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NATURAL HISTORY iXOTES. THE ARRIVAL OF SUMMER BIRDS. Usually by the first week in April we can record the arrival of some of our summer visitors, but this year they were earlier than ever. First came the whoatear, always well to the front of the migrant army. On the loth of last month one was seen on the hills near Macclesfield, where during the breeding season the bird is common. iNoxt day three were nouoed at Pwllheli, on the 20th, one near Dulas, in Anglesey, followed on tne 21tit by many more; on that date, the 21st, he birds arrived in force at Barmouth, and now they are abundant all over the East Cheshire lniis. The chilfchaff, first of the warblers, was not long behind the wheatear. One was singing gaily at Ouuton on the lth, an unusually early date. The earliest ohiifchaff reported in the Field '—on the Surrey coast-was on this day. One had reachod northern Anglesey by the 21st, and next day birds were seen and heard at such wide apart places as Oxford, Barmouth, and Castle Mill, near Bowdon, where I watched and listened to my first ohiffchaff of the season. On the 18th migratory pfirties of pied wagtails and meadow pipits were drifting across Cheshire; these birds are brighter and cleaner iooking than the members of the same species which have wintered with us. Large numbers of both species leave our shores in autumn and return about the middle of March. A few days later I met with a small congregation of pied wagtails, which suddenly flew up mto a tree, and began a most charmmg little concert of song. Sand martins were seen on our southern shores and in the extreme south-west of England from the ISth onward, but they did not rush in to their more northern haunts like the chiffchafis. Whinchats were also reported from the south, but as the editor of the "Field" wisely remarks, it is easy to mistake a female stonechat for a whinchat. A stonechat, only a passing bird in Central Cheshire, was noticed some time ago at Knutsford. Reed buntings appeared suddenly in some numbers in the reed beds round the meres about the middle of the month. In one or two plaoea these fine Little buntings remain all winter; there are usually one or two to be seen at Budworth, near North- wioh; but most of the birds leave us during the colder months. FATHER DEPARTURES NORTHWARD.  ii?i Miern ()rUlng mras leave while the birds from the south are coming in. Golden plovers left their winter haunts some time ago, and, savo for the loudly calling lapwings, much interested in domestic affairs, tlie fields were deserted. One morning last week, however, I found a large gathering of golden plovers in one field, which is always a favourite feeding ground. I counted 236 birds, and with them wero a few lapwings, probably migrants too, for they were silent. When I passed the same field next morn- ing all had gone. How do these passing birds know which are best feeding grounds? They always settle to rest or feed in the winter haunted spots. The golden plovers whioh breed in Cheshire are already on the hills, mixing their spring music with the bubbling breeding cries of the moorland curlews. There are curlews still in the estuary, and probably will be all the summer, for many of these shore-loving birds seem to be non-breeders. All tie migratory mallards seem to have left the meres, but the drakes, whose spouses are settled comfortably in their down- lined nests, sail on the waters or stand idly on the banks; they take little interest in the welfare of their families onoo nest-making haa really begun. Winter ducks etiil linger, here a few tufteds, there pochards, but most of the latter have left. One day last week I put up a couple of goldeneye-s from a reed bed at Rostherne; they were a fine pair, and the drake had a splendid white spot in front of his eye. Goldeneyes are often late; they remain longer than most of the other visiting ducks on the waters of the Lake Distriot. I have seen them at Easter when Easter has been late. Wigeon, too, drift in, remain a day or two, and then pass northward; over fifty came in a few days since to Llyn Coron in Anglosey. The soft night call of the departing redwings has been heard for some time, and altkough there are still fieldfares to be met with, their numbers are greatly reduoed. Birds depart and birds arrive, birds pass, are here one day and gone the next; but we are never birdless, and there is constant change. SPRING FLOWERS. -but the ohainge of seasons is not only notice- able in the birds, a few days at this time make a wonderful difference in the appearance of the oountry. Coltsfoot, which a short time ago was only visible in a few places, now makes a grand show on the spoil-banks and waste places where no other flower can hold its own. Lesser celandines dot the woods, the roadside banks, and every wild hole and corner; primroses are abundant in those places where the root-grubber does not penetrate. Ground ivy flourishes beneath the shelter of its leaves, and the glorious beds of golden daffodils rejoice the eye. but only! alas where privacy keeps the robbers away. In the damp ditches and on hedge banks the golden forage is out in patches, light green leaveB tinged with the tiny yellow flowers; in one spot I found the wood ranunculus well out, much earlier than usual, and sweet violets were flower- ing before the third week of last month. By the rivers of eastern Cheshire the groat purple-pink flower spikes of the butterbur, not one of the most beautiful of our spring bfeoms. are to be seen in thick bods; their leaves, which later give cover to the feeding birds, have not yet appeared: And now, at the very end of March and beginning of April, the woods are clothed with the dainty pink-tinged flowers of the wood anemone-the "wind flower" stirred with every breath, but hardy all the same. Another delicate blossom is appearing, the white nodding wood sorrel, one of tho prettiest of our roadside flowers, all the prettier, too, because it hangs on slender stem above its trefoil bright green leaves. Dog violets In patches give colour to tho banks, and less notice- able, but as abundant, are the curious five-faced flower-heads of the moschatel, green as their own leaves. Marsh marigolds are out in a few shel- tered spots in Cheshire, but in Anglesey they are in glorious clusters. AL_< THE ESTUARY IN MARCH. I I ?, I ?. AO°ui we middle of the month I visited the estuary, and noted many changes. The geese had departed, and most of the ducks had also left. The paired mallards which breed in the district, after Hying round in couples for some time, went off to their spring haunts in Wales or inland Cheshire, but there were a few remaining, unpair-ed and migratory birds probablv. With them were some splendid pintails, and with the aid of a powerful telescope we watched them for some time. There were a few wigeon scattered about, but not many. but the most abundant duck on the sandbank* was the sheld- duck. The drakes, fine birds in splendid plumage were performing curious evolutions round the females, walking round them with their heads low, their necks bent downwards, and their shoulders hurn-ped up in a strange manner. Now and then two drakes would snar. and at times they would stretch up their long ncck" soveral times, and between the stretching dip and bow to the ducks; when sparring they jumped clean off their feet. Cormorants, old birds with white thigh patches, were common on the banks. This conspicuous white thigh patch is only taken on by the birds during the breeding season; it appears early in spring, but disappears while the birds are sitting. When tho cormorants first take to the rocks the white patches are very con- spicuous but before the young are hatched all the white filaments have been shed. Ovster- catchers and curlews were fairly abundant and there were a rair number of guU?r?eat black-backed nerring* and common gulls; we only saw a single black-headed gull, for the birds are now in the nejds round their inland breeding haunts. I hear they have left the Barmouth estuary, but are abundant at Bala and elsewhere in Central Wale^. Common gulls seem in no hurry to aepart; I noticed one last week at Ros- therne; it had a favourite stump on which it stood, and day after day it was in the same place. Another bird, for some weeks, has fre- quented Tatton Mere. Scon now, however. we shall lose the common gulls; they will return to their nesting haunts north of the Border, and until the autumn we shall see them no more. T. A. C.

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