Category Archives: Science

A Twitch to Kent : Day Three

I am on a weekend minibus trip to Kent in an effort to see rare birds which have been blown off course on their migration. So far we have managed to see a Glossy Ibis and an Isabelline Shrike.

Sunday, October 16th, 1988.

There is still no Richard’s Pipit, so as a total last resort, we start looking around for our own birds. As a strategy, it is totally ludicrous. We find a male Brambling on some recently ploughed fields:

Brambling%20male zzzzzzzz

Then we meet one of the wardens who is wandering around looking for all the world like a refugee from Woodstock. He asks says if we’d like to see something really impressive. I personally don’t want to go into the bushes with him, but everybody else does. It turns out to be a second male Brambling that he has just caught in the nets, and to be fair, it is a very beautiful bird indeed, in far better plumage than any other Brambling that I have ever seen:

Male-brambling-on-a-tree-trunk xxxxxx
We spend half an hour in some other bushes looking in vain for a Firecrest, the smallest bird normally encountered in the wild in England. It is a very rare bird in our own county of Nottinghamshire:

c608px-Mad-Firecrest-B

We are just beginning to lose interest when suddenly someone runs up and shouts that there is an Olive-backed Pipit at the Observatory. It has been caught in their nets within the last half hour and has been taken inside the building to be weighed, measured, and then ticked off. The wardens  have promised to keep the bird in a nice comfortable bag until everyone has got there to see it released.
Nevertheless, I just have to run. I might be fat, but when I have to move I can. It’s a little bit
like a hippopotamus on its way to the water hole, not elegant but very effective, at least up to a range of 100 yards or so. I just manage to avoid a heart attack, by jogging the last bit fairly sedately:

0361-South-Luangwa-Mfuwe

There is a good crowd of people there already. I go into the office to watch the bird being weighed and measured. All I manage to see through the crowd of people, though, is the back of the bird’s head, emerging incongruously between two of the fingers of the warden holding it. Does that qualify for a tick?
It’s a bit like saying you’ve seen Bruce Willis just by seeing the top of his bald head in the middle of a crowd of security men.

I do know somebody who actually ticked Golden Oriole based only on the top of the bird’s head visible over the edge of the domed nest, emerging only as the wind rocked the whole precarious structure:

nest Golden_Oriole_(Oriolvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Surely this, though, is unique in its desperation.  Let’s hope so. A real Golden Oriole is a bird well worth seeing in its entirety:

male oriolre

After a token ten minutes’ delay, the warden brings the Olive-backed Pipit onto the area of grass in front of his office, removes it from the bag, and holds it up to the fully assembled multitude to look at and photograph.
Not a particularly spectacular bird, even if it is a very rare one. It’s a lot drabber than I imagined and doesn’t as far as I am concerned, have a lot of olive on the back. It’s a rich rather brown colour, with heavy streaking and spotting underneath:

OBP
Unfortunately, I forget that there is an important black spot behind the eye which is a diagnostic feature and which I should be looking for. Never mind. It can’t be that obvious anyway, or else I would have noticed it.
Certainly, in the subsequent photographs of the bird that I buy, this feature is not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination:

OBPPPPPPPPPPP

After ten minutes or so of being paraded around like a sporting trophy, the pipit is taken to a nearby field and released. It disappears into the adjacent wood like a bullet from a gun. It seems pleased to exchange its fifteen minutes of fame for the chance to get back to the serious business of looking for insects on the floor of the forest.

Nowadays, Olive-backed Pipit is not really a very rare bird in England. A couple of years or so after this, I managed to see a much more obliging bird, in the woods near the beach at Holkham in north Norfolk. This individual had never seen human beings before, and, if you stood absolutely still, was happy to approach you very closely. Indeed, as I leaned against a handy tree, it actually came so near to my feet that my binoculars would not focus on it.

 

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A Twitch to Kent : Day Two

In a previous article, I told the story of going down to Kent in a minibus in an effort to see rare birds, or, at the very least, some different species to those in Nottinghamshire. On the Friday, we saw a Glossy Ibis:

gloucsglossyibis

Saturday, October 15th, 1988.

