« AnteriorContinuar »
having seen others which seemed sleeping in dust, unlooked after, unlooked at.
C. B. Caret.
Candie, Guernsey, April 18, 1874.
[I have somewhat to say about museums, the appointment of curators, &c, but must defer it to the August number.—E. Newman.]
Ornithological Notes from North Lincolnshire.
(Continued from S. S. 4031.)
The extreme cold which continued all through the month of May has had the effect of considerably retarding the arrival of our smaller summer visitants. At the same time all this unseasonable weather— frost, sharp north-easterly winds, accompanied by heavy sea-fogs— has probably induced the numerous flocks of waders on their passage northward to prolong their stay on the muddy foreshores of the river as well as along the sea-coast; thus it has been, without exception, the most favorable month for observation I ever recollect; never have the shore-birds visited us in greater number, or tarried so late in the season. We have not, however, had the weather to thank altogether for this ornithological treat; the new Bird Act has had much to do with it: the birds have been unmolested by the prowling gunners. I could this season go down any day with my telescope to the foreshore with a certainty of finding the coast undisturbed, the birds feeding quietly on these oozy flats. In former years it certainly would have been a rare occurrence in this parish to have met less than three or four hulking fellows with guns lounging along the embankment, blazing away at everything which flew past under eighty or one hundred yards, from a curlew to a stint; whilst others, more practical, would be stationed in holes dug on the "muds," and armed with heavy double guns, dealing death and destruction to every passing flock, the effect being to drive the birds away altogether, or make them so wild that it always required the utmost care and precaution to obtain even a sight through a telescope; but all this is now altered, and deeply thankful are we who dwell on the sea-coast for the change— a change which has made a ramble along the sea-shore at this season a pleasure, instead of a source of vexation and annoyance.
Arrival Of Summer Migrants In May.
House Martin.—May 4. Wind N., sharp frost, and ice on the ponds and drains. Since the introduction of weather-boards on the gable ends of our cottages, affording admirable positions for nests, the martins have increased in this village.
Whinchat.—May 5. Wind N.W., with showers of sleet.
Sedge Warbler.—May 9. Wind N. Seen and heard.
Garden Warbler.—May 17 (wind N., with 4° of frost on nights of 16th and 17th). Seen and heard.
Swift.—May 18. Wind N.N.E. First appearance; four seen.
The spotted flycatchers (May 31st) have not yet arrived in the garden.
Notes Through A Telescope.
Dotterel (Eudromias morinellus, Linn.).—There were five dotterels from the 14th to the 21st in one of the large pasture-fields near the Humber. I found these near the same spot each day, and with a binocular have several times watched them at very close quarters. They appear to feed mainly on small grubs and wireworms extracted from amongst the grass-roots. These are the only dotterel I have seen this season.
Gray Plover.—May 21. Observed many hundreds this morning scattered in various sized groups along the muddy foreshores of the river. Amongst them were many fine old birds in full summer plumage, others in endless stages of transition, and many still in gray winter dress. None seen after this date.
Knot.—May 20. A few on the flats on this and the following day; I can, however, only find two with the red breast, others are slightly washed with rufous on the under parts. The greater portion still remain clothed in sober winter gray.
Whimbrel.—May 22. Up to this date very numerous, both on the foreshores and in the marshes. On the 23rd they had entirely left the district. I recently saw a pair of small and very lightcoloured whimbrel, much resembling examples of Numenius tenuirostris, if they did not actually belong to this species.
Bartailed Godwit.—May 18. Arrived on our flats, in their vernal migration, in very considerable numbers about this date. On the 25th, opposite my marsh farmstead, I found two flights feeding on the muds in the wash of the advancing tide. In the first were twenty-six, in the second twenty-five birds. The first flock had two, a pair (one of which was considerably larger than the other), in very perfect summer plumage; three others showed a very considerable advance, but still had the rufous of the under parts much broken into with white; the remainder were, without exception, in the gray winter garb, and, as far as I could see, without the slightest tendency to change it. Number two flock had a pair in full summer plumage; the smaller of these, the male, was the darkest and most richly-coloured godwit I have ever met with; it might almost have passed for a melanite variety, and in some shades was perfectly black, the under parts being as richly coloured as is that almost black patch in the centre of the chestnut abdominal belt in the dotterel. It was very interesting to watch these godwits foraging for food; they were following the receding wave, some rapidly picking up small objects left on the mud, others boring most assiduously in the broken water, often with their heads completely buried, and wading breast deep; one I saw carried off its legs and swimming beyond the breakers.
