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´╗┐Title: A Bird Calendar for Northern India
Author: Dewar, Douglas, 1875-1957
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
ANIMALS OF NO IMPORTANCE
THE INDIAN CROW: HIS BOOK
BOMBAY DUCKS
BIRDS OF THE PLAINS
INDIAN BIRDS
JUNGLE FOLK
GLIMPSES OF INDIAN BIRDS
BIRDS OF THE INDIAN HILLS


_IN COLLABORATION WITH FRANK FINN_
THE MAKING OF SPECIES



A BIRD CALENDAR FOR NORTHERN INDIA

BY DOUGLAS DEWAR



LONDON: W. THACKER & CO., CREED LANE, E.C.
CALCUTTA AND SIMLA: THACKER, SPINK & CO.
1916



WM. BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND.



I am indebted to the editor of _The Pioneer_ for permission to
republish the sketches that form this calendar, and to Mr. A. J.
Currie for placing at my disposal his unpublished notes on the birds
of the Punjab.

Full descriptions of all the Indian birds of which the doings are
chronicled in this calendar are to be found in the four volumes of the
_Fauna of British India_ devoted to birds; popular descriptions of the
majority are given in my _Indian Birds_.

D. D.

HARROW,
_January 1916_.



CONTENTS
                   PAGE
JANUARY . . . . . .   1
FEBRUARY  . . . . .  18
MARCH . . . . . . .  33
APRIL . . . . . . .  61
MAY . . . . . . . .  79
JUNE  . . . . . . . 103
JULY  . . . . . . . 116
AUGUST  . . . . . . 136
SEPTEMBER . . . . . 152
OCTOBER . . . . . . 165
NOVEMBER  . . . . . 178
DECEMBER  . . . . . 189
GLOSSARY  . . . . . 199
INDEX . . . . . . . 201



JANUARY

  Up--let us to the fields away,
  And breathe the fresh and balmy air.
                               MARY HOWITT.


Take nine-and-twenty sunny, bracing English May days, steal from March
as many still, starry nights, to these add two rainy mornings and
evenings, and the product will resemble a typical Indian January. This
is the coolest month in the year, a month when the climate is
invigorating and the sunshine temperate. But even in January the sun's
rays have sufficient power to cause the thermometer to register 70
degrees in the shade at noon, save on an occasional cloudy day.

Sunset is marked by a sudden fall of temperature. The village smoke
then hangs a few feet above the earth like a blue-grey diaphanous
cloud.

The cold increases throughout the hours of darkness. In the Punjab
hoar-frosts form daily; and in the milder United Provinces the
temperature often falls sufficiently to allow of the formation of thin
sheets of ice. Towards dawn mists collect which are not dispersed
until the sun has shone upon them for several hours. The vultures
await the dissipation of these vapours before they ascend to the upper
air, there to soar on outstretched wings and scan the earth for food.

On New Year's Day the wheat, the barley, the gram, and the other
Spring crops are well above the ground, and, ere January has given
place to February, the emerald shoots of the corn attain a height of
fully sixteen inches. On these the geese levy toll.

Light showers usually fall in January. These are very welcome to the
agriculturalist because they impart vigour to the young crops. In the
seasons when the earth is not blessed with the refreshing winter rain
men and oxen are kept busy irrigating the fields. The cutting and the
pressing of the sugar-cane employ thousands of husbandmen and their
cattle. In almost every village little sugar-cane presses are being
worked by oxen from sunrise to sunset. At night-time the country-side
is illumined by the flames of the _megas_ burned by the rustic
sugar-boilers.

January is the month in which the avian population attains its
maximum. Geese, ducks, teal, pelicans, cormorants, snake-birds and
ospreys abound in the rivers and _jhils_; the marshes and swamps are
the resort of millions of snipe and other waders; the fields and
groves swarm with flycatchers, chats, starlings, warblers, finches,
birds of prey and the other migrants which in winter visit the plains
from the Himalayas and the country beyond.

The bracing climate of the Punjab attracts some cold-loving species
for which the milder United Provinces have no charms. Conspicuous
among these are rooks, ravens and jackdaws. On the other hand, frosts
drive away from the Land of the Five Rivers certain of the feathered
folk which do not leave the United Provinces or Bengal: to wit, the
purple sunbird, the bee-eater and, to a large extent, the king-crow.

The activity of the feathered folk is not at its height in January.
Birds are warm-blooded creatures and they love not the cold.
Comparatively few of them are in song, and still fewer nest, at this
season.

Song and sound are expressions of energy. Birds have more vitality,
more life in them than has any other class of organism. They are,
therefore, the most noisy of beings.

Many of the calls of birds are purposeful, being used to express
pleasure or anger, or to apprise members of a flock of one another's
presence. Others appear to serve no useful end. These are simply the
outpourings of superfluous energy, the expressions of the supreme
happiness that perfect health engenders. Since the vigour of birds is
greatest at the nesting season, it follows that that is the time when
they are most vociferous. Some birds sing only at the breeding season,
while others emit their cries at all times. Hence the avian choir in
India, as in all other countries, is composed of two sets of
vocalists--those who perform throughout the year, "the musicians of
all times and places," and those who join the chorus only for a few
weeks or months. The calls of the former class go far to create for
India its characteristic atmosphere. To enumerate all such bird calls
would be wearisome. For the purposes of this calendar it is necessary
to describe only the common daily cries--the sounds that at all times
and all seasons form the basis of the avian chorus.

From early dawn till nightfall the welkin rings with the harsh caw of
the house-crow, the deeper note of the black crow or corby, the
tinkling music of the bulbuls, the cheery _keky_, _keky_, _kek_,
_kek_ ... _chur_, _chur_, _kok_, _kok_, _kok_ of the myna, the
monotonous _cuckoo-coo-coo_ of the spotted dove (_Turtur suratensis_),
the soft subdued _cuk-cuk-coo-coo-coo_ of the little brown dove (_T.
cambayensis_), the mechanical _ku-ku--ku_ of the ring-dove (_T.
risorius_), the loud penetrating shrieks of the green parrot, the
trumpet-like calls of the saras crane, the high-pitched _did-he-do-it_
of the red-wattled lapwing, the wailing trill _chee-hee-hee-hee_
_hee--hee_ of the kite, the hard grating notes and the metallic
_coch-lee_, _coch-lee_ of the tree-pie; the sharp _towee_, _towee_,
_towee_ of the tailor-bird, the soft melodious cheeping calls of the
flocks of little white-eyes, the _chit_, _chit_, _chitter_ of the
sparrow, the screaming cries of the golden-backed woodpecker, the
screams and the trills of the white-breasted kingfisher, the curious
harsh clamour of the cuckoo-shrike, and, last but by no means least,
the sweet and cheerful whistling refrain of the fan-tail flycatcher,
which at frequent intervals emanates from a tree in the garden or the
mango tope. Nor is the bird choir altogether hushed during the hours
of darkness. Throughout the year, more especially on moonlit nights,
the shrieking _kucha_, _kwachee_, _kwachee_, _kwachee_, _kwachee_ of
the little spotted owlet disturbs the silences of the moon. Few nights
pass on which the dusky horned owl fails to utter his grunting
hoot, or the jungle owlet to emit his curious but not unpleasant
_turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _tukatu_,
_chatuckatuckatuck_.

The above are the commonest of the bird calls heard throughout the
year. They form the basis of the avian melody in India. This melody is
reinforced from time to time by the songs of those birds that may be
termed the seasonal choristers. It is the presence or absence of the
voices of these latter which imparts distinctive features to the
minstrelsy of every month of the year.

In January the sprightly little metallic purple sunbird pours forth,
from almost every tree or bush, his powerful song, which, were it a
little less sharp, might easily be mistaken for that of a canary.

From every mango tope emanates a loud "Think of me ... Never to be."
This is the call of the grey-headed flycatcher (_Culicicapa
ceylonensis_), a bird that visits the plains of northern India every
winter. In summer it retires to the Himalayas for nesting purposes.
Still more melodious is the call of the wood-shrike, which is
frequently heard at this season, and indeed during the greater part of
the year.

Every now and again the green barbet emits his curious chuckling
laugh, followed by a monotonous _kutur_, _kutur_, _kuturuk_. At rare
intervals his cousin, the coppersmith, utters a soft _wow_ and thereby
reminds us that he is in the land of the living. These two species,
more especially the latter, seem to dislike the cold weather. They
revel in the heat; it is when the thermometer stands at something over
100 degrees in the shade that they feel like giants refreshed, and
repeat their loud calls with wearying insistence throughout the hours
of daylight.

The nuthatches begin to tune up in January. They sing with more cheer
than harmony, their love-song being a sharp penetrating
_tee-tee-tee-tee-tee_.

The hoopoe reminds us of his presence by an occasional soft
_uk-uk-uk_. His breeding season, like that of the nuthatch, is about
to begin.

The magpie-robin or _dhayal_, who for months past has uttered no
sound, save a scolding note when occasion demanded, now begins to make
melody. His January song, however, is harsh and crude, and not such as
to lead one to expect the rich deep-toned music that will compel
admiration in April, May and June.

Towards the end of the month the fluty call of the koel, another
hot-weather chorister, may be heard in the eastern portions of
northern India.

Most of the cock sunbirds cast off their workaday plumage and assumed
their splendid metallic purple wedding garment in November and
December, a few, however, do not attain their full glory until
January. By the end of the month it is difficult to find a cock that
is not bravely attired from head to tail in iridescent purple.

Comparatively few birds build their nests in January. Needless to
state, doves' nests containing eggs may be found at this season as at
all other seasons. It is no exaggeration to assert that some pairs of
doves rear up seven or eight broods in the course of the year. The
consequence is that, notwithstanding the fact that the full clutch
consists of but two eggs, doves share with crows, mynas, sparrows and
green parrots the distinction of being the most successful birds in
India.

The nest of the dove is a subject over which most ornithologists have
waxed sarcastic. One writer compares the structure to a bundle of
spillikins. Another says, "Upset a box of matches in a bush and you
will have produced a very fair imitation of a dove's nursery!"
According to a third, the best way to make an imitation dove's nest is
to take four slender twigs, lay two of them on a branch and then place
the remaining two crosswise on top of the first pair. For all this,
the dove's nest is a wonderful structure; it is a lesson in how to
make a little go a long way. Doves seem to place their nurseries
haphazard on the first branch or ledge they come across after the
spirit has moved them to build. The nest appears to be built solely on
considerations of hygiene. Ample light and air are a _sine qua non_;
concealment appears to be a matter of no importance.

In India winter is the time of year at which the larger birds of prey,
both diurnal and nocturnal, rear up their broods. Throughout January
the white-backed vultures are occupied in parental duties. The
breeding season of these birds begins in October or November and ends
in February or March. The nest, which is placed high up in a lofty
tree, is a large platform composed of twigs which the birds themselves
break off from the growing tree. Much amusement may be derived from
watching the struggles of a white-backed vulture when severing a tough
branch. Its wing-flapping and its tugging cause a great commotion in
the tree. The boughs used by vultures for their nests are mostly
covered with green leaves. These last wither soon after the branch has
been plucked, so that, after the first few days of its existence, the
nest looks like a great ball of dead leaves caught in a tree.

The nurseries of birds of prey can be described neither as picturesque
nor as triumphs of architecture, but they have the great merit of
being easy to see. January is the month in which to look for the
eyries of Bonelli's eagles (_Hieraetus fasciatus_); not that the
search is likely to be successful. The high cliffs of the Jumna and
the Chambal in the Etawah district are the only places where the nests
of this fine eagle have been recorded in the United Provinces. Mr. A.
J. Currie has found the nest on two occasions in a mango tree in a
tope at Lahore. In each case the eyrie was a flat platform of sticks
about twice the size of a kite's nest. The ground beneath the eyrie
was littered with fowls' feathers and pellets of skin, fur and bone.
Most of these pellets contained squirrels' skulls; and Mr. Currie
actually saw one of the parent birds fly to the nest with a squirrel
in its talons.

Bonelli's eagle, when sailing through the air, may be recognised by
the long, hawk-like wings and tail, the pale body and dark brown
wings. It soars in circles, beating its pinions only occasionally.

The majority of the tawny eagles (_Aquila vindhiana_) build their
nests in December. By the middle of January many of the eggs have
yielded nestlings which are covered with white down. In size and
appearance the tawny eagle is not unlike a kite. The shape of the
tail, however, enables the observer to distinguish between the two
species at a glance. The tail of the kite is long and forked, while
that of the eagle is short and rounded at the extremity. The Pallas's
fishing-eagles (_Haliaetus leucoryphus_) are likewise busy feeding
their young. These fine birds are readily identified by the broad
white band in the tail. Their loud resonant but unmelodious calls make
it possible to recognise them when they are too far off for the white
tail band to be distinguished.

This species is called a fishing-eagle; but it does not indulge much
in the piscatorial art. It prefers to obtain its food by robbing
ospreys, kites, marsh-harriers and other birds weaker than itself. So
bold is it that it frequently swoops down and carries off a dead or
wounded duck shot by the sportsman. Another raptorial bird of which
the nest is likely to be found in January is the _Turumti_ or
red-headed merlin (_Aesalon chicquera_). The nesting season of this
ferocious pigmy extends from January to May, reaching its height
during March in the United Provinces and during April in the Punjab.

As a general rule birds begin nesting operations in the Punjab from
fifteen to thirty days later than in the United Provinces. Unless
expressly stated the times mentioned in this calendar relate to the
United Provinces. The nest of the red-headed merlin is a compact
circular platform, about twelve inches in diameter, placed in a fork
near the top of a tree.

The attention of the observer is often drawn to the nests of this
species, as also to those of other small birds of prey and of the
kite, by the squabbles that occur between them and the crows. Both
species of crow seem to take great delight in teasing raptorial birds.
Sometimes two or three of the _corvi_ act as if they had formed a
league for the prevention of nest-building on the part of white-eyed
buzzards, kites, shikras and other of the lesser birds of prey. The
_modus operandi_ of the league is for two or more of its members to
hie themselves to the tree in which the victim is building its nest,
take up positions near that structure and begin to caw derisively.
This invariably provokes the owners of the nest to attack the black
villains, who do not resist, but take to their wings. The angry,
swearing builders follow in hot pursuit for a short distance and then
fly back to the nest. After a few minutes the crows return. Then the
performance is repeated; and so on, almost _ad infinitum_. The result
is that many pairs of birds of prey take three weeks or longer to
construct a nest which they could have completed within a week had
they been unmolested.

Most of the larger owls are now building nests or sitting on eggs; a
few are seeking food for their offspring. As owls work on silent wing
at night, they escape the attentions of the crows and the notice of
the average human being. The nocturnal birds of prey of which nests
are likely to be found in January are the brown fish-owl (_Ketupa
ceylonensis_) and the rock and the dusky horned-owls (_Bubo
bengalensis_ and _B. coromandus_). The dusky horned-owl builds a stick
nest in a tree, the rock horned-owl lays its eggs on the bare ground
or on the ledge of a cliff, while the brown fish-owl makes a nest
among the branches or in a hollow in the trunk of a tree or on the
ledge of a cliff.

In the Punjab the ravens, which in many respects ape the manners of
birds of prey, are now nesting. A raven's nest is a compact collection
of twigs. It is usually placed in an isolated tree of no great size.

The Indian raven has not the austere habits of its English brother. It
is fond of the society of its fellows. The range of this fine bird in
the plains of India is confined to the North-West Frontier Province
Sind, and the Punjab.

An occasional pair of kites may be seen at work nest-building during
the present month.

Some of the sand-martins (_Cotyle sinensis_), likewise, are engaged in
family duties. The river bank in which a colony of these birds is
nesting is the scene of much animation. The bank is riddled with
holes, each of which, being the entrance to a martin's nest, is
visited a score of times an hour by the parent birds, bringing insects
captured while flying over the water.

Some species of munia breed at this time of the year. The red munia,
or amadavat, or _lal_ (_Estrelda amandava_) is, next to the paroquet,
the bird most commonly caged in India. This little exquisite is
considerably smaller than a sparrow. Its bill is bright crimson, and
there is some red or crimson in the plumage--more in the cock than in
the hen, and most in both sexes at the breeding season. The remainder
of the plumage is brown, but is everywhere heavily spotted with white.
In a state of nature these birds affect long grass, for they feed
largely, if not entirely, on grass seed. The cock has a sweet voice,
which, although feeble, is sufficiently loud to be heard at some
distance and is frequently uttered.

The nest of the amadavat is large for the size of the bird, being a
loosely-woven cup, which is egg-shaped and has a hole at or near the
narrow end. It is composed of fine grass stems and is often lined with
soft material. It is usually placed in the middle of a bush, sometimes
in a tussock of grass. From six to fourteen eggs are laid. These are
white in colour. This species appears to breed twice in the year--from
October to February and again from June to August.

The white-throated munia (_Uroloncha malabarica_) is a dull brown
bird, with a white patch above the tail. Its throat is yellowish
white. The old name for the bird--the plain brown munia--seems more
appropriate than that with which the species has since been saddled by
Blanford. The nest of this little bird is more loosely put together
and more globular than that of the amadavat. It is usually placed low
down in a thorny bush. The number of eggs laid varies from six to
fifteen. These, like those of the red munia, are white. June seems to
be the only month in the year in which the eggs of this species have
not been found. In the United Provinces more nests containing eggs are
discovered in January than in any other month.

Occasionally in January a pair of hoopoes (_Upupa indica_) steals a
march on its brethren by selecting a nesting site and laying eggs.
Hoopoes nest in holes in trees or buildings. The aperture to the nest
cavity is invariably small. The hen hoopoe alone incubates, and as,
when once she has begun to sit, she rarely, if ever, leaves the nest
till the eggs are hatched, the cock has to bring food to her. But, to
describe the nesting operations of the hoopoe in January is like
talking of cricket in April. It is in February and March that the
hoopoes nest in their millions, and call softly, from morn till eve,
_uk-uk-uk_.

Of the other birds which nest later in the season mention must be made
in the calendar for the present month of the Indian cliff-swallow
(_Hirundo fluvicola_) and the blue rock-pigeon (_Columba intermedia_),
because their nests are sometimes seen in January.



FEBRUARY

  There's perfume upon every wind,
  Music in every tree,
  Dews for the moisture-loving flowers,
  Sweets for the sucking-bee.
                                N. P. WILLIS.


Even as January in northern India may be compared to a month made up
of English May days and March nights, so may the Indian February be
likened to a halcyon month composed of sparkling, sun-steeped June
days and cool starlit April nights.

February is the most pleasant month of the whole year in both the
Punjab and the United Provinces; even November must yield the palm to
it. The climate is perfect. The nights and early mornings are cool and
invigorating; the remainder of each day is pleasantly warm; the sun's
rays, although gaining strength day by day, do not become
uncomfortably hot save in the extreme south of the United Provinces.
The night mists, so characteristic of December and January, are almost
unknown in February, and the light dews that form during the hours of
darkness disappear shortly after sunrise.

The Indian countryside is now good to look upon; it possesses all the
beauties of the landscape of July; save the sunsets. The soft emerald
hue of the young wheat and barley is rendered more vivid by contrast
with the deep rich green of the mango trees. Into the earth's verdant
carpet is worked a gay pattern of white poppies, purple linseed
blooms, blue and pink gram flowers, and yellow blossoms of mimosa,
mustard and _arhar_. Towards the end of the month the silk-cotton
trees (_Bombax malabarica_) begin to put forth their great red
flowers, but not until March does each look like a great scarlet
nosegay.

The patches of sugar-cane grow smaller day by day, and in nearly every
village the little presses are at work from morn till eve.

From the guava groves issue the rattle of tin pots and the shouts of
the boys told off to protect the ripening fruit from the attacks of
crows, parrots and other feathered marauders. Nor do these sounds
terminate at night-fall; indeed they become louder after dark, for it
is then that the flying-foxes come forth and work sad havoc among
fruit of all descriptions.

The fowls of the air are more vivacious than they were in January. The
bulbuls tinkle more blithely, the purple sunbirds sing more lustily;
the _kutur_, _kutur_, _kuturuk_ of the green barbets is uttered more
vociferously; the nuthatches now put their whole soul into their loud,
sharp _tee-tee-tee-tee_, the hoopoes call _uk-uk-uk_ more vigorously.

The coppersmiths (_Xantholaema haematocephala_) begin to hammer on
their anvils--_tonk-tonk-tonk-tonk_, softly and spasmodically in the
early days of the month, but with greater frequency and intensity as
the days pass. The brain-fever bird (_Hierococcyx varius_) announces
his arrival in the United Provinces by uttering an occasional
"brain-fever." As the month draws to its close his utterances become
more frequent. But his time is not yet. He merely gives us in February
a foretaste of what is to come.

The _tew_ of the black-headed oriole (_Oriolus melanocephalus_), which
is the only note uttered by the bird in the colder months, is
occasionally replaced in February by the summer call of the species--a
liquid, musical _peeho_. In the latter half of the month the Indian
robin (_Thamnobia cambayensis_) begins to find his voice. Although not
the peer of his English cousin, he is no mean singer. At this time of
year, however, his notes are harsh. He is merely "getting into form."

The feeble, but sweet, song of the crested lark or _Chandul_ is one of
the features of February. The Indian skylark likewise may now be heard
singing at Heaven's gate in places where there are large tracts of
uncultivated land. As in January so in February the joyous "Think of
me ... Never to be" of the grey-headed flycatcher emanates from every
tope.

By the middle of the month the pied wagtails and pied bush chats are
in full song. Their melodies, though of small volume, are very sweet.

The large grey shrikes add the clamour of their courtship to the avian
chorus.

Large numbers of doves, vultures, eagles, red-headed merlins, martins
and munias--birds whose nests were described in January--are still
busy feeding their young.

The majority of the brown fish-owls (_Ketupa ceylonensis_) and rock
horned-owls (_Bubo bengalensis_) are sitting; a few of them are
feeding young birds. The dusky horned-owls (_B. coromandus_) have
either finished breeding or are tending nestlings. In addition to the
nests of the above-mentioned owls those of the collared scops owl
(_Scops bakkamaena_) and the mottled wood-owl (_Syrnium ocellatum_)
are likely to be found at this season of the year. The scops is a
small owl with aigrettes or "horns," the wood-owl is a large bird
without aigrettes.

Both nest in holes in trees and lay white eggs after the manner of
their kind. The scops owl breeds from January till April, while
February and March are the months in which to look for the eggs of the
wood-owl.

In the western districts of the United Provinces the Indian
cliff-swallows (_Hirundo fluvicola_) are beginning to construct their
curious nests. Here and there a pair of blue rock-pigeons (_Colombia
intermedia_) is busy with eggs or young ones. In the Punjab the ravens
are likewise employed.

The nesting season of the hoopoe has now fairly commenced. Courtship
is the order of the day. The display of this beautiful species is not
at all elaborate. The bird that "shows off" merely runs along the
ground with corona fully expanded. Mating hoopoes, however, perform
strange antics in the air; they twist and turn and double, just as a
flycatcher does when chasing a fleet insect. Both the hoopoe and the
roller are veritable aerial acrobats. By the end of the month all but
a few of the hoopoes have begun to nest; most of them have eggs, while
the early birds, described in January as stealing a march on their
brethren, are feeding their offspring. The 6th February is the
earliest date on which the writer has observed a hoopoe carrying food
to the nest; that was at Ghazipur.

March and April are the months in which the majority of coppersmiths
or crimson-breasted barbets rear up their families. Some, however, are
already working at their nests. The eggs are hatched in a cavity in a
tree--a cavity made by means of the bird's bill. Both sexes take part
in nest construction. A neatly-cut circular hole, about the size of a
rupee, on the lower surface or the side of a branch is assuredly the
entrance to the nest of a coppersmith, a green barbet, or a
woodpecker.

As the month draws to its close many a pair of nuthatches (_Sitta
castaneiventris_) may be observed seeking for a hollow in which to
nestle. The site selected is usually a small hole in the trunk of a
mango tree that has weathered many monsoons. The birds reduce the
orifice of the cavity to a very small size by plastering up the
greater part of it with mud. Hence the nest of the nuthatch, unless
discovered when in course of construction, is difficult to locate.

All the cock sunbirds (_Arachnechthra asiatica_) are now in the full
glory of their nuptial plumage. Here and there an energetic little hen
is busily constructing her wonderful pendent nest. Great is the
variety of building material used by the sunbird. Fibres, slender
roots, pliable stems, pieces of decayed wood, lichen, thorns and even
paper, cotton and rags, are pressed into service. All are held
together by cobweb, which is the favourite cement of bird masons. The
general shape of the nest is that of a pear. Its contour is often
irregular, because some of the materials hang loosely from the outer
surface.

The nursery is attached by means of cobweb to the beam or branch from
which it hangs. It is cosily lined with cotton or other soft material.
The hen, who alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs, enters and
leaves the chamber by a hole at one side. This is protected by a
little penthouse. The door serves also as window. The hen rests her
chin on the lower part of this while she is incubating her eggs, and
thus is able, as she sits, to see what is going on in the great world
without. She displays little fear of man and takes no pains to conceal
her nest, which is often built in the verandah of an inhabited
bungalow.

