The Zoologist/4th series, vol 3 (1899)/Issue 693/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries (1899)
various authors; editor W.L. Distant
3266437Notes and Queries1899various authors; editor W.L. Distant




Some Habits of Bats.—I have been very much interested in Mr. Oldham's account of the habits in captivity of the Whiskered Bat (Myotis mystacinus). I have kept nearly all the British species at various times, and in most things my experiences tally with those of Mr. Oldham. There is one point, however, in which they are at variance. He says (ante, p. 52):—"Neither foot nor carpus was ever used in any way to assist it in capturing or holding an insect. The use of either would of course be quite impossible during flight." I thought that it was fairly well known that Bats do most certainly use the "thumb" to assist them in rending asunder their prey, and I have frequently observed it in the case of the Noctule (Pipistrellus noctula) and the Serotine (Vespertilio serotinus). In the case of the latter, which was numerous on the borders of a large forest in North Germany, and which used to come abroad long before twilight, I was often puzzled at first to account for a sudden drop in their flight of several feet, and I put it down to the fact that they saw some insect below them, and dropped on to it; but, on shooting several with a saloon pistol, I actually found the claw of the thumb on one side imbedded in the tough elytra of a cockchafer (Melolontha), and dung-beetles (Geotrupes), which were held in the Bat's mouth.—Oxley Grabham (Heworth, York).


White Stoat.—I had a white Stoat (Mustela erminea) brought in on Feb. 2nd. It is a very good white all over, with the exception of a small brown patch on the top of the head, and of course the tip of the tail. Considering the extreme mildness of the winter, the fact is perhaps worth recording.—W.J. Clarke (44, Huntriss Row, Scarborough).

Grey Seal (Halichærus gryphus) at the Isle of Man.—In June, 1881, in a small unfrequented cove between Port Erin and Bradda Head, I came upon the almost entire skeleton of a very large Seal. I secured the skull, all the important teeth of which were missing, and have carefully preserved it ever since. I have not been able to identify it till a few days ago (February), when Mr. R. Lydekker was kind enough to compare it with specimens at the South Kensington Museum. It turns out to be, as I had suspected, that of the Great Grey Seal. Mr. Lydekker writes:—"The specimen you have sent is Halichærus gryphus, and agrees exactly with one of our examples." Mr. P.M.C. Kermode, of Ramsey, informs me that it has not been hitherto recorded for the Isle of Man.—Lionel E. Adams (68, Wolverhampton Road, Stafford).


Albino Squirrel in Wiltshire.—On Nov. 28th I happened to enter the shop of a north-country taxidermist to enquire whether he had had anything interesting in lately, when he produced the most beautiful Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) I have ever seen. It was pure white, without a dark hair anywhere, very long ear-tufts, and pink eyes. I should have very much liked to have secured it, but he told me that the owner would not part with it; and, on enquiring for data, all I could obtain was that it had been shot in Wiltshire, and the reason he gave for not telling me more, was that it had been shot by a keeper without his master's knowledge, and the man was afraid of getting into trouble.—Oxley Grabham (Heworth, York).


Winter Occurrence of Wheatear.—Having had occasion to visit the Nover's Hill Fever Hospital for the last four Wednesdays, beginning from the 1st of February, I have at each visit had the pleasure of observing a Wheatear (Saxicola œnanthe) haunting the newly laid-out grounds of that institution. I should imagine it to be a hen bird, as the mantle is still of a very sombre hue. On each occasion its movements have been such as denote complete satisfaction with its surroundings, and a very high distaste for man's proximity. The first time I saw it I made enquiries among the men at work on the grounds as to whether they had noticed the bird at all, but with no result. One man was interested, however, and, on being shown the bird alluded to, expressed his opinion that it was what he called "a Redsturt."—David T. Price (2, Upper Byron Place, Clifton, Bristol).