“Next day sees us up at the crack of dawn, to look for the Mediterranean Gulls that are supposed to frequent nearby Copt Point. This is reputed to be a very good place for them, with up to 40 or 50 of them at the right time of year. It should be easy. Black-headed Gull bad:

BHG Mediterranean Gull good:

Med%20Gull%20Sa

We are out on the promenade at the first light of dawn, but we don’t succeed in finding any. We dofind a Yellow-legged Herring Gull. The clue is in the name:

ylhg xxxxxxx

There is a juvenile Kittiwake too:

kitti xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Apart from these moderately interesting finds, we are totally unable to find our quarry.

This is not in actual fact totally surprising, because, as it emerges in conversation at breakfast, we were not even at the correct place.

I suppose in retrospect that the bay were looking at was not a great candidate to be called Copt Point, but as strangers we knew no better, and we were given no directions. We should have been about half a mile further north of where we were, so we all go there first thing after breakfast. I am a little embarrassed . I have never failed to find a major landmark before.
We spend half an hour here, and soon find the Mediterranean Gulls. There are about six of them, mostly in winter plumage, sitting out on the rocks near the sewage outlet, about 50 yards from the beach. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Black-headed Gulls, but the Mediterranean Gulls stand out quite well, with their more thickset appearance, and their all white wing tips. Black-headed Gull bad. Mediterranean Gull good:

difficult to pick out

They are still relatively boring though. This will not be the main bird for the day, thank goodness, because we have had a tremendously lucky break. After trying to convince everyone yesterday that it might be a good idea to drive to Dorset to see the Isabelline Shrike, we find out that a second bird has been found at Sandwich Bay, just a few miles up the road from where we are, and adjoining the famous golf course.
We scurry over there in the minibus, everybody greedily totting up another potential tick on their life list.
Everybody is so excited . Isabelline Shrike will be a tick for everybody. There is a Richard’s Pipit there too, which will be another tick for me and a good few others:

rich pipt

There is a Yellow-browed Warbler, which will be a third tick for quite a few people. Everything looks good:

tYBW

As we arrive, we see a crowd looking very intently indeed at a closely cropped meadow, just the place for a Richard’s Pipit.
We rush past them all, after checking with someone that the pipit is still there.
This is a major mistake, but we are all overwhelmed by the desire to go off and see the Isabelline Shrike, which is a much rarer bird. It is quite a walk, just the distance to get the adrenaline flowing.
When we arrive, there’s quite a crowd, all standing on the opposite side of the railway track, looking back into the overgrown hedge which runs alongside the rails. Suddenly a train arrives and the great whooshing noise as it goes past persuades the shrike to move out of the foliage and to perch out in the open:

isabellineshrike cdrfvgxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

It is a rather bland bird, completely buffy brown, with the beginnings of a hooked beak, and the most obvious feature of all, a fairly bright red tail. It is clearly nothing like a Red-backed shrike, and I can understand why the two new species have been split from the one old one.
Now we go back for the Richard’s Pipit, only to find that the people there were all looking at what was in fact a Common Redstart, not a particularly rare species at a migration spot like this:Common_redstart_female

Nevertheless, we give it an hour or so for the pipit, looking around the neighbouring fields where the warden says that the bird has been seen over the past few days. No luck, I’m afraid. Now the day just degenerates into rumour and counter rumour. We hear that Trumpeter Finch has been seen and heard flying over, but we dismiss that out of hand:

trumpeter

Little do we know that we are just a couple of hours from the discovery of what, at the time, was a very rare bird indeed.

Nowadays, almost thirty years later, Isabelline Shrike has been split into three different species. One is called Turkestan Shrike, the second is Daurian Shrike and the third is Chinese Shrike. The bird we saw at Sandwich was one of the most frequently encountered  types in England at the time, and I think nowadays, it would have been listed as a Daurian Shrike. I used to get very hot under the collar about things like that when I was younger. But now,  I realise that it’s just somebody who wants a couple more ticks than they would have got in 1988.

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Reintroducing wolves to England? Not a problem (6)

When people suggest that it would be impossible to introduce a wolf pack to the English countryside, they should be aware of the following story. The usual belief is that:

“The Gray Wolf canis lupus has been extinct in England since 1486, in Scotland since 1743 and in Ireland since about 1770.”

