Ornithological Record from Norfolk for 1899, Gurney
No. 705.—March, 1900.
ORNITHOLOGICAL NOTES FROM NORFOLK
By J.H. Gurney, F.Z.S.
(Assisted by several other Naturalists.)
The rarities for the year have not been many, and one cannot but be impressed with the growing scarcity of the Hobby, Kestrel, Magpie, Quail, Woodcock, Ruff, Spotted Crake, Bittern, Teal, Garganey, and Wild Duck. 1899 seems to have passed without the record of a single Waxwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Crake, Eider Duck, Glaucous Gull (last visitation 1895), Great Northern Diver, or Fulmar Petrel, and with very few raptorial visitants. The Rev. M.C. Bird tells me of one male Hen-Harrier seen in November among the Broads, and he saw or heard of an Osprey in May; other correspondents record two of these splendid Eagle-fishers in October. Hardly any Buzzards came over, and since the Buzzard years of 1881 and 1896 they have been conspicuous by their absence; it is also a good many years since a Goshawk has appeared.
On Jan. 13th, after a gale in the night, I picked up a Mistle-Thrush which had been dashed against the keep of Norwich Castle, and a Hawfinch at Kirby Bedon met its death in a somewhat similar way. Some young Grey-headed Wagtails passed about Sept. 1st; Crossbills have been reported here and there, and Grey Wagtails as usual. There were no Bluethroats, and Snow-Buntings were scarce (H.N. Pashley); but my correspondent speaks of "foreign Blackbirds," and hundreds of small dark Thrushes in October, an appearance perhaps more due to the locality than the size of the birds themselves. A Black Redstart was identified in October, and another in November (Pashley), and on Nov. 7th Mr. Ramm feels certain of having seen an Ortolan Bunting. Whether this identification can be trusted I cannot say, but the wind the day before had changed to the north-west.
The only Lapland Buntings were two in October, but many Long-tailed Tits were observed, and in one place they were even seen coming off the sea. November was rainy and unsettled up to the 11th, but it was too late then to much affect migration, as most of the species had passed, though flocks of Little Auks and other Alcidæ were seen at sea. Three or four Grey Shrikes paid their customary autumnal visit, and Mr. Arthur Patterson had two Quails to announce in that month.
Although I have diligently written down the direction of the wind in my journal nearly every day, there was so little autumnal migration that no results have been gained. The principal movement was during the first week in October, when there were so many Grey Plovers; and at the same time, viz. on the 4th of that month, something like a rush was observed in North Lincolnshire by Mr. Caton Haigh (cf. p. 112).
On Dec. 10th the first snow came with a light west wind, and so rapid was the drop that night that the thermometer in my parish marked two degrees above zero. A profusion of Ducks, Snipe, Water-Rails, Water-hens, &c, immediately appeared on the meadows adjacent to the Norwich rivers, and every gunner sallied forth bent on destruction. Half-starved Mistle-Thrushes flocked to the yew trees in my garden, as many as nine of these great birds hanging on or around one small Irish yew; but already the red berries (which were in masses a week before) were falling off. Barn-Owls, persecuted at all times, suffered more than ever, and a good many Kingfishers were slaughtered; but our Norwich birdstuffers have the good sense to refuse to buy either the one or the other. On the 12th two guns shot forty Snipe in an afternoon at Carrow, and the next day, on the same ground, made up a bag of ninety-one Snipe, thirty Plover, and four Duck. News came to hand of many flocks of Ducks passing high overhead in different parts, but especially near the coast, beyond the reach of guns. Fowl of all kinds came to Norwich, and a basket of Mallard which I saw unpacked contained a nice pair of Gadwall † from Lynn, and in another lot two Shovelers † from Ranworth. These Gadwall are the first I remember to have met with in Norwich Market, while a few days afterwards two more were shot near Salthouse, and some Pintails (Ramm). In Lubbock's time Gadwall came to Norwich Market every winter. A few fine Goosanders appeared about the 20th (E. Saunders), but only two Smews.
