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Well, I have not yet accounted for all the inhabitants of this little place: the hares and rabbits make their way into it, although it is wire-fenced two feet high; the hares get over it, and the rabbits have hitherto made their way through under it. To prevent this the wire has been buried eight inches, which, but for the rats, would be rabbit-proof; but these pests, although they scale the fence with the greatest ease, are determined to have a way beneath. I saw four of them at work making one hole; I watched them for five minutes before shooting them. There are, perhaps, no other animals that quarrel more amongst themselves than rats do, and none are more united for purposes of destruction. Then occasionally a weasel, and less frequently a stoat, will appear on the scene. I have seen the young rats bouncing through the fence in front of them, but I never saw them kill any rats, and I am not going to suppose it. However, weasels and stoats are easily got rid of, but not so the rats; I am completely beaten by them. Last year, about this time, I had reduced their numbers, as I expected, to ten, as I could never see more when feeding them for a night or two iu the open. I then shot six by a double discharge, but the next night I counted fifteen. This was a poser for me; as fast as I shoot them others from the Dene take their place, and I really think I have shot myself into a worse lot. I found two more thrushes killed yesterday, and saw one this morning with a broken wing. I am totally at a loss what to do with them; an "asphyxiator" could not well be used in such a place, certainly not at present, without doing as much harm as the rats. I had almost forgotten to mention that my old friends the kestrels are hovering over the scene daily: this is also rather provoking, but I will not shoot them.
On the 17th May I was awoke at 5.30 A.m. by the screaming of a bird. I jumped up, and looking out saw on a large beech tree near the window a cock pheasant sitting on a rather weak branch, sometimes using his wings to balance himself, and a male blackbird vigorously attacking him, by swooping clown at his head from front and rear alternately, never crosswise. The pheasant made no attempt to defend himself, but kept ducking his head to elude the blow: this was kept up for eight or ten minutes, when the pheasant flew down and the blackbird left off, and settled on the very place the pheasant had sat, dropping his wing, and seemingly quite
SECOND SERIES VOL. IX. 2 H
exhausted. What the pheasant had done to deserve such chastisement I cannot conceive: there is no nest on the tree, but one amongst the shrubs, which could be seen from where the pheasant was. A lot of other birds assembled on the tree to witness the performance: the starlings, looking down from the top branches, seemed particularly interested in it, and by their curious gestures one could almost imagine them making some remarks upon it.
A gentleman told me he saw (a short time since) a pair of missel thrushes attacking a squirrel: he did not observe any nest on the tree where it took place. This at once brought on the charge against them, as mentioned by Mr. Wood, of their eating young birds, eggs, &c.; but from my own observations 1 am sure that it is quite immaterial whether they were visited by bird- or eggeaters: all that approach near their nests meet with the same rebuff. Now, except Mr. Wood's, are there any well authenticated records of the squirrel eating birds, eggs, or insects: "doctors differ;" and I have heard it flatly denied that they are guilty of anything of the kind. I should be very glad to be enlightened on this subject.
May 19th. Numbers of fieldfares are still about here. They frequent the trees close to the house, as in hard winter weather; there has certainly been a long succession of north-east winds, which they are probably afraid to face. Yesterday I saw a great many in the park, mixed up with old and young blackbirds and thrushes: it had rather a puzzling and unnatural effect upon both eye and ear. What has become of the swallows? Up to the 18th I had only seen one. To-day, 21st, four more have arrived; but neither house nor sand martin have I seen yet. The swallow tribe was very limited last year with us: none nested at the house; and I never knew less than four or five pairs nest yearly previously.
A night or two since I was standing at the door about 11.30 P. M., when I was surprised to hear a hedgesparrow burst into full song: the night was very dark and cold; the pleasures of matrimony must have had something to do with it.
The gentleman who told me about the missel thrushes and squirrel said that he had watched for some time a mole taking water, and that it lapped the water just like a dog or cat.
Castle Eden, May 20, 1874.
The Hairy-armed Bat (Scotophilia Leisleri) in Ireland.
The following communication contains the particulars of an interesting discovery in connexion with the Natural History of Ireland. The hairy-armed bat (Scotophilus Leisleri) has been detected in tolerable plenty near Tandragee, County Armagh. I append some remarks on the account given of this bat in the new edition of Mr. Bell's work on ' British Quadrupeds.'
On the 28th of June, 1868, when wandering through the lofty beech grove belonging to the Duke of Manchester at Tandragee, which grove is situated in what is locally termed the "lower demesne," my attention was attracted by a chirruping, clicking sound which apparently proceeded from a hole about twelve feet up the trunk of a large tree. After some trouble I managed to get up to this hole, and as I did so the noise greatly increased. Within I saw a moving brown mass, and I thought I could distinguish bats. Cautiously putting my hand in among the chirrups and clicks, I made a grasp. They were bats, without mistake, for I pulled out eight or nine, but, as they struggled so violently, all escaped but three or four. The bats in the hole were now so much alarmed that they commenced flying out into the sunshine, and continued doing so for several minutes, tumbling and scrambling over one another in a ludicrous manner, so eager were they to reach the entrance. Probably eighty or a hundred bats thus flew out; some appeared to have young ones adhering to their teats, but I will not speak positively on this point. I only captured six in all. On leaving the tree many bats still remained far up in the hollow trunk, beyond the reach of my arm. I presume they considered themselves quite safe, as they did not venture to come down.