Something strange happened though, in Epping Forest in the late nineteenth century.  Mention of it comes from Beatrix Potter in her Journal from 1881 to 1897:

“Several years ago a gentleman let loose three prairie wolves in Epping Forest. These animals have increased in numbers, and are perfectly wild and shy”.

potter

Talking about what a potential problem the breeding of the American Mink in England might be, in New Scientist for January 18th 1962, Harry V Thompson, Ministry of Agriculture Field Research Station, Worplesdon wrote:

.
“Tales of escaped coyotes canis latrans or prairie wolves in Epping Forest in the late nineteenth century may come to mind …”

In Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart stated:

“A few Coyote cubs canis latrans are said to have been introduced around 1881 in Epping Forest, Essex, England.”

crypto

A slightly longer version occurs in some documents from Regent’s Park Zoo dating from July 19th, 1884. Here, the animals are said to have been coyotes:

” Some short time since a gentleman called upon me at the gardens and offered to present to the Society an animal that he believed to be a prairie wolf. He mentioned some particulars concerning its history that caused me not at once to accept his offer, fearing that the animal might prove to be a useless mongrel. At the same time I asked his address, and promised to call and see the animal.

Accordingly, I went to Leytonstone and on my arrival I inquired for Mr. R. Payze, and found the gentleman who had so kindly offered the animal in question. He was very pleased to meet me, and introduced me to what I at once pronounced to be a veritable prairie wolf (Canis latrans). The history of this animal I give as near as possible in Mr. Payze’s words. In the month of May last year some men who were on their way to London with cartloads of hay told him, on their coming through some part of Epping Forest (” near Ongar,” is the locality given in some narratives), they had found or caught three fox cubs, and they had them in a sack tied to the tail of the cart:

Foret-cinglais1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Believing them to be fox cubs, he bought one of them for a few shillings, and the men went on their way towards London. The animal was at that time so small that it could be put into a pint pot, and I have every reason to believe the following narrative will fully explain what otherwise would appear a mystery. Mr. Payze introduced me to Mr. Swan (who was formerly a servant to Colonel Howard), and he told me that some few years ago four cubs were brought to England in a ship belonging to Mr. J. R. Fletcher, of the Union Docks, and were turned loose (supposed to be fox cubs) in Ongar Wood, which adjoins Epping Forest. These cubs were brought home in a box and kept for a few days at Colonel Howard’s, Goldings, Loughton. They were then taken to Mr. Arkwright’s, formerly master of the Essex Hunt, and were turned out at Marl’s Farm, and the man Swan was present when they were turned out. I have also been informed that from time to time an animal, supposed to be a large gray fox, has been hunted, but never caught, always escaping into the forest.

single wolf

I think it highly probable that some of the same kind as the animal now in the gardens still exist in the forest, as this species of wolf is not much larger than a large male fox, and not having any scent like the fox, would not be likely to get killed by foxhounds or followed any great distance by them.”

The editor of  Land and Water magazine supplemented this account as follows :

” Subsequently, in company with Mr. Bartlett, we visited Epping Forest ; and from the inquiries made we have little doubt as to the fact of the animal in question having been born in the forest. Swan and other persons who have been acquainted with the forest for many years told us they well recollect the circumstance of the ‘strange animals from foreign parts’ being turned down, and we expect shortly to have further confirmatory evidence from others who were present on the occasion. When first born, the prairie wolf might readily be mistaken for a cub fox. Mr. Payze, who is a lover of animals, and has from time to time kept many tame foxes, was under the impression until quite
recently that ‘ Charlie,’ as the animal is called, was a fox.

foxes

As it developed, however, he noticed several points quite distinct from the common fox, and as, moreover, the animal (although quite quiet with his children) showed unmistakable snappish tendencies towards strangers, he decided to consult Mr. Bartlett, with the result that the superintendent declared that the creature was a Prairie Wolf canis latrans.
(This determination was not correct, see post.—Editor.”