Early Appearance of Chiffchaff in Warwickshire and late Stay of Whitethroat.—The district around the great city of Birmingham is not one which the average ornithologist would look to for unusual migratory movements on the part of birds, but when the fullness of time arrives, I shall, I think, have a tale to unfold which will surprise not a few. Two instances it may be of interest to the readers of 'The Zoologist' to relate now. The season of 1897 was marked in this district for the early disappearance of summer migrants, and long after the last straggler had left I was astonished, during one of my long rambles on the 14th November, to meet with a solitary specimen of the Whitethroat (Sylvia cinerea). The day was warm and beautiful, and the bird busily engaged catching insects in a hedgerow near the water. Nov. 14th is, I think, the latest date on record for the appearance of the Whitethroat in Great Britain. The second instance is that of the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus rufus), which has broken all previous records by appearing at Castle Bromwich this year on the 16th February. Mr. Ernest C. Tye was shooting Lapwings on that date, when he thought he heard the well-known note of the Chiffchaff, but uttered in a low key, and caught sight of a little bird skulking about a bush. Scarcely believing that it could be the Chiffchaff he heard, at such an extraordinarily early period of the year, he brought it down, but with a full charge of No. 6 shot (the smallest shot he had with him), from a 12-bore, with the result that the little bird was terribly mangled. Mr. Tye brought to me this little mass of blood and feathers as proof of his correct identification, and, although it looked like a hopeless case, I determined to save the skin of this recordbreaker, and, by dint of much patience, I have made a good specimen of it. I consider the middle of March a very early date for the appearance of this bird in my district; but I have one previous record for the extreme end of February, when I saw a little bird skulking about the lower part of a hedgerow, but in such a manner that I could not get a sufficiently clear view to be absolutely positive whether the bird was Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler; and, as it remained silent, I had to trust to eyes instead of the more satisfactory ears. However, there need be little doubt that it was a Chiffchaff. That February was followed by a beautiful spring, and a hot, dry summer. All the spring migrants came early, and there was a good breeding season. I did not intend to go past these two instances, but I am tempted to add that on the 12th February last I saw Stonechats (Pratincola rubecula) at Earlswood. These birds cross this portion of the midlands towards their breeding haunts; and this again is the earliest date by far on which I have seen them here. This, in conjunction with the appearance of the Chiffchaff a few days later, led me to think that an extraordinarily early migratory movement was afloat; and on the 19th February I had a long ramble—I was walking for eight hours—hoping to get a glimpse of other migrants; but in this I was disappointed. However, I was rewarded with the grandest and most varied chorus of bird-song I can recall to memory for such an early period of the year. The following birds were in full and rich song:—Mistle- and Song-Thrushes, Blackbirds, Hedge-Accentors, Wrens, Starlings, Chaffinches, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers, and Sky-Larks. Great, Blue, Coal, and Marsh Tits were all giving their low calls; while the Long-tailed Tits were paired. A flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed overhead; Woodpeckers were preparing their nesting-holes; Kingfishers darted across my path, and sped before me in plentiful numbers. The sun was so genially warm that lolling on the grassy banks was a pleasure. Add to this the fact of Stonechats hurrying across to their breeding haunts, and the Chiffchaff with us, and we get a picture for the middle of February, 1899, to which I can find no parallel. It reads more like the middle of April. I do not think that the few frosty nights we have lately had will cause much inconvenience to other Chiffchaffs which may have arrived, as I have seen these birds singing vigorously in backward spring seasons; also in late autumn, when every twig has been thickly covered with hoar frost.—F. Coburn (7, Holloway Head, Birmingham).

I have recently examined the Chiffchaff (supra) which was killed at Castle Bromwich by a friend of mine on Feb. 16th last. It was singing, but in very subdued notes. Possibly, owing to mildness of the present winter, it may have wintered with us, or at least in this country; if not, then it is a remarkably early occurrence, seldom being heard in Warwickshire before the third week in March.—J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).

