Francis Wharton.

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ere a shot was permissible, and by that time they were
partly hidden from view among some sUght hummocks.
Any dead cistus or remnant of a sand- submerged pine
collects around it that shifting substance, and half-hidden
amidst these my stags were trotting forward when I gave
them my double salute. Both went on, but on emerging
from the hummocks, the larger beast was clearly hard-hit,
though they continued cantering down the sloping ground,
and two more bullets at long range only raised little puflfs
from the ground beyond. I knew I was sure of this stag ;
and a few minutes later a finer beast emerged, the ivory
tips of his antlers shining white in the evening sunUght.
Him, I resolved, I must have, and never was gun laid on
with more intense desire. The distance would be some
eighty to one hundred yards, and the stag treated the
advent of two bullets with what looked very like indifference,
galloping off at top speed, despite a third salute from the
express ambushed on my right. I watched him away
to the edge of a small corral half a mile off, and in
which the two first stags had sought a retreat. But it was
all over \^ith him — poor beast, his course was run, and his
tracks plainly told the tale to those who could read —

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though I must admit I was not one of thena. The rastro
of the first stag showed big blood-clouts almost from the
shot, and he was easily secured close by where he had dis-


appeared from view. The second was far lefes distinct ;
indeed, no sign of a ** hit " was discerned till just before
reaching the distant corral. Here the faint trace, tiny

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drops of blood, all enveloped in sand, quite indiscernible
to my eye, were instantly detected by the (fuardas. The
dogs were laid on, and within a few minutes we heard the
crash which told of the stag at bay. The final scene was


just completed when I reached the spot — on foot, for in
the rough scramble through forest .and broken ground
I had managed to get thrown, gun and all, and preferred
to finish ^he pursuit on my legs. The first ball had

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passed through the ribs, rather far back; the second
(** express'') had entered his stern. The first stag was
also shot through the " lisk " — not brilliant performances,
perhaps ! but I had got my two stags, the first carrying
nine points, the second a shapely wild head of eleven : and,
since those days, we have now and then succeeded in
placing the rifle-ball in more orthodox positions.* Quite
the finest hart of this campaign fell on the same beat —
a superb head of fifteen points, having extremely broad
and massive horns, though of no special size of body.
Total bag for the day : eight stags (two royals) and
two wild pig.

As a sequel to the above, it may be interesting to annex
the following diploma of the "Koyal and distinguished
Order of Mae Corra," conferred upon the writer shortly
after the events narrated. Our readers may translate it or
leave it at their own risk.

Por cuanto Don A B C , vecino de Inglaterra ha hecho

digno del distintivo que usan los cazadores de la Beal y Distinguida
Orden de la Mae Corra, matando por prunera vez tiii venado de nueve
puntas en la Mancha de Cerro del Trigo Goto de D* Ana partido de la
Marismilla termino de Almonte el 12 de Enero, 1878.

♦ It may, however, fairly be added that we were using, in those
days, spherical bullets and the old cylinder smooth-bores — always
erratic in ball-practice beyond forty or fifty yards. All that is now
superseded by the introduction of the Paradox rifled gun (Col.
Fosbery*s patent), one of the prettiest inventions and most remark-
able improvements in modem gimnery. With this beautiful weapon,
which shoots baU as accurately as a rifle, and comes to the eye as
handy as a game-gim, no distracting doubts need flurry one's aim at
flying stag or boar within one hundred yards ; even snap-shots in
covert are now a luxiury instead of the nerve- and temper-trying ordeal
of yore. Such is the power and penetration of the hollow-fronted
conical ball that we have *' raked '' a stag from stem to stern at one
hundred and forty yards, the bullet entering his chest, and lodging
near the root of the tail almost undamaged, after traversing the whole
of the animal's vitals. For all Spanish large game, the 12-bore
Paradox, weighing 7 J lbs., and burning 8J drs. of powder, is an
admirable weapon, and, except for ibex and deer-stalking in the higher
Cordilleras, where very long shots may be necessary, it almost takes
the place of the heavier express rifle.

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Yo D. Carlos Fernandez Brescaglia, Decano de los cazadores de esta
ciudad suficientemente autorizado expido el presente Diplonia para

que el referido Don A^-^ B C pueda usar libremente el

inencionado diBtintivo que debe ser en un todo conforme al modelo

Dado en San Lucar de Barrameda el 17 de Enero de 1878.

