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sive days, a dark cloud was seen rising from its apex, like smoke from a volcano, which the configuration of the island so strongly resembles.
When in the vicinity in September 1843, I was told that the gentleman who had “ the shooting” over the property about Ballantrae that season, went to Ailsa and cruelly slaughtered, in one forenoon with two guns, upwards of a hundred gannets, nearly all old birds. He first killed one at about a hundred yards from the island, and let it lie on the water to attract others to the spot, which it unfortunately did, until the number mentioned was killed. Bad as the destruction of gannets narrated by Audubon (vol. iv. p. 224) is, this is still worse, the American slayers having an object in it, though making a very trivial use of the birds. They killed them for the sake of the flesh of the breast, as bait for cod-fish.
Off the north of Scotland, the gannet is said to breed on the island of Souliskerry, as it is well known to do off the east coast, at the Bass Rock, Frith of Forth. Its only breeding-place* on the English coast is Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, and but a single locality on the coast of Ireland is thus honoured : this is one of the Skellig islands on the coast of Kerry. Smith, in his history of that county, written a century ago, when describing the “ second or middle Skellig” island, observes“'Tis remarkable that the gannet nestles nowhere else on the south coast of Ireland, and though multitudes of them are daily seen on all parts of our coast upon the wing, and in the sea, yet they were never known to alight on any other land or rock hereabouts, except on this island.” It is added, “I have been informed that there is another rock on the north coast of Ireland where they alight and breed in the same manner, and nowhere else in the kingdom.” I am unable to conjecture what rock is
* Mr. Macgillivray adds “ Ronay" to the preceding Scottish localities, but simply names the island (* Manual Brit. Birds,' vol. ii. p. 225). Gannets are not mentioned in any description of North, East, or West Rona that I have read, as frequenting any of those islands. M'Culloch, describing Sulisker or Barra and North Rona in the same chapter, mentions these birds at the former island only ("Western Isles,' &c., vol. i. p. 205).
meant. In 1849, it was stated that—"At the larger Skellig island they used to abound, but since the erection of a lighthouse upon it, they have been confined to the small rock, where they still breed in considerable numbers."*
A letter from J. F. Townsend, Esq., dated Castle Townsend, September 22nd, 1850, informs me that the number of gannets breeding on the Lesser Skellig may be about 500 pair, in which enumeration Mr. Carter, Commander of H.M. Revenue Cruizer Badger, and Mr. Bates, the next officer in command, who have been much about the rock, agree with him. Some people at Valentia state, that they pay the proprietor of the Skellig for the privilege of killing gannets, &c. They sell the young birds for food. My correspondent has never known sea-birds' eggs used as food, nor heard, save in the instance of the young gannets, of the flesh of sea-fowl being eaten in the south-west of Ireland. Puffins are killed at the Skellig for the sake of their feathers.t From this station the birds probably wander northward, to Roundstone, on the Galway coast, in summer and autumn, where they are commonly seen, especially during the herring fishery. I But as adult birds appear on all parts of the coast in the height of the breeding season, when it may be presumed they “sleep at home,” s they doubtless are spread round our coasts from Lundy Island, Ailsa, Skellig island, and occasionally, perhaps, from St.
* Mr. R. Chute.
+ I had heard nothing of any other breeding-haunt of the gannet, than the Skellig, until the Stags of Broadhaven were incidentally mentioned in a letter from Mr. Townsend, in September 1850. On the 29th of the month, that gentleman favoured me with the following information on the subject. On his visiting that part of the coast of Mayo in a yacht in July 1836, hundreds of young gannets appeared near the vessel, and vast numbers of old and young were about the rocks. In a sketch then made of the locality, this species was introduced as a characteristic bird. Mr. Townsend remarks :--" There cannot be the least doubt that the gannet breeds at Broadhaven. In every sense they seemed quite 'at home' there. The Stags are huge insulated rocks, apparently as high as the Lesser Skellig, towering over the ocean at a considerable distance from the shore;-steep, craggy, and uninhabited. It was a sort of relief when we sailed away from their awful sides and gloomy shadows."
I The late Mr. J. Nimmo.
§ Mr. Knox, however, remarks that--"During the night they sleep on the water so profoundly as frequently to allow the boats to pass over them."- Birds of Sussex,' p. 243.
