Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

principal month for noting its occurrences on the Continent, while in England it has chosen rather to exhibit itself during the shorter days at the very beginning of the year. It has been flushed from among dead leaves on the ground, and in the vicinity of marshes or water; perhaps from this circumstance, and also from a certain peculiarity in its flight, it has been taken for a woodcock. Mr. Tomes has observed that the form of the wing and the development of the breast-bone indicate great powers of flight and essentially migratory habits; in this respect, singularly associated with its terrestrial habits, it also resembles the woodcock.

Its nest and eggs are entirely unknown, and, with the exception of the few vague suggestions which I have cited, its migrations are also yet to be discovered.

In conclusion, I need only say that I shall at all times feel grateful for any additions or emendations to these observations, which I am well aware are too hastily collected to be very complete. Edward Newman.

Communications and Extracts concerning the Marsh Sandpiper (Totanus stagnatilis of Bechstein). By Mr. Roberts, Mr. Edson and Edward Newman.

I Have received the communication printed below from Mr. Roberts, the well-known naturalist, of Lofthouse, Wakefield, who has so often contributed to the pages of the 'Zoologist.' The species is hitherto, as I suppose, unrecorded as British, but is not very unlikely to occur here, being familiarly known on the Continent of Europe.

Mr. Roberts encloses in his communication a note from Mr. Edson, the gentleman who obtained it, and I have added in a separate note the synonyms from Temminck.

Mr. Roberts' note is as follows:—

My dear Sir, Lofthouse, Wakefield, 13 March, 1874.

Mr. Edson, of Malton, has sent me information of the capture of a bird called the marsh sandpiper (Totanus stagnatilis;). I can find no mention of such a bird in your 'Dictionary' nor in Macgillivray's ' Manual.' It must be a species new to the British Isles. The bird was shot about the 8th of January. I have sent you the description that Mr. Edson has enclosed in his letter. Could you kindly tell me if there is such a species as T. stagnatilis, and if it has occurred here before? I have no work on European birds. I will try to get more information if it is worth looking after. The bird is in the hands of the person who shot it.

Yours most truly,

George Roberts. Mr. Edson's note enclosed to Mr. Roberts is as follows:—

"the Marsh Sandpiper (Totanus stagnatilis). "This species, which is closely allied to the green sandpiper, the redshank, &c, is a native of Northern Europe, where it frequents the borders of rivers, lakes and marshes, whence in the autumn it migrates southwards, pursuing its course through the eastern provinces to the Mediterranean, but does not frequent the maritime coasts of the ocean. It is abundant in Asia, and specimens killed in winter plumage have been received, according to Temminck, from the isles of Timor, Sunda and New Guinea. The beak is long, weak and awl-shaped, and its legs are elongated and slender. In summer its upper plumage is brown, with irregular black dashes; the under parts white, with brown specks on the throat and breast; tail striped diagonally with brown bands. In winter the upper surface is of a nearly uniform ashy gray, the under parts white; legs olive-green. Length about nine inches."

Synonyms.

"Totanus stagnatilis, Bechst. Naturg. Deut. vol. iv. p. 261— Scolopax totanus, Linn. Syst. Nat. Edit. 12, p. 245, sp. 12. Mais point le S. totanus de Gmel.; et surtout celui de Lath., qui sont les jeunes de mon Chevalier arlequin.—Le petit Chevalier aux pieds verts, Cuv. Reg. Anim. vol. i. p. 493—La Barge grise, Buff. Ois. seulement sa pi. enl. 876—Teich wasserlaiifer, Meyer, Tasschenb. vol. ii. p. 376. Bechst. Tasschenb. vol. ii. p. 392, t. n. 11. Naum. Vog. 1.18, fig. 24, representation tres exacte."—Temminck, Manuel WOrnithologie, vol. ii. p. 648.

Additional Synonyms. "Ajoutez aux synonymes. Atlas du Manuel, pi. lithog.— Roux, Orn. Proveng. vol. ii. tab. 295, le male en plumage des noces—Der Deutsche teichurferlaufer, Brehm, Vog. Deuts. p. 644 — Naum. Naturg. Deuts. Neue Ausg. tab. 202, dans les trois linees diflerentes—Piro-piro jambe langhe, Savi, Orn. Tosc. vol. ii. p. 278 —Gould, Birds of Europe, part 10, plumage d'ele."—Temminck, Manuel d'Ornithologie, vol. iv. p. 414.

Temminck informs us that the species inhabits the north of Europe, and frequents the banks of rivers; in emigration it passes southwards through the eastern countries of Europe until it reaches the Mediterranean: never along the shores of the ocean. It nests within the Arctic Circle, but its eggs are unknown.

It will be well to observe that Mr. Roberts makes no mention of having seen the specimen, and of course I have not, neither have I any means of verifying Mr. Edson's determination of the species, but I think it well to make the announcement, and therefore have given all the information in my power.

Edward Newman.

