The Zoologist/4th series, vol 3 (1899)/Issue 699/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries  (September, 1899) 
various authors, editor W.L. Distant

NOTES AND QUERIES.


MAMMALIA.

CARNIVORA.

Seals in the Wash.—It may be worth recording that there still exists a colony of Seals in the Wash. On Aug. 18th, when sailing in a small yacht from Hunstanton to Lynn, we had a good view of a party of seven lying on a sand-bank a few miles from Wolferton; and, returning in the evening, we saw the same, or another lot, near the same place. The day was rather misty, but there seemed to be considerable variation both in size and colour among the party. Our boatman assured us that they breed in the locality, and that he had seen much larger parties on the sand-banks. It is much to be hoped that these most interesting animals will not be wantonly destroyed, or in any way molested.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds).

AVES.

Variety of Song-Thrush in the New Forest.—In July a somewhat peculiar variety of Turdus musicus was killed, and at the same time another almost similar specimen was seen—possibly both of one brood—in one of the woods of the forest. It is not mature, being about three parts grown, and its tail is rather short. On dissection it proved to be a male, and the following description indicates its unusual appearance:—Crown, back, and tail almost white; throat, cheeks, and breast pale buff, the usual crescentic black spots occupying the central portion of the tips of each feather being white, conspicuously so when closely examined; wings rather darker, more dirty looking than the back, but the reddish tawny outer edges of the primaries and wing-coverts are very marked, forming a double bar across the wing; legs and feet pale brown; eyes normal. On several previous occasions I have seen white, or nearly white, Thrushes, but they invariably had pink eyes, being albinos, as I supposed; but none were so near maturity as the one I have attempted to describe. A few years ago I recollect a man finding a nest containing four young ones, two of which were white. He took the whole brood with the intention of rearing all, but both white individuals died within a week of their capture, indicating perhaps that they were not so strong as their darker and more normally hued brothers. The latter grew to maturity, and, being both males, rewarded their protector with abundance of song.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

White Wagtails in County Cork.—Seeing in your last issue (ante, p. 364) Mr. Robert Warren's note on the occurrence of Motacilla alba in North-western Ireland, I think it may be interesting to state that I observed one bird of that species on the river Lee, Co. Cork, on April 20th of this year. The wind on 15th, 16th, and 17th was N. and N.E.; on 18th, 19th, and 20th, S. and S.W.—Wm. T. Crawshay (Chesthill, Perthshire).

Cirl Bunting probably often overlooked.—In reference to the note on Emberiza cirlus (ante, p. 322), I think that the bird is still probably overlooked in many parts of its range. Some time ago, when I reported the occurrence of a bird I believed to be E. cirlus in North Cheshire, I was promptly reminded that the species had never before been known in the district. With due care I therefore examined the specimens of E. cirlus and E. citrinella exhibited in the Natural History Museum, fully expecting to find I had been in error. However, the true E. cirlus at any rate resembled the bird I had seen quite as closely as did the common E. citrinella, and I returned unconvinced, after repeated examinations. On June 16th, whilst cycling through Dunham Massey, Cheshire, I saw a bird exactly resembling the first I had seen with a dark mark on the throat. I at once dismounted, but the bird settled in some growing crops, and did not reappear. As neither of the birds I saw were shot, it will, I think, be better to suspend judgment, and I am willing to admit after all they may only have been varieties of E. citrinella; but I hope these two suspicious occurrences, together with the recent discovery of the species in Wales, will stimulate ornithologists to keep a sharp look out for the true E. cirlus.Graham Renshaw (Sale Bridge House, Sale, Manchester).