Mr. Arthur Patterson, writing from Yarmouth, and giving a description of the hard weather and its effects, says:—"Dec. 14th, birds are plentiful; yesterday crowds on Breydon Broad. Snipe rushed in after the snow; on the 10th they invaded the marshes, and on the 11th began to appear in Yarmouth Market," where the chief salesman, Mr. Durrant, gave Mr. Patterson the following particulars from his week-book of birds bought. This table could be compared with that given by Mr. Stevenson in 'The Zoologist' for 1880, p. 326, which is equally interesting.Again, writing on the 16th, Mr. Patterson says:—"To-day's [Yarmouth] market reminded me of the old-fashioned times. There was scarcely a stall without its odd Lapwing, or its bunch of Starlings or Blackbirds. There were scores of Redwings, Fieldfares, and Thrushes; one person had a bunch of Sparrows, and another of Greenfinches... On one stall, with the Scaup I sent you (the "white-nosed day-fowl" of our old gunners), were a half-score Pochards. Last night guns were banging on Breydon Broad all night. Dunlins smothered the flats, I am told. One old lady had a Shoveler. There were two Long-eared Owls up to-day, two Stock-Doves, and some very juvenile Wood-Pigeons. This morning some Coots were swimming about in the lower river, and boys were stoning them. Seven [Whooper?] Swans have been seen on Breydon."
Similar accounts were received from Mr. Dye, who mentions that numbers of wildfowl passed over Yarmouth going south, and that the cries of Golden Plover were heard at night, as is often the case when they are attracted by the street-lamps.
The rainfall for the year, as taken in my garden, was 24·43, the dryest months being June (1·20) and August (·37); while the wettest, July (3·38), was almost entirely owing to one tremendous downpour on July 23rd. In 1898 the rainfall at Keswick was 23·45, both years being below the average; and our wells, which have been quite dry, still want water.
As it is sometimes convenient to know afterwards what specimens were examined by the recorder, a dagger (†) in the following notes indicate such as were so inspected.
1st.—A few Golden Plover at the poulterer's. A Shag † allowed itself to be captured while fishing in Blakenny cut, and, though exhibiting no apparent injury, did not live many days; it had strength, however, to chase and kill some Goldfish in a pond. Although in adult winter plumage it already had a few of the glossy spring feathers showing in places. Four Shags were recorded in last year's "Notes," and they certainly are not the rarity in Norfolk they used to be; it would be interesting to know to what British colony we are indebted for them, as they no longer breed in Yorkshire, and may perhaps come to us from Norway.
14th.—A young male Iceland Gull on Breydon, so tame that Mr. Patterson crept to within ten paces; and of course next day it found its way to Mr. Lowne's shop. Length, 21·5; culmen, 1·3; tarsus, 1·8. I have not seen it, but these measurements are sufficient to establish its identity; and it is the fifth for our county, the Glaucous Gull being much commoner.
18th.—One of the chestnut-coloured Partridges killed at Bylaugh, near Dereham, by Col. Custance. These birds are quite different in colour from the melanistic race which was met with at Campsea Ash in 1891 and 1892, with which they cannot be confounded. They are simply an erythrism, an abnormal replacement of the natural colour by red, as has occasionally happened in the Bullfinch, House-Sparrow, Green Woodpecker, Rose-coloured Pastor, &c. This month a variety of the Hooded Crow speckled with white was taken near Thetford.
19th.—Black-throated Diver shot at the mouth of the river Bure by Mr. E.C. Saunders, who describes it as largely spotted on the wings, and becoming barred with white on its back.
26th.—A hundred Tufted Ducks and several small lots of Gadwall and Wigeon seen on the Ouse near Thetford (T. Southwell). Many Wild Ducks already paired.
31st.—Thousands of Lapwings at Hickling (S. Harmer).
1st.—A flock of about fifty Siskins by our river searching the alders in their usual engaging way.
2nd.—Mr. Caton Haigh met with seven Shore-Larks at Cley, soon after with a flock of about thirty, and farther along the coast saw other small parties and single birds; also twenty Chaffinches on the shingle, which he presumed had just come over, though we do not expect them after Christmas.
9th.—Coots and Redshanks paired (Bird).
