BIRDS OF GUERNSEY
AND THE NEIGHBOURING ISLANDS
ALDERNEY, SARK, JETHOU, HERM;
BEING A SMALL CONTRIBUTION TO The Ornitholony of the Channel Islands
CECIL SMITH, F.Z.S.,
MEMBER OF THE BRITISH ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION.
LONDON: R.H. PORTER, 6, TENTERDEN STREET, HANOVER SQUARE. 1879.
Though perhaps not possessing the interest to the ornithologist which Lundy Island (the only breeding-place of the Gannet in the South-West of England) or the Scilly Islands possess, or being able to produce the long list of birds which the indefatigable Mr. Gaeetke has been able to do for his little island, Heligoland, the avifauna of Guernsey and the neighbouring islands is by no means devoid of interest; and as little has hitherto been published about the Birds of Guernsey and the neighbouring islands, except in a few occasional papers published by Miss C.B. Carey, Mr. Harvie Browne, myself, and a few others, in the pages of the 'Zoologist,' I make no excuse for publishing this list of the birds, which, as an occasional visitor to the Channel Islands for now some thirty years, have in some way been brought to my notice as occurring in these Islands either as residents, migrants, or occasional visitants.
Channel Island specimens of several of the rarer birds mentioned, as well as of the commoner ones, are in my own collection; and others I have seen either in the flesh or only recently skinned in the bird-stuffers' shops. For a few, of course, I have been obliged to rely on the evidence of others; some of these may appear, perhaps, rather questionable,—as, for instance, the Osprey,—but I have always given what evidence I have been able to collect in each case; and where evidence of the occurrence was altogether wanting, I have thought it better to omit all mention of the bird, though its occasional occurrence may seem possible.
I have confined myself in this list to the Birds of Guernsey and the neighbouring islands—Sark, Alderney, Jethou and Herm; in fact to the islands included in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. I have done this as I have had no opportunity of personally studying the birds of Jersey, only having been in that island once some years ago, and then only for a short time, and not because I think a notice of the birds of Jersey would have been devoid of interest, though whether it would have added many to my list maybe doubtful. Professor Ansted's list, included in his large and very interesting work on the Channel Islands, is hitherto the only attempt at a regular list of the Birds of the Channel Islands; but as he, though great as a geologist, is no ornithologist, he was obliged to rely in a great measure on information received from others, and this apparently was not always very reliable, and he does not appear to have taken much trouble to sift the evidence given to him. Professor Ansted himself states that his list is necessarily imperfect, as he received little or no information from some of the Islands; in fact, Guernsey and Sark appear to be the only two from which much information had been received. This is to be regretted, as it has made the notice of the distribution of the various birds through the Islands, which he has denoted by the letters a, e, i, o, u appended to the name of each bird, necessarily faulty. The ornithological notes, however, supplied by Mr. Gallienne are of considerable interest, and are generally pretty reliable. It is rather remarkable, however, that Professor Ansted has not always paid attention to these notes in marking the distribution of the birds through the various Islands.
No doubt many of the birds included in Professor Ansted's list were included merely on the authority of specimens in the museum of the Mechanics' Institute, which at one time was a pretty good one; and had sufficient care been taken to label the various specimens correctly as to place and date, especially distinguishing local specimens from foreign ones, of which there were a good many, would have been a very interesting and useful local museum; as it is, the interest of this museum is considerably deteriorated. Some of the birds in the museum are confessedly foreign, having been brought from various parts of the world by Guernsey men, who when abroad remembered the museum in their own Island, and brought home specimens for it. Others, as Mr. Gallienne, who during his life took much interest in the museum, himself told me had been purchased from various bird-stuffers, especially from one in Jersey; and no questions were asked as to whether the specimens bought were local or set-up from skins obtained from the Continent or England. Amongst those so obtained may probably be classed the Blue-throated Warblers, included in Professor Ansted's list and marked as Jersey (these Mr. Gallienne himself told me he believed to be Continental and not genuine Channel Island specimens), the Great Sedge Warbler, the Meadow Bunting, the Green Woodpecker, and perhaps a few others.
This museum, partly from want of interest being taken in it and partly from want of money, has never had a very good room, and has been shuffled and moved about from one place to another, and consequently several birds really valuable, as they could be proved to be genuine Channel Island specimens, have been lost and destroyed; in fact, had it not been for the care and energy of Miss C.B. Carey, who took great pains to preserve what she found remaining of the collection, and place it in some sort of order, distinguishing by a different coloured label those specimens which could be proved to be Channel Island (in doing this she worked very hard, and received very little thanks or encouragement, but on the contrary met with a considerable amount of genuine obstructiveness), the whole of the specimens in the museum would undoubtedly have been lost; as it is, a good many valuable local specimens—valuable as being still capable of being proved to be genuine Channel Island specimens—have been preserved, and a good nucleus kept for the foundation of a new museum, should interest in the subject revive and the local authorities be disposed to assist in its formation. In my notices of each bird I have mentioned whether there is a specimen in the museum, and also whether it is included in Professor Ansted's list, and if so in which of the Islands he has marked it as occurring.
No doubt the Ornithology of the Channel Islands, as is the case in many counties of England, has been considerably changed by drainage works, improved cultivation, and road-making; much alteration of this sort I can see has taken place during the thirty years which I have known the Islands as an occasional visitor. But Mr. MacCulloch, who has been resident in the Islands for a much longer period—in fact, he has told me nearly double—has very kindly supplied me with the following very interesting note on the various changes which have taken place in Guernsey during the long period he has lived in that island; he says, "I can well recollect the cutting of most of the main roads, and the improvement, still going on, of the smaller ones. It was about the beginning of this century that the works for reclaiming the Braye du Valle were undertaken; before that time the Clos du Valle was separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea, left dry at low water, extending from St. Samson's to the Vale Church. This was bordered by salt marshes only, covered occasionally at spring tides by the sea, some of which extended pretty far inland. The meadows adjoining were very imperfectly drained, as indeed some still are, and covered with reeds and rushes, forming excellent shelter for many species of aquatic birds. Now, as you know, by far the greater part of the land is well cultivated and thickly covered with habitations. The old roads were everywhere enclosed between high hedges, on which were planted rows of elms; and the same kind of hedge divided the fields and tenements. Every house, too, in those days had its orchard, cider being then universally drunk; and the hill-sides and cliffs were covered with furze brakes, as in all country houses they baked their own bread and required the furze for fuel. Now all that is changed. The meadows are drained and planted with brocoli for the early London market, to be replaced by a crop of potatoes at the end of the summer. The trees are cut down to let in the sun. Since the people have taken to gin-drinking, cider is out of favour and the orchards destroyed. The hedges are levelled to gain a few perches of ground, and replaced in many places by stone walls; the furze brakes rooted up, and the whole aspect and nature of the country changed. Is it to be wondered at that those kinds of birds that love shelter and quiet have deserted us? You know, too, how every bird—from the Wren to the Eagle—is popped at as soon as it shows itself, in places where there are no game laws and every man allowed to carry a gun."
