The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 717/The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood, Patterson

The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood (1901)
by Arthur Henry Patterson

part 4 of a series of five articles 'The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood'. This part published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issues 717 (March, 1901), p. 98–105

3810179The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood1901Arthur Henry Patterson


By Arthur Patterson.

(Continued from vol. iv. p. 535.)

Fulica atra. Coot.—C. Not so abundant as formerly, but still plentiful. When the Broads are frozen over many repair to Breydon, where they fall comparatively easy victims to the puntguns. A number killed there, Dec. 13th, 1899. They also then occasionally take to the roadstead. Between three hundred and four hundred in one flock on Breydon near my houseboat, Dec. 26th, 1899.

Grus communis. Crane.—A. Though at one time a Norfolk resident, this species is now only an accidental straggler. Three or four are recorded for this locality; the last shot at Halvergate, May 29th, 1888.

Otis tarda. Great Bustard.—A. Although extinct as a resident, migratory examples of this bird occur from time to time in this county. One was observed to come over sea and drop in a turnip-field at Horsey in 1820 (B. of N. vol. ii. p. 30). Another was watched for some time by Capt. Rising on the Horsey marshes, Jan. 17th, 1867.

O. tetrax. Little Bustard.—A. A fine adult female shot on Southtown marshes, near Yarmouth, March 14th, 1858. One at Bradwell, November, 1885. A third at Waxham, Aug. 10th, 1889; and on May 3rd, 1898, one was shot at Kessingland in full summer plumage.

Œdicnemus scolopax. Stone-Curlew.—R. Rarely met with here. One shot on Breydon walls, July 3 1st, 1897, and another on the Bure marshes on Sept. 16th, 1898.

Glareola pratincola. Pratincole.—A. Messrs. Paget record: "A pair shot on Breydon wall. May, 1827." They were male and female; their stomachs were filled with beetles. Were extremely dirty and besmeared with blood, and Harvey's (the birdstuffer) wife washed them "as she would stockings," and hung them out to dry (B. of N. vol. ii. p. 65). A third example is referred to.

Eudromias morinellus. Dotterel.—R.R. Has in a few instances in late years been secured on the North Denes; much less frequent than in the earlier half of the century. An aged gunner recently informed me that (when a young man in the fifties), he several times met with these birds on the denes, which were so tame that he used to walk round them, in lessening circles, to get them to "bunch up" before shooting them. An example killed itself against Winterton lighthouse, May 30th, 1898; same time two were taken at Repps; two or three others August of same year.

Ægialitis asiatica. Caspian Plover.—A. An adult male of this Asiatic species (now in the Norwich Castle Museum) was shot in a market-garden bordering the North Denes, Yarmouth, on May 23nd, 1890. Two were seen, but only one killed.

Æ. hiaticula.—Ringed Plover.—C. With us more or less all the year round. In spring greater numbers, passing, one or two couples still endeavouring to nest on the shingle patches above high-water mark. In the seventies several nests might be discovered near the rifle-butts. I have known of some instances where eggs have been taken home by certain persons, and the young have been hatched out. This is a very wary species, often alarming flocks of Dunlins on the approach of danger. Local ornithologists distinguish a larger and a smaller variety. Local, "Ring Dotterel" and "Stone-runner."

Æ. cantiana. Kentish Plover.—N.U. May be "frequent," but is not easily recognisable, at a distance, from the immature of the Ringed Plover. I occasionally see a couple or more on Breydon in May; observed three there on a mud-flat, May 30th, 1898.

Charadrius pluvialis. Golden Plover.—C. Common in the autumn, when individuals with partly black breasts are sometimes obtained. We very rarely observe it on the spring migration, although thirty were observed in March a year or two since on the Bure marshes during a severe fall of snow. I observed one as early as July 14th, 1896, on the Bure marshes.

Squatarola helvetica. Grey Plover.—C. Small flocks of beautiful adults generally visit Breydon on their way north in spring. Sometimes abundant in autumn, as in late September and early October, 1899, when hundreds were seen, and many shot. A very late spring migrant on Breydon, June 15th, 1899.

