The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 711/Notes and Queries
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Lesser Shrew in Cambridgeshire.— In September, 1899, I obtained two batches of pellets of the Barn-Owl from nesting places in hollow trees at Wisbech St. Mary. They yielded respectively one and four skulls of the Lesser Shrew (Sorex minutus), in addition to remains of the Common Shrew, Water Shrew, Bank, Field, and Water Voles, Long-tailed Field-Mouse, Common Mouse, Brown Rat, and House-Sparrow. The Lesser Shrew, although probably not uncommon, does not appear to have been often noticed in the fens. Jenyns, quoted by Miller and Skertchly in 'The Fenland Past and Present,' says, "I have taken it in a single instance in Horningsea Fen, but not elsewhere."—Charles Oldham (Alderley Edge).
Lesser Shrew and Bank Vole in Berks.— In answer to Mr. W.H. Warner's enquiry (ante, p. 381), I am pleased to be able to inform him that the Lesser Shrew (Sorex minutus) is certainly found in this part of Berkshire; I have taken it, but not recently. I much regret I have no skin by me at present. I am not certain about Microtus glareolus. The number of Mus sylvaticus that infests my garden is quite extraordinary; on one small herbaceous border I caught over seven hundred last year. It is almost impossible to grow yellow crocuses, though they are not nearly so hard on the bulbs of other coloured varieties, and never touch narcissus roots.—Heatley Noble (Temple Combe, Henley-on-Thames).
Insectivorous Habits of the Long-tailed Field-Mouse.—During the winter months Long-tailed Field-Mice (Mus sylvaticus) resort in numbers to the narrow horizontal tunnels in the sandstone rock connected with the disused copper mines on Alderley Edge. In November, 1898, when I first noticed the Mouse-holes among the heaps of loose stones, and the impressions of multitudes of little feet in the dry sand of the tunnel-floors, I was at a loss to think what had induced the Mice to adopt the life of troglodytes. A feeble light penetrates some of the main tunnels, but in the side workings it is pitch-dark at all times of the day, and here footprints were numerous in places more than a hundred and fifty yards from the outer air. The piles of gnawed hips and blackberry-seeds in birds' nests in the woods outside showed that food was plentiful enough there, but in the tunnels there were not even fungi on which the Mice could feed, and the drippings from the candles of casual trippers did not seem sufficient to account for their presence. Besides two moths, Gonoptera libatrix and Scotosia dubitata, which are fairly abundant, a gnat (Culex), two flies (Blepharoptera serrata and Borborus niger), and possibly other insects, hybernate in countless numbers on the roofs and walls of the tunnels. That the Mice frequent the place in order to feed upon the insects was clear from an examination of the stomachs of several which I trapped. Wings and empty skins of the gnat and flies, as well as legs of the moths, were easily identified in their half-digested contents. In some cases vegetable matter was present in addition, and, as the footprints were present from end to end of the tunnels, it appears that the Mice obtain part of their food in the woods; whilst the burrows in the tunnels themselves seem to indicate that they actually live in their recesses for the time being, and do not merely visit them to prey upon the insects they find there. Even in June there are flies in thousands on the walls of the tunnels, but during the summer months I have failed to trap any Mice, nor are there then any fresh tracks to be seen in the sand.—Charles Oldham (Alderley Edge).
Mistle-Thrush laying twice in the same Nest.—Last season I obtained a clutch of four eggs belonging to Turdus viscivorus from a nest near Bath. On visiting it again a short time afterwards—I think at about a week's interval—I found the bird had laid in the same nest a second time, laying two or three eggs. I was unaware that the Mistle-Thrush would return to its robbed nest, and should be interested to hear if others have met with similar instances. It is quite possible another pair of Mistle-Thrushes may have appropriated the vacant nest.—Charles B. Horsbrugh (Marlock, Somerset).
The Bearded Titmouse: a Correction.—In the article on the Bearded Titmouse (Panurus biarmicus), ante, p. 359, Mr. Gurney says "John Ray published the first notice and description of this family of birds in 1674 (a scarce book.)" May I point out that in a much earlier work (now before me in my library), by Conrad Gesner "De Avibus," 1575, there are illustrations given of all the known Tits, with full descriptions. Seven are portrayed. The woodcuts are very quaint, and the volume is in folio, and in Latin. I expect Ray knew this book well, for he wrote and published his work just one hundred years later than Gesner.—E.L.J. Ridsdale (The Dene, Rottingdean, near Brighton).