Pied Flycatcher in North Wales.— In Capt. Swainson's sketch of the distribution of this species (Muscicapa atricapilla) in Wales (Zool. 1893, pp. 420–424) no mention is made of Carnarvonshire, and only two instances of the bird nesting in Denbighshire are cited. To the woods—chiefly composed of oak, ash, and fir—in the Conway and Llugwy valleys, on the border of the two counties, at Bettws-y-Coed, the Pied Flycatcher is an abundant summer visitor. During a short stay in that neighbourhood in the middle of May, 1898, I used to see the birds daily, and so plentiful were they that on more than one occasion I encountered half a dozen pairs in the course of a morning ramble. On the 11th of the month I watched two birds carrying nesting material to a hole about eighteen feet from the ground in the bole of a tall oak in a small wood within a stone's throw of the village street, and saw two more pairs in the same wood. The deliberate but pleasing song of the male, reminding one of a Redstart's, is generally uttered when the bird is stationary, but sometimes during flight from tree to tree. When at rest both sexes constantly move their tails vertically, a habit common to the Whinchat and other birds. In its mode of feeding this species differs in several respects from the Spotted Flycatcher. Although I watched them for hours at a time, I never saw a Pied Flycatcher return to the same twig after darting out to catch an insect on the wing. The bird usually alights on a different branch, and often in another tree. Sometimes it clings Tit-like to a tree-trunk for an instant, and often feeds upon the ground. The chaste and beautiful colours of the plumage are never seen to greater advantage than when the bird hovers, exactly as the Wood-Wren does, in order to pick off an insect from beneath a broad sycamore leaf.—Chas. Oldham (Alderley Edge).

Regularity of the Greenfinch in beginning his Song.—The following table of dates may be interesting as showing not only how regular this bird (Ligurinus chloris) is in opening his song, but how little he is affected in this respect by the weather. Chaffinches, Yellowhammers, and Blackbirds are also fairly regular, but vary, according to my experience, more than this strong and hardy species. The song here alluded to is the familiar longdrawn snore, which is usually accompanied from the first beginning by the equally familiar twitter:—

1893, Feb. 18th.— Fine and warm.
1894, Feb. 20th.—Very cold; thermometer 22° at 8 a.m.
1895, Feb. 17th.—Bitterly cold, with hard frost.
1896, Feb. 21st.—Warm and damp.
1897, Feb. 19th.—Fine and mild.
1898, Feb. 24th.—Mild, after a few cold days.
1899, Feb. 25th.—Fine, with cold wind and early frost.

All these observations have been made in Oxford, either in Christ Church Meadow, the Parks, or the Botanic Garden, and before 10 a.m. I may add that, in my opinion, based on many years of observation during January and February, our resident species are not affected in any degree by the temperature, either in regard to pairing or singing. —W. Warde Fowler (Lincoln College, Oxford).

Observations on the Habits of a Cuckoo during the Breeding Season.—The case came to my notice last summer, by hearing that a Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) had deposited her egg for a second time in a greenhouse at Gosden House; and, calling on Lady Sitwell, she very kindly took me to see the nest, in which the young Cuckoo was then sitting with open mouth, and evidently well cared for. The Wagtail's nest was in a flowerpot, not quite full of earth, which stood on a shelf about seven feet from the ground; but a short ladder stood by, on which it was easy to stand and look well on to the nest. I saw the gardener, and heard his long story, and I advised him to put it all in writing as soon as possible. He sent me eventually the following account, showing that he is much more observant than most of his class, who have peculiar opportunities for observing the habits of birds, and he deserves, I think, great credit for the record he has kept, which I trust will be supplemented by another visit this year of the same birds.—H.H. Godwin-Austen (Nore, Godalming).