El Decano,
(Signed) ' Carlos Fernandez Brescagua.

El Secretario,
(Signed) Domingo L. de Villeoas.

The insignia referred to represent a couple of stags*
antlers, locked in mortal combat, with the legend : —

'* Ab istis ventis liberet te Deus si maritus es."


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Spanish, Agadiona, agdchadiza.
Portuguese, Narceja,

The Peninsula has always been famous for its snipe-
shooting, but the sport differs in some ways from that
practised on British marsh or moor. The snipe in Spain
does not, as a rule, frequent rushes or other covert. The
Spanish marshes in winter afford scant covert of any kind ;
hence the snipe is proportionately wilder. Barely does the
long-bill spring at close range : the bulk of the bag must
be cut down at such distances that a snipe- shooter at home
would very probably decline the offer — without thanks.
But there are exceptions to this. In certain localities,
particularly in Portugal, we have enjoyed excellent snipe-
shooting on wide-spread expanses of rushy marsh and
under home conditions. The rice-stubbles also, in districts
where rice is grown, afford perhaps the finest snipe-shoot-
ing, often with abundant covert.

Many of the best snipe-grounds, however, may be
described as inundated pastures. Here the summer-scorched
herbage barely hides the naked earth — or rather fine mud,
more slippery than ice. The ground here, however, is firm ;
the deep-mud bogs are quite another, but equally favourite
resort. Before one's view there stretches away what
appears to be a verdant meadow, dead level, and clad in
rich green grass. Walk out on it, and you find it is bog,
soft as pulp — millions of flat-topped, quivering tussocks,
each separated by narrow intervals of squashy slime,

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knee-deep if you are lucky; the tussocks afford no foot-
hold, the slime no stability— you cannot stand still, yet
hardly dare advance. Before you, behind you, to the right
and left, rise snipe in scores— in clouds : the air resounds
with petulant, tantalizing cries. But you cannot steady
yourself for an instant to shoot : to halt on hummock or
balance on mire is equally impossible — not that it matters
much, for hardly a snipe has sprung within fifty yards ; the
majority at over one hundred. At length one rises close at
hand — a jack, probably — and in a supreme effort to avenge
outraged dignity by his death, equilibrium is hopelessly
lost, and the snipe-shooter slowly sinks to a sitting
posture amidst mire and mud that reaches to his waistcoat-

So extremely flat and naked are these marshes that not
a snipe, one would imagine, could manage to hide thereon.
Yet even with a powerful field-glass not a single snipe can
be detected where hundreds are squatting. Their power of
concealment is marvellous, and is recognized in the Spanish
name, " agachar " meaning to hide, or ** lie low."

Where the flight of the birds is known, or where two or
three well-frequented marshes Ue adjacent, excellent sport
may be had by lying in wait at one bog whilst the others
are being shot over. This is a matter of local knowledge.
A driven snipe, or string of snipes, high overhead, or a
jack pitching in to alight, like a butterfly in a breeze,
offer shots as varied and difficult as even our modem
masters of legerdemain in the arts of gunnery can well

Broadly speaking, all the best snipe-grounds in acces-
sible districts — aye, and some fairly inaccessible ones too
— may be said to be preserved. There may, probably do,
exist unknown and unpreserved spots which would abun-
dantly reward the explorer; but, in a general way, the
casual sportsman on the unpreserved wilds of Spain
or Portugal should not reckon on more than ten,
twelve, or perhaps fifteen brace of snipe per day. On
preserved grounds, the following figures, selected at
random from records of over twenty years, will best show

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the sport that may be had with snipe in Southern
Spcan : —

Nov. 20, 1878. — Catalana (3 guns), 166 snipe, 1 pigeon,
10 quail, 1 Iandrail=178 head.

Nov. 80, 1878. — Catalana (2 guns), 115 snipe, 2 wood-
cock, 3 rails, 1 waterhen, 1 bittern =122 head.

Dec. 21, 1873.— El Torno (3 guns), 108 snipe, 17 wood-
cock, 8 rabbits, 8 golden plover, 2 pigeons, 1 badger =189

Dec. 20, 1874.— Eetuerta (4 guns), 160 snipe, 86 duck
and teal, a marsh-harrier, and 8 sundries =205 head.

Nov. 18, 1877. — Eetuerta (3 guns, half day), 108 snipe,
4 quail, 2 partridge, 6 ducks, 1 goose, 2 rails, 1 eagle=119

Nov. 19, 1882. — (3 guns), 155 snipe, 28 sundries.

