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master's son all about it; this promising youth immediately proceeded to the nest, and took away the young birds, which he probably destroyed.— A. G. Butler; SUUngbourne, Kent, May 13, 1874.
Nesting of the Bloc Tit.—In the ' Zoologist' for last year (S. S. 8527), I recorded an instance of a kingfisher nesting in a hole in an old gravel-pit at a distance from water. This year, though the gravel-pit is now in use, that very hole is tenanted by a pair of blue tits (Parus cmruleus), and only yesterday I caught the old bird in the hole, and felt either nine or ten eggs in the nest, which was about eighteen inches from the entrance. Though many instances are recorded of the blue tit building in peculiar places, I never before heard of a site like the above being chosen.—C. Bygrave Wharton; Bushey, Herts, May 2, 1874.
Early Nesting of the Sky Lark.—On the 28th of April last I caught a fully-fledged young sky lark in some marshes near here. I fancy this is unusually early, as this bird is a comparatively late breeder.—G. T. Rope; Leiston, Suffolk.
Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.—I am quite unacquainted with the summer habits of the lesser redpoll, but in the winter numbers visit these parts, and together with the siskins—which latter are always the rarer of the two species—frequent the alders by the river, feeding upon the seeds, and in their attitudes and grotesque attributes much resemble the blue tit. They generally arrive in the cold days of October, and I have watched them climbing about and hanging upon the willows close to the water's edge; but the alders appear to be much more frequently occupied, and the birds often descend to the ground to pick up the seeds that have fallen. When disturbed the whole flock takes wing, with an interesting twitter, and after flying around for some little time will often settle upon the same tree again. I have many times noticed this, and even when shot at it is not an unfrequent occurrence for them to do the like. The little things seem very fearless of man, and a very near approach is easily attained whilst they are engaged in feeding. The pretty red breast and crown of the head is more the exception than the rule with the birds I have seen, although I have observed this decoration in a few, and especially after their first arrival. They generally leave us in March; but one season, when the spring was backward, I saw them and the siskins up to the middle of April, when the latter were in beautiful plumage and appeared to be paired, but I never could find a nest of either species, though I have been told that the redpoll did breed in this neighbourhood once, and that an egg was taken. I may also mention that both species frequent the heaps of hops at a brewery after they are thrown into the yard by the river, and in this respect again much resemble the blue tit, with which they are often associated. The foregoing remarks, be it remembered, are but observations I have made on the birds in winter.—O. B. Corbin; Ilingwood, Hants.
Hoopoe at Knolls Green, Leyton.—It may interest your readers to hear that a fine hoopoe was seen feeding to-day for two or three hours on the lawn, about a hundred yards from the drawing-room windows, in company with starlings, blackbirds and thrushes. It was very wild, and when disturbed flew to the tops of the highest trees, and after a short time flew down again. Its action whilst feeding was very similar to that of a starling, and it appeared to extract many worms from the ground, softened as it was by a recent shower.—H. A.Barclay; Knotts Green, Leyton,Essex, May 3,1874.
Cnckoo in Confinement.—In the 'Zoologist' for January (S. S. 3833) inquiry is made about a cuckoo in confinement, which belonged to myself, and I am sorry to have delayed my reply so long. Soon after I wroto that statement about my live cuckoo, it got its head between the bars of the cage and hung itself. I have made several attempts to keep cuckoos, but do not remember ever getting one to live over March, when they have died from cramp or scours. My method of feeding them has been with small pieces of lean beef dipped into water, small worms, small snails, caterpillars (not smooth green ones, as they do not seem to like them), boiled egg, and (the very best of all) meal-worms and the beetles that are found with them. I found it necessary to use a few meal-worms every day, or the bird appeared very dull. If plenty of them could be procured, say a dozen per day through the year, with the addition of other food, it would turn out successful. The birds that I have kept have always been in good plumage.—W. Stafford; Godalming, Surrey.
