[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]
P. G. RALFE.
15th January, 1925.
Much cf the matter contained in this paper has, from time to time, appeared outside the Island, but probably few of our members have seen it, and it seems not unsuitable that, looked at from a somewhat different point of view, it should be contri- buted to the Society's transactions, especially as, of late years, very little relating to Natural History has been published. Recently, thz study of Ornithology has been much complicated by the general recognition of ' sub-species,' closely related forms into v ljich many species have been regarded as divisible on their closer inspection by keen discriminators. These forms are sometimes difficult to distinguish even by the expert, and some of them can hardly be considered as satisfactorily estab- iished; but their separation, when possible, tends to throw a flood of light on bird life. There is, for instance, a slight, but generally distinguishable, variation of the British (bred) Robin and the British (bred) Song Thrush from the typical Continental bird. Technical examination of Manx examples would inform us whether any of our winter Robins and Thrushes are migrants from the Continent, or, on the other hand, whether ou: birds at all seasons are of a stationary Manx, or, at least British, stock. As yet we know comparatively little of the facts of migration in, or over, the Island, but our know- ledge should be materially improved by the investigation now begun by the Museum Trustees into the occurrences of birds at the Manx Lighthouses.
For want of a better starting-point, these Notes begin, in general, from the time of the publication of the writer's book on Manx Birds, 1905.
MISSEL THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus).-Since 1905 many nests on rocks, ruins, quarry ledges, etc., have been reported. In 1906, for instance, there was on a low cliff near Langness Lighthouse, one rendered very conspicuous by streamers of vhite tape and a long tag of fishing line. On Scarlett quarry there have been nests on a beam bridging a gap, and on a 'crane ' which formed part of the machinery: In 1915, Mr, J . B. Keig found a nest on the rail of a cart in the farmyard at Ballabeg, Ballaugh. It successfully hatched out.
SONG THRUSH (Turdus musicus).-The late Mr. J. M. Jeffcott, in a manuscript note-book kindly lent me by his daughter, Mrs. Roberts, mentions a Thrush nesting three times in the same nest in his garden, with broods of 5, 4, and 2 (from 3 eggs), respectively.
WHEATEAR (Saxicola aenanthe).-There can be no doubt that many of our migrant Wheatears are of the large or Greenland form (S. leucorrhoa), one of the few passerine birds which in summer. visit the Far North. Mr. H. Laidlaw saw this form frequently at Maughold Head and Point of Ayre lights, and has a Manx specimen.
WHINCHAT (Pralincola rubetra).-Whinchats are seen by many observers in various localities at migration time.
REDSTART (Ruticilla phoenicurus).-This species may also be looked upon as a regular visitant on migration, and is especially of frequent occurrence at the lights. But nothing is reported of its breeding in the Isle of Man.
BLACK REDSTART (Ruticilla titys).-Specimens were obtained at Ramsey in the winters 1906-7 and 1923-4, and there are several othex records of its occurrrence.
LESSER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia curruca).-Mr. J. Bell possesses undoubted eggs of this species, taken in Andreas, 1908.
BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla),-This species has been several times reported as seen.
GARDEN WARBLER (Sylvia hortensis).-Mr. Bell several times had specimens from the Point of Ayre light, and even kept one alive for some time. Mr T. H. Graves observed one in his garden in 1921. The status of the bird in Man is still very uncertain; records of breeding fail, and persons acquainted with the habits, and especially with the fine song, of this and the last species would do well to look for and record occurrences.
CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus rufus).-Now at least quite frequent in wooded localities.
WOOD WARBLER (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)-The wood at Ballacowle mentioned in 'Birds of the Isle of Man ' (p. 27) was completely cut down during the war. But the very characteristic song of the Wood Warbler has since been heard at various places, especially in the North of the Island.
DIPPER (Cinclus aqualicus).-A slight difference exists between the Irish (now separated as C. a. hibernicus) and the British forms, the former having less red on the under parts and a more uniform upper plumage. One Manx specimen 'November, 1923) is pronounced by Mr. H. F. Witherby. to be typically Irish, and another (November, 1915) to incline to that form. Two further specimens in the Manx Museum seem to me to accord rather with British birds.
COAL TITMOUISE (Parus ater).-An Irish form (P. a. hibernicus) has been distinguished on account of the yellower tint of the white portons of the plumage and of the buff on the flanks and under tail coverts. So far as I can judge by the few specimens I have been able to examine, our birds belong to the British form, which some Coal Tits from N.E. Ireland also resemble.
