The fishes of Somerset have received a good deal of attention from
the late Mr. W. Baker, who has contributed an excellent paper on the
subject to the Somerset Archæological and Natural History Society in
1851 (Proceed. pp. 95–110). Very few additions have since been
made to the list given by Mr. Baker, and which is the source whence
the present account has been compiled. Day's great work on the
British fishes contains but rare allusions to Somerset; although Baker's
paper is quoted in the preface (p. iii.) it has evidently been overlooked
in the preparation of the work.
As in other articles contributed to the Victoria History of the Counties
of England, an asterisk prefixed to the name indicates a freshwater species
and two asterisks denote occurrence in both fresh and salt water.
*1. Perch. Perca fluviatilis, Linn.
** 2. Sea Bass. Morone labrax, Linn. (Labrax
3. Polyprion. Polyprion americanus, Bl. Schn.
(P. cernium, Day).
This widely distributed sea perch, which
occurs at great depths in the Atlantic Ocean,
has occasionally been found on the south-west
coast of England. Baker records it from the
Somerset coast, nearly three feet long, and he
mentions one in particular from the estuary
of the Parret.
4. Common Sea Bream. Pagellus centrodontus,
This species appears under two names in
Baker's list, viz. as the braize, Pagrus vulgaris,
Cuv., and as the sea bream, Pagellus centrodontus, unless, following the error of Yarrell,
the first name should be intended for the next
species, which undoubtedly occurs in the
Bristol Channel at certain seasons.
5. Pandora Sea Bream. Pagellus erythrinus,
6. Red Mullet. Mullus barbatus, Linn.
7. Common or Ballan Wrasse. Labrus
Referred to by Baker under the names of
L. maculatus, L. lineatus and L. comber.
8. Cuckoo Wrasse. Labrus mixtus, Linn.
L. variegatus and L. carneus of Baker.
9. Baillon's Wrasse. Crenilabrus melops, Linn.
C. tinca, C. cornubicus and C. gibbus of
*10. Miller's Thumb. Cottus gobio, Linn.
11. Father-lasher or Bull-head. Cottus scorpius,
12. Long-spined Bull-head. Cottus bubalis,
13. Grey Gurnard. Trigla gurnardus, Linn.
14. Red Gurnard. Trigla cuculus, Linn.
15. Sapphirine Gurnard or Tubfish. Trigla
16. Piper. Trigla lyra, Linn.
17. Lanthorn Gurnard. Trigla obscura, Linn.
18. Pogge or Armed Bull-head. Agonus cataphractus, Linn.
19. Lump-sucker. Cyclopterus lumpus, Linn.
20. Sea Snail. Liparis vulgaris, Flem.
21. Diminutive Sea Snail. Liparis montagui,
22. Spotted Goby. Gobius minutus, Gmel.
23. Two-spotted Goby. Gobius ruthensparri,
24. Transparent Goby. Aphia pellucida,
Recorded from the Bristol Channel by Day.
25. John Dory. Zeus faber, Linn.
26. Boar-fish. Capros aper, Linn.
Baker says this fish is very rare, but that he
has met with specimens in Taunton market
from the south coast, and in Bridgwater
market from Stolford. The specimen figured
in Yarrell's work is from the Taunton market.
27. Scad or Horse-mackerel. Caranx trachurus, Linn.
28. Mackerel. Scomber scombrus, Linn.
29. Swordfish. Xiphias gladius, Linn.
Baker mentions the capture of three specimens at the mouth of the Parret, and one,
eight feet long, found by himself on the sands
at Burnham in the summer of 1850.
30. Greater Weever. Trachinus draco, Linn.
31. Lesser Weever. Trachinus vipera, Cuv. & Val.
These poisonous fish are fortunately not
abundant on the Somerset coast. The lesser
weever is the rarer.
32. Dragonet. Callionymus lyra, Linn.
33. Angler. Lophius piscatorius, Linn.
Said to be not uncommon in Bridgwater
Bay. Specimens of small size are often
brought to market with other fish. Baker
has seen a specimen from the estuary of the
Parret, weighing eighty pounds.
34. Gattorugine Blenny. Blennius gattorugine, Bl.
35. Red Bandfish. Cepola rubescens, Linn.
Baker says this fish is rare on the Somerset
coast, but a few have been taken in the
estuary of the Parret in February, when they
are believed to visit the coast for the purpose
36. Cod. Gadus morrhua, Linn.
37. Haddock. Gadus æglefinus, Linn.
38. Bib or Pont. Gadus luscus, Linn.
39. Power or Poor Cod. Gadus minutus, Linn.
40. Whiting. Gadus merlangus, Linn.
41. Pollack. Gadus pollachius, Linn.
42. Hake. Merluccius vulgaris, Cuv.
43. Fork-beard. Phycis blennioides, Bl. Schn.
44. Lesser Fork-beard. Raniceps raninus,
45. Ling. Molva vulgaris, Flem.
46. Five-bearded Rockling. Motella mustela,
47. Three-bearded Rockling. Motella tricirrata, Bl.
48. Holibut. Hippoglossus vulgaris, Flem.
Not uncommon, but generally small, a
remark which applies also to the two following fishes.
49. Turbot. Rhombus maximus, Linn.
50. Brill. Rhombus lævis, Linn.
51. Common Topknot. Zeugopterus punctatus,
52. Megrim. Lepidorhombus megastoma,
53. Scald-fish. Arnoglossus laterna, Walb.
54. Plaice. Pleuronectes platessa, Linn.
55. Lemon Dab. Pleuronectes microcephalus,
56. Smear Dab. Pleuronectes cynoglossus, Linn.
Two specimens are on record from Stolford, the types of Yarrell's Platessa elongata.
57. Dab. Pleuronectes limanda, Linn.
**58. Flounder. Pleuronectes flesus, Linn.
It is sometimes taken in clear streams far
from tide rivers.
59. Sole. Solea vulgaris, Quens.
60. Lemon Sole or French Sole. Solea lascaris,
61. Thickback. Solea variegata, Donov.
62. Solonette. Solea lutea, Risso.
**63. Grey Mullet. Mugil capito, Cuv.
**64. Lesser Grey Mullet. Mugil chelo,
Grey mullet, says Baker, ascend the Parret
beyond the reach of tide water, probably to
spawn, as the fry of this species are found in
the tributaries of the river in autumn. It is
now well known that they spawn in the sea.
65. Atherine. Atherina presbyter, Jen.
66. Larger Launce or Sand-eel. Ammodytes
67. Lesser Launce. Ammodytes tobianus, Linn.
68. Garfish. Belone vulgaris, Flem.
Common in summer. Sometimes occurs
in the Parret nearly up to Bridgwater.
69. Skipper. Scombresox saurus, Walb.
Baker records the capture of one specimen
70. Flying Fish. Exocætus volitans, Linn.
An accidental visitor. The first record is
of one from the Bristol Channel, ten miles
from Bridgwater, in July, 1823; Baker
mentions two or three from Burnham. A
shoal was observed at the mouth of the Bristol
Channel in July, 1876.
**71. Three-spined Stickleback. Gastrosteus
The forms trachurus, semiarmatus and liurus
are recorded by Baker.
*72. Ten-spined Stickleback. Gastrosteus
73. Fifteen-spined Stickleback. Gastrosteus
74. Broad-nosed Pipe-fish. Siphonostoma
75. Greater Pipe-fish. Syngnathus acus, Linn.
76. Snake Pipe-fish. Nerophis æquoreus, Linn.
*77. Pike. Esox lucius, Linn.
*78. Carp. Cyprinus carpio, Linn.
*79. Crucian Carp. Cyprinus carassius, Linn.
Baker records it from the Parret.
*80. Gudgeon. Gobio fluviatilis, Flem.
*81. Roach. Leuciscus rutilus, Linn.
*82. Dace. Leuciscus dobula, Linn. (L. vulgaris, Day).
*83. Minnow. Leuciscus phoxinus, Linn.
*84. Tench. Tinca vulgaris, Cuv.
*85. Bleak. Alburnus lucidus, Heck. &
In the western part of the county; not
*86. Loach. Nemachilus barbatula, Linn.
**87. Salmon. Salmo salar, Linn.
In 1851 Baker complains of their becoming scarcer in the rivers.
**88. Trout. Salmo trutta, Linn.
'Salmon Trout, Bull Trout, Common
'Very many books have been written on
the genus Salmo, and of late years much has
been done, through careful investigation, to
lessen the confusion of supposed species and
varieties of this genus; but there it still much
more to be done to make the subject intelligible to inquisitive naturalists. The number
of species in our books is reduced, and how
many more will be found only varieties is yet
to be learned.'—W. Baker, 1851. Most
ichthyologists in 1901 regard the forms
alluded to as mere varieties.
89. Anchovy. Engraulis encrasicholus, Linn.
Stated by Baker to be very fine at the
mouth of the Parret.
90. Herring. Clupea harengus, Linn.
Does not visit the Somerset shores regularly
91. Pilchard or Sardine. Clupea pilchardus,
Only a few stragglers are found on the
92. Sprat. Clupea sprattus, Linn.
**93. Shad. Clupea alosa, Linn.
**94. Thwait. Clupea finta, Cuv.
This and the preceding species ascend rivers
to spawn in fresh water.
**95. Eel. Anguilla vulgaris, Turt.
Breeds in the sea. Elvers ascend the rivers
from March to May. The young, from
Stolford, has been described by Yarrell as
Ophidium imberbe. Leptocephalus brevirostris,
Kaup, is the larval form.
96. Conger. Conger vulgaris, Cuv.
The larva has been described as Leptocephalus morrisii, Gron.
**97. Sturgeon. Acipenser sturio, Linn.
Baker states very large sturgeons come up
the Parret, sometimes almost to Bridgwater;
one taken in 1850 was ten feet long and
weighed 300 lb. These large fish are females
full of roe, and generally taken in June and
July. Small specimens from 6 to 20 lb. are
98. Rough Hound or Small-spotted Dogfish. Scyllium canicula, Linn.
99. Tope. Galeus vulgaris, Flem.
100. Picked Dog-fish. Acanthias vulgaris,
101. Monk-fish or Angel. Rhina squatina,
102. True Skate. Raia batis, Linn.
103. Thornback. Raia clavata, Linn.
104. Flapper Skate. Raia macrorhynchus,
There is only one record of the occurrence
of this skate on the Somerset coast, at Minehead, in April, 1838.
**105. Sea Lamprey. Petromyzon marinus,
*106. Lampern. Petromyzon fluviatilis, Linn.
This and the preceding species are taken in
*107. Mud Lamprey or Pride. Petromyzon
Common in brooks.
REPTILES AND BATRACHIANS
This section of the fauna formed the subject of an interesting
paper by the late Mr. W. Baker in 1851 (Proc. Somerset Arch. and
N. H. Soc. pp. 116–24), in which four reptiles and five batrachians are
enumerated, in addition to an accidental visitor, Chelone imbricata, the
hawk's-bill turtle, stated to have been caught in the river Parret. No
species has since been added to the list. It is from this county that the
palmated newt was first recorded as a British species, it having been discovered by Mr. Baker near Bridgwater in 1843. It is very remarkable
that the presence of the natterjack toad, Bufo calamita, has not yet been
ascertained in any part of Somerset.
1. Common Lizard. Lacerta vivipara, Jacq.
2. Slow-worm or Blind-worm. Anguis fragilis,
3. Common or Ringed Snake. Tropidonotus
4. Common Viper or Adder. Vipera berus, Linn.
1. Common Frog. Rana temporaria, Linn.
2. Common Toad. Bufo vulgaris, Laur.
3. Great Crested Newt. Molge cristata, Laur.
4. Common Newt. Molge vulgaris, Linn.
5. Palmated Newt. Molge palmata, Schneid.
The physical features of the county of Somerset are so diversified
that an ornithologist might well expect to find a great variety of birds
within its boundaries. In this hope he will not be disappointed, as
although the list does not equal those for the counties of Devon and
Cornwall, yet it cannot be said to compare unfavourably with those of
many other counties. It must however be admitted that in a county
possessing about seventy miles of seaboard and such a variety of hill
and dale, moor and marsh, one would expect to find even a greater
variety of birds than are at present known to occur.
