The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 704/Ornithological Notes from Mid-Wales, Salter
ORNITHOLOGICAL NOTES FROM MID-WALES.
By J.H. Salter, University College, Aberystwyth.
The following notes, referring to the past two years, are in continuation of those which appeared in 'The Zoologist' (1898, pp. 198-201):—
A Cirl Bunting was singing upon Jan. 8th, 1898. This species with us appears to sing much more freely in winter than the Yellowhammer does. A visit paid to a small Heronry upon March 28th showed that these birds vie with the Raven in the matter of early breeding. In one nest young birds were calling loudly. There were egg-shells under two other nests, while a fourth contained three small young ones, and an egg which was hatching. On April 7th the young birds of the first mentioned brood were flying from tree to tree. At Craig-y-Pistyll, on March 28th, a pair of Ravens had a nest with five fresh eggs. It was found with difficulty, being inconspicuous amongst the heather and brambles which grew from the ledges of the crag.
While staying at Abergwesyn, in the extreme west of Breconshire, I noticed with interest the Nuthatch upon the trees—almost the last in this direction—close to the hotel. It does not cross the mountains, and hence only occurs very exceptionally upon their western or Cardiganshire side.
On April 9th I visited one of the few remaining breeding haunts of the Kite, an oak wood covering the slopes of a rocky hill. The pair of birds soon appeared, and, as they soared, showed their graceful flight to perfection. In turning, one or the other would often "throw over" almost on to its back against the stiff breeze. The nest, about thirty feet from the ground in an oak, being a new one, was small as compared with the size attained when utilized year after year. It contained two eggs, indicating that in this district the Kite breeds about a fortnight earlier than the Buzzard. A very large nest, from which, to my knowledge, Kites' eggs were taken in 1893, proved to be grassgrown and untenanted. The Common Buzzard, though the fate of the Kite inevitably awaits it, is still fairly numerous, and eleven pairs were found breeding within a radius of perhaps five miles from our headquarters. Two presumably young and inexperienced birds had built about twenty feet from the ground in a small sycamore, one of the few trees surrounding a ruined sheep-fold upon the open moor.
On April 30th newly-arrived Pied Flycatchers, all of them males, were singing amongst the birches. A pair of Ravens, in the Nant Brenig, had three fully-fledged young ones just ready to leave the nest. A pair of White Wagtails upon Borth golf-links on May 13th were evidently on passage. There were three or four Turnstones on the strand, and an Oystercatcher's nest contained four eggs; I have never previously found more than three. On the 16th many Wheatears at Clarach were still on migration. A Wood Wren's nest was almost entirely composed of fir-needles. A Whinchat, singing with strange unfamiliar variations, so that I at first took it to be a Sedge Warbler, recalled the suggestions which have lately been made as to the power of mimicry in this species.
On June 4th I visited a colony of Lesser Terns near Towyn, and found the birds in about their usual numbers. Walking over the moors from the Teifi Pools to Cwm Ystwyth, on June 8th, I met with one pair of Golden Plover and several Dunlin, which were evidently breeding. The note of the latter bird, in the nesting season, is like the shrill rattle of a pea-whistle. Capt. Cosens informed me that a pair of Turtle-Doves bred in his grounds at Bronpadarn. On June 20th I heard the Manx Shearwater's note about 11.30 p.m.
During a few days spent in Snowdonia at the end of June several pairs of Choughs were seen. In company with Ravens, they frequent the cliffs of Clogwyn du'r Arddu. In the Nant Francon a nest of young Ring-Ouzels in the loose stone wall by the roadside was most conspicuous. Revisiting the same neighbourhood three months later, I found the Wheatear and Ring-Ouzel, on Sept. 23rd, still lingering near the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. Four Ravens frequented the Glyders. Stonechats were numerous at Pen-y-gwryd, where they came into the hotel garden. A pair of Buzzards, the only ones met with, were seen in Cwm Dyli, on the flanks of Snowdon, and during an ascent of that mountain I noticed a Fox crossing the ridge of Crib-y-Ddysgyl just below the summit.
At Aberystwyth, on Oct. 4th, a Stonechat sang a few strains at dusk; I had not previously known this species as an autumn songster. On the 15th Mr. Hutchings showed me a Spotted Crake just set up. In November Bramblings appeared under the beech trees. They seem to visit us biennially, missing the alternate years when there is no beech-mast. On Nov. 12th I received a Polecat from Nanteos.
The rest of my notes refer to the past year.
On Jan. 18th Mr. Hutchings showed me an immature specimen of the Little Gull. It was obtained during rough weather about nine days previously. A few bright warm days about Feb. 20th brought the Stonechats into song. On the 28th I received a very large male Polecat from the same locality as the previous one.
Upon March 1st, St. David's Day, visiting a nesting site of the Raven upon the coast about six miles south of this town, I found, as the glass showed, that the birds had refitted their old nest, which already contained an egg or eggs. About this date Curlew were constantly on the move, passing inland to their breeding quarters; they were to be heard at all hours of the day and night. On March 11th Herons were already sitting. A small party of Lesser Redpolls in alders at Llanilar were, with one exception, the first that I have met with in this county. On March 28th a Raven's nest in the Nant Berwyn, near Tregaron, contained three incubated eggs. The birds were furious, and came within ten yards of us, the cock tearing up soil and grass with his bill. Two days later I saw four Wood Larks on the wing at Llanbadarn. About two hundred and fifty Golden Plover were resting on the sands at the mouth of the Dovey on April 19th. On the 23rd a Wheatear was singing well at 11.45 p.m., a fair moonlight night. On April 26th, and again three days later, I heard the note of the Nuthatch in Cwm Woods. I have never previously identified this bird at Aberystwyth, though always on the look-out for it during the past eight years. A Pied Flycatcher was singing amongst the oaks at Nanteos on May 7th.
Birds were never in better voice than during the first half of the month, the wet evidently suiting them. I found the pair of Kites again attempting to breed in the same locality as last year. On May 23rd they were lining a newly-built nest, situated in the same tree and in the same fork as five years ago. This was evidently the second attempt of the season. An old nest was lined with rolls of sheep's wool. A pair of Buzzards had a nest with a single young one, resting against a shrub of birch on the steep hillside, with scarcely anything of a fall below it. A pair of Ravens, which had three young nearly ready to fly, did not venture within a quarter of a mile of us, their behaviour being thus strikingly different from that of the above-mentioned pair. Pied Flycatchers were breeding freely, often in disused nesting-holes of the Green or Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Examining a number of Jackdaws' nests in the cliff, I found in many cases the whole brood dead, as the result of the cold wet weather at Whitsuntide. In June I heard the note of the Quail in two localities some six miles apart.
On Sept. 7th I noted a pair of Choughs passing over the hill at the northern end of the town. A Black Redstart frequented the College roof for at least a fortnight, basking upon the leads every fine day, and hawking for flies from the lightning-conductors. I last saw it on Nov. 6th. On Nov. 1st Thrushes and Blackbirds on migration were beating against the College windows after dark. Mr. Hutchings showed me a curious light-coloured variety of the Polecat on Dec. 29th, and reported three or four Bitterns obtained during the frost.
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