The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 713/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries  (November, 1900) 
various authors, editor W.L. Distant

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 4, issue 713, p. 517–521




Marten in Cleveland.—On the 9th of February last an example of the Marten (Mustela martes) was trapped at Swainby-in-Cleveland, on the estate of my friend Mr. E.B. Emerson. Mr. Emerson's keeper informs me that it was caught in a Weasel-trap set in the hollow space of a double wall, on the edge of the moor, at the top of the valley known as Scugdale. It was alive when found, and was held by one leg that was badly bruised. The animal was placed in a Ferret-box, and feigned death while the keeper was present, but when no one was near it became alert, and looked around as if to find a way for escape; on the reappearance of the keeper it again "played 'possum." The next day it died from the effects of the injuries it received while in the trap, and Mr. Emerson has had it preserved by Mussell, of Middlesborough, who tells me it is an old male. It is difficult to account for the occurrence of this rare animal in Cleveland, a district so far removed from its last stronghold, although one well suited to its habits. T.H. Nelson (The Cliffe, Redcar).

Albino Stoat in Lincolnshire.—A pure albino Stoat (Mustela erminea) was caught in Lincolnshire in September. Even the tag at end of the tail was pure white; eyes pink. I consider this a most rare variety, and am glad to have been able to add it to my variety collection.—J. Whitaker (Rainworth, Notts).


Black Rat in Forfarshire.—While fishing last month on the North Esk, I picked up a specimen of the old English Black Rat (Mus rattus), deposited apparently on the bank by a recent flood. A keeper who was with me at the time informed me that, although they used to be more common, this was the first he had seen for about fourteen years. I may add that it was on the Forfarshire bank, near North Water Bridge.—A.H. Baring (The Grange, Alresford, Hants).


The Lesser Rorqual in the Essex Blackwater.—On the afternoon of Sept. 23rd young Mr. George Cardnell was out in his small punt, when he saw a large animal, that he at first thought was a Sturgeon, in shallow water at the head of Mayland Creek, between Canney and Steeple Hall. He very pluckily attacked it, drove it on the saltings, and disabled it by means of a piece of old gaspipe that he had with him. He then fetched his father, Mr. Edmund Cardnell; they had then considerable difficulty in despatching it with large butcher's knives. I went to inspect the specimen while it was being cut up for manure by Mr. Nix, of Steeple Hall, and found it to be a young female Lesser Rorqual (Balænoptera rostrata). It measured just under 17 ft. in length, was black above, but paler on its ventral surface; the baleen was short, and with the bristly fringe was pale in colour. The flukes measured 6 ft. 3 in. across, and 1 ft. 2 in. wide in their widest part. The flippers, 27 in. by 6 in., were of a beautiful enamel whiteness on their central surface, but dark at each end. The head was 4 ft. in length, the lower jaws measuring 2 ft. 6 in. I also measured the gut, resembling a two-inch hose, for over twenty-four yards, and then did not get to the end. Mr. Nix estimated the carcase to weigh over two tons, as it was more than a load for two strong horses to drag.—Edward A. Fitch (Maldon, Essex).


Occurrence of the Melodious Warbler in Sussex.—On the 10th of May last an example of Hypolais polyglotta (Vieill.) was shot near Ninfield, and sent, together with some other birds, to Mr. George Bristow, Jun. I had the satisfaction of seeing the bird in the flesh, and I at once suspected its identity. On taking Dr. Ernst Hartert to view the specimen, he agreed with me in referring it to this species, and was able to match it with examples of H. polyglotta from the South of France. Mr. Howard Saunders also has examined the bird, and is satisfied that it is rightly identified. It proved on dissection to be a male. As pointed out by Mr. Saunders ('The Ibis,' 1897, p. 628), the Melodious Warbler may be distinguished from the Icterine Warbler (H. icterina) by being somewhat smaller, by the distinctly larger bastard-primary, the relatively shorter wing, and by the second quill being shorter than the fifth, the reverse being the case with the latter species. The present forms the second record of the undoubted occurrence of the Melodious Warbler in Britain.—W. Ruskin Butterfield (4, Stanhope Place, St. Leonards-on-Sea).