Any one who examines the following list cannot fail to notice that
quite a number of species have only been recorded once or twice as
obtained within the county boundaries. It is natural to infer from this
that these species are only waifs and strays which have drifted away from
the lines of migration or have wandered from their usual haunts. In
many cases this may be the true state of affairs, but I feel confident that
closer observation and more readiness on the part of naturalists to record
facts would prove that many of these so-called 'waifs and strays' may
be far more often met with in the county than is generally supposed.
To take one instance, the late Mr. Cecil Smith only mentioned one
Somerset example of the common cormorant in his Birds of Somersetshire
published in 1869, and even so keen a naturalist as the Rev. M. A.
Mathew could not add to this record in his Revised List printed some
twenty-four years later. I have however frequently noticed this bird in
various places along the coast, and even suspect that it breeds in one
locality. Without doubt there are several species mentioned in the
following list which may truly be called accidental visitors. It is most
improbable that the keenest field naturalist would ever again come across
such species as the American hawk-owl, Egyptian vulture or black stork
within the bounds of the county.
On comparing the list of birds of Somerset with those of Devon
and Cornwall one is struck by the fact that some species rare in the first
named county are comparatively common in the other two. For
instance the great northern and red-throated divers, guillemots, razorbills
and various species of terns are regularly to be met with on the Devon
and Cornish coasts, but are rarely to be found in Somerset waters, and
though not unknown in the latter county can only be regarded as
occasional or passing visitors. But the reason why these birds avoid
the coast of Somerset may easily be understood by any one who has a
knowledge of their habits and the physical conditions which are most
attractive to them. They all seek their prey in the water, and all but
the terns pursue the fish beneath its surface, and the opaqueness of the
water in the Bristol Channel, at any rate as far west as Minehead, cannot
be said to offer them a tempting feeding—ground. Under the heading
'Red-Throated Diver' Mr. C. Smith remarked in his Birds of Somersetshire, 'probably they stop short at the muddy water; certainly it would
occasionally rather puzzle them to see their prey in some parts of our
channel, and diving in that thick muddy water must be something like
walking in a London fog.'
We have mentioned above that a peculiarity in the county list of
birds is that many species have only been noticed on one or two occasions. This feature, where not due to lack of observation, may perhaps
be accounted for by the supposition that many migratory birds on their
journey up and down the Bristol Channel do not as a rule stop either
in Somerset or in the opposite counties of South Wales, but that occasionally a straggler drops away from the line of migration. The firecrest
and red-breasted flycatcher, among others, have been thought to follow
this route (D'Urban and Mathew, The Birds of Devon), and so possibly
observation on the Steep Holm might add these two and other species to
the country list. While on the subject of migration it may be mentioned
that the absence of any important river which might serve as a flight-line
to migrating birds is likely to modify the distribution of species in the
county. It appears indeed that a stream of land birds enters the county
by Bridgwater Bay and proceeds south-west after having diverged from
the main stream which crosses England from the Wash to the Bristol
Channel (vide Birds of Devon); but there is no large river running
through the county, for the river Avon would only affect the northern
While considering the physical features of Somerset and their relation to the distribution of species, it seems advisable to arrange the
county roughly into three main divisions, and then to treat of the whole
coastline separately. The three main divisions comprise a central basin
between two hilly districts, but it must be understood that these areas
are not always very clearly defined, and that some parts of the county do
not fall in very naturally with any of the three districts.
(1) One of the hilly districts occupies the north-east of the county
and is separated from the central basin by the Mendip Hills. It consists
of irregular heights sloping away towards the rivers Frome and Avon
and is rich in parks and woodlands, particularly around Frome. This
district, especially towards the eastern boundary of the county, is a
favourite resort of the various species of warblers, the most remarkable
of which is the marsh-warbler; three species of woodpeckers occur; the
hawfinch and lesser redpoll breed somewhat freely, particularly in the
neighbourhood of Bath, while the golden oriole, though only a rare
visitor, seems to have been observed more often in this district than
elsewhere in the county. The Mendip Hills are also attractive to bird
life, and in their rocky gorges the raven, peregrine falcon, and probably
the chough used to breed in former years and may possibly do so still in
one or two localities.
(2) The other hilly district comprises that part of the county to
the west of Taunton. This includes the Quantock Hills with their
thickly wooded slopes and combes, the Blackdown Hills on the borders
of Devon, the Brendon Hills, the heather and whortleberry clad heights
around Dunkery Beacon, and the wild moorland known as Exmoor
Forest. A large portion of the land in the extreme west is over 1,000
feet above sea level, though there are no heights which attain to 2,000
feet. In this district the ring-ouzel, raven, common buzzard, black
grouse, curlew, common snipe and wild duck still breed; the kite
appears to have bred here formerly and the hen-harrier possibly does so
still, though more information is wanted on the subject; trips of golden
plover are seen in autumn and winter and some may breed on the moors,
though the fact has yet to be established; the woodcock breeds sparingly in some of the coverts, and the grey wagtail, dipper and common
sandpiper haunt the moorland streams, while the wood-warbler and
nightjar are by no means uncommon in many of the hanging plantations.
(3) The central area, which is coextensive with the physical
basin watered by the rivers Parret, Brue and Axe, contains no elevation
except the low line of the Polden Hills and a few isolated knolls which
rise out of the flat, alluvial deposits. This district includes the richest
grazing grounds in the country; much of it is marsh or moorland and
below sea level, and it is intersected in every direction by dikes or
'rhynes' as they are locally termed, which serve the double purpose
of drains and hedges. To the north of the Polden Hills are extensive
beds of peat known as the turf or peat moors. In the summer these
moors are in parts covered with a luxuriant vegetation such as thick
beds of alder and sallow and masses of plants of lower growth, among
which the cotton grass, bog myrtle and the local Osmunda regalis may be
found; the holes caused by cutting out the peat soon become filled
with water and overgrown with flags, reeds and other vegetation, and
the district presents just the features which might be expected to attract
the more retiring species of birds. Far too little however is known of
the birds which inhabit this district, and it would doubtless well repay
careful investigation. To quote from the Rev. M. A. Mathew's Revised
List mentioned above, ' we can still only sigh for knowledge respecting
the birds of the peat-moor country, for almost absolutely nothing is
known about its summer visitors, and the ornithologist can but picture
to himself the rare aquatic warblers, the small rails, etc., which may
visit it all undetected.' There are however many interesting species of
birds which are known to breed on the levels of mid-Somerset. The
lesser redpoll nests among the alders and sallows, and I came across
several pairs this summer (1901) near Ashcott station and found a nest;
the wild duck and common snipe breed regularly, and the teal and
shoveler do so occasionally ; the water-rail is well known in summer
by the local name of ' skitty' ; and the spotted crake, sometimes
numerous in autumn, probably breeds more frequently than might be
supposed ; careful search also would probably show that the marshwarbler is a regular summer inhabitant of the levels of Somerset.
During the winter months large areas of these low-lying lands are
flooded, and in very wet seasons the country presents the appearance
of a vast lake. Many species of ducks are then to be found on
the floods, the wild duck, teal and wigeon appearing in the largest
numbers ; but pintails, shovelers and many of the diving ducks
put in an appearance and doubtless many rare species are shot by the
local gunners and not recorded. Gulls and other sea birds are often
driven inland to these districts, being usually met with after severe gales
at sea; and among the other more interesting winter visitors may be
mentioned the siskin, the marsh and hen-harriers, the short-eared owl
and the common bittern. The latter bird is still far from rare, and
sometimes quite a number are noticed during severe frosts. While
treating of this central district of Somerset it is worth remarking that
there is a duck decoy on Sedgemoor not far from the village of Walton,
which appears to be the only one in the county which at the present
time is regularly worked. Quantities of teal are sometimes taken and
a good many wild duck, as well as other species in smaller numbers. It
would be interesting to know what species of ducks were formerly taken
here, but few records seem to have been kept. (fn. 1) Colonel Montagu in his
Dictionary of Birds mentions having received specimens of the garganey
teal from the Somerset decoys, and was informed that large numbers of
wigeon were also taken.
(4) The coast line of Somerset, some seventy miles in length, presents a variety of features attractive to the shore-frequenting species. It
is true there are no very lofty cliffs, but there are a few bold headlands
such as Brean Down and Hurlstone Point, crumbling slopes wooded
almost to the water's edge as in the extreme west, steep faces of low cliff
as at Watchet and elsewhere, fine stretches of firm sand, ridges of shingle,
lines of sand dunes, oozy estuaries of rivers and vast expanses of soft
mud-flats, each of which have their attractions for various species of
As far as I know the cliffs on the coast are nowhere tenanted by
guillemots or any species of gulls, but on the Steep Holm, a rock in the
Channel some 256 feet high and three miles off the end of Brean Down,
both the herring and lesser black-backed gulls breed, and a pair of pere
grine falcons still hold their own. A pair or two of this latter species
probably breed also in the cliffs of the west in company with several
ravens and at least two pairs of buzzards. Among the other species which
find suitable breeding places on or near the coast may be mentioned the
cirl-bunting, rock-pipit, wheatear, stonechat, common sheld-duck, stockdove, kestrel, oyster-catcher, and ringed plover, while the white wagtail
(Motacilla alba) appears regularly at the times of migration and a few
probably stay to nest. Although we have touched on a similar subject
before it will here be interesting to notice a few birds which nest on the
opposite coast of Wales in the county of Glamorgan, but which do not
at the present time appear to breed in Somerset. These species include
the greater black-backed gull, common and lesser terns, chough, shag,
guillemot, razorbill and puffin. It must be noted however that most of
these species only breed, as far as Glamorgan is concerned, on the coast
of Gower, where the water is clearer than it is higher up the channel,
and so for the reason we have already noticed we hardly expect them
to breed upon our coasts. It is however from autumn to spring that the
greatest variety of birds may be seen on the coast. The bays with their
shallow warm waters attract several species of diving ducks, the scaup
in particular being abundant near Weston-super-Mare during the winter
months. A variety of gulls spend the winter on the coast, and their
numbers seem to vary with the numbers of the sprats which usually
enter the Channel towards the end of the year. When these fish appear
in large shoals they are followed by hundreds of gulls of which the
commonest species is the black-headed gull. At low tide enormous
mud-flats are left bare, and these are the favourite feeding-grounds of
large flocks of dunlin, ringed plover and curlew; while other wading birds
such as knots and godwits are seen in smaller numbers; the whimbrel
also is common in May but rarer at the time of the return migration.
Besides the mud-flats there are some fine stretches of sand and low rocks
covered with seaweed which attract small parties of sanderlings and turnstones and other species which appear to object to the mud. A few
geese, in particular the white-fronted and brent geese, and even swans
are met with in severe winters, and numbers of wild duck, wigeon and
teal, which spend the night on the flooded marshes away from the coast,
rest on the sea during the day. The most characteristic bird on the
Somerset coast is undoubtedly the sheld-duck, or burrow-duck as it is
locally called, and large parties may be seen at almost any season of the
year feeding on the mud-flats at the edge of the tide.
We have drawn attention while treating of each species separately
to those which are of rare occurrence or which appear to be increasing
or decreasing within the county. In the present place it will only be
necessary to make a few general remarks on the subject. Prominent
among the disappearing species in Somerset as elsewhere are the larger
birds of prey. The kite has vanished as a breeding species, and the
common buzzard holds only a somewhat insecure tenure in the extreme
west. The raven has forsaken some of its old haunts but clings to
others with praiseworthy tenacity; I know of a pair which nest yearly
within a mile or two of one of the most populous towns in the county.
The sparrow-hawk has in some districts been almost exterminated by
the gamekeepers, and it is extremely doubtful whether any of the harriers or the chough can at the present time be claimed as breeding
species, though the peregrine falcon is still to be met with in one or
two localities. Reports also tend to prove that the land-rail is becoming
very scarce in some districts.
It is more pleasant to deal with those species which appear to be
on the increase in the county; here however we are on somewhat
dangerous ground, for it is not always easy to decide whether increase
of observation on the part of naturalists or real extension of range on
the part of the species is the true cause of the apparent or real increase
in numbers. There seems however to be little doubt that among the
summer migrants the nightingale, reed-warbler and lesser whitethroat are
all on the increase and spreading westward in the county. The hawfinch and lesser redpoll have certainly increased as breeding species, and
the same remark is probably true of the stock-dove, especially as regards
the coast. The common sheld-duck may also be included among the
increasing species, thanks perhaps to an extension of the ' close time '
which this bird enjoys within the limits of the county; its headquarters
are near Burnham, where it breeds in large numbers, and it is no uncommon sight to see a hundred or more together even in the middle of the
breeding season. The black-headed gull is now a very abundant winter
visitor to the coast, but this does not seem to have been always the case;
some thirty years ago Mr. C. Smith regarded it as only an occasional
visitor, and added that he had never at any time of the year recognized
the bird on the coast; of late years a good many have been seen near
Burnham throughout the summer months in the breeding plumage,
which points to the possibility of some newly established nesting colony
in the county.
