The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 685/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Daubenton's Bat in the Conway Valley.—When staying at Bettws-yCoed last May, I used to see this Bat (Myotis daubentoni) every evening, skimming in its characteristic and unmistakable fashion over a quiet reach of the Llngwy. I also saw it at Llyn-yr-Afange, a beautiful pool on the Conway, whose name is said to recall the fact that the Beaver once inhabited the stream.— Chas. Oldham (Alderley Edge).
Nightingale Nesting at Wells, Somerset.—I am pleased to report that a pair of these beautiful songsters (Daulias luscinia) have again nested in a wood just outside the town known as Park Wood. The nest, composed of dried grasses and last year's oak leaves for the exterior, with finer grasses and the skeletons of old oak leaves for the interior, is placed in the centre of a tall grass-stalk, supported on one side by the low hanging branch of the wild sloe, and contains five eggs, all of a uniform olive-brown colour; the nest is uncommonly deep and cup-shaped. On leaving the nest the female flew a few yards through the undergrowth, keeping close to the ground, the reddish tint of the tail-feathers being very noticeable. It is worthy of note that five young ones were hatched here in safety last year.—Stanley Lewis (39, High Street, Wells, Somerset).
When does the House Martin arrive?—Having noted the arrival of spring visitants for thirty-nine years, I should say that Messrs. Fowler and Aplin's records show very well the average time of arrival of this species (Chelidon urbica). In the following thirty-seven records (those for years 1863 and 1864 unfortunately lost) by my brothers and myself, there is a considerable gap between the earliest and latest notes, viz. April 13th and May 12th; but we early became accustomed to expect the bird considerably later than the Swallow, and not so very much before the Swift. It will be noted that this year (1898) gives the only record of arrival so early as second week in April.
|1860, May 12th (two)||Ealing.|
|1861, April 25th (several)||Ealing.|
|1862, April 28th (one)||Rainham, Kent.|
|1865, April 28th (one)||Rainham, Kent (visiting old nest).|
|1866, April 16th (two)||Rainham, Kent (visiting old nest).|
|1867, May 4th (five)||West Drayton.|
|1868, April 23rd (one)||Sandhurst.|
|1869, April 28th (one)||Belvedere.|
|1870, April 25th (one)||Wells, Somerset.|
|1871, May 4th (several)||Wells, Somerset.|
|1872, May 3rd (one)||Lewisham.|
|1873, May 5th (one)||Lewisham.|
|1874, April 24th (several)||Windermere.|
|1875, April 19th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1876, April 23rd (two)||Southend, S.E.|
|1877, May 12th (one)||Lewisham.|
|1878, April 27th (one)||Gloucester.|
|1879, April 23rd (four)||Southend, S.E.|
|1880, April 19th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1881, April 19th (one)||Walton-on-Thames.|
|1882, April 25th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1883, May 4th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1884, April 30th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1885, April 20th (two)||Nottingham.|
|1886, April 24th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1887, May 3rd (one)||Brixton.|
|1888, April 30th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1889, May 5th (two)||Brixton.|
|1890, May 7th (five)||Northfleet, Kent.|
|1891, April 25th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1892, May 8th (three)||Greenhithe.|
|1893, May 1st (one)||Nottingham.|
|1894, May 2nd (two)||Brixton.|
|1895, April 25th (one)||Brixton.|
|1896, May 5th (one)||Nottingham.|
|1897, May 4th (three)||Tooting.|
|1898, April 13th (one)||Dulwich.|
The above dates worked out show that the bird was first seen once in the second week of April, five times in the third week of April, fourteen times in the fourth week of April, thirteen times between April 29th and May 6th, four times between May 7th and 12th; and therefore twenty-seven out of thirty-seven records give the arrival between April 22nd and May 6th. Mr. Fowler's records come out rather stronger than my own in averaging the arrival of the bird between these dates, viz. thirteen out of sixteen.—F.D. Power (299, Cold Harbour Lane, Brixton).
