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through it; lastly, it would be thrown into the form of an arch, which had a singular effect, and generally when thus exhibited the whole body was bent like a well-strung bow,—an appearance which was several times observed with very high interest. Within a few seconds of time all these appearances were assumed by the one bird. It is rarely, except in the warmest and finest weather, and amid attractive scenery, when everything around from earth or sea to the sky above, is redolent of joy and beauty, that we feel disposed thus to pause, and patiently observe.
On such an occasion at Mount Pagus, crowned by the ruins of the Castle of Smyrna, and commanding one of the most magnificent prospects in the world, the swallows,* as they gently floated "on the bosom of the air" a few yards beneath, exhibited the tail expanded to such a degree, that the beautiful white portion towards its base was quite conspicuous; presenting in this respect so great a difference from its ordinary appearance, that I did not feel certain at the moment, of their being our own common bird.
White in the Natural History of Selborne (Letter 21) remarks of the swift, that "in the longest days it does not withdraw to rest till a quarter before nine in the evening, being the latest of all day birds." At Belfast, it may be seen about midsummer at nine, and not unfrequently for some time after that hour. I have noted them as heard, on the 27th of June, at a quarter after 9 o'clock; on the 8th of August, at five minutes after 8 o'clock, both days having been fine and warm; they occasionally remain on wing until it is almost dark. The three species of Hirundo usually retire before them.
The swift generally leaves Belfast about the 12th of August, but in 1840 I saw a number on the 19th of that month, and in 1832, on the 20th; in 1845, they appeared above the town . as numerous as in June on the evening of the 18th, after which I did not see them, and the latest heard of in the neighbourhood, was a single bird observed on the 22nd and 23rd; in 1833, I remarked about twenty in company, near Belfast, so late as the 30th. They were pursuing their prey most leisurely, at about thirty yards from the ground, many swallows and martins occu
pying the space immediately beneath them: the Cypselus and .Hirundo each occasionally broke through the other's ranks. The month of August was much colder than usual that year, a circumstance, however, which could hardly have influenced the swift in remaining beyond the ordinary period. The first assemblage of swallows and martins, constituting a vast multitude, was congregated for migration at the same time and place; on the same day they and the swifts departed. In 1848, swifts became gradually scarcer, from the end of August until the 1st of Sept., on which day, two appeared at Belfast. On the 4th of September, 1835, some were observed by a scientific friend about Dunluce Castle; on the 11th of that month in the following year, three of these birds were seen by myself at Hillsborough (county Down), and many more of the Hinindinida, which appeared at some distance, were believed to be of this species.* About the same place, many of the Hir. rustica were congregated preparatory to their departure. I have never witnessed any unusual assembling together of swifts, towards the time of their migration, like that of the swallow and martin. During the period of their stay, they are, in favourite localities, generally numerous and fly in company.
In the course of a tour "which I made to the south and southeast of Europe, &c, in 1841, the swift was met with at Malta on the 17th of April, when many appeared in company with the three common species of Ilirundo,—H. rustica, II. urbica, and H. riparia. None were seen during the passage of H.M.S. Beacon from Malta to the Morea, though numbers of //. rustica and H. urbica alighted on the vessel. On the 6th and 7th of May, swifts were next observed about the mountain-tops in the island of Syra, the weather being very fine and warm. Towards the end of the month they appeared at Smyrna, and were abundant at Constantinople. Early in June they were numerous about a rocky islet north-east of Port Nausa, in the island of Paros, and were breeding in the fissures of low marine cliffs. At the end of this month they were plentiful at Trieste; and in July at Venice (remarkably so there), Verona, Milan, &c
* Mr. Poole, writing from the county of Wexford, notes the earliest appearance of the swift during four years to be on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of May; the latest Sept 11th and 20th.
VOL. I. 2 E
White of Selborne and Macgillivray give very copious and interesting accounts of the swift, from personal observation.
THE ALPINE SWIFT.
Cypselus melba, Linn, (sp.)
Cypselw alpinus, Scop, (sp.)
Is an extremely rare visitant.