The Sardinian Warbler.—To avoid possible confusion in the future, it may be well to point out that the proper name for the "Sardinian Warbler" (ante, p. 450), which is common at Gibraltar, is Sylvia melanocephala. I do not find the true Sylvia sarda, now known as Melizophilus sardus (Marm.), Marmora's Warbler, included in Col. Irby's 'Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar.'— O.V. Aplin.

[It is of course impossible to maintain a perfect uniformity in nomenclature in these pages. This is quite apparent even in the writings of the British ornithologists who contribute to 'The Zoologist.' We endeavour as far as possible, without unduly interfering with the views of our contributors, to conform the avian nomenclature with that of Mr. Howard Saunders for Britain, and with that of Mr. H.E. Dresser for the Continental or "Western Palæarctic Region." Surgeon Hurlstone Jones, the writer of the paper to which Mr. Aplin's criticism is applied, is now serving on the China Station, and could not be consulted on the point. The two names were therefore printed as in the MS., the popular name "Sardinian Warbler" being considered as sufficient to prevent any misunderstanding.—Ed.]

Nesting of the Common Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—In the September issue of 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 424), Mr. J. Steele-Elliott remarks:—"Yarrell points out that the Sparrow may occasionally be seen in winter carrying materials to the holes they inhabit; this is evidently only for sleeping accommodation." I hardly think Yarrell's actual remarks convey the idea that nesting material collected in winter is intended only for sleeping accommodation, and, as a matter of fact, it is not. In large factories and workshops where there is a sufficient warmth the Sparrow nests amongst the rafters all the year round. I remember one instance where, in a large engineering works, I found a young naked Sparrow at the end of January which had fallen on to a bench from a nest in the roofing. It is astonishing what apparent stupidity and ingenuity are combined in the construction of some of these nests. In a large warehouse in Glasgow, where bolts and nuts were being packed, I used to notice many Sparrows' nests on the wooden horizontal tie-beams. Sometimes the whole mass of rubbish would tumble off on to the floor, when another nest would be immediately commenced in the same place. In one case, however, I found that the birds had securely anchored their nest by actually winding seven or eight strings right round the beam, which was nine inches deep, and weaving their nesting materials into them. In this particular nest neither hay nor straws were used. It was a large mass consisting entirely of strings drawn from the packing-bags, cotton-waste, and feathers. Roughly speaking, it was about fourteen inches diameter, and eight inches deep, open at the top, where the eggs were laid in a small cup-shaped hollow about three inches diameter.—Robert H. Read (Bedford Park, Chiswick, W.).

Rooks in London.—A new colony of Corvus frugilegus in London in the year 1900 deserves to be recorded in 'The Zoologist.' During the early winter months I often observed one or two Rooks about the open space in Hyde Park, where the Great Exhibition stood between the Serpentine and the high road to Kensington. I never saw them except in the early morning, and where they spent the remainder of the day I do not know. On March 28th I noticed that a pair of Rooks had completed a nest in a plane-tree in the Park close to the lodge at Prince of Wales's Gate. In the same tree there were some remains of an old nest, which had, I think, been occupied by a solitary pair some years ago. On April 6th a second nest was begun close to the first, but so far I never saw more than a pair of Rooks. Early in the morning of April 13th I saw five Rooks busy about the nests, but the second nest was not completed. I was away from London till April 26th; when, on my return, I hastened to see how the rookery was progressing, and found the original nest near the lodge was quite demolished, but the second one was still remaining. Across the Kensington Road, in the yard or garden of Kingston House, a large and flourishing settlement had sprung into existence. There were seven nests in a large elm-tree, and two in a plane-tree just beyond it. In Hyde Park there was a new nest in an elm-tree opposite 18, Prince's Gate. The second nest near the lodge was completed, and altogether there were ten nests, all occupied, as far as one could discover from below. The birds were all about the nests, and a most melodious chorus rejoiced my ears. So far as I can discover, there is no record of a rookery at Kingston House in former years. In May I visited Connaught Square, and counted twelve nests in the plane-trees there. The rookery in Connaught Square was deserted in the season of 1899.—Harold Russell (2, Temple Gardens, London).