11th.—The weather is now extraordinarily mild for the time of year, and the large flights of Wood-Pigeons which were in all our woods in January have gone, probably northwards. Lambs are becoming general, and the young wheat, which is two inches above the ground, is about safe from the depredations of Rooks, which have an appetite for the kernel long after it has sprouted. Seed-corn must be drilled very deep to be safe from their long beaks, on account of which and other misdeeds very few Norfolk farmers give the Rook a good character. Assisted by the Jackdaws—an increasing species in the eastern counties—the rascals have also, in spite of shooting, been doing their best to let "the weather" into the farmers' barley-stacks by persistently pulling out great quantities of the top straw and much of the thatch for the sake of the grain underneath, which they contrive to do with the greatest skill, but more easily where a stack is made up of short rakings. Two or three defunct Rooks hoisted on sticks make a fairly efficient scarecrow, but occasionally a very hungry Rook will not be deterred from making a regular burrow into a stack, protruding from which may be seen the black tip of his tail. More than this, Rooks will actually attack the roof of a barn, which must be pure mischief, as there can be nothing to eat there, except it be a few grubs in the thatch. Everyone knows their unfortunate partiality for swede-turnips at this time of the year, and that in itself is a strong indictment against large Rookeries. By pecking holes they soon make the roots rot; and in such a winter as 1898-9 this is no joke. But perhaps what most annoys the farmer is to see Rooks on a turnip-field when the plant is just coming up, for, although in some cases the birds are after the wireworm, the result is the same;—a crop of barren spaces appear in the field instead of swedes and mangolds, just as if a portion of the field had not been sown at all. Mr. Holmes informs me that at Winfarthing, Rooks have for some years nested on nut-bushes, where they will not be safe from the enraged Norfolk farmer, who seldom has a good word for these sable thieves.
14th.—Two Ruffs,† just commencing the spring change, shot in a field of young wheat with some Lapwings at Postwick (W. Spelman), which occurrence so very early in the year must have been due to the open weather. Plovers at this season are very fond of young wheat, and there have been a great many on the uplands, and in this instance their presence no doubt acted as a decoy to the Ruffs. Weather wet, but days very fine in spite of it.
23rd.—A pair of Shoveler Ducks on our largest broad (Bird). The repeated occurrence of Shovelers in the winter has been already remarked. Mr. Southwell thinks they are increasing in summer, and certainly the number of egg-shells in a nest testify to their prolificacy. Of the seven Ducks which commonly breed in Norfolk, the Garganey Teal is the only one which is never seen in winter; yet Norfolk is far from being its northern breeding limit. I have seen as many as nine eggs in a Garganey Teal's nest, and eleven in a Shoveler's.
27th.—A very early Thrush's nest at Keswick with three eggs, and another nest with one—undersized eggs in both cases; and a Robin's nest quite ready, in spite of slight frosts every night sufficient to brown the wheat. A Wild Duck reported to be already sitting at Shottesham, many Siskins in our "Rookery," and a Redpoll apparently searching for a nesting-place; Rooks also examining trees, and quantities of Thrushes on the fields. Partridges and Wood-Pigeons proved the unprecedented mildness of the weather by being paired long ago, although there was snow not far away. Five Shovelers at Hickling (Bird); not safe from the gunners yet.
My correspondent, Mr. Bird, writes from the Broads:—"An old male Golden-Eye still about, four pairs of Bearded Tits (good news), one Coot's nest half-built, and two others commenced; Water-Rails very noisy all day." Four days later came the snowstorm which wrought such destruction among the Lapwings in Scotland (Zool. 1899, p. 225). At once all work on my farm was stopped, and the wretched Thrushes, some of which had only just come northwards, crowded on to the few bits of grass still uncovered by the snow. In spite of this the Wheatear appeared at Beachamwell on the 22nd (R.C. Nightingale), a day later than Mr. Haigh first saw it in Lincolnshire.
23rd.—Mr. Bird found a Long-eared Owl sitting on five eggs among some brakes, which was remarkable after such a downfall of sleet and snow, much of which was still on the ground, and also from the circumstance of the nest being on the ground, the nests of this species which I have seen having always been in a tree, the silver-fir by preference.
28th.—Two Bramblings with black chins recently taken at Yarmouth; Mr, Lowne, who kept one of them, found that the amount of black diminished in the moult; these black-chinned Bramblings are not a very uncommon variety, and are the exact reverse of the white-chinned Goldfinch, which is sometimes called a "cheverel," and was described by Madarász as Carduelis albogularis. The black-chinned Brambling does not seem to have yet received a name in science.
4th.— A pair of Garganey Teal seen (A. Nudd). Now uncommon anywhere, and practically extinct in West Norfolk.
8th.— Another pair of Garganey (Bird), evidently going to nest, if they had not already begun on a rush-tuft.
11th.— A Sheldrake seen on Saham Mere, which is twenty-four miles from the sea (A. W. Partridge).
12th.— First Ruff; three Water-Rails' nests (Bird).
16th.—Hoopoe at Morston (R. Wood). Two Spoonbills on Breydon (B. Dye).