At the time I knew little or nothing about our native Cheiroptera, and as my prisoners could not be induced to eat I let them out, never imagining they were anything uncommon; for indeed they seemed common enough among the beech trees.
In the beginning of the present year (1874), being obliged to work up the bats, for a lecture on Irish Mammalia, I very soon began to suspect that the species I saw in such numbers in 1868 was not a common one. My curiosity was aroused, and in February last I wrote to my brother-in-law, Mr. T. H. White, J.P., who resides at Orange Hill, near Tandragee, asking him to examine the old beech trees for specimens. His search was unsuccessful, and none could be found. On the 18th of May he made a second search, and found the bats in considerable numbers in one of the hollow trees. As with me, they flew out so fast and fluttered so much that he captured very few—four, I think. Having sent one to me, I was not long in recognizing the specimen as the hairyarmed bat. Not coutent with one, I wrote for some more, and on May 22nd another raid was made. The old hollow beech tree from which so many had flown on the 18th was found to be quite deserted; but after a brief search squeaking was heard high up in another, perhaps thirty-five feet from the ground. A ladder was obtained, and on examination the colony was found to be in a hollow bough of the tree. The cavity had two orifices, one in the trunk, the other in the bough itself. A bag was nailed over the lower opening, and the bats were poked out from above. In this way sixteen were taken. This nest was very inconsiderable, whdn compared with the large one visited a few days previously. Twelve were transmitted to nie, alive, by post. I understand the post-office officials were delighted to get rid of the mysterious parcel from which such strange sounds issued. The animals were none the worse for the journey, but scrambled and flew about in the liveliest manner when the box was opened. They were all of the hairy-armed species. I have presented two specimens to the British Museum and two to the Royal Dublin Society's Museum. Dr. Gunther informed me that this species would readily take food, but my efforts to induce them to eat either flies or meat were unavailing.
I have made use of the word "nest" in the foregoing account of the habits of this bat; but I wish it to be understood that this word, in the way I have used it, does not imply anything more than a collection or number of bats clinging to the rotten brown wood in the hollow of the tree, or clinging to one another in a bundle or swarm. There was no structure, nor was there any arrangement of the decayed wood that I could perceive, so as to make a " nest," strictly so called.
Let us now see what is said about this bat in Mr. Bell's new edition:—" It was first discovered in Germany by Leisler, and is described by Kuhl; but I am not aware that it has ever before been figured. The present representation was taken from a figure in the British Museum, the only one known to have been found in this country when the former edition of this work was published. Since that time it has been taken in Ireland, in a cave by the Blackstaff River, near Belfast. It was communicated to Dr. Kinahan by Mr. Patterson, and we have received from the former gentleman a full description, which leaves no doubt of the identity of the species. The same accurate observer has informed us of the capture ol another specimen at Belvoir Park, County Down, several years since, and now in his possession."
The first locality given is inaccurate, at least if we are to judge by Dr. Kinahan's paper on this bat, read before the Dublin Natural History Society in 1860, and reported in their 'Proceedings.' I give an extract from the paper:—
"Habitat unknown. Localities: Belvoir Park, Co. Down; Belfast, Co. Antrim, July, 1858. Habits: according to Mr. Darragh's account, with whom the last-quoted specimen lived for ten days, it was at first shy, but afterwards became tame, and fed readily. * * * He obtained it living from a man who knocked it down with a fishing-rod in Blackstaff-lane, Belfast. * * * The species seems to be rare everywhere, as according to the authorities it is rare in museums."
Mr. Darragh, through whose instrumentality the above specimens were recorded, informs me that in 1868 a third specimen was taken in the suburbs of Belfast. However, now that we know the hairyarmed bat is tolerably plentiful, at least in one locality iu the counties surrounding Belfast, it will be the less necssary in future to record the capture of solitary individuals when they occur in that part of Ireland.
Further on it is said:—" Of the hiding-place of the Leisler's bat we know nothing from our own observation; but, from its appearing more frequently near villages than elsewhere, are led to suspect that it is not, like the noctule, a tree-loving species. * * * Temminck says that this bat habitually retreats to the holes of trees in the vicinity of stagnant water, a statement the accuracy of which we are much disposed to question."
We see that Mr. Tomes' suspicion proves erroneous, and that the hairy-armed bat is a tree-loving species, like the noctule. Temminck's statement is probably accurate. Where the hairy-armed bat hybernates I do not venture to say. Mr. While could discover none in February last among the beech trees.
Before concluding, I would just point out a strange inconsistency