"I found that the Water Wagtail had started making its nest again last year, in the early part of April. I did not disturb the nest in any way, and I found the old bird had laid four eggs, when she began to sit. One day, when she was off the nest, I looked in, and found that a Cuckoo had laid an egg. I watched the nest then every day to see when the young Cuckoo was hatched. On May 18th I found the young Wagtails were hatching (there were two young ones and one coming out of its shell). Next day (the 19th) I saw the old Cuckoo around the greenhouse several times in the morning, as if she wanted to get in. I left the door open while I went to my dinner, and when I came back I disturbed the old bird, and I found the three young Wagtails and one egg lying on the shelf; one of the young ones was still alive, and a young Cuckoo in the nest not quite out of its shell. Some people have an idea that it is the young Cuckoo that turns the young birds out of the nest, but it is the old Cuckoo that comes and turns the young ones out; for the young Cuckoo was not quite out of its shell when the Wagtails were lying on the shelf. This is the third year the Wagtail has had its nest in the greenhouse. Last year she brought up two lots of young ones, and two years ago the same as this year. One day there were four young Wagtails in the nest, and the next day they all lay dead on the stage, but a young Cuckoo in the nest; though I did not know it was a Cuckoo's egg, as I thought the old Cuckoo was too shy a bird to enter the greenhouse to lay. When I found the egg this year I kept a good watch to see if I could detect the old Cuckoo feed the young one. It was a common occurrence two years ago to see the old Cuckoo going in and out of the greenhouse by myself and others, including two painters that were at work on the vinery. Close by we saw her with food in her mouth, and I have, with others, kept a good look-out this year to see if we could observe her feed the young one. We saw her many times very close to the door and lights; but I only saw her twice this year, viz. on May 22nd, when she came out of the top light at 8.30 a.m., and on June 1st, when I saw her come out of the door at 7 a.m. The old Wagtails still kept feeding the young Cuckoo until it was able to fly.—George Williams (gardener to Lady Sitwell, Gosden House, Bramley, Surrey)."

Notes from Reading (1898).—On April 4th I saw, in the flesh, a male Tufted Duck (Fuligula cristata), shot on the Thames at Sonning. Crossbills have been very abundant this year at Aldermaston, about eight or nine miles from here; I had a very young one brought to me on May 25th, probably one of a local brood. On April 30th a very fine adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) was shot at the Clappers, Caversham Lock. On July 27th I saw a family party of Weasels cross a road near Cane End, in South Oxfordshire. Otters seem to be fairly abundant in the river Kennett; I saw a young one alive, caught about Jan. 11th last, which is now at the Zoological Gardens. I have also seen a young and an old one in the flesh lately. On December 16th I saw a young male Garganey (Querquedula circia), shot the day before at Theale, a few miles from Reading; weight, 11 oz.; the blue speculum was a lovely bright colour. I presume it was one of last year's birds from Norfolk.—George W. Bradshaw (54, London Street, Reading).

