The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 690/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries (December, 1898)
various authors, editor W.L. Distant

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 2, issue 690, p. 503–509

4107953Notes and QueriesDecember, 1898various authors, editor W.L. Distant




Polecats in Suffolk.—I have to record the capture of three more specimens of Mustela putorius in North-west Suffolk, two of which I examined in the flesh at Bury St. Edmunds on Nov. 16th, and could have purchased. All three came from the headquarters of this species in the Mildenhall district.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Suffolk).


Notes on the Bank Vole.—The Bank Vole (Microtus glareolus) from Kent, referred to by Mr. Oxley Grabham (ante, p. 477), is undoubtedly a large one, exceeding in length by half an inch the longest specimen from East Suffolk, whose dimensions I have taken. For the purpose of comparison it may be worth while recording the dimensions of some of the largest examples, among a number of individuals from the parish of Blaxhall, in Suffolk, carefully measured at various times. All the specimens whose measurements are here given exceed the average size of this little animal.

Head and body.
(Tip of nose to vent.)
(Vent to extremity
of hair or tip.)
Total length.
in. lin. in. lin. in. lin.
Male 4 0 2 0 6 0
Do 3 10 1 10 5 8
Do 3 11 1 5
Female 4 0 1 9 5 9
Sex not noted 4 2 1 7 5 9

The delicate fawn or orange tint with which the under surface of the body of adults is at times found to be suffused appears to me to be most pronounced in the winter, when the fur is in its best condition; but to determine this point further observation is needed. Two females caught here in January had the fur upon the abdomen beautifully stained with bright fawn-colour, while a male also taken in January had very little of that tint. Another male, in the month of February, was only slightly tinted. A third male, caught in March, was also but faintly stained with pale yellowish fawn in the middle of the abdomen; but another at the same seasou had all the under parts, excepting the inside of the thighs and fore legs, strongly tinged with yellow fawn. Of thirteen males and one female examined during the month of May and the latter part of April, not one showed much trace of this peculiar flush of warm colour; and in a female taken in July it was only slightly indicated. These animals are particularly fond of apples, and both Bank Voles and Long-tailed Field Mice often find their way into a fruit-house here, which is situated in the midst of a plantation, the former regaling themselves on the apples, while the latter confine their attention more particularly to the filberts and walnuts. During the winter Bank Voles often visit and even take up their abode in outbuildings where roots, bulbs, vegetable seeds, &c, are stored; yet those I have kept in cages would not touch carrots, parsnips, or crocus bulbs. In addition to the different kinds of food enumerated in Mr. Harting's article on this animal (Zool. 1887, pp. 369, 370), mine would also eat the berries of the holly, and of Cotoneaster microphylla, as well as the leaves of the dandelion. — G.T. Rope (Blaxhall, Suffolk).


Porpoises at Great Yarmouth.—These animals (Phocœna phocœna) have fared badly here through some reason—perhaps having become entangled in the fishermen's nets, where they died. Twelve dead Porpoises have come on shore a few miles north of the town in the latter part of October and beginning of November.—A. Patterson (273, Southtown, Great Yarmouth).


Food of the Redwing.—I examined the other day the crops and gizzards of several Redwings (Turdus iliacus), which have been very numerous. They all contained a goodly number of caterpillars, and the larvae of some beetle. I often think not half enough attention is paid to the food of birds by those who have the chance of dissecting them, for it is thus that we are enabled to judge of their usefulness or the reverse.—Oxley Grabham (Heworth, York).

Barred Warbler in Lincolnshire.— I shot an example of the Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) on Sept. 5th last from a bunch of brambles in a ditch not far from the coast at North Cotes. The bird was a young female, showing no trace of barring except on the tail-coverts, and having the irides brown. The weather at the time was fine and very hot, with a light east wind. With the exception of a single Willow Wren and a young Spotted Flycatcher, no other migrants were seen on that day. This bird is an addition to the Lincolnshire list, and is, I believe, the thirteenth British example.—G.H. Caton Haigh (Grainsby Hall, Great Grimsby, Lin colnshire).

