The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 705/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Curious Variety of the Mole.—During last autumn five Moles (Talpa europæa) were caught on different dates at Morvilie, near Bridgnorth, Salop. They were of a peculiar colour—glossy light pearl-grey all over, except the under parts, which were bright buff, the general effect being very pretty. On Nov. 11th Mr. W.F. Warren kindly sent me one in the flesh, which is now in the Shrewsbury Museum. I have seen mounted cream and buff coloured Moles before, but never one like the above.—H.E. Forrest (Shrewsbury).
Lesser Shrew in Worcestershire.—As upon reference I cannot find that the Lesser Shrew (Sorex minutus) has been taken previously in this county, it may be as well to record one taken by the writer at Lower Hagley on Jan. 19th last.—J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).
Water Shrews taken Three Miles from Water.—During a short trip to Banstead last August, trapping small mammals, I was lucky enough to catch three Water Shrews (Neomys fodiens) (two males and a female), two in a small copse, and one in a hedge adjoining, at a distance of about three miles from water. The weather was excessively hot, and the ground like a rock. I think this is the first authentic British record of the occurrence of this Shrew at such a distance from water. I am aware that it is well known that this Shrew can exist at some little distance from water, as the following quotations show; but I think my record will be found to be the farthest known:—Bell's 'Brit. Quads.': "It is often found at some distance from water. There can be no doubt that it occasionally seeks its food on the land, probably when it has exhausted the ditch or brook to which it has attached itself." Also Jenyns, in his 'Brit. Verts.,' mentions: "My specimen was taken in a corn-field at some distance from any water." If this question were looked up I have no doubt it would be found that this animal can live entirely away from water like the Vole.—C.H.B. Grant (Putney).
Early Appearance of Chiffchaff.—On Feb. 25th I noticed a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus rufus) in a local farmyard. The bird was briskly catching flies, and appeared to be in good condition.—Wm. Delves, Jun. (Maynard's Green, Horeham Road, Sussex).
Great Tit nesting in active Bee-hive.—In the Chester Museum there is exhibited in a glass case a Blue Tit's nest in an empty bee-hive. A far stranger incident occurred last year at Ludlow. A Great Tit (Parus major) built a nest and laid twelve eggs in the midst of an active bee-hive. The bird went in and out through the same entrance-hole that was used by the Bees, and neither bird nor insects seemed to interfere with each other. The hive was about half-full of honeycomb, and the Bees hard at work the whole time. The eggs were taken on May 2nd by Mr. J. Palmer, Secretary of the county Bee-keepers' Association, who reported the circumstances to me.—H.E. Forrest (Bayston Hill, near Shrewsbury).
Nesting Habits of the Great Tit.—While thanking Mr. Tuck for his suggestion (ante, p. 82), I should like to say that I am aware that Parus major is sometimes in the habit of covering the eggs of an incomplete clutch with loose nest-materials. In these cases the nests are "apparently unfinished." Among the tenants of his nesting-boxes Mr. Tuck does not mention the Robin, which has used boxes here.—O.V. Aplin (Bloxham, Oxon).
Marsh-Harrier in Berkshire.—A Marsh-Harrier (Circus æruginosus), which, I believe, to be a three years' old cock, was shot Oct. 2nd, 1899, by my nephew Ralph Cooper; his wing was only just tipped, and in three weeks he could fly quite strong again. I keep him in a large wire aviary, where he can have a good thirty yards' fly when he wishes, and have one corner covered on the top, and the sides done up with ivy, where he roosts on the top of a large bavin. He is fed on Sparrows, Rats, and Rabbits.—T. Terry Cooper (Swallowfield, near Reading).
[This note was received through our correspondent Mr. George W. Bradshaw, who writes that the bird has also been seen and identified by Mr. H.M. Wallis, M.B.O.U., of Reading.—Ed.]
Nesting of the Hobby in Shropshire.—Last summer a pair of Hobbies (Falco subbuteo) nested near Ludlow, utilizing a Crow's nest several years old in the top of a large oak tree, but adding a little fresh lining of birch-twigs and bracken-stalks. Early in May the male was found dead near the tree, but the hen went away and quickly returned with a new mate. The first clutch of three eggs was taken July 1st, but it is believed that the birds bred again, as they remained in the neighbourhood, and were seen repeatedly throughout the summer.—H.E. Forrest (Bayston Hill, near Shrewsbury).
The Great Lapwing Year. A Correction.—I beg to correct an error in my notes on Golden Plover and Lapwings (ante, p. 40), in eleventh line from top. The words "more numerous than in any year since 1878 (the great Lapwing year"); it should be 1879.—Robert Warren (Moyview, Ballina).
Land Birds at Sea.—With reference to the interesting communication on this subject by Surgeon Hurlestone Jones (ante, p. 51), I am able to add two species to his list of land birds observed straggling out to sea. On February 24th, 1891, on S.S. 'Wordsworth,' bound for Brazil and the Plate River, a small unfamiliar Warbler settled upon the deck, and was seen several times during the day. We had last sighted land at Cape Finisterre, and the observations for noon of that day (24th) showed that our position was lat. 40° 12' N. by long. 12° 48' W., so that at the time we were a considerable distance from the coast of Portugal. The little bird followed the vessel the whole day, but was not seen the following morning when we arrived at Madeira about six o'clock. I was unable to identify the species, but a conspicuous yellowish stripe over the eye led me to believe it was Phylloscopus superciliosus. Whether our little visitor reached land in safety or was drowned I am unable to say. Upon the previous day, in lat. 44° 23' by long. 10° 24', a Sky-Lark (Alauda arvensis) flew close to the ship, but was not observed to settle, and soon disappeared. At about the same position, on April 29th, in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, two others accompanied the vessel for some distance. Another species which I have observed under similar conditions is the Wheatear (Saxicola œnanthe), which flew on board the Orient steamer 'Garonne' on Aug. 27th. 1892, off the coast of Norway, long out of sight of land, but unfortunately my notes do not give the exact position. We were, however, about a day's journey from the land. A Turtle-Dove (Turtur communis), Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and House-Sparrow (Passer domesticus) accompanied us for nearly a day between Harwich and Hamburg on Oct. 1st, 1899. At the time the birds were observed we must have been nearest to the coast of Holland or Friesland, and I have no doubt that they all reached the land in safety.—Malcolm Burr (New College, Oxford).
Sea-Lamprey at Shrewsbury.—On June 13th a boy caught a Sea-Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), thirty inches long, in the Severn, below the Welsh Bridge, at Shrewsbury. It rarely occurs so high up the river, though formerly common in the estuary.—H.E. Forrest (Bayston Hill, near Shrewsbury).
Remarks relating to Mimicry.—I am obliged to Mr. C.T. Rope for informing me (p. 85) of the likelihood of black Ducks throwing white feathers; in the case of the drake and two ducks under my observation the drake alone did this. The nesting Fowl certainly does not hiss as clearly as a Duck; nevertheless it makes a puffing sound of the same nature, and apparently made in just the same way. It would be indeed a triumph of mimicry for an animal not only to feign death, but also the appearance of the decay which usually supervenes. In the case mentioned by Mr. Rope—that of Bombinator igneus—the shrinking might perhaps be caused by an effort towards smallness rather than the appearance of decay; otherwise a batrachian might be capable of mimicking its own skeleton, which is hardly likely. Unconscious mimicry, apparently due to sexual relations, is a common feature in wedded couples, who notoriously tend to resemble each other in facial expression, if not in feature, after many years of cohabitation. This may be consequent upon developed similarity of thought, or something else. Some cynics would deny that it was due to mutual affectiou.—Charles A. Witchell.