in this he has adopted, quite independently, all the nomenclatural principles advocated in my list. He thus lends the weight of his authority to Scomber-scomber names, such as Meles meles, Lemmus lemmus, &c, and uses Lepus timidas for the variable Hare, and "Putorius nivalis" for the Weasel. My unfortunate discovery of "Neomys" as being earlier than "Crossopus" was not known to him, but from his consistent obedience to nomenclature rules he would evidently have used it had he known of it. In one instance, however, he has adopted a change from the current term which, probably as much to his pleasure as my own, I am able to show is not necessary. This is the name of the Common Vole, Microtus agrestis of my list, whose specific name has been used from time immemorial. This animal does not occur in the tenth edition of the 'Systema Naturae' (1758), but does, under the name of "Mus gregarius" in the twelfth (1766). On this basis Dr. Collett has called it "Microtus gregarius," but he has overlooked the important fact that, although the first edition of the 'Fauna Suecica' (1746), in which the name "Mus agrestis" occurs, is pre-Linnean, and therefore invalid; the second edition (1761) is after the standard date 1758, and may therefore be accepted as a valid post-Linnean work. Mus agrestis occurs on p. 11 of this edition, and will afford a sound basis for the use of the familiar term Microtus agrestis for the Common Vole.—Oldfield Thomas.

The Insectivora and Rodentia of Northumberland.—As the occurrence in the North of England of some of the under-mentioned species of Mammalia does not seem, so far as I can trace, to have been hitherto recorded in 'The Zoologist,' I think the results of a fortnight's trapping in Northumberland, in January, 1895, may be interesting:—1. Mole (Talpa europæa). 2. Common Shrew (Sorex vulgaris). 3. Pigmy Shrew (S. pygmæus). 4. Water Shrew (Crossopus fodiens). 5. Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). 6. House Mouse (Mus musculus). 7. Wood Mouse (M. sylvaticus). 8. Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius). 9. Field Vole (A. agrestis). 10. Bank Vole (A. glareolus). Nos. 2, 3, 7, and 10 were caught in the same hedge-bank, and seemingly using the same runs. T have in my possession the skins of all the above except those of No. 5, which, I may add, were shot, not trapped.— John H. Teesdale (St. Margarets, West Dulwich, S.E.).


Immigration of the Song Thrush.—A remarkable recent immigration of the Song Thrush (Turdus musicus) seems worth recording. How far it may have extended I cannot say. I have noted the circumstance since to various friends in the neighbourhood, but none of them being "observers" of "natural history" facts, I have been unable to obtain any information as to whence the Thrushes came or whither they went. The normal number of Thrushes in my shrubberies and adjoining fields at the time of this immigration I should compute (from many years' observation of nests, &c.) at about five or six pairs, or may be one or two more. These I had seen constantly through the past winter and early spring. On March 19th, however, the number of birds on the lawn and adjoining field (of four acres) appeared to be unusual. The next day there were more still. On the following day, and up to the 26th, they continued to increase. On the 25th I counted up to fifty hopping about in the part of the field nearest to me, but the whole field was fairly covered with them. Of course it was impossible to count all of them accurately, but I feel quite within bounds when I say there must have been at least two hundred, and on the 26th even more. On the 27th the numbers were much fewer, and by the evening of the 28th the whole of them had disappeared. Since that only the normal few pairs have been seen. I have the following note of a somewhat similar but less numerous immigration on Feb. 3rd, 1892:—"A large number of Thrushes in the front field just before sunset. Probably an immigration. The normal number during all the past winter very small." This immigration was followed by a similar disappearance in the course of a few days. Scarcely a year passes but that we have a sudden appearance, in the month of August, of many Thrushes, which disappear again more or less quickly, often remaining no more than a single day; but, excepting on the two occasions noted, I have not noticed such an immigration in the spring. I believe the August movement of Thrushes has been noted before, but I fancy this spring movement has not been noted, even if observed. During the time the birds were here they were occupied in hopping aimlessly about and feeding. There was no indication of their having paired, though at the same moment there were nests building, and in one case eggs laid, of the same species in the adjoining shrubberies.—O. Pickard-Cambridge (Bloxworth Rectory, Wareham).