Dec. 1886. — (1 gun), 96 snipe : 20 couple shot passing
over one spot, from one marsh to another.

Dec. 4, 1889. — Rocina (6 guns), 232 snipe, besides
partridge, quail, duck, &c.

Dec. 12, 1889.— Eetuerta (2 guns, W. E. Brymer and
W. J. B.), 60 snipe, 58 ducks, 11 geese=129 head.

Spanish, Chocha — (Andalucia) GaUineta.

Arrives in November, but never in aiiy quantities — ten
or twelve couple in a day is an unusual bag, and we have
none worth recording.

The latest woodcocks shot in Andalucia are about the
middle of March.


Spanish, Codomiz.

Though not strictly marsh-birds, yet quails at times
abound among the moist rushy prairies, both of Spain and
Portugal, and hardly a hillock of drier ground or micro-
scopic patch of maize-stubble but will yield a brace or two.

E E 2

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The largest bag we can find recorded in our game-books
is 52 brace in a day ; but believe this has been, and
certainly easily might be, largely exceeded. At certain
passage-periods the Andalucian vega$ simply swarm with
this dashing little game-bird, and at such times, with dogs
well entered to quail, very large bags might be secured by
any one specially following them.

One afternoon, when returning from snipe-shooting, we
fell in with an etitrada of quail, in a belt of dry rush and
sedges, and had bagged 27^ couples in much less than an
hour, when daylight and cartridges ran short.

Andalucian Quail. — Unlike its larger relative, this small
quail is not migratory ; a few are found at all seasons,
especially on the dry palmetto-plains, where at dusk its
curious " roaring '' note, from which is derived its Spanish
name toritto= little bull, is often audible.

Our friend, Mr. W. E. Teage, meets with a few of this
small bush-quail nearly every year when shooting near
Ovar, in Portugal — generally in September.

The Crane.
Spanish, GruUa.

He who eats the flesh of crane, runs a Spanish proverb,
lives a hundred years* — and beyond all question the stately
OniUa is one of the. wariest and most difficult birds to

Cranes are common enough throughout all the open
vegas and corn-growing plains of Andalucia from early
autumn till spring : few days but one sees them either
passing high overhead in loudly-gaggling skeins, or feeding
in troops on the newly-sown beans or wheat. In the latter
case, cranes are not infrequently mistaken for bustard, but
rarely permit the cordon of mounted men to be drawn
around th(eir position ; for, though rarely sought after, the
crane is imbued with even wilder spirit than the much-
prized bustard. For many years, the few GruUas we suc-

* ** Quien come came de Grulla, vive cien afios.^*

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ceeded in killing were merely chance-shots at bands passing
over, when we had happened to be concealed by tall sedges
or bulrush ; and even these only by virtue of mould-shot
at very great heights.

During a recent winter, however, we discovered a means
of shooting these wary fowl. It is the habit of a crane to
assemble at some remote marsh for the purpose of roost-
ing. By day, it should be specially remarked, the crane is
not a marsh-haimting bird, but is only seen on dry ground,
feeding entirely on grain, acorns, and the like; but in-
variably retiring to the marshes, or wettest spot on the
prairie, to roost. Towards the sequestered swamp selected
for their dormideroy during the last hour of daylight, files of
cranes may be seen winging their stately course. As dark-
ness gathers round, the assembling host presents an ani-
mated scene, while the music of their magnificent trumpet-
note resounds for miles around.

Such a spectacle we witnessed one March evening when
on a bustard-shooting expedition; and returning a week
later, had, at length, the wary cranes at our mercy.
Ensconced in *' blinds" of rudely- woven carices near the
centre of a dreary swamp, we soon had these majestic
birds filing close overhead, or flapping past at pistol-range.
Not less than 500 cranes must have appeared, " flighting "
from every point of the compass, and the sight, with the
sound of their clarion-notes, formed, for half an hour, as
impressive a spectacle of bird-life as we have witnessed.

There is intense gratification in out-generalling any
animal that has long defied one's efforts ; but it is rather
a sense of supremacy than mere slaughter that is sought.
After shooting seven specimens of the " flighting "
GruUas, we were content, and have never since molested
them. This marsh, which, being "ten miles from any-
where," is an awkward place for evening flight-shooting,
continued to be their nightly resort till well on into April,
after which date the crane disappears from Southern
Spain ; though (as elsewhere recorded) a small and decreas-
ing colony continues to breed in the neighbourhood of the
Lagunas de Janda.