This interesting description of the changes—agricultural and otherwise—which have taken place in the Islands, especially Guernsey, during the last fifty or sixty years (for which I have to offer Mr. MacCulloch my best thanks), gives a very good general idea of many of the alterations that have taken place in the face of the country during the period above mentioned; but does not by any means exhaust them, as no mention is made of the immense increase of orchard-houses in all parts of Guernsey, which has been so great that I may fairly say that within the last few years miles of glasshouses have been built in Guernsey alone: these have been built mostly for the purpose of growing grapes for the London market. These orchard-houses have, to a certain extent, taken the place of ordinary orchards and gardens, which have been rooted up and destroyed to make place for this enormous extent of glass. But what appeared to me to have made the greatest change, and has probably had more effect on the Ornithology of the Island, especially of that part known as the Vale, is the enormous number of granite quarries which are being worked there (luckily the beautiful cliffs have hitherto escaped the granite in those parts, probably not being so good); but in the Vale from St. Samson's to Fort Doyle, and from there to the Vale Church, with the exception of L'Ancresse Common itself, which has hitherto escaped, the whole face of the country is changed by quarry works and covered with small windmills used for pumping the water from the quarries. These quarry works and the extra population brought by them into the Island, all of whom carry guns and shoot everything that is fit to eat or is likely to fetch a few "doubles" in the market, have done a good deal to thin the birds in that part of the Islands, especially such as are in any way fit for sale or food, and probably have done more to make a change in the Ornithology of that part of the Island than all the agricultural changes mentioned by Mr. MacCulloch. Indeed, I am rather sceptical as to the agricultural changes above described having produced so much change in the avifauna of the Islands during the last fifty years as Mr. MacCulloch appears to think; there is still a great deal of undrained or badly drained land in the Island—especially about the Vale, the Grand Mare and L'Eree—which might still afford a home for Moorhens, Water Rails, and even Bitterns, and all that class of wading birds which delight in swampy land and reed beds. Though no doubt, as Mr. MacCulloch said, many orchards have been destroyed to make room for more profitable crops or for orchard-houses, still there are many orchards left in the Island. I think, however, many, if not all the cherry orchards (amongst which the Golden Orioles apparently at one time luxuriated) are gone. There is also still a great deal of hedgerow timber, none of it indeed very large, but in places very thick; in fact, I could point out miles of hedges in Guernsey where the trees, mostly elm, grow so thick together that it would be nearly impossible to pick out a place where one could squeeze one's horse between the trees without rubbing one's knees on one side or the other, probably on both, against them, if one found it necessary to ride across the country. True, on a great extent of the higher part of the Island, all along on both sides of what is known as the Forest Road, there is little or no hedgerow timber, the fields here being divided by low banks with furze growing on the top of them. Furze brakes also are still numerous, the whole of the flat land on the top of the cliffs and the steep valleys and slopes down to the sea on the south and east side of the Island, from Fermain Bay to Pleimont, being almost uninterrupted wild land covered with heather, furze, and bracken; besides this wild furze land, there are several thick furze brakes inland in different parts of the Island. All these places seem to me to have remained almost without change for years. The furze, however, never grows very high, as it is cut every few years for fuel; in consequence of this, however, it is more beautiful in blooming in the spring than if it had been allowed several years' growth, covering the whole face of the ground above the cliffs like a brilliant yellow carpet; but being kept so short, it is not perhaps so convenient for nesting purposes as if it was allowed a longer growth.
The Guernsey Bird Act, which applies to all the Islands in the Bailiwick, and has been in force for some few years, seems to me to have had little effect on the numbers of the sea-birds of the district, though it includes the eggs as well as the birds, except perhaps to increase the number of Herring Gulls and Shags (which were always sufficiently numerous) in their old breeding-stations, and perhaps to have added a few new breeding-stations. These two birds scarcely needed the protection afforded by the Act, as their nests are placed amongst very inaccessible rocks where very few nests can be reached without the aid of a rope, and consequently but little damage was done beyond a few young birds being shot soon after they had left the nest while they were flappers, and the numbers were fully kept up; other birds, however, included in the Act, and not breeding in quite such inaccessible places, seem to gain but little advantage from it, as nests of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Terns, Oystercatchers and Puffins are ruthlessly robbed in a way that bids fair before long to exterminate all four species as breeding birds; perhaps, also, the increase in the number of Herring Gulls does something to diminish the numbers of other breeding species, especially the Lesser Black-backs, as Herring Gulls are great robbers both of eggs and young birds. The Act itself, after reciting that "le nombre des oiseaux de mer sur les cotes des Isles de cet Bailliage a considerablement diminue depuis plusieurs annees; que les dits oiseaux sont utiles aux pecheurs, en ce qu'ils indiquent les parages ou les poissons se trouvent; que les dits oiseaux sont utiles aux marins en ce qu'ils annoncent pendant la duree des brouillards la proximite des rochers," goes on to enact as follows:—"Il est defendu de prendre, enlever ou detruire les ceufs des oiseaux de mer dans toute I'entendue de la jurisdiction de cette isle, sur la peine d'une amende qui ne sera pas moindre de sept livres tournois et n'excedera pas trente livres tournois." Sec. 2 enacts, "Depuis ce jour au 15 Octobre prochain, il est defendu de tuer, blesser, prendre ou chasser les oiseaux de mer dans toute l'entendue de la jurisdiction de cette isle." Sec. 3, "Ceux qui depuis ce jour au 15 Octobre prochain auront ete trouves en possession d'un oiseau de mer recemment tue, blesse ou pris, ou qui auront ete trouves en possession de plumage frais appartenant d'un oiseau de mer seront censes avoir tue, blesse ou pris tel oiseau de mer sauf e eux de prouver le contraire. Pareillement ceux qui depuis ce jour au 15 Octobre prochain auront ete trouves en possession d'un oeuf de l'annee d'un oiseau de mer seront censes avoir pris et enleve le dit oeuf sauf a eux de prouver le contraire." The penalty in each case is the same as in Section 1. Section 4 contains the list of the oiseaux de mer which come under the protection of the Act, which is as follows:—Les Mauves Mouettes, Pingouins, Guillemots, Cormorans, Barbelotes, Hirondelles de mer, Pies-marants, Petrel, Plongeons, Grebes, Puffins, Dotterells, Alouettes de mer, Toumpierres, Gannets, Courlis et Martin pecheur.
As far as the eggs of many of the species actually breeding in the Islands are concerned, this Act seems to be a dead letter: the only birds of any size whose eggs are not regularly robbed are the Herring Gulls and Shags, and they take sufficient care of themselves; were the Act strictly enforced it would probably be found that there would be—as would be the case in England—a good deal of opposition to this part of it, which would greatly interfere with what appears to be a considerable article of food with many of the population. Probably the only compromise which would work, and could be rigidly enforced, would be to fix a later date for the protection of the eggs—say as late as the 15th June; this would allow those who wanted to rob the eggs for food to take the earlier layings, and the birds would be able to bring up their second or third broods in peace; and probably the fishermen and others, who use the eggs as an article of consumption, would be glad to assist in carrying out such an Act as this, as they would soon find the birds increase so much that they would be able to take as many eggs by the middle of June as they do now in the whole year, especially the Black-back Gulls and the Puffins, which are the birds mostly robbed,—the latter of which are certainly decreasing considerably in numbers in consequence.
This plan is successfully carried out by many private owners of the large breeding-stations of the Gannets, Eider Duck, and other sea-birds in the north of England and Scotland. Of course, it must not be supposed that all the birds mentioned in the Act whose eggs are protected breed in the Islands, or anywhere within ten or fifteen degrees of latitude of the Islands; in fact, a great many of them are not there at all during the breeding-season, except perhaps an occasional wounded bird which has been unable to join its companions on their migratory journey, or a few non-breeding stragglers.
It has often struck me that a small but rigidly collected and enforced gun-tax would be a more efficacious protection—not only to the oiseaux de mer, but also to the inland birds, many of which are quite as much in want of protection though not included in the Act—than the Sea-bird Protection Act is. I am glad to see that there is some chance of this being carried out, for, while this work was going through the press, I see by the newspaper ('Gazette Officielle de Guernsey' for the 26th March, 1879) that the Bailiff had then just issued a Billet d'Etat which contained a "Projet de loi" on the subject, to be submitted to the States at their next meeting; and in concluding its comments on this Projet de loi the Gazette says, "Il n'est que juste en fait que ceux qui veulent se lier au plaisir de la chasse paient pour cette fantaisie et que par ce moyen le trop grand nombre de nos chasseurs maladroits et inexperimentes se voit reduit au grand avantage de nos fermiers et de nos promeneurs;" and probably also to the advantage of the chasseurs themselves.
In regard to the nomenclature, I have done the best I can to follow the rule laid down by the British Association; but not living in London, and consequently not having access to a sufficiently large ornithological library to enable me to search out the various synonyms for myself and ascertain the exact dates, I have therefore been obliged to rely on the best authorities whose works I possess, and accept the name given by them. In doing this, I have no doubt I have been quite as correct as I should have been had I waded through the various authors who have written on the subject, as I have invariably accepted the name adopted by Professor Newton in his edition of Yarrell, and by Mr. Dresser in his 'Birds of Europe', as far as these works are yet complete: for the birds not yet included in either I have for the most part taken the scientific names from Mr. Howard Saunders's 'Catalogue des oiseaux du midi de L'Espagne,' published in the 'Proceedings' of the Societe Zoologique de France; and for the names of the Gulls and Terns I have entirely followed Mr. Howard Saunders's papers on those birds published in the 'Proceedings' of our own Zoological Society, for permission to use which, and for other assistance,—especially in egg-hunting,—I have to give him my best thanks.
As French is so much spoken in Guernsey and the other Islands included in my district, I have (wherever I have been able to ascertain it) given the French name of each bird, as it may be better known to my Guernsey readers than either the English or the scientific name. I have also, where there is one and I have been able to ascertain it, mentioned the local name in the course of my notes on each bird.