As the month nears its end the big black crows (_Corvus
macrorhynchus_) begin to construct their nests. The site selected is
usually a forked branch of a large tree. The nest is a clumsy platform
of sticks with a slight depression, lined by human or horse hair or
other soft material, for the reception of the eggs. Both sexes take
part in incubation. From the time the first egg is laid until the
young are big enough to leave the nest this is very rarely left
unguarded. When one parent is away the other remains sitting on the
eggs, or, after the young have hatched out, on the edge of the nest.
Crows are confirmed egg-stealers and nestling-lifters, and, knowing
the guile that is in their own hearts, keep a careful watch over their
offspring.

The kites (_Milvus govinda_) are likewise busy at their nurseries. At
this season of the year they are noisier than usual, which is saying a
great deal. They not only utter unceasingly their shrill
_chee-hee-hee-hee_, but engage in many a squabble with the crows.

The nest of the kite, like that of the corby, is an untidy mass of
sticks and twigs placed conspicuously in a lofty tree. Dozens of these
nests are to be seen in every Indian cantonment in February and March.
Why the crows and the kites should prefer the trees in a cantonment to
those in the town or surrounding country has yet to be discovered.

Mention has already been made of the fact that January is the month in
which the majority of the tawny eagles nest; not a few, however, defer
operations till February. Hume states that, of the 159 eggs of this
species of which he has a record, 38 were taken in December, 83 in
January and 28 in February.

The nesting season of the white-backed vulture is drawing to a close.
On the other hand, that of the black or Pondicherry vulture (_Otogyps
calvus_) is beginning. This species may be readily distinguished from
the other vultures, by its large size, its white thighs and the red
wattles that hang down from the sides of the head like drooping ears.

The nest of this bird is a massive platform of sticks, large enough to
accommodate two or three men. Hume once demolished one of these
vulturine nurseries and found that it weighed over eight maunds, that
is to say about six hundredweight. This vulture usually builds its
nest in a lofty _pipal_ tree, but in localities devoid of tall trees
the platform is placed on the top of a bush.

February marks the beginning of the nesting season of the handsome
pied kingfisher (_Ceryle rudis_). This is the familiar,
black-and-white bird that fishes by hovering kestrel-like on
rapidly-vibrating wings and then dropping from a height of some twenty
feet into the water below; it is a bird greatly addicted to goldfish
and makes sad havoc of these where they are exposed in ornamental
ponds. The nest of the pied kingfisher is a circular tunnel or burrow,
more than a yard in length, excavated in a river bank. The burrow,
which is dug out by the bird, is about three inches in diameter and
terminates in a larger chamber in which the eggs are laid.

Another spotted black-and-white bird which now begins nesting
operations is the yellow-fronted pied woodpecker (_Liopicus
mahrattensis_)--a species only a little less common than the beautiful
golden-backed woodpecker. Like all the Picidae this bird nests in the
trunk or a branch of a tree. Selecting a part of a tree which is
decayed--sometimes a portion of the bole quite close to the
ground--the woodpecker hews out with its chisel-like beak a neat
circular tunnel leading to the cavity in the decayed wood in which the
eggs will be deposited. The tap, tap, tap of the bill as it cuts into
the wood serves to guide the observer to the spot where the
woodpecker, with legs apart and tail adpressed to the tree, is at
work. In the same way a barbet's nest, while under construction, may
be located with ease. A woodpecker when excavating its nest will often
allow a human being to approach sufficiently dose to witness it throw
over its shoulder the chips of wood it has cut away with its bill.

In the United Provinces many of the ashy-crowned finch-larks
(_Pyrrhulauda grisea_) build their nests during February. In the
Punjab they breed later; April and May being the months in which their
eggs are most often found in that province. These curious
squat-figured little birds are rendered easy of recognition by the
unusual scheme of colouring displayed by the cock--his upper parts are
earthy grey and his lower plumage is black.

The habit of the finch-lark is to soar to a little height and then
drop to the ground, with wings closed, singing as it descends. It
invariably affects open plains. There are very few tracts of treeless
land in India which are not tenanted by finch-larks. The nest is a
mere pad of grass and feathers placed on the ground in a tussock of
grass, beside a clod of earth, or in a depression, such as a
hoof-print. The most expeditious way of finding nests of these birds
in places where they are abundant is to walk with a line of beaters
over a tract of fallow land and mark carefully the spots from which
the birds rise.

With February the nesting season of the barn-owls (_Strix flammea_)
begins in the United Provinces, where their eggs have been taken as
early as the 17th.

Towards the end of the month the white-browed fantail flycatchers
(_Rhipidura albifrontata_) begin to nest. The loud and cheerful song
of this little feathered exquisite is a tune of six or seven notes
that ascend and descend the musical scale. It is one of the most
familiar of the sounds that gladden the Indian countryside. The broad
white eyebrow and the manner in which, with drooping wings and tail
spread into a fan, this flycatcher waltzes and pirouettes among the
branches of a tree render it unmistakable. The nest is a dainty little
cup, covered with cobweb, attached to one of the lower boughs of a
tree. So small is the nursery that sometimes the incubating bird looks
as though it were sitting across a branch. This species appears to
rear two broods every year. The first comes into existence in March or
late February in the United Provinces and five or six weeks later in
the Punjab; the second brood emerges during the monsoon.

The white-eyed buzzards--weakest of all the birds of prey--begin to
pair towards the end of the month. At this season they frequently rise
high above the earth and soar, emitting plaintive cries.

The handsome, but destructive, green parrots are now seeking, or
making, cavities in trees or buildings in which to deposit their white
eggs.

The breeding season for the alexandrine (_Palaeornis eupatrius_) and
the rose-ringed paroquet (_P. torquatus_) begins at the end of January
or early in February. March is the month in which most eggs are taken.

In April and May the bird-catchers go round and collect the nestlings
in order to sell them at four annas apiece. Green parrots are the most
popular cage birds in India. Destructive though they be and a scourge
to the husbandman, one cannot but pity the luckless captives doomed to
spend practically the whole of their existence in small iron cages,
which, when exposed to the sun in the hot weather, as they often are,
must be veritable infernos.

The courtship of a pair of green parrots is as amusing to watch as
that of any 'Arry and 'Arriet. Not possessing hats the amorous birds
are unable to exchange them, but otherwise their actions are quite
coster-like. The female twists herself into all manner of ridiculous
postures and utters low twittering notes. The cock sits at her side
and admires. Every now and then he shows his appreciation of her
antics by tickling her head with his beak or by joining his bill to
hers.

Both the grey shrike and the wood-shrike begin nesting operations in
February. As, however, most of their nests are likely to be found
later in the year they are dealt with in the calendar for March.



MARCH

  And all the jungle laughed with nesting songs,
  And all the thickets rustled with small life
  Of lizard, bee, beetle, and creeping things
  Pleased at the spring time. In the mango sprays
  The sun-birds flashed; alone at his green forge
  Toiled the loud coppersmith;...
                             ARNOLD, _The Light of Asia_.


In March the climate of the plains of the United Provinces varies from
place to place. In the western sub-Himalayan tracts, as in the Punjab,
the weather still leaves little to be desired. The sun indeed is
powerful; towards the end of the month the maximum shade temperature
exceeds 80 degrees, but the nights and early mornings are delightfully
cool. In all the remaining parts of the United Provinces, except the
extreme south, temperate weather prevails until nearly the end of the
month. In the last days the noonday heat becomes so great that many
persons close their bungalows for several hours daily to keep them
cool, the outer temperature rising to ninety in the shade. At night,
however, the temperature drops to 65 degrees. In the extreme south of
the Province the hot weather sets in by the middle of March. The sky
assumes a brazen aspect and, at midday, the country is swept by
westerly winds which seem to come from a titanic blast furnace.

The spring crops grow more golden day by day. The mustard is the first
to ripen. The earlier-sown fields are harvested in March in the
eastern and southern parts of the country. The spring cereals are cut
by hand sickles, the grain is then husked by the tramping of cattle,
and, lastly, the chaff is separated from the grain on the threshing
floor, the hot burning wind often acting as a natural winnowing fan.

The air is heavily scented with the inconspicuous inflorescences of
the mangos (_Mangifera indica_). The pipals (_Ficus religiosa_) are
shedding their leaves; the _sheshams_ (_Dalbergia sissoo_) are
assuming their emerald spring foliage.

The garden, the jungle and the forest are beautified by the gorgeous
reds of the flowers of the silk-cotton tree (_Bombax malabarica_), the
Indian coral tree (_Erythrina indica_) and the flame-of-the-forest
(_Butea frondosa_). The sub-Himalayan forests become yellow-tinted
owing to the fading of the leaves of the _sal_ (_Shorea robusta_),
many of which are shed in March. The _sal_, however, is never entirely
leafless; the young foliage appears as the old drops off; while this
change is taking place the minute pale yellow flowers open out.

The familiar yellow wasps, which have been hibernating during the cold
weather, emerge from their hiding-places and begin to construct their
umbrella-shaped nests or combs, which look as if they were made of
rice-paper.

March is a month of great activity for the birds. Those that
constituted the avian chorus of February continue to sing, and to
their voices are now added those of many other minstrels. Chief of
these is the pied singer of Ind--the magpie-robin or _dhayal_--whose
song is as beautiful as that of the English robin at his best. From
the housetops the brown rock-chat begins to pour forth his exceedingly
sweet lay. The Indian robin is in full song. The little golden ioras,
hidden away amid dense foliage, utter their many joyful sounds. The
brain-fever bird grows more vociferous day by day. The crow-pheasants,
which have been comparatively silent during the colder months of the
year, now begin to utter their low sonorous _whoot_, _whoot_, _whoot_,
which is heard chiefly at dawn.

Everywhere the birds are joyful and noisy; nowhere more so than at the
silk-cotton and the coral trees. These, although botanically very
different, display many features in common. They begin to lose their
leaves soon after the monsoon is over, and are leafless by the end of
the winter. In the early spring, while the tree is still devoid of
foliage, huge scarlet, crimson or yellow flowers emerge from every
branch. Each flower is plentifully supplied with honey; it is a
flowing bowl of which all are invited to partake, and hundreds of
thousands of birds accept the invitation with right good-will. The
scene at each of these trees, when in full flower, baffles
description.

Scores of birds forgather there--rosy starlings, mynas, babblers,
bulbuls, king-crows, tree-pies, green parrots, sunbirds and crows.
These all drink riotously and revel so loudly that the sound may be
heard at a distance of half a mile or more. Even before the sun has
risen and begun to dispel the pleasant coolness of the night the
drinking begins. It continues throughout the hours of daylight.
Towards midday, when the west wind blows very hot, it flags somewhat,
but even when the temperature is nearer 100 degrees than 90 degrees
some avian brawlers are present. As soon as the first touch of the
afternoon coolness is felt the clamour acquires fresh vigour and does
not cease until the sun has set in a dusty haze, and the spotted
owlets have emerged and begun to cackle and call as is their wont.

These last are by no means the only birds that hold concert parties
during the hours of darkness. In open country the jungle owlet and the
dusky-horned owl call at intervals, and the Indian nightjar
(_Caprimulgus asiaticus_) imitates the sound of a stone skimming over
ice. In the forest tracts Franklin's and Horsfield's nightjars make
the welkin ring. Scarce has the sun disappeared below the horizon when
the former issues forth and utters its harsh _tweet_. Horsfield's
nightjar emerges a few minutes later, and, for some hours after dusk
and for several before dawn, it utters incessantly its loud monotonous
_chuck_, _chuck_, _chuck_, _chuck_, _chuck_, which has been aptly
compared to the sound made by striking a plank sharply with a hammer.

March is the month in which the majority of the shrikes or
butcher-birds go a-courting. There is no false modesty about
butcher-birds. They are not ashamed to introduce their unmelodious
calls into the avian chorus. But they are mild offenders in comparison
with the king-crows (_Dicrurus ater_) and the rollers (_Coracias
indica_).

The little black king-crows are at all seasons noisy and vivacious:
from the end of February until the rains have set in they are
positively uproarious. Two or three of them love to sit on a telegraph
wire, or a bare branch of a tree, and hold a concert. The first
performer draws itself up to its full height and then gives vent to
harsh cries. Before it has had time to deliver itself of all it has to
sing, an impatient neighbour joins in and tries to shout it down. The
concert may last for half an hour or longer; the scene is shifted from
time to time as the participants become too excited to sit still. The
king-crows so engaged appear to be selecting their mates; nevertheless
nest-construction does not begin before the end of April.

Some human beings may fail to notice the courtship of the king-crow,
but none can be so deaf and blind as to miss the love-making of the
gorgeous roller or blue jay. Has not everyone marvelled at the hoarse
cries and rasping screams which emanate from these birds as they fling
themselves into the air and ascend and descend as though they were
being tossed about by unseen hands?

Their wonderful aerial performances go on continually in the hours of
daylight throughout the months of March and April; at this season the
birds, beautiful although they be, are a veritable nuisance, and most
people gratefully welcome the comparative quiet that supervenes after
the eggs have been laid. The madness of the March hare is mild
compared with that of the March roller. It is difficult to realise
that the harsh and angry-sounding cries of these birds denote, not
rage, but joy.

The great exodus of the winter visitors from the plains of India
begins in March. It continues until mid-May, by which time the last of
the migratory birds will have reached its distant breeding ground.

This exodus is usually preceded by the gathering into flocks of the
rose-coloured starlings and the corn-buntings. Large noisy
congregations of these birds are a striking feature of February in
Bombay, of March in the United Provinces, and of April in the Punjab.

Rose-coloured starlings spend most of their lives in the plains of
India, going to Asia Minor for a few months each summer for nesting
purposes. In the autumn they spread themselves over the greater part
of Hindustan, most abundantly in the Deccan.

In the third or fourth week of February the rosy starlings of Bombay
begin to form flocks. These make merry among the flowers of the coral
tree, which appear first in South India, and last in the Punjab. The
noisy flocks journey northwards in a leisurely manner, timing their
arrival at each place simultaneously with the flowering of the coral
trees. They feed on the nectar provided by these flowers and those of
the silk-cotton tree. They also take toll of the ripening corn and of
the mulberries which are now in season. Thus the rosy starlings reach
Allahabad about the second week in March, and Lahore some fifteen days
later.

The head, neck, breast, wings and tail of the rosy starling are glossy
black, and the remainder of the plumage is pale salmon in the hen and
the young cock, and faint rose-colour in the adult cock.

Rosy starlings feed chiefly in the morning and the late afternoon.
During the hottest part of the day they perch in trees and hold a
concert, if such a term may be applied to a torrent of sibilant
twitter.

Buntings, like rosy starlings, are social birds, and are very
destructive to grain crops.

As these last are harvested the feeding area of the buntings becomes
restricted, so that eventually every patch of standing crop is alive
with buntings. The spring cereals ripen in the south earlier than in
northern India, so that the cheerful buntings are able to perform
their migratory journey by easy stages and find abundant food all
along the route.

There are two species of corn-bunting--the red-headed (_Emberiza
luteola_) and the black-headed (_E. melanocephala_). In both the lower
plumage is bright yellow.

Among the earliest of the birds to forsake the plains of Hindustan are
the grey-lag goose and the pintail duck. These leave Bengal in
February, but tarry longer in the cooler parts of the country. Of the
other migratory species many individuals depart in March, but the
greater number remain on into April, when they are caught up in the
great migratory wave that surges over the country. The destination of
the majority of these migrants is Tibet or Siberia, but a few are
satisfied with the cool slopes of the Himalayas as a summer resort in
which to busy themselves with the sweet cares of nesting. Examples of
these more local migrants are the grey-headed and the verditer
flycatchers, the Indian bush-chat and, to some extent, the paradise
flycatcher and the Indian oriole. The case of the oriole is
interesting. All the Indian orioles (_Oriolus kundoo_) disappear from
the Punjab and the United Provinces in winter. In the former province
no other oriole replaces _O. kundoo_, but in the United Provinces the
black-headed oriole (_O. melanocephalus_) comes to take the place of
the other from October to March. When this last returns to the United
Provinces in March the greater number of _melanocephalus_ individuals
go east, a few only remaining in the sub-Himalayan tracts of the
province.

The Indian oriole is not the only species which finds the climate of
the United Provinces too severe for it in winter; the koel and the
paradise flycatcher likewise desert us in the coldest months. From the
less temperate Punjab several species migrate in October which manage
to maintain themselves in the United Provinces throughout the year:
these are the purple sunbird, the little green and the blue-tailed
bee-eaters, and the yellow-throated sparrow. The return of these and
the other migrant species to the Punjab in March is as marked a
phenomenon as is the arrival of the swallow and the cuckoo in England
in spring.

The behaviour of the king-crows shows the marked effect a
comparatively small difference of temperature may exert on the habits
of some birds. In the United Provinces the king-crows appear to be as
numerous in winter as in summer: in the Punjab they are very plentiful
in summer, but rare in the cold weather; while not a single king-crow
winters in the N.-W. Frontier Province.

Of the birds of which the nests were described in January and February
the Pallas's fishing eagles have sent their nestlings into the world
to fend for themselves.

In the case of the following birds the breeding season is fast drawing
to its close:--the dusky horned-owl, the white-backed vulture,
Bonelli's eagle, the tawny eagle, the brown fish-owl, the rock
horned-owl, the raven, the amadavat and the white-throated munia.

The nesting season is at its height for all the other birds of which
the nests have been described, namely, most species of dove, the
jungle crow, the red-headed merlin, the purple sunbird, the nuthatch,
the fantail flycatcher, the finch-lark, the pied woodpecker, the
coppersmith, the alexandrine and the rose-ringed paroquet, the
white-eyed buzzard, the collared scops and the mottled wood-owl, the
kite, the black vulture and the pied kingfisher.

The sand-martins breed from October to May, consequently their nests,
containing eggs or young, are frequently taken in March. Mention was
made in January and February of the Indian cliff-swallow (_Hirundo
fluvicola_). This species is not found in the eastern districts of the
United Provinces, but it is the common swallow of the western
districts. The head is dull chestnut. The back and shoulders are
glistening steel-blue. The remainder of the upper plumage is brown.
The lower parts are white with brown streaks, which are most apparent
on the throat and upper breast. These swallows normally nest at two
seasons of the year--from February till April and in July or August.

They breed in colonies. The mud nests are spherical or oval with an
entrance tube from two to six inches long. The nests are invariably
attached to a cliff or building, and, although isolated ones are built
sometimes, they usually occur in clusters, as many as two hundred have
been counted in one cluster. In such a case a section cut parallel to
the surface to which the nests are attached looks like that of a huge
honeycomb composed of cells four inches in diameter--cells of a kind
that one could expect to be built by bees that had partaken of Mr. H.
G. Wells' "food of the gods."

The beautiful white-breasted kingfisher, (_Halcyon smyrnensis_) is now
busy at its nest.

This species spends most of its life in shady gardens; it feeds on
insects in preference to fish. It does not invariably select a river
bank in which to nest, it is quite content with a sand quarry, a bank,
or the shaft of a _kachcha_ well. The nest consists of a passage, some
two feet in length and three inches in diameter, leading to a larger
chamber in which from four to seven eggs are laid.

A pair of white-breasted kingfishers at work during the early stages
of nest construction affords an interesting spectacle. Not being able
to obtain a foothold on the almost perpendicular surface of the bank,
the birds literally charge this in turn with fixed beak. By a
succession of such attacks at one spot a hole of an appreciable size
is soon formed in the soft sand. Then the birds are able to obtain a
foothold and to excavate with the bill, while clinging to the edge of
the hole. Every now and then they indulge in a short respite from
their labours. While thus resting one of the pair will sometimes
spread its wings for an instant and display the white patch; then it
will close them and make a neat bow, as if to say "Is not that nice?"
Its companion may remain motionless and unresponsive, or may return
the compliment.

In the first days of March the bulbuls begin to breed. In 1912 the
writer saw a pair of bulbuls (_Otocompsa emeria_) building a nest on
the 3rd March. By the 10th the structure was complete and held the
full clutch of three eggs. On that date a second nest was found
containing three eggs.

In 1913 the writer first saw a bulbul's nest on the 5th March. This
belonged to _Molpastes bengalensis_ and contained two eggs. On the
following day the full clutch of three was in the nest.

The nesting season for these birds terminates in the rains.

The common bulbuls of the plains belong to two genera--_Molpastes_ and
_Otocompsa_. The former is split up into a number of local species
which display only small differences in appearance and interbreed
freely at the places where they meet. They are known as the Madras,
the Bengal, the Punjab, etc., red-vented bulbul. They are somewhat
larger than sparrows. The head, which bears a short crest, and the
face are black; the rest of the body, except a patch of bright red
under the tail, is brown, each feather having a pale margin.

In _Otocompsa_ the crest is long and rises to a sharp point which
curves forward a little over the beak. The breast is white, set off by
a black gorget. There is the usual red patch under the tail and a
patch of the same hue on each side of the face, whence the English
name for the bird--the red-whiskered bulbul.

_Molpastes_ and _Otocompsa_ have similar habits. They are feckless
little birds that build cup-shaped nests in all manner of queer and
exposed situations. Those that live near the habitations of Europeans
nestle in low bushes in the garden, or in pot plants in the verandah.
Small crotons are often selected, preferably those that do not bear a
score of leaves. The sitting bulbul does not appear to mind the daily
shower-bath it receives when the _mali_ waters the plant. Sometimes as
many as three or four pairs of bulbuls attempt to rear up families in
one verandah. The word "attempt" is used advisedly, because, owing to
the exposed situations in which nests are built, large numbers of eggs
and young bulbuls are destroyed by boys, cats, snakes and other
predaceous creatures. The average bulbul loses six broods for every
one it succeeds in rearing. The eggs are pink with reddish markings.

March is the month in which to look for the nest of the Indian
wren-warbler (_Prinia inornata_). _Inornata_ is a very appropriate
specific name for this tiny earth-brown bird, which is devoid of all
kind of ornamentation. Its voice is as homely as its appearance--a
harsh but plaintive _twee_, _twee_, _twee_. It weaves a nest which
looks like a ragged loofah with a hole in the side. The nest is
usually placed low down in a bush or in long grass. Sometimes it is
attached to two or more stalks of corn. In such cases the corn is
often cut before the young birds have had time to leave the nest, and
then the brood perishes. This species brings up a second family in the
rainy season.

The barn-owls (_Strix flammea_) are now breeding. They lay their eggs
in cavities in trees, buildings or walls. In northern India the
nesting season lasts from February to June. Eggs are most likely to be
found in the United Provinces during the present month.

The various species of babblers or seven sisters begin to nest in
March. Unlike bulbuls these birds are careful to conceal the nest.
This is a slenderly-built, somewhat untidy cup, placed in a bush or
tree. The eggs are a beautiful rich blue, without any markings.

The hawk-cuckoo, or brain-fever bird (_Hierococcyx varius_), to which
allusion has already been made, deposits its eggs in the nests of
various species of babblers. The eggs of this cuckoo are blue, but are
distinguishable from those of the babbler by their larger size. It may
be noted, in passing, that this cuckoo does not extend far into the
Punjab.

As stated above, most of the shrikes go a-courting in March.
Nest-building follows hard on courtship. In this month and in April
most of the shrikes lay their eggs, but nests containing eggs or young
are to be seen in May, June, July and August. Shrikes are birds of
prey in miniature. Although not much larger than sparrows they are as
fierce as falcons.

Their habit is to seize the quarry on the ground, after having pounced
upon it from a bush or tree. Grasshoppers constitute their usual food,
but they are not afraid to tackle mice or small birds.

The largest shrike is the grey species (_Lanius lahtora_). This is
clothed mainly in grey; however, it has a broad black band running
through the eye--the escutcheon of the butcher-bird clan. It begins
nesting before the other species, and its eggs are often taken in
February.

The other common species are the bay-backed (_L. vittatus_) and the
rufous-backed shrike (_L. erythronotus_). These are smaller birds and
have the back red. The former is distinguishable from the latter by
having in the wings and tail much white, which is very conspicuous
during flight.

The nest of each species is a massive cup, composed of twigs, thorns,
grasses, feathers, and, usually, some pieces of rag; these last often
hang down in a most untidy manner. The nest is, as a rule, placed in a
babool or other thorny tree, close up against the trunk.

Three allies of the shrikes are likewise busy with their nests at this
season. These are the wood-shrike, the minivet and the cuckoo-shrike.
The wood-shrike (_Tephrodornis pondicerianus_) is an ashy-brown bird
of the size of a sparrow with a broad white eyebrow. It frequently
emits a characteristic soft, melancholy, whistling note, which Eha
describes as "Be thee cheery." How impracticable are all efforts to
"chain by syllables airy sounds"! The cup-like nest of this species is
always carefully concealed in a tree.

Minivets are aerial exquisites. In descriptions of them superlative
follows upon superlative. The cocks of most species are arrayed in
scarlet and black; the hens are not a whit less brilliantly attired in
yellow and sable. One species lives entirely in the plains, others
visit them in the cold weather; the majority are permanent residents
of the hills. The solitary denizen of the plains--the little minivet
(_Pericrocotus peregrinus_)--is the least resplendent of them all. Its
prevailing hue is slaty grey, but the cock has a red breast and some
red on the back. The nest is a cup so small as either to be invisible
from below or to present the appearance of a knot or thickening in the
branch on which it is placed. Sometimes two broods are reared in the
course of the year--one in March, April or May and the other during
the rainy season.

The cuckoo-shrike (_Grauculus macii_) is not nearly related to the
cuckoo, nor has it the parasitic habits of the latter. Its grey
plumage is barred like that of the common cuckoo, hence the adjective.
The cuckoo-shrike is nearly as big as a dove. It utters constantly a
curious harsh call. It keeps much to the higher branches of trees in
which it conceals, with great care, its saucer-like nest.

