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[ALL EIGHTS RESERVED.] BRITISH BIRDS. 2,-Bipds of ihe Commons and Woodlands. BY A. H. MACPHERSON Under the above heading we may include nearly all the various birds whose songs help to make English country life so enjoyable, l'hese birds are nearly all small; most of them are dull in colour, and harmonise so closely with their surroundings that it is extremely hard to deteot their presence but for their -voices. They are rightly called warblers," for their singing is by far the most noticeable point about them. Birds of this class are almost entirely summer visitors," arriving here in spring to build their nests and rear their young, leaving us again in autumn for a warmer climate, THE WAnDLFiiS. To this family of warblers belong the two most accomplished songsters heard in Eng- land-the nightingale and the blackcap. The former has the bigger reputation, still it always seem to me (although it is high trea- son to say so) that of the two the blackcap is the greater artist. The nightingale gives 11 forth his utterances with such an agony of 'fervour that for the time-especially if you are a lady-you are quite carried away. Still his singing is hardly of the highest style; it is rather too sensational and operatic. The blackcap, on the other hand, always keeps the most perfect control over his voice; the notes are deliciously rich, and you do not hear any effort. The two birds are very different in appearance-the one is reddish brown above and white beneath; whle the other is of a dark grey hue, with a neat little black crown on the top of his head, and greyish white off the under-parts. The nightingale frequents the thickets, whereas the blackcap is perhaps most at home in fruit gardens, where the young birds, who, like their mother, have chocolate-coloured crowns instead of blaok, may constantly be seen in the raspberry bushes. The garden warbler is another fine singer. The bird arrives in England rather later than others of its class, generally making its appear- ance in May. And in addition to the three warblers already mentioned we are visited every spring by two w bite throats-greater and lesser-and by three little green birds closely resembling each other, called the wood wren, willow wren, and chiff-chaff, all of which may fairly be called birds of the wood- lands' The two whitethroats have both white throats, but their colouring is very different in other respects, the larger bird having a reddish brown back, while the cor- responding portion of the lesser whitethroat is dark brownish grey. The former has rather a sweet song, which it gives-forth with great energy usually from the top of a thicket, while the song of the latter is rather loud and monotonous. The wood wren, willow wren, and chiff-chaff, as we have said, bear a very close resemblance to one another. They are all of them green above and light underneath. The wood wren is the largest and the least common, being essentially a bird of the wooded districts, and it prefers beeches to other trees; consequently it is more local than the other two. All the three birds build domed nests; but that of the; wood wren may always be distinguished by the fact that it is never lined with feathers. The willow wren is a very common species, and has a bright little song in a descending scale, which it repeats over and over again; while the chiff-ohaff can only utter two notes, which it constantly repeats, usually from the top of some high tree. You can distinguish the willow wren from its relatives by its yellow under-parts; and the chiff-chaff, be- sides being the smallest of the three species, is the first to arrive in England, and it has, moreover, as a rule dark legs. The colours of the legs of birds are, however, a most un- trustworthy test for identification, as they vary very much in different individuals of the same species. Only a few days ago I had in my hand a ohiff-chaff which had been stunned by flying against a window-pane; its legs, instead of being dark brown, were of a bluish slate grey. GOLD CRESTS. In localities where fir-woods abound you will sometimes come upon a flock of minute birds uttering a curious little call, which is more of a squeak than a note: these are golden-crested wrens—the smallest British species. This tiny bird only measures three inches and a half from the tip of its beak to the end of its tail, and yet enormous flocks Frequently arrive in England in autumn on the East Coast, How these fragile, weak little ereatures perform a journey across the North r GOLD-CRESXKD WBEN. Sea is truly wonderful. It is certainly a great strain upon them, for they sometimes alight in swarms on fishing boats in order to rest, and those which gain the shore are greatly exhausted. It is impossible to estimate the loss of life which suoh a crossing must cause, but this only makes us wonder all the more at the strength of the hereditary instinct which compels them to start on the journey. in oolour the gold-crest is green, with the trown of the head orange in the male bird ind lemon-yellow in the female. The nest is l most exquisitely made hammock of moss. There are two birds of the warbling class tfhioh are essentially birds of commons rather than ™odl*nds: one is a resident jlpecies, the Dartford warbler, and the other a summer visitor, called the grasshopper warbler. The former owes its name to the fact that it was first discovered, about a hundred and twenty