It now only remains to give my best thanks to the various friends who have assisted me, especially to Mr. MacCulloch, who, though he says he is no naturalist, has supplied me with various very interesting notes, which he has taken from time to time of ornithological events which have occurred in Guernsey, and from which I have drawn rather largely; and I have, also, again to thank him for the interesting accounts he has given me of the various changes—agricultural and otherwise—which have taken place during his memory, and which may have had some effect on the ornithology of the Islands, especially of Guernsey.
My thanks are also due to Col. L'Estrange for the assistance he has given me in egg-hunting, and also to Captain Hubback for his notes from Alderney during the times he was quartered there.
BIRDS OF GUERNSEY.
1. WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. Haliaeetus albicilla, Linnsaeus. French, "Aigle pygarque," "Pygarque ordinaire."—The White-tailed Eagle is an occasional but by no means uncommon visitant to all the Islands. I have seen specimens from Alderney, Guernsey, and Herm, and have heard of its having been killed in Sark more than once. It usually occurs in the autumn, and, as a rule, has a very short lease of life after its arrival in the Islands, which is not to be wondered at, as it is considered, and no doubt is, mischievous both to sheep and poultry; and in so thickly populated a country, where every one carries a gun, a large bird like the White-tailed Eagle can hardly escape notice and consequent destruction for any length of time. It might, however, if unmolested, occasionally remain throughout the winter, and probably sometimes wanders to the Islands at that time, as Mr. Harvie Brown records ('Zoologist' for 1869, p. 1591) one as having been killed, poisoned by strychnine, in Herm in the month of January. This was, no doubt, a late winter visitant, as it is hardly possible that the bird can have escaped for so long a time, as it would have done had it visited the Islands at its usual time, October or November. All the Channel Island specimens of the White-tailed Eagle which I have seen have been young birds of the first or second year, in the immature plumage in which the bird is known as the Sea Eagle of Bewick, and in which it is occasionally mistaken for the Golden Eagle, which bird has never, I believe, occurred in the Islands. Of course in the adult plumage, when this bird has its white tail and head, no such mistake could occur, but in the immature plumage in which the bird usually makes its appearance such a mistake does occasionally happen, and afterwards it becomes difficult to convince the owner that he has not a Golden Eagle; in fact he usually feels rather insulted when told of his mistake, and ignores all suggestions of anything like an infallible test, so it may be as well to mention that the birds may be distinguished in any state of plumage and at any age by the tarsus, which in the White-tailed Eagle is bare of feathers and in the Golden Eagle is feathered to the junction of the toes. I have one in my possession shot at Bordeaux harbour on the 14th of November, 1871, and I saw one in the flesh at Mr. Couch's, the bird-stuffer, which had been shot at Alderney on the 2nd of November in the same year; and Mr. MacCulloch writes to me that one was wounded and taken alive in the parish of the Forest in Guernsey in 1845. It was said to be one of a pair, and he adds—"I have known several instances of its appearance since both here (Guernsey) and in Herm," but unluckily he gives no dates and could not remember at what time of year any of the occurrences he had noted had taken place. This is to be regretted, as although the bird occurs almost every autumn—indeed, so frequently as to render mention of further instances of its occurrence at that time of year unnecessary—its occurrence in the spring is rare, and some of those noted by Mr. MacCulloch might have been at that time of year. As it is, I only know of one spring occurrence, and that was reported to me by Mr. Couch as having taken place at Herm on the 23rd of March, 1877.
The White-tailed Eagle is included in Professor Ansted's list, but its range in the Islands is restricted to Guernsey. There is one in the museum, probably killed in Guernsey, in the plumage in which the Channel Island specimens usually occur, but no note is given as to locality or date.
2. OSPREY. Pandion halioeetus, Linnaeus. French, "Balbusard."—I have never met with the Osprey myself in the Channel Islands, nor have I, as far as I remember, seen a Channel Island specimen. I include it, however, on the authority of a note kindly sent to me by Mr. MacCulloch, who says:—"An Osprey was shot at St. Samsons, in Guernsey, on the 29th of October, 1868. I cannot, however, say whether at the time it was examined by a competent naturalist, and as both the Osprey and the White-tailed Eagle are fishers, a mistake may have been made in naming it." Of course such a mistake as suggested is possible, but as the Guernsey fishermen and gunners, especially the St. Samsons men, are well acquainted with the White-tailed Eagle, I should not think it probable that the mistake had been made. The bird, however, cannot be considered at all common in the Islands; there is no specimen in the Guernsey Museum, and Mr. Couch has never mentioned to me having had one through his hands, or recorded it in the 'Zoologist,' as he would have done had he had one; neither does Mrs. Jago (late Miss Cumber), who used to do a good deal of stuffing in Guernsey about thirty years ago, remember having had one through her hands. There can be no reason, however, why it should not occasionally occur in the Islands, as it does so both on the French and English side of the Channel. The wonder rather is that it is so rare as it appears to be.
The Osprey, however, is mentioned in Professor Ansted's list, and only marked as occurring in Guernsey.
3. GREENLAND FALCON. Falco candicans, Gmelin.—I was much surprised on my last visit to Alderney, on the 27th of June, 1878, on going into a small carpenter's shop in the town, whose owner, besides being a carpenter, is also an amateur bird-stuffer, though of the roughest description, to find, amongst the dust of his shop, not only the Purple Heron, which I went especially to see, and which is mentioned afterwards, but a young Greenland Falcon which he informed me had been shot in that island about eighteen months ago. This statement was afterwards confirmed by the person who shot the bird, who was sent for and came in whilst I was still in the shop. Unfortunately, neither the carpenter nor his friend who shot the bird had made any note of the date, and could only remember that the one had shot the bird in that Island about eighteen months ago and the other had stuffed it immediately after. This would bring it to the winter of 1876-77, or, more probably, the late autumn of 1876. In the course of conversation it appeared to me that the Snow Falcon—as they called this bird—was not entirely unknown to the carpenter or his friend, though neither could remember at the time another instance of one having been killed in that Island. It is, however, by no means improbable that either this species or the next mentioned, or both, may have occurred in the Islands before, as Professor Ansted, though he gives no date or locality, includes the Gyr Falcon in his list of Channel Island birds. As all three of the large northern white Falcons were at one time included under the name of Gyr Falcons, and, as Professor Ansted gives no description of the bird mentioned by him, it is impossible to say to which species he alluded. We may fairly conclude, however, that it was either the present species or the Iceland Falcon, as it could hardly have been the darker and less wandering species, the Norway Falcon, the true Gyr Falcon of falconers, Falco gyrfalco of Linnaeus, which does not wander so far from its native home, and has never yet, as far as is at present known, occurred in any part of the British Islands, and certainly not so far south as the Channel Islands. This latter, indeed, is an extremely southern latitude for either the Greenland or Iceland Falcon, the next being in Cornwall, from which county both species have been recorded by Mr. Rodd. Neither species, however, is recorded as having occurred in any of the neighbouring parts of France.
4. ICELAND FALCON. Falco islandus, Gmelin.—An Iceland Falcon was killed on the little Island of Herm on the 11th of April, 1876, where it had been seen about for some time, by the gamekeeper. It had another similar bird in company with it, and probably the pair were living very well upon the game-birds which had been imported and preserved in that island, as the keeper saw them kill more than one Pheasant before he shot this bird. The other fortunately escaped. The bird which was killed is now in my possession, and is a fully adult Iceland Falcon, and Mr. Couch, the bird-stuffer who skinned it, informed me a male by dissection. Though to a certain extent I have profited by it, so far as to have the only Channel Island example of the Iceland Falcon in my possession, I cannot help regretting that this bird was killed by the keeper, as it seems to me not impossible that the two birds being together in the island so late as the 11th of April, and certainly one, probably both, being adult, and there being plenty of food for them, might, if unmolested, have bred in the island. Perhaps, however, this is too much to have expected so far from their proper home. It would, however, have been interesting to know how late the birds would have remained before returning to their northern home; but the breeding-season for the Pheasants was beginning, and this was enough for the keeper, as he had actually seen two or three Pheasants—some hens—killed before he shot the Falcon. As these Falcons can only be considered very rare accidental visitants to the Islands, it may be interesting to some of my readers to mention that they may distinguish them easily by colour, the Greenland, Falco candicans, being always the most white, and the Norway bird—the Gyr Falcon of falconers—being the darkest, the Iceland Falcon (the present species) being intermediate. This is generally a good guide at all ages, but occasionally there may be some difficulty in distinguishing young birds, especially as between the Iceland and the Norway Falcon. In a doubtful case in the Channel Islands, however, it would always be safer to consider the bird an Iceland rather than a Norway Falcon.
