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THE GLAUCOUS GULL.
Larus glaucus, Brunn.
And is perhaps less rare than ornithologists generally imagine -as it requires to be seen near to be determined, in consequence of its resemblance to the immature great black-backed gull. This latter bird in its adult state, with black back, can be told unerringly at the distance of a mile or more on the beach, but among the birds which are considered its young, and which may be seen every day of the year upon our shores, the L. glaucus may be passed over. I speak of them as they appear at a distance. It may be said that but few specimens have been procured, but this would apply likewise to L. marinus, which, though daily seen, is generally (unless when young) too wary to be shot.
In Mr. J. V. Stewart's list of the birds of Donegal, published in the 5th volume of 'Loudon's Magazine of Natural History' (July 1832), the glaucous gull was, I believe, first noticed as an Irish species, and was marked “rare;" that gentleman has since informed me that he does not feel certain of its being resident, as mentioned in the published list. In the preceding month of March I had seen one of these birds in the shop of Mr. Glennon, Dublin, to whom it was sent early in the winter of 1831, from the west of Ireland : it agreed with the figure and description of Bewick’s “young glaucous gull."
I have remarked in Mr. R. Ball's collection a specimen, killed at Youghal, in the autumn of 1833 : it is more spotted and barred than the young herring-gull, and is believed to be a bird of the first year. The dimensions taken from the stuffed specimen are
„ to rictus . .
Late in the month of July 1834 a second gull of this species was shot, near Youghal, by Mr. Ball, when I was in his company. On the 9th of that month he killed a third at the Islands of Arran (off Galway Bay), when we were together ;-he has two of them preserved, and considers them in the plumage of the second year. In the Ordnance Museum are three specimens -one (young) from Strangford Lough, in December 1839; and two, one of which is adult, the other immature, from Moville, county of Londonderry. A young bird was caught on a spilliard in Tralee Bay about the winter of 1839, and early in the year 1847 a second was seen to the west of Dingle (by Mr. R. Chute), and a third in Cork Harbour (by Dr. Harvey). One, stated to have been shot on the coast of Galway, in September 1846, has come under my notice.* About a sinall rocky islet off Achil, immature birds are said to have been observed during the summer. On the 3rd of January, 1819, a young individual in good condition was shot in Belfast Bay, and on the 26th of the month another of similar age was shot at the North Bull, Dublin Bay.t On the 31st of July, 1850, either an Iceland or glaucous gull was seen by Mr. Darragh within the railway embankment at Ballymacarrett, a suburb of Belfast, on the south-east side of the bay; he was quite near the bird, and considered from the size of bill that it was L. glaucus. At Waterford this species is stated to have been obtained.
The glaucous gull appears, from the preceding instances of its occurrence, to visit the coast of Ireland as extensively as that of Great Britain. Though but few specimens have been procured—and but one adult—they were from all sides of the coast. This bird does not breed even in the Shetland Islands, but retires northward of them for that purpose.
The late Mr. G. Matthews, during his Norway tour, found a nest of the glaucous gull on an island a short way northward of the Ofiord river. It contained one young bird, in a bare hollow of the ground, and just the colour of the stones and moss around it.
Lestris catarrhactes, Linn. (sp.)
Is rarely obtained on the Irish coast.
The first specimen which came under my observation was in the collection of Mr. Massey, Pigeon-house Fort, Dublin, and was shot by that gentleman in the adjacent bay early in the month of July 1833, where he had previously killed one or two others. I have seen one from Portmarnock, Dublin coast, in the collection of Dr. Farran, by whom it was found in November 1836, lying dead on the shore in a state of emaciation, but in good plumage. Since that time, the species has been observed there, and in the Bay of Drogheda (August, &c., 1844).* A skua shot by James Martin, Esq., in the county Galway, early in the year 1835, and sent to the metropolis to be preserved, passed eventually into the Museum of Trinity College. A Lestris, particularly described to me in a letter from Mr. Poole, as seen very near to him in Wexford Harbour, at the end of July 1848, must have been of this species.
