Alfred Charles Smith.

The birds of Wiltshire. Comprising all the periodical and occasional visitants, as well as those which are indigenous to the county online

. (page 1 of 53)
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I







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m



I







THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA



PRESENTED BY

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID



A-



THE



BIRDS OF WILTSHIRE.



COMPRISING

tlye ^eriofcical and ^ccasicwal
as well as ffjose wl)icl) are indigenous
to tl)c ounfp.



BY THE

KEY. ALFRED CHARLES SMITH, M.A.,

Christ Church, Oxford ; Rector of Yatesbury ; Member of the British

Ornithologists Union ; Hon. Sec. of the Wiltshire Archaeological

and Natural History Society ;

AUTHOR OP

i ATTRACTIONS OF THE NILE,' 'SPRING TOUR IN PORTUGAL,' 'A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH PALESTINE,'
'BRITISH AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES OF THE NORTH WILTSHIRE DOWNS,' ETC.



tot t!u ^ttthxrr bs
E. H. POETEE, 6, TENTEEDEN STEEET, LONDON, W. ;

AND

H. F. BULL, DEVIZES.

1887.



MY OLD AND VALUED FRIEND,

ALFKED NEWTON,

PKOFESSOR OF ZOOLOGY AND COMPARATIVE ANATOMY,

M.A., F.R.S., ETC., ETC.,
AND FELLOW OF MAGDALENE COLLEGE, IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE,

WITH WHOM I HAVE ENJOYED A CORRESPONDENCE
ON OUR FAVOURITE HOBBY FOR THE LAST THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS,.

I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME.



M3668?



PREFACE.



AN enforced holiday of six months, owing to illness, and con-
sequent absence from my parish, and confinement to the house
during the winter months, have given me the leisure which has
hitherto been wanting, for reprinting some papers on the Orni-
thology of Wilts, which I published above thirty years ago in
the earliest volumes of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural
History Society. To the reproduction of these papers in one
volume I have been repeatedly urged by many of my Wiltshire
neighbours, but by no one more persistently than by the old
friend to whose opinion, on all matters relating to birds, I have
long been accustomed to bow with implicit obedience (Professor
Alfred Newton), to whom I am proud to dedicate this volume,
but who be it thoroughly understood in the outset is in no
way responsible for any errors, heresies, blunders, or defects
which these pages may contain; for he has never seen them,
nor will see them until they are beyond the power of correction.
For when I speak of the reprinting the ornithological papers,
the first of which appeared in the first luimber of the Wiltshire
Magazine, I should explain that on the covers of those maga-
zines I have, from time to time, printed a notice, requesting to
be informed of the occurrence of any rare bird, or anything
interesting in regard to birds in all parts of the county ; and
thanks to the kindness of many friends, and some who had
previously been strangers to me, I have, in the course of the
thirty-four years which have elapsed since I first asked for such
information, received such a mass of valuable material that



vi Preface.

much of the papers I formerly wrote required to be rewritten ;
and a great deal of additional matter had to be added, to bring
up to present date anything approaching to a full history of the
birds of Wiltshire : for my aim is whether I succeed in ac-
complishing it or no to make this volume a record of all the
species which belong to our county as inhabitants or periodical
migrants, as well as of all such as have been known occasionally
to visit it.

Moreover, having been obliged to spend many winters and
springs in warmer climates, I have had unusual opportunities of
making myself acquainted, in their own haunts, with many of the
rarer stragglers which occasionally visit our island. Previous to
the printing of my former papers on the Ornithology of Wilts,
I had only had opportunities of becoming personally acquainted
with the birds of Western and Northern Europe ; but since that
time I have rambled, gun in hand, and with binocular quite as
indispensable a companion to an ornithologist for several sea-
sons on the southern shores of France and Italy, in Spain and
Portugal, and, above all, in Egypt and Nubia ; and there I have
watched in its own home, and studied the habits and life history
of, many a bird which, though recognised in Great Britain as an
occasional visitor, very rarely comes in the flesh before the
British ornithologist. So that I have something to add from
personal observation elsewhere to my former account of some of
the feathered visitors to this county.

