Bird Life in the Town

Isle of Wight Observer October 26, 1895

On Tuesday a couple of martins were seen flying very near the ground up and down Union Street. A carriage, or something of the sort, suddenly diverted the birds from their course, and they flew straight into the establishment of Mr Richard Colenutt, the well-known wine merchant. Their struggles to get through the window excited some little alarm, for it was feared they would knock down some of the bottles, which might, easily in their fall, break the glass. At the expense of no small amount of trouble the intruders were caught, and again set free in their native element. It is not often these birds are seen flying in the main street of this town so low that when turned in their flight they fly into a shop. Doubtless, however, they were picking up the few stray house flies that still remain, and will soon be starting again to a southern region. Their rendezvous, before finally going south, is St Thomas’ Church Spire. Last year about this time, large numbers of these birds were seen on or around this spire, from which they seemed to start in a body. Although not the fastest of the swallow tribe they are endowed with very considerable powers of flight. Some years ago a gentleman caught a martin as she was entering her nest, and, by way of experiment, carried her by rail a distance of 15 miles and set her free. She was carefully timed, and was said to have got back to her nest in less than 13 minutes! It is evident, therefore, to a bird that can fly at the rate of a hundred miles an hour, a journey to Africa is soon accomplished. The tower of St Thomas’ has also been colonised by a number of Jackdaws, who during the summer have deserted it, finding plenty of food in the surrounding fields and woods. These have now returned, and have resumed their winter quarters. They collect contributions of food from the neighbouring houses, the inhabitants of which are always glad to see the friendly birds again. There are a few starlings which also go around and pick up food in the same neighbourhood. By the way, as a contrast between the powers of flight of various birds, we may state that a starling liberated like the martin above referred to took an hour and a half to cover the same distance.

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