18th.—A few Gadwall, and one Tufted Duck only at the meres on Wretham Heath, where, owing to the drought, there is very little water (T. Southwell).
19th.—First Grasshopper Warblers heard (Bird).
3rd.—Mr. Patterson saw an Iceland Gull being mobbed by other Gulls at Breydon "Knowle." Thirteen Whimbrel at Hickling; and immediately afterwards two Garganeys (Bird).
8th.—Six or seven Spoonbills to be seen on Breydon muds, where they allowed themselves to be viewed by several people; and again, a few days afterwards, by Mr. Patterson and Mr. Dye, with the Iceland [or Glaucous] Gull mentioned above; and nineteen Bar-tailed Godwits. These are the same Spoonbills alluded to by Mr. Farman (Zool. 1899, p. 366), and three of them afterwards moved on to Cley (Pashley); while the Gull moved its quarters to Horsey Broad, where it was seen by Mr. Bird. Mr. Patterson has already described the manner in which these Spoonbills walked (Zool. 1899, p. 270); and, again, it was his opinion that Spoonbills are incapable of uttering any sound. I was quite of the same opinion until a short time ago, when two Spoonbills in confinement, which had been dumb for a long time, suddenly, under the influence of a warm day, began a rather feeble duet, accompanied by an up and down movement of the neck, but sufficient to prove them not speechless.
9th.—A Pied Chaffinch at Northrepps.
10th.—Four Pied Flycatchers in Mr. Pashley's garden.
11th.—A Marsh-Harrier's nest † quite ready for eggs, but not containing any, found about two miles from the sea by a naturalist who saw the female rise and quit it at twenty yards, there being four other Harriers on the wing at the same time, a sight not often enjoyed in England nowadays. Unfortunately the two old Harriers brought themselves under the gamekeeper's fatal ban by killing some leverets, and their identity, which had been questioned, was only too well established shortly afterwards, as this obnoxious individual trapped them both. The cock was quite the finest old male that has been seen in Norfolk for many a year, with grey wing-coverts, and a light tail and crown. The Marsh-Harrier's nest was nine inches in diameter and raised fourteen from the ground, but, as Mr. Bird remarked, as the rushes grew the nest would naturally continue to rise a little with them. It was composed of pieces of the "gladden" which grows all round (Carex or Juncus), and a few dead hemlock stems from the marsh wall, with one large bramble, and a bit of rotten wood the thickness of a man's finger. A few yards off lay the remains of a small leveret, the fatal appetite for which had brought down the keeper's wrath. The marsh is what would be called here a dry marsh, of large extent, a capital place at this time of the year for Swallow-tailed Butterflies and Cuckoos, one of which birds was seen by the marshman with an egg in its mouth or else a young bird. Of this nest Mr. Kearton obtained a good photograph, which is excellently reproduced in 'Our Rarer British Breeding Birds.' It is supposed to be twenty years since any Marsh Harriers have been hatched off in Norfolk, the last attempt, known to Mr. Bird, prior to this, being in 1894, when two eggs are believed to have been laid and two Bantam's eggs substituted for them, on which Mr. Bird ascertained the old female Harrier sat. Probably she shared the usual fate of all "Hawks" in a game-preserving county long before she had time to find out the ruse which was practised upon her. Mr. Stevenson considered that the Marsh Harrier nested at Ranworth Broad in 1878; and in May, 1881, I saw one at Barton, which, from its tameness and the time of the year, I supposed might be nesting. The boldness of the Tawny Qwl when it has young is well known, and one which had a nest in an old tree at Buckenham maintained this savage character, and frightened so many people that it had to be got rid of. First a signalman received a buffet, and lost his hat; then the rector of the parish was attacked; after this a man named George lost his hat, which was picked up in a field some distance away. A young lady was next attacked; and another person had to act on the defensive against this formidable aggressor three times, the Owl seeming determined to fight him somehow. It is extraordinary that the Tawny Owl still holds its own in small numbers in this county in spite of the systematic persecution it receives. I have lost two of my Teal; but am glad to say the Owls remain unmolested. I have never heard of either the Short-eared or the Long-eared Owl showing such boldness in the defence of their young; but there are few more savage birds than the Eagle Owl in confinement at such times; and some years ago my man was near losing his eye, since when I have had a basket helmet made for him. For a week in the early part of May a Nutcracker frequented a plantation of tall dark fir trees near Thetford, Mr. Thomas Baring's attention being first drawn by its unusual croaking note; but after a week the bird disappeared, and was not seen again, fortunately escaping the prowling gunners. The last occurred in 1888; but we have never had one in the spring before, and only four altogether; and, for Lincolnshire, Mr. Cordeaux only mentions two.
