The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 736/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
White-beaked Dolphin at Great Yarmouth.—A White-beaked Dolphin (Delphinus albirostris), 54 in. in length, was brought in on July 12th; it was taken in the nets of a herring-lugger the night previous. With the great increase of steam drifters cetaceans appear to have become comparatively scarce.—A. Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
Notes from Yarmouth.—Bird-life in this locality during the past dreary summer and autumn has not presented many interesting episodes. My month's holiday on Breydon mud-flats in July and August afforded as blank a record as any I ever remember.
A late Oystercatcher (Hæmatopus ostralegus) flew past me on Breydon on the night of June 20th; and up to June 25th I never saw fewer Redshanks (Totanus calidris), which nevertheless had a good time in the upper marsh-lands, for they were reported numerous on the Beccles river, and in August were around my location on the flats in exceedingly gratifying numbers. I suspected them of feeding on Corophium longicorne, a species abounding in the surface of the ooze, and on small red mudworms beneath it. Lesser Terns were familiar objects in May and June, the smart little fellows fishing all around one, as if man had never an evil thought, and they were attracted still closer by an imitation of their note. Two pairs would, I believe, have nested with us on a flat they took a fancy to; they roosted on somewhat dry spots. There at night, right through May, they fished in its vicinity, and when it was too rough, angled in the semi-brackish ditches for Three-spined Sticklebacks, and even seemed to prefer fishing there when the Herring-Syle appeared in the tidal water. I had more than one happy moment watching them dropping upon their prey as I skulked in the grass at a ditch-end. They seldom missed a "stoop." But their household anticipations were suddenly overthrown by the incoming of rather full spring tides, which washed them and their prospects off the flat together. Nevertheless, some were seen about until June 27th. As early as July 7th several came back again from a spot best not localised. On Aug. 21st the old birds capturing juvenile Herrings for their young was a most interesting observation, while the eager and fussy solicitations of the young Terns were charming. They followed their parents awing, preferring to drop on to the surface of the water to receive their dole. Two or three score used Breydon up to the end of August, when, alas! some guns arrived to break up these happy family parties. If men would only learn how much more delightful and bewitching it is to look down the inside of a field-glass than to squint down a gun-barrel, what greater happiness would obtain to all parties concerned! A Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) turned up on July 24th, and a young Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) on July 2nd. Two Cuckoos were piping early on the morning of July 3rd. One gave the cry in the natural key; the other more shrilly, and half a tone higher; and, curiously enough, unaided by an echo, piped "cuck-cuck-oo!" I never heard this cry before; have any of your readers? I had ample opportunity for hearing many a repetition of it.
The Heron is a bit of a wag in his way. One, having satisfied the cravings of hunger, amused himself catching such little Eels and Flounders as came near his submerged feet, letting them go again—probably with a caution! Imitating the cry of a passing youngster, in the dusk on Aug. 4th, I decoyed him to within a very short distance of my head. Greenshanks were fairly numerous "on call" during August. Knots, Turnstones, Curlew-Sandpipers, in some numbers too—the Knots so tame that a couple I passed and repassed would not flit from a bit of floating wood they were resting on until forced to fly by water repeatedly splashed on to them by my oar; they seemed to wonder, as I did, what business of mine it was to interfere. Only one Spoonbill was observed on Breydon this year, which, being innocent enough to wander to the marshes, was shot.—A. Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
Wood-Sandpiper in the Orkney Islands.—I think perhaps it may be of interest to record the occurrence of the Wood-Sandpiper (Totanus glareola) in the Orkney Islands. A friend of mine shot one in my presence on the island of Eday on Sept. 1st. It rose out of a Snipebog, and at the moment of firing he took it for a Snipe; but, on examining it, we soon identified it as a Wood-Sandpiper. Both Wood and Harting say that the bird is rare in Scotland, so perhaps this note may be worth printing. The bird was tame, but it had an even more erratic flight than the Snipe.—C.S. Buxton (Newtimber Place, Hassocks).
Notes from Yarmouth.—Several Cuckoo Rays (Raia miraletus) were brought into Yarmouth in April. An enormous Haddock (Gadus aglefinus)—length 2 ft. 9 in., weight 10½ lb. when "gutted"—was landed at about the same time. Early in the summer an Eckstrom's Topknot (Zeugopterus unimaculatus) was captured in a shrimp-net off Yarmouth. Length, 5½ in. This is new to the fauna of this district. The fish was saved for my inspection, but was unfortunately too dry for proper preservation.—A. Patterson (Ibis House, Great Yarmouth).
