The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 726/Birds Observed on the Calf of Man, Graves and Ralfe

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Birds Observed on the Calf of Man
F.S. Graves and P. Ralfe
Birds Observed on the Calf of Man, Graves and Ralfe

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issue 726, December 1901, p. 468–471


By F.S. Graves and P. Ralfe.

The following notes were made during a four days' stay on the Calf of Man (May 22nd-25th, 1901). This islet (cf. Zool. 1894, p. 161) is separated from the Isle of Man by a strait 500 yards wide, and is 616 acres in extent, rising at its western side to 421 ft. in height. The whole circuit is rocky, but the highest cliffs are on the west, which is wholly precipitous. The north-east point, Kione Rouayr, has also good cliffs; the southern part consists of three promontories, comparatively low, but with steep sides, and nearly flat tops. Off the easternmost of these is the Burrow, a fine detached mass of rock pierced by a cavern; and on the west, underneath the two lighthouses (now disused for their original purpose), a double pyramid, called the Stack, separated by a narrow passage whose walls are sheer precipices. From the southern coast, towards the one farmhouse, which stands well inland, extends a little ravine called "the Glen," which has a tiny stream, and is full of profuse and beautiful vegetation. Here were noticed most of the small migrants mentioned below. There is some cultivated ground, mostly near the farmhouse, behind which are also a few trees: but the greater part of the islet is covered with heather, bracken (dead at the time of our visit), and coarse grass. There was in many places an abundance of beautiful flowering hyacinths, and in others primroses richly bloomed, or the ground was covered with sheets of ground-ivy, filling the air with scent. Damp places along the cliffs were white with masses of the flowers of Cochlearia.

While on former occasions our knowledge of the Calf had been entirely obtained from the sea, we were now for the first three days confined to the land; but on the fourth rowed completely round the islet.

Mistle-Thrush (Turdus viscivorus).—One seen on a field near the farm.

Song-Thrush (T. musicus).—One or two in the Glen.

Blackbird (T. merula).—Saw a number. In a gooseberry-bush outside the cottage where we lived was a nest with eggs.

Wheatear (Saxicola œnanthe).—A few noted.

Stonechat (Pratincola rubicola).—Pretty common, as on the main island.

Whinchat (P. rubetra).—We saw two; one in the Gren, one near our cottage. The species has only once before been recorded in Man.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula).—One seen in enclosures near the mouth of the Glen.

Whitethroat (Sylvia cinerea).—A good many, especially in the Glen and about the cottage, with its adjacent bushes, where one was heard singing.

Garden Warbler (S. hortensis).—We saw one bird of this species among bushes in the Glen. The status of the Garden Warbler as a Manx bird is very uncertain.

Willow-Wren (Phylloscopus trochilus).—A few, very wild. (Some of these might possibly be Chiffchaffs, but the latter appear to be rare or local in Man, whilst P. trochilus is common and abundant.)

Hedge-Sparrow (Accentor modularis).—A pair frequented the neighbourhood of our cottage, and had young already on the wing.

Meadow-Pipit (Anthus pratensis).—Common.

Rock-Pipit (A. obscurus).—Common. A nest with eggs concealed behind a tuft of sea-spleenwort in a cavernous situation near the sea.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa grisola).—We observed one or two in the Glen, and one frequented the bushes round the cottage. It has seldom been noticed in Man.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica).—A few flying about near the Glen, in the sunniest part of the islet.

Sand-Martin (Cotile riparia).—One seen.

Greenfinch (Ligurnis chloris).—At the house of Lloyds' signalman (one of the disused lighthouses) was a specimen which had been caught on the Calf shortly before our visit.

Chaffinch (Fringilla cœlebs).—One was in song near the cottage.

Linnet (Linota cannabina).—A few observed.

Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—We noted it only at the farm.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).—Not uncommon; about the farm and elsewhere. We heard young calling from a hole in a gully on the cliffs.