Vanellus vulgaris. Lapwing.—C. Not so abundant as formerly, and very few nest in the neighbourhood now. Sometimes plentiful in autumn, using the uplands in daytime, and crossing to the marshes at nightfall. I have seen large flocks arrive in severe weather. Hundreds, in company with Gulls, feeding on the marshes on drowned worms, Jan. 7th, 1891, after a local inundation, due to a breakage in Breydon walls. Local, "Peewit," "Green Plover," and "Hornpie."

Strepsilas interpres. Turnstone.—C. More numerous in the spring migration than in autumn. A flock of these, in nuptial attire, scrambling among the refuse and weeds on the flint-walls of Breydon searching for Gammarus marinus is an interesting sight. They are equally nimble and restless on the "flats."

Hæmatopus ostralegus. Oystercatcher.—N.U. Messrs. Paget's remark, "Not uncommon on the beach," well applies to this species; it is seldom seen on Breydon, the favourite resort of so many waders. Seven, however, were killed there on Jan. 9th, 1897. Local, "Sea-pie."

Recurvirostra avocetta. Avocet.—R. Formerly nested in Norfolk. Less seen now than a few decades ago. Six were observed on Breydon, May 3rd, 1887; I saw four on the 4th. Three were noted same locality, June 15th, 1891.

Himantopus candidus. Black-winged Stilt.—A. "A pair shot at Hickling in 1822; another, two miles up the North River, in 1824" (Paget). The latter example is in the possession of Mr. Dye. Two or three others have since been recorded as seen or shot.

Phalaropus fulicarius. Grey Phalarope.—R.R. "Rather rare; eight or nine in the winter of 1828" (Paget). Shot occasionally in late autumn; one killed in a ditch near the town, Oct. 25th, 1896. One in mixed plumage shot Sept. 8th, 1899.

P. hyperboreus. Red-necked Phalarope.—R.R. The Messrs. Paget speak of it as "very rare." I have known of more occurrences of this species than the preceding. The Phalaropes are rather partial to small isolated pools; have known them seen or shot in ditches and ponds. One of this species swimming with Ducks on a pond at Hopton, Sept. 29th, 1881 (B. of S. p. 145).

Scolopax rusticula. Woodcock.—C. Uncertain visitor; always some, occasionally numbers, according to wind. The early October moon, with N.W. wind, favourable to its arrival. During the migration of this species many untoward fatalities are generally recorded, as beheading against telegraph-wires, capture in the streets, &c. Very dark example mutilated by Hooded Crows lying at tide-mark on beach, Dec. 27th, 1899.

Gallinago major. Great Snipe.—R.R. "Not uncommon in the autumn" (Paget). Before the sand hills were so devastated by traffic odd birds were sought for in September by local gunners. Seven or eight in neighbourhood in 1880. Usually very fat. Decidedly prefers the sand-hills of the coast to the marsh-lands. Example brought to market, Sept. 20th, 1899. I saw one there September, 1900. Local, "Solitary Snipe."

G. cœlestis. Common Snipe.—A few still nest in the neighbourhood. Occasionally during spells of severe frost a break in the weather will, for a few hours, or perhaps for a day or two, find the saline ditches near the Denes and on the marshes fairly alive with them. The first really sharp day's frost is always hailed with delight by those fond of Snipe-shooting. Such a "rush" occurred on Dec. 11th and 12th, 1899, when many scores were brought to Durrant, the game-dealer. A few hours' frost will reduce their plumpness; it was noticeable those brought up on the 13th were not so fat as those of the 11th. Continued severity drives them southward. In December, 1893, a remarkably large and russet-coloured female was killed at Caister, answering to Gallinago russata, Gould.

G. gallinula. Jack-Snipe.—C. The occasional late stay of this bird in its winter resort has led to the opinion that it has occasionally bred here; but, notwithstanding every effort having been made to substantiate this, nothing has occurred to justify the belief. This species does not seem so impatient of bad weather as the preceding.

Macrorhamphus griseus. Red-breasted Snipe.—A. This rare British species has been met with on three occasions: the first shot in the autumn of 1836 is recorded by Yarrell; the second in Oct. 1841; and the third, shot on Horsey Marshes, on Oct. 9th, 1845 (B. of N. vol. ii. p. 348).

