The country people have a notion that the Fern-owl or Churn-owl, or Eve-jarr, which they also call a Puckeridge, is very injurious to weanling calves by inflicting, as it strikes at them, the fatal distemper known to cow-leeches as Puckeridge. Thus does this harmless, ill-fated bird fall under a double imputation, which it by no means deserves; in Italy, of sucking the teats of goats, whence it is called Caprimulgus; & with us, of communicating a deadly disorder to cattle. But the truth of the matter is, the malady above-mentioned is occasioned by the Oestrus bovis, a dipterous insect, which lays it’s eggs along the backs (chines) of kine, where the maggots, when hatched, eat their way thro’ the hide of the beast into the flesh, & grow to a very large size. I have just talked with a man, who says he has, more than once stripped calves who have died of the puckeridge; that the ail, or complaint lay along the chine, where the flesh was much swelled, & filled with purulent matter. Once myself I saw a large rough maggot of this sort taken (squeezed) out of the back of a cow. These maggots in Essex are called wornils. The least observation & attention would convince men, that these birds neither injure the goatherd, nor the grazier, but are perfectly harmless, & subsist alone, being night birds, on night-insects, such as scarabaei & phalaneae; thro’ the month of July mostly on the scarabaeus solstitialis, which in many districts abounds at that season. Those that we have opened, have always had their craws stuffed with large night-moths & their eggs, & pieces of chafers: nor does it anywise appear how they can, weak & unarmed as they are, inflict any harm upon kine, unless they possess the powers of animal magnetism, & can affect them by fluttering over them. Mr Churton informs me “that the disease along the chine of calves, or rather the maggots that cause them, are called by the graziers in Cheshire worry brees, & a single one worry-bree.” No doubt them mean a breese, or breeze, one name for the gad-fly or Oestrus, which is the parent of these maggots, & lays it’s eggs on the backs of kine. Dogs come into my garden at night, & eat my goose-berries. Levant weather.
Posted by sydney on Aug 9th, 1789