Whatever the animals were, they seem to have persisted until the beginning of the 20th century. The previous article from the Regent’s Park Zoo was criticised for its naivety, Henry Foster sarcastically stating that “his dog was recently killed and proclaimed to be a wolf”.

wolves 2

On October 23rd 1884, however, Henry Ffennell, however, contradicted Mr Foster. Ffennell  had some connection with Regent’s Park and stated that

“the animal was definitely a wolf, bred and captured in the forest. It could be viewed at the gardens.”

A print of the “English Wolf” is widely available to buy on the Internet. It has this caption alongside it:

“Concerning the animal depicted in our engraving which has aroused much interest among naturalists and others, Mr AD Bartlett, the Superintendent of the Zoological Society’s Gardens , Regent’s Park, writes thus:-

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“The prairie wolf now being exhibited in these gardens was presented by Mr K Payne, of Leytonstone, who says he bought the animal about a year ago. it was one of three that had been taken in Epping Forest by some farm labourers, Mr Payne believing at the time that it was a fox cub. Its subsequent growth, however, caused him to suspect that it was not a fox. As it became troublesome on account of its destructive habits, notwithstanding that it had been reared perfectly tame, he decided to get rid of it, and accordingly presented it to this Society. Inquiry is now being initiated with a view to ascertain, if possible, the manner in which the parents had been introduced into that part of the country. It is said that, some years ago, some foreign cubs, supposed to be foxes, were turned out in  the neighbourhood of Epping Forest.”

epping wolf print

No problem, then. Find a forest. Tell people your wolves are just Grey Foxes, and take it from there.

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A Twitch to Kent : Day One

Friday, October 14th, 1988
This is a new venture for me. A minibus trip, to Kent for a whole weekend. Surely we’ll get to see something. I am looking forward to a chance to see the famous Glossy Ibis:

Glossy_Ibis_1700_e

I may possibly get a glimpse of Ring-necked Parakeet, if we’re lucky:

flock parakeete

They’re a lot better close up:

parak

There’s also a fair number of other birds scattered around the country and I start an exciting war of nerves in the minibus, trying to persuade everybody that it would be an extremely good idea to call in and see them all.

I have taken the unpardonable sin of producing a dozen photocopies of an article about the habits of the Stodmarsh Glossy Ibis. A lot of people who had up to now never heard of the bird, are soon warming to the idea of going to see it. A mention of the Isabelline Shrike however, is not quite as successful, since almost all my fellow passengers have a very accurate idea of just how far away Dorset is.

On the Saturday afternoon we move over to Stodmarsh, where by now, we all expect to see the Glossy Ibis, flying over our heads on its way to roost, as it is supposed to do every single night. It can be seen flying in over the Lampen Wall. But just what is a Lampen, and why do we need to be protected from it?

view from lampen wall

In the late afternoon, the reserve doesn’t really have a lot on show. I wait in vain for a Cetti’s Warbler, a bird, that to my eternal shame, I have yet to see, although I have heard a lot singing in Norfolk.
The Stodmarsh logbook by the car park says that the Ibis came in to roost at 4 o’clock the previous evening. That’s a bit of a frightening thought, because we don’t manage to get there until 4.15 and I have the horrible nagging feeling that we have all missed it .
The minutes tick by as we wait for the bird. We get more and more worried. At least, the
serious birdwatchers do. Some of our fellow travellers act as if there is a Glossy Ibis resident in every county in the British Isles, instead of just one single, lost, bird in the whole country.

4.45. Nothing

5.00. Nothing
We get so desperate that Paul puts into operation the ultimate birdwatching spell. He inserts his index finger into the handle of his tripod, followed by the whispered recital of the bird’s Latin name. The spell works a lot better if you haven’t looked up the Latin beforehand, but actually know it anyway.
And of course it works. Within a few short minutes, Wayne is shouting, “I think I’ve got it.”

And just for once, he is actually right.

gloucsglossyibis

The bird flies over, circles a few times, and finally drops down into the reeds, presumably into its roosting place.