Melodious Warblers in South-east Devon.—Wishing to ascertain if the Warblers (Hypolais) which I heard singing in May last year in the wooded undercliff at Ware, about a mile to the west of Lyme Regis, the Devonshire side of the town, had returned this season, I visited the spot on the very same day (May 4th) that T had identified the song last year, but it was cold and cheerless, and not even a Thrush was singing. On the afternoon of the 6th the weather was more favourable, and three of the Warblers were singing within a yard or two of the whitethorn bush from which the first had been heard on May 4th, 1897. By walking quietly forwards a clear view was obtained of two of the birds perched on a small bush that was still bare of foliage, and as far as it was possible to be certain without having them actually in hand, Hypolais polyylotta, the Melodious Warbler, was satisfactorily identified. The morning of May 9th another visit was paid to the wooded undercliff. It was warm and summer-like after a night of rain, just the time for Warblers to be in full song; and as the result of a two hours' ramble at least a dozen of these little Warblers were recognized. In one beautiful glen, carpeted with bluebells and ground-ivy, five Melodious Warblers and a Nightingale were singing close round me, and as I stood listening to them another Melodious Warbler flew into a bush at my elbow, and commenced its song. The presence of so many of the birds makes it conclusive that those heard last year successfully nested; Hypolais polyglotta may now be regarded to have established itself as a summer migrant to this extreme south-east corner of Devon. It was impossible to avoid reflecting that, as so many of these Warblers had been detected in a comparatively small portion of the wooded undercliff, there were probably many others in the long stretch of similar cover between Ware and Axmouth; and that possibly the shrubberies of the old-fashioned country houses that skirt the little town of Lyme were tenanted by others. Last year the loud clear notes of the two Warblers then heard induced the belief that they were the Icterine Warbler (Hypolais icterina); no close view of them was obtained; one seen flying across a little glade was too distant for its plumage to be ascertained. The thickness of the cover—it is a jungle of big whitethorns, brambles, &c.—will afford the birds protection; there is little fear that they will suffer from the raids of egg-collectors.—Murray A. Mathew (Vicarage, Buckland Dinham, Frome).

Meadow Pipits perching on Trees.—I can quite confirm Mr. Coburn's note as to the arboreal habits of the Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The bird is exceedingly common in this district in summer, and also passes through in great numbers at the periods of migration. In my experience the Meadow Pipit, when flushed, usually perches on a tree or bush if one is at hand. I have frequently seen migratory flocks of thirty or forty birds perching together on the tops of alder trees on a neighbouring marsh.—G.H. Caton Haigh (Penrhyndeudraeth, Merionethshire, North Wales).

"Horse-match," a Name for the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio).—I notice (ante, p. 188) Mr. O.V. Aplin has written a very interesting note on this curious local name. It will no doubt interest him to know that in the course of my preparation for my shortly forthcoming book on the 'Birds of Surrey' I have come across this term applied to the same species in a series of hitherto unpublished notes by the late Mr. H. Long, formerly of Hampton Lodge, near Puttenham, Godalming, to which, through the kindness of a relative, I have had access. Mr. Long was a well-known naturalist in the very early part of the century, and collected at his country seat a considerable number of rare Surrey birds. He also rendered assistance to the late Mr. Yarrell in the compilation of his wellknown work, particularly with reference to the breeding of the Crossbill in the Holt Forest. Mr. Long says:—"The inhabitants of the Devil's Punch Bowl (Higbcombe Bottom) and Whitmore Bottom know this bird (L. collurio, J.A.B.) by the strange name of 'Horse-match.'" Unfortunately he gives no further particulars of any sort, nor does he hazard any guess (as he does in several other cases) as to the origin of the name. It is nevertheless worthy of remark, as Mr. Swainson ('Folk-lore of British Birds,' p. 9) only applies it to the "Wheatear." The derivation of "horse" equalling "coarse" of Mr. Aplin is probably correct. The most ingenious suggestion, but at the same time a most improbable one, is that of "haws," smash, from the habit which the bird has of impaling its victim on thorn bushes. The etymological derivation will, I am afraid, put an end to this idea. Mr. Long's note was written about 1825. At the present time this name is not, so far as I am aware, in use anywhere in Surrey. May I take a last opportunity of asking any of the readers of 'The Zoologist' to send me any occurrences of rare birds which may have come under their notice in Surrey, so that my little book may be brought up to as recent a date as is possible before publication?—John A. Bucknill (Hylands House, Epsom).

