The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 729/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
The Food of the Water-Vole.—I am convinced as to the carnivorous habit of the Water-Vole (Arvicola amphibius), having on two or three occasions seen the animal industriously engaged in the occupation. I like the little fellow, and have found him right merry company when loafing at eventide in the solitary places of our rivers and broadlands. He is amusing by his frolicsomeness when he seems assured there are no onlookers, and I should not like a hair of his coat harmed by what I may say of him, for such animal food as he may discuss is comparatively worthless. In the August of 1896 I threw a couple of dead Roach on a "rond" in Kendall Dyke, near Hickling Broad, at the rear of my houseboat. Next morning but a few bones and scales remained. Suspecting the Voles, I pegged down another Roach or two, and the Water-Voles—for such they were—came again and had their supper. The late Sir E. Newton had suggested to me some time previously that the number of broken fresh-water Mussel-shells (Anodonta cygnea), at Lound, were the work of Voles. On Sept. 12th, 1896, I examined a number of broken shells at Lound, amongst which lay the excrement of the animals in question. One particular valve was always broken, probably being the easier of manipulation. I actually observed a Vole (I was quietly fishing at the moment opposite him) come out of the water, and drag a Swan Mussel up the bank, which he had secured intact. I received a communication shortly after from West Norfolk, pointing out to me the partiality of Arvicola to the Crayfish. Above all, however, I think the Water-Vole delights to feed upon the stems of the succulent grasses growing in shallow ditches, and will remain in the centre of a clump, selecting the finest, which, sitting at ease upon his haunches, he nibbles, holding them between his fore paws with all the adroitness of the Squirrel.—A. Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
Late Redstart and Tree-Pipit, &c.—On Nov. 16th, 1901, whilst walking between Bexhill and St. Leonards, I saw a female Common Redstart (Ruticilla phœnicurus) on a fence by the South Coast Railway. I watched it for several minutes. This is unusually late for this species here. Also, on Nov. 8th, I saw a Tree-Pipit (Anthus trivialis) near Fairlight, Hastings. Numbers of Ring-Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) arrived here during the latter part of September and October, the last I saw being on Oct. 30th.—Michael J. Nicoll (10, Charles Road, St. Leonards).
Differences between immature Blue-headed and Yellow Wagtails.—In reference to Mr. Arnold's note on the above subject (ante, p. 24), I do not think that there is any way to tell with certainty the young of M. flava from M. raii. In really typical examples of the former the throat is almost pure white, whilst that part of the latter is buff or buffish yellow; but there are always intermediate specimens having the throat whitish buff, so that it is very difficult to distinguish M. flava from M. raii. To my mind, the colour of the head and back have nothing to do with it during the first autumn. The eye-stripe varies as much as the throat.—Michael J. Nicoll (10, Charles Road, St. Leonards).
Little Owl and Shore-Lark in Lincolnshire.—I have just seen a specimen of the Little Owl (Athene noctua), which is in the hands of Mr. Nash, a birdstuffer in this city. Mr. Nash informs me that the bird (a female) was shot at Coleby, a village a few miles from Lincoln, about Jan. 10th of the present year. As I have noticed one or two records of the occurrence of this species recently in England, it is possible there may have been a small arrival of immigrants; but I think it more likely that the example in question had either escaped from confinement, or had intentionally been liberated. On Jan. 9th last I saw three Shore-Larks (Otocorys alpestris) on the coast at Saltfleet. The birds were remarkably tame, and allowed me to approach within a few yards of them.—F.L. Blathwayt (Lincoln).
Gadwall in Merionethshire.—The Gadwall (Anas strepera) is such a rare bird in North Wales that the following instances of its occurrence seem worth placing on record. On Dec. 14th last a female Gadwall was shot at flight-time by A. Ephraim, the Ynysfor huntsman, on the marsh there, and was shown to me in the flesh. My friend Mr. E.B. Jones, of Ynysfor, informs me that he himself shot a fine male near the same place on Dec. 30th, 1890, during the severe frost then prevailing.—G.H. Caton Haigh.
