The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 714/The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood, Patterson

The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood  (1900) 
by Arthur Henry Patterson

part 3 of a series of five articles 'The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood'. This part published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 4, issues 714 (December, 1900), p. 529–535


No. 714.—December, 1900.


By Arthur Patterson.

(Continued from p. 415.)

Bernicla leucopsis. Bernacle-Goose.—R. Recorded by Messrs. Paget as "not uncommon." At present a very uncertain visitor, several years elapsing without an example. Three on Breydon, June 13th, 1890; one also Jan. 19th, 1896. Three shot out of a flock of ten, Dec. 2lst, 1899.

B. brenta. Brent Goose.—N.U. In severe winters, during continuous snowstorms, common at times in the roadstead. Very numerous on beach and Breydon, January and February, 1881. A flock on Breydon during south-east wind, Feb. 7th, 1897. Two hanging on Durrant's stall, Feb. 8th, 1899, locally shot, were conspicuous by their difference in size. I have observed this disparity before. Local, "Scotch Goose."

Cygnus musicus. Whooper.—F. On approach of severe weather small flocks pass over, and in protracted frosts frequent Breydon. Several examples in some seasons brought to market, usually in January. On Jan. 11th, 1879, I saw two flocks on Breydon relatively numbering twenty-one and thirty-two. On March 8th, 1891, twelve seen; and May 29th of same year, four more.

C. bewicki. Bewick's Swan.—F. Occurring under similar conditions to the preceding. Occasionally three or four are brought to market during winter, which seldom passes without any. Five shot and eight others seen, Jan. 1st, 1893. Several odd birds since.

C. immutabilis. Polish Swan.—R. I have observed three or four examples of this species or variety in the market, noting the green lines down the toes, the web of the foot being black. Three hung on a game-stall in the market on Oct. 24th, 1890. An example shot on Breydon, Jan. 20th, 1897. Mr. Southwell tells me that in the many hundreds of cygnets which have been received at the Norwich swan-pit, not one example in the white down, which is peculiar to the Polish Swan, has ever been met with. [Stray Mute Swans of various ages are not infrequently shot. Five were killed in two shots on Breydon, Oct. 25th, 1881.]

Tadorna cornuta. Sheld-duck.—F. A few pairs nest on the North Norfolk coast. During a severe rime-frost in the winter of 1879 an unusual number passed along the beach southward, almost within arm's length. Frequent on Breydon in spring, where it hunts for Mollusca amongst the Potamogeton. It affects the water much less than others of the Anatidæ. Seventeen on Breydon, Jan. 13th, 1897, twelve of which I saw hanging on Durrant's stall on the 16th. Local, "Bergander."

T. casarca. Ruddy Sheld-duck.— A. "On Aug. 18th, 1898, an adult female, quite perfect in plumage, believed to have been shot near Yarmouth, was sent to Mr. Cole for preservation for Mr. Connop's collection" (Nor. N.S.).

Anas boscas. Mallard.—C. Since the Preservation Acts has certainly become somewhat more plentiful, although local gunners are wroth because the landed proprietors make sure of many flappers even before the close-season ends. Frequently crosses with domestic Ducks on the marshes. A cart-load on a gamestall, Feb. 26th, 1881.

A. strepera. Gadwall.—R. "Two or three generally shot every year on Breydon" (Pagets). It is not the case now. Three shot on Breydon, September, 1881, and afterwards hung up at Thomas's shop, were apparently all immature.

Spatula clypeata. Shoveler.—F. An increasing number nest on the Broads, and young birds are occasionally brought to market in autumn. Those shot in winter are doubtless immigrants. This Duck is uncommonly good eating, a friend comparing the flesh to that of the American Canvas-back. Under date, May 26th, 1818, Whitear refers, in his diary, to fifty-six eggs "this spring" being found by one man in the Winterton marshes (Nor. N. S. vol. iii. p. 247). Several lots seen on Breydon, August, 1881. (B. of S.). Sixty-five observed on Breydon, March 5th, 1890. Local, "Shovel-bill," "Spoonbill-duck."

Dafila acuta. Pintail Duck.—R.R. In January, the local "duck month" par excellence, if severe weather obtains, several may be brought to market. Several at Yarmouth, February, 1892.

Querquedula crecca. Teal.—L.L. Nests on the Broads. "Common; Mr. Girdlestone shot the young bird at Hickling, in July" (Paget). Small flocks of migrants on Breydon in the winter, and several in the market generally, although not so frequent as formerly. In 1891 Mr. Lowne received a variety with a thin white line or collar round the neck from Saxmundham. Number on Breydon, March 9th, 1898.

Q. circia. Garganey.—R.R. "Not uncommon, and occasionally breeding" (Pagets, quoting Girdlestone). A spring visitor nesting on the Broads, but, I fear, in decreasing numbers. It seems to be giving way to the Shovelers.

