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1 Volume. The Trogonidæ or Family of Trogons, with 50 coloured plates
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I Volume. The Birds of Asia, with nearly 500 coloured plates
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Hature Potes, The Selborne Society's Magazine.
MARCH 15, 1890.
RIGHT OF WAY ASSERTED AT GLEN DOLL.
R HE publication of a statement, showing the amount of
the expenses incurred by the Scottish Rights of Way Association in successfully upholding the public right
throughout prolonged litigation with the owner of Glen Doll, calls for sympathetic notice from our readers. Glen Doll, in Clova, is one of the richest localities for the botanist, and, at the same time, one of the most beautiful of Highland glens. An old road from Kirkton of Clova to Braemar runs through it. The present owner of the Glen, who purchased it some years ago, closed the road and refused all access, no matter how politely the request for it was made. The Scottish Rights of Way Association promptly challenged this action, and litigation ensued, throughout which the owner of Glen Doll, a Mr. Macpherson, exhausted every resource of which the law is capable in the matter of expense and delay. The case finally terminated in the House of Lords, and the public interest triumphed in every court and on all the points at issue. The only drawback to the success is that a deep encroachment has been made on the funds at the disposal of the Society. “The extra-judicial costs of the litigation have been heavy. The total is £650 ; and of this sum £250 is taken from the Society's funds, £ 300 comes out of the pockets of private guarantors, members of the Society, and only £100—between a sixth and a seventh of the whole-has been subscribed by the general public.
This is not as it should be. The road is now open and the gain to the public is a great one. It was worth fighting for, but the public apathy may be explained. After all, what is the gain of a road in the Highlands ? Dwellers in cities may be surprised at our asking this question. It is not very many years since anybody was at liberty to roam in any direction among the Scottish mountains, and even to shoot as many birds as he pleased, or rather was able to shoot---grouse were not so plentiful then. It is only since the market value of these
shootings has been found out that restrictions have been placed on access to mountains. In this matter it is only fair to say that the holders and recent purchasers of shootings are to blame for by far the greater part of the “grabbing" of public rights, and that the older proprietors incur little reprobation. In these circumstances is it to be wondered at that the public are apathetic in the matter of a mere road when what they want is a whole range of mountains, or rather free access to them ? Nothing could be more popular than the reception given to Mr. Bryce's “ Access to Mountains Bill” of a few years ago. What has become of it? If there is any young politician desirous of the popular canonization so properly bestowed on Sir John Lubbock for a measure of benefit to the people which all feel and recognise, let him take up the “Access to Mountains Bill."
THE MIGRATION OF THE WOODCOCK.*
HE subject of the migration of birds is the most inter
esting and most amazing in the history of the most fascinating of all animals. What causes a creature
ordinarily so domestic, so fond of separate quiet places, so frail as to be in many cases hardly more powerful than a large moth, to dare sea and storm for thousands of miles, and mostly to choose the night for his romantic pilgrimage, the time when his usual wont is to sleep as sound as an alderman of the City of London? What causes the Woodcock, always a solitary don in his habits, to fly singly each one across the German Ocean to our western bowery hollows and forest tangles, and yet to arrive in such long lines as to cover, of course sparsely, 350 miles of English coast in one night (from the Isle of May, Firth of Forth, to Orfordness, Suffolk, opposite Ipswich, in one night, October 12, 1882)? What rules the flight of these over-sea arrivals of myriads of birds which, if they were aerial ships made by man, would collide, and strew the sea with the dead? There is an awe in the subject, however much modern science has enlarged or illuminated it, and to reverent thought
* From a lecture delivered at Hampstead on behalf of the Selborne Society, on Nov. 21st, 1889.
THE MIGRATION OF THE WOODCOCK.
on the migration of birds, the old words, some of the most stately and onomatopoeic in the whole range of English language, come home—“ Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters; and Thy footsteps are not known.”
