The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 722/The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood, Patterson

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

part 5 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 722 (August, 1901), p. 294–300

3869341The Birds of Great Yarmouth and the Neighbourhood1901Arthur Henry Patterson


By Arthur Patterson.

(Concluded from p. 105.)

Sterna fluviatilis. Common Tern.—C. This species many years ago nested on Hickling Broad, and on many other parts of the coast, which it has since deserted. It is now most commonly observed leisurely migrating southward in August, following the coast-line in flocks, feeding on the "herring-syle," which may be seen flashing like myriad streaks of burnished silver at the surface of the water. Occasionally young birds may be seen, resting on the beach, fed by the old ones; three were observed thus tended, Aug. 19th, 1891.

S. macrura. Arctic Tern.—F.C. My experience of this species is, that it is in some years almost as plentiful as the preceding species. It follows the coast-line also in autumn, and in company with S. fluviatilis. Was unusually abundant in this neighbourhood in August, 1881, when many were killed. When on the wing, fishing, it is difficult, of course, to distinguish from the Common Tern.

S. minuta. Little Tern—N.U. Said to have formerly nested at Hickling, but had become rare in this county at that period, and has now quite deserted the Yarmouth district. It is occasionally seen on Breydon in autumn. Plentiful on Breydon, Aug. 1881. I saw several, Aug. 1900. It is a charming little creature, whose loveliness alone should ensure its immunity from destruction.

Xema sabinii. Sabine's Gull.—A. Two obtained on Breydon, immature male and female, Oct. 17th and 21st, 1881. A young male "consorting with Lapwings" was shot at Hickling, Oct. 6th, 1889 (Norf. and Nor. Nat. Soc).

Larus minutus. Little Gull.—R. R. May be looked for after severe north-westerly gales. Was, prior to February, 1870, considered a very rare species: in that month a tremendous easterly gale blew a whole flock to the east coast. Over sixty were killed in Norfolk, the majority adults (Norf. and Nor. Nat. Soc. vol. iv. p. 410). A beautiful black-headed adult was shot at Hickling, April 2nd, 1888 (Connop Catalogue).

L. ridibundus. Black-headed Gull.—C. This species breeds plentifully in the Broad district, and is common at Yarmouth at all times of the year, becoming numerous on the mud-flats and at the harbour mouth in autumn. During severe weather flocks are seen hunting for floating edibles on the river in the heart of the town. Protracted frosts make them remarkably tame, when they swarm on the town refuse-heaps, and are easily decoyed into a net. A birdcatcher, in December, 1890, caught one hundred and thirty-seven in three days with a clap-net on the North Denes. Fifty-six were taken at one pull. The same bird-catcher captured fifty-three out of a flock on Feb. 11th, 1895. On Nov. 27th, 1895, hundreds were attracted to a field at Browston, near Yarmouth, manured with herring refuse, most of which they devoured. Local, "Kitty."

L. melanocephalus. Mediterranean Black-headed Gull.—A. An adult male was shot on Breydon, Dec. 26th, 1886; the first example recorded as met with in the British Isles. The wind was south-west on the day it was shot, and north-west the day before. It was identified by Mr. G. Smith, in whose possession it still remains.

L. canus. Common Gull.—C. Frequent on Breydon in all stages of plumage. More commonly seen off shore during rough weather, generally flying shoulder to wind. Local, "Sea Cob."

L. argentatus. Herring-Gull.—C. Common in late autumn, when fine adult birds may be observed leading the beach, north or south, according to the winds. Numbers on Breydon, Nov. 1900.

L. cachinnans. Mediterranean Herring Gull.—A. A male of this species shot on Breydon, Nov. 4th, 1886. The first recorded British example (Norf. and Nor. Nat. Soc. p. 417).

L.fuscus. Lesser Black-backed Gull.—C. Common, more especially in immature plumage.

L. marinus. Greater Black-backed Gull.—C. Common on Breydon all the year round. A considerable number there all through the summer, mostly immature, with a few adult non-breeders. Blotched individuals, assuming the mantle, not unfrequently seen. Birds of the year (local, "Grey" Gulls) numerous during herring fishing and in winter along the shore, at which time there is in the early morning a movement southward, and again at eventide, northwards.

L. glaucus. Glaucous Gull.—N.U. A regular "hard-weather" species. Numbers brought in by fishing-smacks, Jan. 1881; I know of twenty-seven offered for sale in one lot, of which seven were fine adult birds. Several have been killed in the neighbourhood, odd birds being met with in ordinary winters. Example killed at Caister, Feb. 1899.

