The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 714/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Wild Cat.—In reply to Mr. Harvie-Brown's enquiry in 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 477), the best pictures from life of the Wild Cat with which I am acquainted are those published in the 'Badminton Magazine' for October, 1895; 'The Artist,' for July, 1897; and 'Autumns in Argyleshire with Rod and Gun,' just issued. These are from studies taken direct from life by Mr. Archibald Thorburn from a fine male then in the possession of the late Lord Lilford.—R.J. Howard (Shear Bank, Blackburn).
Nesting of the Marsh-Warbler in Wiltshire.—My son (H.S. Hall, Jun.) had the good luck to find a nest of the Marsh-Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris) on June 18th of the present year. He was Trout-fishing on one of the tributaries of the river Wylye, near the village of Stapleford, and spent some time in searching for nests of the Reed-Warbler in an adjacent osier-bed. He brought home five or six eggs, taken here and there from different nests, and one of these I at once picked out as a typical Marsh-Warbler's egg. The next day I visited the nest, and, from a careful study of its materials, position, and surroundings, my first impression was amply confirmed. I may state that during the last few years I have examined several nests of the Marsh-Warbler in the neighbourhood of Bath; two of these have been recorded in this Journal (cf. Zool. 1894, p. 304; 1895, p. 304) by personal friends of my own, with whom I have spent much time in studying the Marsh-Warbler's nesting habits. It is therefore with the fullest confidence that I am able to record this species as having bred in Wiltshire; whether it has been observed in this county before I do not know, but I have found no mention of it in Smith's 'Birds of Wiltshire.'—H.S. Hall (Clifton, Bristol).
Is the Siskin an Autumn and Winter Songster?—Is it the habit of the Siskin (Chrysomitris spinus), in a state of freedom, to repeat its song in autumn and winter? Five Siskins happened to fly into some fir-trees in our garden to-day (Nov. 17th), and one of the male birds proceeded to rehearse his artless but inspiring strain, which I had not listened to since June last. Hence I venture to ask of those who have had better facilities for studying Siskins than myself whether the Siskin is to be considered one of our regular winter songsters. Two pairs of Siskins passed the summer in the neighbourhood of Pitlochry, but I fancy that they nested in private grounds. At all events, we saw nothing of either uests or young, though both adult and immature birds were caught by a pointsman early in September.—H.A. Macpherson (The Rectory, Pitlochry).
Number of Eggs in the Nest of Swift (Cypselus apus).—The following incident may be worth mention in connection with this subject. In 1894 there was under the roof of the house where I was then living a Swift's nest containing three eggs, one of which had an imperfect shell, as if there had not been quite enough material to finish it. The following year the nest contained three eggs, all of which had perfect shells. This makes it probable that in the latter year the birds had just reached their breeding prime. Unluckily, in 1895 a ventilating shaft was run up close to the nest, in consequence of which the birds deserted the site.—A. Bankes (Leadenhall, The Close, Salisbury).
The Little Owl (Carine noctua).—At frequent intervals the Little Owl is recorded as having been obtained in some part of the kingdom, as if its occurrence was that of some rare straggler. The collectors of these birds are in reality, however, only thwarting the endeavours of those who for many years have been trying their utmost to establish this bird as an introduced species. Little Owls have been released in numbers in various parts of the kingdom for years past, and in some districts have bred regularly, and are in a fair way to becoming permanently established. If the stragglers from these colonies were left alone the species would speedily become general throughout the country, and we should have the pleasure of seeing this entertaining little bird frequently, for the Little Owl is not nocturnal, as is the majority of the Owl family, but is to a great extent diurnal, and a frequenter of comparatively open ground, rocks, orchards, &c. It is needless to add that it is harmless, and also that it is very useful. Introduced species are not always a success, but no harm and much pleasure is to be got by encouraging this bird; and the acquisition of the dead body of an introduced species, or of an escape, can be of no interest even to the collector of British birds.—E.G.B. Meade-Waldo.
The Little Owl in North Wales (?).—In the October number of 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 482), Mr. H.E. Forrest questions the occurrence of the Little Owl (Carine noctua) in Flintshire, and asks whether it has ever been obtained in North Wales. It may interest him and others to know that an undoubted specimen was shot in Anglesea by one of a Pheasant-shooting party in the winter of 1899-1900, and is now in the collection of Mr. Stivens, of this city. I am unable to say if it is likely to have been an imported bird.—W. Henry Dobie (Chester).