Swifts Fighting.—According to an editorial note (ante, p. 269), Bree stated he had been told that Swifts had been found grappled together on the ground by their claws. It may interest readers of 'The Zoologist' to know that some time ago I caught two specimens of the common Indian Swift (Cypselus affinis) in this predicament in the Indian Museum buildings. When taken up and separated they proved well enough to rise and fly when placed on the floor. This species, I find, can almost invariably rise from a flat surface; I once found one which could not, but flew away on being thrown into the air. Does the power of rising from the ground vary in different individuals in Swifts? It would almost seem so, for Dr. P. Rendall, writing ('Ibis,' 1892, p. 222) of this same species (Cypselus affinis) in Africa, says, "This bird is unable to rise from the ground." The gait of C. affinis on the flat is a plantigrade crawl, the feet resting on the ground to the hock, and being moved alternately. This I ascertained by catching and tying the wings of an adult specimen the other day. I thought the point worthy of investigation, as so few adult birds are plantigrade, though I have found the young of Rollers (Coracias indica), Woodpeckers (Brachypternus aurantius), and Barbets (Cyanops asiatica and Xantholæma hæmatocephala) to be so in the course of my investigations out here. Seebohm, I believe, stated that the Guillemot and Razorbill walked on the tarsus, but this is not, in my experience, invariably the case with the former, at all events.—F. Finn (Indian Museum, Calcutta).

Curious Variety of the Green Woodpecker.—My brother and I have just seen, in the local birdstuffer's shop, what we consider a most curious and handsome specimen of the Green Woodpecker (Gecinus viridis). The bird was a pale greenish yellow colour all over the body. There was a scanty amount of red over the head, and the "moustache" was hardly noticeable. It was a female, and was shot this year near Bath. Knowing that Woodpeckers are not generally subject to great variation, I hope this note may prove interesting.—Charles B. Horsbrugh (4, Richmond Hill, Bath).

Demoiselle Crane on the Norfolk Coast.—A female specimen of Grus virgo was shot at Brancaster, on the Norfolk coast, on July 31st, and sent to Mr. Clarke, of Snettisham, for preservation, by whose courtesy I had the pleasure of examining it. It had been feeding on the growing corn, and was shot in a corn-field. Whether it was an escaped bird, or whether it may be allowed to rank as an addition to the Norfolk list, I am content to leave to those of your contributors who have for so many years worked at the avifauna of the county to determine.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds).

Grey Plover in Summer Plumage in Yorks.—We have just received (Aug. 19th) a female Grey Plover (Squatarola helvetica) for preservation, which was shot by Mr. J.J.A. Riley on Midgley Moor, Yorks. We think the appearance of this bird in summer plumage in this locality a somewhat rare occurrence.—Rowland Ward (166, Piccadilly).

Curlew (Numenius arquata) at Sea.—At 9 a.m. on Aug. 5th, at a distance of about twenty miles from the south-west coast of Ireland, I observed three Curlews flying at a height of about a hundred and fifty feet above the sea. The birds held a south-westerly course, and came close to the ship, which was not moving at the time; they then altered the direction of their flight, and disappeared to the south-east. The morning was very bright and fine. I do not recollect to have seen these birds so far out at sea before.—K. Hurlstone Jones (H.M.S. 'Repulse,' Channel Squadron).

Distribution of a private Collection.—The museum of the late J.R. Wallace, of Distington, was sold by auction on August 1st and following days. Mr. Wallace lived for many years in the Isle of Man, and several of his British birds were procured on that island. Lot 1145 included an immature Black-tailed Godwit, procured on the Isle of Man, and presented to Mr. Wallace by Dr. Hulme. Lot 1160 included a Grey Phalarope, in autumn dress, from Man. Lot 1188 included a Richardson's Skua from Langness Point. Lots 1210 and 1227 included female Smews from the Isle of Man. Lots 1229 and 1230 consisted of two pairs of Shovellers from the Isle of Man. Lot 1241 was a Whooper from the Isle of Man. Lot 1211 consisted of a Brent and a Bernacle Goose from the same. I also bought a Cornish Chough from the island. The rarest Cumbrian specimen was a well authenticated example (immature) of the Spoonbill. Another bird which I secured was a hybrid between the Hooded and Carrion Crows, killed at St. Bees. The three last named go to the Carlisle Museum. There was also a local Hoopoe, but it was much faded, and we have already two local specimens in the Carlisle Museum; so I did not bid for it. A fair specimen of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and some other good birds were bought for the Tring Museum.—H.A. Macpherson (Allonby Vicarage, Maryport).

AVICULTURAL NOTES.