Nesting of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker near Bath.—Quite recently (June 19th) I discovered a nest of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) near this town, which contained young ones. The hole was in an ash tree, and, judging from its worn appearance and scarcity of wood-chips, had evidently been used more than one season. The incessant noise of the young birds first attracted my attention to the spot, and I am certain they must have betrayed their whereabouts to several people besides myself, as the noise they make can be heard a considerable distance. I visited the nest on two consecutive days, and by keeping quiet obtained each time a close view of one of the parent birds, probably the hen. I also photographed the nesting site. I am sorry to say that the tree has been "blazed," and a number painted on it, which evidently means that it is to be cut down, though when I cannot tell. I shall be very sorry when the tree falls, as the Greater Spotted Woodpecker is a great rarity around Bath, and this is the first instance of its nesting here which I have personally come across. It is far rarer than its congener, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and I have not seen a living specimen for a number of years. The bird was very uneasy at my presence so near the nest, and made a great noise; its note was a sharp "chick." I will not mention the exact locality of this nest, for reasons which all will understand.—C.B. Horsbrugh (4, Richmond Hill, Bath).
Nesting of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker at Wells, Somerset.—On May 14th of this year I was fortunate enough to find the nesting place of a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopus major). On my approaching to within a few yards of the tree one of the parent birds flew out of the hole. On again visiting the nest (May 28tb) I found it contained young ones; the parent birds came and went several times whilst I remained unseen, and the cries of the young ones I could distinctly hear. The entrance hole, hewn out by the birds themselves, is situated six feet from the ground in the trunk of a small and somewhat decayed apple tree; the diameter of the hole is exactly two inches in the clear. On bringing the young ones food, I noticed that the old birds always alighted on the trunk close to the ground, and climbed upwards to the hole. These lovely birds are very uncommon in this district, and are entitled to every protection.—Stanley Lewis (39, High Street, Wells, Somerset).
Breeding of the Gannet.— When off Berry Head in my yacht, I saw, on May 28th last, about ten or twelve Gannets (Sula bassana) fishing. I cannot call to mind that I ever saw these birds so far south at this time of year. Can any of your readers inform me whether they breed anywhere in that neighbourhood?—R.J. Balston (Springfield, Maidstone).
Scaup in Bedfordshire.—On the 22nd May last I saw a bird of this species (Fuligula marila) on the sewage farm at Bedford, which from its plumage was apparently a female. It had dusky plumage and a white face. This bird remained in the neighbourhood for some days. It is possible, having regard to the date, that this bird had escaped from some ornamental water, but of course it may have been blown inshore by a gale. Perhaps some of the readers of 'The Zoologist' may have heard of the escape of one of these birds, in which case all doubt as to the genuineness of the occurrence would be satisfied.—Alan Fairfax Crossman.
Alleged Kentish Plover in Bedfordshire.—On the 26th May last I was watching a small party of Ringed Plover and Dunlin at the Bedford Sewage Farm. On observing the former closely through my field glasses, I noticed that one of them differed considerably from the rest, more especially in not having the complete black gorget, but only black patches on the shoulders, and also in having dark legs instead of yellow ones as the rest had. It was also a lighter colour on the back. I made a note of these points, and found, on reference to Mr. Howard Saunders's 'Manual,' that I was correct in identifying this bird as the Kentish Plover (Ægialitis antiana). I am not aware of the occurrence of this bird in Bedfordshire on any previous occasion.—Alan Fairfax Crossman.
Iceland Gull in Co. Sligo in Summer.—On June 18th, when driving from Enniscrone to Oghill, about two miles from the sea, I passed a field that was being prepared for turnip-sowing, and to my great surprise, amongst a flock of about twenty immature Herring Gulls, I perceived an Iceland Gull (Larus leucopterus). The bird, as usual, was very tame, feeding within three or four yards of the man and horses, and, as it fed within ten or twelve yards of the public road where I was standing, I had an excellent opportunity for observing it with my glass. It appeared to be a bird of last year, for, although the head and neck were very light coloured, the shoulders and back were rather dark; but the long white primaries were very conspicuous. Probably the bird would not exhibit the creamy coloured stage of plumage until after this autumn's moult. The occurrence of the Iceland Gull in summer is very unusual, and the only other occasion on which it has been observed at this time of year in this county was on June 5th, 1896, when an adult specimen was found dead on the sands of Mullaghmore by Mr. C. Lanham, of Tempo Manor, Co. Fermanagh.—Robert Warren (Moyview, Ballina).
