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WILD BIRDS OF THE ! NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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WILD BIRDS OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD. BY MR, G. A. HUTCHINSON, LITTLE, OH M E. A most interesting paper on "The Wild Birds of the Neighbourhood" was read at a meeting of the U Craigydon Mutual Im- provement Association on Friday evening, by Mr G. A. Hutchinson. The paper wa,s so much appreciated by the members and of such general interest that, we have arranged for its publication in our columns, and below give the first instal- ment, The ground I am covering to-night in- cludes the coast between Colwyn Bay and Penmaenmawr, and the country between these two points as far south as Glan Con- way, and for the size, it will be a difficult. matter to find another to compare with it as regards the number of species to be found. According to one of our leading L, authorities on British Bdrds,, Mr Howard Saunders, the actual number of species considered British is 367 j of these he says the number which have bred in the British Isle may be taken as 200, about. 70 non- breeding wanderers have occurred fewer than six times, 59 others are more or less infrequent visitors, while 38 species an- nually make their appearance on migra- tion or during the colder months, in some portion of the United Kingdom. Now in the small tract of countrv I am speaking of to-night we find 78 resident species and 28 summer visitors, making a total of 106 species which breed in our district every year. You will notice, Mr Saunders states that 200 species have bred in the British Isles, this number of course includes many which have ceased to breed in this coun- try. For instance, the Great Auk, which is now supposed to entirely extinct, the is now supposed to be eut-reiy extinct, the been killed about 1812; also; the Whooper, Spoonbill, Little Bittern, Crane, Great Bustard and several others. Again there are over 20 species which only breed in the far north of Scotland and several others which have only occasionally bred in this coun- try, so by deducting these numbers the total of species breeding in England and Wales at the present tiime is about 150, and I think you will all agree with me that to be able to claim 106 out of this number for our own district is little short of mar- velous. Of course the reason for this is not fax to seek, as we have practically all the conditcns necessary to bird life in the small area I am referring to to-night. We have fine rocky headlands on the coast, and shingle beach, mountains, woodlands, moorlands and marshes. Now in addition to the breeding species, which include both resident and summer visitors, we have 46 which vissit us during the winter months and 12 others which occur rarely on migration in the spring and winter, making D, grand total for the immediate neighbourhood of 164 species. I will first of all take the residents, and those which I name without comment I take for grant- ed you are all familiar with. THE' PEREGRINE FALCON. which is now comparatively rare in th-is country, I consider the most, important on my list to-night, as we have two pairs of this noble bird which breed, almost as I might say within the boundaries of Llan- dudno, one on the Great Orme, and one on the Little Orme, Where there is no doubt they have bred from time immemorial The birds from this district have long been noted as a fine race, and in olden times were highly prized for their value in falconry, on account of their courageous spirit, combined with confidence and fear- lessness. Pennant mentions that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Lord Burleigh sent a letter of thanks to an ancestor of tlhe Mos- tyns for a, present of a cast of Peregrines from Orme's Head. John Price in his guide to Llandudno says "The Peregrines have never ceased to breed on the Orme s Heads since one of the Mostyns presented James I. of England with a. cast which is said to have been worth 2100,0." I am afraid it would be a poor case with the Peregrines if this price could be demanded now. This bird never buillds a nest, but lays its eggs, usually in April, on some overhung ledge of a cliff covered with a coating of earth in which a hollow is scratched, or sometimes an old nest, of the Raven or Carrion Crow is occupied, and on rare occasions high ibuldings are chosen for a site. Salisbury Cathedral has for ma,ny years provided an eyrie on its spire, which is still tenanted, and the Penegrines are carefully protected by the Dean. The eggs are two: to four in num- ber. The young birds as soon as they are able to forage for themselves are, driven away by their parentis, this generally about August. The same spot is resorted to year after year for the purpose of breed- ing, and it is a strange fact that should one of the pair be killed the survivor soon finds and