The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 725/Notes and Queries

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Notes and Queries  (November, 1901) 
various authors, editor W.L. Distant

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issue 725, p. 423–431



De Winton's Wood-Mouse in Worcestershire.—In the spring of this year I trapped a specimen of this Mouse in a conservatory in the parish of Norton, some three and a half miles outside Worcester, on the Pershore road. The specimen, a female with well-defined breastband, gave in the flesh the following measurements in millimetres:—Head and body, 108; tail, 114; hind foot, 22; ear, 19. In Capt. Barrett-Hamilton's monograph of the Mice of the Mus sylvaticus type (Proc. Zool. Soc. 1900) this subspecies is recorded from the following counties in England:—Hereford, Sussex, Suffolk, Northampton, and Northumberland. Hence Worcester is a new county record.—R.I. Pocock (Brit. Museum, Nat. Hist.).

Autumnal Litter of Dormice.—On Sept. 29th I found a nest of Muscardinus avellanarius at Betton, near Shrewsbury, containing a doe and several young which were evidently newly born, as they were quite naked and blind. When the nest was visited seven days later it was found that the doe had disappeared, taking her young with her. On Aug. 28th last year I had brought me from the same place a nest with doe and young about half-grown, when the fur is brownish. As the Dormouse is said to litter in the spring, it seems that it frequently has two families in the year. I am informed that at the present time (early October) there are several other nests near here containing young.—H.E. Forrest (Shrewsbury).

White Leveret at Rainworth, Notts.—On Oct. 5th a man picked up a white Leveret (an albino), and brought it to me. We are trying to rear it by hand, and it looks bright and well so far, and will be a delightful pet, and a rare one if we succeed.—J. Whitaker (Rainworth, Notts).


Goldcrest Seven Hundred Miles from Land.—On Oct. 10th, when in lat. 56° 15' N. and long. 31° 13' W., a Goldcrest (Regulus cristatus) came on board the Allan Liner 'Tunisian.' It was raining and blowing a moderate S.S.W. gale at the time, and it sought shelter behind one of the ship's skylights. It appeared in no way exhausted—in fact, it was as lively as if it was on land. After remaining fifteen minutes on board it rose to about eighty feet above the water, and disappeared in an easterly direction. The Goldcrest is the smallest bird in Great Britain, and it seems strange that it should be capable of such powers of flight, as the nearest laud—Belmullet, Co. Mayo—was about seven hundred and twenty nautical miles distant, and only fifty-six miles short of half the distance across the Atlantic to Belle Isle. In this case the wind was not favourable to westerly migration, and the bird must have been engaged some time on its return journey. Cattle-ships afford food and a resting place to many migrants, more particularly those from America, in their attempts to cross the ocean, and if a record was kept of them it should prove to be both valuable and interesting.—J. Trumbull (Malahide, Co. Dublin).

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus rufus) singing in Autumn.—With reference to Mr. A.H. Meiklejohn's note on this subject {ante, p. 388), I may mention that on the morning of Sept. 25th one was singing loudly in the garden here. I heard it first about 8 a.m., and saw it several times at close quarters, until it ceased singing about one o'clock. I had not before heard the Chiffchaff in this locality. On Aug. 31st, 1899, I heard one singing in a lime-tree at Wellingborough, and on Sept. 7th, 1900, I heard one singing in the gardens close to Belvoir Castle.—G. Townsend (Polefield, Prestwich, near Manchester).

It is by no means an unusual occurrence to hear the Chiffchaff singing in the autumn mouths. On one occasion I heard an individual merrily chirping away in a small coppice so late as Oct. 9th. This I believe to be a record (at least for this district); but I have many times heard the note of this cheerful little warbler daring the month of September.—W.H. Warner (Fyfield, near Abingdon, Berks).

The song of the Chiffchaff in autumn, to which a correspondent calls attention (p. 388), is nothing unusual. I have frequently heard this bird singing in September, but the song at that season seems to lack the spirit with which it is uttered in the spring. Far more remarkable than the mere occurrence of the bird singing in the autumn is the fact that its song may then be heard in the most unexpected places. For instance, this last September I heard the song and saw the bird on several different days among some trees in Summerfield Park, within a stone's throw of one of the noisiest and most crowded streets of Birmingham; and I also heard it among some small trees in the grounds of Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary, where most trees will refuse to grow, on account of the smoke from adjacent factories. I heard the Willow-Warbler last April in the same spot—a mere oasis in the desert of smoke-blackened houses. The Willow-Warbler also is well known to sing in the autumn, but here too the same remark holds good as in the case of the Chiffchaff, for the song is soft and subdued, and lacks the energy of the bird's spring notes. I have often, when listening to the Chiffchaff's song in the autumn, noticed it to sing, as it were, with a stammer, uttering a succession of hesitating cheeping notes. Sometimes it has seemed to me as though it were trying to sing like a Willow-Warbler, but after repeated attempts always came back to its own "cheep-cheep." These syllables more nearly represent the autumn notes, to my mind, than the words "chiff-chaff."—Allan Ellison (17, Selwyn Road, Birmingham).

Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi) in North Wales.—In connection with my work on the fauna of North Wales, I have recently had lent to me a MS. note-book kept by Dr. J.W. Moses, a medical man, who resided at St. Asaph from 1839 onwards. Amongst numerous local notes on natural history the following occurs:—"1840, Dec. 9th. Shot a lark upon the sandhills. I was attracted to the spot where it was feeding by the shrill, and to me strange, note it uttered. It measured from the point of the bill to the tip of the tail 7¾ inches, being nearly 2 inches longer than the Skylark. In plumage it resembled the Titlark. Whether this be a variety or no, I cannot say." This description appears to indicate that the doctor had got hold of Richard's Pipit, although the species has never been recorded in North Wales. It is unfortunate that the specimen is not, so far as I know, in existence; but the length of the bird, the shrill call-note, the Pipit-like colouring, and the very long hind claw can only apply to the species named. This note was submitted to Mr. Howard Saunders for his opinion, and he agrees with the diagnosis.—H.E. Forrest (Shrewsbury).

Siskins in Orkney.—On Sept. 21st several flocks of Siskins (Chrysomitris spinus) arrived on migration in the parish of St. Mary's, in the mainland of Orkney. The flocks numbered from fifteen to thirty individuals, and were feeding on the thistles along the cliff-edge. They were there, in decreasing numbers, for about three days, and then disappeared. The wind before their arrival and during their stay was southerly, and the weather foggy, particularly on the first morning they were observed. In 'A Fauna of the Orkney Islands' the Siskin is only admitted in brackets, the sole instance of its occurrence being a bird which was probably an "escape." Their arrival on migration therefore seems to be worth recording, though it may well be that as more observations are made the bird will be found to occur there annually.—N.F. Ticehurst (Guy's Hospital, S.E.).

Siskins in Sussex.—This autumn seems to have been more marked by the appearance of small Finches, &c., than for many years past in this locality. On Sept. 14th I saw a Siskin (Chrysomitris spinus) on some brickfields near the West St. Leonards Railway Station. On the 16th I saw three large flocks of the same species, and from that time onward they seemed to increase in numbers, it being hardly possible to go out without seeing at least one large flock. It would be interesting to know if they have been observed in any number in other of our southern counties this year. The Redpoll (Linota rufescens) also arrived in some numbers, and unusually early. I saw the first on Sept. 19th, the usual time of their arrival here (St. Leonards) being the second week in October.—Michael J. Nicoll (10, Charles Road, St. Leonards).

Breeding Habits of the Swift.—It may interest your correspondent, the Rev. Allan Ellison, to know that the number of eggs laid by the Swift was the subject of several letters in the 'Field' and 'Zoologist' as far back as 1867 (cf. Zool. 1867, pp. 915 and 990). Two correspondents, Messrs. Parnell and Marcus Richardson, related instances in which they had found three eggs. On the other hand, Mr. Sterland had never found more than two; and the editor quotes his 'Dictionary of British Birds' and 'Birdsnesting' to the effect that "the eggs of the Swift are two in number." The numerous instances in which three eggs have been found without any reasonable probability that they were the produce of two hens seem, however, to prove that the normal number of eggs varies from two to three, and I believe that occasionally four eggs are laid. If it were a common occurrence for two hens to lay together, surely clutches of four would be numerous instead of being exceedingly rare.—Francis C.R. Jourdain (Clifton Vicarage, Ashburne, Derbyshire).

Hobby Breeding in Shropshire.—It is pleasant to record that the pair of Hobbies (Falco subbuteo) mentioned in this Journal twice before (Zool. 1900, pp. 143 and 382) returned again to breed in the same nest for the third time this year. Mr. J. Palmer, Mr. J. Steele Elliott, and I visited the nest on June 27th, when there were, as usual, three eggs in it. A young Hobby with traces of down on the neck was shot near Bridgnorth about Sept. 10th, probably one of the same brood.—H.E. Forrest (Shrewsbury).