The Bearded Tit and other Birds in Norfolk.— I have just read Mr. Gurney's most interesting paper on the Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmicus), ante, p. 358. I do not know how Mr. Bird arrived at the conclusion that there were only thirty-three nests in Norfolk in 1898, and I hope he has understated the number, or that they have increased since then. I know one small broad which has been most strictly preserved for some years, and where even the entomologist is not allowed, though it is sometimes difficult to keep him out! Here the Bearded Tits have increased in a most satisfactory manner. A pair or two might always have been seen. On May 7th, 1899, I found a nest with seven young just ready to fly, and there were at least two pairs with young. On May 3rd this year I saw one nest from which the young had just flown, and I watched both parent birds for some time. It was blowing very hard, and as I crouched in the reeds the male bird settled within a few feet; a beautiful sight it was to see him preening his feathers in the sunlight. On another part of the same broad I saw at least three pairs feeding young, or carrying excrement from the nests; further still I saw other birds feeding in the rushes, and I thought at the time there were at least six pairs on this broad. Quite ten pairs of the Great Crested Grebe (Podicipes cristatus) might have been counted. Over thirty male Wild Ducks rose as we rounded a sharp corner; several pairs of Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) were nesting, and I had the pleasure of seeing a Marsh-Harrier (Circus æruginosus). The keeper assured me he had never seen one of these birds here before. Montagu's Harriers try to rear their young here every year, but the nest is cut out, or the old birds are shot, though this season I have hopes that they got off. A pair of Kestrels were nesting in an old windmill. "They'll 'ave to die," said the keeper. It was no use my telling him that they did far more good than harm, and the fact that he caught two or three of these birds with Mice in their claws at the same spot last season in nowise impressed him; so I took the eggs, in the hope that the old birds might find more hospitable quarters elsewhere. I placed the four eggs in an incubator, and one was hatched in twenty-nine days. I never allow Kestrels to be killed at home, unless caught red-handed at the Pheasant-coops; and it is a curious fact that whereas each year we are obliged to destroy more than one of these birds, a pair of Sparrow-Hawks are continually flying over the rearing-field; neither my keepers nor myself have ever known them touch a Pheasant, though they often take young Sparrows and other small birds that are attracted by the Pheasant food. We never molest them, and I doubt not most keepers would think us quite mad. Whilst in Norfolk I noticed several of those indiscriminate instruments of torture, "pole-traps"; they were not set, and, on asking the reason, I was informed that they had caught five Snipe in them the week previous to my visit.—Heatley Noble (Temple Combe, Henley-on-Thames).
Nesting of the Great Tit (Parus major).—April 29th. Nesting-box containing nest of Great Tit and five eggs. May 2nd, 8 a.m. Eight eggs; old bird absent, and not looked at again to-day. May 3rd, 7 p.m. Found old one sitting without addition to clutch. May 13th, 1 p.m. Eight eggs still in nest. May 14th, 6 p.m. Six young hatched; two eggs remain. May 30th. Between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. the old birds visit the nest with food, sixty-four times within the hour; when leaving nest they invariably left for further supplies in an opposite direction. Feeding at this rate is not carried on throughout the day; they may sometimes be absent for a considerable time. Feeding commences about 4 a.m., and finishes about 7 p.m. June 2nd. The brood complete of eight young left their nest. In all probability the old one would commence incubation on May 2nd, with a result of twelve days, and an addition of, say, nineteen days for the young to remain within the nest.—J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).