Woodchat Shrike in Sussex.—I beg to record the occurrence of a male Woodchat Shrike (Lanius pomeranus) on the salts near St. Leonardson-Sea, Sussex, on May 1st. It had been seen on the day previous, and in the same place, close to a brick-field. I believe this is the third time it has been recorded for Sussex. Mr. Borrer mentions one in his 'Birds of Sussex,' and another was recorded by Mr. Parkin in 'The Zoologist' (1892, p. 229), shot at Fairlight Hill, about four miles from the spot where the present one was got. It has been identified by Mr. Bristow, taxidermist, of St. Leonards.—G.W. Bradshaw (54, London Street, Reading).

On the Date of the Arrival of the House Martin.— In almost all the books on ornithology which I have examined, the House Martin (Chelidon urbica) is said to arrive a few days later than the Swallow, i.e. about the middle or latter part of April. Stevenson, in the 'Birds of Norfolk,' writes even of the second week in April, though he adds that the 20th may be considered an average date (vol. i. 329). There is indeed a certain amount of irregularity in the arrival as in the departure of this bird, and on the south or west coast it will occasionally appear very early indeed—e.g. my friend Mr. H.C. Playne rioted its arrival near Bristol on April 6th, 1894 — and I find one or two very early dates in the records of the Natural History Society of Marlborough College. Gilbert White, in his Fifty-first Letter, makes it clear that he expected Martins to arrive in Hampshire by April 11th. During the last few years it has gradually grown upon me that the Martins do not appear so soon as I should have expected, and I have in consequence brought together my records for the last ten years (unluckily not quite complete) to determine what truth there may be in this. I may say that I arrive at Oxford for the term about the middle of April, and that on arriving I invariably search the favourite places which the Swallows and Martins affect as soon as they reach us. I am not therefore likely to miss them if they are here. Mr. O.V. Aplin has kindly sent me a list of records which go back beyond my own, which he allows me to publish. All his but one are from the neighbourhood of Banbury, and the one exception (1896) is from Nettlebed, in the Chilterns. He was abroad in 1893 and 1895, and for the former year I unfortunately have no record, nor have I been able to obtain one from any ornithological friend. The following table will show our respective observations:—

O.V.A. W.W.F.
1881, May 1st
1882, April 19th
1883, April 28th
1884, May 3rd
1885, April 17th
1886, April 23rd
1887, April 29th
1888, April 28th April 20th (several).
1889, May 2nd
1890, May 3rd April 21st (one).
1891, April 24th April 26th.
1892, April 24th April 26th.
1894, May 7th May 1st.
1895, (April 13th, at Bordighera).
1896, April 26th May 9th.
1897, April 25th April 30th.
1898, April 30th April 29th.

The results of this table, so far as they go, may perhaps be stated as follows:—1. The irregularity of the movements of this species comes out distinctly, for we have a range of first appearances extending from April 17th to May 9th. In Mr. Murray A. Mathew's 'Birds of Devon' I find a still longer range recorded, for in 1874 he noted the appearance of two Martins on April 2nd, while in 1891 none were seen till May 14th. This is possibly due to a double wave of migration from Africa, for Col. Irby, in his 'Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar,' tells us that Martins cross the Straits both in February and April; and it may be that only a few of the earlier travellers reach this country, arriving in the first half of April, while the mass belonging to the second wave do not arrive till the end of April or beginning of May. 2. On the whole the dates of arrival are later than I myself, and I think others, had fancied they used to be. In connection with this I would draw attention to the date in my table of 1895, when I was in the South of France and the Eiviera. Until April 13th I did not see a single Martin, not even at Aigues Mortes, near the Delta of the Rhone, where the Swallows were arriving in great numbers. Such Martins as arrive in England by this route could not that year have reached their destination till quite the end of the month. This record therefore seems to tally closely with the majority of those made in England. I will not venture to conclude too hastily that the arrival of this bird has of recent years been getting later, but there is some slight indication in the tables that this may be the case. If it were so the fact might be accounted for, as Mr. Aplin has suggested to me, by the very obvious diminution in the numbers of the species in this country; the first arrivals, being few and far between, would be more liable to be overlooked than in former years. — W. Warde Fowler (Lincoln College, Oxford).