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422 wild 8paik.

The Demoiselle Crake.

{Gru8 virgo.)

We have seen several examples of this beautiful species
shot in the marismas and corn-plains of Andalucia during



the spring-months. It is just possible that a few pairs
may still breed somewhere in that wide region, though no
ornithologist has yet succeeded in establishing the fact.

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winter in the marshes. 423

White Stork.

Spanish, Ciguena,

Though not a sporting bird in any sense, and in some
respects ahnost sacred, the stork attracts the sportsman's
attention by its size, boldly-marked plumage, and mtgestic
appearance on the wing. Nesting chiefly in the towns, on
churches and other buildings, as well as on the peasants' cots
and on trees in the country, storks are dispersed in hundreds
during winter over the marshy plains, though many also
migrate to Africa at that season. Their food consists of
frogs, as well as lizards and various small reptiles and
insects; in May we have watched them snapping up
locusts by dozens.

Black Stork.
Spanish, Ciguena negra.

The only birds of this species we have killed are a pair,
shot right and left, near Jerez, in March, many years ago.
We have reason to believe that the black stork breeds on
the Upper Guadiana, and in Castile have observed it in May.

On May 16th, 1891, we watched a pair which evidently
had a nest in the crags overhanging the Bio Alberche, New
Castile, but had not time to discover its exact position.
Manuel de la Torre states that it breeds yearly in the
Montes de Toledo.


Spanish, Ave-toro, garza-mochuelo.

Twenty winters ago, in the marshes below Ovar, in
Portugal, my dog Nilo came to a ** point " near a clump
of thick sedges. Two yards before his nose I espied a
strange apparition — a mere point erect amidst the rank
herbage, hardly thicker than and much resembling a sere and
yellow flag : there was no visible semblance of head or form —

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424 wsjjD SPAIN.

only a sharp beak, and an eye which seemed to be a part
thereof; the whole slim objectpointing vertically heavenward.
Next moment the insignificant point developed into a huge
brown bird — ^more and more expanses of brown feathers
emerged from the sedge till a pair of heavy green hanging
legs wound up the procession. When both barrels were
emptied, I had time to perceive that a bittern was slowly
flapping away.

Those were bitter moments : but since then we have killed
many a bittern while snipe-shooting, and could have killed
many more had there been any object ; for they lie very
close, and offer a mark like a haystack.

According to the Spanish peasants, the flesh of the
bittern is health-giving {muy sahidable) : and the same
worthies also state that the strange boom is produced
with the beak half-immersed in water.

Bails, Crakes, etc.

The landrail, reversing its home habits, is only fbund in
Spain in autumn and winter^ its well-known spring-note
being never heard in this southern land. The common
water-rail, the spotted crake and Baillon's crake are all
three abundant in winter in the marshes — ^more so than in
spring : and we have also shot the small (unspotted) crake
— on one occasion, one of these intensely-skulking birds was
induced to take wing by a dead snipe falling right on to
his strangely compressed little body.

Water-hens are as common as at home ; and at rare
intervals the great purple water-hen is sprung by the spaniels
from some sedgy morass. This fine bird, like the crakes,
is very diflScult to flush ; but on occasion, when burning
the cane-brakes to drive out deer, wild cats, &c., we have
seen two or three in a day.

Coots (two species) in certain Ipcalities afford fine sport,
by " driving ^* with a number of boats : we have bagged
thus over 100 in a day, besides other wildfowl ; and grebes,
also of two species, besides the little dabchick, are also

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winter in the mabshes. 425

Geese and Ducks.

It is unnecessary to add more than a mere list of the
various Anatidte to be met with in winter in Southern

Grey geese arrive in thousands in November to remain
till February. Our best bags (flight-shooting) are : in one
day, 81 ; in four days, 247. This was in November, 1889.
The great majority of these are greylags, the remainder
being of the " bean " description. We have shot no other
species, though others occur. The Spanish name for all
geese is anseres or gansos.

Mallard "(2)afo real). — Common at all seasons.

Pintail {rahudo). — ^Abundant in ^cet winters; in dry
seasons they pass on into Africa.

Shoveler (paleton). — Abundant every winter.