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba).-The species is seen yearly on migration, so far as I know always on the coasts. As one of the small birds which are regular migrants to the Færoes and Iceland, this is to be expected. In spring, the adult birds are easily recognised by the pure grey of the upper surface; in the winter and juvenile plumages, it is very liable to be confused with the resident Pied Wagtail,
YELLOW WAGTAIL (Motacilla raii).-This Wagtail, though apparently strangely scarce, must surely appear each year on migration. My personal experience of it is limited to two or three occasions. It is of very local occurrence in Ireland.
TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis).-This bird might be expected to be found on our wooded hillsides and in our better cultivated glens, but my only note of it is in 1911, when Messrs. F, S. Graves and M. V. Wenner saw and heard one at Injebreck.
WAXWING (Ampelis garrulus).-There have been a few recent records. Mr. J. Gale took one at Ramsey in the winter, 1906-7. It died in 1908, and has been given to the Manx Museum.
GOLDFINCH (Carduelis elegans).-Birds, and occasionally nests, continue to be reported from various localities, but there does not appear to be any material increase.
TWITE (Linota flavirostris).-Mr. Bell and others have met with the Twite both on the lowland and the mountains, especially on the sandy wastes of the north coast. Mr, Bell recorded a nest in our proceedings, (New Series, Vol. I, p. 460.)
CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra).-The bird, taken at Ramsey in 1901 lived till 1915. There was little change in its plumage; it sang until about a year before its death. In 1909, a small flock was seen at Glenduff, in Lezayre.
CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax graculus).-The building figured at P. 314 of 'Birds of the Isle of Man ' has been pulled down, and another in the same neighbourhood, which, in succeeding years, housed probably the same pair of birds, has lately collapsed. But other sites continue to be regularly tenanted. One of these, in an opening of an old mine-working, in a lonely inlet of the west coast, is peculiarly inaccessible.
CARRION CROW (Cornus corone).-In two successive years (1923. and 1924), Mr. F. S. Graves has had under observation
a pair, of which one belonged to the above form, while the other was a 'greyback ' (C. cornix). On the former occasion the
breeding seemed to be disturbed, but in 1924 four young were hatched.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Jeffcott, long ago, stated 'An intelligent yeoman . . . also assured me that he had known a Hooded Crow to pair with a Black Crow; they had nested in a plantation close to his house, and the eggs had been hatched by the black bird,'
RAVEN (Cornus corax).-The Raven seems to hold its own. Considerable gatherings are reported from time to time. A nest on a very .precipitous and inaccessible position on the Northern sandcllffs, which Mr. J. D, Clague found in 1923, was a rather unexpected occurrence.
ROOK (Cornus frugilegus).-Great alterations took place in Manx rookeries during the war years. Some large settlements were entirely exterminated and others much reduced. There appears now to be only one rookery in Andreas and none in Bride. A somewhat inadequate attempt at an up-to-date list of the colonies, still very numerous, is made in the author's 'Supplement,'
It is questionable whether the attack on the species has been based on any scientific estimate of its comparative injuries or services to agriculture.
SWIFT (Cypselus apus).-In 1915 I, for the first time, noticed Swifts at Ramsey, where Mr. Bell has since given me details of their nesting. In 1918, after an absence of some 10 years, the Castletown colony re-appeared.
NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus europaeus).-Mr. F. A. Craine says that two eggs were taken at Greeba some years ago. Other nests have been found there, and through the summer of 1920 Mr. T. H. Graves constantly heard the churning of the bird on the hill above Lezayre Church.
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopus major).-The Nunnery specimen in the Museum belongs to the Northern continental form (D. m. major), not the British, from which it is distinguished by the stouter bill and larger size (wing 140 mm.). Witherby thinks that all Irish specimens will be found to belong to the same form, which is somewhat vagrant in winter.
KINGFISHER (Alcedo ispida).--"The late Mr. H. H. Spencer, as I am told by his sister (Mrs. Sugden), found a nest and eggs 30 years ago on the Sulby. Mr. H. M. Rogers found another nest with eggs a few years ago on a small stream near Douglas.
HOOPOE (Upupa epops).-The Langness specimen still exists in good condition in Miss Mylchreest's house at Castletown, perhaps the oldest stuffed specimen on the Island, for its true date, according to a label in the case, is August, 1826.
CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus).-Little has been recorded of the economy of the species in Man. It may be mentioned that beside the Meadow Pipit, the Sedge Warbler (Mr. M. V. Wenner), and the Hedge Sparrow (Mr. J. Bell) have been ascertained as foster parents.
BARN OWL (Strix flammea).-One was obtained at Grenaby, Malew, January, 1914 (late Mr. J. C. Bacon).
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio brachyotus).-Nests have been found in the Curragh in 1908 (Messrs. W. E. Teschemaker, F. Harris, and M. McWhannell), and in 1921 (Mr. McWhannell). Brit. Birds, Dec., 1909; March, 1924. Nesting is also reported at Greeba and Archallagan.