The discovery of a British lake-village near Glastonbury in 1892
has afforded us an interesting peep at the ornithology of Somerset as it
was some nineteen hundred years ago. Mr. Arthur Bulleid, the discoverer of the village, sent several bones of birds which he had found
among other relics to Mr. C. W. Andrews. The latter gentleman
examined these bones and made known the result of his researches in
an article printed in the Ibis, 7th ser. vol. v. No. 19. The most interesting discovery was that of the bones of a species of pelican which after
careful comparison were identified as belonging to Pelecanus crispus,
Bruch. To quote from the article in the Ibis: ' In the present collection pelican bones are numerous . . . in several instances they must
have belonged to young birds. This latter circumstance appears to
indicate that these birds bred in the neighbourhood.' As might be
expected many of the bones belonged to various species of the tribe of
Anseres, but remains of the goshawk, white-tailed eagle, kite, barn-owl,
cormorant, bittern, coot and crane were also identified. ' This assem
blage of species,' continues Mr. Andrews, 'indicates the existence of a
district of marsh and mere, haunted by flocks of pelicans and cranes,
and in winter by swarms of wild fowl, which furnished the inhabitants
of the pile-dwellings with food. Probably the birds were killed with a
sling, for great quantities of pellets of clay well adapted for use with
that instrument have been found. From time to time a stray sea-bird
made its way to the spot, and the white-tailed sea-eagle no doubt found
there a good hunting ground.'
A discovery like the above is exceedingly interesting, and one can
only regret that so little appears to be known of the ornithology of
Somerset even in comparatively modern times. The only two works
I know of on the county birds which claim any attempt at completeness are those entitled The Birds of Somersetshire, by the late Mr. Cecil
Smith, published in 1869; and 'A Revised List of the Birds of
Somerset,' by the Rev. M. A. Mathew, printed in the Proceedings of the
Somersetshire Archæological and Natural History Society for 1893. In
drawing up the following list I have made much use of the above
works, and my thanks are also due to a number of gentlemen who
have furnished me with local lists and notes from various parts of
the county, and so have helped me in my attempt, unsuccessful though
it may be, to draw up a complete and up to date list of the birds of
I have included in the following list 258 species, for which I consider there is sufficient evidence that they have all occurred in the
county in a wild state, though it is possible that one or two, such as the
little owl or black stork, may not have been truly wild birds. Seventyfive of these may be considered as residents and thirty-three as regular
summer visitors, bringing the total of probable breeding birds to 108,
while seven more, the chough, hen and Montagu's harriers, teal, shoveler,
redshank and dunlin may all still breed occasionally in the county. It
is hard to classify the remaining species as the groups often overlap, but
there are some thirty-eight more which may be regarded as regular
visitors either in winter or at the times of the spring and autumn migrations, while the remaining 105 species can only be regarded as occasional
or accidental visitors. Twelve more have been included in brackets as
of doubtful occurrence, and some others which have been clearly introduced or have escaped from captivity have been mentioned but not
treated of separately. I shall perhaps be considered guilty of inconsistency for treating of the pheasant and red-legged partridge, which
were originally introduced, as wild birds, and for omitting or dismissing
with a few remarks other introduced species. It does not however seem
to me reasonable to couple together birds which have settled down in a
wild state with such species as, for example, the Canada goose, Egyptian
goose or black swan. The line must be drawn somewhere, or we might
find ourselves obliged to include in a local list escaped canaries or even
1. Missel-Thrush. Turdus viscivorus, Linn.
A common resident.
2. Song-Thrush. Turdus musicus, Linn.
A common resident.
3. Redwing. Turdus iliacus, Linn.
A winter visitor, usually common, but in
some seasons is locally scarce.
4. Fieldfare. Turdus pilaris, Linn.
A winter visitor, usually common.
5. White's Thrush. Turdus varius, Pallas.
Two records: one secured at Hestercombe near Taunton, January 1870 (vide
Zool. 1870, p. 2018); another shot at Langford, January, 1871 (Zool. 1871, p. 2607).
6. Blackbird. Turdus merula, Linn.
A common resident, and has increased of
7. Ring-Ouzel. Turdus torquatus, Linn.
Seen in various parts of the county, especially on the Mendips, during the spring and
autumn migrations. Breeds in limited numbers in the Exmoor country.
8. Wheatear. Saxicola ænanthe (Linn.). (fn. 2)
A fairly common summer visitor to such districts as are suited to its habits. Breeds freely
among the sandhills near Burnham.
9. Whinchat. Pratincola rubetra (Linn.).
A summer visitor, but local and not common.
10. Stonechat. Pratincola rubicola (Linn.).
Resident. Local, but commoner than the
whinchat. Frequents the coast line, the
Mendips, the Quantocks and other suitable
11. Redstart. Ruticilla phænicurus (Linn.).
A common summer visitor.
12. Black Redstart. Ruticilla titys (Scopoli).
A winter visitor, somewhat irregular. There
are many records from various parts of the
county, and it probably occurs more frequently
on the coast line than is generally supposed.
[Red-spotted Bluethroat. Cyanecula suecica
There is a specimen in the Albert Memorial Museum at Exeter, which is stated to
have been obtained in Somerset in 1856.]
13. Redbreast. Erithacus rubecula (Linn.).
A common resident.
14. Nightingale. Daulias luscinia (Linn.).
A summer visitor, and numerous in some
localities. Seems to have increased of late
years, and is spreading westward.
15. Whitethroat. Sylvia cinerea (Bechstein).
A common summer visitor.
16. Lesser Whitethroat. Sylvia curruca
A summer visitor, not very common. More
frequently met with in the east of the county,
but of late has spread westward. I have
observed it as far west as Porlock.
17. Blackcap. Sylvia atricapilla (Linn.).
A common summer visitor.
18. Garden-Warbler. Sylvia hortensis (Bechstein).
A summer visitor, but far less common than
the blackcap, and decidedly local. Perhaps
least rare in the north east of the county.
[Dartford Warbler. Sylvia undata (Boddaert).
Mr. Stanley Lewis of Wells states that he
discovered this species in 1900 in the Mendip
Hills, and saw specimens at close quarters.
As none were obtained the species is included
19. Goldcrest. Regulus cristatus, Koch.
A common resident, and its numbers are
considerably increased by migrants in winter.
[Firecrest. Regulus ignicapillus (Brehm).
Mr. H. St. B. Goldsmith, formerly of
Bridgwater, writes that a friend of his accurately described to him a firecrest, which he
saw in his garden near Bridgwater about
twelve years ago. The occurrence however
must be regarded as doubtful.]
20. Chiffchaff. Phylloscopus rufus (Bechstein).
An abundant summer visitor.
21. Willow-Warbler. Phylloscopus trochilus
A common summer visitor.
22. Wood-Warbler. Phylloscopus sibilatrix
A summer visitor. Chiefly confined to the
larger woods. Numerous in the wooded
combes in the west of the county.
23. Reed-Warbler. Acrocephalus streperus
A summer visitor. Local, but common in
many localities. This species appears to have
increased in the county of recent years, and
nests commonly around Taunton, Bridgwater
and Weston-super-Mare, and probably in
suitable localities throughout the county.
24. Marsh-Warbler. Acrocephalus palustris
Probably a regular summer visitor to the
county. Nests have been found near Taunton,
Bath, Bristol, Martock and elsewhere, and competent observers have noticed the species in
other districts. Most of the nests have been
discovered of recent years, but the species
very possibly bred near Bath fifty years ago
(Zoologist, 1901, p. 106). For accounts of the
nesting of this species in the county see
Zoologist for 1875, 1877, 1882, 1883, 1889,
1894, 1895, 1901.
25. Sedge-Warbler. Acrocephalus phragmitis
A summer visitor. Common in suitable
26. Grasshopper-Warbler. Locustella nævia
A summer visitor. Local. It is reported
as not uncommon around Bath, Bridgwater,
Frome, Martock and Wellington. I have
noticed it in the breeding season on the high
ground behind Porlock Weir.
27. Hedge-Sparrow. Accentor modularis
28. Alpine Accentor. Accentor collaris (Scopoli).
Accidental. One shot in the Deanery
garden at Wells in 1833 (vide Yarrell, i. 297,
29. Dipper. Cinclus aquaticus, Bechstein.
Locally, Water Colley.
Resident, but local. May be found by
suitable streams throughout the county, particularly in the west.
30. Bearded Reedling. Panurus biarmicus
Accidental. Stated in Mr. Baker's notes to
have occurred near Bridgwater. Mr. C. W.
Tucker of Bridgwater tells me that his father,
who knew Mr. Baker, noticed a flock of these
birds near Bridgwater about sixty years ago,
so this was perhaps the occurrence to which
Mr. Baker referred.
Mr. Stanley Lewis informs me that a male
and female were shot near Wells in the spring
of 1861, and were mounted by Mr. J. G.
31. Long-tailed Tit. Acredula rosea (Blyth).
A common resident. An example of the
white-headed continental form has been reported as obtained near Bridgwater in October
1871 (D'Urban and Mathew, Birds of Devon,
p. 34, ed. 2).
32. Great Tit. Parus major, Linn.
A common resident.
33. Coal-Tit. Parus britannicus, Sharpe and
A common resident.
34. Marsh-Tit. Parus palustris, Linn.
A common resident, but rather local.
35. Blue Tit. Parus cæruleus, Linn.
A common resident.
36. Nuthatch. Sitta cæsia, Wolf.
Resident. Fairly common, especially in
orchards and the well timbered districts.
37. Wren. Troglodytes parvulus, Koch.
A common resident.
38. Tree-Creeper. Certhia familiaris, Linn.
A common resident.
39. Pied Wagtail. Motacilla lugubris, Temminck.
A common resident.
40. White Wagtail. Motacilla alba, Linn.
Not uncommon on the coast at the time of
the spring migration. It has been seen, apparently nesting, in Leigh Woods near Bristol,
and is probably a regular summer visitor to
many parts of the coast, where it is doubtless
often mistaken for the preceding species.
41. Grey Wagtail. Motacilla melanope, Pallas.
A fairly common resident. Numbers increased in the autumn. Nests sparingly
throughout the county, and more commonly
around Frome and in the extreme west.
42. Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail. Motacilla
An occasional summer visitor. Has oc
curred at Taunton and elsewhere in the extreme west, and has perhaps nested at Wiveliscombe (Cecil Smith).
43. Yellow Wagtail. Motacilla raii (Bonaparte).
A summer visitor. Not uncommon.
44. Tree-Pipit. Anthus trivialis (Linn.).
A common summer visitor.
45. Meadow-Pipit. Anthus pratensis (Linn.).
A common resident.
[Richard's Pipit. Anthus richardi, Vieillot.
Accidental visitor. A pair seen near
Clevedon, May 30, 1893 (Zoologist, 1893, p.
46. Rock-Pipit. Anthus obscurus (Latham).
A common resident on the coast.
47. Golden Oriole. Oriolus galbula, Linn.
A rare occasional summer visitor. Has
been recorded about nine times from various
parts of the county. The latest record appears
to be that of a pair seen at South Stoke near
Bath, June 1893.
48. Great Grey Shrike. Lanius excubitor,
A rare winter visitor. Has been obtained
at least eight times.
49. Red-backed Shrike. Lanius collurio, Linn.
A summer visitor, and appears to be generally distributed throughout the county.
50. Woodchat Shrike. Lanius pomeranus,
An accidental summer visitor. One killed
'within a short distance of Bristol' (Birds
of Wilts, p. 123). Mr. C. Prideaux possessed an adult specimen 'from Somersetshire'
(Zoologist, 1852). The species has also been
shot in Cheddar Wood (A Mendip Valley,
p. 133, T. Compton).
51. Waxwing. Ampelis garrulus, Linn.
A rare occasional winter visitor. Has been
recorded from the Bristol, Taunton and Winscombe districts and elsewhere in the county.