Nesting of the Common Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—Yarrell mentions the first batch of eggs laid usually consists of five to six; Morris practically quotes the same words; Macgillivray gives the laying four to six; Saunders states five to six; Seebohm goes one better, and says five to seven. My personal experience is that a clutch of six is most unusual, and does not happen in even one per cent, of nests containing the full laying. Nests with a clutch of four are about as numerous as those with five, and a remarkable quantity have a full complement of only three, at a rough estimate, say, fifteen per cent. There are many other remarks with which, after considerable experience, one does not care to agree, as, for instance, Seebohm adds it is probable that with those birds that build domed nests in branches of trees the habit is hereditary. He also adds that the Sparrow often sits upon the first egg as soon as laid; my experience being that, if the nest is placed in a hole, then the female will roost at the side of the nest, but in no way adding to their incubation until (taking, for instance, the laying of a clutch of five) the evening following the laying of the fourth egg, when incubation starts. Yarrell evidently infers that the early layings of the Sparrow contain the largest clutches of eggs. This is by no means invariably the rule; most frequently the same number is laid both in the second and third layings, and occasionally, as in this year, two nests containing six followed the robbery of the first laying, when previously nothing more than five could be found. Yarrell points out that the Sparrow may occasionally be seen in winter carrying materials to the holes they inhabit; this is evidently only for sleeping accommodation. The actual nesting commences as early as the first week in March, the complete lining of feathers not being added for many weeks hence, and then not until several eggs have been laid. Laying usually commences with great regularity in the Midlands during the second week in May. Three broods are usually reared if no molestation takes place; if the first two layings are robbed, even then two broods will be reared. When a nest and eggs are destroyed, it takes but ten days before another nest is built, and five more eggs are deposited. The number of young reared would not average much beyond three to a brood.— J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).
Nesting of the Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).—March 29th. Starling clearing out some of the old materials from last year's nesting-site. April 28th. Two eggs in nest. April 30th, 6.30 p.m. Four eggs; old bird within the nest, and eggs seemed slightly warm, but possibly she had not actually started incubation, as many birds nesting in holes roost on the side of the nest at night. May 1st. Sitting on five eggs. May 11th, 6.30 p.m. Five eggs still in nest. May 12th, 7.30 p.m. Four young hatched; other egg infertile. May 25th. Feeding young seems to average about fifteen times to the hour, and this I think almost regularly throughout the day of some fourteen hours' duration; at least, whenever I was watching, the old birds never seemed to cease their labours. Being able to conceal myself close to the nest, I gained the full advantage of watching the young being fed within a foot of me. The food (which at this period seemed to consist almost entirely of a large white larva, but, owing to the rapidity with which the food was given, it was impossible to identify it), when brought to the nest, was given to whichever young one clamoured most, and held a foremost position at the entrance to nest, the one frequently taking several feeds in succession, until pushed aside by another which by now had become still more eager in its hunger. Almost invariably after the food had been taken the old bird would wait a moment to allow of that particular young one turning round and voiding any excrement; if this failed, then a rapid search of the nest, and other excrement, if any, removed; in the brief meantime the old bird probably having undergone a severe course of pecking from the insatiable and impatient young. June 1st. All the young left nest. June 11th. The old ones again back at nest, but no further indication of a second brood took place. Reckoning from May 1st, the incubation lasted eleven days; but if such commenced on the evening of April 30th, and the last was the infertile egg, then incubation in this instance covered twelve days, and the young remained in the nest twenty days.
Particulars of another pair slightly vary:—May 6th, 7 p.m. Three eggs; old bird flew from nest. May 7th, 8 a.m. Three eggs in nest and cold; 7 p.m., four eggs and bird within nest. May 12th. Probably owing to my too frequent visits, the eggs had previously been forsaken, and this day I find the birds have removed them from the nest. May 12th. A Starling's egg placed by myself within the nest was also removed. May 18th, 7 p.m. Another three eggs in nest. May 19th, 10 a.m. Four eggs; bird flew out of nest, the eggs being warm. May 30th, 7.30 p.m. Four eggs remain in nest. May 31st, 8 a.m. One young and three eggs; 7 p.m., three young and one egg; this constant interference causing them to again forsake. In this instance incubation had lasted at least twelve days.—J. Steele-Elliott (Clent, Worcestershire).
Cuckoo in the Shetlands.—On Aug. 8th I caught a young fully-fledged Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) on the lawn in front of this house, where it was feeding. The bird was very tame (perhaps it knew that the Wild Birds Protection Act is in force in Shetland until the end of this month!) I have seen and heard the Cuckoo in and about the shrubbery many times during the past two months.—T. Edmondston Saxby (Halligarth, Unst, Shetland).