Number of Eggs in the Nest of Swift.—With reference to the note on the number of Swift's eggs in last month's 'Zoologist' (ante, p. 479), I can fully confirm Mr. Steele-Elliott's statement as to there being at times, and by no means infrequently, three eggs in a nest of Cypselus apus. I had some correspondence with Mr. Howard Saunders on the subject, and my notes appeared in my yearly natural history notes in 'The Zoologist' for 1898. I have found three eggs in a Swift's nest that was isolated, some miles from any other, so that there was no chance of two hens laying in the same nest. "Other places, other manners," you know.—Oxley Grabham (Thornton Dale, Pickering).

Cuckoo's Egg in Song-Thrush's Nest.—On July 1st of this year I met a friend at Richmond who told me that a Song-Thrush had nested in a bush just beside his garden-door, and laid four or five eggs, but that it had deserted, and a Sparrow or some such bird had laid in the nest. I walked home with him, and examined the nest. It was an ordinary Song-Thrush's nest, built in a laurustinus-bush in the garden, a few feet away from the side-door, and contained three eggs of the Thrush and one egg of a Cuckoo. The nest and eggs were very wet and deserted. My friend told me it had contained four or five Thrush's eggs originally; so that, as is generally the case, one or two eggs had evidently been turned out by the Cuckoo when depositing its own. This is the only egg of Cuculus canorus I have ever met with in a Song-Thrush's nest, and is at the same time the largest and heaviest. The weight was 62·5 grains; average weight of Song-Thrush's eggs, 104 grains. The smallest Cuckoo's egg I have ever found was in a Sedge-Warbler's nest, and weighed 37 grains; average weight of Sedge-Warbler's eggs, 22 grains. The usual weight of a Cuckoo's egg is about 48 grains.—Robert H. Read (Bedford Park, Chiswick, W.).

Partridges in Nottinghamshire.—Partridges vary very much in numbers in Notts; this season on the sands they only represent a fair year, but on the heavy lands they are better, and in large coveys. Notts is becoming one of the very best counties for Perdix cinerea, and very big bags are in good seasons made, and though in years gone by shooting over dogs and walking in line we considered forty to sixty brace a good day, now with driving and turning out Hungarian birds we get 150 to 250 brace, and do not think very much of anything under one hundred brace.—J. Whitaker (Rainworth, Notts).

Pectoral Sandpiper at Aldeburgh.—I bagged a Pectoral Sandpiper (Tringa maculata) at Aldeburgh on Sept. 13th. I flushed it from a tussock in the Thorpe mere. It looked darker and a bit larger than a Dunlin, uttered a somewhat harsh double note, and flew more like a Snipe. The wind was north-east at the time.—E.C. Arnold (The Close, Winchester).

Great Skua (Megalestris catarrhactes) in Kent.—A female Great Skua was shot on Oct. 4th near the post-office at Dungeness by Mr. G. Bates, and forwarded to me in the flesh. It has been carefully mounted by Mr. Bristow, and may now be seen in the bird collection at the Hastings Museum.—W. Ruskin Butterfield (4, Stanhope Place, St. Leonards-on-Sea).

Levantine Shearwaters at Scarborough.—On Sept. 13th I had brought to be preserved an immature specimen of Puffinus yelkouanus, which had been shot in the South Bay here upon that date. It is a bird of the year (a female), and its identity has been confirmed by Mr. Howard Saunders, who has examined the specimen. This is not the first occurrence of this species at Scarborough, an adult male, which was identified by Dr. R. Bowdler Sharpe, being killed here on Feb. 4th, 1899, although its occurrences upon our coasts are, I believe, of extreme rarity.—W.J. Clarke (44, Huntriss Row, Scarborough).