The Song of the Chaffinch.—Although I am not sure that I quite agree with Mr. Witchell's views respecting the song of the Chaffinch, I am glad that he has drawn attention to it in his interesting paper in 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 195). To me the song seems a remarkable one for two reasons:—1st. The difficulty with which in most cases it seems to be put together in every year, some birds requiring weeks to do this, others succeeding in a few days. 2nd. The great difference in the song of different individuals, some having a really fine and impressive song, whilst others have only a very poor and monotonous ditty. Nowhere have I heard such fine performers as in Earl Fitzwilliam's woods at Shillelagh, far famed for its splendid oak trees. At Ardmayle, near Cashel, I heard Chaffinches with call-notes differing from any I have heard elsewhere, and this year, at Killaloe, I felt certain for some time that I was listening to a Bullfinch rather than to our old friend Fringilla cœlebs. The Chaffinch's song has been written down in various ways. Some London dealers think the best strain is like "ring ring rattle chuck wido." The German version, however, seems to me to be the best: "Pritz pritz pritz, will'st du dem mit dem Bräutigam zieren," some substituting "pink" for the initial "pritz." Perhaps some of your readers would kindly say whether they have ever heard a Chaffinch conclude its song with what fanciers call the "amen"; I mean the familiar "pink" or "fink" at the close. I have heard but one "amen" Chaffinch in my life, but I should like to hear another.—Charles W. Benson (Rathmines School, Dublin).

Notes on the Chaffinch.—Referring to Mr. Witchell's interesting notes on Fringilla cœlebs (ante, p. 195), I may state that in my garden aviary—during the love fever especially—my Chaffinches frequently indulge in the full gurgling rattle he speaks of (and so also does the Bramble-finch[1]), but I do not think we can reasonably draw the conclusion that coition occurs in the air. As the result of observation of birds in the fields and captives in my aviary, the only conclusion to be placed on the swooping flights and close contact of the birds he so fully describes, is that of their violent courtship. During this time, in my garden aviary, they are continually chasing one another (that is, male and female) from one end to the other, swooping and circling, and sometimes falling to the ground together; but I have never observed coition to take place, save on the ground and in the branches, when the male bird gives forth the full gurgling rattle aforementioned, as I noticed only two days ago. I quite thought the theory of Chaffinches copulating in the air was exploded long ago, and as the result of my own observations do not consider there is any evidence to support it. Dr. Butler also states this very clearly in the work now publishing, 'British Birds, with their Eggs and Nests.'—W.T. Page (6, Rylett Crescent, Shepherd's Bush).

Rooks feeding on Elvers.—On the 27th of April last, when fishing on the Laune, in Co. Kerry, I observed Rooks flying to the edge of the water, where they pecked at something, and then, proceeding to the bank some two or three yards away, repeated the action, flying away afterwards to a rookery near by. I knew the Elvers or Eel-fry were running, and suspected the Rooks were carrying them off to their young. To ascertain whether this was the case, I crept behind a gorse-bush, and when a Rook flew from the edge of the water and settled near me, I jumped up suddenly, and, frightening it off, I then examined the place it had hurriedly left, and found an Elver wriggling on the grass. This is probably certain proof that they were doing what I suspected.—Wm. T. Crawshay (33, Belgrave Square, S.W.).