Common Buzzard (Buteo vulgaris) shot in Hertfordshire.—I regret that I have previously omitted to record the shooting of a Common Buzzard in Hertfordshire on Jan. 27th last. It was a male bird, and measured three feet from tip to tip, wing measurement, and turned the scale at two ounces short of two pounds. Mr. Spary, the local taxidermist, remarked to me that the bird was as fat as butter, and had probably been feasting in some rich game-preserves. He told me also that all the Hawks and Owls he had had through his hands were never very fat, and that the case of the Buzzard under notice was a singular exception. I have promised not to divulge the exact locality where the bird was shot, as the keeper is afraid of "marching orders" should it reach the ears of his employer.—W. Percival Westell (5, Glenferrie Road, St. Albans, Herts).
Nesting Habits of the Sparrow-Hawk.—In treating of an issue in this connection (ante, p. 381), Mr. A.H. Meiklejohn has awakened in me a responsive chord. No bird have I followed and studied more industriously in the breeding season than Accipiter nisus. Perhaps, then, as I aspire to the credit of knowing something about the species in question, a corner may be found for this communication, though I would wish, quite modestly, to say at the outset that Mr. Meiklejohn is mistaken in fancying that attention has never yet been called in print to the particular traits in the Sparrow-Hawk's economy so recently adverted to by him. Some four years ago a monthly publication, 'The Ornithologist' by name, entered on a somewhat precarious and certainly brief existence, and in its pages a very animated discussion was maintained for upwards of six months concerning the nesting economy of the Sparrow-Hawk. I should like to be allowed to reproduce in these columns the gist of what I wrote in the May number of that magazine for 1896, as I have had no reason subsequently to alter or even modify the views then expressed. They were the outcome of many years' assiduous and unrelenting study of Sparrow-Hawks in their woodland haunts during the breeding season, and should go to prove that the habit to which Mr. Meiklejohn specifically refers has not always hitherto been shrouded in obscurity. I have found and critically examined many scores of Sparrow-Hawks' nests, and have taken hundreds of their eggs, and in the whole of my experience I cannot recall to mind a single case in which the parent birds had not resorted to the old and discarded nests of some other species. These same nests, erstwhile the possessions of Ring-Doves, Carrion-Crows, and Magpies, generally presented a very ragged appearance previously to adaptation, being tattered and torn by the storms and gales of winter. "Long ere the leaf is out—sometimes, indeed, as early as the end of March—mental selection is unquestionably made of the nest that is eventually to be used as a breeding-site." At dawn, and again at the approach of dusk, the birds are frequently to be found in its vicinity, either soaring high in the air, and occasionally uttering sharp screams as they wheel to and fro, or else perched in the trees beneath. "With the advance of spring they will be found busy at the nest itself, apparently cleaning and patching it up, while in course of time there is superimposed a shallow and very extended structure of twigs and sticks, in which receptacle the eggs are laid." The substructure or basis is entirely the handiwork of some other species, the superstructure that of the Sparrow-Hawks themselves. The birds gather the supplementary materials chiefly from beneath the tree, flying up and down in turn, as I have repeatedly proved by watching them from an ambush. The eggs are laid on alternate days, six being the largest clutch I have taken, though I have secured as many as fifteen and sixteen from single nests, the first egg of the latter number having been laid on May 1st, and the last on May 31st; so that, by judicious manipulation of the nest and its contents, I had induced the bird into laying an egg on every other day throughout that traditionally merry month. It will generally be found that one egg in a clutch differs appreciably in the markings from the remainder; sometimes it is altogether devoid of colouring matter, while at others a considerable portion of its bluish-white ground is blushed over with brown of a much paler shade than that with which the rest of the eggs in the clutch are usually so handsomely clouded and blotched. Sparrow-Hawks begin to sit about May 10th, in Leicestershire, or about six weeks after the first overtures have been made to the nest that has been selected. So far as I have been enabled to test the point, the eggs—which are exceedingly thick-shelled—are seldom hatched before the expiration of five weeks. The ultra-extended platform built by the Sparrow-Hawks themselves, and superadded to the relics of the nest of some other species, is assuredly a beautiful expression of the instinct when considered in relation to its use at a subsequent stage. Nevertheless, the fact that this roomy plateau not only does duty as a repository for freshly-killed prey, but as a family banqueting-table, whither the young periodically return for many days after they are fledged and gone out into the world, appears to be too obvious a feature in the economy of the species to be even incidentally noted by any of the so-called popular writers on the birds of these islands!