years ago, near Dart- Jord; it has, however, since been found in knost of the southern oounties of England In appearanoe it somewhat resembles the wren, but it has a long f*n-shaped tail, which at frequently opens while flitting about furze- hushes, its favourite hannk This bird suffered terribly in some places daring the cold winter of 1880 to 1881, and no doubt the frost at the beginning of the present year caused a great diminution in its numbers. THE GRASSHOPPER VARBLER. If you go for a walk on some heatll early on a bright morning in May you may hear a sound re^en^bling the VVJUdpg her. c man's reel. This sound will at one moment appear to proceed from some object close at hand, and the next moment sound as though it came from a distance. The owner of the voice, which will become silent directly you make the slightest noise, is the grasshopper warbler, a small greenish bird, which arrives in this country in April and stays with us till September. It is a distinctly shy bird and not a very easy one to observe, partly on that account and partly on account of its being such an accomplished ventriloquist that it is often very hard to know where to look for it. If you want to observe it closely you must keep still for some time without making the slightest sound, when it will perhaps walk out from under soma shrub close in front of you. A good naturalist soon learns the charac- ters of birds, and he uses this knowledge when making his observations. A very short acquaintance with the grasshopper warbler will teach you that it is very shy; the nightingale is passionate; the whitethroat fussy and demonstrative; the gold-crest the essence of contentment; and so on. They each have their marked dispositions. The best way to make the sedge warbler show himself off is to throw something at him: he is of a noisy, excitable disposition, and will instantly commence to chatter, scold, and swear at you. But with its near relative the reed warbler it would be fatal to assume the offensive throw a stone at a reed warbler and you will simply frighten it out of its wits. THE WIIEATEAR, "WHINCHAT, AND STONE- CHAT. One of the first arrivals in England in spring is the wheatear. This handsome bird may frequently be seen on commons and places where there are waste lands, especially WHEATKAIT. if bounded by stone walls, and it is also frequently seen on chalk downs on moun- tain sides. You caunot help noticing it on account of the white tail which is very con- spicuous in flight and from which it derives its name; wheat being merely a corruption of white and ear be; ii o, an Anglo-Saxon word, and having nothing to do with our word "ear." In districts where there are stone dykes you see them perched on the top, always flying a few yards further away when you get within a certain distance. The stone- chat and winchat are also both birds of the commons and are often mistaken for one another, although they differ in many respects. Both have reddish breasts and brown backs, but whereas the head of the stonechat is black, the wbinohat has a clear white streak over the eye; and the stonechat stays with us all the year round, while the whinchat is only a summer visitor. The two may also be distinguished by their voices; the call of the STONECHAT. whinchat having two syllables, and that of the stonechat three. Both species are fond of fu rze bushes, and the wbincbat is also, much attracted by railway banks, on which it frequently builds its nest; ao that ;hey may constantly be seen from the railway train. When in the neighbourhood of furze bushes you may sometimes come upon a most beautiful oval shaped nest covered with lichens this is the home of the long-tailed or oven tit. There is a mmute hole in one aide of the nest for an entrance, and so small is the interior that when the bird is sitting on the eggs it has to fold its long tail over its back and the end may sometimes be seen projecting through the doorway. They lay a large number of eggs, and it is wonderful how such a large family can be brought up wjth such limited accommodation. They are very sociable, and large family parties may sometimes be seen flying about in search of food. There are four kinds of tits which are resident in England. They usually fly about in flocks, and are very sociable and tame, as those who are in the habit of hanging up lumps of fat for them in winter are aware. As a family they have frequently been accused of damaging buds and fruit, but there seems little doubt that they are on the whole ex- tremely useful for they destroy an enormous number of grubs and maggots, m PIPITS. Towards the middle of April it is not an uncommon thing to hear a song which re- minds one of the canary. If you look at the singer you will see that he rises from one of the highest boughs on the tree on which he is parched, hovers in the air for a moment, and then descends on to the branch from which he started, singing all the while. He is a small brown bird, in colour like the lark; but in many respects you will notice that he resembles the wagtail, to whom he is much more closely related. This bird is the tree pipit, a very characteristic woodland species, and fairly plentiful from April to September throughout Fugtand wherever the country is «cH supplied with trees. The meadow pipit, or ti lark as it is oommonly called, closely resembles the tree pipit, but is far less parti- cular in the localities which it frequents. It seems to be most at home on