Swallows roosting on Rushes.—There are vast quantities of rushes, &c., growing in and near the river here, and as an old man once phrased it, "The spire-beds is an uncommon place for birds in the ' fall.'" At the end of summer and late into the autumn I have noticed numbers of wagtails about these reeds, in the evenings, flitting from one part of the "bed" to the other, and presenting a very pretty and interesting sight to an amateur ornithologist like myself; but the number of wagtails, though considerable, was nothing in comparison to the countless hundreds of the swallow tribe I have sometimes seen. They, as Mr. Whitaker describes (Zool. S. S. 3314), would settle down and on the least disturbance fly up in a cloud, with a noise and apparent confusion. These performances were always gone through late in the evenings, and at the time when the main body of the Hiruudinse were congregating previous to their departure. From this habit doubtless arose the supposition that many of the tribe hybernated in the mud in the bed of the river.—G. B. Corbin.
Prolonged Existence of a Domestic Den without Food.—A month ago Mr. Barnard, of the 'Hand and Spear Hotel,' Weybridge, missed a fine black Spanish hen, and it was given up as lost. However, on a large heap of hay being removed from the spot where it had been placed, exactly a month and four days previously, the hen was found to have been buried underneath the load. The poor hird was in a shockingly weak condition, and apparently almost lifeless, its comb being quite black, but food and water having been given, it speedily showed animation, and now looks very little the worse for its long fast.—Surrey newspaper.
Water Rail.—Mr. Griffiths, geologist at Folkestone, informs me that on the 21st April, while on Folkestone Warren, an extensive landslip adjoining the beach, he observed in a small privet bush a water rail, which allowed him to approach near enough to capture it in his hand. This, no doubt, must have been a migratory individual, which had just crossed the channel, and the circumstance is perhaps worth recording.—J. II. Gurney; April 23, 1874.
Nesting of the Garganey and Wild Duck. — Although during the last three years at least one pair of gargancys have undoubtedly bred in our marshes, we have never hitherto been able to find their nests. However, on the 28th of April my brother nearly trod upon a nest containing several eggs. Although the old duck sat remarkably close, she had probably only just commenced sitting, as upon blowing an egg for our collection we found no indication of incubation having commenced. The nest had a very thick lining of down, and was situated upon a low piece of ground covered with reeds, which had been cut some mouths since and had just begun shooting again. We have since carefully abstaiued from visiting the spot for fear of disturbing the old bird. A single male has since been seen not far off. The same day (April 28th) wo counted eleven mallards on the wing together, which looks as if we had plenty of ducks breeding close by. Since writing the above, my brother has examined the nest, and I am happy to say ho found the eggs covered up and quite warm; he also saw both the old birds and several broods of young wild ducks.—G. T. Rope.
Caspian Tern at Birmingham.—I was yesterday on our Bolton Park Reservoir, a large piece of water of about seventy acres, and which is a favourite boating pool for the young people of Birmingham, when I was surprised to see what I at first took for a common gull, but which, upon a closer inspection, I was assured from the flight must be a tern. As I had never seen 60 large a specimen of the genus Sterna, I endeavoured to get sufficiently near to examine its principal points, in order to discover what it really was. Unfortunately I could not get within two hundred and fifty yards, and 1 had no glass with me, but I could plaiuly see a slightly forked tail; and from the size of the bird and this peculiarity, I cannot but fancy it must have been the Caspian tern, as it was altogether too large for any of the other kinds of Sterna, and the tail too slightly forked. I went to the reservoir this morning with my glass, intending to have a good look at the interesting stranger, but, alas! he was nowhere to be seen; but as we have several largish pieces of water in the neighbourhood we may possibly hear more of him, and should I do so I will write to you again. There were a pair of wigeon also flying about and swimming on the water, and I saw the drake again this morning.—W. Taylor; Chad Road, Edgbaston, April 29.
Lumpsncker and Whiff off the Cornish Coast.— I have to record the occurrence at Sennen Cove of two male specimens of the lumpsucker, usually known as "red lump-fish" (Cyclopterus lumpus). They were sent to me by Mr. John Symons, jun., in whose trammels they were taken. The female, or " blue lump-fish," is not uncommon, but I consider the male rare. I have to-day received from a trawler three specimens of "the carter," or "whiff," or "lantern" (Rhombus megastoma, Yarrell). Couch (and Yarrell quoting him) speaks of this fish as not uncommon in Cornwall, as frequently taken on a line, and as living inshore on a sandy bottom,—all three of which qualities I doubt. I have never in all my fishing taken one, or seen one taken, on a line, nor in shallow water, and I have altogether seen very few indeed. The large prominent eye of the fish seems to me in itself sufficient to prove its deep-sea habitat.—Thomas Cornish; Penzance, May 9,1874.