Cuckoo Questions.—Following up my remarks on this bird (Cuculus canorus), (Zool. 1897, p. 365), I observed as the young Cuckoo grew that ihe foster-parents fed it most assiduously; but there is one point on which emphasis may be placed, and that is the nature of the food supplied to the foster-bird. Various species of birds which are called upon to rear Cuckoos enjoy a wide range of food and habits; it therefore falls to Cuckoos to be fed by the different food used by their foster-parents. This in turn raises the question how far each Cuckoo is influenced by the peculiarities of the birds which rear it? I described the pugnacious habits of the one found in the nest of the Twite, in common with its kind when approached by man, and my last visit to the nest found the young Cuckoo able to fly when I picked it up and replaced it in the nest. The following morning the nest was empty, and two days later a bird which might be reasonably supposed to be the same Cuckoo was found perched on a willow about one-fourth of a mile from the nest, and alongside a Wood Pigeon which was nesting on the same tree. The Cuckoo, on being taken into the finder's hands and released, went back to its place by the Pigeon's nest. Did the Pigeon assist it in any way with its food? It certainly did not find fault with the Cuckoo as a neighbour, and it is clear that the Cuckoo at least valued the companionship, whatever benefit that might have conferred. Another question now arises, would the foster-parents follow up and support the bird as they do their own young when they leave the nest? or do the parent Cuckoos or any of them take any immediate charge of the young at this stage? Again, how do they commence to gather food for themselves? As they are supposed to require nearly all their time in the adult state to pick up the necessary food for their support in our climate, it seems to me that there must be some provision in nature more or less peculiar to the species for providing for their support from the time they leave the nest until they are capable of adequately attending to themselves. In the case noticed there were no signs of the presence of the foster-parents when the young Cuckoo was found in company with the Pigeon. The Mountain Linnet is rather demonstrative when anything calculated to disturb its young occurs, and its absence in this case would favour the idea of the duties having been concluded, although they keep close to their own young for some time after they are able to fly about. Then how do young Cuckoos proceed in leaving us? The last incidents to which I have referred occurred about the middle of July, after Cuckoos were mute; but I noticed at least one adult after that date. I have never heard in what way they leave us, whether solitary or in company. The young and adults have both to migrate from us, while there are only adults to come to us in spring. Would those which are hatched in any place return to it or its neighbourhood the following year? or would the birds in general have a tendency to retain through life their first haunts, or would they be indifferent to this? Of course they follow certain physical aspects of the country, as, for example, they frequent young plantations, these yielding abundance of food.—W. Wilson (Alford, Aberdeen).

Kites in Wales.—A few days after reading Mr. J.H. Salter's paper in 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 198) entitled "Ornithological Notes from MidWales," I chanced to open a volume of 'Blackwood' for 1830. From an article headed "An Excursion over the Mountains to Aberystwith," I make the following extract:—"Two very large Kites flew into the area between the cliffs, from over the top to the right, and magnificently and gracefully sported: it was what a dance on wings may be imagined to be by free creatures in their utmost joy. After a while another swept over the opposite cliff, and came sailing in his glory among them; and they joined, varied their figure, and performed a wonderful ballet. Sometimes they seemed burlesquing what we have seen in a theatre, retreating and coming in again, and with a new vagary. We afterwards learnt that these creatures are remarkably fine, and peculiar to the place." It would be interesting to know whether the statement as to the birds in question having a distinct peculiarity is founded upon facts. If it be, and their descendants are of a similar type, it makes the miserable persecution to which they are subjected and their imminent extinction all the more deplorable. Some twenty-five years ago or more I saw, in an aviary in a garden near Beddgelert, a Buzzard that had been taken from the rocks above Pont Aberglaslyn. I was greatly struck by the size of the bird, so much larger, at least so it seemed to me, than any mounted or living specimens I had ever seen.—T. Vaughan Roberts (Nutfield, Watford).

Disappearance of the Lapwing in North Lincolnshire.—This bird (Vanellus vulgaris) has practically disappeared as a resident species; each year they have got scarcer, and at the present time I do not think there is a single pair nesting in the parish or neighbourhood. Not many years since a pair or two might be found in almost every field, and a considerable number of young were hatched and got away. One of the most familiar sounds on warm spring nights used to be the calling of the Peewits in the low grounds and marshes. Now all is changed, and we only know it in varying numbers as a spring and autumn migrant. I attribute its disappearance to several causes,—the netting of the old resident stock in the winter, the persistent plundering of the nests by egg-gatherers, also the destruction of the eggs by Carrion Crows and Rooks, but especially the latter. Another reason probably is the conversion of much of the arable land into permanent pasture. I should like to know if the Lapwing has become scarce in other localities in the country where once common. — John Cordeaux (Great Cotes House, R.S.O. Lincoln).