Crossbills in Hants.—In connection with Mr. G.G. Corbin's interesting account of the occurrence of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) in South-west Hants (ante, p. 482), it may be worth noting that I saw a pair of these birds in the south-east part of the New Forest, close to a Scotch fir plantation, on May 19th of this year, a date that makes it probable that they had bred or were breeding in the neighbourhood. The male was in the orange-red plumage.—A. Bankes (Beaulieu, Hants).

The Cirl Bunting in Wales.—In Capt. Swainson's interesting note on the increase of this species (Emberiza cirlus) in Breconshire (ante, p. 478), he quotes from the first edition of my 'Manual of British Birds,' completed in 1889. If he refers to the second edition (pt. vi. April, 1898, p. 211), he may be pleased to learn that "in Wales it has decidedly spread of late, and is known to have nested in Brecon, Glamorgan, Cardigan, and Denbighshire, while it has occurred in other parts of the Principality."—Howard Saunders.

Owls and Kestrels.—Referring to Mr. L.E. Adams's "Plea for Owls and Kestrels" (ante, pp. 449, 450), it may be mentioned an order has been obtained by the West Suffolk County Council (a copy of which is enclosed) protecting these birds throughout the year, the taking of their eggs being also prohibited.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Suffolk).

Scoters in Hants and Isle of Wight.—Respecting the note by Mr. J. Whitaker as to Scoters in Notts (ante, p. 482), I may state that during Aug. 6th and 20th of this year I saw daily from half a dozen to a dozen Common Scoters (Œdemia nigra) lazily winging their way from Hayling Island (near Portsmouth) to the Isle of Wight, and when on the island, on one or two occasions, I saw them too. They are called in the south "Isle of Wight Parsons," and, I was informed, are found at Hayling Island and the Isle of Wight all the year round, so doubtless breed there. Whilst on an ornithological ramble at Hayling, I observed the Curlew Sandpiper and the Rock Pipit. This also between the dates already mentioned. I had always understood the Scoter was a rare bird to the south, excepting at certain seasons; but that it is not the case is evident from my own observations, and from what I learned as the result of careful enquiries.—W. Percival-Westell (5, Glenferrie Road, St. Albans, Herts).

Phasianus colchicus in Yorkshire.—The true old-English Pheasant is getting now so scarce that its occurrence is almost worthy of record. I do not think I have shot more than half a dozen in my life. On Nov. 8th Mr. Richard Hill, of Thornton, near Pickering, very kindly brought me a fine young cock that had been shot in his covers. It was in beautiful plumage, without a white mark on the neck, it had a conspicuously short tail, aud no spurs on either leg.—Oxley Grabham (Heworth, York).

Nesting Habits of the Moor-Hen.—In that most interesting book, 'Game Birds and Wild Fowl of the British Islands,' by Charles Dixon, I notice, in the details of the nidification of the Waterhen (Gallinula chloropus, Linn.), Mr. Dixon states (p. 82), "When the sitting bird leaves the nest it covers the eggs with bits of vegetation." Now, during the past twenty-six years, I have seen a large number of nests and eggs of this bird (principally in the neighbourhood of York, but also in various parts of the county), and I have never yet found the eggs covered; and my experience is confirmed by several practical field naturalists of my acquaintance to whom I have referred. I am of course quite aware that the habits of birds, like the colours of the plumage, are subject to variation, and perhaps this is a local instance; but that it is the rare exception (if it occurs) and not the rule in Yorkshire, I am firmly convinced. Perhaps other ornithologists will be good enough to inform us how far their experience confirms or refutes Mr. Dixon's statement.—William Hewett (12, Howard Street, York).

