« ZurückWeiter »
which extended through the whole length of the curve. These immense flashes reached an altitude of 80° or 90°, and were often divided into numbers of square portions, or flashes, separated by broad dark lines. This singular phenomenon I should judge to be owing to the intervention of patches of dense vapour between me and the aurora; and, as not a cloud was visible during the interval between the flashes, and as the stars preserved their brilliancy, the height of the aurora must have been immense.
As a diagram, however rough, excels description in these matters, I add a slight sketch (fig. 22.) of the appearance when the square masses were given off.
I think the exhibition was the most splendid about 10 P.M., although it continued very beautiful till after 2 A. M. There was not the slightest corresponding appearance in the south, nor could I distinguish any sound I could attribute to the aurora : in fact, the latter is perhaps hardly to be expected, as the mean distance of the aurora from the earth, as calculated from the observations of twenty different philosophers in the same century, is, according to Sir Richard Phillips, 500 miles; the distance observed varying from 100 to 1000 miles.
With respect to the very remarkable changes in the weather, and especially in the temperature, which immediately followed this certainly uncommon exhibition of the aurora in these latitudes, and which I am about to detail, a large share, in the absence of any other known cause, may fairly be attributed to this phenomenon. During the night the temperature fell to 34°, being the lowest degree of cold I have registered
hope soon to see the matter fully explained, as Captain Ross (whom I had the pleasure of seeing immediately on his arrival at Hull, after his long absence and perilous adventures) himself informed me he had obtained ample and satisfactory information respecting it and its causes.
this season : the barometer rose slightly. On the following morning, at nine o'clock, the northern hemisphere of the sky was studded with the mottled cirrostratus ; the wind was brisk from the west, but tending to the south; the pressure of the air 30.096; the temperature 41.9°, being 7.2° lower than the preceding morning at the same hour. The temperature remained low the whole day, the sky wild, and the wind increasing until the evening, when it blew strong from the south-west in gusts, and was accompanied with showers of rain, the temperature increasing considerably. At nine A. M. the following morning the thermometer stood at 58.8°, being 16.9° higher than the preceding morning: the barometer showed 29.417, being a fall of .679, or rather more than half an inch. The early part of the day was bright, with a fresh breeze from the south-west: at two P. M. it became overcast, and a heavy shower of rain fell : at night it blew strong from the south-west, accompanied with showers of rain, and once of hail. On the 15th, at nine A. M., the temperature was 46.1°, a decrease of 12.7° from the preceding morning: the barometer 29.132, and ultimately sinking to 29.118. These great and sudden differences in temperature are very uncommon at this time of the year, and actually greater than many of the same parallel hours in June and January of the present year, as I have found by referring to my own observations.
Hull, Oct. 18. 1833.
ART. XII. Short Communications. Birds. — A Notice of some rare Species of Birds observed or killed in the County of Suffolk, and adjoining Borders of Essex, during the Winter Months of 1832 and 1833. [By J. D. Hoy, Esq., of Stoke Nayland, Suffolk.]
Two Eagles of the cinereous or white-tailed Species (Falco Albicilla), but in the plumage of the sea eagle (F. Ossífragus), were, in December, 1832, trapped on a large rabbit-warren, near Thetford [and, it may be assumed, from Mr. Hoy's heading, on the Suffolk side of this town, which itself is just within the boundary of the county of Norfolk]. They had been observed for some time in the neighbourhood. One of the eagles carried a heavy trap a considerable distance, I believe, nearly half a mile, and was secured with some difficulty. One was apparently in its first year's plumage: the other, from its lighter-coloured feathers, and the tail-feathers possessing much more white, was probably a year older. They were both presented to me by G. Gardiner, Esq., of Thetford.