returns with another mate. The diet consists of Ducks, Waders, Sea Fowl, Pigeons, Choughs, Grouse, Partridge, etc., also rabbits and small mammals. It is a curious fact, especially when breeding on the coast, the Peregrines always choose a nesting place among other birds which form their food, and on the Little Orme I have often noticed hundreds of small sea birds and other species flying about with- out showing the slightest sign of alarm even when the Peregrines are on the wing; evidently they look upon iit as fate and warit their turn. In concluding the account of this species I may say the flight of the. Pere- grine is very powerful, and has been esti- mated by various authorities at from 60 to 100 miles per hour. OWLS. These birds have always been favourites with me, and in my younger days I kept three species in captivity, which we have resident, viz. Tawny, Barn or White and Long-Eared Owl. They aTe a very in- teresting useful family of and de- serve to be prortected if only on account of the valuable services they render to the agriculturist. I am glad to say that farmers in many parts of the country re- cognise their usefulness, and I know of many instances, especially in the North of England., where they do all in their power to protect them. It is chiefly owing to the stupiclity of our gamekeepers thati this family of birds is sadly decreasing1, and in some districts all but exterminated. Why they should be destroye as vermin I fail to understand, as their food consists of rats, mice, voles, moles, bats, small bprds, large moths, earthworms and frogs. You will notice there is no mention of young gaimei of any kind. Now many keepers assert they take pheasant chicks; well this I consider rather a libel on the poor Owl, especially when you take into ac- count that he is purely a night bjird, and that when he comes abroad to hunt, the young pheasants are: either safe within the coops, or if bred in a wild state, in the woods, covered by the parent. With re- gard to the T'awny Owl, Lord Lilford says —"I cannot acquit the Brown Owl of am occasional bit of poaching, but I am convinced that such occurrences fare ex- ceptional, and in defence of a very favourite bird may refer my readers to the result, of an examination of 210 pellets composed of indigestible portions of food thrown up by the birds of this species. In these pellets the remains of six rats, 42 mice, 296 voles, 33 shrews, 48 moles, 18 small birds, 48 beetles, besides a. count- less number of cockchafers were discover- ed, incontestialbly proving the general innocent nature of the Tawny Owl's bill of fare. As regards the food of the White or Barn Owl, this consists almost exclu- sively of rats and mice, and it destroys a great number of these pests, especially when there axe Owlets to be fed, at which t. time, one well-known authority, Mr Waterton., noticed that a pair of Barn Owls came to the nest with food seventeen times in half-an-hour." Now granting the Owls do an occasional bit of poaching and I may tell you these I reports have, seldom if ever been authenti- cated, I maintain tha,t their usefulness in destroying riats and mice, which in their turn destroy crops more than halances the account, and I hope the time is not far distant, when these birds will be included and protected all the year round under the Wild Birds' Protection Act. THE; RAVEN. Probably owing to the systematic per- secution to which it has been subjected, by sheep farmers, gamekeepers and egg collectors, this bird is becoming very rare in many parts of the country, but in Wales it still maintains itself in considerable numbers. In our district I only know of one pafir breeding at the present day, and that on the rocks beneath thei lighthouse on the Great. Orme's Head. Formerly it used to breed on the Little Orme, but has has not done so now for a great many yeara, a,l,t,hough almost, every winter I see parties., of four tiol six frequently foraging there. It also used to breed on the Con- way mountiain, on the cliff overhanging the Penmaenmawr road, at the town end, and was last seen there about 16 or 17 years ago. In one respect it is rather a useful bfird, being a lover of carrion, and it soon scents the carcase of any large animal, but failing a supply of food of this character it does not, hesiitaite to attack weakly sheep or lambs, which itl kills in a very cruel manner, first picking, out the eyes, then the tongue and next the ltiver, so you can quite understand that. sheep farmers cordially detest it and dasjtroy it by means of poisoned carcasses. Further up the Conway Valley I believe the Raven is still to be found in considerable num- bers, and I notice Mr Forrest in his "Fauna of North Wales states: -"A good many on the mountains round Betitwsy- I coed, 464 killed, in 28 years ending 1902, on Lord Penrhyn's estate. (Tb ibe Contiinued next, week).

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