Red-footed Falcon in Essex.—On Oct. 17th, Mr. Cole, of Norwich, received for preservation, for the Rev. J.R. Owen, an immature male Red-footed Hobby (Falco vespertinus), which that gentleman informs me was shot in Essex, at Bradwell-on-the Sea, where, he adds, interesting birds are often seen, as the parish consists of a promontory which runs out into the sea. It has a white throat, and a tint of ruddy brown on the upper surface and on the breast; tail-feathers barred; legs, toes, and claws orange. F. vespertinus is a species not included in Miller Christy's 'Birds of Essex.'—J.H. Gurney (Keswick Hall, Norwich).

Osprey at Rye Harbour.—On Sept. 13th, whilst at the mouth of Rye Harbour, Sussex, I noticed a large bird sailing over the sea from the south-east, which on its nearing the shore I easily identified as Pandion haliaëtus. The tide was high at the time, and, not in the least disconcerted by the presence of several people, the bird commenced fishing for Grey Mullet. It hovered in the air like a Kestrel, and then with nearly closed wings hurled itself into the sea, almost disappearing below the surface. Its last plunge was within about one hundred and fifty yards of where I sat, and, as far as I could judge with glasses, it made use of its bill as well as claws to secure the fish, and rose with a large Mullet, which it carried parallel with its body (i.e. the fish's head pointing towards its head). It flew straight out over the sea in a due southerly direction.—Michael J. Nicoll (10, Charles Road, St. Leonards).

Osprey in Hampshire.—During the latter half of September I had heard of one or more large Hawks having been occasionally seen flying high over the river, and from description I supposed it was an Osprey (Pandion haliaëtus), as in previous autumns I had seen the species more than once in a similar situation. My supposition was confirmed, for on Oct. 4th an Osprey was sent me for identification from the neighbourhood of Fordingbridge. It was in very fair plumage, but in emaciated condition, as if starved, and had nothing whatever in its stomach, although it turned the scale at 3 lb. 12 oz., and was 4 ft. 8 in. from tip to tip of expanded wings. Sex female, but very immature. The plumage was swarming with a small brown parasite—Acarus, I believe—which must have been highly annoying to the poor bird; but is it not the case that these tiny pests increase more rapidly upon a weakly victim than they do with a strong and healthy subject? In 'The Birds of Wiltshire' the Rev. A.C. Smith records the occurrence of two Ospreys in Wilton Park on Oct. 14th, 1882; so that its occurrence so far up the Avon as Fordingbridge needs no comment, since the bird is not very rare in Christchurch Bay, which in a direct line is no great distance for such powerful wings to traverse; and it has more than once been recorded as visiting Fleet Pond, in quite another part of the county. What a study is the short plated leg, file-like toes, and long and powerful claws, &c., belonging to this bird—all so nicely adapted to secure and retain its slippery and finny prey; whilst the very short thigh-feathers, so unusual in the Falcons, at once attract attention.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Little Bustard in Sussex.—On Dec. 23rd, 1900, a Little Bustard (Otis tetrax) was shot at Kitchenham Farm, Ashburnham, near Hastings, Sussex, by the Hon. John Ashburnham. Mr. Borrer, in his 'Birds of Sussex,' describes it as a very rare straggler. He only mentions four instances of its occurrence, the two last in 1879.—George W. Bradshaw (54, London Road, Reading).

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus hyperboreus) in North Wales.—On Sept. 27th I was shown, at a local taxidermist's, a Red-necked Phalarope, which had been found a day or two before at Towyn. Mr. Howard Saunders happened to be in Shrewsbury that day, and kindly examined the specimen. The toes being only slightly lobed, he judged it to be rather a young bird. It was in autumnal plumage, with no trace of red. With the exception of a specimen shot in Anglesey (Zool. 1893, p. 428) this seems to be the only example ever recorded on the west side of North Wales.—H.E. Forrest (Shrewsbury).

Great Snipe and Variety of Swallow in Hampshire.—On Oct. 12th a specimen of the Great or Solitary Snipe (Gallinago major) was shot in this neighbourhood, but, having been killed with "duck-shot," it was very much mutilated, part of the tail having been carried away, and the dark barred under parts of the body were very torn. It weighed exactly 8 oz., and under the broken skin appeared to be a mass of oily fat. The whole plumage was much darker than the Common Snipe, the length of beaks being about equal; but in the larger species the legs were of a greener hue, and much more robust, and from the toes to the first joint measured three-eighths of an inch more than in the commoner bird. The outer tail-feathers were not wholly white, but had indications of dark bars across their entire width, an indication, as described, of immaturity.

