The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 724/Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries  (October, 1901) 
various authors, editor W.L. Distant

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issue 724, p. 388–393



Pigmy Shrew in Yorkshire.—Those interested in the distribution of the Pigmy Shrew (Sorex minutus) may be glad to learn that I trapped four examples at Kilnsea, near Spurn Point, in Yorkshire, last August. It was apparently quite as abundant there as the "Common Shrew," and, curiously enough, commoner than Mus sylvaticus, which, owing perhaps to the prevalence of Stoats and Weasels, was unusually scarce.—R.I. Pocock (Brit. Museum, Nat. Hist.).

Stoat and Weasel Trapping.—It may interest some readers of 'The Zoologist' to know that Stoats and Weasels can be trapped without difficulty with large Schuylers. This, at least, was my experience at Kilnsea, near Spurn Point, in Yorkshire, this August. The first Stoat caught in this way was taken in a trap baited with bread, and set for Water-Rats. It was snapped across the middle of the neck, but was strong enough to pull the trap into the water, where I found it in the morning drowned. I was inclined to suppose at the time that this catch was due to the lucky chance of the Stoat running into the trap, and accidentally setting it off, when hunting along the Water-Rat runs; but the position of his head with regard to the bait suggested an attempt at tasting it. Hence I resolved to try again, and, baiting this time with the skinned carcase of a Bank-Vole, set in a dyke, at the mouth of a hole supposed by a farmer's lad to harbour a Weasel. Two days afterwards I found a fine Stoat lying dead, killed on the spot by the fracture of the parietal bone of the skull, and with the bait, in spite of its unsavoury odour, clenched fast between its teeth. I afterwards caught a Weasel in the same way, the trap being baited with Bank-Vole unskinned. The Weasel was caught well behind the skull, but was apparently killed without a struggle.—R.I. Pocock (Brit. Museum, Nat. Hist.).


Chiffchaff Singing in Autumn.—While dressing on the mornings of Sept. 28th and 29th, I distinctly heard a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus rufus) singing, my bedroom window being open at the time. As I was rather sceptical about it, I went out afterwards into the garden, and saw the bird busily feeding among the leaves of a sycamore. I watched it for about a quarter of an hour, and during that short time it sang thrice—not faint-heartedly, but in good voice. I heard it several times afterwards up till one o'clock, when the song ceased altogether. The weather was remarkably warm, and the sun very bright.—A.H. Meiklejohn (Ashford, Kent).

Breeding of the Blue-headed Wagtail in Sussex.—A nest of the Blue-headed Wagtail, containing four eggs, was found in a turnip-field near Winchelsea on May 31st, 1901, by Mr. George Bristow, Jun. Three of the eggs were accidentally broken, but the remaining egg (unblown), together with the nest and the parents, have been examined by Mr. H.E. Dresser, Mr. Thomas Parkin, and the present writer. Mr. Dresser kindly writes that the birds "come nearest to Motacilla beema, Sykes [Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1832, p. 90; cf. Sharpe, Cat. Birds, Brit. Mus. x. p. 521, pl. vi. fig. 6 (head only)], which species, or rather subspecies, differs from M. flava in having the cheeks white, with only a broad blue streak through the eye.... Sharpe gives the range as Eastern Siberia, India, &c.; but it has been obtained several times in Southern Europe."—W. Ruskin Butterfield (4, Stanhope Place, St. Leonards-on-Sea).

Ægialitis hiaticula nesting in Middlesex (within London Postal District).—Last May (1901) I was surprised to find, on the sewage farm here—which is within the London postal district—Redshanks, Dunlins, and Ringed Plovers,[1] the last named in considerable numbers. From the behaviour of one pair of Ringed Plovers, I was convinced that they had nested, but feared that the eggs had been destroyed by a harrow at work in the field. As I was on the point of starting for Holland, I asked the superintendent, who is a good and observant naturalist, to keep his eye on them while I was away. He now tells me (Aug. 27th) that during my absence he saw three young Ringed Plovers freshly hatched, and actually caught one of them and handled it. This seems to be proof of an extremely interesting event. There is no doubt that Snipe breed in the same place. A Snipe was bleating overhead daily during May, but, though I searched carefully for many hours (wading knee-deep in liquid sewage), the vegetation was so excessively thick and rank, that I was unable to find the nest. I had to-day (Aug. 27th) the pleasure of watching a Snipe on the ground for some minutes through a glass, and in the previous week a brace of Teal were shot (young birds). There are now numbers of Yellow Wagtails about (this Wagtail nests here regularly), and large flocks of Starlings and Greenfinches, the latter feeding on the pinkish seeds of persicaria. A small lot of Ringed Plovers are still about, some of them apparently birds of the year, and a few Green Sandpipers, and Redshanks. I was very close to three of these last birds for some time this afternoon.—R.B. Lodge (Enfield).