L. leucopterus. Iceland Gull.—R. An example killed in Nov. 1852 (B. of S.). A second obtained at Caister in Nov. 1874. Two others at Yarmouth and Scratby, respectively, Dec. 6th and Dec. 28th, 1892. I saw, and crept to within a few yards of, one near Breydon walls on Jan. 14th, 1899; it was subsequently shot. On May 3rd, 1899, I observed a white Gull, which I believed at the time to belong to this species. It remained with other Gulls two or three days, and was unmolested; but was afterwards shot, and identified as a variety of Larus canus.

Rissa tridactyla. Kittiwake Gull.—F.C. A peculiarly marine species, spending much time far out at sea. Is well known to the herring fishers. It inshores in stormy weather, and appears sometimes to perish in heavy gales, after which I have occasionally picked up several. On Feb. 16th, 1890, I found no fewer than thirty, with sixteen dead Razorbills at intervals, in a walk along the beach. It may be identified at sea by its erratic flight. Is not so common locally as formerly.

Stercorarius catarrhactes. Great Skua.—R.R. A rare bird on our coasts. Messrs. Paget state that four were shot in the Roads, Oct. 7th, 1827. Mr. Stevenson enumerates several for Yarmouth (B. of N. vol. iii. p. 346). One at Yarmouth, Oct. 3rd, 1881.

S. pomatorhinus. Pomatorhine Skua.—R.R. This species is the most frequent of the Skuas on the east coast of Norfolk. Several have been recorded during the century during gales, chiefly in October. Many were met with in 1874; after a heavy gale on Oct. 20th, "one game-dealer had thirty Skuas at one time, probably nearly all Pomatorhine" (B. of N. vol.iii. p. 350). A large migration in 1879, which Stevenson calls "the great ornithological feature" of that year. Several seen and obtained, Oct. 1881. I found the remains of one on the beach in Nov. 1892. Local, "Shyte-awk," "Boatswain," and "Molberry."

S. crepidatus. Richardson's Skua.—R.R. Messrs. Paget say that "both this, and its young, the Black-toed Gull, have occasionally been shot." Most are immature birds.

S. parasiticus. Buffon's Skua.—R.R. An occasional visitant. Stevenson (B. of N.) records several local examples. A fine male specimen was shot on Breydon in Oct. 1890, which on being placed on the floor of the punt vomited several live earthworms.

Alca torda. Razorbill.—C. Not uncommon in the Roads during the autumnal herring fishery. In my younger rambling days I observed that drowned examples were frequently washed ashore after continuous easterly gales. Of late years it has become comparatively rare, its place being taken by the Guillemot, which then was not so commonly stranded. Local, "Wil-duck."

Uria troile. Common Guillemot.—C. Occasionally abundant in the Roads; also on the herring fishing-grounds. Have known it hooked from the piers by amateur fishermen, by whose baits it has been attracted, and have obtained specimens that have been entangled in the meshes of longshore drift-nets. I have frequently seen dead or exhausted birds toppled ashore during easterly winds. My attempts to rear several have always failed; indeed, healthy birds, incarcerated in aviaries, seldom live for any length of time. I have occasionally met with the ringed or bridled variety. Local, "Wil-duck."

U. grylle. Black Guillemot.—A. Two recorded for Yarmouth (B. of N. vol. iii. p. 280). The first was picked up on the beach at Caister; the second shot in the winter of 1878–9.

Mergulus alle. Little Auk.—N.U. "Occasionally shot in Roads" (Paget). Is looked upon as a mere straggler, although it has been occasionally "struck" by severe gales, when numbers have been washed ashore or blown inland. An unusual fatality occurred in January, 1895. Three hundred and two were recorded for the county. I picked up two or three at the sea-line, but Yarmouth did not share in this visitation to the same extent as Blakeney and Wells in north Norfolk.

Fratercula arctica. Puffin.—R.R. Not a common bird on the Norfolk coast. "Some have been seen by Mr. Southwell on Yarmouth Roads in summer.... They are not (however) nearly so common as might be expected," considering the nearness of Flamborough Head, a favourite nesting-place of the species (Norf. and Nor. Nat. Soc. vol. iv. p. 415). I have rarely picked up dead examples on the beach. Local, "Sea-parrot."