Before concluding, I must explain one little matter. I have spoken of the hundreds of Sparrow-Hawks' eggs that I have taken, but it must be remembered that the species is notoriously baneful to shooting interests, and that gamekeepers wage a war of extermination against it at all seasons. On many and many an occasion my plundering of a nest has sufficed to save the bird's life; whereas, had I not been present to plead for mercy and climb to the nest, the brooding bird would have been ruthlessly shot on the spot, and the beautiful eggs left to their fate. Such interposition profited the owners of the various nests equally with myself, seeing that they were allowed to escape with their lives, and subsequently laid eggs elsewhere for my appropriation. It may appear strange, but it is none the less absolutely true, that the old female Sparrow-Hawk, from whose nest I abstracted the fifteen eggs, got to know me, through my repeated visits to her home in a Scotch-fir, so well that at the last she never troubled to leave the nest until my head was on a level with it. It was only on the occasion of my final "call" that she evinced real indignation, however, and for a moment the situation was not pleasant when she faced round and unfolded her wings at the distance of a few inches only. What a wicked eye she turned on me, too, but that was the full extent of her hostility.—H.S. Davenport (Melton Mowbray).
Quail in Cheshire.—Several times during the latter half of July I heard the liquid trisyllabic note of the Quail (Coturnix communis) near Wilmslow. On one evening four or five birds were calling on Lindow Moss, and in the surrounding fields.—Chas. Oldham (Alderley Edge).
Quail in Hertfordshire.—A Quail (Coturnix communis) was picked up dead outside the post-office here in May, 1899, by one of the city police, it evidently having come in contact with the telegraph-wires.—W. Percival Westell (5, Glenferrie Road, St. Albans, Herts).
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa belgica) in Hants.—On Aug. 20th, whilst out in my punt in the harbour, I shot three Black-tailed Godwits; they were feeding on some very soft and rotten mud. One bird which I weighed scaled 8¾ oz.—John Stares (Portchester).
Rough Notes on Derbyshire Ornithology, 1899–1900.—Although the winter of 1898-1899 was so mild, large flocks of Bramblings were reported from different parts of the county. A single shot fired out of curiosity into a large flock not far from Derby, on Jan. 26th, 1898, brought down no fewer than fourteen. On Jan. 27th I saw a nicely set-up Slavonian Grebe at Hutchinson's shop, which had been killed at Allestree towards the end of the previous November. A Little Auk was also received at the same time, taken in an emaciated state on the moors outside Sheffield, and now in the Sheffield Museum. Mr. Storrs Fox obtained a Rook (about the beginning of February) "whose upper mandible was very much elongated, being about 1¼ to 1½ in. longer than the lower one. This additional part was narrow and curved downwards after the manner of a Chough's beak. The bird was put into an aviary, but was killed by a Rat the same night." The bones of the skull proved to be normal in size and shape, the long tip being composed of horny covering alone. The Chiffchaff was singing in the Ashburne district by March 30th, and Sand-Martins were noticed on April 6th. Owing to the mild weather Lapwings began to lay earlier than usual, and eggs were found before the end of March. Long-tailed Tits were exceedingly numerous in the spring of 1899, and more nests were found than in any year I can remember. The Grasshopper-Warbler was absent from its usual breeding haunts; generally six or seven pairs are to be found within a radius of three or four miles, but in 1899 and 1900 none of the old breeding places were tenanted. A Carrion-Crow's nest, found on April 15th, contained a single egg. The tree showed no signs of having been previously climbed, and on the 20th a single young Crow occupied the nest. As the clutch of the previous year had only consisted of two eggs, perhaps they were the produce of an almost barren pair. Mr. H.G. Tomlinson noticed a Swift at Burton on May 4th, and on the following day Mr. Storrs Fox saw one at Ashford lake. The Swift is perhaps the most regular in its visits of any of the migrants, and often returns literally to the day.
