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Ornithological Notes from North Lincolnshire.
March And April, 1874.
Teal.—March 10. Wind N.N.W., heavy snow squalls and sharp frost. The severe weather has driven many wild ducks inland to the streams and drains. Shot five teal from the "beck" this morning; four of the number were males in full breeding plumage.
Pied Wagtail.—March 16. The pied wagtails came northward rather later than usual; we saw few before the commencement of the third week in March. There appears to be a constant succession of small flocks at this season in the coast districts, on the move northward.
Golden Plover.—March 18. There were many hundreds in the marshes to-day, very wild and unsettled, and constantly on the wing; they soon left again, probably for the north. In one flock of golden plover there was a single curlew sandpiper.
Greenfinch.—Observed during the first fortnight in April large flocks of small birds, entirely composed of this species, on freshlysown oat-fields near the sea embankment. These flocks were made up of males and females in about equal proportions: they were generally employed in picking up and consuming those oats which remained uncovered, the husk being invariably rejected and the kernel only swallowed. Gizzards examined contained also many small stones and the seeds of the clover plant, sown at the same time as the oats, hundreds of these small seeds remaining exposed, or partly exposed, in the loose soil. These flocks, I believe, were migratory, and they left, almost to a day, about the 15th of the month.
Rook.—April 6. Young rooks first heard calling in nests.
Peewit.—April 6. First nest found containing three eggs. Out of the innumerable peewit-nests which for many years I have been in the habit of examining in these dry and highly cultivated marshes, I have almost invariably found the eggs deposited in the shallow nest placed on some slight, and often considerable, elevation, never in a hollow or furrow; although obviously in these latter situations the sitting bird would be in a great measure unobserved and less likely to be disturbed. Iu old times, when SECOND SERIES—VOL. IX. 2 G
these marshes were literally what their name implies, the peewit was probably induced to fix upon the most elevated spot as a wise precaution against floods and damp; the necessity for this has long since passed away, yet hereditary instinct continues to assert itself, and the old habit is persisted in notwithstanding modern improvements and husbandry.
Tree Pipit.—April 6. First heard; a solitary instance, for the main body certainly did not arrive till the end of the month.
Dunlin.—April 8. There are some immense flocks on the coast, the individuals comprising which have, in a great degree, put on their breeding-dress. Early on the morning of the 20th, I rode within a few yards of many hundreds of dunlin, resting near the centre of a freshly-sown field, not one of which showed any signs of seasonal change. I am therefore inclined to think they were a flock of young birds of the previous summer, which this year never fully obtain their breeding, or rather summer, plumage, and remain in flocks on the coast throughout the season, not breeding till the succeeding season. That some of our waders do not breed till the third summer, or when they are two years old, I am convinced, or why those half-plumaged flocks which we find at Spurn and on the coast throughout May, June and July?
Gray Plover.—April 8. First observed on the flats; some are already in summer dress.
Sparrowhawk.—I fancy the sparrowhawk is becoming, at least in this district, more common than it was a few years since. It is a useful bird to the farmer in one respect, as they feed largely on that agricultural pest, the wood pigeon. They also eat starlings; I recently surprised a female sparrowhawk just commencing a meal on a freshly-slain starling; the wood pigeon is, however, their favourite prey.
Snow Bunting.—April 10. Last noticed; an old bird in beautiful plumage—a most unusually late appearance.
Sand Martin.—April 10. First seen, several. This is the first occasion in this parish that I have found the sand martin arrive before the chimney swallow.
Willow Wren.—April 11. First heard.
Hooded Crow.—Large flocks (one hundred to one hundred and fifty together) near the coast on the 11th. They had entirely left before the morning of the 13th. I have not seen even a single example since this date.
Golden Plover.—April 15. Last flock seen in the marshes.
Knot and Godwit.—April 15. On their vernal migration; first flocks seen on the foreshore of the river.
Whimbrel.—April 15. First spring appearance on their passage northward; numerous towards the end of the month.
Chiffchaff Warbler.—April 18. First heard.
Chimney Swallow.—April 20. Three seen, first appearance; wind S.W.
Curlew.—April 20. Numerous on the foreshores of the Humber since the end of March. With a powerful telescope I watched from the embankment this morning a party of fifteen or twenty foraging over the ooze. They were perpetually boring into the semi-fluid mud, inserting their long scythe-shaped bills to various depths, sometimes sufficiently to daub the feathers at the base of the bill. They very rarely made a bad shot; and one bird, which more particularly attracted my notice, in ten successive probes extracted each time and swallowed a small annelid about two inches long.
Tufted Duck.—A young male tufted duck diving and feeding in the entrance to our creek; close to him on the water was a fine old mallard and his wife.
Field/are.—April 22. Some small flocks in plantations and hedgerows near the coast.
Yellow Wagtail.—April 24. First seen.
Cuckoo.—April 25. First heard; there was a general arrival throughout the district on this day.
Common Whitethroat.—April 28. First seen and heard, and
in considerable numbers. JoHN CoKDEAUX
Great Cotes, Ulceby, Lincolnshire.