HEN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus).-The handsome adult male shot at Ballagarraghan, in the spring of 1906, as recorded in 'British Birds,' March, 1910, has, unfortunately, perished. A female from the Ballaugh Curragh, obtained in December, 1921, has been loaned to the Museum by Col. Madoc.
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo vulgaris)_A boatman caught a sick or injured specimen on the rocks of the Calf, in June, 1907, which died after a short captivity. In the winter of the same year another, which haunted Greeba Curragh, was shot. (F. S. Graves).
EAGLE (sp.).-Some interesting reminiscences have been communicated to me by Messrs S, T. Gelling, of Braddan, and T. L. Lace, of Wigan, respecting the breeding of Eagles on Greeba Rocks. About 1818 Mr. Gelling's father went with a friend to take a young bird from a nest there, which, however, escaped them. Mr. Lace's mother also remembered the eyrie probably about 1835.
In a contribution to ' Mannin ' (No. 9, p. 525), Mr. G. W. Wood quotes a letter of Governor Newell, dated 1676, which states that 'there is of late an eagle coming into this isle, which is a fowl that very seldom and scarce in an age cometh here, it being a place where never any such birds useth to breed.' The presence of the Eagle was considered lucky, and care taken to preserve it. The statement is surprising, considering the later records of Eagles as residents.
The young White-tailed Eagle from Greeba, taken in 1907, is familiar to us in the Museum.
HONEY BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus).-The Buzzard taken in Glen Auldyn, June, 1907, presented to the Isle of Man Natural History Soociety, by Mr. Berey, has proved to be of this species. This is a dark specimen, the first record for Man.
PEREGRINE (Falco peregrinus).-An entry in the Manorial Roll (1511) shows that Robert Calcote paid xiid, Lords Rent for a Hawkhouse, with garden, at Castletown.
In 1595 Sir Thomas Gerrard, 'Captain ' writes that he found ' three Falcons and one ' Tassell,' kept in the Island, probably at Castletown (Hatfield MS.). Some information about these
'Royal Falcons' is supplied by Mr. G. H. Wood in ' Mannin,' No. 9, where a letter of Governor Newell (1676) shows that a Falconer was kept, and the nesting sites of the birds carefully watched.
HERON (Ardea cinerea).-In 1902 Mr. F. S. Graves learned that there was a nest in a larch tree at Injebreck, and young were hatched.
Mrs. J. M. Jeffcott, of Castletown, remembered being told by an old man that (say loo years ago) there was a herony at the Crofts in Castletown.
OSPREY (Pandion hahaetus),-The Osprey, obtained 26th March; 1924, and now in the Museum, is recorded in journal of the Manx Museum, No. 2.
WHOOPER SWAN (Cygnus musicus),-A mature specimen, shot on a pond at Andreas, in March, 1924.
BEWICKS SWAN (Cygnus bewicki).-In November, 1923, one was killed in the Curraghs, and through Mr. J. Bell, came to the Manx Museum.
BITTERN (Botaurus stellaris)-In 1908 a specimen was pro- cured in Ballaugh Curragh, and in 1909 one in Aust Meadows. In 1921 a third was killed in the Sulby Curragh, and is now lent to the Manx Museum by Col. Madoc.
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus).-The only identified Manx specimen was shot at Ronaldsway, on ist March, 1916, by Mr. W.Kissack.
We have still Little evidence as to the species of the Wild Geese which visit us each winter.
GADWALL (Chaulelasmus streperus),-A fine male specimen, now in the Museum, was shot by Mr. E. Turner, at Langness, 6th November. 1911.
TUFTED DUCK (Fuligula cristata).-Several specimens have been shot and seen in recent years.
TURTLE DOVE (Turtur communis).-A specimen in the Museum was killed about 10th November, 1918, at Knock- rushen, Castletown-an unusually late date.
PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus).-Large numbers have been introduced in the North of the Island, and stragglers, sometimes nesting, are now frequent.
QUAIL (Coturnix conimunis).-Occurrences have been frequent, though irregular. Reported in 1908, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1919, 1921.
BLACK GROUSE (Tetmo tetrix),-Recently introduced by Mr. Blackwell, on the Ballaugh hills, from which a few specimens seem to have wandered, but are thought now to be extinct.
WATER RAIL (Rallus aquaticus)-During migration takes shelter in strange localities. I roused one from under a boulder on Scarlett Poiont. On 20th October, 1922, one was killed by striking the light on Peel Breakwater (F. S. Graves),
CORN CRAKE (Crex pratensis).-..A few more winter occurrences have been noted. One was caught in Castle Street, Douglas, early on a February morning, and in January, 1915, another at Shervalla, Patrick. I have seen one, no doubt wearied on migration, resting on the stonework of the outer pier at Castletown.