52. Pied Flycatcher. Muscicapa atricapilla,
A summer visitor, rare and usually only
seen at the time of migration. A few pairs
probably nest in the Exmoor district. A nest
with five eggs was found near the Bristol city
boundary, and within the county of Somerset
in 1899 (Dr. J. A. Norton, Bristol).
53. Spotted Flycatcher. Muscicapa grisola,
A common summer visitor.
54. Swallow. Hirundo rustica, Linn.
An abundant summer visitor.
55. House-Martin. Chelidon urbica (Linn.).
An abundant summer visitor.
56. Sand-Martin. Cotile riparia (Linn.).
A common summer visitor. Rather local.
57. Greenfinch. Ligurinus chloris (Linn.).
A common resident.
58. Hawfinch. Coccothraustes vulgaris, Pallas.
Resident in some districts, only a winter
visitor to others. Has increased as a resident
during the last ten years, and now breeds frequently in the north east of the county.
59. Goldfinch. Carduelis elegans, Stephens.
A resident. Generally distributed, but
seems to be getting scarce in some localities.
60. Siskin. Carduelis spinus (Linn.).
A winter visitor. Somewhat local, but
occasionally appears in fair numbers.
61. Serin Finch. Serinus hortulanus, Koch.
Accidental. One shot at Taunton, January or February 1866 (Cecil Smith, The
Birds of Somersetshire, p. 180).
62. House-Sparrow. Passer domesticus (Linn.).
An abundant resident.
63. Tree-Sparrow. Passer montanus (Linn.).
Resident, but very local. Not uncommon
round Bath, Bridgwater, Frome, Flax Bourton.
This species is doubtless often overlooked.
64. Chaffinch. Fringilla cælebs, Linn.
Locally, Pink-twink, Whitefinch.
An abundant resident.
65. Brambling. Fringilla montifringilla, Linn.
A not uncommon winter visitor.
66. Linnet. Linota cannabina (Linn.).
An abundant resident. Numbers increased
by arrivals in the autumn.
67. Lesser Redpoll. Linota rufescens (Vieillot).
A not uncommon winter visitor. Also a
resident in some districts. Of late years it
has been noticed breeding frequently in the
Bath and Bristol districts. Nests have also
been found in the peat-moor country, near
Frome, Flax Bourton, Taunton, Bridgwater
and Wellington, and it also breeds in all
probability near Weston-super-Mare.
68. Twite. Linota flavirostris (Linn.).
An occasional winter visitor in small numbers, chiefly to the coast.
69. Bullfinch. Pyrrhula europæa, Vieillot.
A common resident.
[Pine-Grosbeak. Pyrrhula enucleator (Linn.).
A specimen is said to have been killed near
Taunton about 1852, but little value can be
attached to the record (vide Zoologist, 1852,
70. Crossbill. Loxia curvirostra, Linn.
An irregular visitor, sometimes occurring in
large numbers. It is reported to have nested
near Bristol (Mathew, Revised List).
In the year 1791 a birdcatcher at Bath informed Colonel Montagu that he had taken
a hundred pairs in the months of June and
July (Montagu, Ornith. Dict.).
They seem to have been numerous in 1868;
and in 1898, from September onwards, large
flocks were observed in various parts of the
The large form (Loxia pityopsittacus, Bechstein), is said to have occurred at Clevedon
(Zoologist, 1888, p. 176).
71. Two-barred Crossbill. Loxia bifasciata
One shot out of a little flock at Keynsham
near Bath by Mr. Maxwell, February 1895
(vide Zoologist, 1895, p. 110).
72. Corn-Bunting. Emberiza miliaria, Linn.
A local resident, common in some localities.
It is numerous on the Bridgwater level.
73. Yellow Hammer. Emberiza citrinella,
An abundant resident.
74. Cirl Bunting. Emberiza cirlus, Linn.
A local resident. In the west of the
county, especially around Bridgwater and
Weston-super-Mare, it is common, and seems
to prefer the vicinity of the coast. It is
much rarer in the east, but seems to be not
uncommon near Martock in the south.
75. Reed-Bunting. Emberiza schæniclus, Linn.
A resident. Not numerous, but well distributed in suitable localities.
76. Snow-Bunting. Plectrophenax nivalis
An occasional winter visitor, occurring
fairly regularly in some districts.
77. Starling. Sturnus vulgaris, Linn.
An abundant resident. Enormous flocks
may be seen in the autumn, due doubtless to
78. Rose-coloured Starling. Pastor roseus
A rare occasional visitor. Specimens have
been taken at Taunton, Axbridge, Clevedon,
1895, and Laverton near Frome, 1869.
79. Chough. Pyrrhocorax graculus (Linn.).
At present only an occasional visitor. This
species used formerly to breed on the cliffs
near Minehead (C. Smith, The Birds of
Somersetshire), and is reported to have done
so at the Ebbor Rocks in the Mendips. It
is improbable that it breeds within the county
limits at the present time.
80. Nutcracker. Nucifraga caryocatactes
Accidental. The late Captain Tomlin of
Rumwell House near Taunton possessed a
specimen that had been shot near Bath.
Colonel Montagu records one that was seen
near Bridgwater in the autumn of 1805.
Others are reported to have been seen at
Cothelstone and North Petherton (Mathew,
81. Jay. Garrulus glandarius (Linn.).
A resident. Common in some localities,
where game is not strictly preserved.
82. Magpie. Pica rustica (Scopoli).
The same remarks apply to this species as
to the preceding.
83. Jackdaw. Corvus monedula, Linn.
An abundant resident.
84. Raven. Corvus corax, Linn.
Resident. A pair nest annually on Brean
Down, and the species may often be seen in
the extreme west of the county, where a few
pairs nest on the sea cliffs. Some old haunts,
as for example the cliffs at Cheddar, have been
85. Carrion-Crow. Corvus corone, Linn.
Resident. Has been nearly exterminated
in some localities, but is common in others,
e.g. near Bridgwater and in the west country.
86. Hooded Crow. Corvus cornix, Linn.
A very rare winter visitor. Mr. C. Smith
mentions three county specimens, and others
have been procured at Rowberrow Warren,
Tadwick and Puxton.
87. Rook. Corvus frugilegus, Linn.
An abundant resident.
88. Sky-Lark. Alauda arvensis, Linn.
An abundant resident.
89. Wood-Lark. Alauda arborea, Linn.
Resident. Scarce and local. I have
noticed the species in summer near Porlock.
In some districts it is getting scarcer than in
former years, owing to the raids of birdcatchers.
90. Shore-Lark. Otocorys alpestris (Linn.).
A very rare winter visitor. Has been
reported from Ashton, 1866, and Wraxall,
1874, both places being in the Bristol district.
91. Swift. Cypselus apus (Linn.).
An abundant summer visitor.
92. Alpine Swift. Cypselus melba (Linn.).
Accidental. A specimen obtained near
Axbridge prior to 1851 (Proc. of Somerset
Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc. 1850).
93. Nightjar. Caprimulgus europæus, Linn.
A fairly common summer visitor. Appears
to be well distributed.
94. Wryneck. Iÿnx torquilla, Linn.
Locally, Cuckoo's Mate, Barley Bird.
A summer visitor. Fairly common in the
Bridgwater, Bath and Bristol districts, and
occurs sparingly elsewhere in the county.
95. Green Woodpecker. Gecinus viridis
Locally, Woodwall, Rainpie.
A common resident.
96. Great Spotted Woodpecker. Dendrocopus
Resident but nowhere common. This
species is the rarest of the three woodpeckers
in Somerset, but has been reported from many
parts of the county. Not uncommon in the
woods on the Quantock Hills.
97. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Dendrocopus minor (Linn.).
A local resident. Numerous in some
98. Kingfisher. Alcedo ispida, Linn.
Resident. On some of the quieter streams,
particularly in the west, it is not uncommon.
Sometimes seen on the coast, and has nested
at Brean Down.
99. Roller. Coracias garrulus, Linn.
Accidental. One at Orchard Portman
near Taunton, many years prior to 1869
(Smith, Birds of Somersetshire, p. 272).
100. Bee-Eater. Merops apiaster, Linn.
Accidental. A specimen obtained at
Bridgwater was in the collection of Mr.
Stradling (Zoologist, 1881, p. 309). Mr.
Mathew includes in his Somerset list three
that were shot out of a small flock in
May 1869 at Stapleton near Bristol. The
locality however appears to be in Gloucestershire.
101. Hoopoe. Upupa epops, Linn.
A rare visitor. Specimens are reported
from Priddy, spring 1859 ; Weston-superMare, 1858 and October 1860 ; Keynsham,
May 1862 ; Monkton, spring 1866 ; Berrow, September 1892 ; Bleadon, summer
1895 ; Flax Bourton, April 1895 ; and
Priston near Bath (Zoologist, 1892, p. 409).
102. Cuckoo. Cuculus canorus, Linn.
A common summer visitor.
103. Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Coccyzus americanus (Linn.).
Accidental. A female in perfect plumage
was shot at Pylle on Oct. 6, 1901 (vide
Zoologist, 1902, p. 26.)
104. White or Barn-Owl. Strix flammea,
Resident. Scarce in some districts owing
to persecution, but common in others.
105. Long-eared Owl. Asio otus (Linn.).
An uncommon resident. Migrants probably arrive in the autumn.
106. Short-eared Owl. Asio accipitrinus
A winter visitor. Common in winter on
the mid-Somerset levels. Colonel Montagu in
the supplement to his Dictionary records that
a great many of these owls occurred near
Bridgwater during a plague of field mice.
107. Tawny Owl. Syrnium aluco (Linn.).
Resident. The commonest species, but
108. Tengmalm's Owl. Nyctala tengmalmi (Gmelin).
Accidental. A specimen was shot at
Winscombe in 1859, and was in the collection of the late Mr. C. Edwards of Wrington
(Zoologist, 1888, p. 176).
109. Little Owl. Athene noctua (Scopoli).
Accidental. One shot at Clevedon, in
the year 1878, was in the collection of the
late Rev. G. W. Braikenridge (Zoologist, 1879,
p. 32). This was possibly an escape from
captivity, as many are imported from the
110. Snowy Owl. Nyctea scandiaca (Linn.).
Accidental. One trapped on Exmoor end
of March 1876 (vide Zoologist, 1876, p.
4900 ; 1893, p. 226).
111. American Hawk-Owl. Surnia funerea
Accidental. A specimen was shot near
Yatton on August 25, 1847, while it was
hawking for prey (vide Yarrell's British Birds
i. 184, ed. 4).
[Scops-Owl. Scops giu (Scopoli).
A specimen is said to have been shot at
Claverton in 1838 (vide the list of birds
drawn up by Mr. Terry in the Handbook to
112. Egyptian Vulture. Neophron percnopterus
Accidental. Two seen at Kilve near the
Quantock Hills, October 1825, and one of
them was shot (vide Yarrell's British Birds,
i. 6, ed. 4).
113. Marsh-Harrier. Circus æruginosus
Extinct as a resident, and now only a rare
visitor. One or two specimens are usually
shot during the winter in the peat-moor
county, where they are called buzzardhawks.
114. Hen-Harrier. Circus cyaneus (Linn.).
Possibly still a resident, but if so only in
very small numbers. A pair or two may still
breed in Exmoor, but recent information is
wanting. More than thirty years ago Mr. C.
Smith considered that this species was almost
extinct in the county.
115. Montagu's Harrier. Circus cineraceus
An occasional summer visitor. Mr. C.
Smith considered this species to be more frequent in the county than the hen-harrier.
It has been known to nest about forty years
ago in Pixton Park near Dulverton, and
young have been taken on the Blackdown
116. Buzzard. Buteo vulgaris, Leach.
Resident only in the extreme west of the
county, but sometimes seen in other districts
in autumn and winter. About two pairs still
nest on the cliffs between Minehead and
Glenthorne, where this summer (1901) I
have seen the young in the nest. A pair
nested at Hawkridge in 1890, and doubtless
a few still maintain themselves inland in the
Exmoor county. Mr. C. Smith considered
that the species must at one time have been
very plentiful in the west of the county.
117. Rough-legged Buzzard. Buteo lagopus
An irregular winter visitor. Specimens
have been obtained at Chargot Lodge and
Burnham (Smith, Birds of Somersetshire). In
the winter of 1875, when quite a flight of
rough-legged buzzards visited Devonshire,
two were obtained on the skirts of Exmoor
(D'Urban and Mathew, The Birds of Devon,
p. 148, ed. 2).
