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So that there were but two inferences, either that the little architect had built her nest, and laid her eggs in the interval, or else that the man had 'told the lie direct/—an amusing instance of a liar being convicted by the mute testimony of a tomtit."
The titmouse often falls a victim to most unpardonable ignorance in this country, as well as in England, in consequence of the injury it is supposed to do to fruit trees. When in the very act of saving the buds, by picking away from them the insects bent on their destruction, and which man himself with all his power could not destroy, this poor bird is "savagely slaughtered." Mr. Selby most justly pleads in favour of its being a friend rather than an enemy to the horticulturist; and Mr. Knapp, treating of the species very fully in his most agreeable manner, is indignant that it should in these days be ranked as vermin, and a reward be offered for its head. Thanks to Mr. Weir we have some idea of the vast amount of good done by these birds in the destruction of caterpillars, when they have young. This gentleman with extraordinary patience, watched for seventeen hours successively how often a pair fed their nestlings, and ascertained it to be four hundred and seventy-five times; they appeared to be fed solely on caterpillars: "sometimes they brought in a single large one; at other times two or three small ones." (Macgillivray's Brit. Bird, vol. ii. p. 438.) The stomachs of a number of specimens sent to me during different years by bird preservers, from December to March inclusive, contained the remains of coleopterous and other insects, and very few of them, any vegetable food, as seeds, &c; there was no sand or fragment of stone in any of them.
I have remarked this species in Holland, France, Switzerland, &c, to be about as plentiful as in the British Islands.
THE MAESH TIT.
Parus palustrk, Linn.
Is very little known as an Irish species, but has been
met in the north, centre (as to latitude), and south.
In Smith's History of the County of Cork it is remarked, "Besides this species (Parus major), there is also the cole titmouse, the blackcap, the blue titmouse or nun, and the long-tailed titmouse." (vol. ii. p. 340, 2nd edit.) If we take for granted that the term "blackcap" is correctly applied to a Parus, the marsh titmouse must be considered the one meant. In very few instances has this bird occurred to me around Belfast, and not in any other locality. By two ornithological friends it has once or twice been met with here, and though within a few miles of the town, the localities and times of its appearance to them and myself were always different:—it was observed at the various seasons of the year. The marsh tit has been seen by R. Ball, Esq., only about Ballitore in the county of Kildare. In the collection of T. W. Warren, Esq., of Dublin, a native specimen is preserved, which was shot in the Phoenix Park near that city. Mr. Davis of Clonmel, informed me in May 1844, that some eggs which had been sent to him from the vicinity of Clogheen, county of Tipperary, on being submitted to Mr. Hewitson, were considered to be of this species.*
It is said to be found over England. When walking through the beautiful plantations about Twizell House, Northumberland, in the month of September, with Mr. Selby, this bird appeared quite common, and was stated to be so there at all seasons. About Jardine Hall, Dumfries-shire, on the contrary, as I was informed when there in October 1845, it is now considered only as an occasional visitant, generally appearing in the winter season. Mr. Macgillivray is "not aware of its having been met with farther north [in Scotland] than Fifeshire," vol. ii. p. 446.
THE COAL TIT.
Parus ater, Linn.
Is common in Ireland.
Montagu and Selby remark, that this species is less numerous in England than the P. palustru: but the relative proportion between the two species in Ireland is very different. To a few only of my correspondents is the latter known with certainty, but all who have bestowed attention on the subject, attest the presence of the coal titmouse in their respective counties, viz., Donegal, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Wexford, and Dublin. In the north generally, and wherever I have been in suitable localities throughout the country, this bird has commonly occurred. It is interesting in spring to listen to the notes or song of the great, the blue, and the coal titmouse, all having a family resemblance, but each well known from the other by the ornithologist,—
* Mr. Yarrell, by mistake, states on my authority, that it has been met with in Donegal. It may not improbably yet be round there.
"By him who muses through the woods at noon."
Towards the end of August, after a long silence, we may sometimes hear the notes of the Parus ater renewed.