12th.—My nephew saw a Cuckoo fly past him in Northrepps Avenue with what he distinctly perceived to be an egg in its mouth, and close to where I had seen one searching for a nest two days before. It is not often one has an opportunity of verifying the habit now so well known.
13th.—Mr. Pashley saw a Black Redstart. A pair of Common Redstarts have built in a tub put up for Owls at a considerable height from the ground.
16th.—A pair of Bearded Tits on the same pond near Holt where three were recorded last September, and where the reeds have been allowed to grow up, which no doubt attracts them, as they were again seen there in December. Two or three were also lately noticed by Mr. Buxton in a small "bay" on the north side of Fritton lake, where it was believed they were extinct (cf. Norwich N. Tr. vi. p. 436). A nest, found by Mr. Bird, on the 1st, contained eight eggs on the 6th, a large clutch, six being the usual complement. Very few eggs are taken now, there being a general desire on all hands to protect this charming bird before it is too late.
24th.—Four or five Gadwall on Scoulton Mere, evidently nesting; and about one thousand Black-headed Gulls; but no Black Terns there this year. One Gadwall was feeding in the water, as if she had left her nest and was hungry; while the drake kept guard over his consort until the boat was within thirty yards of her. I never identified Gadwall on Scoulton Mere before; but the keeper says they have been there all the winter; so perhaps these birds' limited area is spreading. I also received some from a small lake at Watton, where they do not breed, but regularly appear as visitors. They are tolerably common in West Norfolk, probably more than a hundred pair of them; and fifteen years ago there were even more, but never fifteen hundred on one property as has been said. They have never been known to nest on the Broads.
25th.—Lesser Spotted Woodpecker's nest, with three eggs, at Spixworth; and another nest at Rollesby (Cole); this bird probably also bred at Frammingham Earl.
30th.—Lesser Redpoll's nest at Ingham; about two hundred nests of the Black-headed Gull at Somerton Broad; and a pair of Garganey at Horsey (Bird). An Aylesbury Duck, belonging to Mrs. Blythe, has laid an egg measuring eleven and a quarter inches in circumference; a monstrosity indeed!
3rd.— A Little Bittern at Hickling (Bird).
7th.—Two pairs of Norfolk Plovers,† probably nesting. One had a very yellow bill, and from its general tameness and running in front of us, must, we thought, have young; but a careful search failed to find them. Mr. Norgate tells me that the Ringed Plover will occasionally lay to the eggs of this species; and at Harling both are common, proprietors for the most part protecting them.
15th.—Grey Plover at Breydon (Patterson); a late bird to be still here in June.
20th.— A Greater Spotted Woodpecker's nest † in an alder tree, containing young ready to fly, and close to a house near Keswick. There may also have been a nest at Northrepps, as a female, accidentally trapped, had the bare belly spot.
29th.—A mealy Hedge Sparrow reported seen at Keswick; and a white one at Mousehold.
2nd.—Six Curlews at Keswick.
25th.—A very early Greenshank on Breydon muds (Patterson); and about the same time a Golden Plover at Waxham (Bird).
31st.—A fine Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo), with two primary quills severed, shot at Brancaster, by the sea (R. Clarke); but, from enquiries made by the Rev. J. Tuck, it is possible that this, as well as three others shot at Lavenham, in Suffolk, had been turned out by the Duke of Bedford's orders at Woburn Park. Another, with a portion of the carpal joint cut away, was sent to Mr. Cole, of Norwich, on October 6th; and altogether twenty are reported to have got away from Woburn in spite of several being pinioned to the first joint.
2nd.—Two Wood-Sandpipers at Hickling (Bird), a species which generally comes—true to date—at the beginning of harvest; but no Garganeys, though looked for; though Mr. Bird hears that a keeper has some young ones hatched from gathered eggs.
9th.—Five Wood-Sandpipers seen in a marsh at Cley (F.D. Power); also a small Wader, which the authorities there, who are now very clever in detecting novelties, considered to be a Broad-billed Sandpiper (Pashley).
18th.—Two Corncrakes, flushed by my nephew in a barley field, did a very unusual thing in immediately perching on some elm-trees. Later in the autumn two were "telegraphed" at Keswick; and I heard of two caught by hand elsewhere. Mr. Bird remarks that it has been quite a Landrail year, in confirmation of which he sends me dates of seventeen shot or seen by himself between August 25th and October 10th, adding that he had heard of many others; and several were seen at Northrepps about that time.
