[From Birds of the IoM, 1905]
THE fauna of an island, with its sharp definition, must usually be of greater interest than that of a mainland area of equal size.
Man, so peculiarly situated within sight of all four great divisions of Britain, yet separated from each by a stormy, though narrow, sea, and containing within its small extent much diversity of surface, has perhaps a more than ordinary claim to the attention of British naturalists, to whom, nevertheless, it long remained an almost unknown land.
In making the first attempt to deal on a somewhat extended scale with the bird life of my native isle, I am well aware that my work must contain many imperfections and uncertainties, and even, though I have striven to be as little dogmatic as possible, some inaccuracies. I may at least claim the advantages of a life-long residence in Man, and of familiarity with every portion of it. In time to come the fauna of Man, then perhaps not a little altered also, will be more fully known, and the value of its distinctive features more justly estimated. In the meantime, with the hope that this volume may be a means of arousing interest and observation toward that end, it is offered to all who take pleasure in the study of one of the most fascinating branches of natural science in one of the most delightful of British districts.
I have supposed in my readers a certain degree of acquaintance with the subject of British ornithology, and have refrained from attempting to describe, or even diagnose, the Manx species. To carry out such a task thoroughly and efficiently presents no small difficulty, if I may judge from the many discrepancies and omissions found in comparing works on popular lines. Such descriptions, to be really useful to the learner, would also have unduly increased the bulk of the volume, and have been unacceptable to most of those into whose hands it may fall. Those who require an elementary knowledge of our bird fauna may be referred to such standard works as those of 'Yarrell,' Dresser, and Seebohm, or to the more concise and less expensive 'Manual' of Mr. H. Saunders, Mr. W. H. Hudson's British Birds, the cheap and graphically written (but unfortunately in some respects out of date) work of C. A. Johns, British Birds in their Haunts, and the excellent shilling Manual by the late regretted H. A. Macpherson.
I have, however, endeavoured to emphasise everything relating to a bird, which is peculiar to it, or characteristic of it, as Manx; and to such species as have special interest (from their general rarity as British or otherwise) particular attention has been directed, and the account of their haunts and habits in Man made as complete as possible.
I have thought it suitable to add a somewhat detailed, though brief, topographical sketch of the island's physical features. It will be observed that they have much affinity with those of many districts of northern England and southern Scotland, yet with a difference in which perhaps is dominant the ever-present sense of the nearness of the surrounding sea. Both naturally and artificially, the landscape of Man, like its life, has a strong national character, out of all proportion to the insignificant size of the isle.
In the preparation of the work, I have met with assistance from many friends and correspondents in all parts of the island and outside it, too numerous to mention here, but whose names will be found attached to the items of information furnished, and to whom I have to express my grateful appreciation of their interest in my labour, and the ready and painstaking way in which they have furthered it. I cannot, however, omit here a special acknowledgment to Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, of Ramsey, whose previous lists, afterwards mentioned in more detail, have supplied a groundwork for this book; Mr. J. C. Crellin, H.K., of Ballachurry: Messrs. F. W. Leach and G. Adams, of Douglas (to the latter of whom I owe much for bringing under my notice many specimens which from time to time have passed through his hands as a taxidermist). Mr. A. Allison has taken much trouble to procure me information from the interesting Maughold district.
My particular thanks are due to Mr. F. S. Graves, of Alderley Edge, for the numerous notes contributed by him from his long and intimate knowledge of the bird life of his native island, and especially of the Peel district, and also for permission to reproduce photographs of many of the scenes described. Many of the observations given in my own name were also made in the company of Mr. Graves (I may particularly mention those noted during our stay on the Calf in 1901), and he has looked over the entire draft of the volume, and made a number of suggestions-the results of which are incorporated in the text.
A picture of the nest of the Herring Gull is by Mr. T. H. Graves.
To Mr. F. Izant, of Redhill, and Mr. James Kewley, of King William's College, I am also indebted for liberty to reproduce a number of their beautiful photographs of Manx scenery. Mr. G. B. Cowen, of Ramsey, has spared no pains in endeavouring to provide me with other desired illustrations.
Mr. J. M. Nicholson has furnished the title-page, representing a familiar and picturesque scene, usually the first to meet the eye of the visitor to Man.
Finally, I would record my sense of the care and courtesy of my publisher, Mr. Douglas, in superintending the course of publication, rendering me advice and assistance, and endeavouring to carry out my wishes in many details of the work.
P. G. RALFE.
CASTLETOWN, ISLE OF MAN,
October 1, 1905.