Making the best of Difficulties.—A curious instance of making the best of difficulties in insect-life came to my knowledge a few days ago. A young lad had made for himself a breeding-cage for larvæ, the bottom, or tray, being of stout brown-paper board, and the four sides and the top covered with gauze, which was supported by a straight stick, some eight or nine inches high, at each corner. These uprights were about the thickness of a lead-pencil, or possibly a trifle more. Into this cage he put some larvæ of Dicranura vinula. Two of the larvæ made their cocoons on the face of these corner sticks, which did not offer a surface of more than a quarter of an inch. One larva escaped into the room, and was afterwards found to have made its cocoon on the leg of an oak chair, or stool, I forget which. I think both these expedients are worth notice.—W. Oxenden Hammond (St. Albans Court, near Dover).
[The above experience is not uncommon. In 'The Zoologist' (1863, p. 8785) there is a record of these larvæ "forming their cocoons upon those of their predecessors." In one corner of a box there were no fewer than six clustered together.—Ed.]
ANIMAL SENSE PERCEPTIONS.
By this mail I am sending two specimens (male and female) of a bug which was too common in every garden in Johannesburg last summer, and which is doubtless well known to you. In 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 161) is an interesting article by Mr. Distant, under the heading "Biological Suggestions." As bearing on the question of the protection afforded to insects by nauseous smells, the following facts may be of interest:—The bug referred to above is possibly a recent introduction here, as it has lately appeared in enormous numbers, especially during the war period, when most people were absent from their houses and gardens in Johannesburg. It is a rather large insect, and from the damage it does to many plants, including dahlias, roses, salvias, wistarias, the young shoots of Japanese privet, and even of almond and apricot trees, it readily attracts attention. Like so many of its kind, it is possessed of a most unpleasant smell—a smell of a nastiness and penetration surpassing that possessed by any other insect I am acquainted with. Moreover, it has the power, which it seldom neglects to use when opportunity offers, of squirting out, apparently with some accuracy of aim, a most offensive and disgusting fluid, which appears to be the source of the unpleasant smell referred to.
In spite of its size this insect is not readily seen unless looked for. Its angular outline and general colouration are distinctly protective, and, although strong on the wing, it has the habit, like some other protectively coloured insects, of letting go its hold of a plant, and dropping to the ground, where it lies perfectly still in whatever position it has fallen. It is then very difficult to distinguish among dead leaves, twigs, and pebbles. From its extremely offensive smell, and its abundance in every garden, I was inclined to infer that it must be unpalatable to ordinary enemies of insects. I noticed, however, that a Lizard (Eremias sp.), of which there were many in my garden, greedily ate some of the bugs I had killed; another Lizard (Agama sp.) declined the dainty morsel, preferring to rapidly pick up the ants which had commenced swarming round the dead bugs. Afterwards I found that my fowls were very eager after the bugs, and seemed to find them very much to their liking. My next-door neighbour had for some time a tame Meerkat (Suricata tetradactyla), a little animal possessed of the keenest sense of smell, and it also readily ate these bugs.
The fact that this bug is eaten by various creatures is, of course, what one might expect from a knowledge of its habits and colouration. It is very probable that its disgusting smell does afford it a certain amount of protection from enemies—indeed, it would be hard to account for such highly developed offensiveness except on some such ground of utility; but it is clearly a case where, to quote Mr. Distant's words, odoriferous protection proves of a "highly partial and uncertain character."—Harold Fry (Rock House, Johannesburg).Referring to the Editor's article on "Animal Sense Perceptions," I kept a Skunk for a pet six or seven years ago which followed me about like a Dog. At first I had to put up a good deal with the smell, but as it grew tame it was only upon great excitement that it emitted this odour, and this did not seem to be so durable as described in some of the quotations in that paper.
Here the natives do not teach the calves to drink out of a bucket, so that they imbibe direct from the cow. When the native milks the cow the calf must be beside him, otherwise the cow could not be so easily milked. If the calf dies, it is skinned and stuffed with straw, and in a rough fashion made lifelike. This stuffed skin is placed beside the boy while milking, so that the cow can smell it, and thus have no objection to the process. Here smell is stronger than sight.—Kenneth J. Cameron (Namasi, Zomba, British Central Africa).
This natural phenomenon has, according to Dr. Andrew Wilson, recently received a very novel application in connection with certain gunnery experiments made at Aldershot. "The red coat of the British soldier has long been condemned as a mark for the enemy; hence khaki and greys have come into favour as colours for the protection of the soldier. At Aldershot the experiments were carried out on guns and their limbers, by way of securing concealment when placed against a variety of backgrounds. Six guns were painted red, blue, and yellow. Seen from a distance, the colour-blending rendered them practically invisible. At a distance of 800 yards it is said the outlines of the guns disappear. At 1000 yards they become lost to sight, and their location is impossible. This experiment is strongly suggestive of the Tiger markings, apparently most conspicuous, but harmonising so thoroughly with the surroundings that all trace of the animal is lost."—Ed.
- Holopterna alata, Westw., belonging to the Fam. Coreidæ.—Ed.
- A common Transvaal insect, which I always found about Pretoria.—Ed.