It is supposed in all the books to be particularly primitive looking, but I think it’s absolutely superb. It has rounded wings which seemed almost transparent against the light of the sky, and its improbably long bill balances perfectly the dangling legs. And it is is nowhere near as awkward in flight as the descriptions would have you believe. It circles around us, light and graceful. It even earns a spontaneous round of applause from its admirers. It is certainly the best bird I’ve seen so far in my very short birdwatching career. Easily.

glos ibis

Nowadays, with the alleged advent of Global Warming, the Glossy Ibis, usually a bird of Southern Europe, is being seen with increased frequency in England. A little while back, one even came to spend a few weeks in a wet field down by the River Trent in Nottinghamshire:

glossyibis2 nottnm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deadly Deer (5)

There are apparently 75,000 collisions between cars and deer every year in the UK. This results in 450 injuries and, the latest figures allege, as many as twenty fatalities, both drivers and passengers.
It is not surprising that these traumatic events are so frequent. The United Kingdom has more than two million deer. This represents the highest total since Saxon times:

-fallow-deer-stag-herdxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A few years ago, there was even a muntjac deer in our staff car park, right in the middle of Nottingham:

8507_Muntjacxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

With over-browsing, deer cause enormous damage to our woodlands, and especially the birds who breed there. Too often deer consume the low vegetation which hides their nests and in general, they have a hugely negative effect on trees, shrubs, plants and flowers. This circular destruction of the bark will kill the tree:

deer-damage

Recently a group of scientists suggested that half of England’s deer should be shot to help preserve our woodland landscape. Several species are actually foreign immigrants to our countryside, namely muntjac and Chinese water deer:

Chinese_water_deer_

Another introduced species are Sika , which manage to get absolutely everywhere:

Sikadeer

Overall, this enormous population of deer causes around £4.5m worth of damage to plantations and woods in Scotland alone. In England, it is not so much the trees which suffer, as the cereal crops, mainly in east and south-west England, where deer cause £4.3m worth of financial loss annually.
I can’t find out the overall cost of deer culling but I suspect, given our successive governments’ ability to spend other people’s money, it will be approximately £14.76 squillion pounds per year.
So let’s do it for free. Here in Nottinghamshire, let’s encourage petty criminals to clear off out of the city and live in groups in the forest, armed only with bows and arrows. They could wear green for camouflage and shoot the King’s deer on a regular basis.  And on Bank Holidays why not have great big barbecues for everybody to go to ?

robin hood- heroes
And bring back the lynx. We could have every single animal sponsored by the aftershave company. Lynxes are so shy you wouldn’t even notice them in our local woodland.

lynx a

You would obviously notice Brown Bears, but so what? They eat deer by the freezer full. And furthermore, it would make enormous financial sense to have a great big bear eating the contents of all the rubbish bins in our country parks, rather than buying gigantic expensive specialised vehicles and paying humans to empty them.

image_encounters

And think of America itself. What do they have in the woods that eats deer? I’ll give you a clue. It’s totally nocturnal. It’s very shy, especially given the fact that it’s nine feet tall. You would never see them and when you did nobody would believe you. All you’d see would be a gradual diminution in the deer population.

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If that’s a step (or should I say, a Big Foot) too far, then let’s look back a little in time to the Middle Ages.
As recently as 1433, Sir Robert Plumpton was granted a piece of land in Nottingham by King Henry VI (Parts 1-3) if he could manage to blow his horn and thereby frighten and chase away all the wolves in Sherwood Forest. The piece of land he held in Nottingham was called “Wolf Hunt Land” (The clue’s in the name). In this way Sir Robert probably helped the wolf towards its eventual extinction which occurred, supposedly, during the reign of Henry VII (or Henry VI Part Four, as he was occasionally called).
At this time, back in early fifteenth century, wolves were limited to just a few areas, anyway. Some forests in Lancashire such as Bowland, the Derbyshire Peak District and the Yorkshire Wolds.
So let’s reintroduce them now. Two million deer to cull. Let Wolfy have a go. We know that they are harmless. Two deaths in North America in 129 years? Negligible!! They’d take care of the deer problem for us:

wolf pack one

And what better sight than watching a pack of wolves  chase down a mountain bike rider over the romantic fells of the Lake District?

wolf baby

Or another pack pursuing quad bike riders in the New Forest? Perhaps a whole wolf family practicing their hunting techniques on somebody else’s badly behaved and loud mouthed kids.

eyes wolf
What’s not to like?