The Birds of the Riffelalp.—I was much interested in reading Dr. Sclater's paper on the Birds of the Riffelalp (ante, p. 474), as I was myself in quest of birds there in 1894, and again in 1896. Two of the birds he has specified I did not observe there—the Water Pipit and the Alpine Accentor—the latter being one of the very few alpine birds with which I am still unacquainted. I did, however, observe the Rock Thrush above the Riffelberg Hotel. The Nutcracker is, as Dr. Sclater observes, a very conspicuous bird of the higher forests of Switzerland, and when chaplain at Gimmelwald I was frequently asked by sojourners at the Pension Schilthorn, "What was the large black bird with the white tail" which they so frequently met in the woods? Until I had myself seen the Nutcracker I was unable to answer. I also observed near Murren that beautiful little song bird, the Citril Finch (Chrysomitris citrinella), which has a pleasing song frequently uttered when on the wing. It is much to be wished that some handbook of Swiss birds were available for visitors, as in all my chaplaincies I found that great interest was taken in ornithology by sojourners in the hotels.—Charles W. Benson (Rathmines School, Dublin).

Birds of Hertfordshire.—As it is desired by the Hertfordshire Natural History Society to have as complete a list of birds of the county as possible, I should be glad, as Recorder of Birds to this Society, if anybody having notes on any species which have occurred in Hertfordshire would send me particulars of same.—Alan Fairfax Crossman (St. Cuthbert's, Berkhampstead).

List of Birds observed in the District of Moffat, Dumfries-shire, from October, 1896, to February, 1897.—The following (fifty-five identifications) does not pretend to be a complete list of the birds of the district. My notes were made during a residence in Moffat extending over the period specified above, and in my walks for four or five miles around the town I simply made a note of what I saw. The town of Moffat is situated on the river Annan, and lies nineteen miles north-east from Dumfries. It is frequented for its mineral waters, which are saliue and sulphurous, and are said to resemble those of Harrogate. The district is hilly and not much wooded.

Mistle-Thrush (Turdus viscivorus).— Common.

Song-Thrush (T. musicas).—Common, but not quite so plentiful as the former.

Redwing (T. iliacus).—Frequently seen in small parties.

Fieldfare (T. pilaris).— V exy plentiful; hundreds seen feeding on the hawthorn trees close to the town.

Blackbird (T. merula).—Fairly plentiful.

Redbreast (Erithacus rubecula).—Common.

Golden-crested Wren (Regulus cristatus).—Very plentiful, perhaps the commonest bird in the district.

Hedgesparrow (Accentor modularis).—Occasionally met with.

Dipper (Cinclus aquaticus).—Plentiful.

Long-tailed Tit (Acredula rosea).—Parties of twelve or so met with on several occasions.

Great Tit (Parus major).—Fairly common.

Coal Tit (P. ater).—Also fairly common.

Marsh Tit (P. palustris).—Three or four birds only observed among the firs at Evan side.

Blue Tit (P. cæruleus).—Very common.

Wren (Troglodytes parvulus).—Somewhat plentiful.

Tree Creeper (Certhia familiaris).—Scarce; only two or three noticed.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica).—Saw a few about the middle of October.

Greenfinch (Ligurinus chloris).—Common.

Goldfinch (Carduelis elegans).—One or two only observed.

Siskin (Chrysomitris spinus).—Fairly common.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—Always plentiful.

Chaffinch (Fringilla cœlebs).—Plentiful.

Linnet (Linota cannabina).—Somewhat scarce.

Lesser Redpoll (L. rufescens).—A small party occasionally seen feeding on the alders at Annan side.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula europæa).—Single birds occasionally noticed, and on one occasion a party of five.

Yellow Bunting (Emberiza citrinella).—Not uncommon.

Reed Bunting (E. schœniclus).—One pair only noticed.

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis).—Small flocks often observed, principally near Hartfell.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).—Common.

Magpie (Pica rustica).—Scarce; three or four only noted.

Jackdaw (Corvus monecula).—Common.

Carrion Crow (C. corone).—Fairly plentiful.

Rook (C. frugilegus).—Plentiful.

Sky-Lark (Alauda arvensis).—Somewhat plentiful.

Kingfisher (Alcedo ispida).—Very scarce; a single bird observed on Annan.

Tawny Owl (Syrnium aluco).—Scarce.