Limicola platyrhyncha. Broad-billed Sandpiper.—A. Four occurrences are recorded for Breydon. The first on May 25th, 1836, is the first recognised British example. Other dates. May 26th, 1856, April 23rd, 1858, and Sept. 5th, 1891, the last one on a meadow near Breydon.

Tringa maculata. Pectoral Sandpiper.—A. First British example killed on Breydon in Oct. 1830. Five or six others since; three being shot respectively on the 10th, 12th, and 13th Sept. 1890. Another Aug. 18th, 1897.

T. acuminata. Siberian Pectoral Sandpiper—A. An adult example of this bird was killed on Breydon on Aug. 29th, 1892; a second example was subsequently discovered in the Norwich Castle Museum, which had been killed near Yarmouth in September, 1848.

T. alpina. Dunlin.—C. Abundant in spring and autumn, increasing in numbers in winter, especially during severe weather. Breydon mud-flats swarmed with them during sharp frost in second week of December, 1899. It does not nest in the county; but I have observed young birds on Breydon in 1898 as early as July 7th.

T. minuta. Little Stint.—F.C. This species is most frequently met with in autumn, particularly in the month of September, when in some years it is not uncommon on the Breydon mud-flats. Unusually numerous first half of September, 1881.

T. temmincki. Temminck's Stint.—R.R. A spring and autumn visitor. Mr. Stevenson, in 'The Birds of Norfolk,' vol. ii. pp. 363–366, gives a detailed account of occurrences, the majority being recorded from Breydon. It has a peculiar habit of towering and uttering its sharp ptirr-ing call-note.

T. subarquata. Curlew-Sandpiper.—F.C. "Common in winter, but rare in summer plumage" (Paget). Occasionally mixes in goodly numbers with Dunlins. Have observed several in nuptial plumage on Breydon. Local, "Pigmy Curlew."

T. striata. Purple Sandpiper.—F. A few usually observed in October and November; generally singly or in couples on the beach. Exceedingly rare at other times, or on Breydon. It appears here to be very unsociable, even with others of its own species. Has a decided partiality for weedy stumps left uncovered by the tide, amongst which it hunts for prey.

T. canutus. Knot.—C. Rarer in the red plumage than formerly. Very few now in May on Breydon. Common in autumn; and from its extreme tameness few escape the gunners, whose "call," in spite of lessening numbers, easily allures the survivors within gunshot. Is remarkably sociable, consorting with any of the waders who will tolerate its company.

Calidris arenaria. Sanderling.—F.C. Mostly met with on the beach. A few in spring in full plumage. In January beautiful examples, which on the wing look white, are frequent, especially in hard weather. Is the nimblest runner of all the waders.

Machetes pugnax. Ruff.—R. Formerly nested in the Broad district; has occasionally attempted to do so of late years, but to small purpose. In September immature birds are occasionally met with. Messrs. Paget refer to it as common at Acle and Reedham. Mr. J.H. Gurney gives the following calculation of the number of nests recorded during the past forty years in Norfolk ('Zoologist,' 1899, p. 115):—1858, about fourteen nests; 1868, about five nests; 1878, about two nests; 1888, about one nest; 1898, no nests.

Tryngites rufescens. Buff-breasted Sandpiper.—A. Three occurrences recorded at Yarmouth, respectively, in 1840, 1841, 1843. Two others have been met with in Norfolk, viz. at Sherringham in 1832, and another at Cley in 1889.

Totanus hypoleucus. Common Sandpiper.—C. Frequents the river Bure, also Breydon walls, in spring and autumn. Has a habit of feeding in little parties (eight being the greatest number I have ever seen together), and constantly flying and alighting ahead of sailing yachts or wherries, noisily protesting. I have long suspected its nesting here, having observed it all summer through; first Norfolk nest discovered under a gooseberry bush at Hickling, May 25th, 1897.

T. glareola. Wood-Sandpiper.—R.R. Generally met with in autumn; about one or two yearly. Stevenson (B. of N.) gives several dates; mostly Yarmouth examples. Three recorded August, 1893.

