The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 726/Notes and Queries

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

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issue 726, p. 472–480

NOTES AND QUERIES.


MAMMALIA.

Variety of Vesperugo pipistrellus.—On Sept. 17th my friend Mr. James Fowler, of Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire, noticed a Bat flying about in a lane near Winterbourne Church, which appeared to have perfectly white wings. It was shot a few evenings later, and I had the opportunity of making the following notes thereon:—Adult Pipistrelle (Vesperugo pipistrellus), female, measuring 8½ inches in expanse; the wings and interfemoral membranes, as well as the ears, were white, like a piece of white tissue-paper; the legs, arms, digits, nose, and lips pinkish white; the fur of head and body very slightly paler brown than in a normal specimen. I have never seen a whitewinged variety of any of our Bats, and should be glad if any of your readers could inform me of any other occurrences.—H.J. Charbonnier (Redland, Bristol).

Autumnal Litter of Dormice.—In reference to Mr. Forrest's note under the above heading (ante, p. 423), I may mention that, having seen it stated in 'The Zoologist' that Dormice were very common in nut-rows on Buckland Common, near Tring, I went there in April, 1893. I had been told of an old man named Butcher who collected young Squirrels and Dormice for the London shops, and whom I interviewed. Both he and a labourer told me that they had never found the nest of the Dormouse in spring, but always in autumn, when the nuts were beginning to appear. Butcher showed me a number of young Squirrels that he had just caught or acquired. I had, like Mr. Forrest, been previously under the impression that the Dormouse bred in the spring.—T. Vaughan Roberts (Nutfield, Watford).

AVES.

Regulus cristatus near Reading.—On May 25th I found a Goldcrest's nest in a furze-bush, about twelve inches from the ground, on Bucklebury Common, near Reading. The first young one was just out.—G.W. Bradshaw (54, London Street, Reading).

Nesting of the Marsh-Warbler in Somersetshire.—While examining a small collection of eggs this month, belonging to a friend, I observed two eggs which I felt certain were those of the Marsh-Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris). Subsequently, Mr. H.W. Marsden, of Clifton, was kind enough to confirm my opinion when I forwarded him the specimens, which my friend allowed me to keep. Being questioned as to how he came by them, he stated that he found the nest about two or three feet from the ground in a dense bed of nettles not far away from water. I do not think he observed the bird, being unaware of the rarity he had discovered. The nest contained five eggs, two of which he looted. My friend said he thought they were "rather handsome Blackcaps"! The same gentleman found two other nests in the locality containing young birds, which he believes to have also been Marsh-Warblers' nests. I refrain from giving the exact locality of this rare bird's breeding haunt, in order that it may not be exterminated by ruthless persecution.—Charles B. Horsbrugh (Martock, Somersetshire).

Waxwing at Scarborough.—On Nov. 23rd I saw a Waxwing (Ampelis garrulus) feeding on the haws of a thorn-hedge near Oliver's Mount, Scarborough. The bird was very tame, and allowed me to watch it for some time. The berries on which it was feeding were swallowed whole, and, from the rapidity with which it ate, it must have been very hungry. Owing to the absence of a black throat, I judged it to be a bird of the year. The easterly gales of the previous week had no doubt something to do with its presence in this country.—A.H. Meiklejohn (20, Queen's Square, London).

Notes on the Swift and the Number of Days taken in Incubation. In some notes on this bird (Zool. 1900, pp. 479-81) I was unable in that year to give the exact number of days taken in the incubation of the eggs, owing to my absence from home during several days whilst the birds were in course of observation. During the present year I was similarly unfortunate, the eggs having been laid some days earlier than last year. This necessitated the robbing of the first laying.

April 20th.—First Swift observed flying over Wyre Forest, Bewdley; remarkably early.

June 2nd.—Two eggs taken from the nest in the roof of my house at Clent.

June 10th (7 a.m.).—Nest still remains empty.

