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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: LARGE BLACK EAGLES IN PORTSMOUTH 1740

The other day I was in the Manchester Local Studies Library looking through the `Lancashire Journal` of January 21st 1740 p.3 and found the following:

COUNTRY NEWS

Portsmouth, Jan 12 Last Thursday a Pair of very large black Eagles settled on an Island called the Binness, belonging to the Estae of Colonel Smith. They seemed to be about four Feet high, as they stood on the Ground. The appearance of these Birds which are very rarely seen in this Country, happened to be observ`d the next Day after the Publick Fast for imploring Success on the present War, occasions various Speculations, and is looked upon as an happy Omen of the Reunion of the Imperial Arms of Germany and Great-Britain, in order once more to check the growing Power, and humble the exorbitant Pride of France and Spain.(1)

Britain declared war on Spain in October of that year.

Now there is a black eagle, Ictinaetus malayensis that soars over the tropical hilly regions of Asia. It breeds in tropical Asia.It is found in Burma and S.China.This does not seem the likely candidate.

I do have a vague memory of Aubrey or Ray talking in the 17th century mentioning vultures in Britain. A Fortean Times report from about Nov 2010 reports recent vultures from Lincs,Oxordshire,Norfolk and Snowdonia.

Agricultural Records by J.M. Stratton says: "The severe spell which started on Dec 24th, 1739, lasted for at least nine weeks, and cold weather continued till late in the spring.” (2) Does anyone know what these birds may have been?


1. Lancashire Journal 21-1-1740 p. 3
2. J.M. Stratton. Agricultural Records p.74
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