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September, 1851. 1 have also received it from South Weston, near Tetsworth, Oxfordshire.
Rhinolophus Ferrum-equinum.—This species is found about Portsmouth, whence I have received it, and from Bonchurch, Isle of Wight. In 1842 I saw it in abundance at Canterbury, flying from eight in the evening till too dark to see: their flight was heavy and low. I saw it both about the cathedral and around the trees near the donjon, whence I obtained a male and female. The fur is very much deeper and thicker in winter than in summer.
Rhinolophus Hipposideros.—I have never been able to obtain more than one specimen of this little animal, and that is from Kent's Cavern, Torquay, where, in March, 1873, I searched for it in vain, and the men told me they had not seen it or any other kind of bat for some time. A birdstuffer at Torquay told me he had received specimens from a cavern in the cliff near Paignton, in the same neighbourhood.
Cowfold, May 9, 1874.
The Common Gull (Larus canus) in Captivity.
Every One is more or less familiar with the appearance of the sea-gulls, a noisy tribe of beautiful form and colour, infesting our shores, and sometimes also coming inland. Of their habits and peculiarities, however, little information can be obtained, owing to the nature of the localities where they build. Fortunately, they are easily domesticated, and with proper care and attention will often live for many years. They are little or no trouble to keep, eating, as they do, almost any animal or vegetable maiter, and apparently thriving as well inland as by the sea. In disposition they seem to be quiet and peaceable, except when irritated.
Peter, as my bird is called (and well he knows his name) was brought from the Scilly Isles to Falmouth, in June, 1878, where he remained about two months before his removal to Staffordshire, where he is at present; so that he is a year and two months old. At first he was rather hard to feed, as he would take nothing but fresh fish, which could not always be provided for him, even at the sea-side; coming inland, it was impossible sometimes to get fish at all, so for some days his life was despaired of, as he rejected almost everything that was offered to him, only eating a few scraps of raw meat, until I thought of trying slugs. These he took to at once, and for some time subsisted on nothing else, there being fortunately no difficulty in obtaining a supply of both slugs and snails. Nothing will induce him now to swallow a slug, or even look at it. In his feeding is displayed one of his chief peculiarities. He always washes or wets his food, whatever it may be, before deglutition. At first I gave the bird credit for being very clean and particular, especially as the snails, which he took great pains to wash, were mostly covered with dirt and particles of earth. But from observations made lately, and from various works that I have consulted on the subject, I am now inclined to think that this washing is an absolute necessity, without which deglutition would be almost impossible, at least with some of the Laridae.
A short time ago a dead chicken was given to Peter, which he carried off to his water and wetted well, and this before he even attempted to swallow it. A few days after he picked up a couple of young rats that had been killed in a trap, and took them one by one to the water, and then, after his usual process, easily disposed of them. Now Mr. Yarrell, speaking of a gull in his possession, says, " The first time a bird was given to him, after some ineffectual efforts to swallow it, he paused a moment, and then, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he ran off full speed to a pan of water, shook the bird about in it until well soaked, and immediately gulped it down without further trouble." Now here is an interesting example of instinct in two birds, acting differently under similar circumstances. The instinct of Mr. Yarrell's bird remedied a failure, which the instinct of my bird avoided. In both cases, however, the washing seems to have been necessary; but that it is not always so, the following anecdote, given by Mr. G. Donaldson, in the ' Naturalist,' seems to show:—" A gull I had, used to kill four or five sparrows a day: to accomplish this it got on the best terms with some pigeons, aud mixed with them while eating; then stooping, so as to assume the appearance of a pigeon, it set at a sparrow as a pointer would do at his game, then in a moment had his prey by the back and swallowed it."
Mr. Yarrell also mentions a gull that killed and devoured two clutches of young ducks, but he makes no mention of the bird washing them. From this it appears that a gull can sometimes swallow its prey without previously soaking it, and curiously enough only two days ago I had a proof of this. Three mice killed in a trap were taken out to Peter; in his eagerness he seized the first and gulped it down just as it was; the second and third, however, he not only wet before swallowing, but wet more thoroughly than usual. This shows that in some way the deglutition of the dry mouse was either difficult to accomplish or irritating to the gull's throat.
Space will not allow me to say much more about the habits and peculiarities of this interesting bird; but the following facts are worthy of mention. By no means sociable, but rather inclined to lead a solitary life, he has chosen a very strange companion—a large retriever; the two are excellent friends, the dog permitting the gull to lie down between his fore paws, pull his tail or his hair, and even steal his dinner from his plate, a liberty that none of the poultry dare take. Morris gives an instance of a similar friendship between a gull and a terrier. Yarrell also mentions a gull that made great friends with a pair of silver pheasants; but the most interesting anecdote on this subject is the one already quoted from the ' Naturalist.'