The point which I wish on the present occasion to maintain is, that allowing for the impulse Divine for migration in the bird, its immediate incidence is due to heat and cold. As in summer we wear light clothing and in winter warm, so the birds which are our principal migrants choose, at the approach of summer, the coldest quarters that they can occupy, and invariably nest in their highest latitudes, thereby hardening their offspring. In winter-or at its approach--they are driven by the bare breath of the north or east wind to get into moister and warmer air. The spring of 1886 was, at the end of March, warm and almost tropical; that represented great heat in the tropics, driving the birds north before their time, and we had quite a dozen summer migrants a month in advance of their usual dates. The autumn of this year was a summer, and last Sunday, November 17th, I saw a Swallow fly over Harting Church at noon. Two birds had been observed thereabouts on the previous day. In the same way the Swifts of 1889 were a fortnight later in departing than usual; they had enough heat to delay them.
Now take the typical bird for migration, the Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). It is a delicate fragile bird. It nests, among other places, in the Himalayas, and places as far apart from them as Scandinavia ; it goes to Persia for warmth and moisture only in the cold season. When we examine a Woodcock's head we find evidence of its timidity. The lustrous jet black eyes largely developed are raised above the line of the long suckerbeak, and look backward angularly; a somewhat similar arrangement is seen in the eyes of flat fish, which are strained to look away upwards in case of danger. The Woodcock's most constant attitude is like the Spoonbill's, with the long sucker-like tube of a bill pressed down into the ooze; and I have seen one in frosty snowy weather help himself up by this beak. The Woodcock's feet and legs are small; he has little development for running, and all his life depends on his wings and the marvellously large retrospect of his eye. His claws are absolutely unarmed, less formidable than a poor Nightjar's, which, though useless for defence, are serrated. From his structure the Woodcock is most timid and vulnerable ; one feather displaced by a shot has been known to make him unable to rise from the ground. Accordingly, this bird, like the hare, full of fears, feels keenly the breath of north and east wind packed perhaps in several mile thicknesses, as he is driven across the German Ocean. One year, 1877, Mr. Cordeaux, who has most admirably edited the returns for the East English Coast, remarks, from the British Association reports of nine years, that there was not a single gale or even strong breeze from any northerly or easterly point between the middle of September and the end of November, and so there were no Woodcocks in England that fateful and disastrous year, save those bred in our own islands. And from no fewer than fifty-five schedules he gives, in a remarkable way, twenty-seven instances at various periods of the Woodcock's greater or more numerous flights.
The first flight of these birds occurs early in October, being mostly of the smaller and ruddier Scandinavian sort, already feeling the approaching gripe of winter; the later and greater flight is of the larger grayer Mes-European (Middle of Europe) birds, before the end of November. But all these visits occur with winds from east and south-east varying to north. As a very interesting instance of the powers of flight possessed by a Woodcock, Mr. Cordeaux estimates that on the 7th October, 1887, a Woodcock left Heligoland at 5 p.m., travelled across Heligoland, S.W., arrived at the Nash Lighthouse, midway in the coast of South Glamorgan (as shown by the British Association Reports on Migration) at 3.30 next day, October 8, having traversed the distance of 550 miles in 10 hours, at 52 miles an hour, which is about the estimated flight of this bird. Another record of the Woodcock's flight from Sleswig to Whitby Lighthouse, gives 10 hours for 420 miles, or 40 miles an hour. This was done on November 8th, 1887. The Woodcock seems to be at his best when going up the wind, if it be not too strong.
Enough has been said to show that Woodcocks migrating and sailing at great altitudes in the clear air of the now sun-forsaken North, and feeling the bite of the North and East wind most keenly—for the bird is tender from crown to toe-are guided by the prime considerations of warmth and moisture to winter in England in severe seasons, much as our folk winter at Mentone and in Italy. In warm winters like 1877 they do not need the shelter of our western shores, their further limit west, and the influence of the Gulf Stream, without which England would be a Labrador. When, however, the east winds come, they bring the Woodcock, as the same east winds brought the succulent locusts to Israel in the desert. Too much heat or too much cold drives the birds away to more temperate climes. Thus the Woodcock is the tell-tale of winter heat or cold : and before long it will result that what the magnet-needle is to the navigation of great iron-clads, and to our telegraphs—the running pen of the nineteenth century—that the flight of birds—the dark steel magnet-needle of the heavens-will be to meteorology and the science of climates in the twentieth century.
H. D. GORDON.