A Word about Museums. By C. B. Caret.

The word "museum" has a very dull sound. It gives one the idea of a smoke-dried looking building, in which one gets very dusty, very hungry, and very cross; where the curator looks as if he came out of a sarcophagus, and where there is a dusty, musty smell, reminding one strongly of the fulmar petrel. A museum is a place in which not only dead animals are preserved, but dead energies. Those who first started the idea of having a museum in any place, took an interest in it, arranged it, saw it grow larger, had it kept in good order. Then, when they are gone, the museum is left as a mark-of what they have spent their energy in, and it remains the same day after day and year after year, till the birds are covered with dust, the eggs faded, the butterflies — each hanging on a solitary crooked pin—flutter in a grimy case, and the shells look fossilized with age. It is hard to say which is more strange—that any one should care to set on foot a museum, knowing how it will fall into decay, through the want of care of after generations, or that, having a museum in a good slate of preservation, it should be left neglected.

The museum here has slept in debt for some years, but last summer it awoke and opened its doors to those who cared to enter; but it had become slightly more dusty and disordered than was pleasant. It was sad to see the good birds in so helpless a state of confusion, for there are some very good specimens in the collection.

With a view of seeing how other places managed their ornithological department, 1 visited every museum I came across last summer, and as it may be interesting to some to know the state that a few of the English museums are in, I give the result of my inquiries.

At the Hartley Institution, at Southampton, I hoped to obtain some valuable hints, but I was disappointed; for the birds had been arranged some time ago, and seemed to follow Cuvier's arrangement as much as any. The foreign birds were in the same case as those of the British Isles,—I use this phrase in its fullest extent,—and they were all mixed up together. The birds are on stands in a case against the wall; but it was rather difficult to find any particular bird one wanted, as the next of kin were divided by foreign birds, which were evidently thought to be nearer allied. I also noticed one or two birds wrongly named; but they seemed taken care of and in good preservation. What struck me most was the way the tickets were put on, a neat contrivance of wire holding each ticket just in front of the bird, but not hiding it. Here, as in most museums, I found how the ornithological department had better not be arranged.

At Ryde there are a goodly quantity of birds, but without any arrangement: they are in separate cases, which are piled up one on top of the other: it was impossible to see them without walking on the chairs. The person in charge amused me: he was very much disgusted at my knowing an albatross without looking at the name, and exclaimed, contemptuously, "Then you got it out o' books!" But he was greatly relieved when he found that I had never seen them flying—for he had. If the Ryde Museum was put to rights it would exhibit a very fair ornithological department; but here, as in many cases, the motto is, "Take care of the fossils and the 'fowls' will take care of themselves."

At Chichester the birds are on stands in cases against the wall: they are well arranged and named, though rather dusty now. Here I offended the curator by asking if the cases had been dusted lately. They had not: that was all that was wanting. The foreign birds were in different rooms. The cases were rather too high, as it was not easy to see the upper shelf without a chair to stand on. The light was very good here,—a side light,—so that it was possible to see the birds instead of one's own face, which is all one sees when the light comes from the window opposite, and one can see that at home without looking for it in a museum. Of course the light from the top is better still, but this is not always obtainable, and next to that ranks the side-light.

At Exeter I was rather unfortunate, for on entering the first room there was a nasty smell, and on looking round I found a large box full of birds, thrown in higgledy piggledy: they were in hospital; moths their disease, benzine their cure. In the next room, however, the birds were in their cases. They were in separate cases, but this is going to be altered, and they will be on stands in large cases against the wall, this being found most convenient. I was much struck with the size of the tickets: one goldfinch, which had a little case with a little pane of glass, had a ticket at least one-third the size of its glass; indeed all the top row of birds were quite covered by their names; but this will all be altered now. Some specimens of owls and falcons here are splendidly stuffed: the life seems arrested in them, not taken from them. It is hard to believe that they will stay there, and not fly away when one is not looking. It is an art, stuffing like this; too often the very shape of the bird is destroyed, as it stands uncomfortably looking at nothing; but here the very positions are natural. One bird seems to see an enemy approaching, for it has raised its head from tearing in pieces its poor luckless prey, and is giving a hasty glance round to see if it has time to get another bile before it is obliged to fly away. I must not omit to mention "Night and Morning," two owls, one with its large eyes wide open, looking the very picture of wisdom, the other winking and blinking, looking the picture of misery.

At Taunton the re-arrangement has been effected with all the recent improvements. Here one sees how things ought to be done. The foreign birds are in a case by themselves. The birds are on stands in cases against the wall. The locally shot are well distinguished from the general British birds by the different colour of the tickets, on which their names are beautifully printed, or rather written, for it was all done by hand. This distinction is a great advantage, for one can tell in a moment, by the colour of the ticket, whether a bird is locally shot or not. It was quite a pleasure to look at the clean, well-arranged birds in their new case, after

« AnteriorContinuar »