Chough (Pyrrhocorax gracidus).—Numerous and tame. Some were always to be seen feeding in the grass-fields near the farm. One of the coast-gullies ends in a long dark cave, in a hole in the roof of which was a nest. This is a favourite site in the Isle of Man, as elsewhere. Pairs were also evidently breeding elsewhere on the coast.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).—A number about the farm.

Hooded Crow (C. cornix).—We observed several.

Raven (C. corax).—We saw five together, no doubt a family of the year.

Rook (C. frugilegus).—One seen flying towards the main island.

Sky-Lark (Alauda arvensis).—One or two noticed.

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).—We several times saw one, and once two together.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).—One seen. We were shown an egg which a few days before had been taken on a ledge on the rocky side of the Glen.

Peregrine Falcon (F. peregrinus).—One twice rose from a gully on the coast, where a few sticks of an old nest were to be seen.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).—There is a small settlement on the cliffs, a number of nests being placed near together on ledges just under the edge of the brow, and others at a little distance more widely scattered. In the heat the old birds sat with gaping mouths on the great whitened structures, which were very conspicuous. In some nests were young, which could be heard calling; while in others were fresh eggs.

Shag (P. graculus).—Abundant, and nests in many places. Some nests, instead of being close to the water, were high up the broken and stony brows, completely hidden under great masses of sloping rock.

Gannet (Sula bassana).—One seen in the Sound. At this season it is frequent round the whole Manx coast.

Common Sheld-Duck (Tadorna cornuta).—A pair near a little pond.

Partridge (Perdix cinerea).—We found some feathers: probably the bird had been killed by a Falcon.

[Land-Rail (Crex pratensis).—We did not hear any, but were told that it inhabits the islet.]

Waterhen (Gallinula chloropus).—Near the mouth of the Glen is a small dam, connected with a disused mill in ruins. In a hole in the bank of this was a Waterhen's nest, and we saw on the dam the mother bird with five downy young. When the nest was built there would be no cover on the water, but the foundation of another seemed to be commenced among a little low vegetation now springing up.

Lapwing (Vanellus vulgaris).—Fairly abundant on some waste ground in the interior, and probably comparatively more numerous here than on the main island.

Oystercatcher (Hæmatopus ostralegus).—Common round the coast, especially among the low-tide rocks of the Sound. A pair were evidently nesting on the rough grassy land near the small pond where the Sheld-Ducks were, and we saw some eggs which had been taken shortly before on the turfy margin of the rocks.

Herring-Gull (Larus argentatus).—The dominant bird of the Calf. Nests in abundance almost all round it, sometimes on the hill-sides at a little distance back from the cliff, but not in the interior of the islet. On the southern promontories, where the turf consists chiefly of seapink, the nests were large brown structures formed of the torn-up tufts. Most nests had three eggs or newly-hatched young. In one were a few mangled beetles (Carabus nemoralis, Barynotus elevatus), and in another some small worms, evidently intended for the first food of the young.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (L. fuscus).—Numbers with L. argentatus in certain places, but not so well distributed. Some of their nests had many feathers mixed with the structure. We did not identify any nests with young as belonging to this species, which lays later than the Herring-Gull. Numbers breed on the isolated Burrow and Stack.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).—One colony, not large (described Zool. 1894, p. 166). Laying had not yet commenced, though the birds spent much time in unfinished nests on little ledges and projections of the sheer cliff.

Razorbill (Alca torda).—Well distributed and abundant, but does not crowd to the same extent as the next species. Some eggs seen.

Common Guillemot (Uria troile).—Very abundant at Kione Rouayr, and on the western cliffs, on narrow ledges. They lay later than the Razorbill, and we noticed no eggs.

Puffin (Fratercula arctica).—In places there are large colonies, as at Kione Rouayr, and among rock-rubbish under the western cliffs. In May the Puffin was not very much in evidence, though we saw some carrying straws and other nesting material; but when Ralfe again visited the Calf, on July 5th, it was astonishingly numerous and tame.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.