118. White-tailed Eagle. Haliaëtus albicilla
An occasional winter visitor. A good
many specimens of this eagle have been
either seen or obtained in the neighbourhood
of Bridgwater and in the Quantock country.
Colonel Montagu described one that was killed
on the Mendips about the year 1811. An
adult was shot at Stolford in November 1856,
and an immature specimen was shot on the
borders of Devon by Mr. Snow of Oare
about the year 1870. Other specimens
have been shot on the coast between Minehead and Bridgwater, and about the year
1890 a pair frequented the Quantocks and
are said to have carried off some lambs (Birds
of Devon, p. 150, ed. 2). The golden eagle
(Aquilla chrysaëtus) has occasionally been reported from the west of Somerset, but the
specimens seem always to have turned out to
be immature examples of the white-tailed
species. Bones of the goshawk (Astur palumbarius) have been identified from the remains
of birds discovered near Glastonbury in the
lake-dwelling (see Introduction), and in Mr.
Terry's list in the Handbook to Bath it is
stated that a specimen was shot at Claverton
119. Sparrow-Hawk. Accipiter nisus (Linn.).
Resident. Common where game preserving is not too strictly indulged in.
120. Kite. Milvus ictinus, Savigny.
Once a resident, but now only a rare
visitor. One shot near Yeovil in 1874 is in
the Taunton Museum, and there are other
local specimens in private collections. The
latest records seem to refer to the year 1888,
when a specimen was trapped at Chewton,
and another shot in Cleeve Wood near Yatton
(Dr. J. A. Norton, Bristol).
121. Honey-Buzzard. Pernis apivorus (Linn.).
A rare visitor in summer and autumn.
The Rev. M. A. Mathew in his Revised List
states that examples have occurred on the
Quantock Hills, at Bagborough, Cothelstone,
and the near neighbourhood of Taunton. A
young male was shot at Cothelstone in the
middle of June 1873, and a female was seen
shortly afterwards in the neighbourhood, so it
is likely that there was a nest close at hand.
A specimen was shot near Wells in the spring
of 1875 (Stanley Lewis, Wells). (fn. 3)
122. Peregrine Falcon. Falco peregrinus,
Resident in very small numbers. A pair
breed annually on Steep Holm, and one or
two eyries are perhaps left upon the coast.
The species is reported to have bred formerly
on Brean Down and on the Cheddar cliffs.
123. Hobby. Falco subbuteo, Linn.
A summer visitor. Occurs in the Taunton
district, where it has nested in Stoke Wood.
It has also been known to breed on the Blagdon Hills, and has been seen in the summer near
Wells and Frome. The species may visit the
county more often than is generally supposed.
124. Merlin. Falco æsalon, Tunstall.
A winter visitor. Not very uncommon in
the west. A pair or two may possibly breed
125. Red-footed Falcon. Falco vespertinus,
Accidental. A specimen was shot in
Cheddar Wood by the late Arthur Tanner
of Sidcot about the year 1860. It was for
some time in Mr. Tanner's collection, where
it was seen by Mr. F. A. Knight.
126. Kestrel. Falco tinnunculus, Linn.
A common resident. Breeds on the sea
coast as well as inland.
127. Osprey. Pandion haliaëtus (Linn.).
A very rare visitor. None have been recorded in recent years. A specimen in the
Taunton Museum was killed at Chargot
Lodge in October 1859, and others have
been obtained in the neighbourhood on ornamental sheets of water. In September 1887
a young female was taken alive on a boat in
the Bristol Channel (Zoologist, 1887, p. 433).
The upper waters of the Bristol Channel
were probably, owing to their opaqueness, at
no time attractive to this species. A pair
are said to have attempted to nest at Monksilver in 1847, but both were shot (vide Ibis,
1865, p. 9).
128. Cormorant. Phalacrocorax carbo (Linn.).
An uncommon visitor. Perhaps also a
resident. There seem to be very few records
of the occurrence of this species in the county,
but it has been occasionally noticed on the
coast, usually in the west where the water is
clearer. I saw a pair on Steep Holm on
April 20, 1900, and five together on June 25
of the present year (1901); some of these
appeared to be young birds which may have
been hatched out on the island.
129. Shag or Green Cormorant. Phalacrocorax graculus (Linn.).
A rare visitor. One was shot on the coast
near Berrow, October 20, 1892 (Zoologist,
1894, p. 267). I have on several occasions seen either this or the preceding species
on the coast in west Somerset, and other
observers have had the same experience.
130. Gannet or Solan Goose. Sula bassana
Accidental. A young bird was washed
ashore at Stolford in 1880, and others in
immature plumage have been noticed on the
coast. In 1890 an adult was taken near
Martock, many miles inland (Zoologist, 1900,
p. 557), and in September 1893 a party of
four or five was seen at Denny Isle near the
mouth of the Avon. The gannets which
reach Somerset are probably stragglers from
Lundy where a few pairs nest, or from
Grassholm off the Pembroke coast, where
there is a larger colony.
Bones of the crested pelican (Pelecanus
crispus, Bruch.), belonging to both adult and
immature birds, were discovered in the lake-dwelling near Glastonbury (see Introduction).
A specimen of Pelecanus onocrotalus was shot
on Exmoor in the year 1883, but was proved
to have escaped from confinement (Yarrell,
iv. 161, ed. 4).
131. Common Heron. Ardea cinerea, Linn.
Resident. There are heronries at Pixton
Park near Dulverton, Knowle near Minehead, Halswell near Bridgwater, Brockley
near Bristol, and Mells Park near Frome.
[Little Egret. Ardea garzetta, Linn.
Accidental. Mr. Edward Jesse in his
county Life (John Murray, 1844) mentions
a little egret that was shot on Glastonbury
Moor, and Mr. Terry records another in the
Handbook to Bath as shot at Bathampton,
132. Squacco Heron. Ardea ralloides, Scopoli.
An accidental visitor. One obtained near
Bridgwater prior to 1850 (Yarrell, iv. 192,
133. Night-Heron. Nycticorax griseus (Linn.).
An accidental visitor. One obtained near
Bridgwater was in the collection of Mr.
Stradling. Another was shot near Glastonbury in 1881 (see A Mendip Valley, p. 173,
134. Little Bittern. Ardetta minuta (Linn.).
A rare occasional visitor. Mr. C. Smith
knew of four Somerset specimens, and it has
also occurred at Wells.
135. Bittern. Botaurus stellaris (Linn.).
A winter visitor. Specimens are still shot
nearly every winter, and during severe frosts
it is far from rare. The bittern, in all probability, used at one time to breed in the marshes
[American Bittern. Botaurus lentiginosus
Mr. Stanley Lewis of Wells informs me
that he has examined two examples of the
American bittern, which were shot near
Glastonbury in November 1897.] (fn. 4)
[White Stork. Ciconia alba, Bechstein.
Accidental. One obtained near Bridgwater (Baker, Proc. of Somerset. Arch. and Nat.
Hist. Soc. 1850). A pair are said to have
been shot on the church tower of Wick St.
Lawrence in December 1897, but I have not
been able to verify this statement.]
136. Black Stork. Ciconia nigra (Linn.).
Accidental. One shot on West Sedgemoor near Stoke St. Gregory, May 13, 1814.
This bird recovered from its wounds, and
was subsequently kept alive for some time by
Colonel Montagu. Its skin is now in the
British Museum, South Kensington.
137. Glossy Ibis. Plegadis falcinellus (Linn.).
A very rare visitor. The only record appears
to be that of a specimen shot on the turf-moor
near Shapwick in the autumn of 1859 (Birds
of Devon, p. 199, ed. 2).
138. Spoonbill. Platalea leucorodia, Linn.
A very rare visitor. One was shot in
November 1813 on West Sedgemoor, and
another whose beak and skull are now in
the Taunton Museum was shot on Curry
Moor many years ago.
139. Grey Lag-Goose. Anser cinereus, Meyer.
A very rare winter visitor. It has been
reported from the Severn coast.
140. White-fronted Goose. Anser albifrons
A winter visitor. Not uncommon in severe
winters, and probably the commonest species
of goose which visits Somerset.
141. Bean-Goose. Anser segetum (Gmelin).
Not uncommon in severe winters.
[Pink-footed Goose. Anser brachyrhynchus,
It is uncertain whether this species ever
visits Somerset, but it may do so occasionally
as it has occurred on the Welsh coast on the
opposite side of the Channel. Mr. Sargent of
Clevedon saw a goose which had been shot
near that town in December 1887, which
he thought was an example of this species.]
142. Barnacle-Goose. Bernicla leucopsis (Bechstein).
A specimen was sent to Colonel Montagu
from Bridgwater in February 1809, and
mention was made of it in his Dictionary.
This appears to be the only county record.
143. Brent Goose. Bernicla brenta (Pallas).
A winter visitor to the coast in small numbers. Flocks of eight or ten have frequently
been seen in the Bristol Channel.
The Canada Goose (Bernicla canadensis) and
Egyptian goose (Chenalopex ægyptiaca) have
been kept on various ornamental waters and
escaped birds have occasionally been shot in
144. Whooper Swan. Cygnus musicus, Bechstein.
A very rare winter visitor. A female was
sent to Colonel Montagu from Bridgwater in
1805, and Mr. C. Smith records that he has
seen specimens which had been shot on the
marsh near Taunton.
145. Bewick's Swan. Cygnus bewicki, Yarrell.
An occasional winter visitor. In the winter
of 1878 a large flock frequented the Somerset
moors and others were seen near Glastonbury
and Taunton. Wild swans are occasionally
seen on the coast near Burnham. The mute
swan (Cygnus olor) has been met with in an
apparently wild state in the county, though
doubtless in reality the species has only
wandered from some ornamental water. The
same may be said of the black swan (Cygnus
atratus), of which five were shot near Bridgwater in 1858.
146. Common Sheld-Duck. Tadorna cornuta
(S. G. Gmelin).
Resident. Common and increasing. Breeds
on Steep Holm and all along the coast line,
among sand hills and in crevices of the cliffs.
The headquarters during the breeding season
seem to be in the neighbourhood of Burnham,
where 150 may sometimes be seen together.
It is no uncommon sight to see a flock of 100
or more birds on the mudflats during the
winter months, and sometimes 200 or even
300 may be seen together.
147. Mallard or Wild Duck. Anas boscas,
Locally, Brown Duck (female).
A winter visitor. Also a resident in limited
numbers. Breeds sparingly on Exmoor, the
turf moors and the levels near Bridgwater.
In some seasons a good many are taken at the
decoy near Walton.
148. Gadwall. Anas strepera, Linn.
A rare winter visitor. Mr. Cecil Smith
recorded two specimens, one from the marsh
near Taunton and one from near Dunster.
One out of a pair was shot near Langport,
January 10, 1889 (Zoologist, 1889, p. 149).
149. Shoveler. Spatula clypeata (Linn.).
A not uncommon winter visitor to the
peat moors, where a few pairs have been
known to breed.
150. Pintail. Dafila acuta (Linn.).
A somewhat rare winter visitor. Occurs
both on the coast and inland. A few are
usually taken each year at the Walton decoy.
151. Teal. Netttion crecca (Linn.).
A common winter visitor. A few have
been known to nest in the peat moors in
quite a wild state, and pinioned birds have of
late years been turned down in this district
and have hatched out broods. This is the
commonest species which is at the present
time taken in the Walton decoy.
152. Garganey. Querquedula circia (Linn.).
Not very rare as a summer visitor to the
peat moors, but its nest has not been reported.
Colonel Montagu received specimens from
the Somerset decoys in the month of April,
and was informed that it always appeared on
the pools about that time.
153. Wigeon. Mareca penelope (Linn.).
A not uncommon winter visitor. At the
present time they are rare on the decoy at
Walton, but the case seems to have been
different at the beginning of last century,
when Colonel Montagu was informed by a
decoy-man that more of this species were
taken in the Somerset decoys than 'duck,
teal and all other wildfowl collectively.'
154. Pochard. Fuligula ferina (Linn.).
Locally, Wigeon, Red-headed Curre.
A winter visitor to the coast and inland
waters, but is not common.
155. Tufted Duck. Fuligula cristata (Leach).
A fairly common winter visitor chiefly to
the inland waters, where possibly a few
156. Scaup-Duck. Fuligula marila (Linn.).
Locally, Black Duck, Diving Curre, Wigeon.