In reprinting and collecting into a volume the ornithological
papers which were scattered over many volumes of the Wilt-
shire Magazine* let me first say that in preparing those papers
I did not scruple occasionally to gather from various standard
books on birds whatever suited my purpose, though I fear I
cannot now distinguish such, still less can I refer them to their
several authors. Also I would premise that this book has no

Wiltshire Magazine, Vol. I, pp. 41-45, 105-115, 239-249 ; II., pp. 162-172,
290-301 ; III., pp. 337-357 ; IV., pp. 26-35,285-298 ; VI., pp. 167-182 ; VIL,
pp. 81-102 ; IX., pp. 45-57,211-222 ; XI., pp. 160-174 ; XII., pp. 44-72, 152-
185. See also for other ornithological papers Vol. III., pp. 129-145 ; VIII.,
pp. 135-144 ; X., pp. 115-130.



Preface. vii

pretensions of a scientific character, nor does it aspire to be other
than a plain account of the Birds of Wiltshire, written by a
Wiltshire man, and for Wiltshire people, and is meant to
supply in a popular manner some information to those who are
not very learned in the subject, but who desire to know some-
thing of the feathered tribes by which they are surrounded, as
well as those which periodically or occasionally visit us. There
are no scientific disquisitions in this volume. I have not even
touched on the writings of Charles Darwin, much as I admire
and heartily as I accept the groundwork of his beautiful theory.
I shall probably be accused of turning a deaf ear to modern
discoveries, and of putting forth a treatise which might have
been written fifty years ago. No doubt, to a certain extent, there
is some truth in such accusations ; but to dabble in science, and
to argue on scientific subjects without much scientific knowledge,
very soon leads the presumptuous writer into a very quicksand
of trouble. I can, then, discourse on birds only according to my
lights, and if I be somewhat old-fashioned and behind the age in
my old-world notions, I submit that modern opinions are not
always correct, and that our predecessors in ornithology were not
always so ignorant as modern presumption sometimes supposes.
Moreover, this professes to be in some sense a reprint of that
which was published before the theories of Darwin and Wallace
were put forth, and before the new nomenclature and classifica-
tion came into existence.

But whatever the nomenclature for a rose under any other
name would smell as sweet and whatever the classification (for
this is, at last, but a matter of opinion on which our best orni-
thologists still differ widely), the study of birds still remains, as
in the good old days of Gilbert White and Bewick, a most in-
teresting and fascinating study, carrying its votaries along the
most pleasant paths, and adding tenfold interest to every walk.
The unobservant passer-by may think that all birds are alike,
except in size and colour ; the casual observer may imagine that
in this pursuit there can be little to learn ; but the truth is, that
in all pursuits of this kind, and certainly not the least so in the



viii Preface.

one before us, the farther he advances the more he sees to admire,
the more he discovers how little he knows. Let him examine
the plumage of a bird let him take a single feather, and see its
wonderful growth, its mysterious colouring, its perfect adapta-
tion to the end for which it was made. What an admirable
defence against cold and heat, how light and buoyant ! Let him
examine the different methods of nidification adopted by the
different species ; how every species adopts a method peculiar to
itself, yet one which is exactly followed by all the members com-
prising that species. What consummate skill and ingenuity are
displayed in the construction of their nests ; how beautiful and
curious and varied are their eggs !

These and a thousand other such things, unnoticed by the
many, but discovered at every turn by the student in ornithology,
point out how perfect are the works of God, how varied and
beautiful, how exactly suited to their several positions are the
creatures of His hand. The contemplation of them not only
fills the heart with pleasure, but lifts it up in praise and adora-
tion to the great and bountiful Creator, whose least work so far
surpasses the greatest triumph of the most scientific men.