As we have seen, some coppersmiths and pied woodpeckers began nesting
operations in February, but the great majority do not lay eggs until
March.

The green barbet (_Thereoceryx zeylonicus_) and the golden-backed
woodpecker (_Brachypternus aurantius_) are now busy excavating their
nests, which are so similar to those of their respective cousins--the
coppersmith and the pied woodpecker--as to require no description. It
is not necessary to state that the harsh laugh, followed by the
_kutur_, _kutur_, _kuturuk_, of the green barbet and the eternal
_tonk_, _tonk_, _tonk_ of the coppersmith are now more vehement than
ever, and will continue with unabated vigour until the rains have
fairly set in.

By the end of the month many of the noisy rollers have found holes in
decayed trees in which the hens can lay their eggs. The vociferous
nightjars likewise have laid upon the bare ground their salmon-pink
eggs with strawberry-coloured markings.

The noisy spotted owlets (_Athene brama_) and the rose-ringed
paroquets (_Palaeornis torquatus_) are already the happy possessors of
clutches of white eggs hidden away in cavities of decayed trees or
buildings.

The swifts (_Cypselus indicus_) also are busy with their nests. These
are saucer-shaped structures, composed of feathers, straw and other
materials made to adhere together, and to the beam or stone to which
the nest is attached, by the glutinous saliva of the swifts. Deserted
buildings, outhouses and verandahs of bungalows are the usual nesting
sites of these birds. At this season swifts are very noisy. Throughout
the day and at frequent intervals during the night they emit loud
shivering screams. At sunset they hold high carnival, playing, at
breakneck speed and to the accompaniment of much screaming, a game of
"follow the man from Cook's."

The swifts are not the only birds engaged in rearing up young in our
verandahs. Sparrows and doves are so employed, as are the wire-tailed
swallows (_Hirundo smithii_). These last are steel-blue birds with red
heads and white under plumage. They derive the name "wire-tailed" from
the fact that the thin shafts of the outer pair of tail feathers are
prolonged five inches beyond the others and look like wires.
Wire-tailed swallows occasionally build in verandahs, but they prefer
to attach their saucer-shaped mud nests to the arches of bridges and
culverts.

With a nest in such a situation the parent birds are not obliged to go
far for the mud with which the nest is made, or for the insects,
caught over the surface of water, on which the offspring are fed.

The nesting season of wire-tailed swallows is a long one. According to
Hume these beautiful birds breed chiefly in February and March and
again in July, August and September. However, he states that he has
seen eggs as early as January and as late as November. In the
Himalayas he has obtained the eggs in April, May and June.

The present writer's experience does not agree with that of Hume. In
Lahore, Saharanpur and Pilibhit, May and June are the months in which
most nests of this species are likely to be seen. The writer has found
nests with eggs or young on the following dates in the above-mentioned
places: May 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th; June 6th and 28th.

The nest of June 28th was attached to a rafter of the front verandah
of a bungalow at Lahore. The owner of the house stated that the
swallows in question had already reared one brood that year, and that
the birds in question had nested in his verandah for some years. There
is no doubt that some wire-tailed swallows bring up two broods. Such
would seem to breed, as Hume says, in February and March and again in
July and August. But, as many nests containing eggs are found in May,
some individuals appear to have one brood only, which hatches out in
May or June.

Those useful but ugly fowls, the white scavenger vultures (_Neophron
ginginianus_), depart from the ways of their brethren in that they
nidificate in March and April instead of in January and February. The
nest is an evil-smelling pile of sticks, rags and rubbish. It is
placed on some building or in a tree.

The handsome brahminy kites (_Haliastur indicus_), attired in chestnut
and white, are now busily occupied, either in seeking for sites or in
actually building their nests, which resemble those of the common
kite.

In the open plains the pipits (_Anthus rufulus_) and the crested larks
(_Galerita cristata_) are keeping the nesting finch-larks company.

All three species build the same kind of nest--a cup of grass or
fibres (often a deep cup in the case of the crested lark) placed on
the ground in a hole or a depression, or protected by a tussock of
grass or a small bush.

On the churs and sand islets in the large Indian rivers the terns are
busy with their eggs, which are deposited on the bare sand. They breed
in colonies. On the same islet are to be seen the eggs of the Indian
river tern, the black-bellied tern, the swallow-plover, the
spur-winged plover and the Indian skimmer.

The eggs of all the above species are of similar appearance, the
ground colour being greenish, or buff, or the hue of stone or cream,
with reddish or brownish blotches. Three is the full complement of
eggs. The bare white glittering sands on which these eggs are
deposited are often at noon so hot as to be painful to touch;
accordingly during the daytime there is no need for the birds to sit
on the eggs in order to keep them warm. Indeed, it has always been a
mystery to the writer why terns' eggs laid in March in northern India
do not get cooked. Mr. A. J. Currie recently came across some eggs of
the black-bellied tern that had had water sprinkled over them. He is
of opinion that the incubating birds treat the eggs thus in order to
prevent their getting sun-baked. This theory should be borne in mind
by those who visit sandbanks in March. Whether it be true or not,
there is certainly no need for the adult birds to keep the eggs warm
in the daytime, and they spend much of their time in wheeling
gracefully overhead or in sleeping on the sand. By nightfall all the
eggs are covered by parent birds, which are said to sit so closely
that it is possible to catch them by means of a butterfly net. The
terns, although they do not sit much on their eggs during the day,
ever keep a close watch on them, so that, when a human being lands on
a nest-laden sandbank, the parent birds fly round his head, uttering
loud screams.

The swallow-plovers go farther. They become so excited that they
flutter about on the sand, with dragging wings and limping legs, as if
badly wounded. Sometimes they perform somersaults in their intense
excitement. The nearer the intruder approaches their eggs the more
vigorous do their antics become.

Every lover of the winged folk should make a point of visiting, late
in March or early in April, an islet on which these birds nest. He
will find much to interest him there. In April many of the young birds
will be hatched out. A baby tern is an amusing object. It is covered
with soft sand-coloured down. When a human being approaches it
crouches on the sand, half burying its head in its shoulders, and
remains thus perfectly motionless. If picked up it usually remains
limply in the hand, so that, but for its warmth, it might be deemed
lifeless. After it has been set down again on the sand, it will remain
motionless until the intruder's back is turned, when it will run to
the water as fast as its little legs can carry it. It swims as easily
as a duck. Needless to state, the parent birds make a great noise
while their young are being handled.

Birds decline to be fettered by the calendar. Many of the species
which do not ordinarily nest until April or May occasionally begin
operations in March, hence nests of the following species, which are
dealt with next month, may occur in the present one:--the tree-pie,
tailor-bird, common myna, bank-myna, brown rock-chat, brown-backed
robin, pied wagtail, red-winged bush-lark, shikra, red-wattled
lapwing, yellow-throated sparrow, bee-eater, blue rock-pigeon, green
pigeon and grey partridge.

March the 15th marks the beginning of the close season for game birds
in all the reserved forests of Northern India. This is none too soon,
as some individuals begin breeding at the end of the month.



APRIL

  The breeze moves slow with thick perfume
    From every mango grove;
  From coral tree to parrot bloom
    The black bees questing rove,
  The koil wakes the early dawn.
                       WATERFIELD, _Indian Ballads_.


The fifteenth of April marks the beginning of the "official" hot
weather in the United Provinces; but the elements decline to conform
to the rules of man. In the eastern and southern districts hot-weather
conditions are established long before mid-April, while in the
sub-Himalayan belt the temperature remains sufficiently low throughout
the month to permit human beings to derive some physical enjoyment
from existence. In that favoured tract the nights are usually clear
and cool, so that it is very pleasant to sleep outside beneath the
starry canopy of the heavens.

It requires an optimist to say good things of April days, even in the
sub-Himalayan tract. Fierce scorching west winds sweep over the earth,
covering everything with dust. Sometimes the flying sand is so thick
as to obscure the landscape, and often, after the wind has dropped,
the particles remain suspended for days as a dust haze. The dust is a
scourge. It is all-pervading. It enters eyes, ears, nose and mouth. To
escape it is impossible. Closed doors and windows fail to keep it from
entering the bungalow. The only creatures which appear to be
indifferent to it are the fowls of the air. As to the heat, the
non-migratory species positively revel in it. The crows and a few
other birds certainly do gasp and pant when the sun is at its height,
but even they, save for a short siesta at midday, are as active in
April and May as schoolboys set free from a class-room. April is the
month in which the spring crops are harvested. As soon as the _Holi_
festival is over the cultivators issue forth in thousands, armed with
sickles, and begin to reap. They are almost as active as the birds,
but their activity is forced and not spontaneous; like most
Anglo-Indian officials they literally earn their bread by the sweat of
the brow. Thanks to their unceasing labours the countryside becomes
transformed during the month; that which was a sea of smiling
golden-brown wheat and barley becomes a waste of short stubble.

Nature gives some compensation for the heat and the dust in the shape
of mulberries, loquats, lichis and cool luscious papitas and melons
which ripen in March or April. The mango blossom becomes transfigured
into fruit, which, by the end of the month, is as large as an egg, and
will be ready for gathering in the latter half of May.

Many trees are in flower. The coral, the silk-cotton and the _dhak_
are resplendent with red foliage. The _jhaman_, the _siris_ and the
_mohwa_ are likewise in bloom and, ere the close of the month, the
_amaltas_ or Indian laburnum will put forth its bright yellow flowers
in great profusion. Throughout April the air is heavy with the scent
of blossoms. The _shesham_, the _sal_, the _pipal_ and the _nim_ are
vivid with fresh foliage. But notwithstanding all this galaxy of
colour, notwithstanding the brightness of the sun and the blueness of
the sky, the countryside lacks the sweetness that Englishmen associate
with springtime, because the majority of the trees, being evergreen,
do not renew their clothing completely at this season, and the foliage
is everywhere more or less obscured by the all-pervading dust.

The great avian emigration, which began in March, now reaches its
height. During the warm April nights millions of birds leave the
plains of India. The few geese remaining at the close of March, depart
in the first days of April.

The brahminy ducks, which during the winter months were scattered in
twos and threes over the lakes and rivers of Northern India, collect
into flocks that migrate, one by one, to cooler climes, so that, by
the end of the first week in May, the _a-onk_ of these birds is no
longer heard. The mallard, gadwall, widgeon, pintail, the various
species of pochard and the common teal are rapidly disappearing. With
April duck-shooting ends. Of the migratory species only a few
shovellers and garganey teal tarry till May.

The snipe and the quail are likewise flighting towards their breeding
grounds. Thus on the 1st of May the avian population of India is less
by many millions than it was at the beginning of April. But the birds
that remain behind more than compensate us, by their great activity,
for the loss of those that have departed. There is more to interest
the ornithologist in April than there was in January.

The bird chorus is now at its best. The magpie-robin is in full song.
At earliest dawn he takes up a position on the topmost bough of a tree
and pours forth his melody in a continuous stream. His varied notes
are bright and joyous. Its voice is of wide compass and very powerful;
were it a little softer in tone it would rival that of the
nightingale. The magpie-robin is comparatively silent at noonday, but
from sunset until dusk he sings continuously.

Throughout April the little cock sunbirds deliver themselves of their
vigorous canary-like song. The bulbuls tinkle as blithely as ever.
Ioras, pied wagtails, pied chats, and wood-shrikes continue to
contribute their not unworthy items to the minstrelsy of the Indian
countryside. The robins, having by now found their true notes, are
singing sweetly and softly. The white-eyes are no longer content to
utter their usual cheeping call, the cocks give vent to an exquisite
warble and thereby proclaim the advent of the nesting season. The
_towee_, _towee_, _towee_, of the tailor-bird, more penetrating than
melodious, grows daily more vigorous, reminding us that we may now
hopefully search for his nest. Among the less pleasing sounds that
fill the welkin are the _tonk_, _tonk_, _tonk_ of the coppersmith, the
_kutur_, _kutur_, _kuturuk_ of the green barbet, and the calls of the
various cuckoos that summer in the plains of Northern India. The calls
of these cuckoos, although frequently heard in April, are uttered more
continuously in May, accordingly they are described in the calendar
for that month.

The owls, of course, lift up their voices, particularly on moonlight
nights. The nightjars are as vociferous as they were in March; their
breeding season is now at its height.

In the hills the woods resound with the cheerful double note of the
European cuckoo (_Cuculus canorus_). This bird is occasionally heard
in the plains of the Punjab in April, and again from July to
September, when it no longer calls in the Himalayas. This fact,
coupled with the records of the presence of the European cuckoo in
Central India in June and July, lends support to the theory that the
birds which enliven the Himalayas in spring go south in July and
winter in the Central Provinces. Cuckoos, at seasons when they are
silent, are apt to be overlooked, or mistaken for shikras.

Ornithologists stationed in Central India will render a service to
science if they keep a sharp look-out for European cuckoos and record
the results of their observations. In this way alone can the above
theory be proved or disproved.

By the middle of the month most of the rollers have settled down to
domestic duties, and in consequence are less noisy than they were when
courting. Their irritating grating cries are now largely replaced by
harsh _tshocks_ of delight, each _tshock_ being accompanied by a
decisive movement of the tail. The cause of these interjections
expressing delight is a clutch of white eggs or a brood of young
birds, hidden in a hole in a tree or a building.

April is a month in which the pulse of bird life beats very vigorously
in India. He who, braving the heat, watches closely the doings of the
feathered folk will be rewarded by the discovery of at least thirty
different kinds of nests. Hence, it is evident that the calendar for
this month, unless it is to attain very large dimensions, must be a
mere catalogue of nesting species. The compiler of the calendar has to
face an _embarrass de richesses_.

Of the common species that build in March and the previous months the
following are likely to be found with eggs or young--the jungle crows,
sunbirds, doves, pied and golden-backed woodpeckers, coppersmiths,
hoopoes, common and brahminy kites, bulbuls, shrikes, little minivets,
fantail flycatchers, wire-tailed swallows, paroquets, spotted owlets,
swifts, scavenger vultures, red-headed merlins, skylarks, crested
larks, pipits, babblers, sand-martins, cliff-swallows, nuthatches,
white-eyed buzzards, kites, black vultures, pied and white-breasted
kingfishers, finch-larks, Indian wren-warblers, wood-shrikes,
cuckoo-shrikes, green barbets, tawny eagles, and the terns and the
other birds that nest on islets in rivers. Here and there may be seen
a white-backed vulture's nest containing a young bird nearly ready to
fly.

Towards the middle of the month the long-tailed tree-pies
(_Dendrocitta rufa_), which are nothing else than coloured crows,
begin nest-building. They are to be numbered among the commonest birds
in India, nevertheless their large open nests are rarely seen. The
explanation of this phenomenon appears to be the fact that the nest is
well concealed high up in a tree. Moreover, the pie, possessing a
powerful beak which commands respect, is not obliged constantly to
defend its home after the manner of small or excitable birds, and thus
attract attention to it.

Fortunately for the tree-pie the kites and crows do not worry it. The
shikra (_Astur badius_) and the white-eyed buzzard (_Butastur teesa_),
which are now engaged in nest-building, are not so fortunate. The
crows regard them as fair game, hence their nest-building season is a
time of _sturm und drang_. They, in common with all diurnal birds of
prey, build untidy nests in trees--mere conglomerations of sticks,
devoid of any kind of architectural merit. The blue rock-pigeons
(_Columba intermedia_) are busily prospecting for nesting sites. In
some parts of India, especially in the Muttra and Fatehgarh districts,
these birds nest chiefly in holes in wells. More often than not a
stone thrown into a well in such a locality causes at least one pigeon
to fly out of the well. In other places in India these birds build by
preference on a ledge or a cornice inside some large building. They
often breed in colonies. At Dig in Rajputana, where they are sacred in
the eyes of Hindus, thousands of them nest in the fort, and, as Hume
remarks, a gun fired in the moat towards evening raises a dense cloud
of pigeons, "obscuring utterly the waning day and deafening one with
the mighty rushing sound of countless strong and rapidly-plied
pinions." According to Hume the breeding season for these birds in
Upper India lasts from Christmas to May day. The experience of the
writer is that April, May and June are the months in which to look for
their nests. However, in justice to Hume, it must be said that
recently Mr. A. J. Currie found a nest, containing eggs, in February.

In April the green pigeons pair and build slender cradles, high up in
mango trees, in which two white eggs are laid.

The songster of the house-top--the brown rock-chat (_Cercomela
fusca_)--makes sweet music throughout the month for the benefit of his
spouse, who is incubating four pretty pale-blue eggs in a nest built
on a ledge in an outhouse or on the sill of a clerestory window. This
bird, which is thought by some to be a near relative of the sparrow of
the Scriptures, is clothed in plain brown and seems to suffer from St.
Vitus' dance in the tail. Doubtless it is often mistaken for a hen
robin. For this mistake there is no excuse, because the rock-chat
lacks the brick-red patch under the tail.

April is the month in which to look for two exquisite little
nests--those of the white-eye (_Zosterops palpebrosa_) and the iora
(_Aegithina tiphia_). White-eyes are minute greenish-yellow birds with
a conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eye. They go about in
flocks. Each individual utters unceasingly a plaintive cheeping note
by means of which it keeps its fellows apprised of its whereabouts. At
the breeding season, that is to say in April and May, the cock sings
an exceedingly sweet, but very soft, lay of six or seven notes. The
nest is a cup, about 2-1/2 inches in diameter and 3/4 of an inch in
depth. It is usually suspended, like a hammock, from the fork of a
branch; sometimes it is attached to the end of a single bough; it then
looks like a ladle, the bough being the handle. It is composed of
cobweb, roots, hair and other soft materials. Three or four tiny
pale-blue eggs are laid.

The iora is a feathered exquisite, about the size of a tomtit. The
cock is arrayed in green, black and gold; his mate is gowned in green
and yellow.

The iora has a great variety of calls, of these a soft and rather
plaintive long-drawn-out whistle is uttered most frequently in April
and May.

In shape and size the nest resembles an after-dinner coffee cup. It is
beautifully woven, and, like those of the white-eye and fantail
flycatcher, covered with cobweb; this gives it a very neat appearance.
In it are laid two or three eggs of salmon hue with reddish-brown and
purple-grey blotches.

Throughout April the sprightly tailor-birds are busy with their nests.
The tailor-bird (_Orthotomus sutorius_) is a wren with a long tail. In
the breeding season the two median caudal feathers of the cock project
as bristles beyond the others. The nest is a wonderful structure.
Having selected a suitable place, which may be a bush in a garden or a
pot plant in a verandah, the hen tailor-bird proceeds to make, with
her sharp bill, a series of punctures along the margins of one or more
leaves. The punctured edges are then drawn together, by means of
strands of cobweb, to form a purse or pocket. When this has been done
the frail bands of cobweb, which hold the edges of the leaves _in
situ_, are strengthened by threads of cotton. Lastly, the purse is
cosily lined with silk-cotton down or other soft material. Into the
cradle, thus formed, three or four white eggs, speckled with red, find
their way.

In April cavities in trees and buildings suitable for nesting purposes
are at a premium owing to the requirements of magpie-robins, brahminy
mynas, common mynas, yellow-throated sparrows and rollers. Not
uncommonly three or four pairs of birds nest in one weather-beaten old
tree.

Bank-mynas, white-breasted kingfishers, bee-eaters and a few belated
sand-martins are nesting in sandbanks in cavities which they
themselves have excavated. The nests of the kingfisher and the
sand-martin have already been described, that of the bank-myna belongs
to May rather than to April.

Bee-eaters working at the nest present a pleasing spectacle. The sexes
excavate turn about. The site chosen may be a bunker on the golf
links, the butts on the rifle range, a low mud boundary between two
fields, or any kind of bank. The sharp claws of the bee-eaters enable
the birds to obtain a foothold on an almost vertical surface; this
foothold is strengthened by the tail which, being stiff, acts as a
third leg. In a surprisingly short time a cavity large enough to
conceal the bird completely is formed. The bee-eater utilises the bill
as pickaxe and the feet as ejectors. The little clouds of sand that
issue at short intervals from each cavity afford evidence of the
efficacy of these implements and the industry of those that use them.

Two of the most charming birds in India are now occupied with family
cares. These are both black-and-white birds--the magpie-robin
(_Copsychus saularis_) and the pied wagtail (_Motacilla
maderaspatensis_). The former has already been noticed as the best
songster in the plains of India. The pattern of its plumage resembles
that of the common magpie; this explains its English name. The hen is
grey where the cock is black, otherwise there is no external
difference between the sexes. For some weeks the cock has been singing
lustily, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. In April
he begins his courtship. His display is a simple affair--mere
tail-play; the tail is expanded into a fan, so as to show the white
outer feathers, then it is either raised and lowered alternately, or
merely held depressed. Normally the tail is carried almost vertically.
The nest is invariably placed in a cavity of a tree or a building.

The pied wagtail always nests near water. If not on the ground, the
nursery rests on some structure built by man.

A visit to a bridge of boats in April is sure to reveal a nest of this
charming bird. Hume records a case of a pair of pied wagtails nesting
in a ferry-boat. This, it is true, was seldom used, but did
occasionally cross the Jumna. On such occasions the hen would continue
to sit, while the cock stood on the gunwale, pouring forth his sweet
song, and made, from time to time, little sallies over the water after
a flying gnat. Mr. A. J. Currie found at Lahore a nest of these
wagtails in a ferry-boat in daily use; so that the birds must have
selected the site and built the nest while the boat was passing to and
fro across the river!

Yet another black-and-white bird nests in April. This is the pied
bush-chat (_Pratincola caprata_). The cock is black all over, save for
a white patch on the rump and a bar of white in the wing. He delights
to sit on a telegraph wire or a stem of elephant grass and there make
cheerful melody. The hen is a dull reddish-grey bird. The nest is
usually placed in a hole in the ground or a bank or a wall, sometimes
it is wedged into a tussock of grass.

Allied to the magpie-robin and the pied bush-chat is the familiar
Indian robin (_Thamnobia cambayensis_), which, like its relatives, is
now engaged in nesting operations. This species constructs its
cup-shaped nest in all manner of strange places. Spaces in stacks of
bricks, holes in the ground or in buildings, and window-sills are held
in high esteem as nesting sites. The eggs are not easy to describe
because they display great variation. The commonest type has a pale
green shell, speckled with reddish-brown spots, which are most densely
distributed at the thick end of the egg.

Many of the grey partridges (_Francolinus pondicerianus_) are now
nesting. This species is somewhat erratic in respect of its breeding
season. Eggs have been taken in February, March, April, May, June,
September, October, and November. The April eggs, however, outnumber
those of all the other months put together. The nest is a shallow
depression in the ground, lined with grass, usually under a bush. From
six to nine cream-coloured eggs are laid.

Another bird which is now incubating eggs on the ground is the
did-he-do-it or red-wattled lapwing (_Sarcogrammus indicus_). The
curious call, from which this plover derives its popular name, is
familiar to every resident in India. This species nests between March
and August. The 122 eggs in the possession of Hume were taken, 12 in
March, 46 in April, 24 in May, 26 in June, 4 in July, and 8 in August.
Generally in a slight depression on the ground, occasionally on the
ballast of a rail-road, four pegtop-shaped eggs are laid; these are,
invariably, placed in the form of a cross, so that they touch each
other at their thin ends. They are coloured like those of the common
plover. The yellow-wattled lapwing (_Sarciophorus malabaricus_), which
resembles its cousin in manners and appearance, nests in April, May
and June.

The nesting season of the various species of sand-grouse that breed in
India is now beginning. These birds, like lapwings, lay their eggs on
the ground.

In April one may come across an occasional nest of the pied starling,
the king-crow, the paradise flycatcher, the grey hornbill, and the
oriole, but these are exceptions. The birds in question do not as a
rule begin to nest until May, and their doings accordingly are
chronicled in the calendar for that month.



MAY

  The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year.
                          _The Minstrelsy of the Woods_.

  Low from the brink the waters shrink;
  The deer all snuff for rain;
  The panting cattle search for drink
  Cracked glebe and dusty plain;
  The whirlwind, like a furnace blast,
  Sweeps clouds of darkening sand.
                      WATERFIELD, _Indian Ballads_.

  Now the burning summer sun
  Hath unchalleng'd empire won
  And the scorching winds blow free,
  Blighting every herb and tree.
                             R. T. H. GRIFFITH.


May in the plains of India! What unpleasant memories it recalls!
Stifling nights in which sleep comes with halting steps and departs
leaving us unrefreshed. Long, dreary days beneath the punkah in a
closed bungalow which has ceased to be enlivened by the voices of the
children and the patter of their little feet. Hot drives to office,
under a brazen sky from which the sun shines with pitiless power, in
the teeth of winds that scorch the face and fill the eyes with dust.