An abundant winter visitor to some parts
of the coast. Small flocks begin to appear
in the Channel about the middle of October,
and a few birds remain until the end of April.
During the winter flocks up to 300 in number
may be seen in the bays near Weston-superMare.
157. Goldeneye. Clangula glaucion (Linn.).
A rare winter visitor. Occurs occasionally
on the coast and on inland waters such as
158. Long-tailed Duck. Harelda glacialis
A very rare winter visitor. The only
record appears to be that of an immature
bird shot near Weston-super-Mare, December 16, 1890 (Zoologist, 1891, p. 66).
159. Common Eider Duck. Somateria mollissima (Linn.).
A rare occasional winter visitor. A female
was shot on Barrow reservoir in 1888
(Zoologist, 1889, p. 32), and a male was shot
on the flooded moor near Glastonbury in
160. Common Scoter. Œdemia nigra (Linn.).
A not uncommon winter visitor to the
coast. Occurs in flocks in the Channel and
sometimes in company with scaup ducks and
161. Velvet Scoter. Œdemia fusca (Linn.).
Has occurred occasionally on the Severn
coast. A female in the Salisbury Museum
is labelled Somerset. It is also 'observed in
the Channel during winter, though in fewer
numbers than the preceding,' i.e. the common scoter (The Birds of Glamorgan: Cardiff,
162. Goosander. Mergus merganser, Linn.
A not very rare visitor in severe winters.
Several specimens have been obtained near
Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and elsewhere.
163. Red-breasted Merganser. Mergus serrator, Linn.
A rare winter visitor. Immature birds
have been seen and shot near Weston-superMare.
164. Smew. Mergus albellus, Linn.
A winter visitor and sometimes fairly
numerous in severe seasons. Many have
been obtained in the county.
165. Ring-Dove or Wood-Pigeon. Columba
An abundant resident; great accessions in
166. Stock-Dove. Columba ænas, Linn.
Resident, but not very numerous. Not
uncommon in some inland districts and
breeds also on the cliffs of west Somerset.
[Rock-Dove. Columba livia, Gmelin.
This species is reported to have been found
breeding on Brean Down, Sand Point, Barton
Rocks, Burrington Combe and the Cheddar
Cliffs. It is impossible to say whether these
records refer to the wild breed or only to
escaped farmyard pigeons. I am strongly
inclined to the opinion that the true wild
rock-dove is not to be found anywhere in the
county of Somerset.]
167. Turtle-Dove. Turtur communis, Selby.
A summer visitor. Somewhat local, but
not uncommon in many parts of the county.
It is reported to be increasing in numbers
near Bristol. In 1900 a nest was found at
Wraxall consisting almost entirely of pieces
of old rusty wire (vide county Life, August
168. Pallas's Sand-Grouse. Syrrhaptes paradoxus (Pallas).
Accidental. In 1863 numbers of these
birds visited the British Isles, but none seem
to have been recorded for Somerset during
that year. Several however were noticed
during the visitation of 1888. Three were
shot out of a flock of eleven on Steart
Island on May 25, 1888, and on the same
day two were seen at Charlinch near Bridgwater by the Rev. W. A. Bell. About the
same time a small flock was seen at Nynehead, and others were reported from the neighbourhood of Weston-super-Mare, one specimen
being procured near Portishead. The Rev.
M. A. Mathew saw a flock of about twenty
in a turnip field in the parish of Norton St.
Philip at the end of June of the same year.
169. Black Grouse. Tetrao tetrix, Linn.
Resident in some localities. Numerous on
Exmoor and around Dunkery Beacon, but
rather scarce on the Quantocks. It is found
also on the Blackdown, Brendon and Mendip
Hills, though not in large numbers.
170. Red Grouse. Lagopus scoticus (Latham).
Accidental. One was shot on Blackdown
in the Mendips by Mr. C. Edwards, September
24, 1884 (Zoologist, 1885, p. 147). Others
are reported to have been taken near Weston-super-Mare, which were thought to have
crossed the Channel from Wales (A Mendip
Valley, p. 170).
171. Pheasant. Phasianus colchicus, Linn.
Introduced. Abundant in preserves.
172. Partridge. Perdix cinerea, Latham.
A common resident.
173. Red-legged Partridge. Caccabis rufa
Introduced. Some were turned out about
eighty years ago on the Cheddar moors, but as
they drove the English birds away efforts were
made to get rid of them. Some were shot in
this district in the years 1879, 1880 and 1884,
while others are still occasionally met with in
various parts of the county. A pair or two
appear to be resident on Brean Down.
174. Quail. Coturnix communis, Bonnaterre.
A summer visitor. Numerous in some
seasons. Several nests have been found recently near Bridgwater, and others have been
reported from Cheddar and Sidcot, while the
bird has been heard in the summer in the
neighbourhood of Taunton.
175. Corn-Crake or Land-Rail. Crex pratensis,
A summer visitor. Occasionally seen in
winter. This species is reported to be getting
scarce in some districts.
176. Spotted Crake. Porzana maruetta
A migrant in spring and autumn. It is
however sometimes numerous on the peat
moors, where it is almost certainly resident
throughout the year. Young broods have
been met with in summer near Weston-superMare (D'Urban and Mathew, Birds of Devon,
p. 277, ed. 2).
177. Little Crake. Porzana parva (Scopoli).
A very rare occasional visitor. An adult
male, shot near Bridgwater, used to be in the
collection of Mr. Stradling of Chilton Polden
(Zoologist, 1881, p. 309).
178. Baillon's Crake. Porzana bailloni
A rare visitor. An adult female was killed
near Weston-super-Mare, September 1840.
A bird of the year was obtained from near
Taunton October 1870, and another, September 1874. A specimen was also shot at
Stogursey in 1887.
179. Water-Rail. Rallus aquaticus, Linn.
A resident; not uncommon. Well known
as a resident on the peat moor and in other
suitable districts. Owing to its habits it is
doubtless often overlooked.
180. Moor-Hen. Gallinula chloropus (Linn.).
A common resident.
181. Coot. Fulica atra, Linn.
A resident on suitable lakes and ponds, and
also met with on the coast.
A specimen of the purple gallinule, Porphyrio cæruleus (Vandelli), was caught by a
sheep dog in the parish of Badgworth on
August 25, 1875. It was perhaps an escape
from captivity (vide D'Urban and Mathew,
The Birds of Devon, p. 282).
182. Crane. Grus communis, Bechstein.
A rare occasional visitor in spring and
autumn. Specimens have been shot at Stolford near Bridgwater, October 17, 1865;
South Brent May 1875; Wincanton, about
1880; and Stolford, December 1889. Remains of this species have been found in the
lake dwelling near Glastonbury.
A specimen of the demoiselle crane, Grus
virgo (Linn.), is said to have been picked up
dead near Wincanton (vide Science Gossip,
March 1876). The evidence however is
very unsatisfactory (Zoologist, 1883, p. 333).
183. Great Bustard. Otis tarda, Linn.
Only one record. On September 27, 1870,
Mr. J. E. Harting saw one alive on the Shapwick peat moor. He was at the time travelling on the Somerset and Dorset railway (vide
The Field, January 14, 1871). Bustards were
formerly found on the Wiltshire downs, and
it is not unreasonable to suppose that a few
from these localities used occasionally to visit
184. Little Bustard. Otis tetrax, Linn.
Accidental. An adult female in winter
plumage was shot on the moor near Drayton,
Oct. 19, 1894 (Field, Nov. 11, 1894).
185. Stone-Curlew. Œdicnemus scolopax
(S. G. Gmelin).
A summer visitor. The species probably
breeds in some parts of the county, though
there is no record. It has frequently occurred
on the Mendips and has been seen in summer
near Radstock. In September 1898 a specimen was shot near Bridgwater. The species
breeds on the Wiltshire downs.
186. Pratincole. Glareola pratincola, Linn.
A specimen was shot on the Mendips not
far from Weston-super-Mare, some years ago
(vide Zoologist, 1881, p. 309).
[Cream-coloured Courser. Cursorius gallicus (Gmelin).
In a list of the birds of Devon, published
in Trans. Plymouth Institution, 1862–3, Mr.
J. Brooking Rowe mentions that an example
of this bird was obtained in Somerset, but no
particulars are given.]
187. Dotterel. Eudromias morinellus (Linn.).
An occasional visitor on migration in spring
and autumn. Seven were shot on the Mendips near Wells, May 1, 1869, and early in
May of the same year a specimen was shot
on the Steep Holm. In the middle of May,
also in 1869, a small trip was seen at Weston-super-Mare, and on August 21, 1870, two
specimens were obtained near Wells. Colonel
Montagu was informed that eggs of this
species had been taken on the Mendip Hills,
but he suggested in his Dictionary that the
eggs were those of the golden plover.
188. Ringed Plover. Ægialitis hiaticula
Resident. Very numerous on the coast in
autumn and winter. Several pairs breed on
Steart Island, Steart Point, on the sand dunes
near Berrow church and elsewhere on the
189. Kentish Plover. Ægialitis cantiana
Accidental. The only record is that of an
immature specimen shot some years ago on
the coast near Burnham (Mathew, Revised
190. Golden Plover. Charadrius pluvialis,
An autumn and winter visitor. Found
both on the coast and inland districts and
appearing sometimes in large numbers. Mr.
Cecil Smith was informed that a few bred
near Dunkery Beacon and on Exmoor, but
there seems to be no direct evidence that it
has ever nested in the county. I have seen
small flights on Exmoor in August and September.
191. Grey Plover. Squatarola helvetica (Linn.).
Locally, Silver Plover.
A not uncommon winter visitor to the
192. Lapwing. Vanellus vulgaris, Bechstein.
A numerous resident. Large flocks frequent the levels near the coast during the
193. Turnstone. Strepsilas interpres (Linn.).
An uncommon visitor to the coast. More
frequent in autumn, but specimens in the
nesting plumage have been obtained near
Weston-super-Mare in early spring.
194. Oyster-Catcher. Hæmatopus ostralegus,
A resident, but more numerous during the
winter. About four pairs still nest on Steart
Island and others on the shingle at Steart
Point and elsewhere on the coast. I have
seen sixty in a flock near Burnham in the
middle of June, but conclude that many of
these were not breeding birds. Small parties
are common on the coast in winter, especially
on the mud-flats near Burnham, where I have
seen as many as 200 together.
195. Black-winged Stilt. Himantopus candidus, Bonnaterre.
Accidental. A specimen was shot near
Bridgwater many years ago (Zoologist, 1881,
p. 309), and another was shot on Sedgemoor
near Wells, July 1896 (ibid. 1897, p. 511).
196. Grey Phalarope. Phalaropus fulicarius
An irregular autumn visitor; sometimes
numerous after stormy weather. Many were
obtained in the county in 1866, and 1891
was another 'phalarope' year, when after a
severe gale in October many were driven
ashore on the south-west counties. It has
sometimes occurred in Somerset, many miles
from the coast.
197. Woodcock. Scolopax rusticula, Linn.
Resident in small numbers; great accessions in the autumn. A few breed on the
wooded slopes of the Quantock Hills and
elsewhere in the west, where it is at all
times more numerous than in the east of
198. Great Snipe. Gallinago major (Gmelin).
A rare irregular autumn visitor. It has
been reported from near Glastonbury, Weston-super-Mare and the Exmoor country.
199. Common Snipe. Gallinago cælestis
Resident in limited numbers, but chiefly a
winter visitor. Breeds on Exmoor and some
of the levels of mid-Somerset, and has also
been reported as nesting on the Quantocks,
Brendon and Blackdown Hills. There are
some very good 'snipe grounds' in the
county, where sometimes a great many are
shot in the winter.
200. Jack Snipe. Gallinago gallinula (Linn.).
A winter visitor. Common in some years.
201. Dunlin. Tringa alpina, Linn.
Abundant on the coast from autumn to
spring, and a few may be seen in the summer in the breeding plumage. Mr. Howard
Saunders, in his Manual of British Birds,
states that he has seen young dunlins on
Exmoor hardly able to fly, so it is probable
that a few nest in that district.
202. Little Stint. Tringa minuta, Leisler.
An occasional autumn visitor. It has been
reported from Burnham and Weston-super-Mare.
203. Temminck's Stint. Tringa temmincki,
A very rare winter visitor. Colonel Montagu received one shot out of a party of six
near Bridgwater in September 1805. He
referred to this bird under the heading 'Little
Sandpiper,' but his description of the bird is
now generally thought to apply to T. temmincki. Another specimen was shot on North
Curry moor, November 14, 1874 (vide Zoologist, 1875, p. 4334).
