Art. XXIII.—Notes on Birds observed during the Voyage to England, in a Letter to the President.
[Communicated to the Wellington Philosophical Society by DR. Buller, G.M.G., 7th August, 1875.]
“On board the 'Howrah,' 18th May, 1875:—I hope we shall be in London in a week, and may as well write a few lines in readiness to post to you. Our voyage has been slow, but pleasant, with very little rough weather. We did very well to the Horn; but since then have had very light winds, and but little help even from the Trades. * * * * I have been rather surprised at the small number of birds we have seen. For some days out from New Zealand we had Diomedea melanophrys and another small species with a white head and brown mottled body. These were very common near the Bounty Islands; but were not seen afterwards. The Mollymawks we had till we reached the South Tropic. It was not till we rounded the Horn that we saw any of D. exulans or D. fuliginosa. The latter species I am positive we never saw in the Pacific, as it is so easily recognised by the blue streak on the mandibles. It is very abundant between the Falkland Islands and latitude 30° S. Off the Western Isles two or three birds like albatrosses, but much smaller, with white bellies and white ring round the throat, were seen. I dare say I shall recognise it in the British Museum. Thalassidroma nereis followed us almost to the Horn; but, after entering the Atlantic, T. melanogastra took its place, at first in large flocks, but, since latitude 35° S., only a few stragglers have been seen. In the Pacific I saw one Lestris, and large flocks of “whale-birds” as the sailors called them—which were the Blue Billy (Prion turtur); but, in the South Atlantic, we met flocks of another but larger-sized grey bird, which they also called “whale-birds.” These were evidently Procellaria glacialoides. When 100 miles off the Horn, a specimen of the White-throated Shag (Graculus brevirostris) flew on board. We never saw a single Cape Pigeon during the voyage. Where can they be at this season—February—March? Only two Tropic Birds, one Frigate Bird, and a few Noddies were seen near St. Paul's Rocks, and these complete the list of birds. I am anxious to get to the end of the
voyage, as it is a waste of time after ninety days, and we are now out ninety-four days, and have still 1000 miles to the Lizard. * * * * The birds are all well, except the loss of one Kiwi and two Woodhens. The specimen of O. nigricans, from the Snares, is all right, however; also the pair of Ocydromus earli, and O. australis (the large yellow variety). The Cassowary and the Cranes are in fine condition. * * *
“London, 30th May.—Arrived last night by rail from Falmouth; 105 days in all.”