Under date of April 17th, Mr. Storrs Fox writes that one of the keepers in his neighbourhood saw a Great Grey Shrike "about a fortnight ago." He had a shot at it, but it flew away. On May 10th a Dotterel was picked up under the telegraph-wires on the Nottingham road just outside the town of Derby (cf. 'Field,' May 20th, 1899). It was an adult in spring plumage, and, with the exception of those mentioned in 'The Zoologist' for 1894, is the only specimen recorded from the county during the last twenty years. Waterhens' nests are often built some distance from the ground, but on May 11th I came across one quite sixteen feet up a large chestnut on the shore of Calwich Abbey Pond. Another nest at Yeldersley contained thirteen eggs, but, though they were of much the same type, of course they may have been the produce of more than one bird. In addition to the breeding places of the Tufted Duck mentioned in 'The Zoologist,' 1899, p. 476, they have also established themselves at Bradley, a couple of miles to the east, and with a few years' protection would probably become numerous in the district. As it is, most of the young birds of the year are shot, and the increase is hardly perceptible. A Willow-Wren's nest at Shirley Vicarage was built in a small dead spruce, three feet from the ground. This is the only nest out of some seventy which I have seen which was quite clear of the ground, though I remember one built among ivy at the bottom of a wall which did not rest on but was just above a path. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see Chiffchaffs' nests from three to seven feet from the ground, and I have seen one ten feet high in the trellis on the side of a house. A male Jackdaw paired with a female Magpie at Bentley, and actually built a nest, but soon afterwards deserted it, perhaps on account of being disturbed. They were repeatedly seen together, and the Jackdaw has been observed to feed the Magpie. The Jackdaw is an escaped bird, and had been noticed associating with Magpies during the previous winter. The nest, which was built by the Magpie, was of the usual type, but had no roof, and when deserted had no clay lining. During the winter of 1899–1900 many Bitterns were shot in different parts of the country. Through Mr. G. Pullen, I heard of one which was shot at Morley in November, 1899; and Mr. Hutchinson has recorded two others in the 'Field' as having been "lately" (Jan. 30th) shot at Egginton and Smalley. In November, 1899, a watcher named Hudson picked up a dead bird in the grounds of Wootton Lodge, Staffordshire, which, from his description, appeared to be a Fork-tailed Petrel. It was apparently starved to death. Mr. J. Masefield, of Cheadle, has kindly traced this specimen, which luckily was preserved, and has ascertained that the supposition was correct. It is now in the possession of Mr. Mears, of Longton.
1900.—The very severe weather in February proved destructive to the birds. Many dead Chaffinches, Blackbirds, and Starlings were to be found by the roadsides as the snow melted. It was a curious sight to see the Tree-Creeper diligently searching the churchyard-wall in the very middle of the village, and so engrossed in its task that it allowed one to stand within a yard or two of it. An enormous flock of Wood-Pigeons, consisting of many hundreds of birds, frequented the Ramsor Woods till late in March. A curious incident which took place on March 18th seems to show that there is more affection between birds than is commonly supposed. A cock Blackbird was found lying dead outside a window at 10.15 a.m. Probably it was killed by flying against the window, as blood was oozing from its bill, its feathers were unruffled, and wings outspread. The hen stood by the dead body, and actually allowed itself to be touched with a stick by my brother-in-law, only uttering a mournful note. He then picked it up, but replaced it on the ground by its mate. Twenty minutes later he found it still by the dead bird, but, on gently touching it with his foot, it flew easily away, and skulked among the bushes. Two hours later the dead bird had disappeared (possibly picked up by a Dog). Many species of birds seem to have suffered from the severe weather of February. The Long-tailed Tits, which were so common the previous year, were almost exterminated, and the same may be said of the Golden-crested Wrens. Curiously enough, the number of eggs laid by our common birds seemed to be fewer than usual. Very few Thrushes' or Blackbirds' nests contained more than four eggs, and often only three were found; while I have found nests with only two young birds. On April 18th a Brown Owl was found nesting in the fork of a tall spruce in Dovedale. The nest was quite open, and the Owl could be seen from the hillside above. Nearly all the nests in this district are in holes of trees, but I have seen a Brown Owl's nest on the ground under the shelter of a small rock in a wood in North Wales. While returning from a visit to a Sparrow-Hawk's nest on May 12th, I heard a clear, ringing, quickly-repeated note, quite unlike that of any of our common birds. Directly afterwards the chatter of a Mistle-Thrush and the Lapwing's cry called my attention to three birds