204. Curlew-Sandpiper. Tringa subarquata
A rare autumn visitor. Two were obtained
at Weston-super-Mare, autumn 1893, and
another in winter plumage was shot on a
moor near Taunton. This species doubtless
occurs more often than is supposed, as it
might easily be overlooked among the thousands of dunlins which frequent the coast.
205. Purple Sandpiper. Tringa striata, Linn.
Occasionally seen on the coast in autumn.
Specimens have been obtained from Bridgwater, Burnham, Weston-super-Mare and
206. Knot. Tringa canutus, Linn.
An autumn visitor to the coast, not usually
in large numbers.
207. Sanderling. Calidris arenaria (Linn.).
A not uncommon autumn visitor to the
coast. The Rev. R. Chichester has informed
me that he sees them every year in small
numbers at Minehead, sometimes as early as
the middle of August. Others have noticed
them at Burnham and at Weston-super-Mare.
208. Ruff. Machetes pugnax (Linn.).
Now only a rare autumn visitor. This
species used formerly to breed in the fens of
Somerset (vide Yarrell's British Birds, ed. 4),
and Colonel Montagu was informed that they
were not uncommon in the fens about Bridgwater before these were drained and enclosed.
In more recent times specimens in the breeding plumage have been secured near Taunton.
209. Bartram's Sandpiper. Bartramia longicauda (Bechstein).
Accidental. A specimen was shot more
than forty years ago at Combwitch near the
mouth of the river Parrett. This specimen
was identified by the Rev. M. A. Mathew,
and is now in the museum at Taunton Castle
(Zoologist, 1877, p. 389).
210. Common Sandpiper. Totanus hypoleucus (Linn.).
A summer visitor. In some parts of the
county it is only seen on migration in spring
and autumn, but it nests commonly in the
west by the Exmoor streams.
211. Wood-Sandpiper. Totanus glareola
A rare passing visitor in spring and autumn.
There are two records from the neighbourhood of Taunton. One, an adult shot on
May 9, 1870, and the other a young bird
shot in the autumn. These were formerly
in Mr. Cecil Smith's collection.
212. Green Sandpiper. Totanus ochropus
A passing migrant in spring and autumn,
not uncommon. Found on the coast as well
as by inland streams and pools. Mr. C. Smith
has received examples as early as August 8,
and the Rev. M. A. Mathew has seen them
in the summer near Weston-super-Mare in
so immature a state that he thought they had
come from a nest in the neighbourhood.
213. Redshank. Totanus calidris (Linn.).
A not uncommon visitor in spring and
autumn. I have evidence that a pair have
nested quite recently on Steart Island, and it
seems probable that the bird occasionally nests
elsewhere in the county.
214. Spotted Redshank. Totanus fuscus
A rare irregular autumn visitor. Colonel
Montagu received a specimen shot out of a
small flock near Bridgwater. Two young
birds were also procured in autumn several
years ago, near Weston-super-Mare, and examined by the Rev. M. A. Mathew.
215. Greenshank. Totanus canescens (Gmelin).
A rare autumn visitor to the coast. A
few specimens have been recorded from the
neighbourhood of Burnham, and another was
obtained at Huntspill, August 29, 1884.
216. Bar-tailed Godwit. Limosa lapponica
An occasional spring and autumn visitor to
217. Black-tailed Godwit. Limosa belgica
A very rare visitor. One out of a couple
was shot near Bridgwater in February some
year prior to 1869. Mr. Goldsmith has
noticed specimens in the poulterers' shops in
Bridgwater, shot in the neighbourhood ; but
this species is evidently far rarer in the county
than the bar-tailed godwit.
218. Common Curlew. Numenius arquata
Resident ; more numerous in winter.
Breeds in the hilly country in the west and
in some numbers on Exmoor. Very abundant
on the mud-flats from autumn to spring, and
many remain on the coast throughout the
219. Whimbrel. Numenius phæopus (Linn.).
Locally, Checker, Cowslip Bird.
A visitor on migration. Common on the
coast in spring but rarer in autumn. I have
noticed them arrive as early as April 25, and
seen them again on August 3.
220. Black Tern. Hydrochelidon nigra (Linn.).
Not uncommon both in spring and autumn.
Mr. C. Smith heard of thirty being seen in
one flock. Young birds have frequently been
met with by the river Axe near Weston-super-Mare.
A specimen of the white-winged black tern
was shot at Penarth, on the Welsh side of
the Channel, in March 1891. It may
therefore occasionally wander to the Somerset
221. Sandwich Tern. Sterna cantiaca,
Accidental. A specimen was shot at
Clevedon, April 22, 1890, and is now in the
possession of Mr. E. Sargent of Clevedon.
222. Roseate Tern. Sterna dougalli, Montagu.
Accidental. Mr. Sargent has an adult,
shot at Clevedon in the year 1898. I have
examined the specimen, and the beautiful
rose tint on the breast, though considerably
faded, is still apparent.
223. Common Tern. Sterna fluviatilis, Naumann.
Sometimes seen in spring and autumn in
the Channel and on the coast, but not common. It occasionally visits the flooded moors
224. Arctic Tern. Sterna macrura, Naumann.
Occurs rarely in spring and autumn. Large
numbers of this and the preceding species
were seen on the coast of the Bristol Channel
in May 1842 (vide Yarrell, iii. 554, ed. 4).
225. Little Tern. Sterna minuta, Linn.
Occurs occasionally both on the coast and
on the moors inland in spring and autumn.
226. Sooty Tern. Sterna fuliginosa, Gmelin.
Accidental. The Rev. M. A. Mathew
saw an example of this tern which had been
caught alive near Bath after stormy weather
in October 1885 (Birds of Devon, p. 365,
227. Sabine's Gull. Xema sabinii (J. Sabine).
A rare winter visitor. Several young birds
have occurred at Weston-super-Mare (vide
Zoologist, 1863, 1865, 1867). Immature birds
have also been obtained at Burnham, October 1893, and at Tickenham, September
228. Little Gull. Larus minutus, Pallas.
An irregular winter visitor. The Rev.
M. A. Mathew had an immature specimen
which had been shot on the sands at Weston-super-Mare about the year 1863. Another
was shot at Clevedon, October 1888 (Zoologist,
1889, p. 32).
229. Black-headed Gull. Larus ridibundus,
An abundant winter visitor. From autumn
to spring this is by far the commonest species
of gull on the coast. Of late years several
have been observed throughout the summer
near Burnham in the breeding plumage, and
so it is possible there may be a small nesting
colony somewhere in the county, though I
have not heard of one.
230. Common Gull. Larus canus, Linn.
A common winter visitor to the coast.
Sometimes large flocks may be seen.
231. Herring-Gull. Larus argentatus, Gmelin.
Resident. May be seen on the coast at
all seasons of the year, but not in large numbers. About twelve pairs nest on Steep Holm,
but I do not think that there is any other
nesting station in the county.
232. Lesser Black-backed Gull. Larus fuscus,
Resident. Not at any time common on
the coast. Ten or twelve pairs nested this
year (1901) with the herring-gulls on Steep
Holm. I visited Steep Holm on June 25
of the present year, and consider that there
were about twenty-three pairs of gulls breeding on the island, and perhaps rather more
herring-gulls than black-backs.
233. Great Black-backed Gull. Larus
Seen occasionally on the coast. Colonel
Montagu was informed that this species used
to breed on Steep Holm, but that would
be about 100 years ago. I do not know
when they ceased to breed there, but there
appear to be none at the present time. A
few breed on the Gower coast, Glamorgan,
on the opposite side of the Channel.
234. Glaucous Gull. Larus glaucus, Fabricius.
An irregular winter visitor. Several have
been obtained at Weston-super-Mare from
among the flock of gulls which enter the bay
in pursuit of sprats. Yarrell's illustration was
taken from a specimen shot on the river
Severn near Bristol in 1840.
235. Iceland Gull. Larus leucopterus, Faber.
A rare winter visitor. Mr. Cecil Smith
received an immature specimen from Weston-super-Mare which had been obtained on
December 28, 1870. Another was taken
inland at Somerton, December 12, 1881
(Zoologist, 1882, p. 71).
236. Kittiwake. Rissa tridactyla (Linn.).
A numerous winter visitor to the coast.
Large flocks may often be seen, especially
after stormy weather; but as a rule the species
is not quite so numerous on the coast as the
237. Ivory-Gull. Pagophila eburnea (Phipps).
An accidental visitor. Mr. C. Smith heard
of one or two specimens which had been procured in the county.
An adult was caught in a trap at Weston-super-Mare in the winter of 1864 (vide Zoologist, 1865, p. 9470).
238. Great Skua. Megalestris catarrhactes
Accidental. One was shot at Berrow in
December 1883 (vide Zoologist, 1896, p. 233).
According to the report of the British Association Migration Committee, another specimen was seen off Minehead on October 16,
1886, and at the same time twelve Pomatorhine skuas and six Richardson's skuas were
239. Pomatorhine Skua. Stercorarius pomatorhinus (Temminck).
Accidental. In October 1879 large numbers appeared off the south-west counties of
England, and at that time examples were
procured in Somerset at Minehead, Combwitch, North Curry, Weston-super-Mare and
on Steart Island. Others occurred in the
county in October 1880, and November
240. Arctic or Richardson's Skua. Stercorarius crepidatus (Gmelin).
Accidental. An adult was shot at Clevedon, December 1873, and an adult and two
young at Stolford, autumn 1892.
241. Long-tailed or Buffon's Skua. Stercorarius parasiticus (Linn.).
Accidental. An adult was shot at Nynehead, October 1862, and an immature bird
at Stolford, September 1873. In the autumn
of 1891 numbers were blown by gales into
the Bristol Channel, and a specimen was shot
as high up as Clevedon.
242. Razorbill. Alca torda, Linn.
A straggler from Lundy and the South
Wales breeding stations. Small parties may
be seen in the Bristol Channel in autumn
243. Guillemot. Uria troile (Linn.).
An autumn and winter visitor to the
Channel, when examples are sometimes taken
on the Somerset coast. There seems to be
no breeding station in the county.
244. Black Guillemot. Uria grylle (Linn.).
Accidental. An adult in winter plumage
was taken near Quantoxhead prior to 1869
(C. Smith's The Birds of Somersetshire, p. 550).
245. Little Auk. Mergulus alle (Linn.).
Accidental, in winter. Several specimens
have been at various times picked up dead or
caught alive, doubtless having been driven in
from the sea by storms. There are records
for the years 1805, 1863 and 1884, both
from the coast and inland. Mr. Stanley
Lewis of Wells informs me that ten specimens
have been taken during the last twelve years,
principally from the flooded moors near Glastonbury.
246. Puffin. Fratercula arctica (Linn.).
Occasionally wanders up the Channel, and
sometimes occurs on the coast. A young
bird was caught alive at Cheddar, October
247. Great Northern Diver. Colymbus
Accidental. Mr. Cecil Smith mentions
an adult shot on the river at Nynehead, and
states that one or two immature examples
have occurred on the ponds at Chargot. A
young bird was shot on the Barrow reservoir,
January 20, 1881, and two were shot some
years ago on the floating harbour at Bristol.
Another was killed at Steart by a fisherman,
248. Black-throated Diver. Colymbus arcticus,
Accidental. An adult was shot near Williton, December 1875, and an immature
bird was killed near Burnham, December 9,
1895 (Zoologist, 1896, p. 233).
249. Red-throated Diver. Colymbus septentrionalis, Linn.
Accidental. A specimen was picked up
near Taunton, March 28, 1867, and others
were shot in the river near Bridgwater during
the winters of 1890 and 1892. There are
one or two other records, but this species as
well as the two preceding can only be regarded as accidental visitors to Somerset.
250. Great-crested Grebe. Podicipes cristatus
A rare visitor. Mr. C. Smith recorded
four county specimens. The species has also
occurred on the Barrow reservoir, and doubtless on many other inland waters in the
county. In January 1895 a specimen was
picked up dead on the coast in the west of
the county by Mr. A. Luttrell, and I possess
an adult male shot at the mouth of the river
Axe, November 2, 1901.
251. Red-necked Grebe. Podicipes griseigena
Accidental. Taunton, February 1870;
North Curry, February 1871 (Zoologist, 1871,
252. Slavonian Grebe. Podicipes auritus
Accidental. Mr. C. Smith knew of two
examples from the neighbourhood of Taunton.