29th.—W. A Green Woodpecker seen on the sea-wall at Cley by Mr. F.D. Power, not the first indication we have of this being an over-sea migrant; for, as Mr. Pashley reminds me, they are often seen on the brackish marshes, and he has himself flushed them from the creeks by the beach. Mr. Bird remarks that if Green Woodpeckers do not migrate they move about much more in Norfolk in autumn and winter than in spring and summer; and between September 2nd and November 29th he saw nine, all within four miles of the coast, and in places where they certainly do not breed. They are, however, like the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, very susceptible to frost, which means starvation for them. At the beginning of the year Mr. Lowne had a Green Woodpecker with a beak like a Crossbill, and not only was it crossed, but the longest mandible had attained the length of two and a half inches, and it is extraordinary how it maintained its existence.
31st.—S.S.W. Five Great Skuas seen on the coast by Mr. Long; and one of them, again, a few days afterwards, by Mr. Gunn. October is the usual month in which this fine Skua has visited Norfolk, and only one has been seen before in August. Mr. Connop has a splendid melanism of this species, quite equal to the one figured in Dresser's 'Birds of Europe.'
Wind west, thirteen days; wind north, twelve days; wind south, two days; wind east, two days.
4th.—W., light. A hybrid † between a Goldfinch and a Linnet, netted at Acle by a birdcatcher named George, has the wings of a Goldfinch, but the Linnet's plumage predominates in the breast, back, throat, and tail, and its note partakes of both (W. Lowne). It is a hybrid which has been several times bred in confinement, but the present one we are assured is a wild caught bird, and agrees fairly with the description in Macpherson's "Hybrid Finches" (Norw. N. Tr. iv. p. 368).
5th.—N.W., first frost. An immature Icterine Warbler † (Hypolais icterina)—the fourth that has been taken in Norfolk—shot on our coast by Mr. E.C. Arnold (Zool., 1899, p. 475), is exactly similar in size and tint to one shot in 1896 by Mr. Robert Gurney, and presented to the museum. Mr. Cordeaux, in his List, is only able to give one Lincolnshire occurrence of this species, and two of the Great Reed Warbler, which Mr. Howard Saunders thinks may be also added to the Norfolk list (Manual B.B., 1st ed.).
6th.— W.S.W. A Manx Shearwater picked up at St. Faith's, a species which always turns up at this time of the year, either off the coast or inland.
7th.—E. A young female Wheatear, shot by Mr. F.E. Gunn on the coast, has the central rectrices black to the base, and the other rectrices also much smudged with black, and some speckling of the same on the belly; at first thought to be an Isabelline Wheatear, but it seems rather to be a slightly melanistic Saxicola œnanthe.
8th.—W. A beautiful young male Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites rufescens), shot on shingle at Cley by Mr. Arnold. Its nicely mottled upper parts are very different from the dark back of our old Museum specimen, said to have been shot in July, a few miles east of where the present one was procured. The species has a more rounded head than most of its kin, which feature was well shown in Mr. Arnold's freshly mounted example, and also the distinctive freckles under the wing. Mr. Cordeaux does not include this American species in his List, but it has been shot five times in Norfolk. Whether the present example came with a west, or an east wind, seems doubtful.
9th.—N.W. Two Velvet Scoters seen, several Richardson's Skuas; also Great Crested Grebes, young Ruffs, two Dusky Redshanks, and a Red-necked Phalarope,—all on the coast (Pashley).
14th.— N.E. Great Snipe at Southwold ('The Field'). Between this date and the 27th Great Snipes were shot at Yarmouth (Dye), Haddiscoe, Pensthorpe (Davey), and two at Ellingham (Toyser); while later on at Stuston (Southwell), and two at Morston (Pashley). It is many years since Norfolk has had any number of Solitary Snipe, though there were several in September, 1880.
18th.— N.W. Hoopoe at Skeyton (Cole).
21st.— N.W. Four Cormorants at Hunstanton (Tuck).
