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straw and made the nest himself, then sat on it for some days before the female, as if to induce her to follow his example. After she did begin to sit, he sometimes relieved her by taking her place. When the nest was approached he came up and stood beside her. One morning that I stood by, he placed himself under her wings lest the egg might be disturbed : the wings of both birds continued trembling all the while that I remained.” In the preceding year my friend remarked :“The swan beginning to sit on two eggs on the 2nd May; the first appearance of the young on the 13th June ; moulting of the old birds commencing early in July.'”
Late in September, I was once amused at the occupation of a pair of old swans at the Falls. They were seated in the furrow of a potato-field, busily engaged delving their bills into the sides of the ridges where potatoes were exposed to view, bringing them out and eating them.
It is a common practice for the old female swan to carry her cygnets on her back on the calmest and stillest ponds, as well as under other circumstances (see Yarrell, ‘Brit. Birds'); and beautiful do the innocent, lively little creatures appear, with their fine bright eyes, when thus under the expansive snowy canopy of their parent's wings. Though not a songster, the swan has, as remarked by Yarrell, “a soft low voice, which may often be heard in spring, and when moving about with its young.”
Waterton, in the second series of his · Essays on Natural History,' gives a very pleasing description of the domestic swan, concluding with a most graphic narrative of the last illness and death of a favourite one at Walton Hall.
The Polish Swan, Cygnus immutabilis, Yarr., is not known to have visited Ireland in a wild state, as it has the eastern shores of England. It was first distinguished as a species there in 1838 ;-and has not yet been obtained in Scotland (Jard., Macg.). In August 1843, a bird-preserver in Dublin showed me a cygnet of a whitishgrey colour, which puzzled him very much. He stated that it was the produce of a pair of swans purchased by a gentleman (living in the neighbourhood of Dublin) a few years previously, in London, and whose cygnets were always " white,” instead of the ordinary grey colour. It was the young of this bird. I was pleased to hear such an account of it from one to whom the species was unknown even by name. The geographical distribution of the Polish swan is yet to be ascertained. It is, however, known to frequent the Baltic Sea.
Tue SWAN, GUINEA, OR CAPE GOOSE, Anser cygnoides, Linn.; A. Guineensis, Briss. We have, at Wolf-hill, found pairs of this introduced species to breed freely in a domestic state ; which the gander will likewise do with the tame goose. They have generally inclined to breed early. A note before me mentions a pair of purely bred birds having a nest with five eggs beneath a laurel in the lawn, on the 18th March : the female, when seated on the nest, had the gander's company at her side. This species is truly said, by Bewick, to be more noisy than the common goose, so that “nothing can stir in the night or day without their sounding the alarm by their hoarse cacklings and shrill cries” (“ Brit. Birds,' vol. ii. p. 257, edit. 1821). It is a fine spirited bird, though not, like the Canada goose, to an annoying extent. The motions of its long neck are very comical, particularly when playing the bravado, and running after a person with neck outstretched to its whole length, and carried so low as almost to touch the ground. The superior length of neck compared with that of the common goose, renders this attitude the more grotesque. On such occasions, both the gander and his flock are evidently proud of his prowess in driving away persons who are quietly walking off from his vicinity, and are quite regardless of bis menaces.
THE CANADA GOOSE.
» Has, in a very few instances, been shot on different
parts of the coast; And I am disposed to believe that in some of them the victims may have been truly wild. It seems to me as likely to visit this country occasionally as some other American birds which do so, and which, from not being kept by man in a living state, are known to be feræ naturæ. The fact of the Canada goose being semidomesticated, and sometimes disposed to wander, is the only
argument against the birds which have been shot on the coast, having migrated thither.
Notes upon their occurrence are as follow :
February 7, 1838. Four Canada geese appeared, most appropriately, on the pond in the Phænix Park, Dublin, which may be called the aquatic menagerie of the Royal Zoological Garden. About the end of April the same year, one was shot at the low line of coast called the Murrough of Wicklow; and about the same time a second was procured, in the vicinity of Rathmines, not far from Dublin. Both birds are stated to have been very wary, unlike individuals which had escaped from confinement.
In April, 1839, one was shot in Larne Lough, county of Antrim :—it is preserved in the Ordnance Museum.
January 27, 1840. I learned, by letter from Dr. C. Farran, that he received at this date, from Mr. John King, Bremore, Balbriggan (county Dublin), a Canada goose, which he shot, after sedulously watching the bird for two or three days. He at last got within reach of it, on a small pool of fresh water, near the shore, during a gale from the south-east. The bird was in rather poor condition, and weighed 84 lbs.
