The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 704/Notes and Queries

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Notes and Queries  (February, 1900) 
various authors, editor W.L. Distant



Early Appearance of Chiffchaff.—On Dec. 31st I saw and watched for some time, with a field-glass in my garden here, a specimen of the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus rufus); it appeared quite lively, and was busily engaged searching for insects among some evergreen shrubs. I consider this a very late appearance for this well-known Warbler.—W.J. Williams (Garville Road, Rathgar).

Nesting Habits of Great Tit.—Referring to Mr. Aplin's note on the Great Tit (Parus major) (ante, p. 19), he may not be aware that this bird is in the habit of covering its eggs till it has laid the full clutch, or nearly so. For some years past Great Tits have nested in our boxes here, frequently six or eight pairs in a season, and often the removal of the lid has revealed an apparently unfinished nest, which has contained three or four eggs covered with fur or wool. Perhaps I may add that we have had as tenants of our nest-boxes here the Redstart, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Cole Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, House-Sparrow, Starling, and Wryneck; and a neighbour who lives in an adjoining village has repeatedly had Tree-Sparrows nesting in his boxes.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).

Great Grey Shrike in Suffolk.—A very perfect example of the race (or species) of Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), with one spot on the wing, was shot at Risby, near Bury St. Edmunds, about Nov. 20th. By the delicate pale grey of the back, and the very slight indications of markings on the breast, it appears to be a fully adult bird.—Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).

Red-billed Chough.—At the last meeting of the Hampstead Scientific Society, I was enabled to exhibit a very fine mounted specimen of the Red billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), which was shot from among a flock of Rooks near Hendon during last summer (1899). The bird was brought in the flesh to Mr. J.E. Whiting, of Heath Street, for preservation.—Basil W. Martin (6, Holly Place, Hampstead).

Hoopoe in Anglesea.—Whilst engaged in investigating the occurrence of rare birds in Cheshire, I recently came across a specimen of the Hoopoe (Upupa epops) in a keeper's cottage at Carden, which had been shot by the gamekeeper at Bodyor, near Holyhead, "about twenty-two years ago." — T.A. Coward (Bowdon, Cheshire).

Peregrine in Suffolk.—On Jan. 17th I saw in the flesh, at Bury St. Edmunds, one of the finest adult female Peregrines (Falco peregrinus) which has ever come under my notice, shot by a keeper within an hour's walk of Bury Station. Females of this species very much outnumber males, both in the adult and immature plumage, and I only know of two adult male Peregrines obtained in Suffolk—one shot at Ickworth about 1860, which my father purchased at the time; and one (now in the Hele Collection in the Ipswich Museum), which struck the telegraph-wires near Aldeburgh in March, 1865.— Julian G. Tuck (Tostock Rectory, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk).

Bittern near Scarborough.—Last Friday (Dec. 29th) Mr. Challinor, farmer, Scalby Lodge, noticed and shot a rare bird in one of his fields which was flooded with water. The bird proved to be a beautiful specimen of the Common Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), or rather it should be called uncommon, seeing that it is about fifteen years since the last one was captured on Scalby Road, and which is now in the possession of Sir Wm. Fielding, Bart., South Cliff. It was brought to me to be preserved. The Osprey which was shot near here a few weeks ago, and which was recorded in the papers, also goes into Mr. Challinor's collection.—John Morley (King Street, Scarborough).

Little Gull (Larus minutus) on the Thames.—I have recently added to my collection a female example of L. minutus in immature plumage. It was shot by Mr. E. Goodman, of Southend, who kindly gave it me shortly after securing it, and informed me its flight exactly resembled that of a small Tern. I found its gizzard contained some very small fishes' bones. The occurrence of this species at the end of December is, I believe, very unusual, as the majority of specimens that have been observed off the British coasts have been in the autumn and spring migrations. As I have often found that the lengths of birds given in various works on ornithology are not very reliable—due, I fancy, to the measurements being taken from skins and not from birds in the flesh—it may therefore be interesting to note that this bird in the flesh measured in length, from tip of bill to end of tail, 10¼ in.; wing, from carpal joint to end of longest primary, 8½ in.; expanse of wings, 25 in.; and weight only 3⅓ oz., although the bird was in excellent condition.—F.W. Frohawk.

