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to bring with them a recurrence of the bird adornment, there may be so strong an opposition to the re-introduction of this barbarous fashion that a less questionable mode must perforce be adopted, to adorn that part of the human family which should be the first to encourage all that is gentle, humane, and Christian.”

The Earliest Cuckoo.—The Rev. A. Rawson writes from Fallbarrow, Windermere :-“In the May number of NATURE NOTES, page 79, Mr. Rawnsley says, “The first cuckoo was heard here in the Keswick Valley, on April 2nd.' He must surely be mistaken. In their annual migrations to this country the cuckoos probably strike the English coast from Hampshire to Norfolk, and will be heard first within those limits. Nearly forty years' observation of the arrival of migrants in Kent has given April 3rd as the earliest date, and this was most unusual, April 11th being the next earliest, while the mean’date was about April 16th. If 4 remember rightly, this question was discussed in The Field not long ago, and the mean date of arrival for this country was given April 12th or 13th. Mr. Rawnsley does not say whether the observation was his own, or of his paid observers. The imitation of the note of the cuckoo is of the most simple and easiest kind, and it requires a most practised ear to distinguish between the real and the unreal. I merely write in the interests of ornithology ; accurate observers are very much needed, but I question if we can rely on boys who are paid for an early (or the earliest) intimation of the appearance of birds whose look they do not know, as I have often practically proved. If Mr. Rawnsley can verify the fact, it is worth noting, for if an unusual one in the South-east of England, it is doubly so in the North-West : the occurrence is probably unique.”

Outrages in Ireland.-We owe the following extract to the kindness of Mr. John O'Leary, a high authority on all matters relating to Ireland. It is from a letter to the Daily Express, by Mr. Allan Ellison, who writes from Trinity College, Dublin, and calls attention to “the wanton slaughter of one of our rarest and most beautiful birds which, in defiance of the law, is carried on within a few miles of our city [Dublin). The lesser tern (Slerna minuta) is a scarce summer visitor to this country from May to September, and breeds in small numbers at a few places along our coasts. It may be found breeding on the coasts of Dublin and Wicklow, in one place within six miles of the General Post Office. Here there were a few years ago about fifty pairs nesting annually, but, owing to ruthless persecution, I doubt if there are this year as many as a dozen. Even of these a good many have been shot within the last fortnight, since their arrival in the country; and a day or two ago ten or twelve fresh specimens were seen in the shop of a Dublin taxidermist, ready mounted for hat-trimming, a use for which, on account of its beauty, this bird has always been a favourite with the fair sex ; consequently it fetches a very high price. The public must bear in mind that to shoot these birds, or to have in possession freshly killed specimens at the present season is a breach of the Wild Birds' Protection Act, and that persons doing so are liable to a severe penalty. Before the Act was passed numbers of “sportsmen' and holiday makers used to visit the breeding places of some of our sea-coast birds, and work an indiscriminate slaughter of the helpless birds and their young on their nesting rocks, simply for the cruel pleasure of killing them. Of late years this practice has almost become obsolete, for the most part without the necessity of enforcing the Act; but surely in a case like the present, when one of our most uncommon birds is still ruthlessly slaughtered for the profit of a few individuals, the law ought to be vindicated and offenders punished.”.

The Song of Birds.-We have received many communications on this subject. Dr. Francis, of Richmond, sends us the following lines, not so much for their poetical merit, as for the accuracy with which they imitate the note of the American robin

When the willows gleam along the brooks,
And the grass grows green in sunny nooks,
In the sunshine and the rain
I hear the robin in the lane,
Singing "cheerily,

Cheer up, cheer up;
Cheerily, cheerily,

Cheer up."

When spring hopes seem to wane,
I hear the joyful strain-
A song at night, a song at morn,
A lesson deep to me borne,
Hearing “cheerily,

Cheer up, cheer up;
Cheerily, cheerily,

Cheer up.”
The lines have no name attached to them, but are taken from Nehrling's North
American Birds, now being published in parts by Wesley and Son.

The Rev. A. Rawson calls attention to the following extract from White's Natural History of Selborne :-"A friend remarks that many of his owls hoot in B flat, but that one went almost below A. The pipe he tried their notes by was a common half-crown pitch-pipe, such as masters use for tuning of harpsichordsit was the common London pitch. A neighbour of mine, who is said to have a nice ear, remarks that the owls about this village hoot in three different keys, in G flat or F sharp, in B flat and A flat. He heard two hooting to each other, the one in A flat and the other in B flat.