Ringed Plover (iEgialitis intermedins, Menetriesf).—May 25. There was a large mixed flock of ringed plovers and dunlins on the muds this morning, aud of the former, about a score, carefully examined, at very short range, with the telescope, belonged to that smaller race or variety which is said to visit our shores in May. These little birds are altogether considerably less than the familiar ringed plover of these coasts, which nests at Spurn, and examples of which I had opportunities of comparing with them later in the day. Their colours also are brighter and clearer, and the black rings and markings even more distinctly defined than in the common race; the legs seem paler, almost semi-transparent, as if carved out of amber. Beautiful chastely-coloured little birds they are; at the first glance I thought I had pitched upon a troop of the rare little ringed plover. This small race, which visits our shores in the spring, 1 take to be the southern form of the ringed dotterel. Is then this southern form the ^Egialitis intermedius of Menetries? In the only skin (given me by Mr. Stevenson) of the smaller race which I possess, the orange colour at the base of the bill is not proportionately narrower than in the common ringed dotterel. I should say that in the examples I saw to-day on these flats the
SECOND SEMES—VOL. IX. 2 L
broad black tip covered half the bill. Of course it is difficult to decide these nice points of distinction even with the aid of a powerful telescope; but this is now for a season the only means available to the out-door naturalist.
Dunlin.—May 5. Still rather numerous on the coast; all, without exception, examined to-day are in summer plumage. Amongst these were several of the smaller race or variety. The difference in size is almost more marked than between the two ringed dotterels. In two dunlins feeding side by side the one seemed nearly double the size of the other. The smaller bird has the upper plumage more richly coloured,—more rufous in it,—and the abdominal black patch covers proportionately less space, or is more encroached upon by white. I should say this smaller race is quite as good a species as is ^Egialitis intermedius. It differs altogether from its congener in size, is shorter and straighter in the bill, has shorter tarsi, and richer and more variable plumage.
Turnstone.—May 25. This summit of our sea-rampart, with its dense fringe of waving grass, makes a capital post of observation. You have only to stretch yourself on the embankment, push the telescope through the grass, open your note-book, and commence observations on the first group of birds within range. I have spent many happy hours in this way; likewise on dreary sea-coasts, behind the ridge of drifted sea-weed and tide-wreck, held long vigils, marking the ways and habits of shore-birds,—eager, too, for specimens, or why that double tube projecting ready from its miniature embrasure between those bottomless, wave-cast fish-hampers. Today all is peace, and no deadly weapon within ready grasp, or how could I resist the temptation ?—for here, just below, on the slope of the embankment, in the bright sunlight, are three pairs of turnstones in their lovely summer dress—such perfect specimens I have never seen before. No need of a glass now, for they are near enough to note unaided even the colour of the legs and irides, and every shade and marking of that richly variegated plumage of chestnut, black and white. I can mark them, too, picking out little crabs and other small crustaceans as they toss to and fro, in their eager search, the black fronds of the bladder-wrack. Till I choose to make my presence known, they are totally unconscious of being the objects of so close a scrutiny. As I lift my head, with a querulous alarm-whistle, they are on the wing, displaying to perfection their richly, variegated dress; but their flight is short, as they speedily alight within a hundred yards on the oozy flat amongst the ringed plovers and dunlins.
Redshank.—May 25. There were several redshanks on the flats to-day in perfectly mature breeding dress. There was one, however, still in the dusky grayish brown plumage of immaturity; in fact, exactly in that plumage in which we find birds of the year in the autumn.
Little Bittern.—I recently examined a bird of this species shot in the parish of Easington, in Holderness, not far from the Spurn promontory. It was shot about the 25th of May, and, for obvious reasons, the name of the person by whom it was killed did not transpire. One side is very much injured—in fact, nearly shot away. The sex was undetermined; I should say, however, it is undoubtedly a mature male, and in very perfect plumage.
Great Cotes, Ulceby, Lincolnshire.
Ornithologalic Notes. By H. Duenford, Esq.
Common Buzzard.—January 3, 1874. The stomach of one I examined to-day contained fur of mice. April 12.—One seen to-day on the sandhills on the Lancashire side of the estuary of the Mersey, near Southport.
Wheatear.—April 5. Observed several pairs on rocky ground near Barmouth, Merionethshire. April 10.—Pretty numerous on the sandhills about Formby, but not yet arrived in full force.
Green Woodpecker.—January 3. The stomach of one I examined to-day was crammed with the remains of ants.
House Martin.—April 3. Observed a solitary bird skimming over Bala lake to-day. From the numerous notices in the 'Field,' these birds and swallows have evidently arrived about a fortnight earlier this year than usual. Shortly before seeing this martin 1 had observed two wild geese settle in the middle of the lake. It is not often one can see our summer and winter visitors on the same day.
Stock Dove.—March 13. Pretty numerous on the sandhills on the Flintshire coast; I observed one fly from a rabbit-hole, and on a nearer examination I found it had commenced its nest. April 29.— Found one egg in a rabbit-hole in the sandhills near Southport.