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running up from the breast to the ear coverts; sides grey ; vent and under tail coverts black; legs and toes blackish brown ; length from twenty-six to twenty-eight inches. The female has the head reddish brown; neck pale brown, both being speckled with very dark brown; upper parts dark brown, each feather being black in the centre with a pale brown edge; under surface of a pale brown, as in the case of many other ducks. In July the male assumes the same plumage as the female, but recovers his masculine colours in the autumnal moult. The length of tail will always serve to distinguish this duck from the widgeon, whose plumage it resembles in other respects. The flavour for the table is excellent, and the bird bears a high price in the poulterers' shops.
The MOORHEN or GALLINULE (Gallinula chloropus) is very commonly met with in our rivers and ponds, where it swims gracefully, searching for aquatic insects, and nodding its head at every instant. It dives remarkably well and quickly, and remains in the reeds with only its beak above the water. On account of its diving so rapidly, it is rarely bagged without the aid of a dog, as it does not rise to the surface if death takes place under the water. On land it runs rapidly, cocking up the feathers of its tail, which are white beneath, and seeking the secure retreats afforded by the water as rapidly as possible. Its nest is built among the sedge, and it lays seven or eight eggs of a yellow colour with brown spots.
appear only like a brownish black mass of fur or down, and swim about in the most lively manner. In the male the beak is yellowish green, with a red base ; on the forehead is a naked patch of red ; iris hazel; back, wings, rump, and tail dark olive brown; head, neck, breast, and sides dark slate ; belly and vent greyish white; above the tarsus a ring of red; legs and toes green.
The WATER-RAIL (Rallus aquaticus) resembles the moorhen in general figure, though differing in colour, which is more like that of the land-rail. The back is spotted or speckled brown; cheeks, chin, sides, and front of neck and breast lead grey ; vent buff colour; legs and toes brownish red; length eleven inches and a half.
The GREBES (Podiceps cristatus, P. auritus, and P.
minor) are like the moorhens in diving powers, and resemble them much in habits. All the grebes feed upon fish and water insects. The lesser grebe is also called the Dabchick. It is a very timid bird, and disappears by diving on the slightest alarm. It is easily domesticated on our ornamental waters, and dives and comes up again, over and over again, as if for the amusement of the spectators.
The Common Coot (Fulica atra), of which the GREATER Coor is only a variety, is constantly met with on our internal waters, and also to some extent upon our sea-coasts. Indeed, on the Southampton Water it is common enough, as well as in the creeks on the coast of Essex. It breeds in this country to some extent, but also migrates from the north. The nest is formed of flags, &c., among the reeds or rushes, of a clumsy but compact form. Here the female lays seven or eight eggs of a stone colour, two inches and one line in length by one inch and a half. The
appear at the end of May or the beginning of June. Coots are not in much request for the table, as may be supposed from the price, which is rarely above eighteen-pence a couple. The beak is of a pale rose red, the naked patch on the forehead being of a pure white, from which the name “bald” is given to them; iris crimson ; a semicircular streak of white below the eye; the whole body covered with black feathers tinged with slate grey ; primaries pure
secondaries the same, but tipped with white, forming a narrow bar across the wing; legs, toes, and membranes dark green, with a ring of orange above the tarsal joint; length sixteen inches.
The above are common to our internal waters as well as our sea-coasts, but the following are almost confined to the latter, though a specimen may occasionally be met with some few miles inland, especially in severe winters.
The WILD SWAN or HOOPER (Cygnus ferus). Of this bird there are several varieties — the common wild swan, Bewick's swan, the Polish swan, and two small sub-varieties of the Bewick swan. This last swan resembles the common wild swan in the colour of the base of the upper mandible ; but the Polish swan has this part of a pale yellow instead of the bright orange. The internal structure of the three is shown to differ by Mr. Yarrell, and therefore, though the: external difference is so slight, there can be but little doubt that they are distinct varieties of this bird. The adult swan is of a pure white, but the young birds, like those of the tame or mute swan, are grey in plumage. They breed in the Arctic Ocean, and only visit these shores in the winter season, when the colds of their summer residence are too severe for them. They are easily shot, till rendered wild and cunning by incessant firing at them. A charge of shot from an ordinary gun, it directed against the head or under the wing, will often kill them ; but not even swan-shot will penetrate the feathers of the back and upper surface of the wings. They weigh from twelve to twenty pounds, and strike with such force of wing as to break the arm of a careless or ignorant person.