June 12, 1844. A pair were shot at Dundrum, on the coast of Down. The male bird weighed 13, the female 10%, lbs. A fowler saw a pair, and perhaps the same, in Belfast bay, a few days before the birds were killed at Dundrum. The specimens were preserved for the Marquis of Downshire, and came under my inspection when in the hands of the taxidermist : the wings of both were quite perfect.
According to the Annual Report of the Dublin Natural History Society for 1848, “Mr. R. P. Williams presented to the Society a fine specimen of the Canada goose (Anas Canadensis), shot by Mr. R. Quin, of Firgrove, Innishannon, on the Bandon river, between that place and Kinsale, in March, 1846. It appeared in a flock with five others, after a severe snow-storm. Mr. Quin had observed a flock of the same birds in the preceding winter, but imagined that they had escaped from some neighbouring preserve.”
Of the birds mentioned in the preceding instances, those which occurred in 1838 are the most likely to have been truly wild, as that winter (1837–38) was quite remarkable for the number of Anatida-swans, geese, and ducks—which, in the severe portion of it, visited Great Britain and temperate Europe. The occurrence of the species, however, on the continental coasts of Europe, is not noticed in the works of Temminck, Keyserling and Blasius, or Schlegel. Much information respecting this goose is brought forward in Yarrell’s ‘British Birds' (vol. iii. p. 91); since the publication of which, Mr. Waterton has, in the second series of his 'Essays on Natural History' (p. 107), given a very interesting account of it at Walton Hall. Wilson, commencing his description with, “This is the common wild goose of the United States,” treats very pleasingly of the species (vol. iii. p. 74, Jardine's edit.), in which Audubon follows him, devoting seventeen pages to its habits (vol. iii. p. 1).
The Canada goose, being kept on ponds in the neighbourhood of Belfast, has, in a semi-domestic state, been long familiar to me. It is a spirited, bold species, and remarkably vigilant, more so even than the common goose. Its loud clanging note is heard at a great distance; and when given forth in the spring, sans intermission, often proves more deafening than agreeable to persons near to it. This is the boldest of birds in spring, next to the tame swan ; and when paired, the gander will attack every living creature, not excepting man himself, that approaches the neighbourhood of his watery domain. The first bird of the species known to me was a goose, which, in the absence of a mate of her own kind, paired with a common gander, and produced numerous young. Some years afterwards a male of her own species was procured, with whom she associated; but though eggs were laid, they were not prolific, probably in consequence of her age. This male bird was one of a flock of six or seven, which visited Ballantrae, on the coast of Ayrshire, where he was captured, though having the full use of his wings. He was brought here by a friend on returning from shooting, in the autumn, and
placed in a yard in town for the night, previous to his intended removal to the country on the following morning. Not content, however, with his temporary domicile, he made his escape over the high wall of the yard into the street. Here, being unable to give a good account of himself, like many another wanderer of the night, he was apprehended by “the watch," and borne off, a second time prisoner—but, in this instance, to the police office, where, with other vagrants, he was confined during the night. How one wishes to have heard Dogberry and Verges descant upon his case! In the morning, the owner, after some difficulty, traced the Canadian's “whereabouts,” and, having duly proved his property in the same, had the prisoner liberated. He was kept for several years afterwards, and permitted to have the free use of his wings all the time; but to these he was most unwilling to resort, submitting even to be caught rather than do so. If his owner wished to see a flight, the bird had to be laid hold of, taken to a distant field, and then set down, when he would at once rise into the air and return to the pond. He was extremely bold in spring, and attacked every human being who had the temerity to come near his “beat.” He once beset a poor woman unexpectedly, and, flying up, alighted between her shoulders, and flapped both sides of her head so violently with his wings, that she fell to the ground in the utmost terror, unaware of the nature of her assailant. I once suffered this bird to strike me with his wing, that I might have some idea what the blow of a swan's wing—said to be so severe-might be, but which directly I had no desire to feel. The blow pained me very considerably, and the front of my leg, where struck, did not lose its black and yellow complexion for about three weeks.*
The male bird of a pair kept on a pond in the Belfast Botanic Garden was, from his boldness in spring, the terror of all the youngsters that approached even the vicinity of the water.
These birds, like many other species, can foretell the coming
* The late Dr. Ferrar stated to a friend, that when resident-surgeon in one of the Dublin hospitals, a man who had his leg splintered by the blow of a swan's wing, was brought to him for treatment. Some of the small pieces of bone came away, and the sufferer was permanently lamed.