Query : Do these different notes proceed from different species, or only from various individuals ? "-- From quarto edition of 1813, p. 14.

Miss Agnes Martelli sends the following letter from Mr. John James Carey, of Ronceval, Guernsey :-"One night last year I noticed the note of the cuckoo repeated several times. Once I counted 118, and thought this rather unusual, but this year the call far exceeded this number. On the night of the 8th May, a lovely moonlight, a cuckoo, perched on a tree opposite my window, awoke me by constant calls. This was at 1.30 a.m. He ran on an uninterrupted note of 415 times, then ceased for a short time, and, having taken breath, commenced again. I counted up to 600, then, fearing that I might forget the hundreds, I produced paper and pencil, dotting down every hundred. My friend ran up to 2,683, not including the 415 calls. There were short intervals of a few seconds, as if wanting breath, and once or twice he called a single 'cook,' but after two hours (for it was 3.30), I thought I had satisfied my mind on the vocal powers of this bird, and feeling very sleepy I left him still going on.

Albino Birds. – Mr. W. G. Wheatcroft, Secretary of the Bath Branch, writes :

:-My attention has recently been called to this subject by a lady from Norfolk. Miss Mildred Edwards, of Hardingham Hall, in a letter to my wife of the 14th inst., observes :-“It may interest you to hear that we have just had brought us from one of our plantations an entirely white rook. It had been evidently mobbed by the others. It is extremely ugly, has white legs and blue eyes, the pupils having a ghastly pinkish tinge in some lights.” Selbornians will doubtless call to mind the following passage from The Natural History of Selborne :

-"A gentleman in this neighbourhood had two milk-white rooks in one nest. A booby of a carter, finding them before they were able to fly, threw them down and clestroyed them, to the regret of the owner, who would have been glad to have preserved such a curiosity in his rookery. I saw the birds myself nailed against the end of a barn, and was surprised to find that their bills, legs, feet, and claws were milk-white. I have come across a goodly number of albinos among plants, but only one or two in the animal world."

On this subject Mr. T. G. Ward, of Leighton Buzzard, sends the following notes of albino birds and mammals seen at North Marston :-

“On the 11th of August, 1887, a snow-white specimen of the yellow wagtail was observed by a friend of mine. The next morning he saw it again, and advanced within a few yards of it before it flew away. Its flight and chirrup were quite normal. Several white starlings have been observed at various times by different persons.

White sparrows have also been taken in this district. In the winter of 1885, a sparrow was caught in a trap with the crown of its head pure white, and one was seen on the 6th of November, and again on the 18th, with its back and tail quite white. I have been told by a person of good authority ihat he saw a white blackbird in his orchard a few years ago. One morning as Í was out for a walk I saw a pure white stoat; this was in the winter-time. White rabbits have been shot in this neighbourhood.”

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Home Reading Union.— This Society seems to be one which would be most suitable to many Selbornians who are anxious to carry on their studies of Natural History in a systematic manner and with the co-operation of others. It has been formed for the purpose of developing a taste for recreative and instructive reading among all classes of the community, and directing home study to definite ends, so as on the one hand to check the spread of pernicious literature among the young, and on the other to remedy the waste of energy and lack of purpose so often found among those who have time and opportunity for a considerable amount of reading. Its objects are (1.) To draw up and publish courses of reading adapted to the tastes and requirements of different classes of readers, especially (a) young people, (6) artisans, (c) general readers. (2.) To publish for each class of readers a cheap monthly Magazine giving introduction to the prescribed books, answers to questions, and other helps. The readers will be organised, as far as possible, into local circles under suitable leaders ; certificates will be issued to those who have completed regular courses of study; and such further assistance as experience shows to be practicable will be rendered. (3.) To organise summer assemblies at convenient centres, when lectures will be delivered by experienced teachers, social gatherings held, and excursions arranged. Among the works which are selected for reading in the Junior Science Course we find Kirby's Butterflies, Moths, and Beetles ; Paul Bert's First Year of Scientific knowledge ; Bower's Science of Every-Day Life; and Humphrey's Insect Ways on Summer Days. In the Senior Course, among others recommended, are Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, Huxley's Crayfish, and Grant Allen's Evolutionist at Large ; a selection which shows that those who made it belong to an advanced ” School of Biology. Mrs. Haweis warmly recommends this Society, which is, she says, an admirable one, growing fast and promising much greater things in the days that are to come than it can show at present.

