Imagens das páginas

have in most instances come under my notice. Vipers have been found in their craws, and I had notice that these keepers of Mr. Williams had set gins to catch them, and the only lure that succeeded in drawing them to their fate was a viper, which was laid on the plate of the gin, after small birds, eggs, &c., had been in vain tried. Two more of these interesting harriers were sent by Mr. Williams for preservation to Mr. Vingoe's workshop this week—a bird of the year with an uniform tawny breast, and a male bird in the second year's plumage. I was fortunate enough to obtain from Mr. Vingoe the result of his post mortem examination of the contents of the craws of these birds, and, instead of any game being detected, nothing could be seen but the remains of several lizards and only one small bird, probably a young sparrow. My object in this notice is simply to endeavour to enlist this beautiful and elegant harrier in some sort of favour, and to commend it to the regard of those who, like myself, wish to see the economy of the creation not treated with violence and injustice.—Edward Hearle Bodd; Penzance, July 31, 1874.

Mdilieatlon of the Snowy Owl in Confinement.—Mr. Edward Fountaiue, of Easton, in Norfolk, who for many years past has given much attention to breeding the eagle owl in confinement, and has been remarkably successful in doing so, has for the last few years turned his attention to endeavouring to accomplish a similar result in the case of the snowy owl. Mr. Fountaiue obtained a female snowy owl in 1863, and four or five years after he also procured a male. The female laid one egg in 1870, four in 1871, and four in 1872, making a slight hollow in the ground for a nest in one corner of the large cage in which the two owls were confined; but all these eggs proved infertile. In 1873 Mr. Fountaine put another cock with the hen bird, after which she laid one egg, which was also bad. Towards the end of May, 1874, Mr. Fountaine again put up the female owl with the same male she had been paired with in 1870, 1871 and 1872, and she laid her first egg on the 8th of June, a second on the 10th, and a third on the 13th, and incubated them closely till the 2nd of July, when she suddenly deserted them, perhaps owing to the great heat which then prevailed. On examination each of the three eggs thus deserted was found to contain a well-advanced chick, so that a nearer approach has been made to a successful result this year than previously, on which account I think it desirable to record the above facts. The male bird was savage and noisy whilst the female was sitting, and Mr. Fountaine describes his cry as consisting of several quick, gruff notes. The female while on her eggs occasionally uttered a kind of croak, but when she left her eggs to feed she exchanged this souud for a sort of shriek repeated two or three times.—J. H. Gwney; July 23, 1874.

Nesting of the Tree Sparrow.—As regards the nesting of the tree sparrow, I may state that I have known several nests and eggs of this Lir3 in Scotch firs on Oliver's Mount, near Scarborough, Yorkshire. The birds, however, as a rule, seem to prefer occupying the holes and cracks in the perpendicuar sides of a stone-quarry near which the trees are situated. They also inhabit quarries in other parts of Oliver's Mount.—Beaven N. Bake; Fordingbridge, near Salisbury, July 19, 1874.

Mortality of the House Sparrow and Martin.—Mr. Morris, writing from Hay ton, York, in the ' Times' of July 7th, says that martins have this year been as plentiful as ever, or nearly so, which tallies with my experience here; but swallows are uncommonly scarce in the Undercliff, more so than I ever remember. Mr. Morris tells us that five dead martins were found about the parsonage and church, and that the rest seemed to fly about in a bewitched sort of manner, and to go to their nests much less often than they would have done if feeding their young, which he should have thought only another iustanee of the capriciousness of birds had not the cause been too plain. There being no dates given, and nothing said as to the state of the weather, one is at a loss even to conjecture the cause of death. With respect to the mortality of the house sparrow, I am also puzzled, though it is the young that have perished. In former years I have found nestlings and embryo-chicks in the broken or perforated shells lying about, but never in such numbers; for instance, on the 20th or 27th of June, six dead birds were found on the lawn, one of good size, too, that must have taxed the parent bird's strength to carry. The addled eggs, I believe, are also removed, which is not the case with many species; and the nest of the sparrow is a model of cleanliness, all droppings and refuse being carefully removed. Though the weather was boisterous and wet, the young could not have been blown out, the nests being deeply embedded in the ivy, the leaves, scale-like, protecting and sheltering them; but the old birds suffer, the plumage of the sparrow being loose iu texture and wanting in oily matter, therefore readily saturated, so they may have failed in procuring the required food, the young having an insatiable appetite, and the quantity consumed is prodigious, being brought, on an average, every three or four minutes—not mere crumbs either, but good-sized pieces. Though the wellfledged broods are fed almost entirely on bread, which is readily found in a neighbourhood like this, caterpillars and other grubs, as well as butterflies, are taken to the younger nestlings, the sparrow being an expert fly-catcher. I may remark in passing that butterflies, the white excepted, have been very scarce this year. The flower-beds and seedlings have been much injured this driest of seasons by the dusting of the sparrows, circular holes being made, and the seeds scattered in all directions but the right; but fortunately, though somewhat in the eleventh hour, they have discovered, iu a sun-scorched bank, a shallow hole where the friable soil is well nigh pulverized, and there they dust themselves without let or hindrance. A white sparrow, fully fledged, was captured, but subsequently released, and has been lately seen about the grounds. I can corroborate what is said by my lamented friend Dr. Saxby, in his cleverly written and interesting notes on the ' Birds of Shetland,' that " The nest of the house sparrow is built so substantially as to insure a proper temperature, so that the younglings do not perish of cold," though they do, I believe, from want of food. That the sparrow keeps its nest in constant repair, I am well aware, it being au interminable affair.—H. Hadfield; Yentnor, Isle of Wight, July 17, 1874.