Fecundity in Birds.—Respecting Mr. Basil Davies's very interesting article on the Fecundity in Birds ('The Zoologist,' 1898, p. 495) I should like, if I may, to make a few remarks, and to ask some questions, hoping that Mr. Davies will not resent the liberty I am taking in doing so. In Section I. (dealing with Finches, Buntings, and the larger Warblers) he writes:—"It is not, I think, difficult to see why they respectively lay their five and ten[1] eggs a season. These birds, resident and migratory alike, feed their young on various forms of insect-life.... The two parents would be unequal to catering for the wants of a larger brood than five. Neither could a hen of this size well produce more than five eggs." Now, the fact that insectivorous birds can rear a considerably larger brood than five is clearly demonstrated by the Tits, Wrens, and small Warblers (Chiffchaff, &c), as is also the fact that a bird of half the size of a Bunting can and does produce more than five eggs. Lower down, in Section II., he writes:—"Another point is that eight young Tits would hardly require more food that five greedy little Robins, and so the labours of the parents in the two species would not differ appreciably." And again, in discussing the smaller Warblers:—"Here again it is no more difficult to feed eight small Warblers than five large ones." Now, it seems to me that, though ten young Golden-crested Wrens (for instance) might not require altogether a greater quantity of food than five young Robins, yet, as the minuteness of the food would be in proportion to the smallness of the bird, each young Gold-crest would require to be fed the same number of times a day with gnats as a young Robin would with caterpillars (or even more); therefore the ten of them would give their parents twice as much work to do as would the five young Robins. In the introduction to Col. Montagu's 'Dictionary of British Birds' an account is given of a female Gold-crest feeding its eight young ones, which were placed in a cage upon the window-sill. The bird brought food every one and a half to two minutes during sixteen hours of the day. A friend once timed a Robin to and from its young, and found that there was an interval of about ten minutes between the visits. So that, as far as catering powers are concerned, it would seem that a Robin might easily rear more that five young ones. Mr. Davies suggests that our migratory Warblers do not produce a second brood, owing to the near approach of the migration period. This argument is broken down by the Swallow kind, all of which produce a second brood. In Section VI., on Doves and Pigeons, Mr. Davies says:—"I have only the old hackneyed explanation for the unvarying pair of eggs laid by these birds, i.e. that they are conspicuous among birds for their tender affection for their mates, and that the eggs always hatch out male and female in the same nest." Why should this affection to their mates, or the fact that the two eggs usually hatch out male and female, cause them to lay only two eggs? As a matter of fact, I have frequently known the two eggs of Domestic Pigeons hatch out two males. In discussing Plovers, Mr. Davies makes the statement that in species in which the young are hatched fully formed and able to run, the egg is abnormally large for the size of the bird. Is this so? Roughly speaking, the Pigeon and Partridge are about the same size. The young Pigeon comes into the world blind and perfectly helpless, while the young Partridge is hatched well-formed and able to run; yet the Pigeon's egg is if anything rather larger than that of the Partridge. Again, the young of the Guillemot, which lays as big an egg in proportion to itself as almost any other bird, are hatched in a helpless condition. In Section VIII. I find:—"Owing to the cover afforded by the stems, the young (of Crakes and Rails) need not be so large when hatched as the young of the Plover, consequently the eggs are much smaller, and the hen can incubate a greater number." Why need they not be so large? I should think it would be of more advantage to a young Plover, hatched out in the open, to be small, than it would be to a young Water-Rail, which among the reeds and rushes would not be so easily seen. And then, is a newly-hatched Rail much smaller in proportion to the adult than a young Plover? Lastly, in Section IX., Mr. Davies writes of gamebirds:—"I should not be surprised to learn that they were originally less prolific before they were persecuted under the name of sport." It is well known that game-birds are not only not "persecuted" during the breeding season, but that they are perhaps better preserved than any other bird. Are not the large clutches produced by Pheasants and Partridges rather due to the almost semi-domesticated life they lead, and to the artificial feeding, where they are very strictly preserved. This would account for the least-preserved species, i.e. the Ptarmigan, laying the smallest clutch. But this is only a suggestion. As an example of a local variation in fecundity, I may quote the Yellowhammer, which hardly ever lays more than three eggs in Fifeshire. I hear that clutches of three are not uncommon in Gloucestershire also. Seebohm gives four to five as the usual clutch of this bird.—Bernard Riviere (St. Andrews, N.B.).

Some interesting Variations in the Plumage of certain Birds.—Chaffinch (Fringilla cœlebs).—Plumage white, with the exception of rather more than half the tail-feathers, upper tail-coverts, one primary and one or two secondaries in one wing; also a few feathers scattered over the head, neck, and wing-coverts, which are normal. Besides this there is a faint tint of canary-yellow on the back and secondaries, and the rump is decidedly yellow; bill and legs pinkish horn-colour, and iris dark. The bird (a female) was shot at Poole by Mr. Alan Bengough. Could this be a hybrid between Chaffinch and Canary; and would any of your readers who have seen hybrids between these two species kindly state whether the plumage was anything like this?—Bullfinch (Pyrrhula europæa). Plumage pale grey, top of head and the tail dark grey, rump white, iris dark. The bird (a female) was shot at Stoke Gifford by Mr. J.V. Hewitt.—Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). Male; plumage a warm grey, pencilled with a darker shade of grey, very dark on the head and neck; collar white, iris dark grey. The plumage was not at all abraded or worn, but had all the beautiful gloss characteristic of the Pheasant's plumage. It was shot in North Devon.—H. J. Charbonnier (Redland, Bristol).