Birds Singing as they Fly.--Looking over some past volumes of the Spectator newspaper to-day, I came across a review of a poeni called “Mano: a poetical history,” by Mr. (now Canon] Richard Watson Dixon, in which occurs the following line, addressed to a lark :

“ Thou only bird that singest as thou flyest.” Is not this a -possibly pardonable-mistake? The cuckoo, about whose claim to be a singing-bird there may be two opinions, certainly “sings as he flies.” And the other day I saw a blackbird fly off in the middle of his song, and continue singing as he flew to another perch, there being a curious want of harınony between the movement of his wings and the rhythms of his song. I think I have seen a missel thrush do the same. Perhaps some of your readers may be able to support these instances by others. The subject is rather interesting, as it marks the great difference between the breathing powers of birds and human beings.

F. W. B. A Singing Mouse.-Some weeks ago a singing mouse was heard and seen every evening in the kitchen of this house. The animal, a very small one, was audible behind the stove, the warbling became more and more clear, and then the songster would come out on the hearth, still continuing to utter the curious sounds, which somewhat resembled the notes of a linnet or wren, only of course they were less powerful. This mouse became very tame, picking up crumbs which were thrown to it, and then resuming its song. Great care was taken to avoid frightening it, but in a month or so its visits became rarer, and finally ceased. Lately the servants have heard two songs at the same time, but the singers have not shown themselves. No doubt some of your correspondents can relate similar experiences. I shall be interested in any information on the subject. Is the phenomenon rare or of frequent occurrence ?

E. E. P. [At a recent meeting of the Linnean Society Mr. J. E. Harting exhibited alive a so-called “ singing mouse," which had been captured at Maidenhead a week previously, and which uttered sounds like the subdued warbling of a linnet. He desired to be informed whether the cause usually assigned for the phenomenon was correct-namely, some obstruction or malformation of the trachea. Professor Stewart stated that he had observed alive, and dissected when dead, a similar specimen, and had found no trace of any organic disease, or malformation.]

A Brave Comrade.--Miss Harriet Peyton sends us from Cwmnrhaiadr, Machynlleth, an account of the following interesting incident :—“In this wild mountainous region from which I write, Buzzard Hawks are not uncommon, and on one occasion our keeper, seeing two of them, shot and wounded one severely, and, in fact, thought he had killed it, as it began to drop. At this moment the other hawk flew under it, supporting it on its back, and carrying it along 200 yards or more at a stretch. As soon as the support was withdrawn, the wounded bird began to fall, and again its friendly mate supported it in the same manner, and actually carried it across a valley, half a mile wide, to some very precipitous rocks, where they were lost sight of.”

Footpath Preservation.-We have received the Annual Report of the National Footpath Preservation Society for 1888-9, and gladly call the attention of Selbornians to a body which has a special claim upon their sympathy. “This Society ”—we quote its prospectus-was “ formed for the preservation of ancient Foot and Bridle Paths, and all other Rights of Way by Land and Water, Fishing, Vacant Spaces, as Village Greens, Roadside slips of Land, &c. It may be remarked that, had such a Society been established fifty years ago, a considerable number of footpaths (which are as much highways as roads) would have been saved to the public. Public footpaths intersect the country in every direction. They are of the utmost use, and afford an unfailing source of healthy recreation and innocent enjoyment to all sections of the community; young and old, rich and poor, are alike interested in their preservation, and yet we know that such public ways have, in innumerable cases, been stopped with impunity. It is, there. fore, of the greatest importance that the existence of these rights of way should not be left to chance, or to the casual efforts of individuals, but that they should be fixed on such a basis as would secure them against attacks.”

During the past year, ninety-four cases of footpath stopping and encroachments have been brought under the notice of the Society, and, in many instances, the action of the Society has resulted in the removal of the grievance. Twelve local footpaths' societies are affiliated to the central body, as well as twenty-one Local Boards, fifteen Corporations and Ratepayers' Associations, and twentyseven field clubs, and similar bodies. The report, price 6d.,

and all information, may be obtained from the Secretary, Mr. H. Allnutt, 42, Essex-street, Strand, W.C. An annual subscription of 5s. entitles to membership.

Wild Birds and Maize.—The Rev. F. M. Millard writes from Otham Parsonage, Maidstone : “We keep a few Bantams, and we have been in the habit of throwing out wheat for them. But the sparrows used to take so large a share of this that I have now given them maize, unbroken, instead. The results are rather amusing : the sparrows try their best, but can make very little of it. Greenfinches (whom, except in snowy weather, I have not seen so near the windows before) seen to succeed rather better, but not much. But the Blue Ti though so much smaller, manages much better. He carries off a grain to a rosebush growing against the wall : he holds it firmly between his little claws and pecks away at the inner side of the grain, much as I have seen a Nuthatch hamner at a nut wedged in the bark of one of our oak-trees. Master Tommy's appetite seems insatiable ; but I don't like to grudge him, his ways are so pretty."

