4 MARCH 1905, Page 16


Sin,—In the Spectator of February 11th is an article on "Animal Masons," in which it is stated that the black wheatear crosses the Straits of Gibraltar in spring to nest. As far as my observations, for many years, go, such is not the case, as these birds are present in the same places in Anda- lusian mountains throughout the year. The writer, who evidently took his description of one of the peculiar nests of this bird from my "Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar," might as well have added that at p.42, op. cit., is an illustration of this identical nest, whose dimensions he quotes. I may add that these birds do not always place stones in front of the nest. The large stone mentioned could not have been in situ, as it and all the others were of a different formation from the cavern in which was the nest. Colonel.Willoughby Verner lately found a very much larger stone in one of these barriers, which, I imagine, are built as a sort of blind to the nest when it is placed in an open situation.—I am, Sir, &c.,

[The statement that the black wheatear is migratory into Spain is contained in Colonel Howard Irby's "Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar," in which be says that "some are migratory, arriving in March." The main authority quoted by him for its habits is Colonel W. Verner, but he is men- tioned only by his surname, and no reference is given (p. 41). The excellent drawing of the nest of this bird bears Colonel Verner's name.—ED. Spectator.]