« ZurückWeiter »
to Lewes. Let them come from whence they will, it looks very suspicious that they are cantoned along the coast, in order to pass the channel when severe weather advances. They visit us again in April, as it should seem, in their return; and are not to be found in the dead of winter. It is remarkable that they are very tame, and seem to have no manner of apprehensions of danger from a person with a gun. There are bustards on the wide downs near Brighthelmstone.* No doubt you are acquainted with the Sussex downs : the prospects and rides round Lewes are most lovely!
As I rode along near the coast I kept a very sharp look-out in the lanes and woods, hoping I might, at this time of the year, have discovered some of the summer short-winged birds of passage crowding towards the coast in order for their departure; but it
* The great Bustards have long been extinct in this country, only an occasional straggler being seen. The last recorded was a female, which was shot on an open plain between Helston and the Lizard Point, Cornwall. In 1849 one was seen on Salisbury Plain, and another at Lydd, in Romney Marsh, in 1850. In 1832 three females resorted to Great Massingdon Heath for incubation. But, with these trifling exceptions, this noble bird no longer breeds with us. It is even becoming rare in Sweden, from which country some efforts have been made to restore it to our chalky downs. Some extraordinary instances of the courage and power of this bird are given on good authority. A man on horseback, in the neighbourhood of Telstead, in Wilts, saw a large bird over his head, which presently alighted before the horse, indicating an intention to attack it. The man dismounted; a struggle ensued, which occupied above an hour: but he succeeded with great difficulty in taking it, and carried it to Mr. Barclay, of Telstead, when it proved to be a male hustard. About the same time, Mr. Grant, a respectable farmer of Telstead, was returning from Warminster market, when he was attacked in a similar manner by another bustard, supposed to have been the mate of the preceding one. Four specimens of the little bustard were obtained in 1853.-ED.
was very extraordinary that I never saw a redstart, white-throat, black-cap, uncrested wren, fly-catcher, &c. And I remember to have made the same remark in former years, as I usually come to this place annually about this time. The birds most common along the coast at present are the stonechatters, whinchats, buntings, linnets, some few wheat-ears, titlarks, &c. Swallows and house-martins abound yet, induced to prolong their stay by this soft, still, dry season.
A land tortoise, which has been kept for thirty years in a little walled court belonging to the house where I now am visiting, retires under ground about the middle of November, and comes forth again about the middle of April. When it first appears in the spring it discovers very little inclination towards food; but in the height of summer grows voracious: and then as the summer declines its appetite declines also; so that for the last six weeks in autumn it hardly eats at all. Milky plants, such as lettuces, dandelions, sowthistles, are its favourite dish. In a neighbouring village one was kept till by tradition it was supposed to be an hundred years old. An instance of vast longevity in such a poor reptile!
RINGMER, near LEWES, Oct. 8, 1770,
TANZFTER an ineffectual search in Linnæus GAD and Brisson, I begin to suspect that I K discern my brother's hirundo hyberna in
Scopoli's new discovered hirundo rupestris. His description of“Supra murina, subtus albida; rectrices maculâ ovali albâ in latere interno; pedes nudi, nigri; rostrum nigrum; remiges obscuriores quam plumæ dorsales; rectrices remigibus concolores, caudâ emarginatâ, nec forcipatâ ;"* agrees very well with the bird in question; but when he comes to advance that it is “ statura hirundinis urbicæ," and that “the definition given of the bank-martin suits this bird also ;” - definitio hirundinis ripariæ Linnæi huic quoque convenit,” he in some measure invalidates all he has said; at least he shows at once that he compares them to these species merely from memory : for I have compared the birds themselves, and find they differ widely in every circumstance of shape,
* “ Above it is mouse-colour, below whitish, the guiding feathers with an oval white spot on the inner side, the feet bare and black, the beak black, the wing feathers darker than the dorsal ones, the guiders of the same colour as the wings, the tail well defined, not forked.”
size, and colour. However, as you will have a specimen, I shall be glad to hear what your judgment is in the matter.
Whether my brother is forestalled in his nondescript or not, he will have the credit of first discovering that they spend their winters under the warm and sheltery shores of Gibraltar and Barbary.
Scopoli's characters of his ordines and genera are clear, just, and expressive, and much in the spirit of Linnæus. These few remarks are the result of my first perusal of Scopoli’s “ Annus Primus.”
The bane of our science is the comparing one animal to the other by memory: for want of caution in this particular Scopoli falls into errors : he is not so full with regard to the manners of his indigenous birds as might be wished, as you justly observe: his Latin is easy, elegant, and expressive, and very superior to Kramer's “Elenchus vegetabilium et animalium per Austriam inferiorem.”
I am pleased to see that my description of the moose corresponds so well with yours.
SELBORNE, Oct. 29, 1770.
WAS much pleased to see, among the
collection of birds from Gibraltar, some Vaal of those short-winged English summer IMO birds of passage, concerning whose departure we have made so much inquiry. Now, if these birds are found in Andalusia to migrate to and from Barbary, it may easily be supposed that those that come to us may migrate back to the continent, and spend their winters in some of the warmer parts of Europe. This is certain, that many soft-billed birds that come to Gibraltar appear there only in spring and autumn, seeming to advance in pairs towards the northward, for the sake of breeding during the summer months; and retiring in parties and broods towards the south at the decline of the year: so that the rock of Gibraltar is the great rendezvous, and place of observation, from whence they take their departure each way towards Europe or Africa. It is therefore no mean discovery, I think, to find that our small short-winged summer birds of passage are to be seen spring and autumn on the very skirts of Europe; it is a presumptive proof of their emigra