The COMMON Wild Goose (Anser ferus), generally called the GREY LAG, is more an inland bird than one frequenting the coast; but it can scarcely ever be shot on the feed, which is its only reason for seeking the interior. In Scotland it is often stalked among the lochs, which are accessible to the shooter from their bold and partially-wooded shores; but in the south nothing but the punt-gun has a chance with this wary bird. The flavour of a wild goose, when in good order, is most delicious, and is even superior, in the opinion of some gourmands, to that of the wild duck or teal. Formerly the grey lag used to breed in our fens and marshes, but such a thing is now unknown, and in some mild winters—such as that of 1858-9—not a goose is to be seen on any of our coasts. The beak is of a pink-flesh colour, with the horny nail at the point white, as in the tame goose ; iris brown; legs, toes, and membranes dull flesh colour; the plumage resembles that of the tame goose. The adult male measures thirty-five inches in length, and the female thirty inches.
The BEAN GOOSE (Anser segetum) very rarely breeds in this country, the greater proportion of those which appear in September and October having migrated here from the north. It differs from the grey lag in having the nail, edges and base of the bill black, the middle portion being orange. The plumage also is darker. The legs and toes also are orange. In length and weight there is very little difference between the two kinds.
The WHITE-FRONTED or LAUGHING GOOSE (Anser erythropus), though not so numerous in this country as the bean goose, is yet a regular winter visitor. It has a bill somewhat like that of the grey lag, having the nail white; but the feet and legs are orange coloured, like those of the bean goose. The general plumage is very similar to that of the latter bird, with the exception of the breast, which is nearly white, with patches and broad bars of black. In length it is less than either, being only twenty-seven inches from tip to tail.
The BERNICLE GOOSE (Bernicla leucopsis) appears in large flocks in severe winters, especially on our western coasts. It is even more shy than the rest of its congeners, and is still smaller than the last—its length being twenty-five inches. The bill is black, a stripe of the same colour extending to the eye; the legs and toes are also black; the forehead, cheeks, and throat are white; top of the head, neck, and breast black; upper parts black and white; tail black; and all the under parts greyish-white, the vent being
The BRENT GOOSE (Bernicla brenta) is the smallest, and at the same time the most numerous, of the geese frequenting our coasts, in the bays and creeks of which it is to be found in large flocks whenever the winter is severe enough to draw it from the north. It is never known to breed in this country. Like the bernicle goose, it has a black beak, and also legs and toes of the same colour; the head, neck, and breast are black, with the exception of a small patch of white feathers tipped with black on each side of the neck; the plumage of the upper part of the body is brownish black, with more or less grey edging to each feather; wing feathers and tail black; tail coverts and vent white; belly slate grey, the feathers being edged with white; length twenty-one inches.
The following catalogue embraces the more common varieties of waterfowl which are likely to be met with by the sportsman on our coasts. For a more detailed description of these I must refer my readers to the pages of Yarrell, Bewick, and other writers on this branch of natural history.
The SHELDRAKE or BURROUGH Duck (Tadorna vul. panser), and the RUDDY SHELDRAKE (Casarka rutila).
The BLACK SCOTER (Oidemia nigra), and the VELVET SCOTER (Oidemia fusca).
The SHOVELLER (Spatula clypeata),
The GOLDEN EYE (Clangula glaucion), of which the young is the MORILLON.
The HARLEQUIN DUCK (Clangula histrionica).
The Divers (Colymbus glacialis, C. arcticus and C. septentrionalis).
The Curlew and WHIMBREL (Numemius arquata and N. Phæopus).
In addition to the above list, almost every sea-bird which frequents our coasts is occasionally included within the deadly range of the punt-gun or shot from the shoulder at a long range, when the more coveted birds are not to be come
However much the puntsman may mentally exclaim, “Dilly, dilly, dilly, come and be killed,” those constantly tormented birds, which are the special objects of his desire, will not always be so accommodating; and, in spite of every manæuvre, they manage to escape. Among those which he is most apt to turn his attention to under these circumstances may be enumerated the Ringed Plover; Turnstone Sanderling; Oyster Catcher; Redshank, common and spotted; Little Stint; Dunlin, or Purre and Purple Sandpiper; the Oxbird, and the Dotterel; also, the Cormorant, Gannet, and Gulls. The Rockbirds, including the Guillemots, Auks, Puffins, and Razorbills, also sometimes attract the fatal aim; but they afford no sport, and can only gratify the desire for blood which is so strong in some breasts as to call for constant gratification. In juvenile gunners this may be excusable, though not to be encouraged; but among those who call themselves proficients, they may surely be left to enjoy life as long as nature will permit.