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the range of white cliffs facing the south, and forming the northern boundary of Church Bay; they were not, however, by any means so numerous as on the northern side of the Bull Point. The opinion prevails here, as elsewhere, that the puffins feed their young with sorrel, when they become, as it is stated, too fat to allow them to make their escape from their burrowed nests. This idea I conceived might have originated in consequence of the quantity of the plant not unfrequently found growing, as at Rathlin, in the vicinity of their nests."*
Of the Alcide which frequent the high rocky parts of the coast of Ireland annually for the purpose of breeding, the puffin is the most select as to locality; the guillemot, razorbill, and black guillemot being frequently found where it is not ;—those three species also being usually met with at the same place. The greatest haunt of the puffin and rock-nesting birds generally which I have visited about midsummer, is the magnificent range of cliffs, miles in extent, in the peninsula—“island” it is called-of
The Horn, in Donegal, on and about which I spent the week ending the month of June, 1832.+ I shall therefore copy some of my notes on the birds of the locality, that an idea may be formed by persons who have not visited such haunts, of the species found there.
By the philosophical student of Nature, however, the mighty scene before him, comprising earth, ocean, sky, each in its sublimity, will be considered before he turns his attention to its beautiful adjuncts;—the feathered race. Its physical geography, as his eye takes in the vast extent of country, nearly all in its original wildness, will first be viewed, and the geological age of its various portions speculated on, vaguely though it may be, from the form of its hills, cliffs, and mountains, and the changes will be noted that are at the present time in progress. At one place he will perceive that the land is gaining on the ocean, and at another, yielding to its assaults. The leading features of the prospect, viewed from the heights of the peninsula, are wild and fine in the extreme, ranging from Malin Head, the most northern, to Bloody Foreland Point, the north-western extremity of Ireʻland. Off the land towards the latter lie four small islands, the one nearest to it displaying cultivation, the next, pasture green as emerald, the third-and I believe fourth also-sterile rock. Northward of them is the much larger island of Tory, whose ancient history holds a prominent place in the archæological annals of Ireland. It is of most picturesque profile, with its northern extremity rugged as the dilapidated ruins of a timeworn castle. Inland, the mountain of Muckish appears a few miles distant, and, more remote, the grand conical chain of mountains, finer in form, than great in altitude, of which Errigal (2,460 feet in height) is the chief. The general features of the vegetation clothing the earth will be botanically viewed, with at the same time its pictorial effects, from lofty mountains on whose summits the true alpine plants find a home, to the low and barren sand hills which skirt a large portion of the coast. The vast extent of sky, exhibiting perhaps at the same moment every form of cloud to which science has applied a name, will next arrest attention; so much being within view, that the spot occupied by the spectator may remain all day in brilliant sunshine, although thunder-clouds, “dark as Erebus," appear at a distance, and peal forth their sublime volleys, while both sheeted and forked lightning play in as fiery intensity as in the gloom of night amid their intense blackness ;-a hue unseen elsewhere than in such scenes.
* In the 5th chapter of a very interesting series of papers by Hugh Miller, published in the Witness' newspaper (April 12, 1845), entitled, “A Summer Ramble among the fossiliferous deposits of the Hebrides,” it is mentioned that the islanders of Eigg believe the old puttins to administer sorrel-leaves to their young for the purpose of reducing them in size, and enabling them to get out of the burrows when their wings are fit for use. It is believed that the nestlings become so fat, that but for this remedy they would be incapable of leaving their birth-places.
+ The map of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge gives " Horn Head 307” yards, or 921 feet; but this probably applies to the highest hill of the peninsula. • Cliffs 235” yards or 705 feet in height are, however, indicated. In The first volume of this work I mentioned Horn Head as attaining nearly 600 feet, on the authority of a nautical survey made in 1832 or 1833, in which it was noted as 580 feet.
The illimitable ocean—"a world of wonder in itself”-—will then claim his admiration. On its distant waves a few “labouring barks” will probably be seen, for on a vast expanse of water their
motion, however great in reality, appears but slow; nearer, groups of porpoises or grampuses may exhibit their dorsal fins above the surface as they proceed on their rolling course; or aloft, the gannet majestically poise himself ere he strike into the deep. That beautiful sight, a “play of gulls,” will doubtless be witnessed at one or more parts of the surface to which shoals of small fish have arisen. Landward, the rapid flight of innumerable little parties of guillemots, razorbills, and puffins, as they fly, chiefly in single file, to or from the cliffs, or over the sea, will be observed. In purity of hue, similar to, and in number less only than the flakes of a snow-shower, the gulls, roused off their eggs or young, appear from base to summit of the cliffs, while jetty cormorants, with necks straight-outstretched, fly to their congregated nests. The blue rock-dove will be seen on wing to and from the caverns, and perhaps the dark-hued peregrine falcon, or the eagle, making a death-swoop in the vicinity of its eyrie. Any description of the effect of the mingling voices of myriads of birds of various species, in such a scene, would be vain.