Birds which nest in London.—I hoped that Mr. Meade King's communication (ante, p. 189) would have elicited some information as to the alleged recent nesting of the Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus phragmitis) by the Serpentine. For a good many years past I have walked down the whole length of the Serpentine early in the morning on six days out of every seven, during eleven months in each year, solely for the purpose of observing birds; in spring and summer I often do so twice a day. Moreover, many of my friends observe birds regularly in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, and report to me the results of their observations. So if the Sedge Warbler has recently nested by the Serpentine, it is remarkable that I should have neither seen nor heard anything of it, especially as it is an extremely noisy and self-assertive species. According to my experience it is a very uncommon visitor to the Serpentine; I have only come across it in three years out of the last ten. On the other hand, the Reed Warbler is a fairly regular spring visitor. The House Martin (Chelidon urbica) nested annually on the houses in Kensington Gardens Terrace till 1887. As to the Rooks in Gray's Inn, having carefully watched their nesting operations, I am doubtful whether there are more than half a dozen occupied nests at the present time. It is to be hoped that Mr. W. de Winton is right in estimating the number at ten or twelve. There are two inhabited nests of the Carrion Crow in Kensington Gardens this year. Mr. Meade King rightly takes exception to the inclusion of the Wild Duck in the list of species breeding in London. I do not know of any place within four miles of Charing Cross where the Wild Duck nests, or is at all likely to nest. The birds on the Serpentine are perhaps the wildest of all the London park Ducks, but they must all be considered semi-domesticated. Even after the annual slaughter of parti-coloured specimens, I doubt whether of the birds lefc, more than half are coloured like wild birds. If Anas boscas is to be included in the list of wild species nesting in London, it is time to consider the claims of Columba livia.A. Holte Macpherson (51, Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, W.).

Your correspondent, Mr. C. Meade King, is not quite accurate in stating (ante, p. 190) that the rookery in Gray's Inn is the "last London rookery."

In the grounds of "Rookwood," High Street, Hampstead, about three pairs nest annually. This is some hundred yards within the four-mile radius.—H. Ratcliff Kidner (West Hampstead).

Birds in London.—The Sky Lark (Alauda arvensis) is to be heard at Shepherd's Bush, London. At first when I heard it from my garden I thought it was a caged bird singing somewhere near, yet thought the song too full and joyous for a captive; and several mornings since, when foraging for my aviary pets on some open ground near, it rose within a short distance, and commenced singing joyously but a few feet above my head. I feel sure its nest is close at hand (though I failed to find it in the short time at my disposal), as I have since heard and seen it almost daily in and about the same place for the past six weeks.—W.T. Page (6, Rylett Crescent, Shepherd's Bush).

[Mr. W.H. Hudson, in his 'Birds in London,' relates that "during the last two exceptionally mild winters a few Sky Larks have lived contentedly in the comparatively small green area at Lambeth Palace."—Ed.] Ornithological Notes from Sark.—In the early spring of the present year I spent a week (March 22nd-30th) on Sark with some college friends, and possibly some notes on the birds to be found on the island at that time of the year may be of interest to readers of 'The Zoologist.' We observed in all some forty species, and very probably overlooked others, as during the first half of our stay a strong gale was blowing from the north, with frequent showers of rain and snow, which made it both difficult and unpleasant to hunt for birds. We saw four species of Gulls—the Herring Gull, Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and the Kittiwake, of which the first mentioned was by far the commonest. The Kittiwake nests on the "Autelets," a group of rocks, very difficult to climb, on the west of the island. Four or five pairs were there at the end of our visit, and I do not think many more nest on the island, as the fishermen say they are not at all common. The Razorbills and Guillemots arrived on March 29th, and took possession of the ledges on the "Autelets," where they nest later ou in the year. I counted from fifty to sixty of each species. The Shags were very numerous, and were busy with their nests, in some of which, I think, eggs had already been laid. They appear to nest principally on the "Autelets," the Moie de Mouton, and on the rocks around Pot Bay. I only saw one Cormorant, and, as the fishermen do not seem to know the bird, they are probably uncommon. We saw a great number of Oystercatchers all round the island; they were chiefly in pairs, but occasionally we saw five or six, or even more together. The Chough is not common on the island, but I believe it breeds there regularly. One fisherman told me he had not seen more than one pair for some time, but another thought there were in all about six pairs. I myself saw one pair in Dixcart Bay, where I was told they nest, and on another occasion five together on the western side of the island. We saw one pair of Ravens, and found their nest in the side of a cliff on the Moie de Mouton; it contained two or three young birds well fledged. The Kestrel was not at all uncommon, and the Sparrowhawk is also said to inhabit the island, but we did not notice it during our visit. Rock Pipits were fairly numerous, and one or two pairs of Stonechats might be seen wherever there was any gorse growing. I noticed one or two Cirl Buntings, and also a pair of Firecrests, which were very tame. The Wheatear appeared on March 28th, and the Chiffchaff on the 30th. We also observed the following birds:—Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Redbreast, Goldcrest, Hedgesparrow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Yellow Bunting, Starling, Magpie (common), Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Sky Lark, and Lapwing (flock of seventeen). The fishermen say that the Gannet visits Sark in the summer, and that the Puffin nests on L'Etac, an island off Little Sark, but we saw neither of these birds during our stay on the island. A gentleman who knows the island well told me that the Black Rat is the common Rat on Sark; and certainly the only specimen we saw on the island was black, and appeared to be an example of Mus rattus.F.L. Blathwayt (Weston-super-Mare).