Just watch this video, which comes, literally, from the “HeartOfTheWilderness”:

Or if you are a child, why don’t you let the Smithsonian Channel teach you to howl like a wolf? Ideal for relieving the monotony of those tedious car drives to school. Better even than the counting songs from French lessons:

 

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A Great Bustard in Edwardian Nottinghamshire

Great Bustards are huge birds, more or less the size of a domestic turkey. They used to live in many areas of Merrye Old Englande, as long as there was plenty of open grassland and only scattered farmland. They liked the chalk downs of central and southern England such as Wiltshire,  for example, and the open sandy heaths of East Anglia. The last bird English bird was shot in 1832. This is not him:

great bustard ddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

A single Great Bustard  was seen at South Collingham on April 1st and April 23rd to 24th 1906. South Collingham was, I presume, to the south of present day Collingham. The latter village is just to the north of Newark-on-Trent. In 1906, there would have been no electricity cables or pylons. Just open, infrequently visited farmland. The orange arrow marks the approximate spot:

collingh

Mr Henry Wigram sent Joseph Whitaker two letters which have survived, and they are kept in the Local Collection in the library at Mansfield:

The Lodge,
South Collingham,
Newark,
29th of June 1906

Dear Sir,
I am afraid you will think me slow in answering your PC (postcard), but I have had some difficulty in obtaining accurate information about the Cormorant, about which I had no note myself:

gret corm xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I can tell you now that it was seen on the Newark Parish Church steeple for nearly two months. If I can hear anything more definite than this I will let you know.

.
I was glad to have your enquiry about the Great Bustard, because most people have simply smiled, & said “What could it have been ? ” ! !

Great_Bustard_woodcut_in_Bewick_British_Birds_1797

I can positively say I did see one, as I had another view of it nearly three weeks after:

flyingxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I reported it to “Countryside”, flying over my garden & I believe my wife saw it at about the same time & place on the following day.

The second time I saw it, it was making a noise like an exaggerated Crow’s caw, while on the wing. It was this that drew my attention. On both occasions I was within 120 yards of it:

outarde-barbue-vol2qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
You have perhaps heard of the Snipe & Redshank laying in the same nest at Besthorpe. The Snipe laid first, each laid 3 eggs, from which I saw the Redshank get up. I am afraid I cannot say how many were hatched.


I have a few other notes which seem interesting to me, but they may very possibly be rather commonplace to one with so much more experience, as you have.
Though I collected eggs as a boy, it is only of late that I have really studied birds at all. If you think I could help in any way I should be only too glad to do so, as far as I can. I am often at Retford on business and could come over to see you if you wish. After all, I have heard of Rainworth from my friend Bonar, who went to see you with the Wordsworths last year, there can be few more interesting places anywhere.
Yours truly,
Henry Wigram

PS:    I am sorry to find I addressed this wrongly, and it has been returned to me.”

A week later, Henry Wigram sent a further letter to the great man, dated July 6th 1906:

The Lodge,
South Collingham,
Newark,
6 July 1906

Dear Sir
Thank you for your Postcard. Since writing you I have seen a coloured plate of a Great Bustard, & find that it entirely corresponds with my recollection of the bird I saw, but I noticed, as you say, that the bird looks much whiter on wing (sic) than with its wings closed:

qwerty

At the time I saw it, the bird appeared to me to resemble a Turkey more than anything else I could think of. Its colouring was white & brown, not brown & grey.
I put its stretch of wing roughly at a yard and a half, and found afterwards that my man, who was with me on both occasions, guessed it at the same measurement:

flying

I first saw it on April 1st, again on April 23rd. My wife is also certain that she saw it on April 24th.
I had field glasses in my pocket the first time, but the bird, which when I first saw it, was in the act of rising from the ground in a grassfield – disturbed by other people passing, (who did not see it) – though at first it did not appear to be flying fast got away so quickly that I could not get the glasses on to it:

taking offqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
I was much struck at the time by the pace at which it flew with comparatively slow beats of the wing.
On the second occasion the bird passed right over my head at a height of, I should say, 50 to 60 feet.
This was in the evening. The following morning my wife saw it taking exactly the same line of flight.
I sent word to Gates at Besthorpe on 2nd April that this bird was about, but he was ill & could not look out for it. However a Besthorpe man told him that he had seen a large strange bird about that time:

flyignGAINxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

My father also saw a large bird he could not identify near the same date, but he did not get near enough to it to give any particulars.
I should very much like to come over to Rainworth as you kindly suggest. Would Friday the 20th suit you, & if so at what time?
I saw a bird the other day which puzzled me completely:

tree pipitqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq

It was the size and shape exactly like a Tree Pipit, but it had pink legs, & the markings on the throat were darker (almost like those of a  miniature French Partridge , & did not extend so far down the breast as in the case of a Tree Pipit. It also seemed to have a dark mark around the neck.
Would it be possible for strong sunlight to deceive one in this way? There were Tree Pipits about the place at the time.
Gates was with me, & quite agreed as to the markings.
Yours very truly,
Henry Wigram

In his own copy of the Birds of Nottinghamshire, Joseph Whitaker has written:

“I may add that Mr Wigram is a keen and careful observer of birds and a good field naturalist, and I am perfectly satisfied that it was a Great Bustard he saw.”

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The Most Dangerous English Animal (4)

So, which animals are the killers in England?
Well, in England, there is no animal carnage whatsoever. All the animals are unbelievably  friendly and welcoming. Nobody in history has ever been killed by a fox:

fox

And nobody has ever been done to death by a Lion’s Mane jellyfish either:

jelly

Hard luck Sherlock:

sherl

One lady was hospitalised after a gull attack. The killer birds pecked her little dog to death, which made some of the neighbours sad. A similar incident led to the death of a pensioner who had a heart attack.
On average, only one person a year in England is killed by cows (which really surprised me, I must say).
Five people a year are killed by wasps and bees every year in Britain, the same figure as the average number of deaths by terrorism, apparently.

psaw xxx
Only fourteen people have died in total from snakebite since 1876, with the last one more than forty years ago.
Since 2005 there have been 17 deaths caused by dog attack, which is just under two per year. There are almost a quarter of a million non-fatal attacks per year. These may sometimes be just a scratch but quite often they result in permanent disfigurement. And these statistics are rising rapidly with an increase of a third in the last five years. Animal shelters are apparently nowadays full with all the thousands of Staffordshire Bull Terriers which have been found to be too fierce to be kept as pets:

dog

Most dangerous perhaps, though, are the Artiodactyla, the deer and the antelope. In fact, we have no antelopes in England but the deer make up for it.
Around 75,000 deer are hit by cars every year in the UK.  This results in 450 injuries but only a few fatalities. Latest figures say that there are up to a dozen, either drivers or passengers.

deer

Getting it all into context, in 2010, 1,970 people were killed in transport accidents with almost four hundred of these being pedestrians. Two pedestrians were killed by a bicycle on the pavement and a further five were killed by motorbikes. Cars and vans claimed 133 victims in the total, and 55 pedestrians were in either a bus or a lorry with 39 hit by a train. Just over a hundred cyclists were killed in total (123) and 429 motorcyclists perished. Travelling in cars, 1,115 deaths occurred, a rather good advert, perhaps, for the virtues of the seat belt. On water, 14 deaths occurred and 22 people were killed in aeroplanes.
Stairs were killers on almost 700 occasions:

steps

A further 53 people fell to their death off a ladder. It can be accidental:

ladeeeer Or simply, a great mind at work:

ladder-double

More bizarrely, 36 people were killed by a “thrown, projected or falling” object.
Accidental drowning claimed 217 with 29 in the bath and 3 in the local swimming pool. The majority of people who drown, of course, are swimmers rather than non-swimmers.
The real killer animals were doctors and surgeons who claimed 433 people in medical accidents. The forces of nature claimed 129, the same figure as for “excessive natural cold”.
And what about those killer lifts? Four fatalities between 2002-2010.
And I’m still trying to work out how they did it. Five people managed to suffocate in bed:

marie-antoinette

There were lots of different sources for these statistics, so I picked one that seemed to be from a reasonable source.

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