Broad-billed Sandpiper in Kent.—An immature female of the Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola platyrhyncha) was procured on Aug. 31st last near Littlestone-on-Sea, Kent. The specimen has been preserved by Mr. G. Bristow, of St. Leonards. This is the second Kentish example of this species that I have examined in the flesh. The first, also an immature female, was obtained at the same place on Sept. 6th, 1896, and was recorded by Mr. Boyd Alexander (Zool. 1896, p. 411).—L.A. Curtis Edwards (31, Magdalen Road, St. Leonard's-on-Sea).

Occurrence of the Broad-billed Sandpiper in Sussex.—An immature male of Limicola platyrhyncha was shot on the shore near Bexhill by my friend Mr. A.C. Wendell Price, on Sept. 14th last. Early in the morning of that day he fired a "right and left" at a party of three birds (the only waders observed during the morning) flying strongly westward, and killed the specimen in question, together with a Dunlin. On viewing these birds the next day, I had the pleasure of identifying the Sandpiper, which is very similar to the recent Kentish specimen recorded by Mr. Edwards, supra.W. Ruskin Butterfield (4, Stanhope Place, St. Leonards-on-Sea).

Wood-Sandpiper in Co. Dublin.—On Aug. 19th I flushed and obtained a Wood-Sandpiper (Totanus glareola), in immature plumage, near Sutton, Co. Dublin. This, I believe, is the first occurrence of this bird in Co. Dublin, three having been shot at various times in the adjoining county of Wicklow, and one in Co. Waterford, this specimen being the sixth recorded from Ireland.—W.J. Williams (19, Garville Road, Dublin).

Sandwich Tern on the Norfolk Coast.—An adult male Sandwich Tern (Sterna cantiaca) was shot by my son on Sept. 14th from a rowing-boat within half a mile of Hunstanton Pier. Mr. Clarke, of Snettisham, who set it up for us, told me that only one or two others had passed through his hands. I have seen several other Sandwich Terns about, probably passing along the Wash on migration from their breeding-places on the Scotch and Northumbrian coasts. It is quite possible (vide Zool. 1894, pp. 88, 89) that this species does occasionally breed on the Norfolk shore.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).

Ornithological Notes from Shetland.—I have much pleasure in recording the fact that a pair of Chaffinches (Fringilla cœlebs) nested this summer in the shrubbery adjoining my house, and brought out two young ones, which were able to fly on Aug. 24th. The whole family came daily to be fed along with the fowls, and are very tame. A number of Redstarts (Ruticilla phœnicurus) made their appearance on Sept. 5th. This is somewhat earlier than usual; they generally arrive here in October. On May 11th, 12th, and 13th a Nightjar (Caprimulgus europæus) was seen by me and by others at Baltasound. The Great Skua (Stercorarius catarrhactes) has increased in numbers greatly during the past few years, there being at least eighty-four birds on this island. It is a pity that something cannot be done to prevent the wholesale destruction of that magnificent bird, the Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus), which is becoming rare here. I cannot ascertain that it ever does much harm, yet our County Council has declared it to be "vermin," and has employed men to destroy it.

Since writing the above I have been fortunate enough to have brought to me another rare bird, viz. the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major). The bird—a young male—was caught by a native in a stubble-field close to his house, situate in the most northern part of this island. It was in a most dilapidated and starving condition. The weather for many days previous to its capture on Sept. 9th had been very wet and stormy, with heavy gales from the east and south-east. Though instances of the occurrence of the Great Spotted Woodpecker have been recorded from Shetland, I have never been fortunate enough to come across one till now. A female Spotted Crake (Porzana maruetta) has been brought to me; it was caught close by Cliff Lock, near here. This is, I think, the fourth time this bird has been recorded from Shetland.—T. Edmondston Saxby (Halligarth, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland).