Ornithological Notes from Corsica. Correction.—During last April I spent a week in Corsica, and with the help of a small weapon discovered that I made two bad mistakes in the notes published in 'The Zoologist' (1897, p. 254). I hasten to correct them, and apologise to readers of this Magazine for my carelessness. The delightful little Finches which are so numerous on the mountain slopes are Citril Finches (Chrysomitris citrinella), and not Serins. The species of Lark which is common in the island, and which is the only one I could rind this year, is the Wood Lark (Alauda arborea), and not the Crested Lark. The mistake I made in saying that Crested Larks were common was due to some confusion I was in with regard to the songs of these two species. I am able to add two species to my former list. Ring Doves (Columba palumbus) were plentiful in some of the pine forests, and a Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa grisola) was at Ghisonaccia on April 17th. Crag Martins (Cotile rupestris) were very numerous in the gorge between Ghisoui and Ghisonaccia, and were building their nests.—Herbert C. Playne (Clifton College).

Appearance of Migrants in Aberdeenshire, 1898.—With this mild winter a Lapwing was observed on the 14th January, and heard also on the 15th, some being continually about after that date. Curlew, March 9th, and a little later the largest flock which I have yet seen. On same date I also heard some migratory Warblers singing, being earlier than on any previous year; they are seemingly on the increase here. Water Wagtail seen March 24th, Ring-Ouzel end of March (this bird comes decidedly earlier now than it did some years ago). The Lark and Mavis were both singing on March 9th. Cuckoo heard May 1st. Dunlin Sandpiper was seen May 7th. I saw a Wheatear or White-rumped Stonechat on May 10th at old ruins, Coreen Hills, surrounded by heather, this being the most moorland place at which I have ever seen this bird. I have not yet noticed either the Grey or Yellow Wagtail, which generally appear here before this date.—Wm. Wilson (Alford, Aberdeen).


Cicada attacked by Mantis.—In 'The Zoologist' for 1897, p. 160, I mentioned some of the many enemies which prey upon Cicadas. I have recently received from Mr. Alec Ross, of Johannesburg, two specimens, the attacker and victim, which I respectively identify as Miomantis fenestrata, Fabr., and Tibicen carinatus, Thunb. Mr. Ross informs me:— "The Mantis was sitting on a grass-stem, holding the Cicada on its back, and biting it on the hind wing, which you will see is damaged in consequence. My attention was attracted to it by the unusually loud noise the Cicada was making." This narrative is also interesting as showing that the stridulation of the Cicada is also used as a sign of alarm or pain, and is not of a purely sexual or aesthetic character.—Ed.

Southerly Extension of the East African Butterfly Fauna.—Durban, the well-known port of Natal, is the home of several good lepidopterists, the name of Col. Bowker being a host in itself; consequently the butterflies of that neighbourhood have been well and persistently collected, and there is little chance of prominent species being overlooked. Of late years several species hitherto considered as part of the Mozambique fauna have appeared at Durban, such as Godartia wakefieldii, which I took myself when at that spot in 1896. Last year Dr. Dimock Brown, who was in England, called and showed me a specimen of Crenis rosa, originally described from Delagoa Bay, which he had captured in the Durban Botanical Gardens; and now Mr. A.T. Millar informs me that this year at least a dozen specimens of that species have been captured about Durban, and in such splendid condition as to prove they had but recently emerged in the imago condition; so that C. rosa may now definitely be included in the Natal lists. The route followed is evidently the coast forest belt, which extends from Delagoa Bay to and beyond Natal, and further visitors may be expected.—Ed.

  1. Last year the Bramble-finch was paired with a hen Canary—of his own choosing, for they were mixed up with others, Chaffs, &c.—and after coition indulged in the full gurgling rattle similar to the Chaff, but a little stronger. I may say, however, all the eggs were infertile.—W.T.P.