A Vegetarian Cat.—I have a cat in my house which devours with avidity all sorts of vegetables. Brocoli, early cabbage, sea-kale and asparagus are all in favour with the cat; and as to the latter, my servant informed me on Saturday, after I saw one of the white ends eaten with a keen appetite, that at least a dozen shared the same fate down stairs; nothing appeared to be better relished by this castrato cat than the stumps of brocoli, which have now yielded to asparagus; but I never before had reason to attribute in the feline tribe any tendency to indulge in vegetables. I am aware that when cats are very hungry they will eat bread.—Edward Hearle Rcdd; Penzance, April 27, 1874.
Arrlral of Summer Birds at Clenarm Chiffchaff, March 25th, 1874.
Ring ouzel, April 5th; wheatear, 3rd; swallow, 20th; martin, 23rd; cuckoo, 23rd; common sandpiper, 26th; landrail, 16th. On the 22nd of April J observed a large flock of fieldfares migrating.—T. Brunton.
Spring Migration of the British Warblers.—The arrival of our summer visitors, with their welcome spring notes and songs, always suggests the query where they actually come from—I mean those who visit the British Isles and rear their young during the summer. This thought is now again suggested by a friend who, in his tour through Italy, writes me that nightingales, blackcaps, garden warblers, willow wrens, &c., are all in full vigorous song, and fill the groves with their melody. The question naturally arises, how these birds are singing in Italy, and what business they have to be there at all, and so far south, at this season? for it is generally understood that the great vernal migration draws away the family of migratorial warblers from the south to the northern countries to breed, to return again at the great autumnal migration to the southern countries of Europe, to avoid the rigours of our northern climate in winter. The question which seems to suggest itself is, whether the Polar migration in the spring is general or partial, a section of some families choosing not to move, whilst others migrate? A second question is, whether these birds in Italy in the spring, and in full song, are migrants from a still lower range of latitude, such as the northern and central parts of Africa, and are satisfied with their limited northern trip to Italy, only in the same way as those from Italy and the South of Europe (the limits of their southern migration in the autumn) aspire to a higher range, and thus visit us? Observations upon this subject from your correspondents will be interesting. What I have said is merely a suggestion from myself.—E. H. Eodd; May 1,1874.
Peregrines in the Isle of Wight.—On the 30th of April I saw at a birdstuffer's a pair of magnificent old peregrines, male and female, also an immature but full-grown female,—all shot or trapped at the Freshwater cliffs about the middle of the month, when in the act of incubating, and the eggs of both nests were taken. The yearly destruction during the breeding season of this noble species is very deplorable, and there is reason to fear that ere long they will cease to frequent those lofty maritime cliffs, well nigh their last resort. The eggs even find a ready sale at prices that would formerly have secured the bird itself; though I see, in a priced list sent mo from a western county, the skin of the peregrine offered at six shillings! What such a pair of falcons, in perfect adult plumage, may be worth, I cannot say, as they were not for sale, but the individual who procured them would doubtless be well compensated for all risks and dangers run. Nor do I think that any law that could be enacted would deter these depredators from robbing the nests and trapping the birds. The plumage of these old peregrines is remarkable for its perfection and purity, the white breasts without the slightest reddish tinge, though Yarrell describes that part as rufous-white, and Morris's figure of the adult has the under parts deeply shaded with rufous. These birds are more like the figure given by Temmiuck, but the tail-feathers are barred beneath with white and tipped with the same,—not with rufous, as is Temminck's,—and the birds are somewhat lighter. The female is about half as large again as the male, but does not differ greatly in plumage, as far as I could see, the lower parts being thickly entwined and bandaged. The third specimen has the breast and under parts mottled with reddish brown and the general plumage dark, the markings more or less indistinct and undefined, and the under surface of all the tail-feathers barred with reddish brown and tipped with the same; whereas the female represented by Yarrell, in its second year, is said to have the external feathers only tipped with rufous. I am not aware whether its breeding in this immature state of plumage has been recorded— i. e. I think it must bo in its second year, seeing the tail is both barred and tipped with rufous.—Henry lladfield; Hiyh Cliff, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, May 9, 1874
Robins feeding Young Thrushes.—A friend of mine living near here is a great admirer of birds; this spring a pair of robins built in an old pintpot hanging on a fence in her back garden; they lived in undisturbed possession of their nest, and were bringing up their young family very happily until about a week since, when a cat clambered up the fence, knocked the young ones out of the nest and devoured them; the servant came out just in time to see the last chick disappearing down the throat of the monster. The gardener employed by my friend was working a day or two later in a small orchard on the other side of the road; he observed two robins picking up worms and then repeatedly flying with them to a filberttree. Being surprised that robins should choose such a situation for their nest, he got into the tree, and discovered a thrush's nest, in which were three young birds more than half-grown; he now became more interested than ever, and watched the nest at a short distance for four successive days; the result of which was to prove to him that the robins were actually feeding the young thrushes: one thrush came from time to time to the nest with food, but never more than one. Yesterday I went and inspected the deserted robin's nest, and afterwards called upon the gardener and questioned him respecting the above facts. He thinks that the robins who have taken such a parental interest in what he believes to be a widowed thrush are the identical birds whoso too great affection for the pewter has been the cause of the destruction of their family. Surely several instructive moral lessons may be gleaned from the above pathetic story. I was unable to watch the robins at work myself, as they have been again cruelly bereaved. The gardener, in his delight at the discovery which he had made, could not contain himself beyond yesterday morning, but told his