flying rapidly up the valley close together, with regular swift beats of the wing. As they passed me I had a good look at them, and noticed their pale faded brown colour and somewhat Gull-like-shaped wings. They flew straight and fast, and were soon out of sight. At the time I thought they were Sand-Grouse; in fact, I know of no other bird that could be mistaken for them. Black Grouse still breed in small numbers in this neighbourhood. A nest with six eggs was found on May 16th on the Staffordshire side. On May 17th I visited the site of the Raven's nest in Howdenchest, which is mentioned by Seebohm ('British Birds,' vol. i. p. 49). Although it is nearly forty years since the nest was last used by the Ravens, the remains of the nest are clearly visible. One of the keepers told me that he saw a Raven on his beat about April 5th. It was circling round a lambing ewe, and flew right away out of sight. He had also noticed Short-eared Owls above Mulbrook in the autumn of 1899. A Hawfinch's nest, which was found in Clifton on May 26th, contained three incubated eggs, and was built nearly at the top of a good-sized sycamore close to the roadside. The hen sat close, and the nest was only discovered by accident. The Merlins made another attempt to breed on the Grouse moors of North Derbyshire, but the nest with four eggs (almost hatching) was found, and I believe both birds were trapped. A Common Sandpiper's nest found on June 17th, with two eggs chipping and two newly-hatched young, was placed on the side of the railway embankment between Clifton and Norbury, only eight feet from the metals. The old bird was running along the sleepers, and only took wing when a passing train was within a few yards of it. The eggs which were chipped had the largest fragments of the broken shells neatly fitted on to the small ends. The nest was about one hundred and fifty yards or so from the River Dove. On Aug. 4th two large white birds flew over Clifton at a good height, which were almost certainly Gannets. The previous day had been very stormy.—Francis C.R. Jourdain (Clifton Vicarage, Ashburne, Derbyshire).
Ornithological Notes from the Wilsden District (Yorkshire).—
Pratincola rubicola. Stonechat.—A male bird was seen near Keighley last Easter. It is somewhat curious that this species should so seldom make its appearance in this district, which seems so very suitable in every respect, and scarcely at any other season except early spring, and exceptionally rare as a nesting species.
Sylvia curruca. Lesser Whitethroat.—Although regarded as being generally distributed in Yorkshire, it is a very rare and local visitant to this neighbourhood, only two instances having come to our knowledge—one found by two of my sons in Beckfoot Lane, near Bingley, some years ago; and, curiously enough, I found a nestling last year (1899) within a few yards of the same place.
Phylloscopus rufus. Chiffchaff.—Exactly the same remarks apply to this species as the Stonechat. A few years ago a clutch of eggs were brought to me, which had been taken in Bingley Woods, which bore a striking resemblance to this species, and might have been so; if so, it is the only instance known to me of its breeding here.
P. trochilus. Willow-Wren.—A gamekeeper was describing a nest to me the other day which he had found built against the trunk of an oak at least two yards from the ground, and in all probability was referable to this species. I have found the nest in two instances built at some distance from the ground.
Locustella nævia. Grasshopper-Warbler.—One of my sons heard this bird last May in the Aire Valley, near Bingley. It may breed here more commonly than is supposed, but I have never been so fortunate as to find its nest.
Lanius excubitor. Great Grey Shrike.—One was shot in the Goit Stock Valley last autumn, and another killed in the same valley some twenty years ago; these, with one seen near Shipley by my brother and myself, are the only records.
Muscicapa atricapilla. Pied Flycatcher.—One (male) observed last May (1900) by one of my sons near Bingley. Occasionally seen on migration, but very rarely breeds. It is, however, local but abundant in the next valley ( Wharfedale).
Coccothraustes vulgaris. Hawfinch.—Saw two individuals last year (1899) in Bingley Wood. One of my sons and myself, a few weeks ago, found two nests within a short distance of each other in Wharfedale. There is no doubt about its extending its range northwards, as it is much more common than even a few years ago.
Carduelis elegans. Goldfinch.—Seen by one of my sons near Bingley last winter. Rather an irregular winter visitant with us. It is said to have nested here formerly, but does not now.
Linota cannabina. Linnet.—Much lesss common than formerly, but the partial disappearance of whin-covers may to some extent account for their comparative scarcity.
L. flavirostris. Twite.—Even more striking in its scarcity as compared with former years, and more unaccountably so than the last species.
Loxia curvirostra. Crossbill.—A pair were seen last May or June (1899) in Upper Wharfedale, but I cannot ascertain that any nest was actually found, although it is probable it may have occurred in the beautiful pine-woods which abound there.