5. PEREGRINE FALCON. Falco peregrinus, Tunstall. French, "Faucon pelerin."—The Peregrine can now, I think, only be considered an autumnal visitant to the Islands, though, if not shot or otherwise destroyed, it would, no doubt, remain throughout the winter, and might perhaps have been resident, as Mr. MacCulloch sends me a note of one killed in Herm in December. All the Channel Island specimens I have seen have been young birds of the year, and generally killed in October or November. Adult birds, no doubt, occasionally occur, but they are comparatively rare, and it certainly does not breed anywhere in the Islands at present, though I see no reason why it should not have done so in former times, as there are many places well suited to it, and a constant supply of sea-birds for food. Mr. MacCulloch also seems to be of opinion that the Peregrine formerly bred in the Islands, as he says, speaking, however, of the Falconidae generally, "There must have been a time when some of the species were permanent residents, for the high pyramidal rock south of the little Island of Jethou bears the name of 'La Fauconniere,' evidently denoting that it must have been a favourite resort of these birds, and there are other rocks with the same name." Certainly the rock here mentioned looks much like a place that would be selected by the Peregrine for breeding purposes, but that must have been before the days of excursion steamers once or twice a week to Jethou and Herm. Occasionally a young Peregrine is made to do duty as a Lanner, and is recorded in the local papers accordingly (see 'Star' for November 11th, 1876, copying, however, a Jersey paper), but in spite of these occasional notes there is no satisfactory reason for supposing that the true Lanner has ever occurred in either of the Islands. The birds, however, certainly resemble each other to a certain extent, but the young Lanner in which state it would be most likely to occur, may always be distinguished from the young Peregrine by its whiter head, and the adult has more brown on the head and neck.
The Peregrine is included in Professor Ansted's list, but only marked as occurring in Guernsey and Sark. There is no specimen at present in the Museum.
6. HOBBY. Falco subbuteo, Linnaeus. French, "Le Hobereau." The Hobby can only be considered as a rather rare occasional visitant, just touching the Islands on its southern migration in the autumn, and late in the autumn, for Mr. MacCulloch informs me that a Hobby was killed in the Islands, probably Guernsey, in November, 1873, and Mr. Couch, writing to me on the 10th of November, told me he had had a Hobby brought to him on the 8th of the same month. Both of these occurrences seem rather late, but probably the Hobby only touches the Islands for a very short time on passage, and quite towards the end of the migratory period. I do not know of any instance of the Hobby having occurred in the Islands on its northern migration in the spring, or of its remaining to breed.
It is included in Professor Ansted's list, and only marked as occurring in Guernsey. There is no specimen in the Museum.
7. MERLIN. Falco aesalon, Bris., 1766. French, "Faucon Emerillon."—The pretty little Merlin is a much more common autumnal visitant to the Islands than the Hobby, but, like the Peregrine, the majority of instances are young birds of the year which visit the Islands on their autumnal migration. When I was in Guernsey in November, 1875, two Merlins, both young birds, were brought in to Mr. Couch's. Both were shot in the Vale, and I saw a third near Cobo, but did not shoot it. This also was a young bird. In some years Merlins appear to be more numerous than in others, and this seems to have been one of the years in which they were most numerous. Unlike the Hobby, however, the Merlin does occasionally visit the Islands in the spring, as I saw one at Mr. Jago's, the bird-stuffer in Guernsey, which had been killed at Herm in the spring of 1876. This is now in the collection of Mr. Maxwell, the present owner of Herm. Though the Merlin visits the Islands both in the spring and autumn, I do not know that there is any instance of its having remained to breed, neither do I know of an occurrence during the winter. In the 'Zoologist' for 1875 Mr. Couch, in a communication dated November 29th, 1874, says—"A Merlin—a female—was shot in the Marais, which had struck down a Water Rail a minute or two before it was shot. After striking down the Rail the Merlin flew into a tree, about ten yards from which the man who shot it found the Rail dead. He brought me both birds. The skin of the Rail was broken from the shoulder to the back of the skull."
The more common prey, however, of the Merlin during the time it remains in the Islands is the Ring Dotterell, which at that time of year is to be found in large flocks mixed with Purres and Turnstones in all the low sandy or muddy bays in the Islands.
The Merlin is included in Professor Ansted's list, but only marked as occurring in Guernsey. There is no specimen in the Museum at present.
8. KESTREL. Falco tinnunculus, Linnaeus. French, "Faucon cresserelle."—The Kestrel is by far the commonest hawk in the Islands, and is resident throughout the year. I do not think that its numbers are at all increased during the migratory season. It breeds in the rocky parts of all the Islands. The Kestrel does not, however, show itself so frequently in the low parts—even in the autumn—as on the high cliffs, so probably Ring Dotterell, Purres, and Turnstones do not form so considerable a part of its food as they do of the Merlin. Skylarks, Rock and Meadow Pipits, and, in the summer, Wheatears, with a few rats and mice, seem to afford the principal food of the Kestrel, and to obtain these it has not to wander far from its breeding haunts.
The Kestrel is quite as common in Alderney and Herm, and even in the little Island of Jethou, as it is in Guernsey and Sark. One or two pairs, perhaps more, breed on the before-mentioned rock close to Jethou "La Fauconniere," though a few pairs of Kestrels breeding there would scarcely have been sufficient to give it its name.
It is mentioned in Professor Ansted's list, but only marked as occurring in Guernsey and Sark. There are two specimens, a male and female, in the Museum.
9. SPARROWHAWK. Accipiter nisus, Linnaeus. French, "L'Epervier," "Tiercelet."—The Sparrowhawk, though a resident species and breeding in the Islands, is by no means so common as the Kestrel. In fact, it must certainly be considered rather a rare bird, which perhaps is not to be wondered at, as it is a more tree-breeding bird and less given to nesting amongst the rocks than the Kestrel. It does so sometimes, however, as I saw one fly out of some ivy-covered rocks near Petit Bo Bay the last time I was in the Islands on the 27th of May, 1878. I am certain this bird had a nest there, though the place was too inaccessible to be examined closely. The trees, however, at the Vallon or Woodlands would be much more likely nesting-places, especially as it might have an opportunity of appropriating a deserted nest of a Magpie or a Wood Pigeon, rather a favourite nesting-place of the Sparrowhawk.
Professor Ansted includes the Sparrowhawk in his list, but confines it to Guernsey and Sark; and probably, as a resident and breeding bird, he is right as far as my district is concerned, but I should think it must occasionally occur both in Alderney and Herm, though I have never seen a specimen from either Island, nor have I seen the bird about alive in either. There is one specimen in the Museum.
10. COMMON BUZZARD. Buteo vulgaris, Leach. French, "Buse."—The Buzzard is a tolerably regular, and by no means uncommon, autumnal visitant, specimens occurring from some of the Islands almost every autumn. But it is, I believe, an autumnal visitant only, as I do not know of a single specimen taken at any other time of year, nor can I find a record of one. I have seen examples in the flesh from both Alderney and Herm, in both of which Islands it occurs at least as frequently as it does in Guernsey, though still only as an autumnal visitant.
It is included in Professor Ansted's list, but only marked as occurring in Guernsey, and there is one specimen in the Museum.
11. ROUGHLEGGED BUZZARD. Buteo lagopus, Gmelin. French, "Archibuse pattue" or "Buse pattue."—Though its visits seem not so absolutely confined to the autumn as the Common Buzzard, the Rough-legged Buzzard is a much more uncommon visitant to the Channel Islands, and can only be looked upon as a rare occasional straggler. Mr. MacCulloch informs me that one was killed near L'Hyvreuse, which is perhaps now more commonly known as the New Ground, in Guernsey, about Christmas, 1870, and I found one at the bird-stuffer and carpenter's shop at Alderney, which had been shot by his friend who shot the Greenland Falcon, but I could get no information about the date except that it was late autumn or winter, and about two years ago. These are the only Channel Island specimens of which I have been able to glean any intelligence. Probably, however, it has occurred at other times and been overlooked. As it may have occasionally been mistaken for the more common Common Buzzard, I may say that it is always to be distinguished from that bird by the feathered tarsus. On the wing, perhaps, when flying overhead, the most readily observed distinction is the dark band on the lower part of the breast. I have, however, seen a very dark variety of the Rough-legged Buzzard, in which nearly the whole of the plumage was a uniform dark chocolate-brown, and consequently the dark band on the breast could not be seen even when one had the bird in one's hand, and had it not been for the feathered tarsus this bird might easily have been mistaken for a very dark variety of the Common Buzzard, and when on the wing it would have been impossible to identify it. Indeed, though it was immediately distinguishable from the Common Buzzard by its feathered legs, there was some little difficulty about identifying it, even when handling it as a skin.