Sparrow-Hawk (Accipiter nisus).—Very scarce; a single bird observed.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).—Fairly common.

Common Heron (Ardea cinerea).—Very plentiful.

Mallard (Anas boscas).—Not very plentiful.

Teal (Querquedula crecca).—Not very plentiful.

Ring-Dove (Columba palumbus).—Fairly common.

Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix).—Plentiful.

Red Grouse (Lagopus scoticus).—Very plentiful.

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).—Common.

Partridge (Perdix cinerea).—Very abundant, the district being well suited for Partridges.

Moor- Hen (Gallinula chloropus).—Very plentiful.

Coot (Fulica atra).—Scarce; only one observed.

Golden Plover (Charadrius pluvialis).—Plentiful.

Green Plover (Lapwiug) (Vanellus vulgaris).—Very plentiful.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticula).—Scarce; only one observed.

Common Snipe (Gallinago cœlestis).—Very plentiful.

Common Gull (Larus canus).—Plentiful.

Herring-Gull (L. argentatus).—Plentiful.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (L.fuscus).—Plentiful.

In the collection of a gentleman I saw specimens of the following birds, all of which were shot in the district:—Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Bittern, Spotted Crake, aud Skua.—Bruce Campbell (Greenbank Place, Edinburgh).


Notes from Great Yarmouth.—Various species of Sharks have been unusually abundant in local waters during the past summer, judging from those seen at less recurrent intervals than formerly. On July 7th a Thresher Shark (Alopecias vulpes), leugth 10 ft., turned up on the fish-wharf. Another reported from Lowestoft on Nov. 7th; length, 14 ft. 4 in. A Sunfish, undoubtedly the Short Sunfish (Orthagoriscus mola), reported as taken into Lowestoft on Sept. 14th. A Porbeagle Shark (Lamna cornubica), length 7 ft., on the fish-wharf, Oct. 4th; one, 8 ft. long (which I did not see), was landed on Sept. 28th. This species is more often taken than its commoner relative, the Blue Shark (Carcharias glaucus), which was at one time the commoner species. Of C. glaucus I have not seen an example this season. The largest Mackerel of which I have any local record was brought in on Oct. 21st; length 21£ in., girth 12 in., weight 3 lb. 7 oz. This exceeds my previous record of one in November, 1881, measuring 20 in. long, 10£ in. in girth, and weighing 2f lb.—A. Patterson (273, Southtown, Great Yarmouth).


Involuntary Migration.—During a recent visit to the Cape on board the mail steamship 'Norham Castle,' I witnessed an instance of this not uncommon, but too little recorded, occurrence. On Sept. 9th, when in about lat. 22° N., and at about a distance of ninety miles from the coast of North Africa, we encountered a wind blowing from the shore, and bringing flue sand, which afterwards blew from the opposite quarter, still charged with sand, as proved by the opposite sides of objects on deck being alike dusted. Numerous birds visited the ship, such as a couple of Hoopoes, two Yellow Wagtails, a Dove, Chat, Warblers, and other species. All these birds were weary, and frequently alighted on the booms, unalarmed by the presence of the many passengers on deck. They were likewise in a famished condition, as proved by a small moth which also flew on board being instantly seized by a Chat, who carried it to a boom and methodically devoured it. Again, in the evening, a Warbler was chased and struck down almost at my feet by another bird—unidentified—under the awnings of the upper deck, and in the full glare of the electric light; the attack and retreat of the bold marauder being almost instantaneous, but in the presence of the occupiers of many deck-chairs. In the evening I captured Dragonflies in the saloon, and a small bug belonging to the Capsidæ.

These birds must have been blown from the shore, and as we were only a spot on the area over which the wind blew, it may well be imagined that a considerable loss in avian life must have ensued. In the morning all had disappeared. On the voyage home, on board the 'Dunvegan Castle,' I saw a fine Coly which had been captured on board during a similar enforced exodus, and which had lived some considerable time in a cage, and was in splendid condition.—Ed.