Notes from Point Cloates, North-west Australia, December, 1898.—As the weather and seasons greatly influence the scarcity or abundance of most birds, I give, first, a brief account of this year's weather. January, until the 20th, was one violent gale of cool south winds. The next four days were extremely hot and close, and on the 25th one of our north-west hurricanes, or "willy willy," brewed up, and spent its greatest violence immediately over here, accompanied by floods of rain. It subsided on the 26th, and was followed, in February, by heavy thunderstorms and rain, so that there was abundance of vegetation and insect-life throughout this locality. Quiet weather succeeded until September, when the usual heavy south winds set in. With the exception of a few light showers there was no rain in the winter. On Jan. 25th, as the wind and rain of the hurricane were commencing, I saw a flock of strange birds hovering over the house. I shot two, and they proved to be Frigate Birds (Fregata minor), the first I have seen here. The natives knew them, and said they were the sure sign of violent weather. There were a number of these birds for a few days after the storm. There were countless numbers of Swifts, Pigeons, and other birds flying at a great elevation the day the "blow" commenced. Feb. 21st I shot a Sacred Kingfisher (Todirhamphus sanctus) at the house, which, by the way, is situated among sand-hills about a quarter of a mile from the sea, the nearest fresh-water pool being thirty miles distant. Every year I notice one or two of these birds about that date. The same day a native picked up and brought me a Little Eagle (Hieraëtus morphnoides) in an emaciated state. It had one small yellow land-crab in its gizzard. The previous night had been one prolonged thunderstorm. I have not seen this bird before March 3rd. I had to pay a visit to an out-station of mine about sixty miles south-east. The intermediate country, where I had never seen water lying, was in many places flooded and boggy. At one spot was a large swamp with numbers of Wild Duck (Anas superciliosa), and Terns (Hydrochelidon leucoptera?). Many of the Ducks had young, and I found nests in hollow white gum trees. When returning, I shot a Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) in a patch of trees some miles from water; the head-plumes were black for three inches from the tip. Gould describes them as white. Next day I found a nest of the Tricoloured Ephthianura (E. tricolor), containing three eggs, and an egg of some sort of Cuckoo, not identified. March 24th, flocks of Swifts (Cypselus pacificus) were travelling south. Pied Honey-Eaters (Lichnotentha picata) and White-fronted Glycyphila albifrons were in abundance; also the Tricoloured Ephthianura, and a few Yellow-fronted E. aurifrons. Swift-flying Turnix (T. velox) were everywhere in the luxuriant grass, and I saw several young in down on the 29th. From March 31st to April 2nd countless numbers of Swifts were flying south; and I may mention Cossack and Roebourne, farther in the north-west, were partially destroyed by another hurricane on April 2nd. Turkeys (Choriotis australis) were abundant, and often varied our bush meals. April 5th, I visited the nearest pool which is permanent, and situated in a deep rugged gorge in the ranges thirty miles north of this locality. Here I shot a Painted Finch (Emblema picta), the first I have seen, and so far this is, I believe, the farthest south and west record. I was climbing up the precipitous cliffs out of the gorge, when it alighted on a ledge below me, and I was obliged to shoot there and then to secure the bird, and unfortunately smashed it; but there was no mistaking the species; its crop was full of small seeds. Gould says he thought its food might differ from other Finches, as its beak is of a different shape. Immediately after I shot a Yellow-bellied Shrike-Thrush (Collyriocincla rufiventris) and White-bellied Owlet Nightjar (Ægotheles leucogaster), but was unsuccessful in securing another fine Nightjar, though I flushed it several times. April 14th, I shot a male and female Emu-Wren close to a patch of mangroves; they were in company with immature Superb Warblers, and are the only ones I have seen. My correspondent, Mr. A.G. Campbell, of Melbourne, to whom I am much indebted for naming numerous birds, thinks it may be a different species to Stipiturus malachurus, as this is such a usually dry country; and I have forwarded him the skins, but not yet heard his decision. April 25th, shot two Sanderlings (Calidris arenaria). May 19th, shot a Black-eared Cuckoo (Misocalius osculans) on a rocky range here, the only specimen I have seen. May 27th, secured one out of two Barred-tailed Godwits (Limosa melanuroides) on the beach. May 29th, shot three Narrow-billed Bronze Cuckoos (Lamprococcyx basalis), and saw a considerable number of these birds evidently migrating. Flocks of Yellow Zosterops (Zosterops luteus) and immature Campephaga leucomela were often seen. The former were to be found until September, and I have no doubt were breeding, but I was not fortunate enough to find their eggs, nor could I spare the time to hunt for them. The Campephagæ disappeared in July; they were exceedingly shy. The White-winged Superb Warbler (Malurus leucopterus) was abundant this year, and I secured specimens of the Graceful Superb Warbler (M. elegans), but they were rare.