My attention was called by the Dublin Penny Journal, of March, 1833, to a rare bird, said to have been killed at Eathfarnham, in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, and added to the fine collection of native birds belonging to Thomas W. Warren, Esq., of Dublin. On calling to see this bird (as subsequently stated in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society for 1834, p. 29) I found it to be the Cypgelus alpinus, a species then unrecorded as having occurred in any part of Ireland. The specimen recognised as the alpine swift by Mr. Wm. Sinclaire, and communicated by him to Mr. Selby as an addition to the British Fauna, was obtained off Cape Clear, at the distance of some miles from land. Mr. Warren's specimen is incorrectly stated in the Journal, to have been captured in the month of February, as, according to a note made by that gentleman at the time, the bird was sent to him from Eathfarnham, on the 14th of March: it was in a perfectly fresh state.
I am informed by Eobert Warren, Esq., junr., Castle Warren, county of Cork, that an alpine swift was shot near Doneraile, in that county, in June, 1844 or 1845, by a friend in whose company he was at the time. Common swifts and swallows were flying about the locality.
Since Mr. Sinclaire's bird was obtained, four individuals of this
species have been met with in England, as particularly noticed in the works of Yarrell and Macgillivray.
The first place I met with the alpine swift, was about ten miles to the north of Naples, on the 12th of August, 1826, when a great number were observed associated together in flight, at a high elevation. Their evolutions in the air were similar to those of the common swift. Independently of their superior size, which at once distinguishes them from that bird, the white colour of a portion of the under plumage, from which they have received the name of "white-bellied swift," is conspicuous, even when the bird is at a considerable altitude.
When on the continent, in 1841, (with my friend Professor E. Forbes,) this species was first seen by us on the 9th of April, as we descended the Rhone, from Lyons to Avignon. About half-way between these cities, several appeared flying over the river, and a few at all suitable places thence to Avignon. On the morning of the 28th of April, as we entered the splendid bay of Navarino, great numbers appeared careering high overhead. When walking through the petty town of the same name later in the day, alpine swifts were observed flying very low over the streets and houses, although the weather was delightfully warm and fine. On my visiting the island of Sphacteria, the western boundary of the bay, on the 29th, these birds were very abundant. The attraction here was a range of noble precipitous cliffs rising directly above the sea, at the western side of the island. These swifts inhabited the cliffs, which are similar to those tenanted by the common species in the north of Ireland. Although the day was as fine and warm as our northern summers ever are, these birds, as I walked along the top of the cliffs, swept about low and in numbers, occasionally within a few yards of my head: —this remark is made from the circumstance of the common swift being generally high in the air in fine weather; we do, however, occasionally observe it sweeping near the earth at such times. Though larger, they in general appearance and flight strongly resemble the common swift: they are very noisy, almost constantly uttering a loud twitter; besides which, they occasionally give a brief scream, nowise resembling the long-drawn and shrill cry of the common species. Towards the end of May, I saw a few alpine swifts at Constantinople, wheeling abont the heights of Pera, and near the high tower of Galata, in which they probably build. In the month of June, I met with this species at the island of Paros, and about the Acropolis at Athens. Throughout this tour, the common swift was more frequently seen than the C. alpinus, and at one locality only did they both appear;—this was at Constantinople, where the former species was abundant, and a few of the latter were observed. This seemed rather remarkable, as in no scene did I meet with the one species, in which the other would not have appeared equally at home. The only difference in their habits which struck me, was, that the alpine swift is apparently more partial to cliffs than buildings, the common swift more partial to artificial structures than to rocks.
As but little has been written on the alpine swift, the following interesting extract from Captain S. E. Cook's Sketches in Spain, is introduced:—
"Cypseltjs Alpintjs.—Were living at the Breche de Roland, skimming the glaciers in July. I could not ascertain whether they bred in the mural precipices there, or below in the villages. I never saw them in Spain, excepting at Merida, where they were in April, in company with innumerable martins and others of the tribe flying very low, with a note not unlike some of the terns (Sterna). When high in the air, as I have seen them in descending the Ehine, they have a loud and melodious whistle. I have heard they were not uncommon in Catalonia, but I never met with them, probably from their habit of going to feed at vast heights and distances in the day time, which prevents their being seen. They arrive at Naples at the end of March, and then fly low. I believe they depart early."—vol. ii. p. 276.