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trivialis, or rather perhaps of the Motacilla trochilus) still continues to make a sibilous shivering noise in the tops of tall woods. The stoparola of Ray (for which we have as yet no name in these parts) is called in your zoology the flycatcher. There is one circumstance characteristic of this bird which seems to have escaped observation, and that is, it takes its stand on the top of some stake or post, from whence it springs forth on its prey, catching a fly in the air, and hardly ever touching the ground, but returning still to the same stand for many times together.
I perceive there are more than one species of the Motacilla trochilus. Mr. Derham supposes, in Ray's Philos. Letters, that he has discovered three. In these there is again an instance of some very common birds that have as yet no English name.
Mr. Stillingfleet makes a question whether the blackcap (Motacilla atricapilla) be a bird of passage or not: I think there is no doubt of it: for, in April, in the first fine weather, they come trooping all at once, into these parts, but are never seen in the winter. They are delicate. songsters.
Numbers of snipes breed every summer in some moory ground on the verge of this parish. It is very amusing to see the cock bird on wing at that time, and to hear his piping and humming notes.
I have had no opportunity yet of procuring any of those mice which I mentioned to you in town. The person that brought me the last says they are plenty in harvest, at which time I will take care to get more ; and will endeavour to put the matter out of doubt, whether it be a nondescript species or not.
I suspect much there may be two species of water-rats. Ray says, and Linnæus after him, that the water-rat is web
footed behind. Now I have discovered a rat on the banks of our little stream that is not web-footed, and yet is an excellent swimmer and diver: it answers exactly to the Mus amphibius of Linnæus (see Syst. Nat.) which he says " natat in fossis et urinatur." I should be glad to procure one “plantis palmatis.” Linnæus seems to be in a puzzle about his Mus amphibius, and to doubt whether it differs from his Mus terrestris ; which if it be, as he allows, the “ Mus agrestis capite grandi brachyurus," of Ray, is widely different from the water-rat, both in size, make, and manner of life.
As to the falco, which I mentioned in town, I shall take the liberty to send it down to you into Wales; presuming on your candour, that you will excuse me if it should appear as familiar to you as it is strange to me. Though mutilated “qualem dices . . . antehac fuisse, tales cum sint reliquiæ !”.
It haunted a marshy piece of ground in quest of wildducks and snipes ; but, when it was shot, had just knocked down a rook, which it was tearing in pieces. I cannot make it answer to any of our English hawks ; neither could I find any like it at the curious exhibition of stuffed birds in Spring Gardens. I found it nailed up at the end of a barn, which is the countryman's museum.
The parish I live in is a very abrupt, uneven country, full of hills and woods, and therefore full of birds.
SELBORNE, September 9th, 1767. It will not be without impatience that I shall wait for your thoughts with regard to the falco; as to its weight, breadth, etc., I wish I had set them down at the time; but, to the best of my remembrance, it weighed two pounds and eight ounces, and measured, from wing to wing, thirtyeight inches. Its cere and feet were yellow, and the circle of its eyelids a bright yellow. As it had been killed some days, and the eyes were sunk, I could make no good observation on the colour of the pupils and the irides.
The most unusual birds I ever observed in these parts were a pair of hoopoes (upupa), which came several years ago in the summer, and frequented an ornamental piece of ground, which joins to my garden, for some weeks. They used to march about in a stately manner, feeding in the walks, many times in the day; and seemed disposed to breed in my outlet; but were frighted and persecuted by idle boys, who would never let them be at rest.
Three grossbeaks (Loxia coccothraustes) appeared some years ago in my fields, in the winter ; one of which I shot. Since that, now and then, one is occasionally seen in the same dead season.
A crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) was killed last year in this neighbourhood.
Our streams, which are small, and rise only at the end of the village, yield nothing but the bull's head or miller's thumb (Gobius fluviatilis capitatus), the trout (Trutta fluviatilis), the eel (anguilla), the lampern (Lampætra parva et fluviatilis), and the stickle-back (Pisciculus aculeatus).
We are twenty miles from the sea, and almost as many
from a great river, and therefore see but little of sea birds. As to wild fowls, we have a few teemns of ducks bred in the moors where the snipes breed ; and multitudes of widgeons and teals in hard weather frequent our lakes in the forest.
Having some acquaintance with a tame brown owl, I find that it casts up the fur of mice, and the feathers of birds in pellets, after the manner of hawks; when full, like a dog, it hides what it cannot eat.
The young of the barn owl are not easily raised, as they want a constant supply of fresh mice; whereas the young of the brown owl will eat indiscriminately all that is brought ; snails, rats, kittens, puppies, magpies, and any kind of carrion or offal.
The house-martins have eggs still, and squab young. The last swift I observed was about the 21st August : it was a straggler.
Red-starts, fly-catchers, white-throats, and reguli non cristati, still appear : but I have seen no blackcaps lately.
I forgot to mention that I once saw, in Christ Church College quadrangle in Oxford, on a very sunny warm morning, a house-martin flying about, and settling on the
At present I know only two species of bats, the common Vespertilio murinus and the Vespertilio auritus.
I was much entertained last summer with a tame bat, which would take flies out of a person's hand. If you gave it anything to eat, it brought its wings round before the mouth, hovering and hiding its head in the manner of birds of prey when they feed. The adroitness it showed in shear. ing off the wings of the flies, which were always rejected, was worthy of observation, and pleased me much. Insects seemed to be most acceptable, though it did not refuse raw flesh when offered ; so that the notion, that bats go
opinion, that betaw it several yself with thio improbable
down chimneys and gnaw men's bacon, seems no improbable story. While I amused myself with this wonderful quadruped, I saw it several times confute the vulgar opinion, that bats when down upon a flat surface cannot get on the wing again, by rising with great ease from the floor. It ran, I observed, with more dispatch than I was aware of; but in a most ridiculous and grotesque manner.
Bats drink on the wing, like swallows, by sipping the surface, as they play over pools and streams. They love to frequent waters, not only for the sake of drinking, but on account of insects, which are found over them in the greatest plenty. As I was going some years ago, pretty late, in a boat from Richmond to Sunbury, on a warm summer's evening, I think I saw myriads of bats between the two places ; the air swarmed with them all along the Thames, so that hundreds were in sight at a time.
November 4th, 1767. It gave me no small satisfaction to hear that the falco turned out an uncommon one. I must confess I should have been better pleased to have heard that I had sent you a bird that you had never seen before ; but that, I find, would be a difficult task.
I have procured some of the mice mentioned in my former letters, a young one and a female with young, both of which I have preserved in brandy. From the colour,