June 11th (7 p.m.).—One egg in nest; both birds in nesting-hole, but I do not think incubation has actually started.

June 12th (7.15 a.m.).—One egg only in nest, and one of the birds in the nesting-hole. June 13th (7.15 a.m.).—One egg. 6.15 p.m. Two eggs, and Swift evidently now sitting.

July 1st (9 p.m.).—One young and one egg in nest.

July 2nd (6.30 a.m.).—Two young in nest.

August 15th (7 p.m.).—One young, if not both, have left the nest, as only one bird occupies the nesting-hole, and possibly that one of the old birds.

August 16th (7 a.m.).—Nest empty.

August 18th.—Last Swift seen on the wing in this village.

September 2nd.—A Swift seen in the adjoining parish, at Lower Hagley; an unusually late occurrence.

From the above notes the time of incubation seems to be at least eighteen days, and during the present year the young did not leave the nest until six weeks, three days. In comparison, I might add that three out of a nest of four young Swallows were able to leave a nest situated in my outbuildings in three weeks, two days, or almost in exactly half the time.—J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).

American Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) at Ringwood.—On Oct. 26th a gentleman told me he had, whilst standing on one of the bridges watching some Pike-fishers, seen a strange bird settle upon and apparently scrutinize a bush at no very great distance from him. His description was that the bird was about the size of a Thrush, but seemed to have more the colour of the Nightingale on its sides, and a very long tail. As the late owner of Avon Castle had, a few years ago, liberated a number of Australian birds of various species, I supposed this might have been one of the very few survivors—if, indeed, any still survive—although I had no reason to suspect any bird answering the description had obtained its freedom. On Oct. 30th a specimen of the above-named Cuckoo was shot about half a mile from the spot, but whether the same bird it is impossible to say. I saw it soon after it was killed, and I may note the following particulars: Except where shot through the neck, the plumage appeared to be perfect, with no sign of abrasion either of wings or tail, as are seen in an "escape," and the body was fat and well conditioned, weighing just over 2½ oz.; it measured 11¾ in. from beak to tail; the third quill-feather, the longest in the wing, being 538 in. from tip to carpal joint. Under mandible and base and sides of the upper, yellow; rest of the beak black. Eyes dark brown; eyelids bright yellow, reminding one of the Blackbird's. Back and two middle tail-feathers dark mouse-colour, with a tinge of reddish, especially on the tail; four outer feathers on either side blackish, with graduated dirty white markings, the longest being merely and indistinctly tipped, and the shortest and outermost white its entire length, at least on the outer web. The reddish tawny mark in the wing was large and conspicuous, even when the wings were closed; but this may be a sexual characteristic, as on dissection it proved to be a male. The under parts from beak to tail were of an uniform pale grey, with a slight tinge of brown on the breast and sides. The legs (which were conspicuously longer than in the common Cuculus canorus, from the thigh-feathers to the toes) were bluish lead-colour, with a sort of silvery bloom on them, which latter soon faded; the claws were black, and it seemed to me the scales on the legs were remarkably large, as only five in number occupied the bare space. I should have mentioned, perhaps, that the beak was longer and more decurved than in the common species, and the inside of beak, which is well known to be bright orange-yellow in C. canorus, was conspicuously spotted with black, especially on the lower part of the palate, in the American bird. The tongue also had black markings on it. The bird had been feeding freely upon the grubs of some sawfly, as the distended gizzard proved, the dark heads and spotted skins of the grubs being unmistakable. I had observed very similar, if not identical, grubs a few days previously upon a rose-tree, and wondered if the comparatively mild autumn had been favourable to the development of these particular flies, as several months ago the same tree was almost stripped of its leaves by what I suppose was the same species of larva. From the few ornithological works to which I have access, it seems that this wandering bird is only a straggler to these islands, and only in the autumn, mostly in October. The occurrence of this species in Hampshire is not exactly a first record, as a specimen is reported to have been found dead in the Isle of Wight in 1896 (Zool. 1897, p. 142), but no measurements or particulars of the bird were given except that it was a male. In 'The Zoologist' for 1895, p. 376, Mr. Harting gave us a lucid description, and some interesting notes on a specimen which had been picked up dead in Dorsetshire—this also in the month of October; and of the southern counties, Devon and Cornwall claim the species in their county list of birds.