The Mode of Progression of the Phalacrocoracidæ under Water.—In the Cambridge Natural History volume on Birds, I happened the other day to come across the following statment, à propos of the method employed by the Phalacrocoracidæ in swimming under water: "Both wings and feet lending their aid to the performance." As far as the Shag (Phalacrocorax graculus) is concerned—and it may, I think, be considered typical of the genus—this statement is at variance with my own experience in the Orkneys, where I had the good fortune to see the bird in the act of swimming below the surface. On the occasion to which I refer, we had rowed to a small cave, in and near which the Shags were breeding in considerable numbers. On the appearance of the boat at the cave-mouth, all the Shags (between thirty and forty) with one accord tumbled off the ledges, dived into the water, and made their way under the boat to the open sea beyond. The floor of the cave was composed of smooth white sand, and covered with about six feet of water, which made any mistake on our part practically impossible. Every Shag that passed under us swam with its wings close to its sides, and head and neck stretched well forward; the feet alone were used in propelling the bird forward. Under certain conditions—as, for instance, in swimming in a confined area where collision with some object is possible, or in doubling after an active fish—I do not doubt that the wings are occasionally employed; but in a straight "run" ahead I feel certain that, as in the Colymbidæ, the feet alone are used.—A.H. Meiklejohn (Highworth, Ashford, Kent).
Gannet in Somersetshire.—I have lately discovered, in a friend's house, a fine adult specimen of a Gannet (Sula bassana), concerning which the following particulars may prove of interest:—As long ago as 1890 a labourer found the bird asleep about a mile from this village, and, thinking it was a strayed Goose, attempted to pick it up. The bird resented being handled, and the man therefore killed it. Subsequently my friend obtained the bird, and had it preserved.—Charles B. Horsbrugh (Martock, Somerset).
Early Jack-Snipe.—When Grouse-shooting with Mr. Assheton Smith at Vaynol, North Wales, we twice flushed one of these birds (Gallinago gallinula) on Aug. 28th. This is the earliest date I have ever seen this bird in Britain.—J. Whitaker (Rainworth Lodge, Notts).
Pectoral Sandpiper in Suffolk.—Mr. Arnold may be interested to know that his Pectoral Sandpiper (ante, p. 521) is the fourth specimen of Tringa maculata obtained in the county, all of which have occurred in the same locality. The first, shot by the late Mr. N.F. Hele in Thorpe Mere, on Oct. 5th, 1870, is now in the Hele Collection in the Ipswich Museum; the second was shot by myself not far from Thorpe Haven, Sept. 14th, 1892, and is still preserved in our collection here; the third was shot by Mr. C. Clarke, of Aldeburgh, in what we used to call the "First Mere," Nov. 8th, 1883, but I am unable to say in whose possession it now is. Our specimen was obtained quite by chance; three birds flew low over the mere within a long shot of me, and I fired at them, thinking them to be Curlew Sandpipers. A good many years have passed since then, but I well remember the intense delight with which I recognized my prize. It is just possible that Mr. Arnold's bird may prove to be the Siberian Pectoral Sandpiper (Tringa acuminata), of which two specimens have been obtained in Norfolk (Zool. 1892, pp. 356,405).— Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).
The Names of British Birds.—Mr. Meiklejohn's notes on the names of British Birds are very interesting, but I am afraid that we must not allow it to be supposed that the name of the Fulmar has been borrowed from the Foumart or Foul Mart. That both the bird and mammal have a strong smell is true enough, but there the coincidence begins and ends. Fulmar is the Gaelic name of the bird, variously spelt, but derived from purely Gaelic sources (cf. Martin, 'Western Isles,' p. 283; Gray, 'Birds of the West of Scotland,' p. 499; Harvie-Brown and Buckley, 'A Fauna of the Outer Hebrides,' p. 156; Newton, 'Dictionary of Birds,' p. 295). References in support of this might be multiplied, but they are sufficiently obvious. This Petrel is the Ice Petrel (Eis-Sturmvogel) of German ornithologists, and the Petrel glacial of the French; but in Britain it is always recognized by its Gaelic name.—H.A. Macpherson (The Rectory, Pitlochry).
