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therefore, is not positive. The gizzard exhibited the remains of vegetable matter. Of two other birds killed in the month of January, the gizzard of the one contained vegetable matter of different kinds; the other, only sand, gravel, and fragments of a Littorina. One, examined in November, was filled with the remains of vegetable matter, including a number of seeds ;-in a second, looked to this month, were a number of the univalve shell, Rissoa ulve, and a full-grown Littorina neritoides, in addition to which were fragments of stone, as there were in all the others. The contents of one, procured in Wexford market in this month (and examined by Mr. J. Poole), were similar to those in the last bird. The shoveller has been seen on the fresh-water at Caledon, county Tyrone.
On calling, in the month of March, 1833, at two bird-preservers' in Dublin, I found that one had just received an adult male shoveller, and the other, two fresh specimens, including an old male. When in this city, in the same month of the following year, Mr. Glennon informed me that he had preserved seven or eight of these birds during the winter just then past, all of which had been taken in a decoy. Down to the present period (1850), one or two pair can, at any time during the season, be procured in a decoy in a midland county, whence the birds are sent to Dublin.
In August 1836, Mr. W. S. Wall stated, that he procured shovellers every winter in the Dublin market, and that in the preceding season, he had purchased about eight or nine : in the winter of 1837–38, several fresh speciinens were brought to him on sale, the earliest on the 12th of October—in the first week of May, 1838, a recent adult male was offered to him. A few of these birds appear in Dublin Bay occasionally in winter.* An individual, shot on fresh-water in the middle of August, in the north, has already been noticed, and, on the 17th of that month, in 1846, one was sent on sale to Dublin.t These two birds, and the one just mentioned, as obtained in May, suggest that the shoveller may possibly breed in Ireland, as it does sparingly in England. * Mr. R. J. Montgomery.
+ Mr. J. Watters, jun.
This bird is occasionally shot in Westmeath, and visits Wexford harbour (whence at least half-a-dozen are brought to market every winter), where it bears the name of maiden-duck* At Waterford, it is called whinyarda name applied to a knife and a sword of a peculiar shape, resembling the shoveller's bill in form.t One of these birds was shot in the harbour of Cork, in January, and another (adult) in April, 1846. One or two, at most, are seen in Cork market every winter, adults as frequently as young. I Two were shot in the winter of 1836–37, near Tralee, where a few occasionally appear, ß and the species is sometimes seen on the river Shannon. The term “whinyard” reminds me of the “whinnard” noticed in Mason's Statistical Account of Ireland' (vol. iii. p. 400), by the Rev. William Eastwood, in his observations on the wild-fowl of Wexford harbour. “The average prices,” he remarks, “may be thus :- barnacle (brent geese), 6s.; whinnard, 3s.; wigeon, 2s. 6d. ; teal, ls. 8d.; and duck (least liked), 2s. a pair.” The whinnard I presume to be the shoveller, and it is not rated comparatively too high. A friend, who has eaten of birds killed in Belfast Bay, considered them the best wild-fowl of which he ever partook; and much better than teal. They were thickly covered with fat, of a delicate flavour. Authors on both sides of the Atlantic bear testimony to the superior quality of the shoveller as an article of food. Wilson speaks of “the excellence of its flesh, which is uniformly juicy, tender, and welltasted” (vol. iii. p. 87, Jardine's edit.). Audubon even prefers it to the canvas-back duck, so celebrated for its gastronomic virtues. The latter author gives, from personal observation, some very interesting particulars of the species, vol. iv. p. 241.
The shoveller is perhaps about equally common in England and Ireland; but much less so in Scotland than in the latter island. To Mr. Macgillivray it was even unknown there when his Manual was written (vol. ii. p. 172), and it does not appear in Mr. St. John's copious list of the birds of Sutherland.|| Sir
William Jardine has, however, generally seen one or two specimens (though where obtained is not stated) during the winter and spring in Edinburgh market, and according to the ‘Historia Naturalis Orcadensis' (p. 75), published in 1848, the species is not unfrequent in Orkney.
THE WILD DUCK.
Anas boschas, Linn.
