National Geographic : 1938 Aug
WE LIVE ALONE, AND LIKE IT--ON AN ISLAND would sit at the mouth of the burrow, occasionally exercis ing its wings. It is possible that the bird, during the several nights of this procedure, may be considering, intelli gently or instinctively, the direction it must take to get to the sea, which it can hear so plainly beating on the rocks in the distance. A TAKE-OFF IN THE NIGHT At any rate, one dark night it makes up its mind to take off. It is then just over ten weeks old, and, unable to fly properly, it blunders downward to the cliff and flutters to the sea. There it is safe, for, although not vet able to rise on the wing, it can dive instinctively from enemies in the air, and under the water it can find lit tle fishes to break its fortnight-long fast. This in brief is the story which we un raveled by degrees. We published it in the ornithological journal British Birds, receiving as a result letters from leading © Capt. H. Morrey Salmon THE EARLIEST BIRD OF ALL The raven begins his courtship in February, even in January, and by mid April his four or five children are on the wing. One pair has nested on Skokholm since the author first settled there; but they will tolerate none of their kind, and eventually drive out even their own young before a new breeding season comes around ornithologists at home and abroad. Our little shearwater with the ridiculous Latin name suddenly became famous, and its life history even went into translations in Europe. We were heartened by this reception of our bird news from Skokholm to continue our study and to publish further infor mation about our other friends, the puffins, the storm petrels, and the gulls.* Some of our banded shearwaters were recovered off Spain, and in the Bay of * Our experiences and adventures have been described in part in two books. Dream Island and Island Days, and in contributions to The Coun tryman--The Author. Biscay at a time when they should have been nesting on Skokholm. But these we found in our records to be birds born a year previously, and evidently not ready to breed until at least two years old. The old birds were always the first to come back in the spring, and we found that banded birds had seemingly paired for life, meeting each year at the well-remembered nesting site. Adult shearwaters, released experimen tally inland in the British Isles, at sea at several points off the European coast and the Faeroe Islands, successfully 273 .