Note on the Petrel, Oceanodroma castro (Harcourt).—In recently looking over the Fourteenth Report on Danish Birds, compiled by Herr Herluf Winge, and published in the Danish journal ' Videnskab. Meddel. fra den naturh. Foren. i Kjoben.' for 1897, pp. 237-310, I was surprised to learn that two examples of this species (better known as O. cryptoleucura (Ridg.), but see the 'Ibis,' 1898, pp. 313, 314) were killed at lightships in September and October, 1896. Herr Winge has access to specimens in the University Museum at Copenhagen, and, after comparison of the two specimens in question with skins of O. leucorrhoa, he is evidently of opinion that O. castro cannot with justice be considered as specifically distinct from the last-mentioned species. In support of this view Herr Winge gives a table of measurements (ut supra, p. 247), intending to show that the two examples of O. castro differ from each other as much as from a typical example of O. leucorrhoa.—W. Ruskin Butterfield (St. Leonards-on-Sea).
Notes from the Isle of Man, 1897.—The bay of Castletown, the shore of which at low water shows a considerable extent of low weedy rock, interspersed with tide-pools and rough gravelly patches, is perhaps the most suitable resort in the island for shore birds, to which the general character of the Manx coast is not attractive. During May, 1897, small parties of Whimbrel (Numenius phæopus) frequented the shores; they left about the commencement of June. A party of eight or ten Turnstone (Strepsilas interpres) was also on the rocks, and some dozen of Sheldrakes (Tadorna cornuta), of which at least one pair probably stayed to breed somewhere in the neighbourhood. On the little greensward and sandy links bordering the shore, Wheatears (Saxicola œnanthe) appeared in numbers in May, but all seemed to pass on as the season advanced. Late in May considerable numbers of Dunlin (Tringa alpina), mixed with Ringed Plover, arrived on the sands. Parties continued to be seen in June, and again in July and August; they were abundant, many in breeding plumage. Their tameness contrasted with the shyness of the usual winter residents of the same species. The Redshanks (Totanus calidris), which for the greater part of the year enliven the tide-pool, almost disappeared during the early summer; by the beginning of July they were returning; also many "Black-headed"
Gulls (Larus ridibundus), often still bearing the dark hood, and Common Sandpiper (Totanus hypoleucus) made their appearance here and there on the coast; one of these, roused from a stagnant pool, settled on a garden wall close by. On July 22nd I rowed from Port Erin round the Calf of Man. Sea-birds were there in very large numbers, especially Puffins (Fratercula arctica). As they are strictly protected by the proprietor, it is to be hoped that this interesting islet, now quite unassailable, at least from the land side, may long continue to be a refuge. On Nov. 28th, a cold and stormy day, a Swallow (Hirundo rustica) and Martin (Chelidon urbica), the former certainly and the latter probably a young bird, were flying together around the walls of Castle Rushen. They had been in the neighbourhood for about a fortnight previously, but after this day were not seen. On Dec. 23rd I found the remains of a Chough (Fregilus graculus) on the edge of a mountain summit 1400 ft. above sea-level, in the district which is the headquarters of the bird in the Isle of Man. On Dec. 26th there was in the bay a "Black-headed" Gull with the dark hood complete. The early assumption of this character seems not uncommon in our mild winter climate.—P. Ralfe (Castletown, Isle of Man).Birds singing during Thunderstorm.—It was curious to notice, during a heavy thunderstorm on May 23rd, many Thrushes singing most lustily, and also a few Chaffinches. The terrible peals of thunder, flashes of lightning, and the deluge of rain did not disturb them in the least. Are there many species of birds which sing under such conditions?—C.B. Horsbrugh (4, Richmond Hill, Bath).