are the very birds to which the remarks and query (VI. 448.) of H.T. of Bury St. Edmunds relate. A Goshawk (Astur palumbdrius), an adult male bird, in most beautiful plumage, was, on March 16, 1833, caught by a gamekeeper of Sir Joshua Rowley, Bart., of Stoke Nayland, in a trap baited with a red-legged partridge, which it had killed. I believe its capture to be an exceedingly rare occurrence in this part of the kingdom. I am not aware of more than two or three instances of the goshawk's being killed in the southern parts of Britain; and, in those instances, I am inclined to suspect they might be birds escaped from falconers, as the goshawk has been trained and flown, at no very distant date, in the counties of Norfolk, Cambridge, and Herts, in which counties also the specimens were killed. The Merlin (Fălco AE'salon) seen. The Peregrine Falcon (Fălco peregrinus) seen. The Haiyinch (Fringilla Coccothraústes) [VI. 520., and, in addition to the references there given, III. 436.] visited us in small flocks, and many were seen and shot in different parts of the county. Although the whitethorn berries were abundant, the seeds of the sycamore and maple appeared to be their favourite food, more particularly those of the sycamore. A flock of eight or ten frequented some plantations near Ipswich during a great part of the winter, and seemed to feed almost entirely on the sycamore seeds. They were shy, and difficult of approach. Siskins (Fringilla Spinus) were very abundant through the winter, feeding principally on the seeds of the alder. Snow Buntings (Emberiza nivålis) in large flocks, in marshes and fields contiguous to the coast. The Great Butcher Bird (Lanius ercübitor) seen in Tendring Hall Park, Sir J. Rowley, Bart., in February, 1833. [For mentions of its occurrence in various parts of Britain, see I. 395.; III. 436.; V. 567. 723. Länius excubitor, in IV. 449., is wrongly introduced by myself: the author's bird was Lānius Collurio. — J. D.] Least Woodpecker (Picus minor). Two specimens were shot. It is a rare species in this locality. Little Gull (Lárus minutus) shot. Little Gallinule (Gallinula minuta) shot near Yarmouth. Gadwall Duck shot. A Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) was shot, in October, 1832, in the parish of Otley, about eight miles from Ipswich, in this county. I was informed of the circumstance by E. Acton, Esq., of Grundisburgh, who can bear testimony to the fact, having seen the bird, when in a high state of putrefaction, sus
pended from the bough of a tree, where it had been placed by the person who had shot it. Atkinson, in his Compendium of British Ornithology, mentions a bird of this species being killed in Somersetshire a few years since. Crossbills (Lória curviróstra) were shot in the same plantations [which are spoken of in p. 53., in the notice of the hawfinch], where they were often seen during the last winter, and generally feeding on a variety of spruce fir bearing a small cone. I have invariably found the crossbill preferring the larch to every other tree of the pine tribe, except in this instance, when the seeds of the small cones of this variety of spruce fir appeared to be their favourite food. I have seen them feeding on the common spruce fir, and occasionally on the Scotch and Weymouth pines, but seldom on the two last mentioned. Rusticus (of Godalming), in his esteemed communication (VI. 111–116.) of “More about Birds,” in speaking of the habits of the crossbill, says (VI. 113.), that the idea of its “holding the fir cone in the claw, and extracting the seeds with the beak, must have been suggested by some wag to a credulous naturalist.” Now, I do not in the least doubt but Rusticus is perfectly correct, as far as he may have had opportunities of observing the habits of this species, and, as he mentions the acts of individuals which he observed feeding on the Scotch pine, he may not have closely watched the movements of this species when on the larch. From October, 1821, to the middle of May in 1822, crossbills were very numerous in this county, and, I believe, extended their flights into many parts of England. Large flocks frequented some plantations of fir trees in this vicinity from the beginning of November to the following April. I had almost daily opportunities of watching their movements; and so remarkably tame were they, that, when feeding on fir trees not more than fifteen or twenty feet high, I have often stood in the midst of the flock, unnoticed and unsuspected. I have seen them, hundreds of times, when on the larch, cut the cone from the branch with their beak, and, holding it firmly in both claws, as a hawk would a bird, extract the seeds with the most surprising dexterity and quickness. I do not mean to assert this to be their general habit; but it was very frequently done when feeding on the larch. I have never seen them attempt the like method with cones of the Scotch or other species of pine, which would be too bulky for them to manage. Their method with these, and, of course, most frequently with the larch, was to hold firmly on the cone with their claws; and, while they were busily engaged in this manner, I have captured great numbers; many with a horsehair noose, fixed on the end of a fishing-rod, which I managed to slip over the head when they were feeding, and, by drawing it quickly towards the body, I easily secured them; others I took with a limed twig, fixed in such a manner in the end of the rod that on touching the bird it became immediately disengaged from it, adhered to the feathers, rendered the wings useless, and caused the poor bird to fall perfectly helpless on the ground. In this manner, in windy weather, I have taken several from the same tree, without causing any suspicion of danger. On warm sunny days, after feeding a considerable time, they would suddenly take wing, and, after flying round for a short time in full chorus, alight on some lofty tree in the neighbourhood of the plantations, warbling to each other in low pleasing strains; they would also fly i. the trees occasionally for the purpose of drinking, their food being of so dry a nature. In captivity they were quickly reconciled, and soon became very familiar. As, at first, I was not aware what food would suit them, I fixed branches of the larch against the sides of the room in which I had confined them, and threw a quantity of the cones on the floor. I found that they not only closely searched the cones on the branches, but, in a few days, not one was left in the room that had not been pried into. I gave them canary and hemp seed; but, thinking the cones were both amusement and employment, I continued to furnish them with a plentiful supply. I had about four dozen of them; and frequently, whilst I have been in the room, they would fly down, seize a cone with their beak, carry it to a perch, quickly transfer it to their claws, and, in a very short time, empty it of its seeds, as I have very many times witnessed, to my surprise and amusement. As the spring advanced, the male birds in the plantations were frequently singing on the tops of the firs, in low but very agreeable notes; yet they continued in flocks, and were seen in some parts of the county until the beginning of June. I had hopes of their breeding in confinement, and I accordingly kept them in different rooms, fixing the tops of young fir trees in the floor, and against the walls, and supplying them with as great a variety of food as possible; but all to no purpose, as neither those I had confined in this manner, nor those in cages, ever showed any inclination to breed. They are amusing birds in confinement, as they have some of the habits of the parrot tribe; climbing about the cage with both beak and claws. Since 1822 I have seen but few crossbills: small flocks have occasionally visited the fir plantations in the neighbourhood, but have remained only a short time. During the early