It has also occurred on the Barrow reservoir
in January 1885, and again in 1890.
253. Eared Grebe. Podicipes nigricollis
Accidental. A specimen was picked up
dead near Bridgwater, July 1896 (Zoologist,
1896, p. 304).
254. Little Grebe or Dabchick. Podicipes
A common resident in suitable localities.
Found on the rhynes as well as the pools and
larger pieces of water.
255. Storm-Petrel. Procellaria pelagica, Linn.
Occasionally picked up after gales, sometimes far inland. Colonel Montagu mentions a specimen from Bath, and a more
recent example was obtained near Glastonbury, January 1897.
256. Leach's Fork-tailed Petrel. Oceanodroma
Accidental. Sometimes driven in by gales.
Mr. C. Smith mentions two instances, one
from Cothelstone, another from Weston-super-Mare. One was shot, October 1883,
near the Clifton Suspension Bridge (Zoologist,
1884, p. 145), another was shot in December 1892, near Bridgwater (vide Zoologist,
1893, p. 22).
257. Manx Shearwater. Puffinus anglorum
Accidental. Has occurred after heavy
gales. About seven examples have been
procured both on the coast and inland, and
others have been seen in the Channel.
258. Fulmar. Fulmarus glacialis (Linn.).
Accidental. Four specimens have been
recorded: An adult from Weston-super-Mare, winter 1868 (Zoologist, 1869); an
immature specimen from Stolford, October
1869; a third occurred near the mouth of
the Avon, August 1878; and a fourth was
obtained near Taunton, December 1883
A specimen of the 'gentoo' penguin
(Pygoscelis taeniata) was picked up dead on
the shore near Berrow, and is now in the
possession of Mr. H. St. B. Goldsmith, late
of Bridgwater. It was quite fresh when
found, and had probably escaped from some
In the following account of the mammals of Somerset only those
species have been included that are to be found in a wild state within
its boundaries at the present time or have occurred within the last
fifty years, either as residents or occasional visitors; and those species
have been omitted which have been extinct as residents for a longer
period than half a century or are unlikely to occur even as accidental
In a county having such an extensive seaboard as Somerset has on
the north, it might have been expected that seals and cetaceans would
have occurred more frequently; but besides being out of their usual track
the waters of the Channel are so much discoloured by Severn mud, and
also by the mud brought down by the Parrett into Bridgwater Bay, that
the coast is exceedingly poor in marine life and offers but little attraction
to these animals. Another cause that has tended to shorten the list has
been the absence of evidence as to the species that have occurred from
time to time, as specimens have been merely reported as a 'seal' or a
Several specimens of rorqual have at different times floated up the
Bristol Channel or been stranded on the Severn coast, but such 'jetsam
and flotsam' can hardly be considered as entitled to a place in the county
The roe deer has been omitted, although a specimen was found and
hunted by the Seavington hounds in 1883 to the south of the Vale of
Taunton; yet this cannot be considered as having been anything but a
stray from Dorset, where roe deer were introduced at the beginning of
the nineteenth century.
There are two species of bats that further observations will
undoubtedly add to the list, viz. the barbastelle and Natterer's bat. The
former has been taken in Bristol just outside the county boundary and
also in Wiltshire. The latter has occurred at Kingswood near Bath in
the spring of 1874 (vide specimens in Bath Museum), and has also been
found in Gloucestershire and in Dorset. There can be little doubt that
these near neighbours hunted as often in Somerset as in the county
where they were captured.
Mr. Richard Lydekker, F.R.S., in his handbook of British mammalia gives 43 land mammals (native and introduced) as at present
inhabiting Great Britain, besides 4 species of seals and 19 species of
whales. The present list enumerates 33 terrestrial forms besides 1 seal
and 3 whales as forming the present mammalian fauna of Somerset.
The chief authorities on the mammals of the county are Baker,
'List of the Mammals of Somerset' in the Proceedings of the Somerset
Archælogical and Natural History Society for 1849–50; Fairbrother,
Mammals of Shepton Mallet (1856); C. Terry, 'Fauna within a radius
of 6 miles of Bath,' in Wright's Historical Guide to Bath (1864); T.
Compton, Winscombe Sketches (1882); R. Lydekker, F.R.S., Handbook
of British Mammals (1896); Prof. C. Lloyd Morgan, F.R.S., and H. J.
Charbonnier in British Association Handbook to Bristol and Neighbourhood
(1898), and various notes that have appeared at intervals in the Zoologist.
1. Greater Horseshoe Bat. Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum, Schreber.
Frequent in church towers and sometimes
in caves. Abundant in Wells Cathedral and
also at Hampton Rocks, Bath.
2. Lesser Horseshoe Bat. Rhinolophus hipposiderus, Bechstein.
Local and scarce. Generally found in caves
or old quarries, in the old lead workings at
Dundry and in other localities.
3. Long-eared Bat. Plecotus auritus, Linn.
Common and generally distributed. This
species is the most easily tamed of our bats,
and makes a most interesting pet.
4. Great Bat or Noctule. Pipistrellus noctula,
Common and generally distributed. Often
found in numbers in old ash trees in June.
Many of these colonies consist of females only.
If disturbed they will often forsake the tree.
This is a most useful species, as they destroy
an immense quantity of 'chafers.' This bat
produces one young one in May or early
5. Pipistrelle. Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Schreber.
Not uncommon in old houses and caves.
In some localities rarer than the next species.
It is not infrequently seen in early spring flying in bright sunshine.
6. Whiskered Bat. Myotis mystacinus, Leisler.
Sometimes abundant in old roofs, also in
caves and quarries. A colony containing
more than 100 individuals was found in the
roof of an old house at Keynsham on July
2, 1888. Some twenty specimens were captured and proved to be all females. Many of
these gave birth to a young one within a day
or two. These latter had pink bodies and
nearly black heads and membranes; they
were quite naked and apparently blind, and
measured 2½ to 3 inches across the wings.
7. Hedgehog. Erinaceus europæus, Linn.
Common in suitable localities. A female
captured in June littered on the 24th.
The young, three in number, appeared quite
naked at first, but on the second day the
spines, which were quite soft, began to show
on the surface of the skin.
8. Mole. Talpa europæa, Linn.
Common. The cream coloured variety
with rusty underparts occurs not infrequently.
There is also a much rarer particoloured
variety, black with large patches of white, in
which the white fur is rather longer than the
9. Common Shrew. Sorex araneus, Linn.
Very common. This species is largely
eaten by owls.
10. Pigmy Shrew. Sorex minutus, Pallas.
Rather uncommon and local. It occurs in
the Leigh Woods near Bristol.
11. Water Shrew. Neomys fodiens, Pallas.
Local and sometimes scarce. Some specimens, such as those occurring in Leigh
Woods, have the underparts dusky, approaching the form remifer.
12. Wild Cat. Felis catus, Linn.
This is now extinct. The last occurrence
was mentioned at a meeting of the Bristol
Naturalists' Society in 1867 by the late president, William Sanders, F.R.S., who had 'seen
a specimen, a few years before, that had been
shot in the county south of Wells.'
13. Fox. Vulpes vulpes, Linn.
Common and preserved for purposes of
sport. 'A pure white variety was killed in
1887 by the Taunton Vale Foxhounds'
14. Pine Marten. Mustela martes, Linn.
Very rare, but probably still lingers on
Exmoor, and through its roving habits may
occur within the county at any time. A
specimen in Taunton Museum was obtained
15. Polecat. Putorius putorius, Linn.
Formerly common, but now very rare.
As the species still holds its own in several
parts of Great Britain (in Wales in numbers)
it will certainly be found occasionally, for
during hard weather these animals migrate
(sometimes in small packs) to great distances.
16. Stoat. Putorius ermineus, Linn.
Common. Nearly white specimens have
been shot near Taunton in January and also
at the same time and place specimens in a
brown coat as in summer. Nearly white
specimens also occur during very mild
17. Weasel. Putorius nivalis, Linn.
Common. Often called by the country
folk in west Somerset the stoat, while they
term the former species the weasel.
18. Badger. Meles meles, Linn.
Fairly common and maintains its numbers
in suitable places. A female caught near
Shepton Mallet littered on February 16
(1899). The young were four in number,
blind, and very slightly hairy.
19. Otter. Lutra lutra, Linn.
Not uncommon in rivers and streams. As
these animals often travel many miles during
the night they may occur unexpectedly in any
of the streams. Six years ago Messrs. George
and Edward Parsons killed three females
and one male in the river Tone at Bathpool
near Taunton, three on one day and one on
the next. The largest weighed about 19 lb.
This species has also occurred at Bathford,
Limpley Stoke, Congresbury, Creech St.
Michael and elsewhere.
20. Common Seal. Phoca vitulina, Linn.
For reasons given in the introduction seals
have rarely been recorded from the coast of
Somerset. Mr. Sargeant of Clevedon reports
that he saw one that had been shot in Lady
Bay, Clevedon, on March 7, 1874.
21. Squirrel. Sciurus leucourus, Kerr.
Common. Abundant in some localities.
22. Dormouse. Muscardinus avellanarius,
Local, but sometimes in plenty in Claverton
Woods near Bath and at Portbury near Bristol.
23. Brown Rat. Mus decumanus, Pallas.
Very common in town and country; has
been known to devour the grapes in a vinery.
The melanic variety, M. hibernicus, has not
been recorded, but may be found to occur.
24. Black Rat. Mus rattus, Linn.
Local. Occurs on the Somerset side of
the Bristol Avon in warehouses and factories.
25. Ship Rat. Mus alexandrinus.
Often occurs on board ships and in Bristol
warehouses. This species breeds freely with
Mus rattus. Hybrid specimens are frequent,
and often have white paws and a white patch
on the breast.
26. House Mouse. Mus musculus, Linn.
Very common in buildings, though often
found in the open country.
27. Long-tailed Field Mouse. Mus sylvaticus,
Very common in fields and woods, though
sometimes found in houses in the suburbs of
towns. This species lays up stores of corn or
nuts for winter use.
28. Harvest Mouse. Mus minutus, Pallas.
Local and decidedly scarce in the more
northern parts of the county, but fairly common a few miles from Yeovil. It consumes
quantities of flies and insects, and makes a
very pretty and interesting pet.
29. Water Vole. Microtus amphibius, Linn.
Very common. A black variety is said to
occur. Water voles seem to have been excessively abundant in former times, as immense
numbers of their bones and teeth are found
in the loam filling the fissures in the limestone
at Holwell near Frome, and in other localities.
30. Field Vole. Microtus agrestis, Linn.
Common and swarming in some seasons.
31. Bank Vole. Evotomys glareolus, Schreber.
Sometimes not uncommon in Leigh Woods
near Bristol, where they have been seen in
small scattered parties of eight or ten making
their way down the valleys.
32. Common Hare. Lepus europæus, Pallas.
Fairly common in some parts of the county.
Mr. Arthur Vassall of Harrow says that he
has observed the lowland hares round Langport and Athelney move up to higher ground
shortly before rain occurs in sufficient quantities to flood the district.
33. Rabbit. Lepus cuniculus, Linn.
34. Red Deer. Cervus elaphus, Linn.
This grand member of the British fauna is
still found in a wild state on Exmoor, where
it has existed for many centuries. The question of whether the red deer at present found
on the Quantocks is truly indigenous has been
discussed at length in the Proceedings of the
Somerset Archæological and Natural History
Society, (xliv. i. 22), and the evidence adduced
leads to the belief that the present red deer
were introduced there about 1839, and that
except as a straggler it did not occur on the
Quantocks during the 150 or 200 years previous to that date.
35. Bottle-nosed Whale. Hyperoodon rostratus, Müller.
A whale of this species was found in
Weston-super-Mare bay some twenty or
twenty-five years ago, and was killed by some
boatmen (Compton, Winscombe Sketches, p.
36. Grampus or Killer. Orca gladiator,
Occurs occasionally. 'In March, 1864,
ten of these whales entered the river Parrett,
all of which were captured within a few
miles of Bridgwater' (Lydekker). Mr. Sargeant of Clevedon saw two whales, probably
of this species, killed in Little Harp Bay,
Clevedon, on October 17, 1866.
37. Common Porpoise. Phocæna communis,
Not infrequently seen off the coast, and
sometimes as far up the Channel as Portishead.