The Sloughing of Serpents.—In continuation of Dr. Leighton's communication of my notes upon the sloughing of an Indian Python (ante, p. 301), it may be of interest to bring them up to date, as follows:—

January 14th, 1901.—Python showed usual signs of sloughing upon this date, and entered his bath upon the following day, remaining there until the 19th, when he left the water. Re-entered again the same day, and remained until the following day, when he shed the slough in the water in many small pieces.

April 1st.—Python entered his bath, and remained until the 12th, when he cast the slough in the water in two pieces.

June 13th.—Python entered bath upon this date, and remained continuously in the water until the 28th, when he shed the slough in the water. It was in two pieces, with many rents in it.

This Python has therefore shed sixteen sloughs in four years.

A small Boa Constrictor, six feet in length, which I obtained on July 3rd, 1901, entered his bath upon the 8th, and remained there continuously, but not always completely submerged, until the 14th, when it left the water, but did not shed the slough until the 16th. The actual operation of shedding occupied only twenty minutes. The slough was in one piece, and almost perfect. This Boa entered its bath again on Aug. 15th, without showing any signs of sloughing, and remained there continuously until Aug. 26th, when it left the water, having exhibited the first signs of sloughing upon Aug. 20th. The slough was cast, quite perfect and all in one piece, upon Sept. 1st.

Upon July 18th I purchased two young Boa Constrictors which had been born in captivity on July 10th, 1901. They were each about fourteen inches long. They both showed signs of sloughing when they arrived, and spent most of their time curled up in the water-tank. One of them left the water on July 27th, and cast its skin immediately after. The slough was in one piece and quite perfect, but the head was torn off. The other young Boa shed its slough on July 31st, also in one piece, but minus the head. It left the water three days previously. The one which cast its slough first constricted and swallowed a young mouse on Aug. 27th—its first meal. The other has not fed up to the time of writing (Sept. 2nd). Both of them are now about eighteen inches long, and much more lively and active than the larger snakes.—W.J. Clarke (44, Huntriss Row, Scarborough).

The Sand-Lizard in Berkshire.—I notice (ante, p. 355) that the Sand-Lizard (Lacerta agilis) is spoken of as being restricted in Britain to the southern half of England. Is it known to occur in Berkshire? The country people here have assured me of the occurrence of large Lizards (presumably Sand-Lizards) in the neighbourhood, but I have never met with any individuals myself, though the locality appears to be fairly suitable for them. I fear there is little dependence to be placed on what is said by ordinary country people in natural history matters. Here the great Green Grasshopper and the larva of the Death's-head Hawk-moth are both known as "Locusts," and a Lizard of large size, said to have been captured in a neighbouring parish some ten years ago, was pronounced by a villager to be a Viper. If any contributor to 'The Zoologist' could inform me of localities in Berkshire in which the Sand-Lizard occurs, I should be obliged.—W.H. Warner (Fyfield, near Abingdon, Berks).


The Distribution of the Diadem Spider.—It is generally taken for granted, I believe, that Aranea diadema, Linn., the so-called Common Garden Spider, is uniformly distributed throughout this country. A collecting experience of some years' duration in various counties in the South of England had impressed this idea upon my mind, and the material that has passed through Mr. O.P. Cambridge's hands prompted his statement that this Spider "is found in all parts of Great Britain and Ireland." I was therefore surprised to find no trace of it at Kilnsea, a small village near the extremity of the promontory that ends with Spurn Point, in Yorkshire, where I collected in the latter half of August—a time when this Spider is in full force in the localities it frequents. That the physical features of Spurn Point contain no element likely to be inimical to the welfare of a species so adaptive in its habits as diadema is attested by the presence of such allied forms as A. quadrata, A. cornuta, &c., which were met with in some abundance; nor, so far as could be ascertained, had there been any exceptional climatic occurrences during the previous spring and winter to account for its local extermination for the time being. The object of this note is to draw attention to the probability that we have yet something to learn on the negative side respecting the distribution of this well-known species, and to induce those who have the opportunity of investigating the point to ascertain its range in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and other parts of the east of England, especially in places where the soil consists of boulder clay.—R.I. Pocock (Brit. Museum, Nat. Hist.).

  1. Ægialitis hiaticula (Wikisource-ed.)