Is common around the coast ; on fresh-water lakes, &c.;
and is indigenous. ALTHOUGH great numbers of these birds migrate front more northern countries to our coasts and inland waters every winter, the species breeds throughout the island wherever it can find suitable localities. At a sheet of water, about two miles from Belfast, in Belvoir Park, two or three pair annually build, and a similar number at Ballydrain Lake, four miles distant ;-in 1832, the young were noted as swimming about here at the beginning of May. Numbers breed about two lakes at Hillsborough Park, at the distance of ten miles. A person visiting them on the 10th of June, 1845, saw about a dozen broods of young, the female parents of which exhibited various stratagems to induce him and the gamekeeper to follow her instead of the ducklings; if on the ground, dragging herself along it apparently by the aid of her wings alone; if at the edge of the water, rushing along the surface flapping her wings; the bill in either case being wide agape, and a loud cry kept up. The young, in the meantime, became secreted among the herbage or escaped into the water; once into which, they instantly dived, and continued doing so until they got so far out as to be inapprehensive of danger, when they formed a little flock and swam quite composedly after their parent. The keeper here believes that pike, of which there are many in one lake, consume a number of the young birds, as he has often seen these dive but never come up again. Various instances of wild ducks building in trees are on record ; thirty feet being the greatest height of the nest from the ground mentioned in the latest work on ‘British Birds. Some years ago, a nest was formed in a tree in Hillsborough Park, about forty feet from the ground, and in 1848, a magpie's nest was taken possession of as the site for another, although it was very near the top of a fine silver fir, one of the loftiest trees in the demesne, and not less than eighty to ninety feet in height. This tree, too, was at least a furlong distant from the lake or water of any kind. The nest was discovered by a boy who is in the habit of annually destroying the eggs of “ winged vermin” (hawks, crows, magpies, &c.), and who ascended the tree to this one for the purpose, but, when near it, was astonished to see a wild duck instead of a magpie fly off. On examination of the nest, he found it to contain fifteen eggs. When my informant visited the place soon afterwards, the climber was sent again to the nest to see what progress had been made, and the egg-shells, broken, &c., in the peculiar manner of those from which young birds have made their exit, only remained. None of the ducklings being found on the ground around the base of the tree, it was presumed that they had all been carried by their parent in safety from their lofty birth-place. Even a wild-duck, the occupant of this nest, might be able fairly to boast, that
“ Our eyrie buildeth in the cedar's top,
And dallies in the wind, and scorns the sun.” I have been credibly informed that in the demesne at Castle Coole, county of Fermanagh, a tree, selected by a wild duck for building in, was that on which a large bell, in daily requisition at particular hours, was hung : the nest was placed about fifteen or twenty feet above the ground, and the eggs were incubated for the usual period, but without success.
On the borders of Lough Neagh, great numbers of these birds breed; and some of the best haunts there were, until a few years ago--and perhaps are still-annually resorted to for the unsportsmaulike purpose of “ flapper-shooting," i. e., killing the young birds when nearly full grown, but before they are well able to fly. They are not, however, so easily obtained as might be imagined, owing to their diving and concealing themselves among the dense aquatic herbage. About the wild lakes of Donegal and Connaught I have often come unawares upon wild ducks in their breedinghaunts. It is unnecessary to specify localities, of which there are some in every county in the island. Mr. R. Davis, jun., observes (1842) that “Wild ducks seem to admire thick furzecovers as nesting-places. A fox-cover near Clonmel is frequently resorted to for this purpose. They sometimes build on the tops of old walls covered with herbage—brambles, &c.”
The first time I rode through the finely wooded and watered Shane's Castle Park, on the borders of Lough Neagh, in the month of January, now many years ago, I, with surprise, remarked that of the immense numbers of these birds which arose into the air, a duck and drake almost invariably sprang together, or soon joined in flight, thus giving indication of their being already paired. In the month of December, too, I think that I have observed them paired in that park, but have no positive note on the subject. In the autumn, also, when they frequently betake themselves in the evening to the corn-fields in the neighbourhoood of Lough Neagh to feed, they are said commonly to fly in pairs.* Mr. Waterton has since, in his *Essays on Natural History,'t given as his opinion “that the old birds remain in pairs through the entire year, and that the young ones which had been hatched in the preceding spring choose their mates long before they depart for the Arctic regions in the following year.” An observation similar to the above has been made on the other side of the Atlantic. Audubon observes :
_" The mallards that remain with us during the whole year, and breed on the banks of the Mississippi, or Lake Michigan, or in the beautiful meadows that here and there border the Schuylkil in Pennsylvania, begin to pair in the very heart of winter.”I This author gives a full and interesting history of the mallard, but to
* On such occasions they are shot by fowlers, who not only conceal themselves behind the fences, but within the stooks of corn. + Vol. i. p. 200, 3rd edition.
I Vol. iii. p. 67.