It would occupy too much space to append a full list of my
very numerous correspondents on this subject ; but I shall not,
I hope, be misunderstood, or thought to have made an invidious
selection, when I am so much indebted to many, if I especially
enumerate some who have most materially assisted me. First
and foremost of these I must mention my very intimate and
deeply lamented friend, the Eev. George Marsh, for many years
Vicar of Sutton Benger, in this county, who was a thorough
practical ornithologist, whose ear was so accurate as to detect
in an instant any unwonted note in the woods or hedgerows or
garden; and whose knowledge of birds, from long personal
observation, was so profound that he seldom failed to identify
the feathered songster who uttered it. With every specimen in
his admirable collection at Sutton Benger* I was in my younger

f This collection, at the death of its owner, passed into the possession
of his brother, the late Mr. Matthew Marsh, sometime M.P. for Salisbury,



Preface. ix

days quite familiar, and I was never tired of listening to their
histories as their owner loved to describe them. Moreover, I
made copious extracts from the MS. notes which he lent for
the purpose ; and I am indebted to him in no slight degree for
much and varied bird knowledge which he imparted to me
through a friendship of many years, which only terminated with
his death. Still more early was my acquaintance with the fine
collection of birds made by Mr. Ernie Warriner* of Conock
House, in the parish of Cherrington, near Devizes, which I had
frequent opportunities of examining on the many happy Sundays
which I spent there when at my first school hard by. That
was declared by its owner to be a perfect collection of British
birds, as recognised up to that date (about A.D. 1833), and con-
tains many fine specimens of very rare stragglers to Great
Britain, a considerable number of which I know from its col-
lector's mouth to have been Wiltshire specimens ; but as most
unhappily all record of them is lost, it is impossible to say which
are Wiltshire killed, and which are imported from other countries.
It is, I think, to Mr. Warriner and his beautiful collection of
birds that I am indebted for my first introduction to this de-
lightful branch of natural history, which has been my cherished
hobby ever since. Another ornithologist of olden time, whom
it was my great privilege to know, by a correspondence extend-
ing over several years, and subsequently by a visit which I paid
him at his beautiful seat in Yorkshire, was the well-known
Charles Waterton, whose essays in natural history and remark-
able autobiography are familiar to all, as is also his thorough
practical acquaintance with birds and their habits ; but whose
extraordinary power of preserving in their natural, life-like



at whose death it was given by his widow, and a room to contain it added,
by her beneficence, to the South Wilts Museum, at Salisbury, where it may
now be seen, in admirable preservation.

* Subsequently in the possession of his son, Captain Ernie Warriner,
and for many years deposited in the house of the late Mr. William Tugwell,
and now, by the kindness of the owner, deposited in the Museum of the Wilts
Archaeological and Natural History Society, at Devizes,



x Preface.

attitudes* the many animals and birds which he had collected
was known to but few : indeed, I may say that none but those
who have seen them can realize the incomparable specimens,
amounting to some thousands in number, which this prince of
naturalists had collected and prepared during the many years
of his wanderings in the wilds of Demerara and other foreign
countries. During a glorious week which I spent at Walton
Hall in 1857, Mr. Waterton took infinite pains to teach me the
process he invented and practised; but though I paid every
attention to the instructions of my master, and made many an
attempt in that direction on my return home, I was obliged to
own that it required not only the intimate anatomical know-
ledge and the unwearied patience, but also the delicacy of touch
and the deftness of finger of a Waterton, where my more clumsy
hands utterly and shamefully failed.

To descend to more modern times, I would first express my
acknowledgments to the Rev. A. P. Morres, Vicar of Britford,
near Salisbury, for the admirable papers 'On the Occurrence of
some of the Karer Species of Birds in the Neighbourhood of
Salisbury,' which with much earnest solicitation I prevailed on
him to write, and which I had the pleasure of printing in the

* My first acquaintance with a specimen of Mr. Waterton's skill in bird-
stuffing was as follows : For some reason which I now forget, he declined to
send specimens, as he had been invited to do, to the first Great Exhibition,
in 1851, and when I ventured to express the extreme regret with which I
and others learnt his decision, he said he would send a few samples to the
College of Surgeons to the care of Professor Owen, and bade me go there
and see them. I did not find Professor Owen at home, but Mrs. Owen,
kindly offering to show me the specimens, took me into the library, and bade
me beware of the beak of a fine Eagle Owl, which was sitting on a perch,
just inside the door ; and it was not till I had examined it on all sides for a
considerable time that I could convince myself that- the bird was not alive,
but merely a skin prepared by Mr. Waterton literally a skin and feathers
only ; for when Mrs. Owen lifted off the head, as one might lift off the top
of a cardboard box, there was neither wool nor tow nor stuffing of any kind,
neither bone nor cork nor wire, but simply a hollow skin, which had been
manipulated by so masterly a hand, and by so knowing an anatomist, that
the dried skin showed the exact hollows and swellings, here a depression, and
there an excrescence, which the muscles and the sinews of the bird when in
life would have caused.