On the 28th we had the gamekeeper at the Horn lowered down the precipitous cliffs to the eastward of Horn Head, to a nest of the sea-eagle, from which he brought up two eaglets ;the particulars of the exploit have been described in Vol. I. p. 15. On the following day we went to the cliffs adjacent to the eagle's eyrie, in the hope of procuring young peregrine falcons, but were unsuccessful, in consequence of the rock projecting so much above the nest as to render it unapproachable : we saw the old pair of birds. A mile westward of the Head, a colony of cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) came in view, their nests being placed on the broad and flat top of a jutting rock, or “ bench," as it is here called, on the sea-side of the Temple Brig. This “temple” is a rocky headland, standing out to sea, and pierced entirely through by a lofty arch whose base is washed by the ocean ; hence it bears the name of the Temple “brig," or bridge ;—the arch is sometimes called also “ the door” of the Temple.
As noted when looking down upon the colony at the disVOL. III.
tance of perhaps fifty feet ;--nearly all these cormorants are seated on their nests, about forty in number. These are very large, and composed of the roots or “runners” of the sea lyme-grass, Elymus arenarius, which is abundant on the neighbouring sands. They are lined with the leaves of the same plant, and placed close together, but without touching each other. All the old cormorants are wholly black, no white patch behind the thigh or elsewhere, and no appearance of a crest.* The usual number of young birds is three, which are yet very small. They are all black, and exhibit already a ludicrously capacious gape. In some nests there are eggs without spots or markings of any kind; in colour and form like those of the common duck.t Temple Brig and the slope above it are entirely covered with fine soft cushions of the thrift, or sea-pink (Statice armeria), now exhibiting in profusion, from each verdant mass, its fine rose-coloured flowers. The ox-eye, or white chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), grows abundantly, and is in full bloom on the little patches of earth that rest on the face of the cliffs eastward of the Temple. Looking in this direction, kittiwakes (Larus rissa) in thousands are seen at one view upon their nests, which are placed in single rows on all the narrow horizontal shelves of the mural cliffs that afford sufficient depth, from the sea upwards, half-way to the summit; every available spot is thus occupied. The nest is very large, round in form-circular within—and fully three inches in thickness. It is apparently composed of the Elymus arenarius. The birds are as close together on their nests as they can sit, and the lines of snowy whiteness-of various length
—which they present against the grey sterile surface of the cliffs have a very singular appearance, as strata of flints in a limestone quarry are not more horizontally disposed. When the birds stand up, and only then, for not one is absent from its nest (now midday), the young can be seen, which are brownish-grey in colour, and none of them larger than newly-hatched chickens. Some of the old birds, as if to exhibit their happiness, assume towards each other loving attitudes, like those of doves when cooing. There is a complete line of demarcation between the nestingplaces of the kittiwake and the herring-gull (Larus argentatus), those of the latter being above the others, and the nests much farther apart; indeed, the herring-gull, though plentiful, is less numerous than the smaller species. From the summit of the cliff, where it approximates 500 feet in altitude, many eggs of the razorbill are on the bare rock two or three yards below me, while the birds themselves keep flying in and out of crevices towards the summit of the rocks, within which their young are at such a distance that they cannot be reached by the hand. Immense numbers of puffins breed here, and they afford me an excel. lent and near opportunity of observing them, as, within a yard of the summit, many appear on the flat ledges of rock, while others come flying up from the sea and alighting beside them, quite regardless of my presence. A few yards down, others are seen at the entrance of holes, like rabbit-burrows, though really their own perforations. An immense bank of loose sandy earth shooting down almost perpendicularly towards the sea, was drilled by them so as to resemble a gigantic dove-cot. Every bird of the myriads that I see of various species, excepting nestlings, is in full adult plumage.*
* In the plumage of Bewick’s “Corvorant,” as opposed to his “Crested Corvorant,” which is the same species in spring plumage.
+ Not less than a hundred cormorants were observed here, arranged in single file on the rocks, on the 1st of August, 1850.-(Mr. R. Taylor.)
A puffin, shot here yesterday, was bearing to its mate or young, six fish, five of which were young Clupea, nearly six inches in length, and the other, a sand-eel of large size. Several more were remarked to be similarly well laden, and one bird had hold of a fish nearly the size of a full-grown herring ;-ornitho
* On examining the colour of the irides of the birds shot to-day, just as they were killed, I found those of the puffin, razorbill, and common gull (Larus canus), to be greyish-hazel; of the chough, black; oyster-catcher, black, surrounded by a bright red ring, as well as having the eyelid of that colour ; common tern (Sterna hirundo), blackish ; rock-dove (Columba livia), whitish-brown. The irides of a young cuckoo, of adult arctic terns and kittiwakes, shot on the 12th of July, 1833, at the Skerries, off Portrush, were of a very dark brown colour,