Notes from Shetland.—Great Northern Diver (Colymbus glacialis). A few have been seen at intervals. One was recently shot in Yell: its stomach was said to contain 147 fish!
Coot (Fulica atra).—One seen on Nov. 2nd, and one on Dec. 24th last; both on Cliff Loch. A third was caught on Whalsey Island on Dec. 3rd.
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus).—I have only seen one this winter; it was a male, brought to me alive from Burrafirth on Nov. 3rd. I set it at liberty.
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator).—A good many have been seen round the coast.
Scaup-Duck (Fuligula marila).—Two were shot on the west side of this island on Nov. 18th.
Wigeon (Mareca penelope).—Have been fairly plentiful.
Woodcock (Scolopax rusticula).—Three seen—two on Dec. 18th, 1901—at Haroldswick, and one on Jan. 8th at Burrafirth.
Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca).—One reported from Yell on Jan. 24th. This bird is becoming exceedingly rare. During all my wandering during the past four years I have only been fortunate enough to come across one, and have heard of no others, nor have any traces been seen.
Iceland Gull (Larus leucopterus).—Two were seen on Jan. 27th at Baltasound.
Waxwing (Ampelis garrulus).—A specimen—a female in fair condition—was shown to me by a young lad, Robert Moust; he caught the bird alive at Baltasound on Dec. 25th, and tried ineffectually to keep it alive.
Red-necked Grebe (Podicipes griseigena).—One was shot at Baltasound on Dec. 30th.
The experiment has again been tried of introducing Grouse into Shetland, some six hundred birds having been let loose on the Mainland last September. They have not yet strayed so far north as this island, and I question very much if they will increase to any extent; want of cover, damp, Ravens, and human enemies will not give them much chance.—T. Edmondston Saxby (Baltasound, Shetland).
Sand-Lizards at St. Leonards-on-Sea.—In the spring and early summer of 1892 I captured several Lizards of both species, i.e. Lacerta vivipara and L. agilis, on some brickfields close to West St. Leonards Railway Station, and kept them alive for some weeks, though I did not know until the summer of 1901 that there was any interest attached to the Sand-Lizard in this district. I am perfectly convinced of their identity by their much larger size and green sides, and, on looking at some specimens of both species at the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, I at once recognized the Sand-Lizard as similar to the ones I obtained.—Michael J. Nicoll (10, Charles Road, St. Leonards).
The Saw-fish (Pristis antiquorum) in British Waters.—In the notice of my "Notes and Letters of Sir Thomas Browne" (ante, p. 79), the writer, after quoting the statement by Browne that a "sword fish or Xiphias or Gladius" was taken "intangled in the Herring netts at yarmouth," adds on my authority that this "appears to be the only authentic record of this southern species in British waters," which is far from being the case. The note in which the above statement occurs does not refer to this species, but to the Saw-fish (Pristis antiquorum), respecting which Browne writes:—"A pristes or serra saw-fish taken about Lynne comonly mistaken for a sword-fish and answers the figure in Rondeletius" ('Notes,' p. 36); then follows the account of the Sword-fish in a separate paragraph. In my footnote to Pristis antiquorum I say that, "so far as I am aware, Browne's is the only record of the occurrence of this southern species in British waters, with the exception of a note in Fleming's 'British Animals' (p. 164), where it is stated, on the authority of the late Dr. Walker's MS. 'Adversaria' for 1769, that Pristis antiquorum "is found sometimes in Loch Long"; but Fleming adds that he has "met with no other proof of its ever having visited the British shores." Any further information with regard to this species as a British fish would be gladly received.—Thomas Southwell (Norwich).
[Mr. Southwell is quite justified in his correction, "Sword-fish" having accidentally been substituted for "Saw-fish" in the notice referred to. However, although the Sword-fish is undoubtedly sometimes taken in British waters, it still seems doubtful whether Browne's record of the Saw-fish will be generally accepted. Mr. Boulenger—with whom I recently discussed the question—certainly did not believe the fish had ever reached our shores.—Ed.]