It is in this month of May that the European condemned to existence in
the plains echoes the cry of the psalmist: "Oh that I had wings like a
dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest"--in the Himalayas.
There would I lie beneath the deodars and, soothed by the rustle of
their wind-caressed branches, drink in the pure cool air and listen to
the cheerful double note of the cuckoo. The country-side in the plains
presents a sorry spectacle. The gardens that had some beauty in the
cold weather now display the abomination of desolation--a waste of
shrivelled flowers, killed by the relentless sun. The spring crops
have all been cut and the whole earth is dusty brown save for a few
patches of young sugar-cane and the dust-covered verdure of the mango
topes. It is true that the gold-mohur trees and the Indian laburnums
are in full flower and the air is heavily laden with the strong scent
of the _nim_ blossoms, but the heat is so intense that the European is
able to enjoy these gifts of nature only at dawn. Nor has the ripening
jack-fruit any attractions for him. He is repelled by its overpowering
scent and sickly flavour. Fortunately the tastes of all men are not
alike. In the eyes of the Indian this fruit is a dish fit to be set
before the gods. The _pipal_ trees, which are covered with tender
young leaves, now offer to the birds a feast in the form of numbers of
figs, no larger than cranberries. This generous offer is greedily
accepted by green pigeons, mynas and many other birds which partake
with right goodwill and make much noise between the courses. No matter
how intense the heat be, the patient cultivator issues forth with his
cattle before sunrise and works at his threshing floor until ten
o'clock, then he seeks the comparative coolness of the mango tope and
sleeps until the sun is well on its way to the western horizon, when
he resumes the threshing of the corn, not ceasing until the shades of
night begin to steal over the land.

The birds do not object to the heat. They revel in it. It is true that
in the middle of the day even they seek some shady tree in which to
enjoy a siesta and await the abatement of the heat of the blast
furnace in which they live, move and have their being. The long day,
which begins for them before 4 a.m., rather than the intense heat,
appears to be the cause of this midday sleep. Except during this
period of rest at noon the birds are more lively than they were in
April.

The breeding season is now at its height. In May over five hundred
species of birds nest in India. No individual is likely to come across
all these different kinds of nests, because, in order to do so, that
person would have to traverse India from Peshawar to Tinnevelly and
from Quetta to Tenasserim. Nevertheless, the man who remains in one
station, if he choose to put forth a little energy and defy the sun,
may reasonably expect to find the nests of more than fifty kinds of
birds. Whether he be energetic or the reverse he cannot fail to hear a
great many avian sounds both by day and by night. In May the birds are
more vociferous than at any other time of year. The fluty cries of the
koel and the vigorous screams of the brain-fever bird penetrate the
closed doors of the bungalow, as do, to a less extent, the chatter of
the seven sisters, the calls of the mynas, the _towee_, _towee_,
_towee_ of the tailor-bird, the _whoot_, _whoot_, _whoot_ of the
crow-pheasant, the monotonous notes of the coppersmith and the green
barbet, the _uk_, _uk_, _uk_ of the hoopoe, the cheerful music of the
fantail flycatcher, the three sweet syllables of the iora--_so be ye_,
the _tee_, _tee_, _tee_, _tee_ of the nuthatch, the liquid whistle of
the oriole and, last but not least, the melody of the magpie-robin.
The calls of the hoopoe and nuthatch become less frequent as the month
draws to a close; on the other hand, the melody of the oriole gains in
strength.

As likely as not a pair of blue jays has elected to rear a brood of
young hopefuls in the chimney or in a hole in the roof. When this
happens the human occupant of the bungalow is apt to be driven nearly
to distraction by the cries of the young birds, which resemble those
of some creature in distress, and are uttered with "damnable
reiteration."

All these sounds, however, reach in muffled form the ear of a human
being shut up in a bungalow; hence it is the voices of the night
rather than those of the day with which May in India is associated.
Most people sleep out of doors at this season, and, as the excessive
heat makes them restless, they have ample opportunity of listening to
the nightly concert of the feathered folk. The most notable performers
are the cuckoos. These birds are fully as nocturnal as the owls. The
brain-fever bird (_Hierococcyx varius_) is now in full voice, and may
be heard, both by day and by night, in all parts of Northern India,
east of Umballa. This creature has two calls. One is the eternal
"brain-fever, _brain-fever_, BRAIN-FEVER," each "brain-fever" being
louder and pitched in a higher key than the previous one, until the
bird reaches its top note. The other call consists of a volley of
descending notes, uttered as if the bird were unwinding its voice
after the screams of "brain-fever." The next cuckoo is not one whit
less vociferous than the last. It is known as the Indian koel
(_Eudynamis honorata_). This noble fowl has three calls, and it would
puzzle anyone to say which is the most powerful. The usual cry is a
crescendo _ku-il_, _ku-il_, _ku-il_, which to Indian ears is very
sweet-sounding. Most Europeans are agreed that it is a sound of which
one can have too much. The second note is a mighty avalanche of yells
and screams, which Cunningham has syllabised as _Kuk_, _kuu_, _kuu_,
_kuu_, _kuu_, _kuu_. The third cry, which is uttered only
occasionally, is a number of shrill shrieks: _Hekaree_, _karee_,
_karee_, _karee_.

The voice of the koel is heard throughout the hours of light and
darkness in May, so that one wonders whether this bird ever sleeps.
The second call is usually reserved for dawn, when the bird is most
vociferous. This cry is particularly exasperating to Europeans, since
it often awakens them rudely from the only refreshing sleep they have
enjoyed, namely, that obtained at the time when the temperature is
comparatively low. The koel extends into the Punjab and is heard
throughout Northern India.

The third of the cuckoos which enlivens the hot weather in the plains
is the Indian cuckoo (_Cuculus micropterus_). This species dwells
chiefly in the Himalayas, but late in April or early in May certain
individuals seek the hot plains and remain there for some months. They
do not extend very far into the peninsula, being numerous only in the
sub-Himalayan tracts as far south as Fyzabad. The call of this cuckoo
is melodious and easily recognised. Indians represent it as
_Bouto-taku_, while some Englishmen maintain that the bird says "I've
lost my love." To the writer's mind the cry is best represented by the
words _wherefore_, _wherefore_, repeated with musical cadence. This
bird does not usually call much during the day. It uplifts its voice
about two hours before sunset and continues calling intermittently
until some time after sunrise. The note is often uttered while the
bird is on the wing.

Scarcely less vociferous than the cuckoos are the owls. Needless to
state that the tiny spotted owlets make a great noise in May. They are
loquacious throughout the year, especially on moonlight nights. Nor do
they wait for the setting of the sun until they commence to pour forth
what Eha terms a "torrent of squeak and chatter and gibberish."

Almost as abundant as the spotted owlet is the jungle owlet
(_Glaucidium radiatum_). This species, like the last-mentioned, does
not confine its vocal efforts to the hot weather. It is vociferous
throughout the year; however, special mention must be made of it in
connection with the month of May, because it is not until a human
being sleeps out of doors that he takes much notice of the bird.

The note of this owl is very striking. It may be likened to the noise
made by a motor cycle when it is being started. It consists of a
series of dissyllables, low at first with a pause after each, but
gradually growing in intensity and succeeding one another at shorter
intervals, until the bird seems to have got fairly into its stride,
when it pulls up with dramatic suddenness. Tickell thus syllabises its
call: _Turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _turtuck_, _tukatu_,
_chatatuck_, _atuckatuck_.

Another sound familiar to those who sleep out of doors at this season
is a low, soft "what," repeated at intervals of about a minute.

The writer ascribes this call to the collared scops owl (_Scops
bakkamoena_). Mr. A. J. Currie, however, asserts that the note in
question is that emitted by spotted owlets (_Athene brama_) when they
have young. He states that he has been quite close to the bird when it
was calling.

A little patient observation will suffice to decide the point at
issue.

It is easy to distinguish between the two owls, as the scops has
aigrettes or "horns," which the spotted owlet lacks.

The nightjars help to swell the nocturnal chorus. There are seven or
eight different species in India, but of these only three are commonly
heard and two of them occur mainly in forest tracts. The call of the
most widely-distributed of the Indian goatsuckers--_Caprimulgus
asiaticus_, the common Indian nightjar--is like unto the sound made by
a stone skimming over ice. Horsfield's goatsucker is a very vociferous
bird. From March till June it is heard wherever there are forests. As
soon as the shadows of the evening begin to steal across the sky its
loud _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_ cleaves the air for
minutes together. This call to some extent replaces by night the
_tonk_, _tonk_, _tonk_ of the coppersmith, which is uttered so
persistently in the day-time. In addition to this note Horsfield's
nightjar emits a low soft _chur_, _chur_, _chur_.

The third nightjar, which also is confined chiefly to forest tracts,
is known as Franklin's nightjar (_C. monticolus_). This utters a harsh
_tweet_ which at a distance might pass for the chirp of a canary with
a sore throat.

Other sounds heard at night-time are the plaintive _did-he-do-it
pity-to-do-it_ of the red-wattled lapwing (_Sarcogrammus indicus_),
and the shrill calls of other plovers.

As has already been said, the nesting season is at its height in May.
With the exception of the paroquets, spotted owlets, nuthatches, black
vultures and pied kingfishers, which have completed nesting operations
for the year, and the golden-backed woodpeckers and the
cliff-swallows, which have reared up their first broods, the great
majority of the birds mentioned as having nests or young in March or
April are still busily occupied with domestic cares.

May marks the close of the usual breeding season for the jungle crows,
skylarks, crested larks, finch-larks, wood-shrikes, yellow-throated
sparrows, sand-martins, pied wagtails, green barbets, coppersmiths,
rollers, green bee-eaters, white-breasted kingfishers, scavenger
vultures, tawny eagles, kites, shikras, spur-winged plovers, little
ringed plovers, pied woodpeckers, night herons and pied chats. In the
case of the tree-pies, cuckoo-shrikes, seven sisters, bank-mynas and
blue-tailed bee-eaters the nesting season is now at its height. All
the following birds are likely to have either eggs or nestlings in
May: the white-eyes, ioras, bulbuls, tailor-birds, shrikes, brown
rock-chats, Indian robins, magpie-robins, sunbirds, swifts, nightjars,
white-eyed buzzards, hoopoes, green pigeons, blue rock-pigeons, doves,
sparrows, the red and yellow wattled lapwings, minivets, wire-tailed
swallows, red-headed merlins, fantail flycatchers, pipits, sand-grouse
and grey partridges. The nests of most of these have been described
already.

In the present month several species begin nesting operations. First
and foremost among these is the king-crow or black drongo (_Dicrurus
ater_). No bird, not even the roller, makes so much ado about
courtship and nesting as does the king-crow, of which the love-making
was described last month. A pair of king-crows regards as its castle
the tree in which it has elected to construct a nest. Round this tree
it establishes a sphere of influence into which none but a favoured
few birds may come. All intruders are forthwith set upon by the pair
of little furies, and no sight is commoner at this season than that of
a crow, a kite, or a hawk being chased by two irate drongos. The nest
of the king-crow is a small cup, wedged into the fork of a branch high
up in a tree.

The Indian oriole (_Oriolus kundoo_) is one of the privileged
creatures allowed to enter the dicrurian sphere of influence, and it
takes full advantage of this privilege by placing its nest almost
invariably in the same tree as that of the king-crow. The oriole is a
timid bird and is glad to rear up its family under the aegis of so
doughty a warrior as the Black Prince of the Birds. The nest of the
oriole is a wonderful structure. Having selected a fork in a suitable
branch, the nesting bird tears off a long strip of soft pliable bark,
usually that of the mulberry tree. It proceeds to wind one end of this
strip round a limb of the forked branch, then the other end is
similarly bound to the other limb. A second and a third strip of bark
are thus dealt with, and in this manner a cradle or hammock is formed.
On it a slender cup-shaped nest is superimposed. This is composed of
grasses and fibres, some of which are wound round the limbs of the
forked branch, while others are made fast to the strands of bark. The
completed nest is nearly five inches in diameter. From below it looks
like a ball of dried grass wedged into the forked branch.

The oriole lays from two to four white eggs spotted with dull red. The
spots can be washed off by water; sometimes their colour "runs" while
they are in the nest, thereby imparting a pink hue to the whole shell.
Both sexes take part in nest construction, but the hen alone appears
to incubate. She is a very shy creature, and is rarely discovered
actually sitting, because she leaves the nest with a little cry of
alarm at the first sound of a human footfall.

May and June are the months in which to look for the nests of that
superb bird--the paradise flycatcher (_Terpsiphone paradisi_). This is
known as the rocket-bird or ribbon-bird because of the two long
fluttering tail feathers possessed by the cock. The hen has the
appearance of a kind of bulbul, being chestnut-hued with a white
breast and a metallic blue-black crest. For the first year of their
existence the young cocks resemble the hens in appearance. Then the
long tail feathers appear. In his third year the cock turns white save
for the black-crested head. This species spends the winter in South
India. In April it migrates northwards to summer in the shady parts of
the plains of Bengal, the United Provinces and the Punjab, and on the
lower slopes of the Himalayas. The nest is a deep, untidy-looking cup,
having the shape of an inverted cone. It is always completely covered
with cocoons and cobweb. It is usually attached to one or more of the
lower branches of a tree. Both sexes work at the nest and take part in
incubation. The long tail feathers of the sitting cock hang down from
the nest like red or white satin streamers according to the phase of
his plumage. In the breeding season the cock sings a sweet little
lay--an abridged version of that of the fantail flycatcher. When
alarmed both the cock and the hen utter a sharp _tschit_.

May is perhaps the proper month in which to describe the nesting of
the various species of myna.

According to Hume the normal breeding season of the common myna
(_Acridotheres tristis_) lasts from June to August, during which
period two broods are reared. This is not correct. The nesting season
of this species begins long before June. The writer has repeatedly
seen mynas carrying twigs and feathers in March, and has come across
nests containing eggs or young birds in both April and May. June
perhaps is the month in which the largest numbers of nests are seen.
The cradle of the common myna is devoid of architectural merit. It is
a mere conglomeration of twigs, grass, rags, bits of paper and other
oddments. The nesting material is dropped haphazard into a hole in a
tree or building, or even on to a ledge in a verandah. Four beautiful
blue eggs are laid.

At Peshawar Mr. A. J. Currie once found four myna's eggs in a deserted
crows' nest in a tree.

As has already been stated, the nest of the bank-myna (_A.
ginginianus_) is built in a hole in a well, a sandbank, or a cliff.
The birds breed in colonies; each pair excavates its own nest by means
of beak and claw. Into the holes dug out in this manner the
miscellaneous nesting materials are dropped pell-mell after the manner
of all mynas. The breeding season of this species lasts from April to
July, May being the month in which most eggs are laid.

The black-headed or brahminy myna (_Temenuchus pagodarum_) usually
begins nesting operations about a month later than the bank-myna; its
eggs are most often taken in June. The nest, which is an untidy,
odoriferous collection of rubbish, is always in a cavity. In Northern
India a hole in a tree is usually selected; in the South buildings are
largely patronised. Some years ago the writer observed a pair of these
birds building a nest in a hole made in the masonry for the passage of
the lightning conductor of the Church in Fort St. George, Madras.

May marks the commencement of the breeding season of the pied
starlings (_Sturnopastor contra_). In this month they begin to give
vent with vigour to their cheerful call, which is so pleasing as
almost to merit the name of song.

Throughout the rains they continue to make a joyful noise. Not that
they are silent at other seasons; they call throughout the year, but,
except at the breeding period, their voices are comparatively subdued.

The nest is a bulky, untidy mass of straw, roots, twigs, rags,
feathers and such-like things. It is placed fairly low down in a tree.

Many of these nests are to be seen in May, but the breeding season is
at its height in June and July.

The grey hornbills (_Lophoceros birostris_) are now seeking out holes
in which to deposit their eggs. The hen, after having laid the first
egg, does not emerge from the nest till the young are ready to fly.
During the whole of this period she is kept a close prisoner, the
aperture to the nest cavity having been closed by her mate and herself
with their own droppings, a small chink alone being left through which
she is able to insert her beak in order to receive the food brought to
her by the cock.

Mr. A. J. Currie gives an interesting account of a grey hornbill's
nest he discovered at Lahore in 1910. About the middle of April he
noticed a pair of paroquets nesting in a hole in a tree. On April 28th
he saw a hornbill inspecting the hole, regardless of the noisy
protests of the paroquets. On the 30th he observed that the hole had
become smaller, and suspected that the hornbills had taken possession.
On May 1st all that was left of the hole was a slit. On May 6th Mr.
Currie watched the cock hornbill feeding the hen. First the male bird
came carrying a fig in his bill. Seeing human beings near the nest, he
did not give the fig to the hen but swallowed it and flew off.
Presently the cock reappeared with a fig which he put into the slit in
the plastering; after he had parted with the fig he began to feed the
hen by bringing up food from his crop. During the process the beak of
the hen did not appear at the slit.

On May 7th Mr. Currie opened out the nest. The hole was sixteen feet
from the ground and the orifice had a diameter of three inches; all of
this except a slit, broadest at the lower part, was filled up by
plaster. This plaster was odourless and contained embedded in it a
number of fig seeds.

The nest hole was capacious, its dimensions being roughly 1 foot by 1
foot by 2 feet. From the bottom five handfuls of pieces of dry bark
were extracted. Three white eggs were found lying on these pieces of
bark. The sitting hen resented the "nest-breaking," and, having pecked
viciously at the intruder, tried to escape by climbing up to the top
of the nest hole. She was dragged out of her retreat by the beak,
after an attempt to pull her out by the tail had resulted in all her
tail feathers coming away in her captor's hand!

The young green parrots have all left their nests and are flying about
in noisy flocks. They may be distinguished from the adults by the
short tail and comparatively soft call.

Most pairs of hoopoes are now accompanied by at least one young bird
which is almost indistinguishable from the adults. The young birds
receive, with squeaks of delight, the grubs or caterpillars proffered
by the parents. Occasionally a pair of hoopoes may be seen going
through the antics of courtship preparatory to raising a second brood.

In scrub-jungle parties of partridges, consisting of father, mother
and five or six little chicks, wander about.

As the shades of night begin to fall family parties of spotted owlets
issue from holes in trees or buildings. The baby birds squat on the
ground in silence, while the parents make sallies into the air after
flying insects which they bring to the young birds.

The peafowl and sarus cranes are indulging in the pleasures of
courtship. The young cranes, that were hatched out in the monsoon of
last year, are now nearly as big as their parents, and are well able
to look after themselves; ere long they will be driven away and made
to do so. The display of the sarus is not an elaborate process. The
cock turns his back on the hen and then partially opens his wings, so
that the blackish primaries droop and the grey secondary feathers are
arched. In this attitude he trumpets softly.

The water-hens have already begun their uproarious courtship. Their
weird calls must be heard to be appreciated. They consist of series of
_kok_, _koks_ followed by roars, hiccups, cackles and gurgles.

Black partridges, likewise, are very noisy throughout the month of
May. Their nesting season is fast approaching.

Even as April showers in England bring forth May flowers, so does the
April sunshine in India draw forth the marriage adornments of the
birds that breed in the rains. The pheasant-tailed jacanas are
acquiring the long tail feathers that form the wedding ornaments of
both sexes.

The various species of egret and the paddy bird all assume their
nuptial plumes in May.

In the case of the egret these plumes are in great demand and are
known to the plumage trade as "ospreys."

The plumes in question consist of long filamentous feathers that grow
from the neck of the egret and also from its breast. In most countries
those who obtain these plumes wait until the birds are actually
nesting before attempting to secure them, taking advantage of the fact
that egrets nest in colonies and of the parental affection of the
breeding birds. A few men armed with guns are able to shoot every
adult member of the colony, because the egrets continue to feed their
young until they are shot. As the plumes of these birds are worth
nearly their weight in gold, egrets have become extinct in some parts
of the world.

The export of plumage from India is unlawful, but this fact does not
prevent a very large feather trade being carried on, since it is not
difficult to smuggle "ospreys" out of the country.

Doubtless the existing Notification of the Government of India,
prohibiting the export of plumage, has the effect of checking, to some
extent, the destruction of egrets, but there is no denying the fact
that many of the larger species are still shot for their plumes while
breeding.

In the case of cattle-egrets (_Bubulcus coromandus_) the custom of
shooting them when on the nest has given place to a more humane and
more sensible method of obtaining their nuchal plumes. These, as we
have seen, arise early in May, but the birds do not begin to nest
until the end of June. The cattle-egret is gregarious; it is the large
white bird that accompanies cattle in order to secure the insects put
up by the grazing quadrupeds. Taking advantage of the social habits of
these egrets the plume-hunters issue forth early in May and betake
themselves, in parties of five or six, to the villages where the birds
roost. Their apparatus consists of two nets, each some eight feet long
and three broad. These are laid flat on the ground in shallow water,
parallel to one another, about a yard apart. The inner side of each
net is securely pegged to the ground. By an ingenious arrangement of
sticks and ropes a man, taking cover at a distance of twenty or thirty
yards, by giving a sharp pull at a pliable cane, can cause the outer
parts of each net to spring up and meet to form an enclosure which is,
in shape, not unlike a sleeping-pal tent. When the nets have been set
in a pond near the trees where the cattle-egrets roost at night and
rest in the day-time, two or three decoy birds--captured egrets with
their eyes sewn up to prevent them struggling or trying to fly
away--are tethered in the space between the two nets; these last,
being laid flat under muddy water, are invisible. Sooner or later an
egret in one of the trees near by, seeing some of its kind standing
peacefully in the water, alights near them. Almost before it has
touched the ground the cane is pulled and the egret finds itself a
prisoner. One of the bird-catchers immediately runs to the net,
secures the victim, opens out its wings, and, holding each of these
between the big and the second toe, pulls out the nuchal plumes. This
operation lasts about five seconds. The bird is then set at liberty,
far more astonished than hurt. It betakes itself to its wild
companions, and the net is again set. Presently another egret is
caught and divested of its plumes, and the process continues all day.

The bird-catchers spend six weeks every year in obtaining cattle-egret
plumes in this manner. They sell the plumes to middle-men, who dispose
of them to those who smuggle them out of India.

If stuffed birds were used as decoys and the plumes of the captured
birds were snipped off with scissors instead of being pulled out, the
operation could be carried on without any cruelty, and, if legalised
and supervised by the Government, it could be made a source of
considerable revenue.



JUNE

  'Tis raging noon; and, vertical, the sun
  Darts on the head direct his forceful rays;
  O'er heaven and earth, far as the ranging eye
  Can sweep, a dazzling deluge reigns; and all
  From pole to pole is undistinguish'd blaze.

       *       *       *       *       *

  All-conquering heat, oh, intermit thy wrath,
  And on my throbbing temples potent thus
  Beam not so fierce! incessant still you flow,
  And still another fervent flood succeeds.
  Pour'd on the head profuse. In vain I sigh,

       *       *       *       *       *

  Thrice happy he who on the sunless side
  Of a romantic mountain, forest crown'd
  Beneath the whole collected shade reclines.
                                      J. THOMSON.

  With dancing feet glad peafowl greet
  Bright flash and rumbling cloud;
  Down channels steep red torrents sweep;
  The frogs give welcome loud;

       *       *       *       *       *

  No stars in skies, but lantern-flies
  Seem stars that float to earth.
                         WATERFIELD, _Indian Ballads_.


There are two Indian Junes--the June of fiction and the June of fact.
The June of fiction is divided into two equal parts--the dry half and
the wet half. The former is made up of hot days, dull with dust haze,
when the shade temperature may reach 118 degrees, and of oppressive
nights when the air is still and stagnant and the mercury in the
thermometer rarely falls below 84 degrees. Each succeeding period of
four-and-twenty hours seems more disagreeable and unbearable than its
predecessor, until the climax is reached about the 15th June, when
large black clouds appear on the horizon and roll slowly onwards,
accompanied by vivid lightning, loud peals of thunder and torrential
rain. In the June of fact practically the whole month is composed of
hot, dry, dusty, oppressive days; for the monsoon rarely reaches
Northern India before the last week of the month and often tarries
till the middle of July, or even later.

The first rain causes the temperature to fall immediately. It is no
uncommon thing for the mercury in the thermometer to sink 20 degrees
in a few minutes. While the rain is actually descending the weather
feels refreshingly cool in contrast to the previous furnace-like heat.
Small wonder then that the advent of the creative monsoon is more
heartily welcomed in India than is spring in England. No sound is more
pleasing to the human ear than the drumming of the first monsoon rain.

But alas! the physical relief brought by the monsoon is only
temporary. The temperature rises the moment the rain ceases to fall,
and the prolonged breaks in the rains that occur every year render the
last state of the climate worse than the first. The air is so charged
with moisture that it cannot absorb the perspiration that emanates
from the bodies of the human beings condemned to existence in this
humid Inferno. For weeks together we live in a vapour-bath, and to the
physical discomfort of perpetual clamminess is added the irritation of
prickly heat.

Moreover, the rain brings with it myriads of torments in the form of
termites, beetles, stinking bugs, flies, mosquitoes and other creeping
and flying things, which bite and tease and find their way into every
article of food and drink. The rain also awakens from their slumbers
the frogs that have hibernated and aestivated in the sun-baked beds of
dried-up ditches and tanks. These awakened amphibia fill the welkin
with their croakings, which take the place of the avian chorus at
night. The latter ceases with dramatic abruptness with the first fall
of monsoon rain. During the monsoon the silence of the night is broken
only by the sound of falling raindrops, or the croaking of the frogs,
the stridulation of crickets innumerable, and the owlet's feeble call.
Before the coming of the monsoon the diurnal chorus of the day birds
begins to flag because the nesting season for many species is drawing
to a close. The magpie-robin still pours forth his splendid song, but
the quality of the music in the case of many individuals is already
beginning to fall off. The rollers, which are feeding their young, are
far less noisy than they were at the time of courtship. The barbets
and coppersmiths, although not so vociferous as formerly, cannot, even
in the monsoon, be charged with hiding their lights under a bushel.
Towards the end of June the _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_, _chuk_ of
Horsfield's nightjar is not often heard, but the bird continues to
utter its soft churring note. The iora's cheerful calls still resound
through the shady mango tope. The sunbirds, the fantail flycatchers,
the orioles, the golden-backed woodpeckers, the white-breasted
kingfishers and the black partridges call as lustily as ever, and the
bulbuls continue to twitter to one another "stick to it!" With the
first fall of rain the tunes of the paradise flycatchers and the
king-crows change. The former now cry "Witty-ready wit," softly and
gently, while the calls of the latter suddenly become sweet and
mellow.