Cape Scops Owl (Scops capensis) in Captivity.—I had the rare pleasure of observing one of these queer little Owls in captivity. It lived in a small cage for about a month. Its food consisted mainly of Rats, which were trapped, killed, and given him. It was astonishing what sized Rats the little Owl could devour. He would seize them with one foot, and tear off the flesh, leaving nothing but the head. Small mice were swallowed whole. He also ate small birds and raw beef occasionally. When approached he would erect his ears, blink and roll his eyes, half-spread the wings, and rock from side to side with a sort of circular motion, thus presenting a very comical appearance. If I stuck my finger into his cage, he would peck at it violently. He had still another method of showing his displeasure, or expressing his rage, by snapping his jaws together with a loud clacking noise. This little Owl only measured 6½ in. in length. Iris light golden yellow; feet and bill greyish black.—Alwin C. Haagner (Modderfontein, Transvaal).

[I kept a specimen of the Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo maculosus) for some years in captivity. I used at first to feed this bird largely on live Rats, which it attacked most courageously, and would sit on the body of its victim all day, though it always kept the Rat's head outside its feet both before and after death. After some months in captivity it lost its courage, and would not approach these rodents. Mice it would swallow at once, and at any time of the day. This specimen was captured one evening in the heart of Pretoria, where it had flown against the telegraph-wires, and had fallen to the ground. When disturbed it uttered the clacking noise well described above by Mr. Haagner. I shot many specimens by daylight. They are artful, cowardly birds, running, or rather slinking, among the herbage before taking flight, and have to be followed down. In the pursuit of this bird, I felt like running down a thief who always tried to hide.—Ed.]

REPTILIA.

The Cape Monitor: Correction.—With reference to the remarks of the Editor of this magazine at the foot of my note on this animal (ante, p. 226), and to those of Mr. Charles Tanner (ante, p. 272), I find I was guilty of an error. The fact is, I wrote albigularis by mistake, and only after perusing the first mentioned remarks did I become aware of my error. Carefully examining the reptiles, I found that they belonged to the species V. niloticus. This is a certainty, as, in addition to the other points of distinction, the nostril is situated midway between the tip of the snout and eye, rather nearer the eye. With reference to my other remarks concerning the creature's habits in captivity, I can only repeat what I have said, having carefully verified my statements.—Alwin C. Haagner (Modderfontein, Transvaal).

PISCES.

Pelamid in Cornwall.—On Aug. 17th I captured, in Helford River, a Pelamid, or Belted Bonito, Pelamys sarda (Day). This specimen (a male) measures 19¼ in. long, and weighed 3½ lb. It has only five broad vertical bars on the back, not thirteen, as figured by Day. The narrow oblique stripes, however, correspond with Day's figure, and are ten in number. The stomach was empty, except for a few pieces of vertebral column of some small fish, apparently Pilchard. My specimen is being preserved by the Marine Biological Society at Plymouth. Day says of this fish that "it is abundantly spread throughout the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and also through the Atlantic Ocean"; so it seems curious that it should not occur more frequently on our coasts.—H. Leyborne Popham (R. Western Yacht Club, Plymouth).

INSECTA.

Great Wood-boring Wasp (Sirex gigas) in Ireland.—It may interest Mr. Pentland (cf. ante, p. 184) and others to know that a gamekeeper obtained two Great Wood-boring Wasps (Sirex gigas) last summer in Co. Down, and that I was given another specimen from the same county. I once saw a Spider catch a Sirex gigas by the antenna, and hold it till it succumbed.—Charles B. Horsbrugh (4, Richmond Hill, Bath).

[In the 'Irish Naturalist' for this year (p. 26), Mr. W.F. Johnson writes:—"Sirex gigas has made its appearance in widely separated localities. I received three specimens, all females; the first was captured at Acton House, the next came from Loughgall, and the third from Downpatrick. Evidently this undesirable addition to our insect fauna is making every effort to establish itself in Ireland."—Ed.]

Vanessa atalanta Twenty Miles from Land.—A specimen of this butterfly flew on board the ship when we were some twenty miles from the Irish coast, on Aug. 5th. It was in perfect condition, and very lively. I observed it still about, and still very lively, thirty-six hours later, whilst coming up the English Channel. As we had not been in port for six days, it almost certainly came from the coast. A small moth—some species of Pyralis—came on board at the same time.—K. Hurlstone Jones (H.M.S. 'Repulse,' Channel Squadron).