Crossbills in Denbighshire.—On the l*th of July I saw two crossbills. I am almost inclined to think that they were young birds, and as there were numerous flocks of them about the county in the winter, I should not be surprised if they had bred here.—W. J. Kerr; Maesmor, Denbighshire.

Ravens Nesting in North Wale».—During the last week in April, when returning one day with a friend from an unsuccessful fishing expedition to a lake on one of the highest hills in North Wales, we observed a raven fly to a rugged and precipitous rock, and by the sounds of evident satisfaction issuing therefrom, at once concluded that a uest of young ones were enjoying their evening meal (probably a choice piece of Welsh mutton): we at once proceeded to the foot of the rock, and soon discovered the nest, built, as usual, in the most inaccessible place, and by clinging to the summit were enabled to look into it; it contained three young ones, apparently nearly ready to fly. My friend returned next day with ropes and procured two of them; the other fell down the cliff and was killed. The same day I noticed several buzzards, whose soaring flight and wild cry added yet a charm to the surrounding scenery, which for beauty and grandeur may be favourably compared with any in North Wales.—W. J. Kerr.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Instow.—Four of these interesting little birds were seen on the 1st instant in the kitchen-garden of my friend Mr. Richard White, of Instow, and one of them, a bird of the year, was shot by his gardener as it was creeping up the stem of an apple-tree. Mr. White's garden is close to the Instow sand-hills, and some distance from any wood or trees of large growth; so the occurrence of these birds in such a locality appears to be somewhat remarkable.—Gervase F. Mathexc; H.M.S. 'Implacable,' Devonport, August 8, 1874.

Song of the Swallow.—On the 30th of July I heard a soft twittering in the chimney: it was early in the morning: it was like the cry of the swift, but not so shrill; then it stopped, and then began again, breaking into a sweet, soft, gentle little song, and ending up with the trill of a canary. The voice was the voice of a swallow, but the song was not one I had ever heard before. On the 31st of July I heard the song again early in the morning, just about dawn; it was so round, so melodious, that every other bird seemed to bo singing harshly and out of tune afterwards. Later in the same day, whilst in the cow-house, I heard the same low voice, but not being at the top of the chimney it sounded louder. On looking up I saw a swallow perched on one of the rafters; then a second one came and sang this pretty little song, the first answered it, and the second went on trilling out the notes that had sounded like those of the canary; they seemed to be carrying on quite a conversation; then both sang together, and finally flew away.—C. B. Carey; August, 1874.

Early Congregation of Martins.—On Sunday, August 9th, I saw a vast congregation of martins, I suppose preparatory to their autumnal migration. I can safely state there were many hundreds in the flight, and think I should be safe in saying a thousand; amongst them were two or three sand martins, and perhaps a score or two of swallows. This I take to be very early for the departure of the swallow tribe, but I think there can be no doubt that they were collected for that purpose. On asking a man who resides by the side of the pond, he told me they had been there " most of a week," and that the telegraph-wire, which passes close by the pond, is frequently laden with the birds, as close as they can sit, for more than a quarter of a mile in length.—Stephen Clogg; Looe, August 17, 1874.