Speaking generally, the monsoon seems to exercise a sobering, a
softening influence on the voices of the birds. The pied myna forms
the one exception; he does not come into his full voice until the
rains have set in.

The monsoon transfigures the earth. The brown, dry, hard countryside,
with its dust-covered trees, becomes for the time being a shallow lake
in which are studded emerald islets innumerable. Stimulated by the
rain many trees put forth fresh crops of leaves. At the first break in
the downpour the cultivators rush forth with their ploughs and oxen to
prepare the soil for the autumn crops with all the speed they may.

There is much to interest the ornithologist in June.

Of the birds whose nests have been previously described the following
are likely to have eggs or young: white-eyes, ioras, tailor-birds,
king-crows, robins, sparrows, tree-pies, seven sisters,
cuckoo-shrikes, Indian wren-warblers (second brood), sunbirds (second
brood), swifts, fantail flycatchers (second brood), orioles, paradise
flycatchers, grey horn-bills, and the various mynas, bulbuls,
butcher-birds, doves, pigeons and lapwings. The following species have
young which either are in the nest or have only recently left it:
roller, hoopoe, brown rock-chat, magpie-robin, coppersmith, green
barbet, nightjar, white-eyed buzzard, pipit, wire-tailed swallow,
white-breasted kingfisher, grey partridge, kite, golden-backed
woodpecker (second brood), and the several species of bee-eater and
lark.

With June the breeding season for the blue rock and green pigeons
ends. In the _sal_ forests the young jungle-fowl have now mostly
hatched out and are following the old hens, or feeding independently.

Some of the minivets are beginning to busy themselves with a second
brood.

The breeding operations of a few species begin in June.

Chief of these is that arch-villain _Corvus splendens_--the Indian
house-crow. Crows have no fine feathers, hence the cocks do not
"display" before the hens. To sing they know not how. Their courtship,
therefore, provides a feast for neither the eye nor the ear of man.
The lack of ornaments and voice perhaps explains the fact that among
crows there is no noisy love-making. Crows make a virtue of necessity.
Any attempt at courtship after the style of the costermonger is
resented by the whole corvine community. The only amorous display
permitted in public is head-tickling. The cock and the hen perch side
by side, one ruffles the feathers of the neck, the other inserts its
bill between the ruffled feathers of its companion and gently tickles
its neck, to the accompaniment of soft gurgles.

Crows are the most intelligent of birds. Like the other fowls of the
air in which the brain is well developed, they build rough untidy
nests--mere platforms placed in the fork of a branch of almost any
kind of tree. The usual materials used in nest-construction are twigs,
but crows do not limit themselves to these. They seem to take a
positive pride in pressing into service materials of an uncommon
nature. Cases are on record of nests composed entirely of
spectacle-frames, wires used for the fixing of the corks of soda-water
bottles, or pieces of tin discarded by tinsmiths.

Four, five or six eggs are laid; these are of a pale greenish-blue
hue, speckled or flaked with sepia markings. The hen alone collects
the materials for the nest, but the cock supervises her closely,
following her about and criticising her proceedings as she picks up
twigs and works them into the nest.

From the time of the laying of the first egg until the moment of the
departure of the last young bird, one or other of the parents always
mounts guard over the nest, except when they are chasing a koel. Crows
are confirmed egg-lifters and chicken-stealers; they apply their
standard of morality to other birds, and, in consequence, never leave
their own offspring unguarded. A crow's nest at which there is no
adult crow certainly contains neither eggs nor young birds.

As has already been stated, crows spend, much time in teasing and
annoying other birds. Retribution overtakes them in the nesting
season. The Indian koel (_Eudynamis honorata_) cuckolds them. The
crows either are aware of this or have an instinctive dislike to this
cuckoo. The sight of the koel affects a crow in much the same way as a
red cloth irritates a bull. One of these cuckoos has but to perch in a
tree that contains a crow's nest and begin calling in order to make
both the owners of the nest attack him. The koel takes full advantage
of this fact. The cock approaches the nest and begins uttering his
fluty _kuil_, _kuil_. The crows forthwith dash savagely at him. He
flies off pursued by them. He can easily outdistance his pursuers, but
is content to keep a lead of a few feet, crying _pip-pip_ or
_kuil-kuil_, and thus he lures the parent crows to some distance. No
sooner are their backs turned than the hen koel slips quietly into the
nest and deposits an egg in it. If she have time she carries off or
throws out one or more of the legitimate eggs. When the crows return
to the nest, having failed to catch the cock koel, they do not appear
to notice the trick played upon them, although the koel's egg is
smaller than theirs and of an olive-green colour. Through the greater
part of June and July the koels keep the crows busy chasing them.
Something approaching pandemonium reigns in the neighbourhood of a
colony of nesting crows: from dawn till nightfall the shrieks and
yells of the koels mingle with the harsh notes of the crows.

Sometimes the crows return from the chase of the cock koel before the
hen is ready, and surprise her in the nest; then they attack her. She
flees in terror, and is followed by the corvi. Her screams when being
thus pursued are loud enough to awaken the Seven Sleepers. She has
cause for alarm, for, if the raging crows catch her, they will
assuredly kill her. Such a tragedy does sometimes occur.

Not infrequently it happens that more than one koel's egg is laid in a
crow's nest.

The incubation period of the egg of the koel is shorter than that of
the crow, the consequence is that when, as usually happens, there is
one of the former and several of the latter in a nest, the young koel
is invariably the first to emerge. It does not attempt to eject from
the nest either the legitimate eggs or the young crows when they
appear on the scene. Indeed, it lives on excellent terms with its
foster brethren. But to say this is to anticipate, for as a rule,
neither young koels nor baby crows hatch out until July.

The crow-pheasants (_Centropus sinensis_), which are cuckoos that do
not lead a parasitic existence, are now busy with nursery duties. The
nest of the crow-pheasant or coucal is a massive structure, globular
in shape, with the entrance at one side. Large as the nest is, it is
not often discovered by the naturalist because it is almost invariably
situated in the midst of an impenetrable thicket. Three or four
pure-white eggs are laid.

The white-necked storks or beef-steak birds (_Dissura episcopus_) are
busy at their nests in June. These birds build in large trees, usually
at a distance from water. The nest is rudely constructed of twigs. It
is about one and a half feet in diameter. The eggs are placed in a
depression lined with straw, grass or feathers. White-necked storks
often begin nest-building about the middle of May, but eggs are rarely
laid earlier than the second week of June. House-crows nest at the
same time of year, and they often worry the storks considerably by
their impudent attempts to commit larceny of building material.

The breeding season of the paddy-birds has now fairly begun. These
birds, usually so solitary in habit, often nest in small colonies,
sometimes in company with night-herons. The nest is a slender platform
of sticks placed high up in a tree, often in the vicinity of human
habitations. Nesting paddy-birds, or pond-herons as they are
frequently called, utter all manner of weird calls, the one most
frequently heard being a curious gurgle.

Some of the amadavats build nests in June, but the great majority
breed during the winter months.

As soon as the first rains have fallen a few of the pheasant-tailed
jacanas begin nesting operations, but the greater number breed in
August; for this reason their nests are described in the calendar for
that month.

In June a very striking bird makes its appearance in Northern India.
This is the pied crested cuckoo (_Coccystes jacobinus_). Its under
parts are white, as is a bar in the wing. The remainder of the plumage
is glossy black. The head is adorned by an elegant crest. The pied
cuckoo has a peculiar metallic call, which is as easy to recognise as
it is difficult to describe. The bird victimises, not crows, but
babblers; nevertheless the corvi seem to dislike it as intensely as
they dislike koels.

By the beginning of the month the great majority of the cock _bayas_
or weaver-birds have assumed their black-and-golden wedding garment;
nevertheless they do not as a rule begin to nest before July.

The curious excrescence on the bill of the drake _nukta_ or comb-duck
is now much enlarged. This betokens the approach of the nesting season
for that species.

If the monsoon happen to burst early many of the birds which breed in
the rains begin building their nests towards the end of June, but, in
nine years out of ten, July marks the beginning of the breeding period
of aquatic birds, therefore the account of their nests properly finds
place in the calendar of that month, or of August, when the season is
at its height.



JULY

  Alas! creative nature calls to light
  Myriads of winged forms in sportive flight,
  When gathered clouds with ceaseless fury pour
  A constant deluge in the rushing shower.
                                   _Calcutta: A Poem_.


In July India becomes a theatre in which Nature stages a mighty
transformation scene. The prospect changes with kaleidoscopic
rapidity. The green water-logged earth is for a time overhung by dull
leaden clouds; this sombre picture melts away into one, even more
dismal, in which the rain pours down in torrents, enveloping
everything in mist and moisture. Suddenly the sun blazes forth with
indescribable brilliance and shines through an atmosphere, clear as
crystal, from which every particle of dust has been washed away.
Fleecy clouds sail majestically across the vaulted firmament. Then
follows a gorgeous sunset in which changing colours run riot through
sky and clouds--pearly grey, jet black, dark dun, pale lavender, deep
mauve, rich carmine, and brightest gold. These colours fade away into
the darkness of the night; the stars then peep forth and twinkle
brightly. At the approach of "rosy-fingered" dawn their lights go out,
one by one. Then blue tints appear in the firmament which deepen into
azure. The glory of the ultramarine sky does not remain long without
alloy: clouds soon appear. So the scene ever changes, hour by hour and
day by day. Had the human being who passes July in the plains but one
window to the soul and that the eye, the month would be one of pure
joy, a month spent in the contemplation of splendid dawns, brilliant
days, the rich green mantle of the earth, the majesty of approaching
thunderclouds, and superb sunsets. But, alas, July is not a month of
unalloyed pleasure. The temperature is tolerably low while the rain is
actually falling; but the moment this ceases the European is subjected
to the acute physical discomforts engendered by the hot, steamy,
oppressive atmosphere, the ferocity of the sun's rays, and the teasing
of thousands of biting and buzzing insects which the monsoon calls
into being. Termites, crickets, red-bugs, stink-bugs, horseflies,
mosquitoes, beetles and diptera of all shapes and sizes arise in
millions as if spontaneously generated. Many of these are creatures of
the night. Although born in darkness all seem to strive after light.
Myriads of them collect round every burning lamp in the open air, to
the great annoyance of the human being who attempts to read out of
doors after dark. The spotted owlets, the toads and the lizards,
however, take a different view of the invasion and partake eagerly of
the rich feast provided for them. Notwithstanding the existence of
_chiks_, or gauze doors, the hexapods crowd into the lighted bungalow,
where every illumination soon becomes the centre of a collection of
the bodies of the insects that have been burned by the flame, or
scorched by the lamp chimney. Well is it for the rest of creation that
most of these insects are short-lived. The span of life of many is but
a day: were it much longer human beings could hardly manage to exist
during the rains. Equally unbearable would life be were all the
species of monsoon insects to come into being simultaneously.
Fortunately they appear in relays. Every day some new forms enter on
the stage of life and several make their exit. The pageant of insect
life, then, is an ever-changing one. To-day one species predominates,
to-morrow another, and the day after a third. Unpleasant and
irritating though these insect hosts be to human beings, some pleasure
is to be derived from watching them. Especially is this the case when
the termites or white-ants swarm. In the damp parts of Lower Bengal
these creatures may emerge at any time of the year. In Calcutta they
swarm either towards the close of the rainy season or in spring after
an exceptionally heavy thunderstorm. In Madras they emerge from their
hiding-places in October with the northeast monsoon. In the United
Provinces the winged termites appear after the first fall of the
monsoon rain in June or July as the case may be. These succulent
creatures provide a feast for the birds which is only equalled by that
furnished by a flight of locusts. In the case of the termites it is
not only the birds that partake. The ever-vigilant crows are of course
the first to notice a swarm of termites, and they lose no time in
setting to work. The kites are not far behind them. These great birds
sail on the outskirts of the flight, seizing individuals with their
claws and transferring them to the beak while on the wing. A few
king-crows and bee-eaters join them. On the ground below
magpie-robins, babblers, toads, lizards, musk-rats and other
terrestrial creatures make merry. If the swarm comes out at dusk, as
often happens, bats and spotted owlets join those of the gourmands
that are feasting while on the wing.

The earth is now green and sweet. The sugar-cane grows apace. The
rice, the various millets and the other autumn crops are being sown.
The cultivators take full advantage of every break in the rains to
conduct agricultural operations.

As we have seen, the nocturnal chorus of the birds is now replaced by
the croaking of frogs and the stridulation of crickets. In the
day-time the birds still have plenty to say for themselves. The
brain-fever birds scream as lustily as they did in May and June. The
koel is, if possible, more vociferous than ever, especially at the
beginning of the month. The Indian cuckoo does not call so frequently
as formerly, but, by way of compensation, the pied crested cuckoo
uplifts his voice at short intervals.

The _whoot_, _whoot_, _whoot_ of the crow-pheasant booms from almost
every thicket. The iora, the coppersmith, the barbet, the
golden-backed woodpecker, and the white-breasted kingfisher continue
to call merrily. The pied starlings are in full voice; their notes
form a very pleasing addition to the avian chorus. Those magpie-robins
that have not brought nesting operations to a close are singing
vigorously. The king-crows are feeding their young ones in the
greenwood tree, and crooning softly to them _pitchu-wee_. At the
_jhils_ the various waterfowl are nesting and each one proclaims the
fact by its allotted call. Much strange music emanates from the
well-filled tank; the indescribable cries of the purple coots, the
curious "fixed bayonets" of the cotton teal and the weird cat-like
mews of the jacanas form the dominant notes of the aquatic symphony.

In July the black-breasted or rain-quail (_Coturnix coromandelica_) is
plentiful in India. Much remains to be discovered regarding the
movements of this species. It appears to migrate to Bengal, the United
Provinces, the Punjab and Sind shortly before the monsoon bursts, but
it is said to arrive in Nepal as early as April. It would seem to
winter in South India. It is a smaller bird than the ordinary grey
quail and has no pale cross-bars on the primary wing feathers. The
males of this species are held in high esteem by Indians as fighting
birds. Large numbers of them are netted in the same way as the grey
quail. Some captive birds are set down in a covered cage by a
sugar-cane field in the evening. Their calls attract a number of wild
birds, which settle down in the sugar-cane in order to spend the day
there. At dawn a net is quietly stretched across one end of the field.
A rope is then slowly dragged along over the growing crop in the
direction of the net. This sends all the quail into the net.

Very fair sport may be obtained in July by shooting rain-quail that
have been attracted by call birds.

July marks the end of one breeding season and the beginning of
another. As regards the nesting season, birds fall into four classes.
There is the very large class that nests in spring and summer. Next in
importance is the not inconsiderable body that rears up its broods in
the rains when the food supply is most abundant. Then comes the small
company that builds nests in the pleasant winter time. Lastly there
are the perennials--such birds as the sparrow and the dove, which nest
at all seasons. In the present month the last of the summer nesting
birds close operations for the year, and the monsoon birds begin to
lay their eggs. July is therefore a favourable month for bird-nesting.
Moreover, the sun is sometimes obscured by cloud and, under such
conditions, a human being is able to remain out of doors throughout
the day without suffering much physical discomfort.

With July ends the normal breeding season of the tree-pies,
white-eyes, ioras; king-crows, bank-mynas, paradise flycatchers, brown
rock-chats, Indian robins, dhayals, red-winged bush-larks, sunbirds,
rollers, swifts, green pigeons, lapwings and butcher-birds.

The paradise flycatchers leave Northern India and migrate southwards a
few weeks after the young birds have left the nest.

Numbers of bulbuls' nests are likely to be found in July, but the
breeding time of these birds is rapidly drawing to its close. Sparrows
and doves are of course engaged in parental duties; their eggs have
been taken in every month of the year.

The nesting season is now at its height for the white-necked storks,
the koels and their dupes--the house-crows, also for the various
babblers and their deceivers--the brain-fever birds and the pied
crested cuckoos. The tailor-birds, the ashy and the Indian
wren-warblers, the brahminy mynas, the wire-tailed swallows, the
amadavats, the sirkeer cuckoos, the pea-fowl, the water-hens, the
common and the pied mynas, the cuckoo-shrikes and the orioles are all
fully occupied with nursery duties. The earliest of the brain-fever
birds to be hatched have left the nest. Like all its family the young
hawk-cuckoo has a healthy appetite. In order to satisfy it the
unfortunate foster-parents have to work like slaves, and often must
they wonder why nature has given them so voracious a child. When it
sees a babbler approaching with food, the cuckoo cries out and flaps
its wings vigorously. Sometimes these completely envelop the parent
bird while it is thrusting food into the yellow mouth of the cuckoo.
The breast of the newly-fledged brain-fever bird is covered with dark
brown drops, so that, when seen from below, it looks like a thrush
with yellow legs. Its cries, however, are not at all thrushlike.

Many of the wire-tailed swallows, minivets and white-browed fantail
flycatchers bring up a second brood during the rains. The loud
cheerful call of the last is heard very frequently in July.

Numbers of young bee-eaters are to be seen hawking at insects; they
are distinguishable from adults by the dullness of the plumage and the
fact that the median tail feathers are not prolonged as bristles.

Very few crows emerge from the egg before the 1st of July, but, during
the last week in June, numbers of baby koels are hatched out. The
period of incubation for the koel's egg is shorter than that of the
crow, hence at the outset the baby koel steals a march on his
foster-brothers. Koel nestlings, when they first emerge from the egg,
differ greatly in appearance from baby crows. The skin of the koel is
black, that of crow is pink for the first two days of its existence,
but it grows darker rapidly. The baby crow is the bigger bird and has
a larger mouth with fleshy sides. The sides of the mouth of the young
koel are not fleshy. The neck of the crow nestling is long and the
head hangs down, whereas the koel's neck is short and the bird carries
its head huddled in its shoulders. Crows nest high up in trees, these
facts are therefore best observed by sending up an expert climber with
a tin half-full of sawdust to which a long string is attached. The
climber lets down the eggs or nestlings in the tin and the observer
can examine them in comfort on _terra firma_. The parent crows do not
appear to notice how unlike the young koels are to their own
nestlings, for they feed them most assiduously and make a great uproar
when the koels are taken from the nest. Baby crows are noisy
creatures; koels are quiet and timid at first, but become noisier as
they grow older.

The feathers of crow nestlings are black in each sex. Young koels fall
into three classes: those of which the feathers are all black, those
of which a few feathers have white or reddish tips, those which are
speckled black and white all over because each feather has a white
tip. The two former appear to be young cocks and the last to be hens.
Baby koels, in addition to hatching out before their foster-brethren,
develop more quickly, so that they leave the nest fully a week in
advance of the young corvi. After vacating the nest they squat for
some days on a branch close by; numbers of them are to be seen thus in
suitable localities towards the end of July. At first the call of the
koel is a squeak, but later it takes the form of a creditable, if
ludicrous, attempt at a caw. The young cuckoo does not seem to be able
to distinguish its foster-parents from other crows; it clamours for
food whenever any crow comes near it.

Of the scenes characteristic of the rains in India none is more
pleasing than that presented by a colony of nest-building bayas or
weaver-birds (_Ploceus baya_). These birds build in company. Sometimes
more than twenty of their wonderful retort-like nests are to be seen
in one tree. This means that more than forty birds are at work, and,
as each of these indulges in much cheerful twittering, the tree in
question presents an animated scene. Both sexes take part in
nest-construction.

Having selected the branch of a tree from which the nest will hang,
the birds proceed to collect material. Each completed nest contains
many yards of fibre not much thicker than stout thread. Such material
is not found in quantity in nature. The bayas have, therefore, to
manufacture it. This is easily done. The building weaver-bird betakes
itself to a clump of elephant-grass, and, perching on one of the
blades, makes a notch in another near the base. Then, grasping with
its beak the edge of this blade above the notch, the baya flies away
and thus strips off a narrow strand. Sometimes the strand adheres to
the main part of the blade at the tip so firmly that the force of the
flying baya is not sufficient to sever it. The bird then swings for a
few seconds in mid-air, suspended by the strip of leaf. Not in the
least daunted the baya makes a fresh effort and flies off, still
gripping the strand firmly. At the third, if not at the second
attempt, the thin strip is completely severed. Having secured its
prize the weaver-bird proceeds to tear off one or two more strands and
then flies with these in its bill to the nesting site, uttering cries
of delight. The fibres obtained in this manner are bound round the
branch from which the nest will hang. More strands are added to form a
stalk; when this has attained a length of several inches it is
gradually expanded in the form of an umbrella or bell. The next step
is to weave a band of grass across the mouth of the bell. In this
condition the nest is often left unfinished. Indians call such
incomplete nests _jhulas_ or swings; they assert that these are made
in order that the cocks may sit in them and sing to their mates while
these are incubating the eggs. It may be, as "Eha" suggests, that at
this stage the birds are dissatisfied with the balance of the nest and
for this reason leave it. If the nest, at this point of its
construction, please the weaver-birds they proceed to finish it by
closing up the bell at one side of the cross-band to form a receptacle
for the eggs, and prolonging the other half of the bell into a long
tunnel or neck. This neck forms the entrance to the nest; towards its
extremity it becomes very flimsy so that it affords no foothold to an
enemy. Nearly every baya's nest contains some lumps of clay attached
to it. Jerdon was of opinion that the function of these is to balance
the nest properly. Indians state that the bird sticks fireflies into
the lumps of clay to light up the nest at night. This story has found
its way into some ornithological text-books. There is no truth in it.
The present writer is inclined to think that the object of these lumps
of clay is to prevent the light loofah-like nest swinging too
violently in a gale of wind.

Both sexes take part in nest-construction. After the formation of the
cross-bar at the mouth of the bell one of the birds sits inside and
the other outside, and they pass the strands to each other and thus
the weaving proceeds rapidly. While working at the nest the bayas,
more especially the cocks, are in a most excited state. They sing,
scream, flap their wings and snap the bill. Sometimes one cock in his
excitement attacks a neighbour by jumping on his back! This results in
a fight in which the birds flutter in the air, pecking at one another.
Often the combatants "close" for a few seconds, but neither bird seems
to get hurt in these little contests.

Every bird-lover should make a point of watching a company of
weaver-birds while these are constructing their nests. The tree or
trees in which they build can easily be located by sending a servant
in July to search for them. The favourite sites for nests in the
United Provinces seem to be babul trees that grow near borrow pits
alongside the railroad.

In the rainy season two other birds weave nests, which are nearly as
elegant as those woven by the baya. These birds, however, do not nest
in company. They usually build inside bushes, or in long grass.

For this reason they do not lend themselves to observation while at
work so readily as bayas do. The birds in question are the Indian and
the ashy wren-warbler.

The former species brings up two broods in the year. One, as has been
mentioned, in March and the other in the "rains."

The nest of the Indian wren-warbler (_Prinia inornata_) is, except for
its shape and its smaller size, very like that of a weaver-bird. It is
an elongated purse or pocket, closely and compactly woven with fine
strips of grass from 1/40 to 1/20 inch in breadth. The nest is entered
by a hole near the top. Both birds work at the nest, clinging first to
the neighbouring stems of grass or twigs, and later to the nest itself
when this has attained sufficient dimensions to afford them foothold.
They push the ends of the grass in and out just as weaver-birds do.
Like the baya, the Indian wren-warbler does not line its nest. The
eggs are pale greenish-blue, richly marked by various shades of deep
chocolate and reddish-brown. As Hume remarks: "nothing can exceed the
beauty or variety of markings, which are a combination of bold
blotches, clouds and spots, with delicate, intricately woven lines,
recalling somewhat ... those of our early favourite--the
yellow-hammer."

The ashy wren-warbler (_Prinia socialis_) builds two distinct kinds of
nest. One is just like that of the tailor-bird, being formed by sewing
or cobbling together two, three, four or five leaves, and lining the
cup thus formed with down, wool, cotton or other soft material. The
second kind of nest is a woven one. This is a hollow ball with a hole
in the side. The weaving is not so neat as that of the baya and the
Indian wren-warbler. Moreover, several kinds of material are usually
worked into the nest, which is invariably lined.

The building of two totally different types of nest is an interesting
phenomenon, and seems to indicate that under the name _Prinia
socialis_ are classed two different species, which anatomically are so
like one another that systematists are unable to separate them. Both
kinds of nests are found in the same locality and at the same time of
the year. Against the theory that there are two species of ashy
wren-warbler is the fact that there is no difference in appearance
between the eggs found in the two kinds of nest. All eggs are
brick-red or mahogany colour, without any spots or markings.

Many of the Indian cliff-swallows, of which the nests are described in
the calendar for March, bring up a second brood in the "rains."

Needless to state that in the monsoon the tank and the _jhil_ are the
happy hunting grounds of the ornithologist.