Kilda. On the subject of the flights from such localities we have the following information :-"These islands are the favourite resort of gannets. No disturbances ever appear sufficient to induce these, more than the other species of sea-fowl, to change their haunts, nor do they court uninhabited places in particular. In leaving St. Kilda in an evening, they are met flying home in long flocks, separated widely from each other, and apparently each under a separate leader. At seventy miles from the island they were all found directing their course to it. It is imagined by the seamen and fishermen of this coast, that they fly out in the morning to feed, even to the southern parts of Britain, and return in the evening; a circumstance not improbable, when the strength and rapidity of their flight is considered.”* That they fly so far —though having the power to do so—is, I conceive, very improbable. From a more recent visitor to the island, we learn that, “ The gannet (Sula alba) is to be seen in vast numbers about St. Kilda, from whence a portion of them take their departure every morning to fish in the bays and channels of the outer Hebrides, the nearest of which is about fifty miles distant. I have even seen them in Dunvegan Lough, in the Isle of Skye, about ninety miles from St. Kilda, to which I have no doubt they all retire at night. In fact, long strings of gannets may be seen on the approach of evening, winging their way to the westward” (p. 64). *** “The account given by Martin of the barren gannets, which roost separately from the others, was confirmed by the natives.”+
Sir William Jardine gives, from personal observation, a very interesting account of the gannets at the Bass Rock, where they appear to be as tame as Audubon describes them on the American coast, or, indeed, hardly less so than voyagers report birds to be on the first visit to uninhabited islands.
* M'Culloch's 'Western Islands of Scotland,' vol. ii. p. 54.
+ “ Account of the Island of St. Kilda,” &c.; by John Macgillivray. Edin. Phil. Journ., No. 63, January, 1812, p. 66.
‘British Birds,' vol. iv. p. 245.
Sterna velox, Ruppell.
IN the "Annals of Nat. Hist. for September 1847 (vol. xx. p. 170), I published the following notice of this species :--"In March last I had the opportunity of examining, in Mr. R. Ball's possession in Dublin, a specimen of a tern, the species of which I did not know. It was left by a young taxidermist at my friend's house early in the month of January, and apparently had been but recently skinned. Mr. Watters, jun., to whom the specimen now belongs, assured me, that he saw it in a fresh state, and that it was killed near Sutton-a place on the road between Dublin and Howth—at the end of December 1846; two others of the same species were stated by the shooter to have been in company with it. As the bird was unknown to me, I noted down the following particulars of it, which are given here that others may have an opportunity of forming their judgment upon the species :
Length, total (stuffed), to the end of longest tail-feathers
of bill above from forehead to point . .
„ from rictus to point . . . . „ of wing from carpus . . . . . of tarsus about .
· . . . , of middle toe to base of nail . . . . , of nail itself measured in a straight line about .
Wing and longest tail-feathers about of equal length ; outer or longest tail-feathers exceed the middle by three inches. Bill wholly yellowish horn-colour ; legs and toes wholly black. Colour of entire plumage the same as that of the common tern (S. hirundo), but the back is rather of a darker shade than that of the latter when adult. The black of the head does not reach within onethird of an inch of the bill; space between the termination of the black plumage and the bill, pure white. The specimen is evi. dently adult.
* I am happy to connect, in English, the name of its describer with the bird—not as a matter of any honour to one so eminently distinguished as a traveller and a naturalist, but as a personal reminiscence of a gentleman whom I highly estccm.
“On visiting the collection of birds in the British Museum where the utmost facility for reference and comparison has always been most kindly afforded me by George R. Gray, Esq.—I saw the same tern labelled “Sterna velox, Ruppell, Red Sea.' It was from this locality that Ruppell had the species, which is figured in his “Atlas,' pl. 13 (1826). The Sterna cristata described by Swainson in his · Birds of Western Africa,' p. 247, pl. 30, agrees in all details with my notes of S. velox, except in the colour of the back, which is said to be almost as white as the under parts.”
Different statements having been made in Dublin respecting this bird being killed there, I have made further inquiries on the subject since the preceding was published. Mr. Watters assures me that he not only saw the fresh skin, but that he pulled away the flesh, himself, while quite red and recent, from the tibial and humeral bones, and extracted the tongue and part of the skull. I have also been favoured by Mr. Lynch of Cork-street, Dublin, with a note, stating that he shot the bird at a marshy pool near Kilbarrack (and Sutton), on the borders of the bay; he was not aware of its rarity, and by mere chance it was not thrown away.
It seems strange that this tern is not given a regular place in either of the late published works-Schlegel's 'Revue Critique des Oiseaux d'Europe,' or Degland's 'Ornithologie Européenne,' although it is mentioned in both, on the authority of the Prince of Canino (at p. 115 in the former, and vol. ii. p. 335 in the latter). I have not seen what was published by the Prince of Canino on the subject, but when commenting on my paper read before the British Association at Oxford, in which a notice of S. velox was contained, he mentioned it as a bird of the eastern Mediterranean, and, so far as he was informed, not found westward of Sicily.
To myself, the occurrence of S. velox in Ireland seems not much