Since writing the foregoing, I showed the bird to a man who is often near the river with his gun, and without hesitation he said he saw the bird, or another like it, more than a month ago, one evening when he was out duck-shooting, and should have killed it but for the large shot in his cartridges. This was some distance from where the bird was shot, so there might have been more than one in the vicinity. G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Correction.—In a previous communication (ante, p. 428, three lines from bottom), for "pink chocolate" read "pale chocolate."—(G.B.C.)

Little Owl at Henley.—I do not know what may be thought of the status of the Little Owl (Athene noctua) as a migrant, but I saw one to-day (Nov. 7th), shot yesterday at Wyfold Court, near Henley, Oxon. I do not think it is mentioned in Mr. Aplin's 'Birds of Oxfordshire.'—G.W. Bradshaw (54, London Street, Reading).

Circus cineraceus in Northamptonshire.—A Montagu's Harrier in the plumage of the first year was shot at Whittlebury, near Towcester, about the middle of April, 1901, and came into my possession some months later. I am inclined to think it is a female. The late Lord Lilford only mentions ('Birds of Northamptonshire') one instance of the occurrence of this species in the county.—O.V. Aplin (Bloxham, Oxon).

Peregrine Falcon in Berkshire.—On Nov. 2nd last, a very fine adult Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was shot at Aston Upthorne, near Wallingford, Berks, while being mobbed by Rooks. It was brought to me in the flesh.—G.W. Bradshaw (54, London Street, Reading).

The Ringed-necked Duck as a British Bird.—I cannot understand why the Ringed-necked or Collared Duck should, by almost universal custom, be excluded from the number of accidental visitors on the list of British Birds. Donovan, in his 'Natural History of British Birds' (vol. vi. 1809), states that a specimen occurred to him in the month of January, 1801, among a number of wildfowl exposed for sale in Leadenhall Market. It was a male, and was supposed to have been taken in the fens of Lincolnshire. More than one species (e.g. the American Wigeon) has been admitted into the British list on claims no stronger than this. We may safely assume that a hundred years ago no wildfowl came imported for the table into the London market from the other side of the Atlantic. There can be no question about the bird having been correctly identified, for we have Donovan's coloured plate (No. 147) of this handsome Duck to refer to. The Ringed-necked Duck was at that date not merely a new British bird, but altogether undescribed. Donovan was accordingly the original describer of this species, and the name he then bestowed upon it still stands. Fuligula collaris (Donovan) is its name in the new Hand-List of Birds. This Duck, therefore, like Botaurus lentiginosus, is an American species first described from an example which had accidentally occurred in Europe. The Ringed-necked Duck has a wide distribution, and ranges, according to Dr. Elliot ('The Wildfowl of North America'), over the whole of North America, from the Arctic Sea to Guatemala and the West Indies. Coues states ('Key to North American Birds') that it breeds from the north border of the United States to the far North, and winters in and migrates through the United States to Central America and the West Indies.—O.V. Aplin (Bloxham, Oxon).

Notes from Suffolk.—On Nov. 11th I visited the shop of a birdstuffer in Woodbridge, and saw the following interesting specimens:—1. A hybrid between the Blackcock and Pheasant. General plumage similar to that of a young Blackcock, and with the lyre-shaped outer tail-feathers just commencing to appear. Legs and feet not feathered, and distinctly those of a Pheasant. The bird, which was in immature plumage, was shot near Woodbridge this season, and is accounted for from the fact of a gentleman residing at Ipswich having turned down some black-game in that neighbourhood. A grey hen was found dead on the same ground a few days afterwards, which, although in good condition, appeared to have died from natural causes.2. A hen Pheasant, shot near Woodbridge this season, in fawn-coloured plumage.3. Two Montagu's Harriers, both males in full breeding plumage, killed in the summer of this year near Woodbridge by some unscrupulous keeper, notwithstanding the protection they are entitled to under the Wild Birds Protection Act.—E.A. Butler (Plumton House, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).

