The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 667/Notes and Queries

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Notes and Queries (January, 1897)
various authors, editor W.L. Distant
4035135Notes and QueriesJanuary, 1897various authors, editor W.L. Distant




Early Man in Britain.—At Brandon, a village and parish on the borders of Suffolk and Norfolk, there have been recently found, in a field within eighty yards from the Little Ouse or Brandon river, no fewer than sixty-three skulls, which have been examined and described by Mr. Charles S. Myers, B.A., in the 'Journal of the Anthropological Institute.' Mr. Myers is inclined to "assign these remains to a people that lived antecedent to the Saxon invasion. Indeed, there is but one skull in this series that presents in any degree the physical characters of Saxon crania." This prompts the further conclusion that, "if the Brandon skulls date, as there is every reason to believe, from an age prior to the Saxon invasion, the presence of a Saxon in England at this date demonstrates that the Saxon invasion took place more gradually than history would have us conceive, or that Saxons were included in the auxiliary forces introduced by the Romans. Doubtless both these alternatives are true. Even in pre-Roman times the Iceni were a mixed people. Thus the Roman institution of the Comes Litoris Saxonica becomes fraught with a new meaning. On some such hypotheses the early Brandon folk may well have received a sprinkling of Saxon settlers along the Icknield Way from the eastern ports."—Ed.


Dogs of Draught in Belgium.—No visitor to Brussels can fail to be struck with the number of Dogs which are to be seen about the streets employed in drawing small carts and barrows. It has been recently estimated that in the capital alone more than 10,000 Dogs are thus employed, and the number of draught Dogs throughout the country is probably not less than 50,000. Generations of servitude have thus made the Belgian Dog a race sui generis. For his size he is said to possess the greatest pulling power of any animal, four times his own weight being considered a load well within his powers. Taking his average weight as 56 lbs., or half a hundredweight, this means that something like 5000 tons are daily dragged about by Dogs in Belgium. The economic importance of the Belgian Dog, and his inability to give expression to his own grievances, have caused the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals to agitate for the amelioration of his lot.—J.E. Harting.


Winter Notes from Winchester Water-meads.—September.—The Peewits are gathering together now into large flocks, and are always flying south by easy stages. On the 29th I came across a company of 500 or so that had settled in a ploughed field, and was feeding in a dense mass and chattering. I noticed in this case that a few individuals had separated from the main body, and appeared to be acting as signals to any stragglers that happened to be in the neighbourhood by flying, apparently aimlessly, at a considerable height, and never straying far from their companions. On this date I disturbed a Green Woodpecker from a small copse on the roadside. We have not been visited yet by any Gulls; the weather has been clear and fine for the most part.

October.—The first Gulls (Larus canus) arrived on the 7th, in a violent storm of rain and wind, between 12 and 1 o'clock. They left us the next day. I have noticed that these birds utter their sharp cries only when in the act of arriving or departing, but when they are sailing leisurely over the river here they are quite silent. The Sand Martins are collected in large quantities by the end of October, and leave us, save for a few stragglers, by the first week in November. On the 9th there were some birdcatchers in water-meads, who had committed considerable havoc among the Goldfinches, which are numerous here. A fine cock-bird was ensnared as I passed. They had caught a Sparrowhawk, which had flown down into their nets after the decoy-bird. The place which they had chosen for their unlawful sport was entirely public, but the men were not in the least disconcerted. On this date two solitary Peewits passed over, flying south. On the 13th there were five Herring Gulls wheeling at a great height on the other side of St. Catherine's Hill. On the 28th, during a journey to Oxford, I noticed a large flight of Peewits and numerous Fieldfares in the water-meads on the north side of Winchester. The Gulls have not arrived permanently yet.

November.—On the 1st a solitary Gull passed over College, flying inland (west). The Jackdaws and Starlings, which nest in the loosened stones of the College chapel, can be seen together with numerous Rooks in water-meads. On the 6th the Pied Wagtails arrived in numbers, and one bird frequents the College buildings. On the 17th a flock of thirty Gulls arrived, and these birds have stayed all through the winter, their numbers sometimes being increased by new-comers, and sometimes reduced by absentees. On the 22nd two large flights passed over, and finally took a southward course. A Herring Gull visited his congeners in water-meads, but left immediately. The Pied Wagtails are collected in numbers in water-meads by this date. A Wild Duck was floating dead in the river. On the 24th it was clear, with a north wind. A flock of eighty or ninety Gulls passed southwards, flying high. A party of six Brent Geese flying inland (west) passed over water-meads in the morning. The Linnets are numerous and gay. Flights of Gulls, numbering fifty, thirty, forty, eighty, sixty, forty, passed southwards between 2 and 4 o'clock, flying high. A congregation of Fieldfares was disturbed by a Sparrowhawk while feeding in the water-meads by St. Cross. On the 29th one solitary Peewit was flying south over Winchester in the morning.