Fowlers who have frequently observed skuas of different kinds, describe one the size of a herring-gull, and in other respects agreeing with the bird now under consideration, as having been frequently seen by them in the autumn chasing gulls about Holywood bank, Belfast Bay : from the observant powers of my informants, I have no doubt that the bird they saw was the Lestris catarrhactes.
Subsequently to the preceding note being madeearly in August 1848—two of these skuas were killed at a shot on Ballymacarrett bank. A fine specimen, obtained near IIolywood on the 18th of September that year, came under my examination ; and on the 22nd, three were seen in company near Thomson's Embankment,
* Mr. R. J. Montgomery.
Belfast Bay, in the vicinity of which place they were observed until the 3rd of October.
Mr. Robert Davis, jun., of Clonmel, in passing by sea from Dungarvan to Stradbally, on the 15th of August, 1838, observed a great dark-coloured skua, which he believed to be of this species, "give chase to a large gull and compel him to deliver what had been a copious meal of sprats. The birds flew within a few yards of the boat, and just as they passed the surrender took place. The skua immediately turned round, settled himself on the water, and picked up the sprats at his leisure, leaving the vanquished to fish for himself again.” In the winter of 1845-6, one of these skuas (the species of which has been ascertained by a description sent to me) was shot near the island of Whiddy, Bantry Bay ;-Lord Bantry has it preserved.*
Mr. G. Matthews, when on his sporting tour in Norway during the summer and autumn of 1843, met with the skua on an island at the entrance of Trondjiem (Drontheim) Fiord, on the 7th of July. It attacked both his companions and himself by striking them on the head, but they made the bird pay with its life for such temerity: it was supposed that they had approached its nest too nearly. They did not see the L. catarrhactes north of Trondjiem. In the summer and autumn of 1849, this was found by Capt. May to be the scarcest of the four species of skua along the coast of Norway, but he shot a few of them. They were easy of access ;-when the party landed on the islands they occasionally flew very near them.
Dr. Fleming, in the · Edinburgh Philosophical Journal,' vol. i. p. 99 (1819), gives a very interesting account of this bird at its breeding-haunts in the “ Zetland Islands,”—the only place within the British seas where it nidifies—as Mr. Drosier likewise does in *Loudon's Magazine of Natural History' for 1828 (vol. iii. p. 321): the chase of the eagle by skuas, as witnessed by the latter gentleman, is most graphically narrated.
The Lestris catarrhactes is the only one of the European species of its genus not included among the birds of the United
* Mr. G. Jackson.
States, or in the 'Fauna Boreali-Americana,' but its distribution sonthward is much greater than that of the others. It is very remarkable that it should be found at the extreme south of the continent of America-within 50° and 54° S. latitude, as is known to ornithologists. An adult male bird procured during the Antarctic Voyage at “Bird Island, East Falklands," was included in a valuable collection of birds presented by Capt. Crozier, R.N., of H.M.S. Terror, to the Belfast Museum.
THE POMARINE SKUA.
Stercorarius „ „ (sp.)
various parts of the coast. I CONTRIBUTED the following notice to the Zoological Society in 1835, when announcing this bird as an addition to our Fauna. “Of this skua, three individuals were procured in different parts of Ireland within a short period, about the commencement of the winter of 1834-5. The first, purchased alive at Youghal, county of Cork, on the 12th of October, was caught upon a hook at sea, and lived for a few weeks, part of which time it was in the gardens of the Zoological Society of Ireland. The second specimen was shot in Belfast Bay, on the 18th of October, and is in the collection of the museum of that town. “Its weight was sixteen ounces ;-in its stomach were a rat, fish-bones, and feathers."* These birds were immature : the latter, which came under my own examination when recent, agreed precisely in plumage, &c., with Mr. Selby's description of the young (vol. č. p. 519). The third, an adult bird, was shot from among a flock of gulls in the Phænix Park, Dublin, on the 5th of November, and with the first-mentioned came into the possession of R. Ball, Esq., of that city (p. 79) :—these two were subsequently added to the museum of Trinity College. Two young individuals, both of which I saw,
* Dr. J. D. Marshall.