Notes from Scarborough.—On October 2nd a fine pair (male and female) of Sooty Shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) were shot at sea, a few miles from Scarborough, by one of the crew of a Scotch herring-boat, and brought to me. Judging from the development of the sexual organs they were adult. This fine Shearwater has not previously come under my notice in this district. Another unusual species here, which has been noticed this season, is the Sandwich Tern (Sterna cantiaca), of which several examples have been seen, and three shot. This is also new to my list of local birds. Other interesting birds which have occurred at or near Scarborough this year are Montagu's Harrier (Circus cineraceus), caught in a post-trap in April last, and an adult Black Tern (Hydrochelidon nigra), shot on the Osgoodby Reservoir in the same month.—W.J. Clarke (44, Huntriss Row, Scarborough).

Notes from Redcar, Yorks.—On Nov. 13th I procured, near Redcar, a fine immature male example of the Black Guillemot (Uria grylle). The same day several hundreds of mature Kittiwakes passed Redcar, going southwards. The weather was very stormy, and the birds had a hard battle against the strong north-east wind. On Nov. 15th I had brought me for inspection an immature Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), which had been shot on Coatham Sands, Kedcar, on Nov. 14th. This bird proved upon dissection to be a female. — Stanley Duncan (Redcar, Yorks).

Icelandic Names of Birds.—In the paper on my Icelandic journey (ante, pp. 401-419), the orthography of some of the Icelandic names of the birds is wrong, through no fault of mine, but, I presume, in consequence of the printers being unable to supply the proper letters. As an illustration, the Icelandic letter which looks somewhat like our P is a Th, with the result that the name of the Meadow-Pipit (Anthus pratensis) is not Pufutitlingur, but Thufutitlingur. For many years the name of the lake in the south of Iceland was printed in most English publications as "Pingvella"; its proper name is "Thingvetla."—F. Coburn (Holloway Head, Birmingham).

[New type would have been required to print the Icelandic letters, and, even if the printers had been prepared to supply the same, time would not have sufficed, Mr. Coburn being very anxious for his paper to appear in the November issue.—Ed.]

AVICULTURE.

Leadbeater's Cockatoo breeding in England.—By the kindness of a neighbour, who probably possesses one of the finest private collections of living Psittacidæ in this country, I was shown the other day three young Leadbeater's Cockatoos (Cacatua leadbeateri), which were hatched in the aviary last June. Two pairs of these birds are at liberty with many other species in a large outdoor aviary, constructed on the lines of the well-known aviary at the "Zoo," and one pair selected an old hollow elm stump as a nesting-place. The cavity is nearly a yard deep, and in June three young birds were brought out at intervals of two days. These are now fine healthy birds, quite as big as their parents, but, so far as I could see in the failing light of a November day, rather duller in colour. Their owner believes them to be the first of their species reared in Europe, and would, I am sure, be much interested to hear of any similar instance, if such is known to any of your readers.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds).