The Species of Hackerel.— On the 14th instant I came across from Scilly in the steamer which brings over the mackerel for the London market. The fishing-boats reached the islands late in the day, and most of the fish were consequently placed on board the steamer in bulk, and were washed and packed on the voyage. I attached myself to one set of packers, and saw from twelve to fifteen thousand fish pass through their hands, all large fish. The result of my inspection is a strong opinion that, so far as outward differences are concerned, the distinction between the common mackerel (Scomber Scomber), the dotted mackerel (S. punctatus, Couch), and the scribbled mackerel (S. scriptus, Couch), cannot be maintained, and I should include the Spanish mackerel (S. Colias) in the list, but for its size. In the lot which I watched there were fish of every grade of marking, and a large per-centage having the sharp-pointed head attributed by Couch to the Spanish mackerel. I have no doubt that I could have picked out four fish, each of which should answer precisely to the description of one of the four fish mentioned above, and differing each largely from the other three; but I could have supplied the gaps between them with variety after variety until no one should be able to say where one species began and the other ended.—Id.; May 16, 1874.
An Octopus at Plymouth.—On the 28th of April my friend Mr. Cummins, of Plymouth, kindly presented me with a fine living octopus, which he had that day caught from his yacht in a trawl-net near the Breakwater in Plymouth Sound. I immediately had it conveyed to Mr. Rogers, who furnishes marine animals for the Aquarium at the Crystal Palace, to which place he forwarded it, I believe, the next day.—John Gatcombe; 8, Lower Durnford Street, Stonehouse, May 7, 1874.
framings fff Sftitntifit Sfffrittits.
Linnean Society Of London.
April 2, 1874.—J. Gwtn Jeffreys, Esq., F.R.S., in the chair.
The following paper was read:—" On the Morphology of the Skulls in the Woodpeckers (Picida) and the Wrynecks (Yungida)." By Mr. W. Kitchen Parker. (Communicated by the President.) The present paper is one of a series in hand, in which the writer has endeavoured to work out thoroughly the facial characters of certain types of birds, in harmony with the view given by Professor Huxley in his well-known paper 'On the Classification of Birds' (Proc. Zool. Soc, April 11, 1867). His own mode of research is much more like that followed by the distinguished author of that paper than that pursued by ornithologists proper. Without undervaluing their excellent labours, yet there are many things which are seen first and first understood by the embryologist, and not by the zoologist as such. Professor Huxley, in the paper just referred to, separated the forma now under consideration into his group ■ Coleomorphse,' and gives (p. 467) a very valuable summary of their characters. It was sought in that paper to bring into more or less zoological contiguity such birds as have a similar structure of the facial and, especially, of the palatal bones. The groupterms 'Schizognathse' (p. 426), 'Dromseognathae' (p. 425), &c., are very important, although some of them are of very wide application. It was the first thought of the author of this paper that the woodpeckers would easily find a place amongst the non-passerine aerial birds; but examination of their palatal structures soon dispelled this opinion. They are more allied to the ' Passerines' than most of the Zygodactyles; but it is in the embryos of that type, and not to the adult, that they are related. The 'Passerinae' themselves are well termed '/Egithognathous' (p. 450). This huge group is in hand at present. Large materials have been added to the stores of the writer by Mr. Osbert Salvin, who also has assisted greatly in the matter of the Picidae. He is also indebted to Dr. Murie, Mr. D. Bartlett and Mr. W. J. Williams. Most of the non-passerine birds that seem to come nearest to the woodpeckers have a very solid palate; they are ' Desmoguathous;' others, as the humming-birds and goatsuckers (Caprimulgus), are 'Schizognathous;' whilst the swift (Cypselus) is as perfectly 'iEgithognathous' as the swallows. But the woodpeckers retain their non-coalesced condition of the palatal structures which we see in the lizards, very unlike that great fusion of parts towards the mid-line which occurs in most of the higher birds. They have also an unusually arrested condition of the palatal part of the upper jaw-bone (maxillary), which is characteristic of the lizard, and unlike the bird-class generally—and bones superadded to the palate (' vomers,' 'scptomaxillaries,' &c.); these are persistently in paired groups,