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NATURAL HISTORY" WJTES. THE DEE MARSH. Weather may or may not make much difference to the birds; a hard frost often makes shy birds tamer, and a bright, sunny day, though giving great advantages to the watcher, often puts the birds on the alert. In foggy weather the faculties of birds seem to be duller: a few days since I noticed that the ducks on the meres could be ap- proached when it was misty, although they would have been up and away if it had been clear. When we were on the Dee Ilarsh month the sun was shining brightly at times and there was no fog. but the wind prevented us from seeing many bird* It was a wind, and no mistake; it came roaring down from the Welsh hills and swept across the saltings towards the Cheshire shore, picking up the spray in sheets from the half-empty gutters and pools left by the falling tide. It blew the loose sand in blinding clouds right into our fstpes, and when we tried to use our glasses our vision was obscured by the tears which welled into our eyes. We crossed the marsh in the teeth of the gale, but it was slow and tedious work, and we were very thankful for the slight shelter afforded by the broken embankment which crosses seaward of the railway. Most of that great waste of grass, sand and slub was birdiess; tlle powerful wind—fortunately not a bitter one—had driven them to seek shelter in ditches or had forced them acros to the Cheshire shore; some, no doubt. had followed the falling tide and were among the lums and goringsoff Parkgate ar.d Gayton. Close to Burton Point, however, there were a fair number of birds; a large gathering of black- headed gulls were resting on the gra-s, and the clear whistle of the curlew drew our attention to a party of these birds which were feeding round a. fat emptying gutter, probing their long curved bills here and there, in the mud and shallow water. Near them, again, were some redshanks and some smaller waders, which moved befe-,t, we could identify them, but one bird caught GlÁ attention; it was larger than the redshanks though smaller than the curlews, and its light plumage caught the light and rendered it conspicuous. A GREENSHANK IN JANUARY. I At first we could not get it within respectable range, but it was a little tamer than the redshanks, and, after we had followed it up for a short distance, we got it in a good light and saw that it was undoubtedly a greenshank. Now the green- shank—always a rare bird on the Dee--is not a f regular winter visitor: it is one of those birds which we class as spring and autumn migrants; birds which halt on their way north in the spring or on their journey towards warme: zones ill autumn, but which do not spend either summer or winter with us. What particular climatic con- ditions or other causes had induced this bird to linger until mid-winter cannot easily be explained. As I said, it was larger than the redshanks, among which it stood at times, and its long green legs were in marked contrast to the brilliancy coloured legs of the smaller and commoner bird. Not only did it. stand higher than the redshanks, but the pose of its body was different; it stood, so to speak, horizontally, and not with the breast higher than the tail. Very grey in colour, it locked almost white when it rose and shewed the great quantity of white upon its under parts; its voice, too, was distinctly different from that of the redshanks. On the wing, however- its back appeared Uack, but when on the ground v.e could see that this was only caused by the light; its upper were äh irrey. THE DEE GEESE. Wc saw very little of the geese: picbably tho largest party we're out seaward. While we were sheltering from the wind among the Burton rocks, waiting for the tide to fall and allow us to cross to the river, we saw a gaggle of about nineteen or twenty birds come across the railway from the Sealand side; they alighted near the embankment by the side of a gutter We should have been able to get near them if we had gone along the far jde of the railway embankment, but then the light would have been in our faces, so we braved the v/iiul and battled across on the weather side of the old embankment until we reckoned that we were opposite the birds. Then we crawled up the grass and levelled our glasses; we could see the big birds—unmistakably grey geese—resting on the grass or feeding, but we could net make out what species they were referable te although they were most likely pink-footeds. When we had watched them for a few minutes a ;;quali of hail and sleet blew over and hid them fiom sight: we passed on to the broken end of the embank- ment, and either the birds saw us or thought it was time to join their fellows on the sand banks, for they rose head to wind and began to fight their way against the gale. That wind, hewever, was too much even for a goose, and after a few minutes' flight westward, when they made prac- ticalIy no headway, they tacked towards the north, and skimmed like a yacht diagonally into the wind. We dropped, hoping they would pass above HS, but they fell away towards the east and crossed the embankment close to Burtcn Point. BLACK-BACKED GULLS AND OTHER BIRDS. When we had jumped the ditches or waded through the shallower gutters we reached the training wall of the river, and there we found a few more bird-3; save an odd redshank or dunlin, here and there beneath the shelter of a steep bank, tliei-o were no birds upon the open saltings. Near the river we saw a solitary great black-backed gull, close to the spot where we had seen one several times before. In December we saw a email flock ol mow buntings on the embankment, zi-.d a few- days before Mr. Cumrnings had found the pany reduced to three; we could now only find one. and when we flushed it it went hurtling of before the wind. There was ono fair-sized party of dunlins on the sand, but we could not steady the telescope in time to examine the Bock for strangers, indeed, it was no easy matter to use the telescope at all in that wind. When Mr. Cumminge was on the marsh earlier in January he saw a flock of interest- ing birds—about two dozen twites. In the bad light they were not easy to identify, until they rose and flew off towards Flint; then they called, and the unmistakable call satisfied him; the twite's note is not to be confused with that of any of the other linnets. There was one common but interesting little bird on that wild, wind-swept marsh-a wren, which has apparently taken up its winter quarters on the embankment and training wall. We had seen it here before, and it was close to the same spot. sheltering behind the bank. When it rcse its tiny whirring wings were not strong enough to carry it against the gale, and it dropped in the scant herbage at our feet; there we left it to recover its wind and continue its search for tiny among fhoso grey atones. SCAVENGING RATS. Out on the marsh we picked up the corpse of a black-headed gull; net an uncommon object, but nevertheless interesting, for the skin was turned inside out over the picked bones. iNcv; crows and other gulls—scavengers and undertaker; of the marsh—do not reverse the skin in manner, and, as Mr. Newstead remarked, it locked like the work of a hedgehog. Probably, and I should »ay without doubt, it was not the leavings of a hedgehog, but of ral for all along the embank- ment and- in the rocks at Burton there are tfbundanfc traces of these all-devouriiig mammals. Rats live in those banks above the reach of the tide, and they swarm in the cranky and crannies in the weathered sandstone rocks; when the tide falls they sally forth and scour the W2-:e for edible and jetsam; here they find a turnip, there an oily sardine tin, and ever and again a gory feast in the shape of some dead bird or animal or fish. If they would only confine their attention to such diet we could almost love them, but alas ■ they live in other localities than the wild Dee M" T. A. C.


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