In July and August not less than thirty species of waterfowl
nidificate. Floating nests are constructed by sarus cranes, purple
coots and the jacanas. The various species of egrets breed in colonies
in trees in some village not far from a tank; in company with them
spoonbills, cormorants, snake-birds, night-herons and other birds
often nest. The white-breasted waterhen constructs its nursery in a
thicket at the margin of some village pond. The resident ducks are
also busy with their nests. These are in branches of trees, in holes
in trees or old buildings, or on the ground.

When describing the nesting operations of waterfowl in Northern India
it is difficult to apportion these between July and August, for the
eggs of almost all such species are as likely to be found in the one
month as in the other. A few individuals begin to lay in June, the
majority commence in July, but a great many defer operations until
August. There is scarcely an aquatic species of which it can be said:
"It never lays before August." Nor are there many of which it can be
asserted: "Their eggs are never found after July."

Individuals differ in their habit. A retarded monsoon means that the
water-birds begin to nest later than usual. The first fall of the
monsoon rain seems to be the signal for the commencement of nesting
operations, but by no means every pair of birds obeys the signal
immediately.

The nearest approach to a generalisation which it is possible to make
is that the egrets and paddy-birds are usually the first of the
monsoon breeders to begin nest-building, while the spot-billed duck,
the whistling teal and the bronze-winged jacana are the last. In other
words, the eggs of the former are most likely to be found in July and
those of the latter in August.

As the calendar for this month has already attained considerable
dimensions, a description of the nests of all these water-birds is
given in the August calendar. It is, however, necessary to state that
the eggs of the following birds are likely to be found in July: purple
coot, common coot, bronze-winged and pheasant-tailed jacana, black
ibis, white-necked stork, cormorant, snake-bird, cotton teal, comb
duck, spot-billed duck, spoonbill, and the various herons and egrets.



AUGUST

  See! the flushed horizon flames intense
  With vivid red, in rich profusion streamed
  O'er heaven's pure arch. At once the clouds assume
  Their gayest liveries; these with silvery beams
  Fringed lovely; splendid those in liquid gold,
  And speak their sovereign's state. He comes, behold!
                                             MALLET.


The transformation scene described in July continues throughout
August. Torrential rain alternates with fierce sunshine. The earth is
verdant with all shades of green. Most conspicuous of these are the
yellowish verdure of the newly-transplanted rice, the vivid emerald of
the young plants that have taken root, the deeper hue of the growing
sugar-cane, and the dark green of the mango topes.

Unless the monsoon has been unusually late in reaching Northern India
the autumn crops are all sown before the first week in August. The
sugar-cane is now over five feet in height. The cultivators are busily
transplanting the better kinds of rice, or running the plough through
fields in which the coarser varieties are growing.

The aloes are in flower. Their white spikes of drooping tulip-like
flowers are almost the only inflorescences to be seen outside gardens
at this season of the year. The mango crop is over, but that of the
pineapples takes its place.

At night-time many of the trees are illumined by hundreds of
fireflies. These do not burn their lamps continuously. Each insect
lets its light shine for a few seconds and then suddenly puts it out.
It sometimes happens that all the fireflies in a tree show their
lights and extinguish them simultaneously and thereby produce a
luminous display which is strikingly beautiful. Fireflies are to be
seen during the greater part of the year, but they are far more
abundant in the "rains" than at any other season.

As in July so in August the voices of the birds are rarely heard after
dark. The nocturnal music is now the product of the batrachian band,
ably seconded by the crickets.

During a prolonged break in the rains the frogs and toads are hushed,
except in _jhils_ and low-lying paddy fields. Cessation of the rain,
however, does not silence the crickets.

The first streak of dawn is the signal for the striking up of the
jungle and the spotted owlets. Hard upon them follow the koels and the
brain-fever birds. These call only for a short time, remaining silent
during the greater part of the day. Other birds that lift up their
voices at early dawn are the crow-pheasant, the black partridge and
the peacock. These also call towards dusk. As soon as the sun has
risen the green barbets, coppersmiths, white-breasted kingfishers and
king-crows utter their familiar notes; even these birds are heard but
rarely in the middle of the day, nor have their voices the vigour that
characterised them in the hot weather. Occasionally the brown
rock-chat emits a few notes, but he does so in a half-hearted manner.
In the early days of August the magpie-robins sing at times; their
song, however, is no longer the brilliant performance it was. By the
end of the month it has completely died away.

The Indian cuckoo no more raises its voice in the plains, but the pied
crested-cuckoo continues to call lustily and the pied starlings make a
joyful noise. The oriole's liquid _pee-ho_ is gradually replaced by
the loud _tew_, which is its usual cry at times when it is not
nesting.

The water-birds, being busy at their nests, are of course noisy, but,
with the exception of the loud trumpeting of the sarus cranes, their
vocal efforts are heard only at the _jhil_.

The did-he-do-its, the rollers, the bee-eaters, two or three species
of warblers and the perennial singers complete the avian chorus.

Numbers of rosy starlings are returning from Asia Minor, where they
have reared up their broods. The inrush of these birds begins in July
and continues till October. They are the forerunners of the autumn
immigrants. Towards the end of the month the garganey or blue-winged
teal (_Querquedula circia_), which are the earliest of the migratory
ducks to visit India, appear on the tanks. Along with them comes the
advance-guard of the snipe. The pintail snipe (_Gallinago stenura_)
are invariably the first to appear, but they visit only the eastern
parts of Northern India. Large numbers of them sojourn in Bengal and
Assam. Stragglers appear in the eastern portion of the United
Provinces; in the western districts and in the Punjab this snipe is a
_rara avis_. By the third week in August good bags of pintail snipe
are sometimes obtained in Bengal. The fantail or full-snipe (_G.
coelestis_) is at least one week later in arriving. This species has
been shot as early as the 24th August, but there is no general
immigration of even the advance-guard until quite the end of the
month.

The jack-snipe (_G. gallinula_) seems never to appear before
September.

Most of the monsoon broods of the Indian cliff-swallow emerge from the
eggs in August. The "rains" breeding season of the amadavats or red
munias is now over, and the bird-catcher issues forth to snare them.

His stock-in-trade consists of some seed and two or three amadavats in
one of the pyramid-shaped wicker cages that can be purchased for a few
annas in any bazaar. To the base of one of the sides of the cage a
flap is attached by a hinge. The flap, which is of the same shape and
size as the side of the cage, is composed of a frame over which a
small-meshed string net is stretched. A long string is fastened to the
apex of the flap and passed through a loop at the top of the cage.
Selecting an open space near some tall grass in which amadavats are
feeding, the bird-catcher sets down the cage and loosens the string so
that the flap rests on the earth. Some seed is sprinkled on the flap.
Then the trapper squats behind a bush, holding the end of the string
in his hand. The cheerful little _lals_ inside the cage soon begin to
twitter and sing, and their calls attract the wild amadavats in the
vicinity. These come to the cage, alight on the flap, and begin to eat
the seed. The bird-catcher gives the string a sharp pull and thus
traps his victims between the flap and the side of the cage. He then
disentangles them, places them in the cage, and again sets the trap.

Almost all the birds that rear up their young in the spring have
finished nesting duties for the year by August. Here and there a pair
of belated rollers may be seen feeding their young. Before the
beginning of the month nearly all the young crows and koels have
emerged from the egg, and the great majority of them have left the
nest. Young house-crows are distinguished from adults by the
indistinctness of the grey on the neck. They continually open their
great red mouths to clamour for food.

The wire-tailed swallows, swifts, pied crested-cuckoos,
crow-pheasants, butcher-birds, cuckoo-shrikes, fantail flycatchers,
babblers, white-necked storks, wren-warblers, weaver-birds, common and
pied mynas, peafowl, and almost all the resident water-birds, waders
and swimmers, except the terns and the plovers, are likely to have
eggs or young. The nesting season of the swifts and butcher-birds is
nearly over. In the case of the others it is at its height. The
wire-tailed swallows and minivets are busy with their second broods.
The nests of most of these birds have already been described.

The Indian peafowl (_Pavo cristatus_) usually lay their large white
eggs on the ground in long grass or thick undergrowth. Sometimes they
nestle on the grass-grown roofs of deserted buildings or in other
elevated situations. Egrets, night-herons, cormorants, darters,
paddy-birds, openbills, and spoonbills build stick nests in trees.
These birds often breed in large colonies. In most cases the site
chosen is a clump of trees in a village which is situated on the
border of a tank. Sometimes all these species nest in company. Hume
described a village in Mainpuri where scores of the above-mentioned
birds, together with some whistling teal and comb-ducks, nested
simultaneously. After a site has been selected by a colony the birds
return year after year to the place for nesting purposes. The majority
of the eggs are laid in July, the young appearing towards the end of
that month or early in the present one.

The nest of the sarus crane (_Grus antigone_) is nearly always an
islet some four feet in diameter, which either floats in shallow water
or rises from the ground and projects about a foot above the level of
the water. The nest is composed of dried rushes. It may be placed in a
_jhil_, a paddy field, or a borrow pit by the railway line. A
favourite place is the midst of paddy cultivation in some low-lying
field where the water is too deep to admit of the growing of rice. Two
very large white eggs, rarely three, are laid. This species makes no
attempt to conceal its nest. In the course of a railway journey in
August numbers of incubating saruses may be seen by any person who
takes the trouble to look for them.

"Raoul" makes the extraordinary statement that incubating sarus cranes
do not sit when incubating, but hatch the eggs by standing over them,
one leg on each side of the nest! Needless to say there is no truth
whatever in this statement. The legs of the sitting sarus crane are
folded under it, as are those of incubating flamingos and other
long-legged birds.

Throughout the month of August two of the most interesting birds in
India are busy with their nests. They are the pheasant-tailed and the
bronze-winged jacana. These birds live, move and have their being on
the surface of lotus-covered tanks. Owing to the great length of their
toes jacanas are able to run about with ease over the surface of the
floating leaves of water-lilies and other aquatic plants, or over
tangled masses of rushes and water-weeds.

In the monsoon many tanks are so completely covered with vegetation
that almost the only water visible to a person standing on the bank
consists of the numerous drops that have been thrown on to the flat
surfaces of the leaves, where they glisten in the sun like pearls.

Two species of jacana occur in India: the bronze-winged (_Motopus
indicus_) and the pheasant-tailed jacana or the water-pheasant
(_Hydrophasianus chirurgus_). They are to be found on most tanks in
the well-watered parts of the United Provinces. They occur in small
flocks and are often put up by sportsmen when shooting duck. They emit
weird mewing cries. The bronze-winged jacana is a black bird with
bronze wings. It is about the size of a pigeon, but has much longer
legs. The pheasant-tailed species is a black-and-white bird. In winter
the tail is short, but in May both sexes grow long pheasant-like
caudal feathers which give the bird its popular name. The
bronze-winged jacana does not grow these long tail feathers.

The nests of jacanas are truly wonderful structures. They are just
floating pads of rushes and leaves of aquatic plants. Sometimes
practically the whole of the pad is under water, so that the eggs
appear to be resting on the surface of the tank. The nest of the
bronze-winged species is usually larger and more massive than that of
the water-pheasant. The latter's nest is sometimes so small as hardly
to be able to contain the eggs--a little, shallow, circular cup of
rushes and water-weeds or floating lotus leaves or tufts of
water-grass. The eggs of the two species show but little similarity.
Both, however, are very beautiful and remarkable. The eggs of the
bronze-winged jacana have a rich brownish-bronze background, on which
black lines are scribbled in inextricable confusion, so that the egg
looks as though Arabic texts had been scrawled over it. This species
might well be called "the Arabic writing-master." The eggs of the
water-pheasant are in shape like pegtops without the peg. They are of
a dark rich green-bronze colour, and devoid of any markings.

The nest of the handsome, but noisy, purple coot (_Porphyrio
poliocephalus_) is a platform of rushes and reeds which is sometimes
placed on the ground in a rice field, but is more often floating, and
is then tethered to a tree or some other object. From six to ten eggs
are laid. These are very beautiful objects. The ground colour is
delicate pink. This is spotted and blotched with crimson; beneath
these spots there are clouds of pale purple which have the appearance
of lying beneath the surface of the shell.

The white-breasted water-hen (_Gallinula phoenicura_) is a bird that
must be familiar to all. One pair, at least, is to be found in every
village which boasts of a tank and a bamboo clump, no matter how small
these be. The water-hen is a black bird about the size of the average
bazaar fowl, with a white face, throat and breast. It carries its
short tail almost erect, and under this is a patch of brick-red
feathers. During most seasons of the year it is a silent bird, but
from mid-May until the end of the monsoon it is exceedingly noisy,
and, were it in the habit of haunting our gardens and compounds, its
cries would attract as much attention as do those of the koel and the
brain-fever bird. As, however, water-hens are confined to tiny hamlets
situated far away from cities, many people are not acquainted with
their calls, which "Eha" describes as "roars, hiccups and cackles."
The nest is built in a bamboo clump or other dense thicket. The eggs
are stone-coloured, with spots of brown, red and purple. The young
birds, when first hatched, are covered with black down, and look like
little black ducklings. They can run, swim and dive as soon as they
leave the egg. Little parties of them are to be seen at the edge of
most village tanks in August.

The resident ducks are all busy with their nests. The majority of them
lay their eggs in July, so that in August they are occupied with their
young.

The cotton-teal (_Nettopus coromandelianus_) usually lays its eggs in
a hole in a mango or other tree. The hollow is sometimes lined with
feathers and twigs. It is not very high up as a rule, from six to
twelve feet above the ground being the usual level. The tree selected
for the nesting site is not necessarily close to water. Thirteen or
fourteen eggs seem to be the usual clutch, but as many as twenty-two
have been taken from one nest. Young teal, when they emerge from the
egg, can swim and walk, but they are unable to fly. No European seems
to have actually observed the process whereby they get from the nest
to the ground or the water. It is generally believed that the parent
birds carry them. Mr. Stuart Baker writes that a very intelligent
native once told him that, early one morning, before it was light, he
was fishing in a tank, when he saw a bird flutter heavily into the
water from a tree in front of him and some twenty paces distant. The
bird returned to the tree, and again, with much beating of the wings,
fluttered down to the surface of the tank; this performance was
repeated again and again at intervals of some minutes. At first the
native could only make out that the cause of the commotion was a bird
of some kind, but after a few minutes, he, remaining crouched among
the reeds and bushes, saw distinctly that it was a cotton-teal, and
that each time it flopped into the water and rose again it left a
gosling behind it. The young ones were carried somehow in the feet,
but the parent bird seemed to find the carriage of its offspring no
easy matter; it flew with difficulty, and fell into the water with
considerable force.

August is the month in which some fortunate observer will one year be
able to confirm or refute this story.

The comb-duck or _nukta_ (_Sarcidiornis melanotus_), which looks more
like a freak of some domesticated breed than one of nature's own
creatures, makes, in July or August, a nest of grass and sticks in a
hole in a tree or in the fork of a stout branch. Sometimes disused
nests of other species are utilised. About a dozen eggs is the usual
number of the clutch, but Anderson once found a nest containing no
fewer than forty eggs.

The lesser whistling-teal (_Dendrocygna javanica_) usually builds its
nest in a hollow in a tree. Sometimes it makes use of the deserted
nursery of another species, and there are many cases on record of the
nest being on the ground, a _bund_, or a piece of high ground in a
_jhil_. Eight or ten eggs are laid.

The little grebe or dabchick (_Podiceps albipennis_) is another
species that lays in July or August. This bird, which looks like a
miniature greyish-brown duck without a tail, must be familiar to
Anglo-Indians, since at least one pair are to be seen on almost every
pond or tank in Northern India. Although permanent residents in this
country, little grebes leave, in the "rains," those tanks that do not
afford plenty of cover, and betake themselves to a _jhil_ where
vegetation is luxuriant. The nest, like that of other species that
build floating cradles, is a tangle of weeds and rushes. When the
incubating bird leaves the nest she invariably covers the white eggs
with wet weeds, and, as Hume remarks, it is almost impossible to catch
the old bird on the nest or to take her so much by surprise as not to
allow her time to cover up the eggs. As a matter of fact, these birds
spend very little time upon the nest in the day-time. The sun's rays
are powerful enough not only to supply the heat necessary for
incubation but to bake the eggs. This _contretemps_, however, is
avoided by placing wet weeds on the eggs and by the general moisture
of the nest. No better idea of the heat of India during the monsoon
can be furnished than that afforded by the case of some cattle-egrets'
eggs taken by a friend of the writer's in August, 1913. He found a
clutch of four eggs; not having leisure at the time to blow them, he
placed them in a bowl on the drawing-room mantelshelf. On the evening
of the following day he heard some squeaks, but, thinking that these
sounds emanated from a musk-rat or one of the other numerous rent-free
tenants of every Indian bungalow, paid little heed to them. When,
however, the same sounds were heard some hours later and appeared to
emanate from the mantelpiece, he went to the bowl, and, lo and behold,
two young egrets had emerged! These were at once fed. They lived for
three days and appeared to be in good health, when they suddenly gave
up the ghost.



SEPTEMBER

  And sweet it is by lonely meres
  To sit, with heart and soul awake,
  Where water-lilies lie afloat,
  Each anchored like a fairy boat
  Amid some fabled elfin lake:
  To see the birds flit to and fro
  Along the dark-green reedy edge.
                            MARY HOWITT.


September is a much-abused month. Many people assert that it is the
most unpleasant and unhealthy season of the year.

Malarial and muggy though it is, September scarcely merits all the
evil epithets that are applied to it. The truth is that, after the
torrid days of the hot weather and the humid heat of the rainy season,
the European is thoroughly weary of his tropical surroundings, his
vitality is at a low ebb, he is languid and irritable, thus he
complains bitterly of the climate of September, notwithstanding the
fact that it is a distinct improvement on that of the two preceding
months.

In the early part of the month the weather differs little from that of
July and August. The days are somewhat shorter and the sun's rays
somewhat less powerful, in consequence the average temperature is
slightly lower. Normally the rains cease in the second half of the
month. Then the sky resumes the fleckless blueness which characterises
it during the greater part of the year. The blue of the sky is more
pure and more intense in September than at other times, except during
breaks in the monsoon, because the rain has washed from the atmosphere
the myriads of specks of dust that are usually suspended in it.

The cessation of the rains is followed by a period of steamy heat. As
the moisture of the air gradually diminishes the temperature rises.
But each September day is shorter than the one before it, and, hour by
hour, the rays of the sun part with some of their power. Towards the
end of the month the nights are cooler than they have been for some
time. At sunset the village smoke begins to hang low in a diaphanous
cloud--a sure sign of the approaching cold weather. The night dews are
heavy. In the morning the blades of grass and the webs of the spiders
are bespangled with pearly dewdrops. Cool zephyrs greet the rising
sun. At dawn there is, in the last days of the month, a touch of cold
in the air.

The Indian countryside displays a greenness which is almost
spring-like; not quite spring-like, because the fierce greens induced
by the monsoon rains are not of the same hues as those of the young
leaves of spring. The foliage is almost entirely free from dust. This
fact adds to the vernal appearance of the landscape. The _jhils_ and
tanks are filled with water, and, being overgrown with luxuriant
vegetation, enhance the beauty of the scene. But, almost immediately
after the cessation of the rains, the country begins to assume its
usual look. Day by day the grass loses a little of its greenness. The
earth dries up gradually, and its surface once more becomes dusty. The
dust is carried to the foliage, on which it settles, subduing the
natural greenery of the leaves. No sooner do the rains cease than the
rivers begin to fall. By November most of them will be sandy wastes in
which the insignificant stream is almost lost to view.

The mimosas flower in September. Their yellow spherical blossoms are
rendered pale by contrast with the deep gold hue of the blooms of the
_san_ (hemp) which now form a conspicuous feature of the landscape in
many districts. The cork trees (_Millingtonia hortensis_) become
bespangled with hanging clusters of white, long-tubed, star-like
flowers that give out fragrant perfume at night.

The first-fruits of the autumn harvest are being gathered in. Acre
upon acre of the early-sown rice falls before the sickle. The
threshing-floors once again become the scene of animation. The fallow
fields are being prepared for the spring crops and the sowing of the
grain is beginning.

Throughout the month insect life is as rich and varied as it was in
July and August.

The brain-fever bird and the koel call so seldom in September that
their cries, when heard, cause surprise. The voice of the pied
crested-cuckoo no longer falls upon the ear, nor does the song of the
magpie-robin. The green barbets lift up their voices fairly
frequently, but it is only on rare occasions that their cousins--the
coppersmiths--hammer on their anvils. The pied mynas are far less
vociferous than they were in July and August.

By the end of September the bird chorus has assumed its winter form,
except that the grey-headed flycatchers have not joined it in numbers.

Apart from the sharp notes of the warblers, the cooing of the doves,
the hooting of the crow-pheasants, the wailing of the kites, the
cawing of the crows, the screaming of the green parrots, the
chattering of the mynas and the seven sisters, the trumpeting of the
sarus cranes and the clamouring of the lapwings, almost the only bird
voices commonly heard are those of the fantail flycatcher, the
amadavat, the wagtail, the oriole, the roller and the sunbird.

The cock sunbirds are singing brilliantly although they are still
wearing their workaday garments, which are quaker brown save for one
purple streak along the median line of the breast and abdomen.

Many birds are beginning to moult. They are casting off worn feathers
and assuming the new ones that will keep them warm during the cool
winter months. With most birds the new feathers grow as fast as the
old ones fall out. In a few, however, the process of renewal does not
keep pace with that of shedding; the result is that the moulting bird
presents a mangy appearance. The mynas afford conspicuous examples of
this; when moulting their necks often become almost nude, so that the
birds bear some resemblance to miniature vultures.

Great changes in the avifauna take place in September.

The yellow-throated sparrows, the koels, the sunbirds, the bee-eaters,
the red turtle-doves and the majority of the king-crows leave the
Punjab. From the United Provinces there is a large exodus of
brain-fever birds, koels, pied crested-cuckoos, paradise flycatchers
and Indian orioles. These last are replaced by black-headed orioles in
the United Provinces, but not in the Punjab.

On the other hand, the great autumnal immigration takes place
throughout the month. Before September is half over the migratory
wagtails begin to appear. Like most birds they travel by night when
migrating. They arrive in silence, but on the morning of their coming
the observer cannot fail to notice their cheerful little notes, which,
like the hanging of the village smoke, are to be numbered among the
signs of the approach of winter. The three species that visit India in
the largest numbers are the white (_Motacilla alba_), the masked (_M.
personata_) and the grey wagtail (_M. melanope_). In Bengal the first
two are largely replaced by the white-faced wagtail (_M. leucopsis_).
The names "white" and "grey" are not very happy ones. The white
species is a grey bird with a white face and some black on the head
and breast; the masked wagtail is very difficult to distinguish from
the white species, differing in having less white and more black on
the head and face, the white constituting the "mask"; the grey wagtail
has the upper plumage greenish-grey and the lower parts
sulphur-yellow. The three species arrive almost simultaneously, but
the experience of the writer is that the grey bird usually comes a day
or two before his cousins.

On one of the last ten days of September the first batch of Indian
redstarts (_Ruticilla frontalis_) reaches India. Within twenty days of
the coming of these welcome little birds it is possible to dispense
with punkas.

Like the redstarts the rose-finches and minivets begin to pour into
India towards the end of September. The snipe arrive daily throughout
the month.

With the first full moon of September come the grey quail (_Coturnix
communis_). These, like the rain-quail, afford good sport with the gun
if attracted by call birds set down overnight. When the stream of
immigrating quail has ceased to flow, these birds spread themselves
over the well-cropped country. It then becomes difficult to obtain a
good bag of quail until the time of the spring harvest, when they
collect in the crops that are still standing.

Thousands of blue-winged teal invade India in September, but most of
the other species of non-resident duck do not arrive until October or
even November.

Not the least important of the September arrivals are the migratory
birds of prey. None of the owls seem to migrate. Nor do the vultures,
but a large proportion of the diurnal raptores leaves the plains of
India in the spring.

To every migratory species of raptorial bird, that captures living
quarry, there is a non-migratory counterpart or near relative. It
would almost seem as if each species were broken up into two clans--a
migratory and a stationary one. Thus, of each of the following pairs
of birds the first-named is migratory and the other non-migratory: the
steppe-eagle and the tawny eagle, the large Indian and the common
kite, the long-legged and the white-eyed buzzard, the sparrow-hawk and
the shikra, the peregrine and the lugger falcon, the common and the
red-headed merlin, the kestrel and the black-winged kite.

It is tempting to formulate the theory that the raptores are migratory
or the reverse according or not as they prey on birds of passage, and
that the former migrate merely in order to follow their quarry.
Certain facts seem to bear out this theory. The peregrine falcon,
which feeds largely on ducks, is migratory, while the lugger falcon--a
bird not particularly addicted to waterfowl--remains in India
throughout the year.

The necessity of following their favourite quarry may account for the
migratory habits of some birds of prey, but it does not apply to all.
Thus, the osprey, which feeds almost exclusively on fish, is merely a
winter visitor to India. Again, there is the kestrel. This preys on
non-migratory rats and mice, nevertheless it leaves the plains in the
hot weather and goes to the Himalayas to breed. All the species of
birds of prey cited above as migratory begin to arrive in the plains
of India in September. The merlins come only into the Punjab, but most
of the other raptores spread over the whole of India.