T. calidris. Redshank.—C. Nests much less abundantly on the marshes than formerly. Since close season is extended, may again increase. I observed over one hundred in one flock on Breydon flats, June 30th, 1897. Five killed, Dec. 4th, 1895. Some during sharp frost in December, 1899. Unusual in winter. Local, "Red-leg."

T. fuscus. Spotted Redshank.—N.U. "Occasionally met with on Breydon;... they are shot in all their plumages" (Paget), but are more often observed and obtained in the immature plumage of autumn.

T. canescens. Greenshank.—F.C. Occurs occasionally in spring, but more frequently in autumn. Small parties are met with sometimes in September on Breydon. When disturbed, its clear loud call of pleu pleu pleu is heard all over Breydon.

Limosa lapponica. Bar-tailed Godwit.—C. Abundant occasionally in May, although not so numerous as formerly. The gunners used to call "12th of May, Godwit day," having reference to its singular regularity of appearance. Saw seventy-seven on a Breydon flat, May 8th, 1895; seven hundred seen there. May 16th, 1898; about four hundred, May 10th, 1899. In spring is locally known as the "Red" Godwit, from its rufous attire.

L. belgica. Black-tailed Godwit.—R.R. This species formerly nested at Horsey, but has long ceased to do so; and is much less frequent than in the early part of the century. Several obtained on Breydon, Aug. 6th, 1896.

Numenius arquata. Curlew.—C. A few non-breeders continue with us all the summer. Numerous in autumn. Hundreds during the long drought in autumn of 1899 on Breydon, being starved out of the marshes. Preys here on Nereid worms living in the mud. Those known as "Harvest Curlews" are esteemed good eating, and are not so rank as those killed in winter. Specimen obtained on Breydon, Dec. 15th, 1899, weighed thirty-six ounces; the bill was 6¼ inches long.

N. phæopus. Whimbrel.—C. Generally numerous on Breydon in May, not so plentiful in autumn, and rarely seen in winter. Earliest recorded, April 12th, 1883. Always very noisy and remarkably wary. Local, "May-bird"; "Half Curlew."

Hydrochelidon nigra. Black Tern.—F.C. Formerly nested on the Broads, near Horsey; the last nest being found at Sutton in 1858. During the spring migration northward these birds seem to prefer following the trend of inland waters, leading the beach southwards in autumn. I have observed more cross Breydon in breezy weather than in calm. Thirty observed on Breydon, May 8th, 1894. I saw forty-two on a mud-flat in company with Gulls, May 8th, 1895. Local, "Blue darr."

H. leucoptera. White-winged Black Tern.—A. First recorded as British from a specimen killed at Horsey in May, 1853. In May, 1871, Mr. E.T. Booth shot four on Breydon; and five at Hickling, May, 1873, seeing several others. One on Breydon, April 13th, 1888; another seen there Aug. 12th, 1896.

H. hybrida. Whiskered Tern.—A. A female example was shot at Hickling on June 17th, 1847.

Sterna anglica. Gull-billed Tern.—A. Of the ten examples recorded for Norfolk, nine were obtained on Breydon; the first on April 14th, 1849; the last on Sept. 5th, 1896—an adult female approaching winter plumage.

S. caspia. Caspian Tern.—R. Nine examples, recorded in Stevenson's 'Birds of Norfolk' (vol. iii. p. 296), were killed at Yarmouth.

S. cantiaca. Sandwich Tern.—N.U. Examples obtained almost every year. Several on Breydon, Sept. 1892; two on Sept. 29th, 1894. I put one up from a floating timber on Breydon in Sept. 1899. It was sluggish, and reluctantly flew off in an easy Gull-like flight without protest.

S. dougalli. Roseate Tern.—A. It may be that this species was more frequent on our coast formerly than of late years, for Messrs. Paget remark that "Mr. Youell has known this to be shot here." One was seen by Mr. E.T. Booth on Breydon, May 26th, 1871. Of recent years it has been met with, and there is little doubt that it has nested on the Norfolk coast.

(To be continued.)

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