moorlands and low lying damn ground, although it may also be found on heaths and in cultivated districts. Unlike the tree pipit, the titlark is resident with us throughout the year, but in cold wea- ther there is a general movement to warmer localities. WOODI. ANDERS. The members of the orow tribe possess be- tween them as much intellect as all the other birds put together, They are most of them hated by gamekeepers, and especially the magpie and jay. Everybody knows these two birds by night; both are beautiful, which is to many men in itself a good reason for killing them, ind botlj, sometimes destroy the eggs Q| Other SPECIF Therefore the are shot and trapped everywhere. The jay in addition to being considered an ornamental bird for a bat, has a further attraction in the fact that the brightly coloured blue feathers on its wing are valued by fisherman for making flies. It manages, however, to hold its own fairly well, for it is extremely wary, uttering it3 hideous scream long before an intruder has time to get anywhere near it. As a matter of fact, it is probably not as destructive as the magpie or crow, though its reputation is about as bad. The magpie is handicapped in the raoe for life by being so conspicuous. Many conspicuous birds protect their species from destruction by building their nests in places which are inaccessible or hard to find, but the magpie's nest is a great structure of sticks with a dome, so that it is about as conspicuous as it is possible for a nest to be. The crow is, like the magpie, omnivorous, but it is much less shy and is consequently able to hold its own in many localities where the magpie would never ven- ture. The only other two birds of the crow tribe—for we need not count the wretched raven, which has now become so very scarce in most places-are the jackdaw and the rook, both very sociable, notjonly among themselves, but also towards mankind. The jackdaw can hardly be said to be a real bird of the wood- lands, but it does occasionally nest in hollow trees. They prefer cliffs and old buildings, where they may be seen fiying about in large flocks, sometimes performing the most won- derful evolutions in the air, especially on windy days, when they always appear to be most thoroughly happy. WINGED FORESTEIIS. There is one other family ot birds charac- teristic of the woodlands-the woodpeckers. There are three species the first is large and green, and the commonest of the three this I is the bird whose curious laughing, is so well known. The other two are white and black; one is called the greater spotted wood- pecker, and the other the le ser spotted wood- pecker. They have a curious habit of attrac- ting attention by rattling their strong bills against the bark of a tree, so as to make a curious vibrating sound. Birds of this family are most wonderfully adapted to the life they lead climbing the trunks of trees. They have two toes turned forward and two backward, giving them great additional power for run- I GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER. ning up and down the stem3. Then the fea- thers of the tail have stiff quills, so that they can gain considerable support from them; and their bills are very strong, so that they can more easily excavate the holes in which they lay their eggs. The whole bird is as perfect a piece of machinery as possible. We have niertioned a good many of the birds which are to be found on our commons and woodlands, and it is impossible not to be struck by their variety. Many of the larger spsoies are, no doubt, regularly persecuted, and their numbers Kept down but the smaller birds are much more numerous here than on the Continent. The reason for this is partly to be found in the fact that England is admirably suited to their requirements it is so very green. Then, again, we do not eat small birds in the way they do in other countries. And the abundance of small birds is, I believe, in no small measure due to the very cause of the scarcity of the larger ones. The gamekeeper, who in his zeal and ignorance butchers every creature large enough to be called vermin," preserves his woods and coverts during the nesting season with the utmost care; and thus he enables hundreds of small birds to bring up their young unmolested. It is to these small species, it must be borne in mind, almost entirely that we owe the chorus of song which we hear around us every summer, The amount of song varies greatly according to the time of year. It is fullest and loudest in spring. As the summer proceeds, the birds one by one become silent, for as soon as the young have become independent the moulting season commences; but towards the end of August a few of them recommence singing, and yon may again hear the chiff-chaff re- peating his everlasting two notes from the top of the very same tree on which you saw him in March, when the leaves were coming out. The willow wren and other warblers all sing a little in early autumn, but their songs are neither so rich nor as powerful as in spring, and by the end of September most of them have retired to warmer lands, and have left our woods and commons to resident species. The leaves have now begun to fall, and until next spring, the woods will be quite silent, except for the occasional song of a robin or wren noiv and then, interrupted by the harsh scream of the jay, and the call- notes of parties of small birds searching for food.




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