The various species of harrier make their appearance in September.
These are birds that cannot fail to attract attention. They usually
fly slowly a few feet above the surface of the earth so that they can
drop suddenly on their quarry. They squat on the ground when resting,
but their wings are long and their bodies light, so that they do not
need much rest. Those who shoot duck have occasion often to say hard
things of the marsh-harrier and the peregrine falcon, because these
birds are apt to come as unbidden guests to the shoot and carry off
wounded duck and teal before the _shikari_ has time to retrieve them.

Of the migratory birds of prey the kestrel is perhaps the first to
arrive; the osprey and the peregrine falcon are among the last.

Very few observations of the comings and the goings of the various
raptorial birds have been recorded; in the present state of our
knowledge it is not possible to compile an accurate table showing the
usual order in which the various species appear. This is a subject to
which those persons who dwell permanently in one place might with
advantage direct their attention.

As regards nesting operations September is not a month of activity.

On the 15th the close season for game birds ends in the Government
forests; and by that date the great majority of them have reared up
their broods. Grey partridge's eggs, it is true, have been taken in
September; but as we have seen, grey partridges, like doves and kites,
can scarcely be said to have a breeding season; they lay eggs whenever
it seemeth good to them.

A few belated peafowl may still be found with eggs, but these are
exceptions. Most of the hens are strutting about proudly, accompanied
by their chicks, while the cocks are shedding their trains. Other
species of which the eggs may be found in the present month are the
white-throated munia, the common and the large grey babblers, and, of
course, the various species of dove.

Before the last day of August all the young mynas have emerged from
the egg, and throughout the first half of September numbers of them
are to be seen following their parents and clamouring for food. Most
of the koels have departed, but some individuals belonging to the
rising generation remind us that they are still with us by emitting
sounds which are very fair imitations of the "sqwaking" of young
crows.

Baby koels are as importunate as professional beggars and solicit food
of every crow that passes by, to the great disgust of all but their
foster-parents.

The majority of the seven sisters have done with nursery duties for a
season. Some flocks, however, are still accompanied by impedimenta in
the shape of young babblers or pied crested-cuckoos. The impedimenta
make far more noise than the adult birds. They are always hungry, or
at any rate always demanding food in squeaky tones. With each squeak
the wings are flapped violently, as if to emphasise the demand. Every
member of a flock appears to help to feed the young birds irrespective
of whose nests these have been reared in.

Throughout September bayas are to be seen at their nests, but, before
the month draws to its close, nearly all the broods have come out into
the great world. The nests will remain until next monsoon, or even
longer, as monuments of sound workmanship.

In September numbers of curious brown birds, heavily barred with
black, make their appearance. These are crow-pheasants that have
emerged from nests hidden away in dense thickets. In a few weeks these
birds will lose their barred feathers and assume the black plumage and
red wings of the adult. By the end of August most of the night-herons
and those of the various species of egrets that have not been killed
by the plume-hunters are able to congratulate themselves on having
successfully reared up their broods. In September they lose their
nuptial plumes.



OCTOBER

  Ye strangers, banished from your native glades,
  Where tyrant frost with famine leag'd proclaims
  "Who lingers dies"; with many a risk ye win
  The privilege to breathe our softer air
  And glean our sylvan berries.
                           GISBORNE'S _Walks in a Forest_.


October in India differs from the English month in almost every
respect. The one point of resemblance is that both are periods of
falling temperature.

In England autumn is the season for the departure of the migratory
birds; in India it is the time of their arrival.

The chief feature of the English October--the falling of the
leaves--is altogether wanting in the Indian autumn.

Spring is the season in which the pulse of life beats most vigorously
both in Europe and in Asia; it is therefore at that time of year that
the trees renew their garments.

In England leaves are short-lived. After an existence of about six
months they "curl up, become brown, and flutter from their sprays." In
India they enjoy longer lives, and retain their greenness for the
greater part of a year. A few Indian trees, as, for example, the
shesham, lose their foliage in autumn; the silk-cotton and the coral
trees part with their leaves gradually during the early months of the
winter, but these are the exceptions; nearly all the trees retain
their old leaves until the new ones appear in spring, so that, in this
country, March, April and May are the months in which the dead leaves
lie thick upon the ground.

In many ways the autumn season in Northern India resembles the English
spring. The Indian October may be likened to April in England. Both
are months of hope, heralds of the most pleasant period of the year.
In both the countryside is fresh and green. In both millions of avian
visitors arrive.

Like the English April, October in Northern India is welcome chiefly
for that to which it leads. But it has merits of its own. Is not each
of its days cooler than the preceding one? Does it not produce the
joyous morn on which human beings awake to find that the hot weather
is a thing of the past?

Throughout October the sun's rays are hot, but, for an hour or two
after dawn, especially in the latter half of the month, the climate
leaves little to be desired. An outing in the early morning is a thing
of joy, if it be taken while yet the air retains the freshness
imparted to it by the night, and before the grass has yielded up the
sparkling jewels acquired during the hours of darkness. It is good to
ride forth on an October morn with the object of renewing acquaintance
with nimble wagtails, sprightly redstarts, stately demoiselle cranes
and other newly-returned migrants. In addition to meeting many winter
visitors, the rider may, if he be fortunate, come upon a colony of
sand-martins that has begun nesting operations.

The husbandman enjoys very little leisure at this season of the year.
From dawn till sunset he ploughs, or sows, or reaps, or threshes, or
winnows.

The early-sown rice yields the first-fruits of the _kharif_ harvest.
By the end of the month it has disappeared before the sickle and many
of the fields occupied by it have been sown with gram. The hemp
(_san_) is the next crop to mature. In some parts of Northern India
its vivid yellow flowers are the most conspicuous feature of the
autumn landscape. They are as brilliantly coloured as broom. The _san_
plant is not allowed to display its gilded blooms for long, it is cut
down in the prime of life and cast into a village pond, there to soak.
The harvesting of the various millets, the picking of the cotton, and
the sowing of the wheat, barley, gram and poppy begin before the close
of the month. The sugar-cane, the _arhar_ and the late-sown rice are
not yet ready for the sickle. Those crops will be cut in November and
December.

As in September so in October the birds are less vociferous than they
were in the spring and the hot weather. During the earlier part of the
month the notes of the koel and the brain-fever bird are heard on rare
occasions; before October has given place to November, these noisy
birds cease to trouble. The pied starlings have become comparatively
subdued, their joyful melody is no longer a notable feature of the
avian chorus. In the first half of the month the green barbets utter
their familiar cries at frequent intervals; as the weather grows
colder they call less often, but at no season of the year do they
cease altogether to raise their voices. The _tonk_, _tonk_, _tonk_ of
the coppersmith is rarely heard in October; during the greater part of
the cold weather this barbet is a silent creature, reminding us of its
presence now and then by calling out _wow_ softly, as if half ashamed
at the sound of its voice. The oriole now utters its winter note
_tew_, and that sound is heard only occasionally.

It is unnecessary to state that the perennials--the crows, kites,
doves, bee-eaters, tree-pies, tailor-birds, cuckoo-shrikes, green
parrots, jungle and spotted owlets--are noisy throughout the month.

The king-crows no longer utter the soft notes which they seem to keep
for the rainy season; but, before settling down to the sober delights
of the winter, some individuals become almost as lively and vociferous
as they were in the nesting season. Likewise some pairs of "blue jays"
behave, in September and October, as though they were about to
recommence courtship; they perform strange evolutions in the air and
emit harsh cries, but these lead to nothing; after a few days of noisy
behaviour the birds resume their more normal habits.

The hoopoes have been silent for some time, but in October a few of
them take up their refrain--_uk-uk-uk-uk_, and utter it with almost as
much vigour as they did in March.

It would thus seem that the change of season, the approach of winter,
has a stimulating influence on king-crows, rollers and hoopoes,
causing the energy latent within them suddenly to become active and to
manifest itself in the form of song or dance.

In October the pied chat and the wood-shrike frequently make sweet
melody. Throughout the month the cock sunbirds sing as lustily and
almost as brilliantly as canaries; many of them are beginning to
reassume the iridescent purple plumage which they doffed some time
ago. From every mango tope emanates the cheerful lay of the fantail
flycatcher and the lively "Think of me ... Never to be" of the
grey-headed flycatcher. Amadavats sing sweet little songs without
words as they flit about among the tall grasses.

In the early morning and at eventide, the crow-pheasants give vent to
their owl-like hoot, preceded by a curious guttural _kok-kok-kok_. The
young ones, that left the nest some weeks ago, are rapidly losing
their barred plumage and are assuming the appearance of the adult. By
the middle of November very few immature crow-pheasants are seen.

Migration and moulting are the chief events in the feathered world at
the present season. The flood of autumn immigration, which arose as a
tiny stream in August, and increased in volume nightly throughout
September, becomes, in October, a mighty river on the bosom of which
millions of birds are borne.

Day by day the avian population of the _jhils_ increases. At the
beginning of the month the garganey teal are almost the only migratory
ducks to be seen on them. By the first of November brahminy duck,
gadwall, common teal, widgeon, shovellers and the various species of
pochard abound. With the duck come demoiselle cranes, curlews, storks,
and sandpipers of various species. The geese and the pintail ducks,
however, do not return to India until November. These are the last of
the regular winter visitors to come and the first to go.

The various kinds of birds of prey which began to appear in September
continue to arrive throughout the present month.

Grey-headed and red-breasted flycatchers, minivets, bush-chats,
rose-finches and swallows pour into the plains from the Himalayas,
while from beyond those mountains come redstarts, wagtails, starlings,
buntings, blue-throats, quail and snipe. Along with the other migrants
come numbers of rooks and jackdaws. These do not venture far into
India; they confine themselves to the North-West Frontier Province and
the Punjab, where they remain during the greater part of the winter.
The exodus, from the above-mentioned Provinces, of the bee-eaters,
sunbirds, yellow-throated sparrows, orioles, red turtle-doves and
paradise flycatchers is complete by the end of October. The above are
by no means the only birds that undergo local migration. The great
majority of species probably move about in a methodical manner in the
course of the year; a great deal of local migration is overlooked,
because the birds that move away from a locality are replaced by
others of their kind that come from other places.

During a spell of exceptionally cold weather a great many Himalayan
birds are driven by the snow into the plains of India, where they
remain for a few days or weeks. Some of these migrants are noticed in
the calendar for December.

In October the annual moult of the birds is completed, so that,
clothed in their warm new feathers, they are ready for winter some
time before it comes. In the case of the redstart, the bush-chat, most
of the wagtails, and some other species, the moult completely changes
the colouring of the bird. The reason of this is that the edges of the
new feathers are not of the same colour as the inner parts. Only the
margins show, because the feathers of a bird overlap like slates on a
roof, or the scales of a fish. After a time the edges of the new
feathers become worn away, and then the differently-hued deeper parts
begin to show, so that the bird gradually resumes the appearance it
had before the moult. When the redstarts reach India in September most
of the cocks are grey birds, because of the grey margins to their
feathers; by the middle of April, when they begin to depart, many of
them are black, the grey margins of the feathers having completely
disappeared; other individuals are still grey because the margins of
the feathers are broader or have not worn so much.

October is the month in which the falconer sallies forth to secure the
hawks which will be employed in "the sport of kings" during the cold
weather. There are several methods of catching birds of prey, as
indeed there are of capturing almost every bird and beast. The amount
of poaching that goes on in this country is appalling, and, unless
determined efforts are made to check it, there is every prospect of
the splendid fauna of India being ruined. The sportsman is bound by
all manner of restrictions, but the poacher is allowed to work his
wicked will on the birds and beasts of the country, almost without let
or hindrance.

The apparatus usually employed for the capture of the peregrine, the
shahin and other falcons is a well-limed piece of cane, about the
length of the expanse of a falcon's wings. To the middle of this a
dove, of which the eyelids have been sewn up, is tied. When a wild
falcon appears on the scene the bird-catcher throws into the air the
cane with the luckless dove attached to it. The dove flies about
aimlessly, being unable to see, and is promptly pounced upon by the
falcon, whose wings strike the limed cane and become stuck to it; then
falcon and dove fall together to the ground, where they are secured by
the bird-catcher.

Another method largely resorted to is to tether a myna, or other small
bird, to a peg driven into the ground, and to stretch before this a
net, about three feet broad and six long, kept upright by means of two
sticks inserted in the ground. Sooner or later a bird of prey will
catch sight of the tethered bird, stoop to it, and become entangled in
the net.

A third device is to catch a buzzard and tie together some of the
flight feathers of the wing, so that it can fly only with difficulty
and cannot go far before it falls exhausted to the ground. To the feet
of the bird of which the powers of flight have been thus curtailed a
bundle of feathers is tied. Among the feathers several horsehair
nooses are set. When a bird of prey, of the kind on which the falconer
has designs, is seen the buzzard is thrown into the air. It flaps
along heavily, and is immediately observed by the falcon, which thinks
that the buzzard is carrying some heavy quarry in its talons. Now, the
buzzard is a weakling among the raptores and all the other birds of
prey despise it. Accordingly, the falcon, unmindful of the proverb
which says that honesty is the best policy, swoops down on the buzzard
with intent to commit larceny, and becomes entangled in the nooses.
Then both buzzard and falcon fall to the ground, struggling violently.
All that the bird-catcher has to do now is to walk up and secure his
prize.

October marks the beginning of a lull in the nesting activities of
birds, a lull that lasts until February. As we have seen, the nesting
season of the birds that breed in the rains ends in September,
nevertheless a few belated crow-pheasants, sarus cranes and
weaver-birds are often to be found in October still busy with
nestlings, or even with eggs; the latter usually prove to be addled,
and this explains the late sitting of the parent. October, however, is
the month in which the nesting season of the black-necked storks
(_Xenorhynchus asiaticus_) begins, if the monsoon has been a normal
one and the rains have continued until after the middle of September.
This bird begins to nest shortly after the monsoon rains have ceased.
Hard-set eggs have been taken in the beginning of September and as
late as 27th December. Most eggs are laid during the month of October.
The nest is a large saucer-shaped platform of twigs and sticks. Hume
once found one "fully six feet long and three broad." The nest is
usually lined with grass or some soft material and is built high up in
a tree. The normal number of eggs is four, these are of a dirty white
hue.



NOVEMBER

  It is the very carnival of nature,
  The loveliest season that the year can show!

       *       *       *       *       *

  The gently sighing breezes, as they blow,
  Have more than vernal softness....
                                BERNARD BARTON.


The climate of Northern India is one of extremes. Six months ago
European residents were seeking in vain suitable epithets of
disapprobation to apply to the weather; to-day they are trying to
discover appropriate words to describe the charm of November. It is
indeed strange that no poet has yet sung the praises of the perfect
climate of the present month.

The cold weather of Northern India is not like any of the English
seasons. Expressed in terms of the British climate it is a dry summer,
warmest at the beginning and the end, in which the birds have
forgotten to nest.

The delights of the Indian winter are enhanced for the Englishman by
the knowledge that, while he lives beneath a cloudless sky and enjoys
genial sunshine, his fellow-men in England dwell under leaden clouds
and endure days of fog, and mist, and rain, and sleet, and snow. In
England the fields are bare and the trees devoid of leaves; in India
the countryside wears a summer aspect.

The sowings of the spring cereals are complete by the fifteenth of
November; those of the tobacco, poppy and potato continue throughout
the month. By the beginning of December most of the fields are covered
by an emerald carpet.

The picking of the cotton begins in the latter part of October, with
the result that November is a month of hard toil for the ponies that
have to carry the heavy loads of cotton from the fields into the
larger towns. By the middle of the month all the _san_ has been cut
and the water-nuts have been gathered in. Then the pressing of the
sugar-cane begins in earnest. The little presses that for eight months
have been idle are once again brought into use, and, from mid-November
until the end of January, the patient village oxen work them, tramping
in circles almost without interruption throughout the short hours of
daylight.

The custard-apples are ripening; the cork trees are white with pendent
jasmine-like flowers, and the loquat trees--the happy hunting ground
of flocks of blithe little white-eyes--put forth their inconspicuous
but strongly scented blossoms. Gay chrysanthemums are the most
conspicuous feature of the garden. The shesham and the silk-cotton
trees are fast losing their leaves, but all the other trees are
covered with foliage.

The birds revel, like man, in the perfect conditions afforded by the
Indian winter; indeed, the fowls of the air are affected by climate to
a greater extent than man is.

Those that winter in England suffer considerable hardship and
privation, while those that spend the cold weather in India enjoy life
to the uttermost.

Consider the birds, how they fare on a winter's day in England when
there is a foot of snow lying on the ground and the keen east wind
whistles through the branches of the trees. In the lee of brick walls,
hayricks and thick hedges groups of disconsolate birds stand, seeking
some shelter from the piercing wind. The hawthorn berries have all
been eaten. Insect food there is none; it is only in the summer time
that the comfortable hum of insects is heard in England. Thus the
ordinary food supply of the fowls of the air is greatly restricted,
and scores of field-fares and other birds die of starvation. The
snow-covered lawn in front of every house, of which the inmates are in
the habit of feeding the birds, is the resort of many feathered
things. Along with the robins and sparrows--habitual recipients of the
alms of man--are blackbirds, thrushes, tits, starlings, chaffinches,
rooks, jackdaws and others, which in fair weather avoid, or scorn to
notice, man. These have become tamed by the cold, and, they stand on
the snow, cold, forlorn and half-starved--a miserable company of
supplicants for food. Throughout the short cold winter days scarcely a
bird note is heard; the fowls of the air are in no mood for song.

Contrast the behaviour of the birds on a winter's day in India. In
every garden scores of them lead a joyful existence. Little flocks of
minivets display their painted wings as they flit hither and thither,
hunting insects on the leaves of trees. Amid the foliage warblers,
wood-shrikes, bulbuls, tree-pies, orioles and white-eyes busily seek
for food. Pied and golden-backed woodpeckers, companies of nuthatches,
and, here and there, a wryneck move about on the trunks and branches,
looking into every cranny for insects. King-crows, bee-eaters, fantail
and grey-headed flycatchers seek their quarry on the wing, making
frequent sallies into the open from their leafy bowers. Butcher-birds,
rollers and white-breasted kingfishers secure their victims on the
ground, dropping on to them silently from their watchtowers.
Magpie-robins, Indian robins, redstarts and tailor-birds likewise
capture their prey on the ground, but, instead of waiting patiently
for it to come to them, they hop about fussily in quest of it. Bright
sunbirds flit from bloom to bloom, now hovering in the air on
rapidly-vibrating wings, now dipping their slender curved bills into
the calyces.

On the lawn wagtails run nimbly in search of tiny insects, hoopoes
probe the earth for grubs, mynas strut about, in company with
king-crows and starlings, seeking for grasshoppers.

Overhead, swifts and swallows dash joyously to and fro, feasting on
the minute flying things that are found in the air even on the coolest
days. Above them, kites wheel and utter plaintive cries. Higher still,
vultures soar in grim silence. Flocks of emerald paroquets fly
past--as swift as arrows shot from bows--seeking grain or fruit.

In the shady parts of the garden crow-pheasants look for snakes and
other crawling things, seven sisters rummage among the fallen leaves
for insects, and rose-finches pick from off the ground the tiny seeds
on which they feed.

The fields and open plains swarm with larks, pipits, finch-larks,
lapwings, plovers, quail, buntings, mynas, crows, harriers, buzzards,
kestrels, and a score of other birds.

But it is at the _jhils_ that bird life seems most abundant. On some
tanks as many as sixty different kinds of winged things may be
counted. There are the birds that swim in the deep water--the ducks,
teal, dabchicks, cormorants and snake-birds; the birds that run about
on the floating leaves of water-lilies and other aquatic plants--the
jacanas, water-pheasants and wagtails; the birds that wade in the
shallow water and feed on frogs or creatures that lurk hidden in the
mud--the herons, paddy-birds, storks, cranes, pelicans, whimbrels,
curlews, ibises and spoonbills; the birds that live among sedges and
reeds--the snipe, reed-warblers, purple coots and water-rails. Then
there are the birds that fly overhead--the great kite-like ospreys
that frequently check their flight to drop into the water with a big
splash, in order to secure a fish; the kingfishers that dive so neatly
as barely to disturb the smooth surface of the lake when they enter
and leave it; the graceful terns that pick their food off the face of
the _jhil_; the swifts and swallows that feed on the insects which
always hover over still water.

Go where we will, be it to the sun-steeped garden, the shady mango
grove, the dusty road, the grassy plain, the fallow field, or among
the growing crops, there do we find bird life in abundance and food in
plenty to support it.

This is not the breeding season, therefore the bird choir is not at
its best, nevertheless the feathered folk everywhere proclaim the
pleasure of existence by making a joyful noise. From the crowded
_jhil_ emanate the sweet twittering of the wagtails, the clanging call
of the geese, the sibilant note of the whistling teal, the curious
_a-onk_ of the brahminy ducks, the mewing of the jacanas and the
quacking of many kinds of ducks. Everywhere in the fields and the
groves are heard the cawing of the crows, the wailing of the kites,
the cooing of the doves, the twittering of the sparrows, the crooning
of the white-eyes, the fluting of the wood-shrikes, the tinkling of
the bulbuls, the chattering of the mynas, the screaming of the green
parrots, the golden-backed woodpeckers and the white-breasted
kingfishers, the mingled harmony and discord of the tree-pies, the
sharp monosyllabic notes of the various warblers, the melody of the
sunbirds and the flycatchers. The green barbets also call
spasmodically throughout the month, chiefly in the early morning and
the late afternoon, but the only note uttered by the coppersmith is a
soft _wow_. The hoopoe emits occasionally a spasmodic _uk-uk-uk_.

The migrating birds continue to pour into India during the earlier
part of November. The geese are the last to arrive, they begin to come
before the close of October, and, from the second week of November
onwards, V-shaped flocks of these fine birds may be seen or heard
overhead at any hour of the day or night.

The nesting activities of the fowls of the air are at their lowest ebb
in November. Some thirty species are known to rear up young in the
present month as opposed to five hundred in May. In the United
Provinces the only nest which the ornithologist can be sure of finding
is that of the white-backed vulture.

Some of the amadavats are still nesting. Most of the eggs laid by
these birds in the rains yielded young ones in September, but it often
happens that the brood does not emerge from the eggs until the end of
October, with the result that in the earlier part of the present month
parties of baby amadavats are to be seen enjoying the first days of
their aerial existence. A few black-necked storks do not lay until
November; thus there is always the chance of coming upon an incubating
stork in the present month. Here and there a grey partridge's nest
containing eggs may be found. As has been said, the nesting season of
this species is not well-defined.

The quaint little thick-billed mites known as white-throated munias
(_Munia malabarica_) are also very irregular as to their nesting
habits. Their eggs have been taken in every month of the year except
June.

In some places Indian sand-martins are busy at their nests, but the
breeding season of the majority of these birds does not begin until
January.

Pallas's fishing-eagle is another species of which the eggs are likely
to be found in the present month. If a pair of these birds have a nest
they betray the fact to the world by the unmusical clamour they make
from sunrise to sunset.

The nesting season of the tawny eagle or wokab (_Aquila vindhiana_)
begins in November. The nest is a typical raptorial one, being a large
platform of sticks. It may attain a length of three feet and it is
usually as broad as it is long; it is about six inches in depth. It is
generally lined with leaves, sometimes with straw or grass and a few
feathers. It is placed at the summit of a tree. Two eggs are usually
laid. These are dirty white, more or less speckled with brown. The
young ones are at first covered with white down; in this respect they
resemble baby birds of prey of other species. The man who attempts to
take the eggs or young of this eagle must be prepared to ward off the
attack of the female, who, as is usual among birds of prey, is larger,
bolder and more powerful than the male. At Lahore the writer saw a
tawny eagle stoop at a man who had climbed a tree and secured the
eagle's eggs. She seized his turban and flew off with it, having
inflicted a scratch on his head. For the recovery of his turban the
egg-lifter had to thank a pair of kites that attacked the eagle and
caused her to drop that article while defending herself from their
onslaught.



DECEMBER

  Striped squirrels raced; the mynas perked and pricked,
  The seven sisters chattered in the thorn,
  The pied fish-tiger hung above the pool,
  The egrets stalked among the buffaloes,
  The kites sailed circles in the golden air;
  About the painted temple peacocks flew.
                             ARNOLD, _The Light of Asia_.


In the eyes of the Englishman December in Northern India is a month of
halcyon days, of days dedicated to sport under perfect climatic
conditions, of bright sparkling days spent at the duck tank, at the
snipe _jhil_, in the _sal_ forest, or among the Siwaliks, days on
which office files rest in peace, and the gun, the rifle and the rod
are made to justify their existence. Most Indians, unfortunately, hold
a different opinion of December. These love not the cool wind that
sweeps across the plains. To them the rapid fall of temperature at
sunset is apt to spell pneumonia.

The average villager is a hot-weather organism. He is content with
thin cotton clothing which he wears year in year out, whether the
mercury in the thermometer stand at 115 degrees or 32 degrees.
However, many of the better-educated Indians have learned from
Englishmen how to protect themselves against cold; we may therefore
look forward to the time when even the poorest Indian will be able to
enjoy the health-bringing, bracing climate of the present month.

By the 1st December the last of the spring crops has been sown, most
of the cotton has been picked, and the husbandmen are busy cutting and
pressing the sugar-cane and irrigating the poppy and the _rabi_
cereals.