Gadwall (JHso, or silbon real). — ^Bather scarce in winter ;
a few breed in Andalucia.

Wigeou (gilhon). — In millions, October till March.

Garganey {capitaneSf or caretones). — Irregular ; some years
many are shot in November, and again in March.

Teal (zarceta). — Come in clouds in October.

Marbled Duck {pardilla, or ruhiUa). — ^A summer duck,
rarely seen after the end of November, Ketums in
March, and breeds in hundreds.

Pochard (cabezon). — Only locally common, in winter.

Tufted Duck. — Have shot these occasionally on the rivers
in winter, and up to April.

White-eyed Pochard (negrete). — Chiefly a summer duck,
but common in November and early December, and again
in February.

White-faced Duck (porron). — Another summer duck, not
seen in mid-winter.

Scoter ipato negro). — In big flights on the coast in winter :
shot a drake on Guadalquivir, April 8th.

Merganser. — Once or twice shot in winter — the only
Inember of the mergina we have met with.

Sheld-duck (pato-tarro, or amareta). — Several shot in
winter in marisma. Some remain to breed.

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Ruddy Sheld-duck {labatico, pato canelo). — ^A few shot in
winter and early spring : breeds in barrancos or low cliflfs in
the Isla Menor, &c.

Note. — The dueks of the Spanish marismas are extremely
irregular as to the species which appear: these varying
with the seasons and state of the water. Thus, one winter,
pintails will swarm ; another, gadwalls and garganeys are
conspicuous; the next, at corresponding seasons, one or
the other will, perhaps, be, almost entirely absent.

Wild Swans.

Spanish, Cisne.

These are rare and exceptional stragglers to Southern
Spain. In February, 1891 (a severe winter furtha: north),
we found four wild swans — two fully adult, one of them a
very large bird — frequenting the Lucios de la Madre, in
the marismas of Guadalquivir. They were very wild, and
even when alone and separate from other fowl, refused to
allow the approach of our gunning-punt. Eventually we
fired at them at long range (No. 1 shot), but, though one
was badly struck, we failed to secure it : have little doubt,
from their note and appearance, they were hoopers.

August in the Marshes.

Since writing the above, we have enjoyed a new experi-
ence — a duck-shooting campaign in August. During two
days, some 250 ducks were bagged, of which half were
mallards (the drakes already distinguishable on wing), and
of the rest the greater proportion were marbled ducks, the
following species being also included : — gadwall, garganey,
ferruginous and white-faced ducks, ruddy sheld-duck, three
or four teal, and two pintails.

The latter were probably wounded birds lingering since
the preceding winter; which may also, perhaps, explain
the presence of three greylag geese which were seen but

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not secured. Several common snipe were also shot — these
facts afford " food for reflection ! "

During the shooting, the air was alive with birds;
besides ducks, there were herons of all sorts — old and
young — egrets, white spoonbills, night-herons— many
young ones, brown and speckled like bitterns — together
with crested and eared grebes, dabchicks, terns, coots and
pratincoles in thousands ; while above all, sailed files of
glossy ibis with curious barking croaks, several cormorants,
and a string of cranes.

Among miscellaneous birds shot were most of the above,
with little bitterns, various rails and one purple waterhen,
little gulls, whimbrels (?) and bar-tailed godwit.

It is worth adding that a dead bird, left floating, was
completely devoured in less than five minutes by water-
beetles (Dyticus), which hollowed out the body and left
nothing, but empty skin and feathers ! One felt that, had
one the bad luck to get bogged, these creatures were
ci^pable of making away with a man well under half an

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On the Southern Plains.

Though left to the last, the system of ** rastreando,*' as
it is called in Spanish — stalking or " still-hunting," as we
have rendered it in English (though neither expression is
perhaps a precise equivalent), affords some of the prettiest
sport to be obtained with the rifle in the Peninsula. As an
example of this sport, we have taken our latest and not
least successful deer-stalking expeditioui which took place
in March, 1892 — exactly twenty years after the campaign
recorded in the Jirst chapter (p. 23) of our book.

There only remained a few days before the season for
deer-shooting would close. For more than a week we had
been ready awaiting a change in the weather ; but heavy
rains day by day delayed a start. Never had there been
known so wet a winter. From the Giralda tower at
Seville, the whole country appeared a sea, and the great
river, in the early days of March, was causing serious
anxieties to the Sevillanos, having reached a higher level

Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 32 of 36)