Mareca penelope. Wigeon.—C. Large flocks often visit Breydon during the spring migration; numbers also at the commencement of wintry season. Common also on the Broads during severe weather. On March 12th, 1888, five hundred Wigeon on Breydon; also three Pintails, two Whoopers, and one Scoter. March 16th, 1889, five thousand on Breydon. Local, "Smee."

Fuligula ferina. Pochard.—C. A common visitor in winter, the severer the weather the greater the numbers. I saw a "flapper," with the plumage of its wings quite stumpy, on sale, July 15th, 1880. Local, "Poker" and "Dunbird."

F. rufina. Red-crested Pochard.—A. The first recorded British specimen was shot on Breydon, July, 1818. Two at Yarmouth, 1826; and one or two others since. A female was shot at Hickling in December, 1867, with fifteen Common Pochards (B. of N. vol. iii. p. 200).

F. nyroca. Ferruginous Duck.—R. "Has in a very few instances been shot on Breydon" (Paget). Over twenty occurrences noted in the county. A male shot at Potter Heigham, Dec. 30th, 1866 (Connop Catalogue). Another, same locality, Dec. 26th, 1886; and a third (a young male) shot near Yarmouth, Oct. 9th, 1894.

F. cristata. Tufted Duck.—C. Probably on the increase. Numbers shot in severe weather. Local, "Golden-eye."

F. marila. Scaup-Duck.—C. Sometimes abundant in January, during sharp weather, usually coming ahead of severe frosts. Twenty-three in Yarmouth market, Dec. 20th, 1890; between thirty and forty hanging there latter part of October, 1898. A female, shot in October, 1898, had the crop full of Cyclas cornea. Female generally known as the "White-nosed dayfowl." The species also known as "Hard-fowl," "Grey-backs."

Clangula glaucion. Golden-eye.—F.C. Common in sharp weather. An adult female on Fritton lake, April 6th, 1888. Adult males very rarely met with. Local, "Rattle-wing."

C. albeola. Buffel-headed Duck.—A. An adult male shot at Yarmouth in 1830. Now in Norwich Museum.

Harelda glacialis. Long-tailed Duck.—R. "Very rare; occasionally shot on Breydon in hard winters" (Paget). I have seen several immature examples. Male on Breydon, Nov. 30th, 1898.

Somateria mollisima. Eider Duck.—R.R. After severe winter gales odd birds are occasionally seen, mostly female. They are extremely tame in most instances, and easily shot or stoned. An immature male caught in a fishing-net off Yarmouth about November, 1859; female, Breydon, Dec. 12th, 1883; nine seen in one flock, Oct. 4th, 1891; female killed by a stone on Nov. 20th, 1897, in the surf at Hemsby; another female swimming a few feet from my houseboat during heavy gale, Nov. 29th same year.

[Messrs. Paget refer to a "King-Eider (S. spectabilis)—a female, shot on Breydon, July 25th, 1813." It is thought the authority is not sufficient to justify its being included in the county list. But three examples have been killed at Hunstanton.]

S. stelleri. Steller's Duck.—A. A magnificent male shot on the Denes near Caister, February, 1830; now in Norwich Museum (Nor. N.S.).

Œdemia nigra. Common Scoter.—C. Flocks every winter off the coast; sometimes by hundreds. Very restless during snowy weather, with east winds. In ordinary weather will feed and drift towards the shore, occasionally flying back to some favourite feeding ground. Often seen in the Ham (a kind of bay), Gorleston. During December, 1899, millions of Mactra stultorum were washed ashore, mostly living. This mollusc is found an inch or two below the surface of the sand. On this species, no doubt, the Scoter delights to feed. Local, "Mussel-duck," "Black Duck."

O.fusca. Velvet-Scoter.—R.R. "Occasionally shot in hard winters; several in the severe one of 1829-30" (Paget). The same description applies to-day. Mr. E.T. Booth met with flocks of Velvet Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks off Yarmouth, February, 1882. One entangled in a herring-net off Caister, Oct. 21st, 1893.

Mergus merganser. Goosander.—N.C. Messrs. Paget record it as occasionally met with here in sharp weather. A punt-gunner killed five, all females, Jan. 11th, 1871. Several of both sexes, January, 1881 (B. of S.). The crop of one killed a few years ago contained several small Roach. Fine adult male in the market, Dec. 20th, 1899, and a female equally as good near Potter Heigham, Dec. 21st, 1899. Local, "Saw-bill."

M. serrator. Red-breasted Merganser.—R.R. "Not uncommon in hard winters; several in 1829-30" (Paget). It is a very uncertain visitor; in some years several, in others none. Several, January, 1894.

M. albellus. Smew.—N.U. Occasionally met with in severe winters in varying numbers. A good old male now and again shot in January. On Jan. 15th, 1881, a curiously mottled male, which had more than half assumed the white garb, was obtained on Breydon. Several in January, 1891, and in January, 1894. Local, "White Nun," "Weasel-duck."