Seeds as well as insects, &c, form a portion of its food. In a plantation consisting chiefly of the common pine (Pinus sylvestris) and the alder, I observed for a considerable time in the middle of December, some of these birds accompanied by the gold-crested regulus and lesser redpole (Fringilla Linaria). They were all occupied in flying from one alder to another, and were intent on procuring the seed of this tree only. The various attitudes of these three beautiful species were highly interesting, as clinging only to the light bunches of pendent seed, they were not stationary for a single moment. To observe a troop of titmice comprising three or four species, in addition to the gold-crested regulus, and occasionally one or two others of our smallest birds, moving about in company, now pausing as if to display their graceful attitudes on plantations with the esprit du corps of one species, has always been to me, but especially in the depth of winter, a source of much attraction: at such times their shrill little notes, evidently more than sight, serve to keep them together. When in Colin Glen on the 19th of November, 1833, I saw, as a matter of course, the gold-crested regulus, the blue and coal titmice in company. I was amused on observing both species of Pani-i cling to the centre of the under side of the leaves of the sycamore (Acer Pseudo-Platanus) still attached to the trees, and
describe a circle with their bills by picking with extreme rapidity all around them, during which operation their weight did not bring to the ground a single leaf, though all were "sere and yellow." Mr. Poole remarks that the coal titmouse feeds much in the season on the berries of woodbine, and that he has observed what appeared to be a family of these birds, engaged in carrying the berries one by one to their place of concealment.
About Aberarder, Inverness-shire, this was the only species of titmouse that came under my observation during September, 1842, and it was common in the plantations, especially those of Scotch fir, to which decided preference was shown. Mr. Macgillivray (vol. ii. p. 442) and Sir Wm. Jardine (B. B. vol. ii. p. 172), give very interesting accounts of its habits. That it does not, however, feed exclusively on insects in Ireland,—as the former author believes it to do in Scotland—I have had proof by finding seeds in its stomach. I have also commonly found fragments of stone, though they have not been met with in the birds examined by Mr. Macgillivray.
The Crested Titmouse (P. cristatus) is a British bird confined to Scotland, where it is but little known. Mr. Poole remarks, that its habits do not differ much from those of its congener, the coal titmouse, with which he has seen it associated in the depth of pine forests in Germany.
THE LONG-TAILED TIT.
Parus caudatus, Linn.
Is pretty widely disseminated over the island.
This interesting bird, though not well-known, in consequence of its retired and wooded haunts, has long since been recorded as indigenous to Ireland. It appears in the county histories of Cork (Smith's) and Londonderry, and the Natural History of Dublin: —in the last, Rutty remarks that it "was found in the county in the winter of 1768."
At present, the long-tailed tit is less known in the south than in the north, over which it is diffused, but not plentifully.
VOL. I. P
When my observations on this species were published in 1838, it had not been met with in the province of Munster, by any of my correspondents resident there, but since that period has been noticed. Its distribution from north to south is now known, as follows:—In the north-west of Donegal, it has been seen; but very rarely.* In Londonderry, the bird is not only said to occur, as already mentioned, but to be more frequent than the common species, the blue titmouse !t—which must be incorrect. In Antrim, it has been once seen at Claggan, and at Portglenone: from the latter place one was sent to Belfast, in January, 1837, as a bird never before observed by persons accustomed to shoot in that neighbourhood; six or seven of them were together: in Shane's-Castle Park I saw a few in May, 1838. Its numbers would seem of late years to have increased considerably throughout the north, where the species occurred only twice to the late Mr. Templeton. Within several miles around Belfast, in Antrim and Down, this bird, for a number of years, has been met with, wherever there is a sufficiently great extent of wood, this being apparently the only essential requisite to its presence. It alike inhabits the plantations of the mountain glen, with its rocks and din of cascades; those around the beautiful seats which adorn the shores of the bay, and those ornamenting the most improved demesnes in the rich and highly cultivated valley of the Lagan. In Tollymore Park (Down), these birds were first observed by the gamekeeper in 1836. Specimens from Fermanagh have come under my inspection. It inhabits the county of Meath; has been seen about Portumna, on the borders of Galway; and is said to breed in the small islands of the Connemara lakes. § In the neighbourhood of Dublin this bird has come under my own notice, and is considered, by Mr. B>. Ball, as not uncommon there; but around Youghal, in the county of Cork—his former place of residence—he never met with it. The species is not uncommon near Cahir, and frequents the woods about Ballibrado,
* Mr. J. V. Stewart. t Sampson's Londonderry. 5 M'Calla.