On June 10th a curious and, to a flock-owner, startling circumstance occurred. One of the natives brought me a live Rabbit, to know what the strange animal could be. Rabbits are now over the western bush border in numbers in the far south-east; but that is some nine hundred miles distant, and it is strange if they have crossed the continent from east to west without being observed east of here. I went to where the Rabbit was caught, and some distance away found a shallow burrow with numerous recent tracks and beaten roads, with heaps of dung radiating from it. We dug it out, but it was empty, and since then have seen no further sign of this pest. There have been numerous wrecks on the dangerous reefs here both before and after the country was opened out, but the last wreck was fifteen years since, and if Rabbits have been here since then it is extraordinary if the numerous natives never noticed them. Altogether it is a very puzzling affair, but it seems most probable the single specimen secured, which caused much alarm and correspondence, came from some vessel. Practically no visitors call here, so it could not have been turned down by a passing traveller on the road. Towards the end of June I went to look at some wonderful trees of which the natives informed me in a patch of unexplored country. We found them in a small basin of good soil surrounded by bad ranges. They were few in number, but remarkably interesting, being a species of palm tree about forty feet high. I am informed they are the cabbage-tree palm, which only grows in one other part of this colony, so far as is known. I shot on this trip a Delicate Owl (Strix delicatulus), and a Boobook Owl (Spiloglaux boobook). The former seemed to have fed mostly on beetles. I noted and shot a Collared Parrakeet (Platycercus semitorquatus); Rust-coloured Bronze wing Pigeons (Lophophaps ferruginea) in some numbers. Also secured a beautiful clutch of three Osprey's eggs. The Black Honey-Eater (Myzomela nigra) and Redcapped Robin (Petroeca goodenovii) were not uncommon. Gould thought the latter was only found in the interior. I have several times shot it close to the beach. Delicate and Boobook Owls were often seen in June and July.

