The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 710/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Lesser Shrew and Bank Vole in Berks.—I have never met with either of these little mammals in the part of Berkshire with which I am most familiar. Their congeners appear to be common enough. I should like to know whether either species has been satisfactorily identified as occurring in Berkshire. The Microtus glareolus, or Bank Vole, is no doubt found in Berkshire, though I have never chanced to come across it; but as regards Sorex minutus (the Lesser Shrew), its occurrence is not so probable. Any information therefore would be welcome.—W.H. Warner (Fyfield, near Abingdon).
Note on the Nesting Habits of the Sparrow-Hawk.—The Sparrow-Hawk (Accipiter nisus) is such a well-known bird that it seems hardly possible that any of its habits and ways should have escaped the notice of so many observers. Yet the following fact in the nesting economy of this Hawk still appears—as far as I know—to stand unrecorded. My knowledge of the Sparrow-Hawk has been confined chiefly to the eastern part of Fifeshire, in Scotland, where the bird is common and generally met with. When out looking for the eggs of the Long-eared Owl, in the latter days of March or the beginning of April, we used on these occasions to have a look round in those parts of the woods to which the Sparrow-Hawks returned from year to year with almost unfailing regularity for the purpose of rearing their young; and as a result of these observations we found that, though the Sparrow-Hawk does not, as a general rule (in Fife), begin to sit till the second or third week in May, she invariably begins to build her nest about the first week in April, or even, should the weather be warm, in the last days of March. At this time the outer rim only (composed, as a rule, of larch-twigs) of the nest is completed, and is so left until about a week before the laying of the first egg, when the bowl is added, this latter being generally made of small birch-twigs, and lined with pieces of Scotch fir and bark about the size of a florin. The nest was invariably placed on a branch well out from the main trunk, though more rarely in the "breek" of the tree. The tail of the sitting bird was generally to be seen projecting over the edge of the nest. It would interest me to know if this strange nesting habit of the Sparrow-Hawk has been noticed elsewhere.—A.H. Meiklejohn (Highworth, Ashford, Kent).
Nesting of the Hobby in Shropshire.—In 'The Zoologist' for March last (ante, p. 143), I noted that the Hobby (Falco subbuteo) nested in 1899 near Ludlow. My friend Mr. J. Palmer, who originally found the nest, has just informed me that the pair have returned this year, and laid again in the identical spot. The eggs were taken June 30th, but, as last year, they have laid again, and are being allowed to rear the brood. The Hobby is known to return year after year to the same nest, but the habit is curious, inasmuch as it does not build a nest for itself. In this case the nest is an old Crow's. Another pair of Hobbies are haunting the vicinity, and a male was shot five miles away on July 3rd. These three are probably the young reared there last year. I trust they may be spared.—H.E. Forrest (Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury).
Curlew Nesting in Surrey.—I have just heard of a Curlew's nest (Numenius arquata) being found in the spring of 1896 on Chobham Common, about twenty-eight miles from London, two eggs from which are now in the possession of a Mr. Tice. Has the Curlew ever been known to nest in Surrey before? I have seen the two eggs, and they are certainly those of a Curlew.—Spencer H. Le Marchant (Chobham Place, Woking).
[In Mr. Bucknill's 'Birds of Surrey' it is stated that in 1893, "during the whole of the summer, a pair were noticed near Frensham, which probably had a nest on the moor (Streatfield in lit.)."—Ed.]
Variations in the Notes and Songs of Birds in different Districts.—The above subject is one which seems to have been noticed very little by ornithologists; in fact, I never remember seeing more than one reference at all to it. If this variation was slight, it would be possible for it not to have been noticed by naturalists; but this is not so, the differences being so marked that I cannot believe it has escaped the notice of those who know all the notes and the song of all birds they have come in contact with. It does not appear to me to be a difference in the way the song is put together, but rather that the note is in a different key, and therefore the first time you hear it you are apt to be misled into believing it is entirely a different bird. If it were only in the resident bird that this variation existed, it might be explained by the climate; but this is not so, the differences being much more marked in the summer migrants than in the more resident species. Then, again, it does not exist in all birds, and the explanation of it puzzles me. Taking the two districts that I am best acquainted with—that is to say, Worcestershire and Co. Donegal—I will give the difference as it appears to me. The notes and songs of all birds in which this variation exists are in a lower key in Donegal than Worcestershire, and the birds in which it is most marked are the Cuckoo and the Whitethroat, the latter appearing at first to have an entirely different song. After these two the change is most marked in the Chaffinch, Hedge-Sparrow, Wren, and Blackbird; while in the Willow-Wren (the only other Warbler I have listened to in the west of Donegal) I could notice no change whatever. Comparing these two counties with the district round Loch Lomond, there is again a difference, and the Whitethroat is once more the most marked, appearing to have a song between the other two. I should be glad if others would give their experience.—H.E. (Clarelands, Stourport).
Rana temporaria in the Scilly Islands.—Previous to my taking a trip to the Scillies last month, I made some enquiries respecting their fauna, and was informed that no batrachians were recorded from these islands. I was fortunate, however, whilst on St. Mary's, in taking an example of the Common Frog (R. temporaria), which, although in itself no rarity (being a very ordinary female of the reddish variety), was certainly an interesting capture for locality's sake. It was taken on some boggy land (lying east of the town of St. Mary's), known locally as "the moors." The islanders seem well acquainted with Frogs, but say they are rare. A boatman told me he remembered years ago seeing them spawning in a pond on Bryher Island. I visited this place, but without success. Whether their "Frogs" also includes Toads, I could not discover, but probably the same confusion exists between the two animals here as in other parts of the country. Newts appear to be quite unknown, as are also Snakes and Lizards. It is probable that by carefully working suitable districts other batrachians may turn up, but unfortunately my time was too limited to do this.—F.W. Terry (102, Kingston Road, Wimbledon, S.W.).
[Borlase, in his 'Observations on the Ancient and Present State of the Islands of Scilly,' published in 1756, states:—"There is no Adder, or venomous creature of any kind to be found in these islands."—Ed.]