WOODCOCK (Seolopax rusticula).--In recent years the breeding of Woodcock in various localities, especially in the Crown Plantations, has been abundantly attested.
SANDERLING (Calidris arenaria)-Recently I have met with the species in small parties both on the north and south coasts. A specimen killed on 30th May, 1919, on Snaefell, probably by striking the electric wires, is m the Museum, and is reported in Ornithological Notes (Proc. N.S. vii.)
REDSHANK (Tolanus calidris).--A pair was undoubtedly nesting in 1915 at the Lagagh, Andreas, and Mr. Bell thinks there have been other instances in the North. The species has increased on our coast.
CURLEW (Numenuis arguata).-Seems to have increased as a breeding species; at least a good many now nest both in the Curragh and on the high lands overlooking it.
COMMON TERN (Sterna fluviatilis).-Until 1911 I was not clear that more than one species of medium sized Tern nested on the Island. But in that year Mr. M. V, Wenner ascertained beyond dispute that at least a pair of the above species bred near but apart from the colony of Arctic Terns, The settle- ment has since been seen by Mr. C. H. Wells, Mr. J, Bell, and myself. The clutch commonly consisted of three eggs, and was laid at some distance from the tide edge, both circum- stances characteristic of the Common Tern. Considering the difficulty of discriminating the species, and the shifting nature of the colonies, it is difficult to state what the relative proportions may now be.
LITTLE TERN (Sterna minuta).-For some years the Little Tern has bred or attempted to breed in very considerable numbers, and there has been a smaller settlement five or six miles distant from the original one.
KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla).-In 1921 the Calf colony had disappeared, but there is now a large and flourishing settle- ment on the opposite cliffs of the mainland. This was first pointed out to me in 1907.
HERRING GULL (Layus argentatus),-In May, 1917, protec- tive legislation was amended to enable the Governor to make orders allowing Gulls eggs to be taken, and such orders were issued in that and several succeeding years, but the numbers of the species seem as large as ever.
In several instances, as noted by Mr. J. B. Keig, Mr. W. E. Cottier, and Col, Madoc, Herring Gulls have lately nested in the central hills, and Mr. G. Preston, H.K., reports an attempt to nest, in 1927, on a house at Laxey.
COMMON GULL (Layus canus).:-Little has been known in the Isle of Man of this inappropriately-named species, but con- siderable numbers are at times to be met with on the Northern sands; usually associated with Black-headed Gulls.
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (Layus marinus).-Since 1911, when Mr. T. Taylor found a nest on the west coast,. this large and handsome Gull has been found breeding in various locali- ties, often on isolated stacks.
GREAT SKUA (Stercorarius calarrhactes).-A specimen was caught on a baited hook off Maughold Head in 1910. (See Proc. 1909-10, Zool. Report.)
LEACH'S FORK-TAILED PETREL (Procellaria leucorrhoa).-One was picked up in the streets of Douglas, 5th December, 1905, and is in Mr. G. Corlett's possession (Zool., 1906, p. 194).
MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus anglorum),-The species is seen sometimes in great numbers in the Irish Sea, as reported by Mr. C. Oldham, Mr. F. S. Graves, and Mr. H. B. Booth (Zool., 1908, p. 429 ; Brit. Birds, 1909 p. 218, 1912, p. 314).
Various references to the Lord's 'Puffins' on the Calf are to be found in A. W. Moore's ' Notes and Documents,' p.p. 29, 38, 56.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus).-Has been a number of times recorded, at various periods of the year, and always on the coast.
SLAVONIAN GREBE (Podiceps aurilus).-There are two more records during the period.
COMMON GUILLEMOT (Lomvia troibe).-A few specimens of the 'Ringed' variety have been recognized among our Manx birds. Closer examination would probably. show more with this variation, which consists of a narrow white ring round the eye and a white streak from the eye to the beak.
LITTLE AUK (Mergulus alle).-Several storm-driven specimens of this little wanderer have been brought to light. Mr. S. Morrison has given one killed on board a Peel fishing boat to the Museum.
It will be noted that the last twenty years has seen a number of additions to the Manx list, all, however, of rare stragglers. More interesting, perhaps, are the new records of species as breeding. The spectacular features of Manx ornithology, the fine colonies of sea birds, the comparative conspicuousness of species like the Peregrine Falcon, Chough, and Raven, are now well known. But there is yet much to be learned about our smaller birds, and the attention of ornithologists will be well directed to the Titmice, the Warblers, the Flycatchers, the Pipits, the Siskin, and the Yellow Wagtail.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB
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