Preface. xi

magazine of the Wilts Archaeological and Natural History Society.*
To these papers, so far as they relate to this county, I shall
have occasion to make frequent reference in this volume, as well
as to many notes on -the occurrence of rare birds in South Wilts,
with which the same able ornithologist has from time to time
favoured me. To the Rev. George Powell, Hector of Sutton
Veny, and to Mr. Ernest Baker, of Mere, I am also much indebted
for many interesting communications of a like character, and
extended over many years, with reference to the visits of acci-
dental stragglers in South Wilts. Also to the Rev. T.A. Preston,
late of Marlborough College, and the founder, as I may say, of
the excellent museum there, for many valuable notices of birds
in his district. To the late Major Spicer, of Spye Park, himself
an excellent outdoor naturalist, with whom I have enjoyed much
ornithological communication, and whose fine collection of birds
and magnificent ornithological library were always open to my
inspection. To my old friend Colonel Michael Foster Ward, of
Bannerdown House, Bath, for frequent notices of occurrences in
his district; and last, but by no means least, to Mr. Grant, formerly
bird-preserver in Devizes, for the pains he has taken in preparing
for my use a full catalogue of the rarer birds which have passed
through the hands of himself and his sons. To one and all of
these, and to a host of others in all parts of the county, I here
beg to tender my heartiest thanks, not only for the information
given me, but for the kindness and cordiality with which they
have received and replied to my many minute, and sometimes,
I fear, troublesome inquiries.

In addition to the collections of Mr. Warriner and Rev. G.
Marsh, and other general collections in the Devizes and Salisbury
Museums, also the Marlborough College Museum, and those of
Rev. A. P. Morres, Rev. G. Powell, Mr. Ernest Baker, Major
Spicer, and Colonel Ward, mentioned above, I have also had the
advantage of an acquaintance many years ago with the admirable

* (1) Vol. XVII., pp. 94-127 ; (2) Yol. XVIII., pp. 183-213 ; (3) Vol.
XVIII., pp. 289-318 ; (4) Vol. XX., pp. 154-185 ; (5) Vol. XXI., pp. 211-
255; (6) Vol. XXII., pp. 83-106 ; (7) Vol. XXII, pp. 191-211.



xii Preface.

collection of British birds which my old friend Mr. Wadham Locke
possessed when he lived at Ashton Gifford, near Warminster ;
and I have also examined and profited by the fine collections of
Mr. Rawlence, of Wilton ; of Mr. Elgar Sloper, at Devizes ; and of
Mr. Gwatkin, of the Manor House, Potterne. Moreover, I possess
a very fair collection of my own, both of birds and eggs, which
I began in my Eton days more than fifty years ago ; so that I
have had an ample supply of specimens at hand, without stray-
ing beyond the borders of our county ; and if I fail in setting
forth the birds of Wilts in this volume, it is certainly from no
lack of willing and able correspondents, nor from the want of
sufficient collections from which to draw my material.

With these words of preface I send forth my newly-fledged
Wiltshire bantling to try its wings in a flight through the
county, craving indulgence for its shortcomings ; but this I
know I shall meet with from ornithologists, for there is, I verily
believe, such a friendly feeling among birdmen, and such a free-
masonry among all lovers of the feathered race, that if they see
a poor victim mercilessly pecked at by cruel critics they will
fly to the rescue and drive off the attacking bird of prey ; nor
cease till they have delivered the timid quarry, before he is
overwhelmed by his fierce assailants.

There is a satisfaction to me in preparing these pages for the
press in the old home of my boyhood and youth, the hedge-
rows of which were the scenes of my first bird-nesting expedi-
tions, and the woods and coppices of which echoed to the report
of my gun more than fifty years ago.

OLD PARK, DEVIZES,
May, 1887.



CLASSIFIED LIST OF



ORDER.