December.—On the 2nd the first Grey Wagtails have arrived in watermeads, looking very bright with their yellow breasts. There are 100 Gulls feeding in a ploughed field on St. Catherine's Hill, with numerous Starlings. Chaffinches swarm on St. Catherine's Hill and in water-meads. By the 6th the Grey Wagtails are more numerous. On the 8th I saw the Reed Buntings in water-meads for the first time this winter. This bird breeds some way further down the river. The cock-birds are very easily distinguished by their black heads, but the females may often be carelessly mistaken for a Sparrow. By the 17th the Grey and Pied Wagtails are still more numerous. On the 22nd I saw six or seven Bullfinches in watermeads for the first time this winter. The Gulls are as numerous as ever, but have to content themselves, unlike their relations in St. James's Park, with what food they can pick up for themselves.—G.W. Smith (Ivy Bank, Beckenham).

Breeding of Corncrakes in Confinement.—In 1895 I reared a pair of these birds from the nest, and they passed the very mild winter (1895–96) in an indoor aviary. About April 24th I turned them into their summer quarters in an outdoor aviary, and the following day the male started craking vigorously. Towards the middle of May a hole was scratched out in the ground, but it was not until June 12th that the first egg was laid, when the male at once ceased to crake. They would not sit, and on the eggs being removed the craking recommenced, and a fresh hole was hollowed out, and lined with bents, dry grass, &c, and a clutch of eight eggs laid. Incubation, which was carried on by the hen, lasted seventeen days. Both sexes look after and feed the young, which, although they leave the nest on being hatched, do not attempt to feed themselves for about four days. The parents hold the food in their beaks, uttering at the same time a soft and almost inaudible sound, while the young, readily responding to the call, run up and take the food. The young were full grown and able to fly at about seven weeks old, their flight-feathers being the last to grow.—J. Lewis Bonhote (68, Lexham Gardens).

The Flight of the Swift.—With reference to the question asked in the December number of 'The Zoologist,' as to whether this bird is able to rise from the ground, I have found it utterly unable to rise from a perfectly level surface, such as a well-kept road or an oil-cloth-covered or carpeted floor; but from a neglected road, full of ruts and hollow places, it can and does rise, lifting its wings high over its back, and raising itself from a slight elevation by the first downward flap. Its efforts to rise from a carpet are ludicrous, as its long claws enter the texture, and with its first effort it tips forward helplessly. I should expect grass to interfere with its rising, the blades catching in the feet, and thus partly counteracting the lifting effect of the first flap. On a dead level road the tips of the wings strike the surface, and it merely flops along, or that has been the case with those which I have observed.—A.G. Butler.

Correction.—In my note "On a chocolate-coloured variety of Perdix cinerea" (Zool. 1896, pp. 472–73), some errors have occurred in printing. On p. 472, sixth line from bottom, for "Hinder tail-coverts" read "Under tail-coverts"; p. 473, third line from top, for "Hinder wing-coverts" read "Under wing-coverts"; seventh line from top, for "height 12½ in," read "weight 12½ oz."—F. Coburn (Holloway Head, Birmingham).


Abundance of Sharks in Tropical Seas.—It is singular how few zoological ideas and facts occur to a naturalist on the most frequented tracks of the ocean; the apparent sameness in the vast wilderness of water seems to oppress and stifle observation. One circumstance, however, has always presented itself to the writer when traversing the ocean in tropical regions, and that is the abundance of Sharks, so easily overlooked. When sitting reading near the rails, a casual glance at the water frequently detects the dorsal fin or even the body of a Shark disturbed by the huge liner. Seldom is a prolonged stay at the bows in tropical regions unrewarded by a sight of one of these monsters. It is obvious that those we accidentally notice can form but a small ratio to the number disturbed by the ship, which again passes only as a mere speck through the regions they inhabit. Probably other readers have had the same experience, and it almost seems that the prodigious number of these fishes is barely estimated.—Ed.