Professor Ansted includes the Rough-legged Buzzard in his list, but only marks it as occurring in Guernsey. There is no specimen at present in the Museum.
12. MARSH HARRIER. Circus Oeruginosus, Linnaeus. French, "Busard des Marais."—This seems to be the least common of the Harriers in the Channel Islands, though it does occur occasionally, and perhaps more frequently than is generally supposed.
There are two specimens in the Museum in Guernsey both in immature plumage; in that state, in fact, in which this bird most commonly occurs, and in which it is the Bald Buzzard of Bewick.
Miss C.B. Carey records one in the November number of the 'Zoologist' for 1874 in the following words:—"In the May of this year an adult male Marsh Harrier was found in Herm. Unfortunately it got into the hands of some person who, I believe, kept it too long before bringing it over to be preserved, so that all that remains of it is the head." I had no opportunity of examining this bird myself, not even the head, but I am disposed to doubt its being fully adult, as it seems to me much more probable that it was much in the same state as those in the Museum, in which state it is much more common than in the fully adult plumage. Miss Carey seems only to have seen the head herself, so there may easily have been a mistake on this point.
Mr. MacCulloch writes me word that a Marsh Harrier was killed in Herm in May, 1875. It may be just possible, however, that this is the same bird recorded by Miss C.B. Carey, and that Mr. MacCulloch only heard of it in the May of the following year, and noted it accordingly. This, however, is mere supposition on my part, for which I have no reason except that both birds were said to have been killed in Herm, and both in May.
Professor Ansted mentions the Marsh Harrier in his list, but marks it as only found in Guernsey.
12. HEN HARRIER. Circus cyaneus, Linnaeus. French, "Busard St. Martin."—The Hen Harrier, perhaps, occurs rather more frequently than the Marsh Harrier, but it can only be considered a rare occasional visitant. In June, 1876, I saw one young Hen Harrier, which had been shot in Herm in the April of that year, about the same time as the Iceland Falcon, and by the same keeper, who had brought it to Mr. Couch to stuff. Another was shot in Herm on the 19th of June, 1877. This bird is now in Mr. Maxwell's collection, where I saw it on the 27th of June. It was first reported to me by Mr. Jago, the bird-stuffer in Guernsey.
These are the only two Channel Island specimens of the Hen Harrier which I have been able to find. I have never shot it myself or seen it alive. It is, however, included in Professor Ansted's list, but marked as occurring in Guernsey only.
14. MONTAGU'S HARRIER. Circus cineraceus, Montagu. French, "Busard Montagu," "Busard cendre."—Montagu's Harrier is certainly a more frequent visitant to the Islands than either the Hen Harrier or the Marsh Harrier. Miss C.B. Carey records one in the 'Zoologist' for 1873 as having been shot in Alderney in July of that year. She adds that it was an adult male in full plumage, and that she saw it herself at Mr. Couch's shop. In the 'Zoologist' for 1874 she records another Montagu's Harrier—a young one—shot in Herm in July of that year. She adds that—"It was brought to Mr. Couch to skin. He found a whole Lark's egg, and also the shell of another, in its throat. He showed me how the whole egg was sticking in the empty shell of the broken one."
All the Harriers seem to have a special liking for eggs. In his notice of the Marsh Harrier Professor Newton says, in his edition of Yarrell,' that birds' eggs are an irresistible delicacy; and, in speaking of the food of the present species, he says it consists chiefly of grasshoppers, reptiles, small mammals, birds and their eggs; these last, if their size permit, being often swallowed whole, as was the case in the instance mentioned by Miss Carey. Mr. Howard Saunders also says he can bear witness to the egg-eating propensities of the Harriers.
Besides the two recorded by Miss C.B. Carey, I saw one—a young bird—in Mr. Maxwell's collection, which had been killed at Herm, and another—a young male—at Mr. Jago's, the bird-stuffer, which had also been killed at Herm. There were also two young birds in the bird-stuffer and carpenter's shop at Alderney, both of which had been killed in that Island shortly before my last visit, June, 1878.
As mistakes may occasionally arise in identifying specimens, especially in immature plumage, it may be as well to notice a distinction between the Hen Harrier and Montagu's Harrier, which has been pointed out by Mr. Howard Saunders, and which holds good in all ages and in both sexes. This distinction is, that in the Hen Harrier the outer web of the fifth primary is notched, whereas in Montagu's Harrier it is plain, or, in other words, the Hen Harrier has the exterior web of the primaries, up to and including the fifth, notched, and in Montagu's Harrier this is only the case as far as the fourth. This distinction is very useful in identifying young birds and females, which are sometimes very much alike. In fully adult males the orange markings on the flanks and thighs, and the greyish upper tail-coverts of Montagu's Harrier, distinguish it immediately at a glance from the Hen Harrier, in which those parts are white.
Montagu's Harrier is not included by Professor Ansted in his list, nor is there a specimen in the Museum.
15. LONGEARED OWL. Asiootus, Linnaeus. French, "Hibou vulgaire," "Hibou moyen due."—The Long-eared Owl seems only a very rare and accidental visitant to the Channel Islands. I have never met with it myself, but Mr. Couch records the occurrence of one in the 'Zoologist' for 1875, p. 4296:—"I have a Long-eared Owl, shot at St. Martin's on the 9th of November in that year." This is the only occurrence I can be sure of, except that Mr. Couch, about two years afterwards, sent me a skin of a Guernsey-killed Long-eared Owl; but this may have been the bird mentioned above, as he sent me no date with it.
As it is partially migratory, and its numbers in the British Islands, especially in the Eastern Counties, are increased during the autumn by migratory arrivals, a few may wander, especially in the autumn, to the Channel Islands, but it can only be rarely.
Professor Ansted includes it in his list, and marks it as having been found both in Guernsey and Sark. There is no specimen of the Long-eared Owl at present in the Museum. If there has been one it must have got moth-eaten, like many of the other birds there, and been destroyed.
16. SHORTEARED OWL. Asio accipitrinus, Pallas. French, "Hibou brachyote."—Unlike the Long-eared Owl, the Short-eared Owl is a regular autumnal visitant to the Channel Islands, arriving about October in considerable numbers, but remaining only for a short time, as I do not know of any making their appearance after the end of November, and the majority of those that have arrived seem to pass on about that time, not remaining throughout the winter, and I hear of no instances of their occurring on the spring migration, so the majority must pass north by a different line from that pursued by them on the southern migration.
There is only one specimen at present in the Museum. Professor Ansted mentions it in his list, but only as found in Guernsey and Sark; but it is quite as common in Alderney, from which Island I have seen specimens, and I think also from Herm, but I cannot be quite sure about this, though of course there can be no reason why it should not be found there, as Herm is only three miles as the crow flies from Guernsey.
17. BARN OWL. Aluco flammeus, Linnaeus. French, "Chouette effraie."—I have never seen the Barn or Yellow Owl alive in the Channel Islands myself, but Mr. MacCulloch does not consider it at all rare in Guernsey, and Mr. Jago informs me the Barn Owls have taken possession of a pigeon-hole in a house in the Brock Road opposite his, and that he sees and hears them every night. Some years ago he told me he shot one near the Queen's Tower. He was not scared like the man who shot one in the churchyard, and thought he had shot a cherubim, but he had to give up shooting owls, as the owner of the pigeon-hole where the owls have taken up their abode remonstrated with him, and he has since refrained, though he has had several chances. The vacancy caused by the one being shot was soon filled up.
The Barn Owl is mentioned in Professor Ansted's list, and restricted to Guernsey and Sark. There are two specimens in the Museum, both of which are said to have been killed in Guernsey.
18. REDBACKED SHRIKE. Lanius Collurio, Linnaeus. French, "Pie-grieche ecorcheur."—The Red-backed Shrike may be considered a tolerably regular, but not very common, summer visitant to the Channel Islands. In June, 1876, I several times saw a male bird about the Vallon, in Guernsey. The female no doubt had a nest at the time in the Vallon grounds, but I could not then get in there to search for it.
As the Red-backed Shrike frequently returns to the same place every year, I expected again to find this bird, and perhaps the female and the nest this year, 1878, about the Vallon, but I could see nothing of either birds or nest, though I searched both inside and outside the Vallon grounds.
