« ZurückWeiter »
would be similar to that of the other winter birds of passage; but when I see them for a fortnight at Michaelmas, and again for about a week in the middle of April, I am seized with wonder, and long to be informed whence these travellers come, and whither they go, since they seem to use our hills merely as an inn, or baiting place.
Your account of the greater brambling, or snow-fleck, is very amusing; and strange it is that such a short-winged bird should delight in such perilous voyages over the northern ocean! Some country people in the winter time have every now and then told me that they have seen two or three white larks on our downs; but, on considering the matter, I begin to suspect that these are some stragglers of the birds we are talking of, which sometimes, perhaps, may rove so far to the southward.*
It pleases me to find that white hares are so frequent on the Scottish mountains, and especially as you inform me that it is a distinct species; for the quadrupeds of Britain are so few, that every new species is a great acquisition.
The eagle-owl,t could it be proved to belong to us, is so majestic a bird, that it would grace our fauna much. I never was informed before where wild geese are known to breed. I
You admit, I find, that I have proved your fen salicaria to be the lesser reed-sparrow of Ray; and I think you may be secure that I am right; for I took very particular pains to clear up that matter, and had some fair specimens; but as they were not well preserved they are decayed already. You will, no doubt, insert it in its proper place in your next edition. Your additional plates will much improve
* In the snow-fleck, which is now separated from the buntings, and, with the Lapland finch, forms the genus plectrophanes of Meyer and modern ornithologists, the wings are of considerable length, fitting them for more extensive journeys than the true emberizæ.-W.J.
* This is now admitted into the British Fauna, having been killed at different times in various parts of Great Britain.—W.J. Mr. Bennett says it has been shot in Yorkshire and Suffolk as well as in Scotland.
I Under the term “wild geese," four or five species are generally included. They used to breed in the fens of Lincolnshire, but improvements in agriculture have driven them from that locality. They now probably breed nuch in Sweden, but not far inland.-ED.
De Buffon, I know, has described the water shrew-mouso but still I am pleased to find you have discovered it in Linn colnshire, for the reason I have given in the article of the white hare.*
As a neighbour was lately ploughing in a dry chalky field, far removed from any water, he turned out a water-rat, that was curiously laid up in an hybernaculum, artificially formed
and leaves. At one end of the burrow lay about a gallon of potatoes, regularly stowed, on which it was to have supported itself for the winter. But the difficulty with me is how this amphibius mus came to fix its winter station at such a distance from the water. Was it determined in its choice of that place by the mere accident of finding the potatoes which were planted there ? or is it the constant practice of the aquatic rat to forsake the neighbourhood of the water in the colder months ?
Though I delight very little in analogous reasoning, knowing how fallacious it is with respect to natural history; yet in the following instance I cannot help being inclined to think it may conduce towards the explanation of a difficulty that I have mentioned before with respect to the invariable early retreat of the hirundo apus, or swift, so many weeks before its congeners; and that not only with us, but also in Andalusia, where they begin to retire about the beginning of August.
The great large batt (which, by the by, is at present a nondescript in England, and what I have never been able yet to procure) retires or migrates very early in the summer: it also ranges very high for its food, feeding in a different
* Lepus variabilis.—W.J. + The little bat appears almost every month in the year; but I have verer seen the large ones till the end of April, nor after July. They are most common in June, but never in any plenty: are a rare species with us.
The great bat, vespertilio noctula or altivolans, certainly winters in England, as they have been found in winter in old buildings near Kingston-onThames, and at Wimbledon. They congregate, in summer at least, for a flock of from twelve to fifteen of them were seen to take possession of an old treo in Hampton Court gardens in which was a nest of young starlings, nearly fledged. These the bats soon destroyed and probably fed on. I turned them out of the tree several times in the day-time, but they invariably returned to it for three weeks, when they finally abandoned it. They fle: high in tho day-tim; although the sun was sbining ED
region of the air; and that is the reason I never could procure one. * Now, this is exactly the case with the swifts; for they take their food in a more exalted region than the other species, and are very seldom seen hawking for_flies near the ground, or over the surface of the water. From hence I would conclude, that these hirundines, and the larger bats, are supported by some sorts of high-flying gnats, scarabs, or phalæne, that are of short continuance, and that the short stay of these strangers is regulated by the defect of their food.
By my journal it appears that curlews clamoured on to October the thirty-first, since which I have not seen or heard any. Swallows were observed on to November the third.
TO THE HON. DAINES BARRINGTON.
SELBORNE, Jan. 15, 1770. DEAR SIR,—It was no small matter of satisfaction to me to find that you were not displeased with my little methodus, or systematic table of birds. If there was any merit in the sketch, it must be owing to its punctuality. For many months I carried a list in my pocket of the birds that were to be remarked, and as I rode or walked about my business, I noted each day the continuance or omission of each bird's song, so that I am as sure of the certainty of my facts as a man can be of any transaction whatsoever.
I shall now proceed to answer the several queries which you put in your two obliging letters, in the best manner that I am able. Perhaps Eastwick, and its environs, where you heard so very few birds, is not a woodland country, and, therefore, not stocked with such songsters. If you will cast
* Mr. White has the merit of first noticing this species in England : it is the vespertilio noctula of Dr. Fleming, and said by that naturalist to winter in Italy.-W.J.