Golden OrioleI have never seen the bird alive or found any record of the occurrence of the Golden Oriole (Oriolus galbula) in Guernsey or the neighbouring Islands, and beyond the fact that there was one example — a female — in the Museum I had been able to gain no information on the subject except of a negative sort. No specimen had passed through the hands of the local taxidermist certainly for a good many years, told me she did not know the bird, and had never had one through her hands.
It seemed to me rather odd that a bird which occurs almost every year in the British Islands, occasionally even as far west as Ireland, as a straggler, and which is generally distributed over the continent of Europe in the summer, should be totally unknown in the Channel Islands. Consequently writing about another Guernsey bird — a Hoopoe, I asked for information as to the occurrence of the Golden Oriole in the Islands, and shortly after the following letter:
"Concerning the occurrence of the Golden Oriole I cannot speak from my own personal knowledge, but I believe there can be no doubt that the bird has been occasionally seen here. Its presence, however, must be much more rare than that of the Hoopoe, for a bird of such plumage as the Oriole would be more likely to attract even more attention than the comparatively sober-coloured Hoopoe, and if half so common as the latter would be sure to fall before the gun of the fowler. In the early days the island was far more wooded than it is at present, and it is possible that the wholesale destruction of hedgerow elms and the grubbing-up of so many orchards in order to employ the ground more profitably in the culture of early potatoes and brocoli, by which the island has lost much of its picturesque beauty, may have had the effect of deterring some of the occasional visitors from alighting here in their periodical migrations."
But though the grapes are protected, and most, if not all, the cherry orchards cut down, still there is plenty of unprotected fruit in Guernsey to tempt the Golden Oriole to remain in the Islands, and to bring the wrath of the gardener both to bear upon him when he is there. This, however, only shows that from the time spoken of down to the present time very few Golden Orioles could have visited Guernsey, and still fewer remained to breed; for what with their fruit-eating propensities and their bright plumage. I think therefore, on the whole, that though Guernsey still affords many temptations to the Golden Oriole, and is sufficiently well-wooded to afford shelter to suit its shy and suspicious habits, yet for some reason or other the bird has not visited the Island of late years even as an accidental visitant, or, if so, very rarely.