The Protection of Wild Birds and their Eggs.—I have long had it on my mind to address a few words on this subject to 'The Zoologist,' and my pen has been quickened by the receipt during the last few days of letters and circulars from sundry sources inviting an exchange of eggs. My egg-collecting days have long since gone over, and though, admittedly, I once on a time derived an immense amount of pleasure from the hobby, it was never associated with such wanton and wholesale spoliation as obtains in certain districts nowadays—in flagrant and contemptuous defiance of the law. I write in no narrow-minded spirit, for I am very tolerant of egg-collecting in a humane fashion by boys who have a penchant for natural history, and of egg-collecting in reason by scientific ornithologists; but my hobby just now, and for the future, is the devotion of my energies to the preservation of birds, and the protection, within certain limits, of their eggs. Since the middle of April I have been wandering about the country, studying birds in their breeding haunts; I wound up my tour by staying for a week at a very pretty spot in one of the western counties, which boasts a stringent and not altogether ill-conceived "order" for the protection of sundry wild birds and their eggs during the summer months. I say "not ill-conceived" advisedly, for some of the "orders" of a kindred nature issued by County Councils elsewhere can only be regarded as legislative absurdities. However, this by the way. As for any heed or respect being paid to these "orders" in the majority of cases, it is out of the question to expect such a thing; while the following will illustrate the lengths to which contempt for the same can go. Before the end of my sojourn in the county to which I have particularly referred, I found that many of the boys for miles round were in the habit of collecting eggs for a certain individual in the neighbourhood, and of course were paid for them. This I heard incidentally had been going on for years. If ever I met a boy on the road, and enquired if he had any eggs, the answer was sure to be, "Yes; but I'm going to take them to——." I went to one boy's home, and glanced over the result of his depredations; scores and scores of eggs, most of them belonging to our commoner summer migrants, in all stages of incubation, and many of them of no value whatsoever, met my eye. Nests were taken wholesale as well as eggs, and in the nests were placed slips of paper purporting to bear the dates on which the various clutches were taken. Such dates were mostly imaginary, as I had ocular proof; but this is a detail. Now it is quite conceivable that complete clutches, with alleged full data, of eggs of the Redstart, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Golden-crested Wren, Dipper, Kingfisher, Redbreast, Common Sandpiper, Goldfinch, Turtle Dove, Tree Pipit, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, and Long-tailed Tit, &c, despatched here and there to collectors at a distance, may bring in exchange some rarity not procurable at home. But, to my thinking, a collection of eggs so vicariously amassed, and by means of pillage so eminently unscrupulous, is shorn of attractiveness and merit in no inconsiderable degree; while for a scattered army of boys, naturally reluctant from the very nature of their bargain to exercise the slightest discrimination, to be notoriously holding what may be appositely defined as oological briefs for an individual whose daily avocation is of a strictly professional nature, surely constitutes—in face of modern, and, at all events, well-meant legislation for wild birds and their eggs, and the fact that private enterprise is now doing excellent work in the same interests throughout the length and breadth of the country—a reflection on the neighbourhood. There can be few—very few—who have sympathy with the greed that prompts an organized spoliation of the nests and eggs of our wayside and woodland minstrels.—H.S. Davenport (Melton Mowbray).
Toad attacked by a Frog.—A number of notes have recently been published in the 'Field' describing "cannibalism" among Snakes; it may be useful to state that the practice is not unknown among Batrachians. When in the Transvaal I found that the electric lights of Pretoria not only attracted insects, but were regularly visited by Batrachians, who enjoyed the banquet of falling insects after impact with the light above. On one occasion my son, at one of these zoological rendezvous—and we must not forget the Bats that constantly hunt above— found a Toad (Bufo regularis) half-swallowed, head first, by a large Frog (Rana adspersa). He brought me the two specimens still in that condition, and they are now in my collection, though the Frog naturally disgorged the Toad on immersion in spirit.
The subject of "Enemies of the Toad" received some attention in the pages of 'The Zoologist' for 1897 (pp. 339, 369, and 432). We have now added the Frog as above, and fish also must be enumerated among the numerous animals that attack this unsavoury creature. Live Toads are stated to be the best bait for Cat-fish (' Audubon and his Journals,' vol. ii. p. 210); whilst Mr. Hudson once examined a good-sized fish (bagras) which had evidently died shortly after swallowing a large Toad ('The Naturalist in La Plata,' p. 78).—Ed.