Young Mr. Le Cheminant, who lives at Le Ree and has a small collection of Guernsey eggs mostly collected by himself in the Island, had one Red-backed Shrike's egg of the variety which has the reddish, or rather perhaps pink, tinge. There were also some eggs in a Guernsey collection in the Museum. These were all of the more ordinary variety. There were also two skins—a male and female—in the Museum. The bird seems rather local in its distribution about the Island, as I never saw one about the Vale in any of my visits, not even this year, 1878, when I was there for two months, and had ample opportunity of observing it had it been there. There are, however, plenty of places nearly as well suited to it in the Vale as about the Vallon or Le Ree. I have never seen it in either of the other Islands, though no doubt it occasionally occurs both in Sark and Herm, if not in Alderney.
Professor Ansted includes the Red-backed Shrike in his list, and marks it only as occurring in Guernsey. I have no evidence of any other Shrike occurring in the Islands, though I should think the Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor, might be an occasional autumn or winter visitant to the Islands; but I have never seen a specimen myself or been able to glean any satisfactory information as to the occurrence of one, either from the local bird-stuffers or from Mr. MacCulloch, or any of my friends who have so kindly supplied me with notes; neither does Professor Ansted mention it in his list.
19. SPOTTED FLYCATCHER. Muscicapa grisola, Linnaeus. French, "Gobe-mouche gris."—The Spotted Flycatcher is a regular and numerous summer visitant, generally quite as numerous in certain localities as in England, its arrival and departure being about the same time. It occurs also in Sark and Herm, and probably in Alderney, but I do not remember having seen one there. In Guernsey it is perhaps a little local in its distribution, avoiding to a great extent such places as the Vale and the open ground on the cliffs, but in all the gardens and orchards it is very common.
Spotted Flycatchers appear, however, to vary in numbers to a certain extent in different years. This year, 1878, they came out in great force, especially on the lawn at Candie where they availed themselves to a large extent of the croquet-hoops, from which they kept a good look-out either for insects on the wing or on the ground, and they might be as frequently seen dropping to the ground for some unfortunate creeping thing that attracted their attention as rising in the air to give chase to something on the wing. Certainly, when I was in Guernsey about the same time in 1866, Spotted Flycatchers did not appear to be quite so numerous as in 1878. This was probably only owing to one of those accidents of wind and weather which render migratory birds generally, less numerous in some years than they are in others, however much they may wish and endeavour, which seems to be their usual rule, to return to their former breeding stations.
Professor Ansted mentions the Spotted Flycatcher in his list, but does not add, as he usually does, any letter showing its distribution through the Islands. This probably is because it is generally distributed through them all. There is no specimen in the Museum.
20. GOLDEN ORIOLE. Oriolus galbula, Linnaeus. French, "Le Loriot."—I have never seen the bird alive or found any record of the occurrence of the Golden Oriole in Guernsey or the neighbouring Islands, and beyond the fact that there was one example—a female—in the Museum (which may have been from Jersey) I had been able to gain no information on the subject except of a negative sort. No specimen had passed through the hands of the local bird-stuffers certainly for a good many years, for Mr. Jago's mother who about twenty or thirty years ago, when she was Miss Cumber, had been for some considerable time the only bird-stuffer in the Island, told me she did not know the bird, and had never had one through her hands. It seemed to me rather odd that a bird which occurs almost every year in the British Islands, occasionally even as far west as Ireland, as a straggler, and which is generally distributed over the continent of Europe in the summer, should be totally unknown in the Channel Islands. Consequently writing to the 'Star' about another Guernsey bird—a Hoopoe—which had been recorded in that paper, I asked for information as to the occurrence of the Golden Oriole in the Islands, and shortly after the following letter signed "Tereus" appeared in the 'Star':—"Concerning the occurrence of the Golden Oriole I cannot speak from my own personal knowledge, but I believe there can be no doubt that the bird has been occasionally seen here. Its presence, however, must be much more rare than that of the Hoopoe, for a bird of such plumage as the Oriole would be more likely to attract even more attention than the comparatively sober-coloured Hoopoe, and if half so common as the latter would be sure to fall before the gun of the fowler. There was a specimen of the female bird in the Museum of the Mechanics' Institution, but I am not sure about its history, and I have some reason to suppose it was shot in Jersey. Our venerable national poet, Mr. George Metivier, has many allusions to the Oriole in his early effusions, whether written in English, French, or our vernacular dialect. It seems to have been an occasional visitor at St. George's; but in Mr. Metivier's early days the island was far more wooded than it is at present, and it is possible that the wholesale destruction of hedgerow elms and the grubbing-up of so many orchards in order to employ the ground more profitably in the culture of early potatoes and brocoli, by which the island has lost much of its picturesque beauty, may have had the effect of deterring some of the occasional visitors from alighting here in their periodical migrations." Signed "Tereus."
A short time after the appearance of this letter in the 'Star' on the 16th of May, 1878, Mr. MacCulloch himself wrote to me on the subject and said:—"I had yesterday a very satisfactory interview with Mr. George Metivier. He is now in his 88th or 89th year. He told me he was about thirteen when he went to reside with his relations, the Guilles, at St. George. There was then a great deal of old timber about the place and a long avenue of oaks, besides three large cherry orchards. One day he was startled by the sight of a male Oriole. He had never seen the bird before. Whether it was that one that was killed or another in a subsequent year I don't know, but he declares that for several years afterwards they were seen in the oak trees and among the cherries, and that he has not the least doubt but that they bred there. One day an old French gentleman of the name of De l'Huiller from the South of France, an emigrant, noticed the birds and made the remark—'Ah! vous avez des loriots ici; nous en avons beaucoup chez nous, ils sont grands gobeurs de cerises.' It would appear from this that cherries are a favourite food with this bird, and the presence of cherry orchards would account for their settling down at St. George. I believe they are said to be very shy, and the absence of wood would account for their not being seen in the present day."
I have no doubt that Mr. MacCulloch is right that the cherry orchards, to say nothing of other fruit trees, tempted the Golden Orioles to remain to breed in the Island, for they are "grand gobeurs" not only of "cerises," but of many other sorts of fruit, particularly of grapes and figs—in grape countries, indeed, doing a deal of damage amongst the vineyards. This damage to grapes would not, however, be much felt in Guernsey, as all the grapes are protected by orchard-houses. But though the grapes are protected, and most, if not all, the cherry orchards cut down, still there is plenty of unprotected fruit in Guernsey to tempt the Golden Oriole to remain in the Islands, and to bring the wrath and the gun of the gardener both to bear upon him when he is there. This, however, only shows that from the time spoken of by Mr. Metivier down to the present time very few Golden Orioles could have visited Guernsey, and still fewer remained to breed; for what with their fruit-eating propensities and their bright plumage, hardly a bird could have escaped being shot and subsequently making its appearance in the bird-stuffers' windows, and affording a subject for a notice in the 'Star,' or some other paper. I think therefore, on the whole, that though Guernsey still affords many temptations to the Golden Oriole, and is sufficiently well-wooded to afford shelter to suit its shy and suspicious habits, yet for some reason or other the bird has not visited the Island of late years even as an accidental visitant, or, if so, very rarely.
The Golden Oriole is mentioned in Professor Ansted's list, and marked as having occurred in Guernsey and Sark, but nothing more is said about the bird. Probably Guernsey was mentioned as a locality on account of the female specimen in the Museum, but with this exception I have never heard of its making its appearance in Sark even as a straggler.
21. DIPPER. Cinclus aquaticus, Bechstein. French, "Aquassiere," "Cincle plongeur."—The Dipper or Water Ouzel, though not very common, less so, indeed, than the Kingfisher, is nevertheless a resident species, finding food all through the year in the clear pools left by the tide, and also frequenting the few inland ponds, especially the rather large ones, belonging to Mr. De Putron in the Vale, where there is always a Dipper or a Kingfisher to be seen, though I do not think the Dipper ever breeds about those ponds—in fact there is no place there which would suit it; but though I have never found the nest myself in Guernsey, I have been informed, especially by Mr. Gallienne, that the Dipper makes use of some of the rocky bays, forming his nest amongst the rocks as it would on the streams of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
Captain Hubboch, however, writes me word he saw one in Alderney in the winter of 1861-62, and there seems no reason why a few should not remain there throughout the year as in Guernsey.
All the Guernsey Dippers I have seen, including the two in the Museum, which are probably Guernsey-killed, have been the common form, Cinclus aquations. The dark-breasted form, Cinclus melanogaster, may occur as an occasional wanderer, though the Channel Islands are somewhat out of its usual range. There being no trout or salmon to be protected in Guernsey, the Dipper has not to dread the persecution of wretched keepers who falsely imagine that it must live entirely by the destruction of salmon and trout ova, though the contrary has been proved over and over again.