Colymbus glacialis. Great Northern Diver.—R.R. Messrs. Paget observe that specimens of this bird were "occasionally shot on Breydon; the young bird is more common." This description holds good to-day, but it is always scarce, and the adult in summer plumage has never been obtained in Norfolk.

C. adamsi. White-billed Diver.—A. An example in winter plumage obtained at Lowestoft in 1852. Mr. E.T. Booth shot a specimen on Hickling Broad in December, 1872 (Norf. and Nor. Nat. Soc).

C. arcticus. Black-throated Diver.—R. An unusual winter visitor. Three or four recorded for Breydon and neighbourhood, two of them in March, 1871, another in November, 1880. The immature bird may be not seldom mistaken for that of the red-throated species, but is larger, and has a whiter neck.

C. septentrionalis. Red-throated Diver.—F.C. Our commonest Diver. Messrs. Paget record it as "common on Breydon." It is now only occasionally observed there, but is often seen off the beach, generally in late autumn. Mr. E.T. Booth observed hundreds during the last week of October, 1872, in close proximity to the herring-fleet outside the Cross Sands. One with full red throat shot, Sept. 15th, 1897. Local, "Sprat-loon."

Podicipes cristatus. Great Crested Grebe.—C. At one time this beautiful bird was becoming scarce on the Broads owing to the demand for its breast feathers. It has now, however, once more, thanks to careful preservation, become fairly common. I have observed it in mid-winter off shore, but its return to Fritton Lake is not until March, or when the frost breaks up. In June, 1896, one was hooked on Ormesby Broad.

P. griseigena. Red-necked Grebe.—R. "Three shot in January, 1828" (Paget). Have occasionally met with it in winter on sale in the market. Three more shot, Jan. 9th, 1891, when the migration extended to other parts of the east coast; and others in the great migration of 1865.

P. auritus. Sclavonian Grebe.—N.U. I know of no local occurrence in the full summer plumage, but it is not seldom brought to market in winter. Immature examples have been met with on Breydon.

P. nigricollis. Eared Grebe.—R. Rarely shot on Breydon or the Broads in Messrs. Paget's time, but several are recorded in the 'Birds of Norfolk,' mostly in spring. Has probably nested on the Broads. An example shot in this neighbourhood, Oct. 7th, 1899.

P.fluviatilis. Little Grebe.—C. More frequently observed and shot in late autumn and winter. During severe weather takes to the lower reaches of the rivers and Breydon. Several there, December, 1899. Six brought to market on Dec. 16th, 1899. Probably migratory additions from more northerly counties before sharp frosts. Local, "Dob-chick."

Fulmarus glacialis. Fulmar.—R.R. Generally met with in winter. Has been occasionally brought in by fishermen. I have picked up dead examples on the beach, which I incline to think have been thrown out of the herring-nets. "Occasionally shot or caught in the Roads" (Paget). Less frequent of late years (B. of N. vol. iii. p. 374). Mr. Gurney has a barbed fish-hook, 2½ inches long, with 28 inches of twisted cord, which was taken out of a Fulmar Petrel caught off Yarmouth in November, 1885.

Puffinus major. Great Shearwater.—A. An example was picked up on Caister beach on Dec. 22nd, 1892; and another was shot, in November, 1898, at Lowestoft.

P. anglorum. Manx Shearwater.—A. Very rare. Mr. Lowne had one from Breydon, Sept. 4th, 1883. Another procured there, Sept. 15th, 1891.

Oceanodroma leucorrhoa. Fork-tailed Petrel.—R. R. Messrs. Paget mention "a specimen found on the beach, Dec. 5th, 1823." Several have been recorded since. It has generally occurred in rough weather. One shot on the beach, Jan. 6th, 1891; and another taken alive in the town, Oct. 8th, 1898.

Procellaria pelagica. Storm-Petrel.—L.L. In the days (prior to 1876) when herring-luggers landed their catches on the beach, in the huge "carrier" boats, and when much refuse was thrown overboard, this Petrel was common, hundreds at times visiting the neighbourhood. The fishermen amused themselves by knocking them down with osier wands as they followed the herring-milts trailed behind the boats on pieces of string. In November, 1824, between two and three hundred, according to Messrs. Paget, were shot after a severe gale. Mr. E.T. Booth mentions seeing numbers off shore on November, 1872. It is now seldom seen except in exceptionally severe and continued gales. Mr. J.H. Gurney received one from Winterton Lighthouse on Dec. 9th, 1899.

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