Several times in the summer I was told that a so-called "white Swallow" (Hirundo rustica) had been seen about the river here, and I trust its life was spared; but at the end of August the remains of a peculiar variety of this summer-loving bird was sent to me from the neighbourhood of Lymington. It appeared to be a uniform pink chocolate brown upon the back and greater wing-coverts, the head and breast being a lighter grey; the larger quills both of wings and tail having much paler edges, the "spots" in the tail almost white, throat and forehead of the usual chestnut-brown, but pale, and apparently blending into the colours near it. From measurement of wing, &c., it seemed to have been mature, but altogether it was so shattered that nothing very reliable could be ascertained. I may here remark that Swallows were comparatively scarce last summer, and the Martin and Sand-Martin were not seen in their usual numbers; but the Swift was more abundant than I have seen it for many years, and stragglers were here several days before their usual time, about May 1st.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).

Puffins on the Shiant Islands.

A Breeding Station of the Puffin (Fratercula arctica).—It would be well worth while for any person sailing up the Little Minch to spend a few hours on the Shiant Islands, if tide and wind permit. The Shiant Islands, as most people know, are a small group of islands lying between Lough Ewe on the mainland, and Lough Seaforth in the Outer Hebrides. The larger of the two islands is divided nearly equally into two heights, connected in the centre by a bank of coarse gravel and large rounded boulders. On a recent visit we climbed the northern mound, which is fairly steep, reaching a height of 528 ft., the only side that one can ascend, being covered with short slippery grass, which renders it somewhat dangerous. We saw thousands of Puffins flying backwards and forwards from the face of the cliffs and rocks below, where they would settle for a few minutes, then fly away again for another cruise round and round the cliff. It did not appear to be fright that made them fly, but a love of exercise, as I approached within a few yards of various groups of them with my camera, when they did not seem alarmed, but sat looking at me with a ludicrous stolid gaze, their large beaks appearing to interfere with their sight, as they nearly always turned one side of their heads to look at me. When close to the top of the hill we came on their nesting-places, which were just like rabbit-burrows, but not so deep; there were Puffins in some of them, but we saw no eggs or very young birds, the month of July being rather late, as they are said to lay their eggs in May. They bite fiercely, and I remember seeing one of our sailors getting his finger badly cut by one that he caught hold of. There seemed to be a scarcity of other birds in these islands; we saw a few Guillemots and Gulls swimming about, but the Puffins were everywhere in the majority. The inhabitants were pleasant clean-looking people who could not speak a word of English, and consisted of an old man, some women, and children, the younger men being all away at the fishing. We obtained some Puffins' and Guillemots' eggs for a few pence each from these people. The Guillemots appear to breed in the more inacessible parts of the island.—W.H. Workman (Lismore, Windsor, Belfast).


Sand-Lizard in Berkshire.—In answer to your correspondent (ante, p. 392), a Sand-Lizard (Lacerta agilis) I gave to the London Zoological Gardens (vide List Vert. Animals, 9th edit. 1896, p. 594) on June 25th, 1886, was caught in the neighbourhood of Wellington College, Berkshire.—S.S. Flower (Director, Government Zoological Gardens, Ghizeh, Egypt).


A Dipterous Parasite in the Plumage of Birds.—I was much interested in the notes referring to this subject (ante, p. 357). In my younger entomological days I sent a note of a somewhat similar kind to the 'Entomologist' (1874, p. 137), and our ever kind old friend, the late Edward Newman, had no hesitation in naming the parasite Ornithomyia avicularia, as Mr. Austen has done, and who has kindly added the interesting note on the metamorphosis of the fly. My limited experience, however, does not exactly coincide with the remark that this species "appears to occur indiscriminately in the plumage of most wild birds." I have seen it in the plumage of several of the birds in the list following the above quotation, as Blackbird, Song-Thrush, Green Woodpecker—and I may name the Jay—but in very isolated cases; whilst, on the other hand, the Long-eared Owl is seldom obtained without some specimens of the fly being present. I have never seen it upon any other Owls, and had ignorantly supposed it was almost confined to Asio otus. Its short flights and peculiar manner of progression, especially amongst the soft loose plumage of the bird in question, is sure to strike the observer when once seen, and it is very interesting to know something of its highly remarkable life-history. I should also like to know if other observers have noticed its partiality for the Owl, or is it a local peculiarity? I can safely say I have seen scores upon the plumage of this particular bird, but I have detected but few upon any other species; and I formerly secured this and other bird-parasites for the microscopical work of my friend the late Rev. H.G.W. Aubrey.—G.B. Corbin (Ringwood, Hants).