Winter Notes from Haddiscoe.—During the past few months sportsmen have had little to complain of in the way of sport on the Norfolk marshes and waterways. During the month of September three Solitary Snipes fell victims to the Partridge guns in the locality of Haddiscoe. October witnessed the arrival of many Woodcocks, more than the usual complement. Individuals are being shot even now (January) almost daily; two were killed quite close to my door at Christmas, and another caught in a Rabbit-trap. In November the migration of Snipe exceeded that of many previous years, especially the Jacks, which I found in plenty at favourite haunts, and those I shot were in fine condition, being very fat and plump. Golden Plover have been exceedingly scarce. With December came the cream of wildfowl shooting; the short snap of winter weather in the shape of a snowfall and a few sharp frosts filled the district with all kinds of wildfowl. Some of the gunners who went out with a shoulder-gun grumbled at bad luck after having bagged half a score of Duck in the space of a few hours by the river-side! The numbers slaughtered must have been enormous, the price of Wild Duck coming down as low as a shilling each. From an old Breydon gunner of many years' standing I learnt he had never seen the like before. Such unusual numbers of wild birds brought out sportsmen of all ages with various firearms, and most made good bags. For a few days Snipe-shooting was excellent, and so many killed that local game-dealers only paid fourpence each for them. As regards Coots and Moor-hens, dealers would not be troubled with them, owing to the great number of slain. On Dec. 18th, whilst walking by the side of Breydon, I observed fully three thousand Coots disporting themselves on the still water. On the approach of a gun-punt the whole host, with a mighty roar, took wing, alighting farther afield, only to receive more molestation from some other knight of the trigger. I counted eight punts containing swivel-guns of large calibre, with owners anxiously looking out with field-glasses for a shot, but the best part of the Duck-shooting was over at this date. I shot a specimen of the Great-crested Grebe on the Waveney. Three Goosanders were also procured on the same river, beside a quantity of Tufted Duck and three Smew. I saw several flocks of Geese; one flock numbered thirty-four. A large flock of Barnacle-Geese visited Breydon; one gunner shooting five. Mr. Walter Lowne, taxidermist, of Great Yarmouth, informs me that during the past six months he has received for preserving a beautiful specimen of the Purple Heron, shot in Suffolk; two Bitterns of the common species, one shot in the parish of Martham, the other by the river Bure; a Grey Phalarope, shot on Breydon; and other species which need little attention. From what I have seen, and through information received from reliable sources, I find, in spite of appeals, the slaughter amongst Kingfishers of late has been terrible; I have seen several Kingfishers during the winter.—Last Farman (Haddiscoe, Norfolk).

Serrated Claws of the Common Heron.—In 'The Zoologist' for January (p. 38), Mr. Stanley Lewis expresses disappointment at his inability to find in my 'Manual of British Birds' any "mention of the serrated claws of this species." If he turns to the Introduction, p. xxv, be may read that one of the distinctions of the genus Ardea—and, indeed, of the whole family Ardeidæ—is: "Middle claw pectinated on the inner edge." In a condensed work, in which every line and almost every word had to be counted, it would have been a waste of space to repeat this in the description of each of the ten species of Herons and Bitterns which find a place in the British list. As for the use of this pectination, upon which Mr. Lewis invites an expression of opinion, I can only say that "the bearing—of the small-toothed comb—lies in its application."—Howard Saunders.


Remarks relating to Mimicry.—In Mr. C.A. Witchell's interesting "Stray Notes on Mimicry" (ante, p. 32), one or two of the facts cited in illustration of his views seem hardly to meet the case, or at least to be open to comment. For instance, referring to a suggested tendency with animals "to resemble things that they like, be those things mates or surrounding substances," the writer proceeds as follows:—"I am aware that the sexual passion is not credited with this effect, but we know that breeders of prize poultry are careful to keep their male birds from running with birds not of the same variety, because if they do they will 'throw' feathers like those of their companions. I have seen this occur in a well-bred East Indian drake that ran with a white Duck."[1] It is not at all unusual for black Ducks, whatever their companions or surroundings may be, to become, after their first or second year, more or less speckled with white. On a farm where black Ducks only (a cross between Cayuga and East Indian) were kept for many years in succession, this was a common occurrence. The process is a very gradual one. After about the second or third moult a white feather or two is noticed about the head, and at each succeeding moult more white appears, this speckling or splashing gradually increasing and spreading itself over the whole of the bird's plumage. No other Ducks were kept on the farm, nor were there any white fowls. Again, with respect to the Snake-like hissing noise made by certain nesting birds, the following remarks occur;—"For a bird will hiss when on the nest, and at no other time, and which has yet never seen a Snake, or apparently never heard it hiss; such is a town-bred fowl or duck." Sitting Ducks certainly hiss in an unmistakable manner at an intruder, but, extensive as is the vocabulary of the domestic fowl, I do not remember ever hearing either a town or country hen under any circumstance make a sound which could be likened to a "hiss." Farther on we find the following sentence:—"The so-called feigning of death seems to me to have no relation to mimicry, but to an exaggeration of that stillness which so many animals adopt to avoid observation." I think, notwithstanding that, in some instances at least, the ruse is carried so far as to justify its being called a feigning (or mimicry) of death or sleep; otherwise, in the case of the Landrail, for instance, why should the bird close its eyes when engaged in this piece of deception? As to reptiles and batrachians feigning death, one of the latter (Bombinator igneus) almost goes farther than this. Its aim seems to be to simulate the unattractive appearance of a dead Toad or Frog which has been shrivelled and dried up by the heat of the sun's rays. I have seen and handled one in this state. It had just been taken from a roadside pond in Normandy, and at once went through this singular performance. Flattening and depressing its body in a wonderful manner, at the same time closing the eyes and throwing up the head and all four limbs into the air, it thus formed its whole body into a cup-like shape, of which the middle of the back was the deepest part.—G.T. Rope.

  1. The italics are mine.