1 RAPTORES .
(Birds of Prey)



TRIBE. FAMILY.

1 Vulturid<K. Vultures

2 Falconidce. Falcons



3 Slrigida. Owls .



2 INSESSORES . . 1 DENTIROSTRES - 4 Laniadcc. Butcher Birds .
(Pei-chers) (Tooth-billed]

5 Muscicapidce. Fly-catchers

6 ATerulidce. Thrushes .



THE BIRDS OF WILTSHIRE.



GENUS. SPECIES. ENGLISH NAME. PAGE

(not represented in Wiltshire) . . . . . 54

56

1 Haliceetus albicilla . . . White- tailed Eagle ... 59

2 Pandion haliceetus . . . Osprey 64

3 Falco gyrfalco .... G-yr Falcon 66

4 Falco peregrinus .... Peregrine Falcon ... 68

5 Falco subbuteo .... Hobby 72

6 Falco rufipes . . . . Red-footed Falcon ... 74

7 Falco cesalon .... Merlin 75

8 Falco Tinnunculus . . . Kestrel ..... 78

9 Astur palumbarius . . . Goshawk 80

10 Accipiternisus .... Sparrow Hawk .... 81

11 Falco milvus .... Kite 83

12 Buteo vulgaris .... Common Buzzard ... 85

13 Buteo lagopus .... Rough-legged Buzzard . . 86

14 Buteo desertorum . . . African Buzzard .... 88

15 Pernis apivorus .... Honey Buzzard .... 88

16 Circus mruginosus . . . Marsh Harrier .... 91

17 Circus cyaneus .... Hen Harrier .... 93

18 Circus Montagui .... Montagu's Harrier ... 95

. 98

19 Bubo maximus .... Eagle Owl . . . . .102

20 Scops giu Scops Owl 303

21 Otus vulgaris .... Long-eared Owl . . . . 105

22 Otus brachi/otos .... Short-eared Owl . . . .106

23 Strix flammea .... Barn Owl . . . . . 107

24 Syrnium stridula . . . . Tawny Owl . . . .'Ill

25 Stirnia funerea .... Hawk Owl 113

26 Noctua passer ina . . . . Little Owl . . . .114
116

27 Lanius excubitor .... Great Gray Shrike . . .119

28 Lanius collurio .... Red-backed Shrike . . . 122
. . . .124

29 Muscicapa grisola . . . Spotted Flycatcher . . .124

30 Muscicapa atricapilla . . . Pied Flycatcher .... 125
126

31 Cinclus aquaticus .... Dipper . . . . . .127

32 Turdus viscivorus . . . Missel Thrush . . .128

33 Turdus pilaris . . . Fieldfare 129

34 Turdus musicus . . . Song Thrush .... 131

35 Turdus iliacus . . . Redwing 132

36 Turdus merula . . . Blackbird 135

37 Turdus lorquatus . . . Ring Ouzel ..... 137

38 Oriolus galbula . . . Golden Oriole . . . .139



XVI

ORDER.

2 INSESSORES .
(Perchers)



Classified List of



TRIBE.

1 DENTIROSTRES
(Tooth-billed)



FAMILY.

7 Silviadce. Warblers,



8 Paridce. Titmice .

9 Ampdida. Wax wings

10 Motaclllidce. Wagtails

11 Anthidce. Pipits



2 CONIROSTRES . 12 AlaudidcB. Larks .
(Cone-billed)

13 Emberizidce. Buntings



14 Fringillidce. Finches



the Birds of Wiltshire. xvii

GENUS. SPECIES. ENGLISH NAME. PAGE



39 A ccentor modularis
40 Sylvia rubecula .
41 Phcenicura ruticilla
42 Phcenicura titys .
43 Saxicola rubicola .
44 Saxicola rubetra .
45 Saxicola cenanthe .
46 Salicaria locustella
47 Salicaria phragmitis
48 Salicaria arundinacea
49 Philomela luscinia
50 Curruca atricapilla
51 Curruca hortensis
52 Curruca cinerea
53 Curruca sylviella
54 Sylvia sylvicola
55 Sylvia trochilus
56 Sylvia hippolais
57 Melizophilus Dartfordi
58 Regulus cristatus


. Hedge Accentor .
. Redbreast ....