Press Carrier Pigeons.—One of the most curious incidents connected with modern journalism is the regular employment of carrier pigeons in collecting intelligence for the daily and weekly newspapers. In the competitive exertions to procure the " latest intelligence," it has been found that for short distances newspaper reports can be sent readier, cheaper and quicker by press carrier pigeons, flying a mile per minute, than by the postal telegraph. These aerial postmen are entrusted to resident correspondents in various places, ready to be despatched at any moment, whilst others are sent out by reporters to places where important events are transpiring. It is now no uncommon thing to see reporters at police courts, inquests, public meetings, &c., despatch folio after folio of "copy" by press carrier pigeons tossed through the nearest window, or thrown out of a train or steamer going at full speed. The attachment of these birds to the place of their birth, and their ability to find their homes from marvellous distances, are of course their distinguishing characteristics. A "columbier," or home, is established at the various newspaper offices, and whenever a bird arrives with a message, the act of the pigeon entering its cot sets a call-bell ringing in the editor's room, the bell machinery continuing in motion until attended to. Being expressly bred for press purposes—conveying news to our great cities—they are not the pure carrier pigeon (which is larger, heavier and slower on the wing, and not so well adapted for press purposes); but are of a special pedigree, bred by Messrs. Hartley and Sons, of the 'Woolwich Gazette,' Woolwich, from prize birds imported from the best lofts of Antwerp, Brussels and Liege, all "producteurs" being rejected which have not won a three-huudred mile "concours." Press carrier pigeons owe their origin to Darwin's principle of " natural selection," or the " survival of the fittest." In the struggle for life in connection with the compulsory flying of long SECOND SERIES—VOL. IX. 2 Z

distances, the homing and ftying powers of the pigeons are developed to a large degree, whilst the birds which cannot do the distance are necessarily lost and eliminated. The surviving or winning voyageurs become thus educated to the highest standard of perfection, and this system being continued through many generations (the flying distances increasing every year) a race of pigeons have been produced with powers which a few years ago would have been deemed impossible. Press carrier pigeons, though as a rule only used for short distances, in competition with the electric telegraph, can be specially trained to distances of five hundred miles, and frequently fly to England from Dublin, Brussels, Paris, Lisbon, and even Rome. The utilization of the instincts of birds for press purposes is being carried even further than this. An ocean homing bird, of great docility, intelligence and spirit, has been found in Iceland, which flies at a meteor-like speed of one hundred and fifty miles an hour, and is able to find its home, over sea and land, from any part of the habitable world. A pair of these birds, a few days ago, brought despatches from Paris to a lonely spot, congenial to their nature, in a wild and rocky part of Kent, within ten miles of London, in an hour and a quarter. Press carrier pigeons took the despatches on to the city, the whole distance from Paris to London—by actual parcel mode of conveyance—being done within one hour and a half. If the experiments at present being made in training and educating them continue successful, it is hoped by next summer to establish a daily miniature ocean mail between America and Europe, the whole distance to be traversed between sunrise in one hemisphere and sunset in the other.—Editor of 'Land and Water.'

Recent Occurrence of Apteryx Daastii of Potts.—I have much pleasure in communicating the fact of the occurrence of this rare bird, after a very long interval. Five very fine specimens, old and young, have been lately obtained from the West Coast: efforts were made to secure these muchprized specimens for the Canterbury Museum, but although a considerable sum was offered it was declined by the owner of the skins. Till the preseut time the only known examples were the two well-known specimens in the Canterbury Museum.— Thomas Henry Potts; Ohinitahi, June 3, 1874.

Glossy Ibis and Roller.— Fifteen years ago a fine ibis was shot near Lytham by the late Mr. Eden's keeper: it was seut to Sharpies, of this town, to stuff; the man called it a " black curlew "; I saw it in the flesh: it was noted in the Preston papers at the time; from then to Mr. Eden's death I kept a look out for it, when I purchased it at the sale, a month ago. I have two fine rollers, one stuffed by Watson, of Carlisle, shot near that city about five years ago; this also was noted in the newspapers at the time: the other specimen I purchased from the late Mr. T. H. Allis, of York; he got it in Yorkshire during his business rounds: this specimen, a hoopoe and a golden oriole I got from him a few months before his death.— J. B. Hodgkinsen; 15, Spring Bank, Preston, August 10, 1874.

« AnteriorContinuar »