The Origin and Meaning of the Names of British Birds.—Mr. Meiklejohn's paper revives the discussion of an interesting subject. A valuable paper on the meaning of English Bird Names, by Mr. H.T. Wharton, is to be found in 'The Zoologist' for 1882, p. 441; and the same volume contains a note by Mr. Wharton on the etymology of Wigeon. Prof. Newton's 'Dictionary of Birds' may of course be consulted with great advantage, the derivation of many of the names being therein indicated, although the meaning of some of our bird-names seems very obscure. I should like to remark that Nuthatch means Nutcracker—hatch and crack being really the same. Pie (ante, p. 513) has surely some reference to the pied plumage of the Magpie and other birds. The Pied Woodpecker has been called the French Magpie, and Pie-Finch is a local name for the Chaffinch with conspicuous white about it. The connection between Pochard and Poacher sounds slighter when we remember that the ch in the former is hard, and that another form of the word is Poker. Is it not possible that the Knot may have been so called from its short, thick, chubby shape? Gull and Guillemot have, I should think, different origins, and may be traced through the Welsh Gwylan and Gwilym. Buzzard may be traced through the French word buse. In reference to the bird's stupid and sluggish habits, this has a second meaning of simpleton; hence, "On ne saurait faire d'une buse un épervier."—O.V. Aplin.
Strange Hibernating Quarters for Vanessa io and V. urticæ.—The inside of a church-bell is a quaint hibernating place for butterflies, but I recently (November) found one of the former and two of the latter inside the bell at Colton Church, in Furness, North Lancashire. Their sleep must have been very deep to stand the sound caused by the clapper of the bell.—Harper Gaythorpe (Prospect Road, Barrow-in-Furness).
Enemies of the Cicadidæ.—With reference to a recent conversation with the Editor on this subject, I can state that some of the large Asilidæ (Diptera) prey on Cicadidæ. At Trincomali (Ceylon), in November, 1890, I caught a specimen of Microstylium apicale preying on a small cicadan (Tibicen nubifurca). Among the Diptera taken by Mr. Ogilvie Grant in Socotra is a specimen of a Promachus sp. caught feeding on a small cicadan. Probably both the Promachus and the cicadan will prove new to science.—J.W. Yerbury (Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, S.W.).
[These unfortunate Cicadidæ, sometimes advanced in argument as instances of the advantage of "protective resemblance," but which, as already pointed out (Zool. 1897, p. 160), are alike preyed on by Birds, Spiders, Beetles, Wasps, Hornets, Dragonflies, Mantidæ, are, as stated above by Colonel Yerbury, also attacked by Diptera. They are attacked in the egg condition by larvæ of ichneumons, and also sometimes afflicted by a fungoid growth. In Japan they are eaten by Trout. On the other hand, Xenarchus long since wrote the ungallant couplet—
"Happy the Cicada lives,
Since they all have voiceless wives."—Ed.]
Mammalia of Surrey.—As we are compiling a catalogue of the Mammalia of the above county, we should feel much indebted to any of your readers if they would draw our attention to any published or private notes relating to the subject, particularly with reference to the rarer species. Any communications may be addressed either to John A. Bucknill, Hylands House, Epsom, Surrey; or to H.W. Murray, F.Z.S., Woodcote Hall, Epsom, Surrey.
Index-Volume to New Generic Names in 'Zoological Record.'—The Council of the Zoological Society has given instructions for the publication of an Index-Volume to the new generic names mentioned in the 'Zoological Record,' vols, xvii.-xxxvii. (1880-1900). The volumes previous to vol. xvii. have been indexed in the 'Nomenclator Zoologicus' of Scudder, published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1882. The contemplated Index- Volume of the 'Zoological Record,' in order to increase its usefulness, will include names omitted from Scudder's list, and from the volumes of the 'Zoological Record.' Thus zoologists may have at their disposal (in the 'Nomenclator Zoologicus' and the new Index together) a complete list of all the names of genera and subgenera used in zoology up to the end of 1900. It is earnestly requested that anyone who knows of names omitted from Scudder's 'Nomenclator,' or from the volumes of the 'Zoological Record,' will forward a note of them, together, if possible, with a reference as to where they have been noticed or proposed, so that the new list may be made practically complete. Such information should be addressed to the Editor of the 'Zoological Record,' 3, Hanover Square, London, W.; or to C.O. Waterhouse, Esq., British Museum (Natural History), South Kensington, London, who is engaged in compiling the list.
British Snakes.—I should be very grateful to readers of 'The Zoologist' for their help in the preparation of a work I have in hand on our British Snakes. Particularly I would ask for the relative frequency of the Adder and Ring-Snake, and their average lengths in each reader's locality.—Gerald Leighton (Grosmont, Pontrilas, near Hereford).