Sturnus vulgaris. Starling.—A few more appear to winter with us than formerly, although much more abundant both in winter and summer in some years than others. It often leaves its breeding haunts where it can be observed in colonies without any apparent reason. Mr. Forrest, in 'The Zoologist' (ante, p. 140), remarks:—"Careful observation has convinced me that a very large proportion of Starlings, perhaps one-half, rear only one brood in the year." In this district it is practically single-brooded. A few may not improbably have two broods in one season, but such instances are rare. A good many are sometimes seen in flocks when others are breeding, and have been for some time, but, as the season advances, gradually disappear, perhaps to breed in higher latitudes; and it may be more apparent than real that a good many "never breed at all." I have been asked if three Starlings occasionally feed the young belonging to one nest; one person here stoutly maintains he has repeatedly had ocular demonstration of the fact. Although it is not at all an uncommon thing to see three birds about one nest, I have never once been satisfied that more than two ever engaged in feeding the young.
Dendrocopus major. Great Spotted Woodpecker.—Has been more than usually common of late years; whilst the Green Woodpecker, on the other hand, has become much scarcer—indeed, I have not observed a single specimen for some years.
D. minor. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.—A very rare visitant. One, however, was seen in Bingley Wood last May, and the keeper thinks it may be breeding, as he saw it again only the other day. It is about twenty years since last record for this district.
Cuculus canorus. Cuckoo.—During the past year (1899), and up to the present, the only species of birds which have come to my knowledge in the nests of which the Cuckoo has deposited its eggs are the Meadow-Pipit and Whinchat. It seldom lays its egg or eggs in any other species except these two in this district. I recently found a young Cuckoo nearly fully fledged in the nest of a Titlark. One of my sons observed that the foster-parents were feeding it chiefly upon the heath-moth. A good many years ago, on a heathy waste near here, I watched a Cuckoo come repeatedly to the nest of a Whinchat—at least, I should think, a dozen times—and then flew away; but at last, on going up to the nest, I found it had deposited an egg. The nest was in such a position, access being by a long narrow winding passage, that it could not have been deposited in the nest in the usual way, but must have been conveyed by the beak; and, as far as I can remember, one egg of the Whinchat was missing. I think that there can be little doubt but that it occasionally robs birds' eggs; but the question arises—"Is it a common habit to rob eggs except from nests where it intends to deposit its egg?" Our evidence on this point is decidedly in the negative. Nests of various species abound on Blackhills, where the Cuckoo is also abundant, and very seldom an egg is missing from any nest; and it is certain, if eggs constituted an important item in its bill of fare, such a propensity could not so long have escaped notice. One thing is certain, viz. that it very seldom selects a nest in which to deposit its egg where the eggs are in an advanced stage of incubation; and this suggests another question, viz. "How does the Cuckoo ascertain when the eggs are fresh; or, rather, when such condition obtains as to induce her to deposit her egg?"
Asio otus. Long-eared Owl.—A nest was found with young in May (1899) in a fir-tree, but as a breeding species it is not at all common; perhaps, however, more so than formerly.
Falco æsalon. Merlin.—A friend brought one here last winter, which was presumed to have flown against the telegraph-wires, and in a few days became as tame as one which had been brought up from the nest. It could eat enormous quantities of food for its size.
Eudromias morinellus. Dotterel.—Mr. Ellison, of Steeton, having informed me that this species had bred recently on the moors above Keighley, a young bird having been sent to Mr. Mosley, of Huddersfield, for identification, I wrote to Mr. Mosley, requesting him to furnish me with any particulars in his possession. He replied stating that the young bird in question was certainly a Dotterel, but that there was no ground for coming to the conclusion that it must of necessity have been bred in the vicinity where it was caught, as in his opinion, judging from its size, it could have flown from some distance. Mr. Walker, of Appletrewick, in Upper Wharfedale, informs me that it has bred near there for two or three years, which is rather an unlikely habitat.—E.P. Butterfield (Wilsden, Yorkshire).
Opah at the Shetlands.—An Opah, or Sun-fish (Lampris luna), was caught at West Voe, Dunrossness, on the mainland, on July 20th.—T. Edmondston Saxby (Halligarth, Unst, Shetland).