Storm Petrel in Confinement.—Seeing some rough fishermen gathered in a group upon the Fish Wharf at Great Yarmouth on Oct. 16th, I naturally drew up, and to my amusement heard an animated and quaint discussion upon a poor little Petrel (Procellaria pelagica), whose tiny head peered out of a pastry bag, the mouth of which was wisped around the neck like the trimmings around the foot end of a ham. After an exorbitant demand, the captor, on whose fishing boat the tired-out bird had alighted, parted with it for a shilling. I took it home, and after much persuasion succeeded in making it "suck" down a small quantity of herring milt, thrusting its bill in it up to the nostrils. Two or three attempts at this made the Petrel appreciate its meal, and it soon pecked the roe held upon my finger, next day feeding itself from a milt placed within its reach in my greenhouse. It was exceedingly eager to hide, and occasionally would run to and fro, carrying its wings erect and at an acute angle. When excited it uttered a peepy cry, very like that of a young Turkey. I had some hopes of rearing it, but it had evidently been too exhausted from the first to recover. It died within a week. Another was landed the day after I purchased mine. This species is nowadays very seldom seen in this neighbourhood. The only other interesting "arrivals" at the wharf, so far during this fishing, have been a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), that came in on Oct. 31st, and which died just before it reached me.—Arthur Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).

REPTILIA.

The Sand-Lizard in Berkshire.—Referring to Mr. W.H. Warner's note concerning the Sand-Lizard (Lacerta agilis) (ante, p. 392), the writer inquires whether the Sand-Lizard is known to occur in Berkshire. I may say that for many years I have been especially interested in this Lizard. Several years ago I took a small female among the furze at Cookham Dean, near Maidenhead. This was practically on the border between Berks and Bucks. I have also taken them on Maidenhead Thicket, though rarely. Across the river, in certain parts of Burnham Beeches, they are sometimes very plentiful. I think this lively little reptile may be met with in most parts, at any rate, of East Berkshire, though nowhere have I found it so common as on our south-western coasts. I remember, however, several years ago finding a large number at Southend-on-Sea. Prom my own experience it is far commoner and more widely distributed than the so-called Common Grass Lizard.—Ernest S. Lumsden (Reading, Berkshire).

INSECTA.

Mosquitoes at Scarborough.—During the past three years local field naturalists have been plagued with swarms of Mosquitoes in several damp localities near Scarborough. These have this year been present in greatly increased numbers, and in several new localities, and have in several instances penetrated into the town. I captured a number of these and sent them to Dr. G. Nuttall, of Cambridge, who has kindly identified them as Culex annulatus. The bite is very severe.—W.J. Clarke (44, Huntriss Row, Scarborough).

BIOGRAPHY.

The Water Chanter of Turner.—William Turner, the first British naturalist of mark, was an accomplished physician as well as a member of Parliament. His residence at Wells enabled him to study the effects of the waters of Bath, and even to stay with patients in the latter city. He counselled close attention to diet, and advocated the use of Rhine wines. He approved of his Bath patients dining on small birds in general; "but Water chanters ye must not eat." Was the Water chanter identical with Cinclus aquaticus? He speaks of the latter bird as a "Water Swallow"; but perhaps he had heard both names employed to denote the same species. I should like to qualify my statement (supra, p. 379) that Turner "died a disappointed man." That the bitter disappointments which he experienced in middle life may have served to embitter his last years is not unlikely. He had returned home on the accession of Edward VI., after spending the best years of his life upon the Continent, with the full expectation that his talents would be recognized, and a high place assigned to him. But though he humbled himself to beg for preferment, he had some time to wait before he could secure the Deanery of Wells. Though he was obliged to accept it for family reasons, it brought him fresh worry. His predecessor was unwilling to give up his Deanery, and received the sympathy of the canons of the cathedral, who did not relish having a stranger thrust in upon them. Turner was once nominated for the Provostship of Oriel College, Oxford, as well as for the Presidency of Magdalen. Had he received the former appointment, Oriel would have been able to claim among the members of the college three illustrious naturalists—Turner, Thomas Pennant, and Gilbert White.—H.A. Macpherson (The Rectory, Pitlochry).

[A melancholy interest attaches to the above note, which was dated the 23rd November, and its writer passed away on the 26th—three days subsequently. "What shadows we are, and what shadows we become." In a letter received with this note, Mr. Macpherson discussed a future paper he was intending to write for 'The Zoologist.' We hope to give a full obituary notice of our old and much respected contributor in the next issue of the 'Zoologist.'—Ed.]