Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/236

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A HISTORY OF WARWICKSHIRE covered by the chips which have fallen to the ground when the hole was being made. 89. Kingfisher. Akedo ispida, Linn. There can be little doubt that the diminu- tion in the numbers of this bird has been caused in a great measure by the extremely wet summers of about twenty years ago. In 1879 the meadows bordering the streams in the county were in a state of flood for several weeks during the breeding season, and the nests of the kingfishers must have been de- stroyed wholesale. With the return of more favourable nesting times the kingfishers, as might be expected, have become more nu- merous, and although still uncommon more of these beautiful birds may now be seen on the Avon and its tributaries. 90. Bee-Eater. Merops apiaster, Linn. In one instance only has the bee-eater been met with in Warwickshire. Two were seen and one of them shot at Red Hill on the road between Stratford-on-Avon and Alcester on 29 May, 1886. The bird which was shot proved to be a female containing enlarged eggs, and had she been spared it is probable that she would have nested somewhere near. 91. Hoopoe. Upupa epops, Linn. Several specimens of this bird which have occurred in the county are preserved in col- lections. One in the Warwick Museum was shot at Brinklow ; another in a private collec- tion was shot at Oak farm, three miles north- west of Stratford-on-Avon ; while a third in the writer's collection was taken at Broom in the parish of Bidford in 1852. A fourth occurred at Henley in Arden, which having been shot was taken to Warwick for preserva- tion,where the present writer saw and examined it. Mr. Chase gives several occurrences of the hoopoe near Birmingham, namely at Witton, Quinton, Oscott, and Baddesley near Tarn- worth. 92. Cuckoo. Cucu/us canorus, Linn. A common summer visitor all over the county. I have long been of opinion that the female cuckoo lays her eggs on the bare ground, from which she takes them in her beak and places them in the nests of other birds ; and I have arrived at that conclusion from having repeatedly met with cuckoos' eggs, and also young cuckoos, in nests into which the cuckoo could not have deposited them by the ordinary process of laying. I believe that on one occasion I disturbed a bird of this species when in the act of laying an egg on the bare ground, or immediately after she had done so. Seeing a cuckoo flitting about in a very odd manner on some bare ground at the foot of a large grass-grown heap of earth in the middle of a pasture field, I watched the actions of the bird for a little time until it had settled down on one side of the heap, and then approached it quite closely from the opposite side of the heap, when it flew off in great hurry and alarm, leaving behind it an egg, which was broken and the contents were escaping from the shell. I believe that I surprised a female cuckoo when laying her egg on the bare ground preparatory to conveying it to the nest of some foster parent. 93. White or Barn-Owl. Strix flammea, Linn. The time is not very distant when this beautiful and useful bird will have to be reported as rare in the county, for it is yearly becoming less common. In the win- ter of 1898-9 a rather remarkable variety of the barn-owl, which had been taken near Stratford-on-Avon, was brought to Mr. Quatremayne for preservation. It was what has been called an eastern owl, small, very pale in colour, and without the usual yellow- ish buff either above or below. 94. Long-eared Owl. Asia otus (Linn.) Resident and not rare, though not com- mon. As in other counties it much affects woods in which there are pines or other ever- green trees, in the foliage of which it con- ceals itself by day. 95. Short-eared Owl. Asia accipltrinus (Pallas) An autumn migrant, appearing in some seasons not uncommonly, though never nu- merously. 96. Tawny Owl. Syrnium aluco (Linn.) Since the barn-owl has become less com- mon the present species is certainly the most abundant owl in Warwickshire. It is a much more watchful bird than that species, and has a way of concealing itself in woods, especially if they contain evergreen trees. 97. Marsh-Harrier. Circus teruginosus (Linn.) Some years ago two of these birds were taken by the keeper in the park at Warwick Castle, and having been preserved by John Spicer of Warwick were afterwards seen by the present writer in the castle. The War- wick Museum contains one taken at Ston- leigh Abbey. All three are in immature plumage. A fourth Warwickshire specimen is mentioned by Mr. Chase as having occurred at Elford near Tamworth. 198