29th.—Another of the chestnut Partridges,† an adult of a dark Grouse-like colour, killed at Elsing (T.E. Gunn), which is near where the others have all been taken, and where a race has really been perpetuated, this being the fourth year in which they have turned up, and the present the twelfth example. It would be interesting to see what a young one, about half-grown, would be like, as no doubt the dark plumage would show. As so much has been said in these "Notes" about this singular variety, the accompanying reproduction of a sketch by Mr. Herd may be acceptable (Plate II.), representing one of our best specimens (killed last November), a typical Perdix montana, Briss.; and very like Brisson's plate, with just the same light head and neck. Even in his time it was known to cross with the Common Partridge, from which the French ornithologists supposed it to be distinct.
30th.—S. The bushes by the sea full of small birds, including a Nightingale and some Pied Flycatchers, the wind, which had been westerly, having suddenly veered round to S.E. (Pashley). A good many Sky-Larks were found dead under the telephone-wires at Cley (Pashley), and a Dunlin was shot in a turnip-field at Trimmingham (Buxton); but this was before the movement noticed by Mr. Haigh in Lincolnshire.
Wind west, ten days; south, eight days; north, six days; east, four days.
1st.—S. veering to S.S.E. Hundreds of Long-tailed Tits seen in St. George's Park, Yarmouth, by Mr. Patterson; but the true Acredula caudata was not detected among them, though, according to the late Mr. Churchill Babington, it has been met with in Norfolk. It seems to have been a great Tit year, as Mr. Bligh counted twenty-seven Long-tailed Tits in one flock in August, and I noticed several. Mr. Caton Haigh reports that it is many autumns since he noticed so many Great and Blue Tits in Lincolnshire. 1882 was also a Tit year in Norfolk, and in October, 1880, there were troops of them near Cromer—distinguishable by the white on the head being restricted to the crown—which had presumably crossed the sea. Great Tits have been taken at Norfolk light-vessels several times, but the Long-tailed Tit only once. About this time four Grey Phalaropes were announced in different places (Lowne and Clark), and an Eagle, doubtless a young White-tailed Eagle, was shot at Babingley, near Lynn. This is the seventh Eagle in the last twelve years, the others occurring in November or December.
2nd.—S.W. Thirty-three Grey Plovers on Mr. Durrant's stall in Yarmouth Market (the dealer alluded to in the preface), and three Greenshanks (Patterson).
12th.—S.S.W. One hundred and twenty Grey Plovers offered by different Breydon gunners to Mr. Durrant, the salesman, who says that during the ten days the migration lasted he had about two hundred and seventy altogether (Patterson). The wind had been west or some point of west every day except on the 6th, 8th, and 9th, and in the face of a west wind they came, which was very strong on the 3rd, when perhaps most of them touched shore. A good many came to Cley and Blakenny (Pashley), and Mr. Haigh fell in with them as far north as Lincolnshire. This year has produced a greater number of Grey Plovers than has occurred since the autumn of 1877; but they are at all times rather a common Norfolk bird, and I have always considered them essentially a bird of the coast, and at Blakenny much more abundant than the Golden Plover.
16th.—S.E., strong. Mr. Bird, who lives near the coast, put up three Snipe in a dry turnip-field, and at the same time remarked Rooks, Grey Crows, and Jackdaws streaming overhead; while flocks of Grey Crows were to be seen passing Fritton Lake, indicating that the movement had an extended front. I saw a Ring-Ouzel, and "very many Ring-Ouzels" turned up at Cley (Pashley). Four days after that, flock after flock of Long-tailed Tits arrived, and I am assured by Mr. Pashley, whose "garden was full of them," that they were actually seen coming off the sea (cf. note on Oct. 1st).
25th.—N.N.W. Mr. Lowne received an immature female Purple Heron from Blyth, near Lowestoft, where it was shot by Mr. Roberts, as notified in the 'Field,' and may possibly have been the bird which was seen at Easton Broad on the 18th, and thought to be a Glossy Ibis ('Field,' Oct. 28th). The last occurrence was in 1882, and, like nearly all the others, an immature example. The wind on the 24th was N.N.E.; Grey Crows going N.W. On the 23rd and 22nd there was practically no wind.
8th.—S. A gamekeeper named Platten, about six o'clock in the evening, shot a large bird which he noticed pass twice under the arch of Rollesby Bridge, where there is a small stream about four inches deep. When taken to Mr. Connop it proved to be an adult Night-Heron † without any occipital plumes, and in somewhat rusty plumage, and was no doubt after fish. It is supposed to have been some days on the broad when shot. Curiously enough, Nov. 8th is exactly the same day on which one was shot at Caister in 1860. It is twelve years since there has been a capture of the Night Heron, the two seen at Beeston being doubtful; and the last two were shot respectively on the sail of a mill and the roof of a house.
11th.—A Shag caught on the beach (Patterson), but it may have been shot at.
15th.—Two Egyptian Geese shot at Morston (Pashley), almost the only Geese killed this winter, except two Pink-footed, which were winged (Pashley), of which one got well and escaped; but the other is in a garden where there are some Bean Geese, with which it will possibly pair.
17th.—Mr. Pashley writes that flocks of Little Auks were seen passing at sea, and that two of them came near enough to strike the rigging of a steamer which a short time before had come ashore. No more that I know of were captured; and, as I was away, I did not note the direction of the wind, but it was immediately after the great meteoric shower. Two were also picked up in October.
8th.—Received from Saham a drake Shoveler † beginning to assume plumage, caught there on the 6th, and a few days afterwards one was taken at Yarmouth (Patterson).
9th.—Received a Storm Petrel † from Winterton Lighthouse, which, I believe, was found on the shore with three Gannets and some Kittiwake Gulls (Patterson).
21st.—Three Barnacle-Geese shot out of a flock of ten at Breydon (Patterson), and about the same time three at Morston and two at Cley (Pashley), where altogether fifteen were seen. The last I remember in that district was a single bird shot from the shore in October, 1890, and so many as fifteen is quite unusual on any part of the east coast.
Black-tailed Godwit.—Two pairs of Black-tailed Godwits from Leadenhall Market, turned into an open-air cage in May, soon became tame enough to be amusing, and, being pinioned, were allowed their run every day. No matter how dry the grass was these Godwits were continually boring for worms, but it is difficult to see when they get anything, the action of swallowing is so quick. They frequently stood on one leg, sometimes scratching themselves with the other; sometimes motionless, and in that attitude appeared to sleep. They did not care for water so long as they had sopped bread and finely chopped meat, which they eat voraciously. Very vociferous over this food, it was most comical to see them sparring like Ruffs, seizing one another by the beak, and screaming with rage if one was thought to get more than its share, which the females generally did. But the prettiest action (when I longed to photograph them) was when, with spread tail, lowered head, and scapular feathers raised, and the beak used as a weapon, they menaced one another; but no harm ever came of it. One lived eight months, but the cold was too much, and they are evidently not such hardy cage-birds as the Knots, which stand frost well. After three months' diligent boring they concluded there were no more worms in my enclosed garden, and gave up boring, and never tried again, thus showing an amount of instinct very near to reason.
Common Crossbill.—The following are a few experiences with caged Crossbills, which, unlike the shy Hawfinch, feed fearlessly in the presence of anybody, and are consequently amusing to keep and easy to watch. Restless and Parrot-like in action, they climb about the wires of a large cage, never tired of testing its strength and durability with their strong jaws. Cones are their natural food, and they most dexterously push aside the scales by a sideways lever-like motion of the mandibles in order to get at the seed beneath, first bringing the points of the upper and lower mandibles from their crossed position to be almost over each other, an action which requires to be seen to be duly appreciated. In this way they prise off the scales, but unless there be a seed they know too well to do it in useless search. It may be presumed that they would generally push the scales of a cone to the right or the left, according to the way their mandibles cross one another. In fifteen recently examined the upper mandible turned to the right, and in eight to the left. In one I had alive the mandibles grew to the unnatural length of an inch. My Crossbills never manifested any interest in old brown fir-cones, but they liked the new ones in September, and were very fond of the big cones of Picea nobilis. We read of great destruction caused by them to apple crops, but they do not seem able to work their way into an apple which is not on a bough, though they relish it if cut into small pieces, evidently liking the fruit part quite as much as the pips. Their power of sudden concealment in the tops of the fir trees, remarkable at first sight, is entirely due to their instinct in remaining quite still. A Crossbill can fly with a fir-cone in its mouth, which is one proof of the strength of those powerful mandibles, if, indeed, proof were wanted. My Crossbills favoured me with no music until Christmas Day, when for the first time one of them was heard to utter a loud chirp. When bought on July 6th they were in red male plumage; by Christmas Day one of them had become quite yellow, but the other two cocks had changed but little, though the brightness of their red had diminished since October. Bechstein says many are bred in aviaries in Thuringia, but never acquire the red colour in confinement.
Erratum in Notes for 1898.—I learn from Mr. Howard Bunn that the correct date when the Little Bustard was shot at Kessingland, as recorded in last year's "Notes," was not May 30th, but May 3rd, 1898, an error on my part.