Before concluding I may mention another peculiar fancy that Peter has lately acquired—a fancy for silting on anything raised from the ground, such as a mound of earth or heap of stones; consequently a little pillar of bricks has been put up for him in one corner of the yard where he is put at night; on it he takes his rest every night, and there we will leave him.
VV. Sidney Randall.
Handsworth Rectory, August 10, 1874.
Ornithological Notes from North Devon.
Swift.—May 14. Observed numbers to-day, while travelling between Plymouth and Instow.
Robin.—May 14. Saw several young birds quite strong on the wing, and evidently, from their appearance, at least a fortnight or three weeks from the nest. It was quite a treat to see these familiar and homely little birds after a long absence from England.
Whimbrel.—May 15. I noticed several flocks yesterday feeding on the salt marshes between Barnstaple and Instow, and this afternoon there was a single bird feeding in the middle of our cricketfield at Instow. It was quite tame, and allowed my father and myself to approach within an easy shot before it flew away. I cannot imagine what it was feeding on in such a place, unless it was clever enough to catch the active little sun-beetles (Amarce), which were running about iu some numbers over the smooth turf. When we returned, half an hour afterwards, the bird was again in the same place, so it seemed to be a favourite feeding-ground. These birds are evidently perfectly aware of the new Act, for they are much tamer now than they used to be in former years, and may often be seen feeding close below our sea-wall while people are constantly passing above them. My father tells me that a few days since he observed three or four, within ten yards of the wall, busily engaged probing the soft ooze, and that he clapped his hands several times before they flew away.
Common Sandpiper.—May 15. Saw one of these birds to-day on the beach near the cricket-field, and my father tells me that he has on several occasions lately seen a pair feeding by the edge of a brackish pool near this spot. I can scarcely believe, however, that they are breeding anywhere close at hand, as, so far as I know, iu this county they always nest by the margin of some fresb-water stream, generally on or near the moors.
Wheatears.—May 18. These birds appear to be remarkably scarce in their old favourite haunts,—Instow and Noitham sandhills,—for I have not seen more than a dozen during the past week. They may, however, be breeding among the stone walls which enclose many of the neighbouring fields.
Cuckoo.—May 18. A friend of mine has just informed me that he heard one of these birds in full cry between twelve and one o'clock this morning. He got out of bed and opened the window. There was a clear sky and the stars were shining brightly, but still it was tolerably dark, as there was no moon. Why should not birds suffer from indigestion and have troubled dreams, which make them, seemingly to us, cry in an unnatural manner and at an unusual time? Dogs, as every one knows, constantly dream and bark and growl during sleep.
Dunlin.—May 18. Saw a pair of these birds, in full summer plumage, feeding by the edge of a muddy pool on Northam Burrows.
Rooks.—May 18. This afternoon, while walking across the grassy plain contiguous to Northam sand-hills, I noticed a number of rooks busily feeding, aud as I approached they all flew away with the exception of four. These were squatted on the ground with their heads thrust out in front of them, and I fancied at first they were dead, but on nearing them they one by one exhibited signs of life, raised themselves on their legs, stretched their wings over their backs, and flew off. The last bird, however, before rising permitted me to walk within a couple of yards of it, and I was then able to observe that its eyes were closed, and that it was evidently fast asleep or basking in the warm rays of the sun.
Burrow Duck.—May 18. In the grassy plain above mentioned there is a large shallow pool, and as I was passing at some distance 1 saw four ducks swimming about, and at first paid but little attention to them, fancying they were domestic birds from a neighbouring farm. However, when I again looked at them, there was something about them which struck me as being queer, for they seemed to be all of the same plumage, a circumstance which would have been somewhat unusual had they been tame ducks. I accordingly turned and walked towards them, and on getting within a couple of hundred yards discovered they were magnificent old burrow ducks. They looked superb with the bright sun shining on their striking plumage, and as I approached nearer they began to show signs of uneasiness, as they swam close together and repeatedly raised themselves in the water, at the same time thrusting their necks forwards and upwards to their full extent, and snapping their bright red bills. (This habit among ducks is, I believe, a sign of anger.) They allowed me to walk right up to the water's edge, and were then not more than thirty yards from me. I clapped my hands, aud three of them rose and flew off, exhibiting their beautiful plumage to great advantage. The fourth bird refused to move, and paid no attention to my shouting or clapping. From their size and general appearance these were evidently all males, and their mates were probably breeding among the sand-hills on Braunton Burrows.
Whimbrel.—May 19. Many flocks of these birds were observed to-day, flying about in an excited manner and continually calling to each other. From this I fancy they are just about to leave for their breeding-grounds.
Dunlin.—May 19. Saw a flock of about twenty on the "black
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