Professor Ansted includes the Dipper in his list, but only marks it as occurring in Guernsey.
22. MISTLETOE THRUSH. Turdus viscivorus, Linnaeus. French, "Merle Draine," "Grive Draine."—I quite agree with the remarks made by Professor Newton, in his edition of 'Yarrell,' as to the proper English name of the present species, and that it ought to be called the Mistletoe Thrush. I am afraid, however, that the shorter appellation of Missel Thrush will stick to this bird in spite of all attempts to the contrary. In Guernsey the local name of the Mistletoe Thrush is "Geai," by which name Mr. Metivier mentions it in his 'Dictionary of Guernsey and Norman French.' He also adds that the Jay does not exist in this Island. This is to a certain extent confirmed by Mr. MacCulloch, who says he is very doubtful as to the occurrence of the Jay in the Island, and adds that the local name for the Mistletoe Thrush is "Geai." Mr. Gallienne, in a note to Professor Ansted's list, confirms the scarcity of the Jay, as he says the Rook and the Jay are rarely seen here, although they are indigenous to Jersey. The local name "Geai" may perhaps have misled him as to the occasional appearance of the Jay. I have never seen a real Jay in Guernsey myself.
As far as I am able to judge from occasional visits to the Island for the last thirty years the Mistletoe Thrush has greatly increased in numbers in Guernsey, especially within the last few years, and Mr. MacCulloch and others who are resident in the Island quite agree with me in this. I do not think its numbers are much increased at any time of year by migrants, though a few foreigners may arrive in the autumn, at which time of year considerable numbers of Mistletoe Thrushes are brought into the Guernsey market, where they may be seen hanging in bunches with Common Thrushes, Redwings, Blackbirds, Fieldfares, Starlings, and an occasional Ring Ouzel. Fieldfares and Mistletoe Thrushes usually sell at fourpence each, the rest at fourpence a couple.
Professor Ansted mentions it in his list, but confines it to Guernsey and Sark. This is certainly not now the case, as I have seen it nearly as numerous in Alderney and Herm as any of the other Islands. There is a specimen in the Museum.
23. SONG THRUSH. Turdus musicus, Linnaeus. French, "Grive," "Merle Grive."—Very common and resident in all the Islands, and great is the destruction of snails by Thrushes and Blackbirds—in fact, nowhere have I seen such destruction as in the Channel Islands, especially in Guernsey and Herm, where every available stone seems made use of, and to considerable purpose, to judge from the number of snail-shells to be found about; and yet the gardeners complain quite as much of damage to their gardens, especially in the fruit season, by Blackbirds and Thrushes, as the English gardeners and seem equally unready to give these birds any credit for the immense destruction of snails, which, if left alone, would scarcely have left a green thing in the garden.
The local name of the Thrush is "Mauvis." It is, of course, included in Professor Ansted's list, but with the Fieldfare, Redwing, and Blackbird, marked as only occurring in Guernsey and Sark. All these birds, however, are equally common in Alderney, Herm, and Jethou. There is also a specimen of each in the Museum.
24. REDWING. Turdus iliacus, Linnaeus. French, "Grive mauvis," "Merle mauvis."—A regular and numerous winter visitant to all the Islands, arriving about the end of October, and those that are not shot and brought into the market departing again in March and April.
25. FIELDFARE. Turdus pilaris, Linnaeus. French, "Grive litorne," "Merle litorne."—Like the Redwing, the Fieldfare is a regular and numerous winter visitant, and arrives and departs about the same time.
When in Guernsey in November, 1871, I did not see either Redwings or Fieldfares till a few days after my arrival on the 1st; after that both species were numerous, and a few days later plenty of them might be seen hanging up in the market with the Thrushes and Blackbirds, but for the first few days there were none to be seen there. Probably this was rather a late year, as neither bird could have arrived in any numbers till the first week in November, and in all probability not till towards the end of the week.
26. BLACKBIRD. Turdus merula, Linnaeus. French, "Merle noir."—- The Blackbird is a common and numerous resident in all the Islands in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The Guernsey gardeners, like their brethren in England, make a great fuss about the mischief done by Blackbirds in the gardens, and no doubt Blackbirds, like the Golden Orioles, are "grand gobeurs" of many kinds of fruit; but the gardeners should remember that they are equally "grand gobeurs" of many kinds of insects as well, many of the most mischievous insects to the garden, including wasps (I have myself several times found wasps in the stomach of the blackbird) forming a considerable portion of their food, the young also being almost entirely fed upon worms, caterpillars, and grubs; and when we remember that it is only for a short time of the year that the Blackbird can feed on fruit, which in most cases can be protected by a little care, and that during the whole of the other portion of the year it feeds on insects which would do more damage in the garden than itself, it will be apparent that the gardener has really no substantial ground of complaint.
As in England, variations in the plumage of the Blackbird are not uncommon. I have one Guernsey specimen of a uniform fawn colour, and another rather curiously marked with grey, the tail-feathers being striped across grey and black. This is a young bird recently out of the nest, and I have no doubt would, after a moult or two, have come to its proper plumage, probably after the first moult, as seems to me frequently the case with varieties of this sort, though I have known a Blackbird show a good deal af white year after year in the winter, resuming its proper plumage in the summer; and Mr. Jago mentions a case of a Blackbird which passed through his hands which was much marked with grey. This bird was found dead, and the owner of the estate on which it was found informed Mr. Jago that it had frequented his place for four years, and that he had seen it with its mate during the summer; so in this case the variation certainly seems to have been permanent.
27. RING OUZEL. Turdus torquatus, Linnaeus. French, "Merle a plastron."—I do not think the Ring Ouzel is ever as common in the Channel Islands as it is on migration in South Devon. A few, however, make their appearance in each of the Islands every autumn, but they are never very numerous, and do not remain very long, arriving generally about the end of September and remaining till the end of November or beginning of December, during which time a few may always be seen hung up in the market. Many of the autumnal arrivals are young birds of the year, with the white crescent on the breast nearly wanting or only very faintly marked.
Mr. Gallienne, in his remarks appended to Professor Ansted's list, says the Ring Ouzel stays with us throughout the year, but is more plentiful in winter than in summer. But I have never myself seen one either dead or alive in the spring or summer. It may, however, occasionally visit the Island in the spring migration, but I know of no authentic instance of its remaining to breed, nor have I seen the eggs in any Guernsey collection. I have seen specimens of the Ring Ouzel from Alderney, and it appears to me about equally common at the same time of year in all the Islands. Mr. MacCulloch, however, writes to me:—"From what I have heard the Ring Ouzel is more common in Alderney than Guernsey, where it is seen mostly on the southern cliffs." The south end of the Island is no doubt its favourite resort in Guernsey. As far as Alderney is concerned Captain Hubback, R.A., who has been quartered there at different times, says he has never seen one there; but I do not think he has been much there in the early autumn.
Professor Ansted includes it in his list, and marks it as occurring in Guernsey and Sark. There are several, both male and female and young, in the Guernsey Museum.
28. HBDGESPARROW. Accentor modularis, Linnaeus. French, "Mouchet," "Traine buisson," "Accenteur mouchet."—The Hedgesparrow is, I think, quite as common as in England, and resident throughout the year in all the Islands. According to Mr. Metivier's 'Dictionary' its local name is "Verdeleu," and he describes it as "Oiseau qui couvre les oeufs de Coucou." In Guernsey, however, Cuckoos are much too numerous for the Hedgesparrow to afford accommodation for them all.
Professor Ansted mentions the Hedgesparrow in his list, but restricts it to Guernsey and Sark. I have, however, frequently seen it in Alderney and Herm, and the little Island of Jethou.
29. ROBIN. Ericathus rubecula, Linnaeus. French. "Bec-fin rouge-gorge," "Rouge gorge." The Robin, like the Hedgesparrow, is a common resident in all the Islands, and I cannot find that its numbers are increased at any time of year by migration. But on the other hand I should think a good many of the young must be driven off to seek quarters elsewhere by their most pugnacious parents, for of all birds the Robin is by far the most pugnacious with which I am acquainted, and deserves the name of "pugnax" much more than the Ruff, and in a limited space like Jethou and Herm battles between the old and the young would be constant unless some of the young departed altogether from the Island.
Professor Ansted includes the Robin in his list, but, as with the Hedgesparrow, only mentions it as occurring in Guernsey and Sark. It is, however, equally common in Alderney, Jethou, and Herm.