WORK OF THE BRANCHES OF THE

SELBORNE SOCIETY. It has been pointed out by several readers that the account of the Selborne Society's work in the last number of NATURE NOTEs gives a very inadequate idea of the size, income and importance of the Society, inasmuch as it deals only with the work of the Central Council, and omits all mention of the very numerous and energetic branches, which in their continual increase are covering the whole land.

WORK OF THE BRANCHES.

99

In order that we might be able to give a complete account of the present position of the branches, circulars have been sent to all the Honorary Secretaries of Branches, asking them to supply information on several definite subjects. Unfortunately this request has not been complied with in some instances, so that we are for the present unable to compile the complete account of branch work, which we had hoped to lay before our readers. Doubtless, however, the whole of the Secretaries will have sent in their reports by next month, when we hope to give the results in NATURE Notes.

Meanwhile we may mention a most successful meeting held a few days since for the inauguration of the Selborne Society in the New Forest District. It took place at Lymington, and had the advantage of being very fully reported in a well-written paper, the Lymington Chronicle. We have often acknowledged the obligations of the Selborne Society to the press; and in the present instance we find that in the newspaper in question not only an interesting account of the proceedings was given, but a leading article was devoted to a vigorous advocacy of the claims upon the public of the Selborne Society. The number of copies of the Lymington Chronicle which have been sent to us by various correspondents proves that its goodwill was thoroughly appreciated by local Selbornians.

The following account of the meeting is abridged from that given in the paper mentioned above.

The meeting was held in the Lymington Town Hall, the Hon. John Scott Montagu presiding, and there was a large and fashionable attendance, the chief attraction of the meeting being an illustrated lecture on the migration of birds by the Rev. H. D. Gordon, M.A., of Harting, near Petersfield. Mrs. Martelli and Miss Agnes Martelli (secretary to the “Northern Heights” branch of the Selborne Society) came from London to attend the meeting. These ladies are of the family of the illustrious Gilbert White, of Selborne, Mrs. Martelli (née Miss White) being daughter of the Rev. F. H. White, Abbots Ann, Andover, Hants. The Rev. H. E. Bull, of Milford, and his sister, Miss Gertrude Bull, of Southampton, were most energetic in making known the objects of the Society, and in creating the interest in its proceedings which resulted in the very influential meeting. The chairman ably advocated Selbornian principles, and said that it would afford Lord Montagu and himself the greatest pleasure to give every help in their power to a movement which was so admirable in its objects. Mr. Gordon's lecture on “The Longevity of Birds in connection with Migration was a very interesting one, and we much regret that we are unable to reproduce some of it in NATURE Notes. We must refer our readers to the admirable synopsis given in the Lymington Chronicle. Mr. Bull, while referring with pleasure to the presence of the Liberal candidate, Mr. King, side by side with his Conservative opponents, advised those present to put their politics aside for a moment and to join together on the common ground of the furtherance of the objects of the Selborne Society. We commend Mr. Bull's advice to his namesake, John. It is most refreshing to find at Selborne meetings the Liberal lamb and the Tory lion (or vice versử) lying down peaceably together, while the humane principles of the Society forbid any lurking suspicion that this fraternising may terminate in the gentler animal being compelled to take an inside seat.

Another very pleasant gathering which took place during the past month was that of the Lower Thames Valley Branch. This branch probably occupies the premier position with regard to numbers and income. It is composed of three divisions, Richmond, Ealing, and Hammersmith, has a royal duke as its president, and an imposing list of vice-presidents, headed by the name of the Countess Russell. It had last year more than 200 members and an income of over £70, sending a contribution of £7 to the Central Council.

But perhaps the most hopeful sign of the Lower Thames Valley Branch is its very efficient juvenile section. One of the reviewers on the staff of NATURE Notes lately asked if the Selborne Society were established in any public or private schools, " and if not, why not?”. That inquiring reviewer would have had his laudable curiosity amply satisfied if he had been present at the last meeting of the Lower Thames Valley Selbornians. Upwards of eighty children, or rather young people, ranging from eighteen to eight, form a most enthusiastic juvenile section, which is the creation of Miss Annie Wallis, the principal of the flourishing Richmond High School. This lady is well known as an educationalist;

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