. 143
. 145


. Redstart ....


. 146


. Black Redstart .
. Stonechat ....


. 148
. 149


. Whinchat ....


. 150


. Wheatear ....


. 151


. Grasshopper Warbler .
. Sedge Warbler .
. Reed Warbler . .
. Nightingale
. Blackcap Warbler
. Garden Warbler .
. Common Whitethroat.
. Lesser Whitethroat .
. Wood Warbler .
. Willow Warbler .
. Chiff Chaff ....


. 153
. 154
. 155
. 156
. 158
. 159
160
. 161
. 162
. 163
. 164


ensis. . Dartford Warbler
. Golden-crested Regulus


. 166
. 167
168


59
60
61
62
63


Parus major
Parus cccruleus
Parus ater .
Parus palustris
Parus caudatus


. Great Titmouse .
. Blue Titmouse .
. Coal Titmouse .
. Marsh Titmouse .
. Long- tailed Titmouse.


. 169
. 171
. 171
. 172
. 172
173


64


Bomby cilia garrula


. Bohemian Waxwing .


. 173

. 176


65
66
67
68


Motadlla Yarrellii
Motadlla boarula
Motadlla neglecta
Mo tac il la Jlava


. Pied Wagtail
. Gray Wagtail
. Gray-headed Wagtail
. Ray's Wagtail .


. 176
. 177
. 178
. 178
. 179


69
70


Anthus arboreus .
Anlhus pratensis .


. Tree Pipit ....
. Meadow Pipit


. 179

. 180

. 182


71
72


Alauda arvensis
Alauda arborea .


. Skylark ....


. 183


Woodlark .


. 185




. 185


73

74
75
76

77


Plectrophanes nivalis .
Emberiza miliaria
Emberiza schceniclus .
Emberiza citrinella
Emberiza cirlus .


. Snow Bunting .
Common Bunting
. Black-headed Bunting
. Yellow Bunting .
Cirl Bunting


. 186
. 188
. 189
. 189
. 191
. 192


78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85


Fringilla ccelebs .
Eringilla montifringilla
Passer domesticus
Passer montanus
Coccotkraustes chloris .
Coccothraustes vulgaris
Carduelis elegans
Carduelis spinus


. Chaffinch ....


. 192


. Mountain Finch .
. House Sparrow .
. Tree Sparrow
Greenfinch ....
Hawfinch ....


. 193
. 195
. 197
198
. 199


Goldfinch ....
. Siskin .....


. 201
. 204



XV111

ORDER.

2 INSESSORES .
(Perchers)



Classified List of

TRIBE. FAMILY.

2 CONIROSTRES . 14 FringillidoB. Finches
(Cone-billed)



15 Sturnidce. Starlings

16 Corvidce. Crows



3 SCANSORES .
(Climbers)



. 17 Picidce. Woodpeckers



4 FlSSIROSTRES

(Wide-billed)



18 Certhiadce. Creepers

19 Cuculidce. Cuckoos .

20 Meropidce. Bee-eaters

21 Halcyonidce. Kingfishers

22 Hirundinidce. Swallows .



3 KASORES

(Ground Birds)



23 Caprimulgidce. Goatsuckers

24 Columbidce. Doves .



25 Phasianidce. Pheasants .

26 Tetraonidce. Grouse






the Birds of Wiltshire.



xix



GENUS. SPECIES. ENGLISH NAME. PAGE

86 Linota cannabina . . . Common Linnet . . . 205

87 Linota montana .... Twite 205

88 Linota linaria .... Lesser Redpole .... 206

89 Pyrrhula vulgaris . . . Bullfinch 208

90 Loxia curvirostra . . . Common Crossbill . . . 209
210

91 Sturnus vulgaris . . . Common Starling . . .211

92 Pastor roseus * ... Rose-coloured Pastor . . . 213
215

93 Fregilus graculus . . . Chough 215

94 Corvuscorax .... Raven 218



Online LibraryAlfred Charles SmithThe birds of Wiltshire. Comprising all the periodical and occasional visitants, as well as those which are indigenous to the county → online text (page 1 of 53)