30. REDSTART. Ruticilla phoenicurus, Linnaeus. French, "Rouge-queue," "Bec-fin des murailles."—I should not have included the Redstart in this list, as I have never seen it in the Islands myself, but on sending a list of the birds I intended to include to Mr. MacCulloch, he wrote to say—"You mention Tithy's Redstart; the common one is also seen here." In consequence of this information I looked very sharply out for the birds during the two months (June and July) which I was in Guernsey this year (1878), but I never once saw the bird in any of the Islands, nor could I find any one who had; and such a conspicuous and generally well known bird could hardly have escaped observation had it been in the Island in any numbers. I may add that I have had the same bad luck in all my former visits to the Islands, and never seen a Redstart. I suppose, however, from Mr. MacCulloch's note that it occasionally visits the Islands for a short time on migration, very few, if any, remaining to breed.
It is included in Professor Ansted's list, but only marked as occurring in Guernsey. There is, however, no specimen at present in the Museum.
31. BLACK REDSTART. Ruticilla titys, Scopoli. French, "Rouge queue Tithys."—The Black, or Tithys Redstart, as it is sometimes called, is a regular and by no means uncommon autumnal visitant to Guernsey. It seems very much to take the place of the Wheatear, arriving about the time the Wheatear departs, and mostly frequenting the same places. In Guernsey it is most common near the sea about the low part of the Island, from L'ancresse Common to Perrelle Bay. In habits it puts one very much in mind of the Wheatear, being very fond, like that bird, of selecting some big stone or some other conspicuous place to perch on and keep a look-out either for intruders or for some passing insect, either flying or creeping, for it is an entirely insect-feeding bird.
I have never seen the Black Redstart about the high part of the Island amongst the rocks, which I am rather surprised at, as in the south coast of Devon it seems particularly partial to high cliffs and rocks, such as the Parson and Clerk Rock near Teignmouth; but in Guernsey the wild grassy commons, with scattered rocks and large boulders, and occasionally a rough pebbly beach, especially the upper part of it where the pebbles join the grass, seem more the favourite resort of this bird than the high rocks, such places probably being more productive of food. It is of course quite useless to look for this bird in the interior of the Island in gardens and orchards, and such places as one would naturally look for the Common Redstart.
The male Black Redstart may be immediately distinguished from the Common Redstart by the black breast and belly, and by the absence of the white mark on the forehead. The male Black Redstart has also a white patch on the wing caused by the pale, nearly white, margins of the feathers. The females are more alike, but still may easily be distinguished, the general colour of the female Black Redstart being much duller—a dull smoke-brown instead of the reddish brown of the Common Redstart.
Some slight variations of plumage take place in the Black Redstart at different ages and seasons, which have led to some little difficulties, and to another supposed species, Ruticilla cairii of Gerbe being suggested, but apparently quite without reason. I have never seen the Black Redstart in the Islands at any time of year except the autumn, and do not know of its occurrence at any other time.
Professor Ansted includes it in his list, but gives no locality; and there is no specimen in the Museum.
32. STONECHAT. Pratincola rubicola, Linnaeus. French, "Tarier rubicole," "Traquet patre," "Traquet rubicole."—The Stonechat is a numerous and regular summer visitant, breeding in all the Islands, but I do not think any remain throughout the winter; of course a few scattered birds may occasionally do so in some sheltered locality, but I have never seen one in the Islands as late as November. Both in the Vale and on the Cliffs in the higher part of the Island the Stonechat is very common, and the gay little bird, with its bright plumage and sprightly manner, may be seen on the top of every furze bush, or on a conspicuous twig in a hedge in the wilder parts of the Island, but is not so common in the inland and more cultivated parts, being less frequently seen on the hedges by the roadside than it is here, Somersetshire, or in many counties in England. In Alderney it is quite as common as in Guernsey, and I saw two nests this year (1878) amongst the long grass growing on the earthworks near the Artillery Barracks; it is equally common also both in Jethou, Sark, and Herm.
There were a great many Stonechats in the Vale when I was there this year (1878). Generally they seemed earlier in their breeding proceedings than either Wheatears, Tree Pipits, or Sky Larks, which were the three other most numerous birds about that part of the Island, as there were several young ones about when we first went to live in the Vale early in June; still occasionally nests with eggs more or less hard sat might be found, but the greater number were hatched when fresh eggs of Tree Pipits and Sky Larks were by no means uncommon.
Professor Ansted includes the Stonechat in his list, but marks it as confined to Guernsey and Sark. There is a specimen in the Museum.
33. WHINCHAT. Pratincola rubetra, Linnaeus. French, "Tarier ordinaire," "Traquet tarier."—The Whinchat seems to me never so numerous as the Stonechat, and more local in its distribution during the time it is in the Islands. It is only a summer visitant, and I doubt if it always remains to breed, though it certainly does so occasionally, as I have seen it in Guernsey through June and July mostly in the south part of the Island, near Pleimont. In my last visit to the Islands, however, in June and July, 1878, I did not see the Whinchat anywhere, neither did I see one when there in June, 1876.
Professor Ansted includes the Whinchat in his list, and marks it as occurring in Guernsey and Sark. There is no specimen in the Museum.
34. WHEATEAR. Saxicola Oenanthe, Linnaeus. French, "Motteux cul blanc," "Traquet moteux."—A very common summer visitant to all the Islands, arriving in March and departing again in October, none remaining through the winter—at least, I have never seen a Wheatear in the Islands as late as November on any occasion. In the Vale, where a great many breed, the young began to make their appearance out of the nest and flying about, but still fed by their parents, about the 16th of June. In Guernsey it is rather locally distributed, being common all round the coast, both on the high and low part of the Island, but only making its appearance in the cultivated part in the interior as an occasional straggler. It is quite as common in Alderney and the other Islands as it is in Guernsey, in Alderney there being few or no enclosures, and no hedgerow timber. It is more universally distributed over the whole Island, in the cultivated as well as the wild parts.
Professor Ansted includes it in his list, but marks it as only occurring in Guernsey and Sark. There are several specimens in the Museum, but I did not see any eggs either there or in young Le Cheminant's collection. This is probably because in Guernsey the Wheatear has a great partiality for laying its eggs under large slabs and boulders of granite perfectly immovable; the stones forming one of the Druids' altars in the Vale, were made use of to cover a nest when I was there.
35. REED WARBLER. Acrocephalus streperus, Vieillot. French, "Rousserolle effarvatte," "Bec-fin des roseaux."—I did not find out the Reed Warbler as a Guernsey bird till this year (1878), though it is a rather numerous but very local summer visitant. But Mr. MacCulloch put me on the right track, as he wrote to me to say—"The Reed Warbler builds in the Grand Mare. I have seen several of their curious hanging nests brought from there." This put me on the right scent, and I went to the place as soon as I could, and found parts of it a regular paradise for Reed Warblers, and there were a considerable number there, who seemed to enjoy the place thoroughly, climbing to the tops of the long reeds and singing, then flying up after some passing insect, or dropping like a stone to the bottom of the reed-bed if disturbed or frightened. On my first visit to the Grand Mare I had not time to search the reed-beds for nests. But on going there a second time, on June 17, with Colonel l'Estrange, we had a good search for nests, and soon found one with four eggs in it which were quite fresh. This nest was about three feet from the ground, tied on to four reeds, and, as usual, having no support at the bottom, was made entirely of long dry bents of rather coarse grass, and a little of the fluff of the cotton plant woven amongst the bents outside, but none inside. We did not find any other nests in the Grand Mare, though we saw a great many more birds; the reeds, however, were very thick and tall, high over our heads, so that when we were a few feet apart we could not see each other, and the place was full of pitfalls with deep water in them, which were very difficult to be seen and avoided. Many of the nests, I suspect, were amongst the reeds which were growing out of the water. Subsequently, on July the 12th, I found another Reed Warbler's nest amongst some reeds growing by Mr. De Putron's pond near the Vale Church; this nest, which was attached to reeds of the same kind as those at the Grand Mare, growing out of water about a foot deep: it was about the same height above the water that the other was from the ground; it had five eggs in it hard sat. There were one or two pairs more breeding amongst these reeds, though I could not very well get at the place without a boat, but the birds were very noisy and vociferous whenever I got near their nests, as were the pair whose nest I found. There were also a few pairs in some reed-beds of the same sort near L'Eree.
These are all the places in which I have been able to find the Reed Warbler in Guernsey. I have not found it myself in Alderney, but Mr. Gallienne, in his remarks published with Professor Ansted's list, says:—"I have put the Reed Wren as doubtful for Guernsey, but I have seen the nest of this bird found at Alderney." In the list itself it is marked as belonging to Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark.