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letter from my friend Mr. Montague Knight, of Charston House, about four miles from hence, in which he says, "I saw some swallows here on the 12th instant, and yesterday (November 21st) was much surprised to see some six or seven house martins wheeling round the house. On both occasions the weather was bright and sunny. Gilbert White would have said they were attracted by the sun from their winter hiding-places." It is remarkable that White has no record of their stay later than the 5th of November.—Thomas Bell; The Wakes, Selborne, Alton, Hants, Nov. 27, 1873.
Martins and Swallows i is their Late Stay dependent an the Mind!—
Our local Hirundiure left at the usual time for their migration; but on Sunday, the 9th of November, I saw a flight of about a dozen martins (Hirundo urbica), and noticed them daily from that time to the 21st. All this time the wind had been in the east, with the exception of a few hours at mid-day on the 13th, when it was due south. Every day a cold wind was blowing, the poor birds having apparently a hard time of it Ou the 21st the wind changed to W.N.W., and became milder. On the 22nd, wind N.W., I saw but four martins and one swallow; 23rd, wind N.W., four martins only; 24tb, wind W., all appear to have left; to-day (25th), wind S. and very mild, with fogs, I have walked for hours looking for swallows, but have not seen one, so conclude they have all left. Ou the 21st, whilst talking with a person who takes an interest in such matters, he told me that for a week or ten days he had observed the martins about, and the day before he had seen two swallows also. I was doubtful about the swallows; but whilst we were talking four martius and a swallow passed by, and I had full opportunity of recognizing it. The same person told me that he bad heard that swallows would not start on their migration whilst the wind was at all from an easterly direction: the above facts would appear in some measure to corroborate the idea.—Steplien Clogg.
Indifference of Small Birds to the Kestrel.—I have been much struck by the indifference with which small birds seem to treat the kestrel. To-day (November 25 th) I saw five linnets pass within a foot or two under a kestrel, whilst it was hovering in the air, without either noticing the other.— Id.
Partridge with white "Horseshoe."—Is it not very uncommon for the "horseshoe" on a partridge's breast to be quite white? I had one the other day with the "horseshoe" entirely white, with the exception of one little brown feather. It was an old bird.—Henry Arrowsmith. [Partridges, like many other birds, are subject to frequent variety. We have seen many more singular than this in appearance.—Editor of' Field,' Dec. 6, 1873.]
Partridge perching in a Tree.—I was shown the other day a partridge which had just been shot while flying from a tree, in the top of which it had been perching. The gentleman who shot it told me that he had several times met with similar instances in India, but never before in this country. I am aware that the circumstance is not unique, but it is perhaps of sufficiently rare occurrence to be worth recording.—W. E. Hart; KUderry, Co. Donegal, December 15, 1873.
Virginian Quail in Northamptonshire.—I send you herewith a bird which I shot on the 1st of December, when out partridge shooting. Three of them were flushed from a hedgerow, and the one sent, being the nearest, paid the penalty. I have been a gamekeeper all my life, and have never seen a similar bird before; neither can any one here tell me what it is. I shall be glad if you will name it, and give me any further particulars in your power as to its rarity or otherwise.—John Treelon; Gamekeeper to Baron Rothschild, Ashton, near Oundle, Northamptonshire. [The bird sent is the Virginian quail or colin (Ortyx virginianus). As its name implies, it is an American species, which has been introduced into this country. A good many have been turned down at different times in the eastern counties, as well as at Windsor (by the late Prince Consort), and again in Scotland, but with little success. We have not previously heard of any in Northamptonshire; but, as the bird sent was shot near Oundle, we should not be surprised to hear that it was one of several turned out by Lord Lilford, whose enterprise in the cause of acclimatisation is well known to naturalists.—Editor of' Eield,' Dec. 6.]
A four-legged Chicken.—During the past summer a malformed specimen of the common fowl was sent to me as a curiosity; but, as it had been dead for several days, its preservation was impossible. It was a chick, and had lived several days; but it had four legs, two of which were in their proper place and were used in walking, whilst the other pair were placed much nearer the tail, and were both shorter and smaller than the natural legs. I need hardly state that the posterior pair were useless in walking. Some time since I saw a young duck exactly similar to the chick above mentioned, but that had lived for several weeks, and was accidentally killed.—G. B Corbin.
Herons in Richmond Park.—Walking round Penn Ponds, Richmond Park, on Friday last, I had the pleasure of seeing fifteen herons rise from the bank of the upper pond, and alight in the covert near at hand, some of them perching on the topmost boughs of the largest trees. To a naturalist residing in town, and with few opportunities of seeing this bird, the sight was most interesting. Would they be likely to nest in the park if not disturbed? Their doing so would certainly add another charm to that already pleasant spot.—' Field,' Dec. 6, 1873.
Spoonbill in Guernsey.—Among the many rare and curious birds which visit the island of Guernsey in autumn may be noticed the spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), a specimen of which was shot at the Vale a few days ago, and taken to Mr. Couch, taxidermist, College Street. This is the only spoonbill taken in this island in the space of twenty-four years.—H. T. Broughton; Denbigh Villa, Shaitklin, Isle of Wight, October 21.—' Field,' October 25, 1873.
Solitary Snipe in Lancashire.—A fine specimen of the solitary snipe, in beautiful plumage, was sent to me for preservation on the 23rd of September. It was killed near Garstang, Lancashire. The gentleman who shot it remarks, " It lay very close, and, on being flushed, flew steadier and slower than the common snipe, and, although but a little heavier than that bird, somehow presented an entirely different appearance on the wing. It uttered a note very similar to that of the common species."—John Shaw; Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury. [The solitary snipe visits this country regularly every autumn, and always earlier than the common snipe. Instances of its occurrence here in spring are rare.—Editor of' Field'; October 4, 1873.]
Sabine's Snipe in County Gal way.—It may interest some of your readers to learn that a few days ago I shot a snipe of singular appearance, almost black, its feathers being as dark as those of a hen blackbird. This I imagine to be a unique specimen, never having met with a similar one.— Algernon Persse; Boxborough, County Galway, Nov. 28. [We have seen this bird, which is in the hands of Mr. Edwin Ward for preservation, and it is a very fair specimen of the so-called Sabine's snipe, now generally regarded as a melanism of the common species.—Editor of' Field,' Dec. C]
Hybrid Ducks Breeding.—The hybrids between the tufted duck and pochard which were hatched in the Pells at Lewos, and which I wrote about last year (November 23) have this year bred. One pair inter se laid eleven eggs in May last, but, being disturbed, forsook the nest. They laid again, however, and hatched seven on the 20th of July, but all the young except one were killed by moorhens. Another hybrid duck mated with both goldeneye and pochard, and reared a brood of seven on the 15th of June. The other three young ones of last year were not pinioned, and flew away, but are sometimes seen in the neighbourhood. The femalo pochard this year paired with her own mate, and reared seven young, which were hatched in U&j.—J. H. Verrall; High Street, Lewes.—' Field,' October 18, 1873.
Great Crested Grebe at Luton.—An immature great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatm) was caught in one of the streets of this town on the 15 th of this month. The bird was not wounded in any way, but was completely exhausted, so much so that it scarcely made any effort to escape. With us it is a great rarity.—T. Cane; 36, Wellington Street, Laton, Bedfordshire, December 21, 1873.
Glaucous Gulls in East Yorkshire.—I have just dissected two very fino old glaucous gulls obtained on this coast, near Flamborough. They were shot (the female on the 8th and the male on the 9th instant) by Thomas Harrington, a resident of that place, who informs me that though he has lived there all his life he never saw two adult birds together before. Young birds are not uncommon. It is so seldom that the opportunity offers of comparing two adults of the opposite sex in the flesh, that I make no apology for giving full particulars. The male measured two feet six inches in length, five feet four inches from tip to tip of wings, and weighed three pounds ten ounces: its stomach contained fragments of sea-weed, a little gravel, and part of the milt of some kind of fish. The female measured two feet three inches in length, four feet nine inches in expanse of wings, and weighed two pounds thirteen ounces: stomach perfectly empty. Both birds were in excellent condition and fat; the female particularly so. Yarrell's description of the glaucous gull in winter plumage exactly accords with mine of these birds, unless I say, legs and feet very pale flesh-colour; claws dark horn-colour.—F. Boyes; Beverley, December 18, 1873.
Arctic Skua in Lincolnshire.—A bird of this species was shot at Grimsthorpe Park, Lincolnshire, a few days ago, and sent to me for preservation. Its length is fifteen inches. The centre tail-feathers are about four inches longer than the others. The colour on back of head is dark brown; back and wings ashy brown, inclining to black on quills and tail; under parts white. It was observed by one of the under-keepers frightening the fowls into their house, and afterwards it alighted at some meat belonging to a dog; here he left it while he went to acquaint the head keeper. On their returning together it was gone, but was soon afterwards observed to be coming straight over them, followed by about fifty crows, when it was brought to the ground by a shot from the head keeper's gun. I have never known one to be shot anywhere in this neighbourhood before.—John Evans; Bourne, Lincolnshire.—' Field,' November 8, 1873.
Large Snake at Godalming.—A snake was brought me this morning measuring four feet two inches in length. I have preserved it. The greatest lengths I previously recollect having measured aro two feet nine inches and three feet three inches.—William Stafford; Godalming, Surrey, September 10, 1873.
A New Fish.— The genus Fierasfer of Cuvier, which, according to Giinther, includes Echiodon, Diaphasia and Oxybeles, is distinguished from others of the Ophidiidso by the absence of ventrals, the presence of pectorals, and having the vent at the throat. A fish evidently related very closely to this genus, and answering in each particular to the foregoing characters, but with the addition of a very prominent anal, having been kindly forwarded to me lately by His Excellency Major-General Lefroy, C.B., F.R.S., Governor of the Bermudas, I am led to believe, after careful examination of the specimen, that in the prominent anal it possesses a feature which may possibly require the establishment of a new genus for its reception, and
SECOND SERIES—VOL. IX. F
should such prove to he the case I propose to publish it as Lefroyia Bermudensis, in compliment to the gallant officer to whom I am indebted for the specimen.
Description.—Total length rather more than four inches and a half. Greatest depth at the vertical of the pectorals three lines and a half. The length of the head is slightly more than one-seventh of the total length. The greatest width of the head is rather less than one-third of its length. Body naked, attenuate, compressed. Facial outline rugose. Eye moderate; horizontal diameter of eye-cup one line and three-fourths; vertical diameter one line and one-fourth. Gape of mouth wide. Lower jaw shorter and received within the upper. Cardiform teeth of irregular size in both jaws, vomer and palatines; those of the latter largest. Branchiostegals seven, inflated, united below. Vent thoracic. Pectorals originating at the upper angle of the operculum, three lines in extent, and composed of very delicate soft rays. Dorsal indistinct, commencing in a groove about the vertical of the twentieth anal ray, continuous to caudal extreme, where, in conjunction with the anal, it forms a small filamentous tip. Anal prominent, commencing immediately behind the vent in advance of the vertical of the upper angle of the operculum, and extending to the caudal extreme. About its centre it is equal in depth to that of the body at the same position. Owing to the delicate texture of the fins, it is impossible to ascertain for a certainty the number of rays, but those of the anal exceed one hundred and forty. Colour when dried out of spirits golden yellow; the body transparent, showing the vertebrae within, a condition, according to General Lefroy, equally observable in life.—J. Matthew Jones.
Spawning of Flying-fish.—In some interesting notes on flying-fish in the October ' Zoologist,' by Mr. Gervase F. Mathew (Zool. S. S. 3737), he asks if it is known where these fish deposit their spawn? On this point I am happy to bo able to supply some information, as I had an opportunity of observing them some years ago when at the Chincha Islands, on the coast of Peru. They made their appearance about the last week in March, and the water round the rocks was alive with them, the numerous fissures and crevices seeming all too few for their requirements. Looking down through the clear water, we could see a moving mass struggling for places, and respecting a long narrow rift, one of our sailors remarked that it was "just like the pit entrance on boxing-uight." At first we used to take them with the "graues" alongside the ship; but we soon found this exertion was totally unnecessary, as enough for all hands could be taken with the hand from the fissures in tho rocks: a few were also to bo found every morning jammed in between the rudder and the post. I am well aware that it is not the "correct thing" to eat fish of any kind when spawning; but sailors are not fastidious, nor have those who pay fifteen shillings a couple for woodcocks in March and April, when they are breeding, any right to throw stones.