Art. XL.—Zoological Notes, Nelson District.
[Read before the Nelson Philosophical Society, 13th January, 1896.]
Eurystomus pacificus (Australian Roller).
The first-recorded occurrence of this bird in New Zealand, according to Sir Walter Buller, was in 1881, when Mr. F. E. Clarke reported it in a paper read before the Westland Institute (vide Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xiii., p. 454); and about the same time four other specimens were obtained in three other places, making altogether five specimens. The localities were far apart, but all situate on the west coast of the two Islands.
Last April (1895) the presence of a strange bird was noticed at Stoke, near the sea-shore, west of the entrance to Nelson Harbour. Mr. C. Martin states several members of his family noticed its peculiar flight and heard its cry. Mr. A. E. Green also saw it, and the latter gentleman found it dead on the sands on the 17th April, and sent it to a taxidermist, when it was found to be too decomposed to preserve. It was afterwards given to me, and proved to be a specimen of the Australian Roller. I embalmed it, in order to keep the body for reference.
It is stated by Sir Walter Buller, on the authority of Messrs. Cayley and Gould, that the Australian Roller is very local in its habitat in New South Wales, arriving there from the north not earlier than October and disappearing in February. If this is the case, it appears very strange to find in the month of April in New Zealand a bird which should, in the natural order of events, have been at that time in its winter habitat in New Guinea. The other recorded instances apparently occurred at such time as the bird would in an ordinary case have been in New South Wales.
Scale Insect (Planchonia quercicola).
In December, 1894, I noticed at Stoke a scale insect on the oaks on Mr. Marsden's property; specimens were forwarded to Mr. Maskell, who identified it as Planchonia quercicola, a species hitherto not recorded as found in New Zealand. As I understand Mr. Maskell intends to describe it, I shall confine myself to the result of inquiries and observation as to its occurrence in this district. It appears it has been at Stoke something like fourteen years; the owner lately has checked its increase by pruning and cutting down badly-infested trees. In Nelson itself about seven or eight years ago an oak badly attacked was cut down and burnt in the grounds near the Provincial Buildings. Near by, in grounds adjoining the brewery, is an oak with the insects plainly visible; in Trafalgar Square and on the Church Hill I noticed its presence; also on an oak in St. Paul's Churchyard, Brightwater; and at the entrance-gates of the residence of the Bishop of Nelson stand two oaks, one badly infested, but, curiously enough, the other apparently quite free.
At present I am unable to give an opinion as to whether the insect is increasing rapidly or not; very possibly the presence of its natural enemy may account for the fact that no great damage such as occurred in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, about sixty years ago has as yet been done. It would, however, be well if the several owners would prune the diseased branches, and thus keep it in check.