July 15th, I secured specimens of Red-backed Kingfishers (Todirhamphus pyrrhopygius) and Pallid Cuckoo (Cacomantis pallidus), and two Jardine's Harriers (Circus jardinii). I had long tried to identify a fine slate-coloured Hawk that is fairly plentiful here in good (i.e. wet) seasons, but extremely shy. This year I have proved beyond doubt it is that beautiful bird (Jardine's Harrier), having shot several specimens, and secured nests with eggs and young. As early as April I noticed a pair of these birds building a nest in a small tree about eight feet from the ground. This nest I visited regularly, always seeing the birds, which made slow progress with their work until the end of August, when they forsook it, although the nest was just completed. Aug. 17th, I found a nest of this bird about seven feet from the ground, in a similar tree. It contained three fresh eggs, laid on a lining of green leaves. Aug. 27th, I took one egg from another nest, considerably incubated, and next day took two young, half-grown, from a nest about twenty feet from the ground, in a white gum tree. They would have made most interesting skins, but as my native boy and I were desperately hungry and hunting for food, we lunched off the unfortunates. I always found the crops of those I shot contained Lizards only. My friend Mr. Keartland, who was naturalist for the late unfortunate Wells Expedition, says he found this bird nesting in desert gums in the far interior. Close to the last mentioned nest was a pool of some size, on which were numbers of Coots (Fulica australis), Teal (Anas punctata), and small Grebes. I shot three Rollers (Eurystomus pacificus). This pretty bird is very abundant on the Gascoyne River. Asiatic Dotterel (Cirrepidesmus asiaticus) appeared in flocks about the middle of September, which is earlier than usual, and are still here on the open plains, and occasionally on the beach. Sanderlings (Calidris arenaria) were quite common on the beach since October; I shot five on the 13th. I saw Grey Plover (Squatarola helvetica) on the beach in November, but almost always singly. I shot a Golden Plover (Charadrius orientalis) last month. On Nov. 23rd I saw a White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Polioaëtus leucogaster) busy with something on the beach. On my approach it flew heavily away, with a long object trailing from its talons to the ground. This it eventually dropped, and I found it to be some species of sea-snake new to me, about 5 ft. 6 in. in length and 3 in. in diameter, still alive. I am sorry to say this noble bird will kill lambs and weakly ewes; I have caught it in the act. The same day, after some careful stalking, I shot a wader new to me. It appears to me to resemble a Purple Sandpiper, but it is many years since I last saw this bird in Iceland, when the Rev. H.H. Slater secured a specimen, and we took a nest of eggs on snow-covered mountains. Gould's handbook does not mention this bird, so I am in doubt. One day last winter I picked up, side by side, a dead White-breasted Sea-Eagle (Haliastur leucosternus) and Western Brown Hawk (Hieracidea occidentalis); they appeared to me to have fought a bitter fight, terminating fatally to both.—Thomas Carter (Point Cloates, N.W. Australia).[2]


Helix cartusiana in Suffolk.—In September, 1898, I found a single shell of this species at Little Glemham, Suffolk, in a small pit where there are veins of chalk in the soil. It was a "dead shell," but in excellent condition, and so fresh looking that it must have been living very recently. To make certain of the species, I submitted it to Mr. G.B. Sowerby, who pronounced it to be a typical specimen of Helix cartusiana. The place where it was picked up is some six or seven miles from the coast, and the character of the surrounding country very unlike the usual habitat of this species, it being rather enclosed and fairly wooded. H. cartusiana is not included in the Rev. Carleton Greene's list of the Land and Fresh-water Shells of Suffolk, and has not, so far as I am aware, been hitherto observed in any part of the county. In the adjoining parish of Marlesford a small obscurely marked variety of H. ericetorum occurs in some numbers. The ground colour is rather darker than in the type, and the banding either entirely absent or only faintly indicated. I have a single shell from Woodbridge of a similar variety, but much thinner, more fragile, and semi-transparent. Throughout a great part of East Suffolk this species rarely, if ever, occurs; Witnesham, near Ipswich, however, is given as a locality in Mr. Greene's list, on the authority of the Rev. J.W. Horsley.—G.T. Rope (Blaxhall, Suffolk).


The Vertebrates of Berkshire.—Are there any lists extant of the vertebrate fauna of the royal county? If so, I should be greatly obliged to any reader or contributor of 'The Zoologist' who would kindly inform me in what publication or publications such lists are to be found. I noticed in the 'Field' a week or two since that in the class Aves upwards of two hundred and fifty species have occurred, including, of course, the rarer visitants.—W.H. Warner (Fyfield, near Abingdon).

  1. The ten here refers to two separate broods of five.—B.R.
  2. See also: Corrections to Notes from North-West Australia in issue 698, September—section 'Notes and Queries', p. 371 (Wikisource-Ed.)