[M. cucullatus. Hooded Merganser.—A. Messrs. Paget state that one of these birds was killed in the winter of 1829, "which Mr. Selby has"; but subsequent enquiries have failed to substantiate the record, or trace the specimen.]

Columba palumbus. Wood-Pigeon.—C. Huge flocks occasionally pass over from the north-east at the autumnal migratory period, as was the case on Dec. 22nd and 23rd, 1893, when thousands arrived, and the market was glutted. Thousands again coming over, Dec. 12th, 1898. They must have flown westward, as none appeared in the following Saturday's market. Local, "Ring-dow."

C. œnas. Stock-Dove.—F. C. Messrs. Paget in their time stated that it was "rarely seen." Now it arrives occasionally in some numbers in early spring, nesting in the county. Prior to the railway running across the North Denes (up to 1879) numbers came there at "haysel," seeking the juicy seeds of the sea-bindweed (Convolvulus soldanella). April 13th, 1895, saw thirteen in the market; Aug. 29th, 1896, six; Jan. 13th, 1898, ten, which had been baited with maize. Heavy bird in the market, Dec. 9th, 1899, weighing 15½ oz.

Turtur communis. Turtle-Dove.—C. Decidedly on the increase. The Pagets recorded it as "rarely seen"; and Lubbock states that, although formerly but an occasional migrant, it had in 1845 become generally distributed. It nests at Fritton. Formerly often seen on North Denes.

Syrrhaptes paradoxus. Pallas's Sand-Grouse.—A. During the invasion of this species in 1863 (when sixty were killed in Norfolk), several were obtained here. The North Denes and sand-hills were most frequented. The first Norfolk bird was found dead in the surf on May 23rd. A gunner named Nudd, on June 6th, shot a male out of a flock of nine. He mistook them for Plover, but described them to me as "running about like Rats." On May 27th, 1876, a flock was observed on the Winterton sand-hills; and in May, 1888, a second invasion occurred, when over eleven hundred were seen in Norfolk, and one hundred and eighty-six were killed. A male and female were seen on the Denes as late as Dec. 2nd (vide Stevenson's 'Birds of Norfolk,' vol. i. pp. 376–404; also vol. iii. pp. 392–396).

Phasianus colchicus. Pheasant.—C. And likely to remain so under existing conditions. Belated birds have occasionally been seen in the heart of the town.

Perdix cinerea. Common Partridge.—C. The curious chestnut variety, which has received the name of P. montana, has not yet been obtained in the Yarmouth district.

Caccabis rufa. Red-legged Partridge.—C. Before the North Denes were encroached upon, not seldom nested among the furze. I have seen exhausted birds in spring run down on the Denes, and in the town itself. Lubbock refers to similar occurrences, and of the attempts to leave our shores; but Mr. Southwell (2nd edit. 'Fauna of Norfolk,' p. 71) thinks this rather "indicative of its wandering habits than of migratory instinct." Local, "French Partridge."

Coturnix communis. Quail.—N.C. "Not uncommon" (Paget). Lubbock noted a decrease in numbers in his time. In this district it is now seldom seen or shot. A female example shot at Scratby, Sept. 13th, 1893. Two in the market, Nov. 18th, 1899.

Crex pratensis. Land-Rail.—C. Some captures in queer places made almost every autumn in the town. Of late years it appears to have been considerably on the increase. Several at one time sometimes hanging in the market.

Porzana maruetta. Spotted Crake.—N.C. "Not uncommon at Belton, &c." (Paget). May now occasionally nest on the Broads. Not so common as formerly. Several met with in September, 1881. Two hanging in the market, Dec. 13th, 1899.

P. parva. Little Crake.—R. Several recorded for district first half of the century. "Two were shot by Mr. Richers near Yarmouth, March, 1833.... One was preserved by Harvey, of Yarmouth, and sold for fifty shillings" (B. of N. vol. ii. p. 398). I have a pencil note of Harvey's on the margin of Messrs. Pagets' 'Sketch,' remarking, "Very rare, but has been met with."

P. bailloni. Baillon's Crake.—R. Two nests believed to be of this species found at Potter Heigham, June and July, 1866 (Nor. N. S.). Nest, same locality, June 9th, 1886.

Rallus aquaticus. Water-Rail.—C. This species is still fairly abundant with us. A number are shot in severe weather, and appear in the market. "In 1883 upwards of two hundred eggs were received by one dealer from Yarmouth, others being supplied as well—a traffic much to be regretted" (Howard Saunders, 'Manual,' 1st edit. 1889). I have seen many of its eggs brought to market.

Gallinula chloropus. Moor-hen.—C. Abundant on the Broads and marsh-lands.

(To be continued.)

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