The crop-sown area is covered with a garment that, seen from a little
distance, appears to be made of emerald velvet. Its greenness is
intensified by contrast with the dried-up grass on the grazing lands.
In many places the mustard crop has begun to flower; the bright yellow
blooms serve to enliven the somewhat monotonous landscape. In the
garden the chrysanthemums and the loquat trees are still in flower;
the poinsettias put forth their showy scarlet bracts and the roses and
violets begin to produce their fragrant flowers.

The bird choir is composed of comparatively few voices. Of the
seasonal choristers the grey-headed flycatchers are most often heard.
The fantail flycatchers occasionally sing their cheerful lay, but at
this season they more often emit a plaintive call, as if they were
complaining of the cold.

Some of the sunbirds are still in undress plumage; a few have not yet
come into song, these give vent only to harsh scolding notes. From the
thicket emanate sharp sounds--_tick-tick_, _chee-chee_, _chuck-chuck_,
_chiff-chaff_; these are the calls of the various warblers that winter
with us. Above the open grass-land the Indian skylarks are singing at
Heaven's gate; these birds avoid towns and groves and gardens, in
consequence their song is apt to be overlooked by human beings. Very
occasionally the oriole utters a disconsolate-sounding _tew_; he is a
truly tropical bird; it is only when the sun flames overhead out of a
brazen sky that he emits his liquid notes. Here and there a hoopoe,
more vigorous than his fellows, croons softly--_uk_, _uk_, _uk_. The
coppersmith now and then gives forth his winter note--a subdued _wow_;
this is heard chiefly at the sunset hour.

The green barbet calls spasmodically throughout December, but, as a
rule, only in the afternoon. Towards the end of the month some of the
nuthatches and the robins begin to tune up. On cloudy days the
king-crows utter the soft calls that are usually associated with the
rainy season.

December, like November, although climatically very pleasant, is a
month in which the activities of the feathered folk are at a
comparatively low ebb. The cold, however, sends to India thousands of
immigrants. Most of these spend the whole winter in the plains of
India. Of such are the redstart, the grey-headed flycatcher, the snipe
and the majority of the game birds. Besides these regular migrants
there are many species which spend a few days or weeks in the plains,
leaving the Himalayas when the weather there becomes very inclement.
Thus the ornithologist in the plains of Northern India lives in a
state of expectancy from November to January. Every time he walks in
the fields he hopes to see some uncommon winter visitor. It may be a
small-billed mountain thrush, a blue rock-thrush, a wall-creeper, a
black bulbul, a flycatcher-warbler, a green-backed tit, a verditer
flycatcher, a black-throated or a grey-winged ouzel, a dark-grey
bush-chat, a pine-bunting, a Himalayan whistling thrush, or even a
white-capped redstart. Indeed, there is scarcely a species which
inhabits the lower ranges of the Himalayas that may not be driven to
the plains by a heavy fall of snow on the mountains. Naturally it is
in the districts nearest the hills that most of these rare birds are
seen--but there is no part of Northern India in which they may not
occur.

The nesting activity of birds in Upper India attains its zenith in
May, and then declines until it reaches its nadir in November. With
December it begins again to increase.

Of those birds whose nests were described last month the white-backed
vulture, Pallas's fishing-eagle, the tawny eagle, the sand-martin and
the black-necked stork are likely to be found with eggs or young in
the present month.

December marks the beginning of the nesting season for three large
owls--the brown fish-owl, the rock horned-owl and the dusky
horned-owl. The brown fish-owl (_Ketupa ceylonensis_) is a bird almost
as large as a kite. It has bright orange orbs and long, pointed
aigrettes. Its legs are devoid of feathers. According to Blanford it
has a dismal cry like _haw_, _haw_, _haw_, _ho_. "Eha" describes the
call as a ghostly hoot--a _hoo hoo hoo_, far-reaching, but coming from
nowhere in particular. These two descriptions do not seem to agree.
There is nothing unusual in this.

The descriptions of the calls of the nocturnal birds of prey given by
India ornithologists are notoriously unsatisfactory. This is perhaps
not surprising when we consider the wealth of bird life in this
country. It is no easy matter to ascertain the perpetrators of the
various sounds of the night, and, when the naturalist has succeeded in
fixing the author of any call, he finds himself confronted with the
difficult task of describing the sound in question. Bearing in mind
the way in which human interjections baffle the average writer, we
cannot be surprised at the poor success that crowns the endeavours of
the naturalist to syllabise bird notes.

As regards the call of the brown fish-owl the writer has been trying
for the past three or four years to determine by observation which of
the many nocturnal noises are to be ascribed to this species. With
this object he kept one of these owls captive for several weeks; the
bird steadfastly refused to utter a sound. One hoot would have
purchased its liberty; but the bird would not pay the price: it sulked
and hissed. The bird in question, although called a fish-owl, does not
live chiefly on fish. Like others of its kind it feeds on birds, rats
and mice. Hume found in the nest of this species two quails, a pigeon,
a dove and a myna, each with the head, neck and breast eaten away, but
with the wings, back, feet and tail remaining almost intact. "Eha" has
seen the bird stoop on a hare. The individual kept by the writer
throve on raw meat. This owl is probably called the fish-owl because
it lives near rivers and tanks and invariably nests in the vicinity of
water. The nest may be in a tree or on a ledge in a cliff. Sometimes
the bird utilises the deserted cradle of a fishing-eagle or vulture.
The structure which the bird itself builds is composed of sticks and
feathers and, occasionally, a few dead leaves. Two white eggs are
laid. The breeding season lasts from December to March.

The rock horned-owl (_Bubo bengalensis_) is of the same size as the
fish-owl, and, like the latter, has aigrettes and orange-yellow orbs,
but its legs are feathered to the toes. This owl feeds on snakes,
rats, mice, birds, lizards, crabs, and even large insects. "A loud
dissyllabic hoot" is perhaps as good a description of its call as can
be given in words. This species breeds from December to April. March
is the month in which the eggs are most likely to be found. The
nesting site is usually a ledge on some cliff overhanging water. A
hollow is scooped out in the ledge, and, on the bare earth, four white
eggs are laid.

The dusky horned-owl (_Bubo coromandus_) may be distinguished from the
rock-horned species by the paler, greyer plumage, and by the fact that
its eyes are deep yellow, rather than orange. Its cry has been
described as _wo_, _wo_, _wo_, _wo-o-o_. The writer would rather
represent it as _ur-r-r_, _ur-r-r_, _ur-r-r-r-r_--a low grunting sound
not unlike the call of the red turtle-dove. This owl is very partial
to crows. Mr. Cripps once found fifteen heads of young crows in a nest
belonging to one of these birds. December and January are the months
in which to look for the nest, which is a platform of sticks placed in
a fork of a large tree. Two eggs are laid.

The breeding season for Bonelli's eagle (_Hieraetus fasciatus_) begins
in December. The eyrie of this fine bird is described in the calendar
for January.

In the Punjab many ravens build their nests during the present month.

Throughout January, February and the early part of March ravens' nests
containing eggs or young are likely to be seen.

Ordinarily the nesting season of the common kite (_Milvus govinda_)
does not begin until February, but as the eggs of this bird have been
taken as early as the 29th December, mention of it must be made in the
calendar for the present month. A similar remark applies to the hoopoe
(_Upupa indica_).

Doves nest in December, as they do in every other month.

Occasionally a colony of cliff-swallows (_Hirundo flavicolla_) takes
time by the forelock and begins to build one of its honeycomb-like
congeries of nests in December. This species was dealt with in the
calendar for February.

Blue rock-pigeons mostly nest at the beginning of the hot weather.
Hume, however, states that some of these birds breed as early as
Christmas Day. Mr. P. G. S. O'Connor records the finding of a nest
even earlier than that. The nest in question was in a weir of a canal.
The weir was pierced by five round holes, each about nine inches in
diameter. Through four of these the water was rushing, but the fifth
was blocked by debris, and on this a pair of pigeons had placed their
nest.



GLOSSARY


_Arhar_. A leguminous crop plant which attains a height of four feet
or more.

_Chik_. A curtain composed of a number of very thin strips of wood.
Chiks are hung in front of doors and windows in India with the object
of keeping out insects, but not air.

_Holi_. A Hindu festival.

_Jhil_. A lake or any natural depression which is filled with
rain-water at all or in certain seasons.

_Kharif_. Autumn. Rice and other crops which are reaped in autumn are
called _kharif_ crops. Crops such as wheat which are cut in spring are
called _rabi_ crops. Two crops (sometimes three) are raised in India
annually.

_Megas_. Sugar-cane from which the juice has been extracted.

_Rabi_. Spring. See _Kharif_.

_Shikari_. One who goes hunting or shooting.

_Tope_. A term applied to a grove of mango trees, artificially
planted. Thousands of such topes exist in Northern India. In some
places they are quite a feature of the landscape.



INDEX


Amadavat. _See_ Red munia


Babbler, common (_Crateropus canorus_), 36, 49, 68, 82, 89, 108, 120,
124, 142, 156, 162, 163, 183
--large grey (_Argya malcomi_), 162

Barbet, green (_Thereiceryx zeylonicus_), 7, 20, 53, 66, 68, 82, 89,
106, 108, 121, 138, 155, 168, 185, 192

Baya. _See_ Weaver-bird

Bee-eater, 3, 73, 74, 108, 120, 125, 139, 157, 169, 172, 182
--blue-tailed (_Merops philippinus_), 43, 89
--little green (_M. viridis_), 43, 89

Blue Jay. _See_ Roller

Blue-throat, 172

Brain-fever bird. _See_ Hawk-cuckoo

Bulbul, 5, 20, 36, 65, 68, 89, 107, 108, 123, 182, 185
--Bengal (_Molpastes bengalensis_), 47
--black (_Hypsipetes psaroides_), 192
--red-whiskered (_Otocompsa emeria_), 46

Bunting, 40, 41, 172, 183
--black-headed (_Emberiza melanocephala_), 41
--pine (_Emberiza leucocephala_), 193
--red-headed (_Emberiza luteola_), 41

Buzzard, 175, 183
--long-legged (_Buteo ferox_), 160
--white-eyed (_Butastur teesa_), 30, 44, 68, 69, 89, 108, 160


Chat, 3
--brown-rock (_Cercomela fuscus_), 59, 70, 89, 108, 123, 138
--dark grey bush (_Oreicola ferrea_), 193
--Indian bush (_Pratincola maura_), 42, 172, 173
--pied bush (_Pratincola caprata_), 21, 65, 74, 89, 170

Coot, common (_Fulica atra_), 135
--purple (_Porphyrio poliocephalus_), 121, 133, 135, 146, 184

Coppersmith or crimson-breasted barbet (_Xantholaema haematocephala_),
7, 20, 23, 44, 53, 66, 68, 82, 89, 106, 108, 121, 138, 169, 185, 191

Cormorant, 3, 133, 135, 142, 183

Crane, 184
--demoiselle (_Anthropoides virgo_), 167, 171
--sarus (_Grus antigone_), 5, 98, 133, 143, 156, 176

Creeper, wall, 192

Crow, 13, 36, 69, 119, 156, 169, 183, 185
--black, or jungle crow or corby (_Corvus macrorhynchus_), 5, 25, 44,
68, 89
--house (_Corvus splendens_), 5, 108, 113, 124, 125, 141, 162

Crow-pheasant or coucal (_Centropus sinensis_), 36, 82, 112,
120, 138, 142, 156, 164, 170, 176, 183

Cuckoo, European (_Cuculus canorus_), 66, 80
--hawk (_Hierococcyx varius_), 20, 36, 49, 82, 84, 120, 124, 138, 155,
157, 168
--Indian (_Cuculus micropterus_), 85, 120, 138
--pied crested (_Coccystes jacobinus_), 114, 120, 124, 138, 142, 155,
157, 163
--sirkeer (_Taccocua leschenaulti_), 124

Cuckoo-shrike (_Grauculus macii_), 5, 51, 52, 89, 108, 124, 142, 169

Curlew, 171, 184


Dabchick, or little grebe (_Podiceps albipennis_), 150, 183

Darter. _See_ Snake-bird

Dhayal. _See_ Magpie-robin

Did-he-do-it. _See_ Red-wattled lapwing

Dove, 8, 9, 21, 44, 54, 68, 89, 108, 123, 156, 162, 169, 174, 185
--little brown (_Turtur cambayensis_), 5
--red turtle (_Oenopopelia tranquebarica_), 157, 172
--ring (_Turtur risorius_), 5
--spotted (_Turtur suratensis_), 5

Drongo or king-crow (_Dicrurus ater_), 3, 36, 38, 43, 77, 90, 107,
108, 120, 121, 138, 157, 169, 170, 182, 192

Duck, 3, 133, 146, 183, 185
--brahminy (_Casarca rutila_), 64, 185
--comb or nukta (_Sarcidiornis melanotus_), 115, 135, 143,
149
--gadwall (_Chaulelasmus streperus_), 64, 171
--mallard (_Anas boscas_), 64
--pintail (_Dafila acuta_), 41, 64, 171
--pochard (_Netta ferina_), 64, 171
--shoveller (_Spatula clypeata_), 171
--spot-billed (_Anas poecilorhyncha_), 134, 135
--widgeon (_Mareca penelope_), 64, 171


Eagle, 21
--Bonelli's (_Hieraetus fasciatus_), 10, 44, 197
--Pallas's fishing (_Haliaetus leucoryphus_), 11, 43, 187, 193
--steppe (_Aquila bifasciata_), 160
--tawny (_Aquila vindhiana_), 11, 44, 68, 89, 160, 187, 193

Egret, 99, 133, 134, 135, 142
--cattle (_Bubulcus coromandus_), 100, 151


Falcon, lugger (_Falco jugger_), 160
--peregrine (_Falco peregrinus_), 160, 161, 174
--shahin (_Falco peregrinator_), 174

Finch, rose (_Carpodacus erythrinus_), 158, 172, 183

Finch-lark, ashy-crowned (_Pyrrhulauda grisea_), 28, 44, 56, 68, 89,
183

Flycatcher, 3, 185
--fantail (_Rhipidura albifrontata_), 5, 29, 44, 68, 83, 89, 106, 108,
125, 142, 156, 170, 182, 191
--grey-headed (_Culicicapa ceylonensis_), 6, 21, 42, 156, 170, 172,
182, 191, 192
--paradise (_Terpsiphone paradisi_), 42, 43, 77, 92, 107, 108, 123,
157, 172
--red-breasted (_Siphia albicilla_), 172
--verditer (_Stoparola melanops_), 42, 193


Gadwall. _See_ Duck

Goatsucker. _See_ Nightjar

Goose, 3, 64, 171, 185
--grey-lag (_Anser ferus_), 41

Grebe. _See_ Dabchick


Harrier, 161, 183

Hawk, sparrow, 160

Heron, 135, 184
--night (_Nycticorax griseus_), 89, 113, 133, 142
--pond, or paddy-bird (_Ardeola grayii_), 99, 113, 134, 142, 184

Honeysucker. _See_ Sunbird

Hoopoe (_Upupa indica_), 7, 17, 20, 23, 68, 83, 97, 108, 170, 182,
185, 191, 197

Hornbill, grey (_Lophoceros birostris_), 78, 95, 108


Ibis, 184
--black (_Inocotis papillosus_), 135

Iora (_Aegithina tiphia_), 35, 65, 71, 72, 83, 89, 106, 108, 121, 123


Jacana, 121, 133, 185
--bronze-winged (_Metopus indicus_), 134, 135, 144, 145, 183
--pheasant-tailed (_Hydrophasianus chirurgus_), 114, 135, 144, 145,
183

Jackdaw, 3, 172

Jungle-fowl (_Gallus ferrugineus_), 108


Kestrel, 160, 161, 183

King-crow. _See_ Drongo

Kingfisher, 184, 185
--pied (_Ceryle rudis_), 27, 44, 68, 88
--white-breasted (_Halcyon smyrnensis_), 5, 45, 68, 73, 89, 106, 108,
121, 138, 182

Kite (_Milvus govinda_), 5, 14, 26, 44, 68, 89, 108, 119, 156, 160,
169, 183, 185, 191
--black-winged (_Elanus caeruleus_), 160
--brahminy (_Haliastur indicus_), 56, 68
--large Indian (_Milvus melanotis_), 160

Koel (_Eudynamis honorata_), 8, 43, 82, 84, 110, 120, 124, 125, 138,
141, 155, 157, 163, 168


Lapwing, 108, 123, 183
--red-wattled (_Sarcogrammus indicus_), 5, 77, 88, 89, 139
--yellow-wattled (_Sarciophorus malabaricus_), 77, 89

Lark, crested (_Galerita cristata_), 21, 56, 89, 108
--red-winged bush (_Mirafra erythroptera_), 123
--sky (_Alauda gulgula_), 21, 68, 89, 108, 183, 191


Mallard. _See_ Duck

Martin, sand (_Cotyle sinensis_), 14, 21, 44, 68, 73, 89, 167, 187,
193

Merlin, common (_Aesalon regulus_), 160, 161
--red-headed (_Aesalon chicquera_), 12, 21, 44, 68, 89, 160

Minivet, 51, 158, 172, 181
--little (_Pericrocotus peregrinus_), 52, 68, 89, 125, 142

Munia, 21
--red or amadavat (_Estrelda amandava_), 15, 44, 124, 140, 156, 186
--white-throated (_Uroloncha malabarica_), 16, 44, 162, 186

Myna, 5, 82, 108, 156, 157, 175, 182, 183
--bank (_Acridotheres ginginianus_), 59, 89, 94, 123
--brahminy (_Temenuchus pagodarum_), 73, 94, 124
--common (_Acridotheres tristis_), 59, 73, 93, 124, 142, 162, 185
--pied. _See_ Pied Starling


Nightjar, 53, 66, 87, 89, 108
--Franklin's (_Caprimulgus monticolus_), 37, 88
--Horsfield's (_Caprimulgus horsfieldi_), 37, 88, 106
--Indian (_Caprimulgus asiaticus_), 37, 88

Nuthatch (_Sitta castaneiventris_), 7, 20, 23, 44, 68, 83, 88, 182,
192


Openbill (_Anastomus oscitans_), 142

Oriole, 78, 83, 106, 108, 124, 138, 156, 157, 169, 172, 182, 191
--black-headed (_Oriolus melanocephalus_), 20, 42
--Indian (_Oriolus kundoo_), 42, 90

Osprey, 3, 160, 161, 184

Ouzel, black-throated (_Merula atrigularis_), 193
--grey-winged (_Merula boulboul_), 193

Owl, 66, 159
--barn (_Strix flammea_), 29, 49
--brown fish (_Ketupa ceylonensis_), 14, 21, 44, 193, 194, 195
--collared scops (_Scops bakkamaena_), 22, 44, 87
--dusky horned (_Bubo coromandus_), 6, 14, 22, 193, 196
--mottled wood (_Syrnium ocellatum_), 22, 44
--rock horned (_Bubo bengalensis_), 14, 21, 44, 193, 195

Owlet, jungle (_Glaucidium radiatum_), 6, 86, 138, 169
--spotted (_Athene brama_), 6, 53, 68, 86, 88, 98, 118, 138, 169


Paddy-bird. _See_ Pond-heron

Paroquet or green parrot, 5, 30, 36, 68, 88, 97, 156, 169, 183, 185
--alexandrine (_Palaeornis eupatrius_), 31, 44
--rose-winged (_Palaeornis torquatus_), 31, 44, 53

Parrot, green _See_ Paroquet

Partridge, black (_Francolinus vulgaris_), 98, 107, 138
--grey (_Francolinus pondicerianus_), 76, 89, 97, 108, 162, 186

Pea-fowl (_Pavo cristatus_), 98, 124, 138, 142, 162

Pelican, 3, 184

Pie, tree (_Dendrocitta rufa_), 5, 36, 59, 68, 89, 108, 123, 169, 185

Pigeon, blue rock (_Columba intermedia_), 17, 22, 69, 89, 108, 197
--green (_Crocopus phoenicopterus_), 89, l08, 123

Pipit (_Anthus rufulus_), 56, 68, 89, 108

Plover, 142, 183
--little ringed (_Aegialitis dubia_), 89
--spur-winged (_Hoplopterus ventralis_), 57, 89
--swallow (_Glareola lactea_), 57

Pochard. _See_ Duck


Quail, 64, 183
--grey (_Coturnix communis_), 159, 172
--rain (_Coturnix coromandelica_), 121


Rail, water (_Rallus indicus_), 184

Raven, 3, 14, 44, 197

Redstart, Indian (_Ruticilla frontalis_), 158, 167, 172, 173, 182, 192
--white-capped (_Chimarrhornis leucocephalus_), 193

Robin, Indian (_Thamnobia cambayensis_), 21, 35, 59, 65, 76, 89, 108,
123, 182, 191
--magpie (_Copsychus saularis_), 8, 35, 65, 73, 74, 83, 89, 106, 108,
120, 121, 123, 138, 155, 182

Roller or "blue jay" (_Coracias indica_), 38, 39, 53, 67, 73, 83, 89,
106, 108, 123, 139, 141, 156, 169, 170, 182

Rook, 3, 172


Sand-grouse, 77, 89

Sandpiper, 171

Seven Sisters. _See_ Babbler

Shikra (_Astur badius_), 69, 89, 160

Shoveller. _See_ Duck

Shrike, 38, 50, 68, 89, 108, 123, 142, 182
--bay-backed (_Lanius vittatus_), 51
--large grey (_Lanius lahtora_), 21, 32, 50
--rufous-backed (_Lanius erythronotus_), 51

Skimmer, Indian (_Rhynchops albicollis_), 57

Skylark. _See_ Lark

Snake-bird (_Plotus melanogaster_), 3, 133, 135, 142, 183

Snipe, 3, 64, 139, 158, 172, 184, 192
--fantail or full (_Gallinago coelestis_), 140
--jack (_Gallinago gallinula_), 140
--pintail (_Gallinago stenura_), 139

Sparrow (_Passer domesticus_), 54, 89, 108, 123, 185
--yellow-throated (_Gymnorhis flavicollis_), 43, 73, 89, 157, 172

Spoonbill, 135, 142

Starling, 3, 172, 182
--pied (_Sternopastor contra_), 77, 94, 107, 124, 138, 142, 155, 168
--rosy (_Pastor roseus_), 36, 40, 139

Stork, 171, 184
--black-necked (_Xenorhynchus asiaticus_), 176, 186, 193
--white-necked (_Dissura episcopus_), 113, 124, 135, 142

Sunbird, purple (_Arachnechthra asiatica_), 3, 6, 8, 20, 24, 36, 43,
44, 65, 68, 89, 106, 108, 123, 156, 157, 170, 172, 182, 185, 191

Swallow, 172, 182, 184
--Indian cliff (_Hirundo fluvicola_), 17, 22, 44, 68, 89, 133, 140,
197
--wire-tailed (_Hirundo smithii_), 54, 68, 89, 108, 124, 125, 142

Swift (_Cypselus indicus_), 54, 68, 89, 108, 123, 142, 182, 184


Tailor-bird (_Orthotomus sutorius_), 5, 59, 65, 72, 82, 89, 108, 124,
169, 182

Teal, 3, 64, 143, 171, 183
--cotton (_Nettopus coromandelianus_), 121, 135, 148
--garganey or blue-winged (_Querquedula circia_), 139, 159, 171
--whistling (_Dendocygna javanica_), 185

Tern, 57, 68, 142, 184
--black-bellied (_Sterna melanogaster_), 57
--river, (_Sterna seena_), 57

Thrush, blue rock (_Petrophila cyanus_), 192
--Himalayan whistling (_Myophoneus temmincki_), 193
--small-billed mountain (_Oreocincla dauma_), 192

Tit, green-backed (_Parus monticola_), 192


Vulture, 21, 159, 183
--Pondicherry or black (_Otogyps calvus_), 26, 44, 68, 88
--scavenger (_Neophron ginginianus_), 56, 68, 89
--white-backed (_Pseudogyps bengalensis_), 9, 68, 186, 193


Wagtail, 156, 157, 167, 172, 173, 182, 183, 184
--grey (_Motacilla melanope_), 158
--masked (_Motacilla personata_), 158
--pied (_Motacilla maderaspatensis_), 59, 65, 74, 89
--white (_Motacilla alba_), 158
--white-faced (_Motacilla leucopsis_), 158

Warbler, 139, 156, 181, 185, 191
--ashy wren (_Prinia socialis_), 124, 132, 142
--flycatcher (_Cryptolopha xanthoschista_), 192
--Indian wren (_Prinia inornata_), 48, 68, 108, 124, 131, 142
--reed (_Acrocephalus stentoreus_), 184

Water-hen, white-breasted (_Gallinula phoenicura_), 98, 124, 133, 146

Weaver-bird or baya (_Ploceus baya_), 114, 127, 142, 163, 176

Whimbrel, 184

White-eye (_Zosterops palpebrosa_), 5, 65, 71, 89, 108, 123, 180, 182,
185

Widgeon. _See_ Duck

Woodpecker, golden-backed (_Brachypternus aurantius_), 5, 53, 68, 89,
106, 108, 121, 182
--pied (_Liopicus mahrattensis_), 28, 44, 53, 68, 89, 182

Wood-shrike (_Tephrodornis pondicerianus_), 7, 32, 51, 65, 68, 89,
170, 182, 185

Wryneck, 182



ANIMALS OF NO IMPORTANCE
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Nature_.--"We may commend the book as an excellent example of 'Nature
teaching.'"

_Literary World_.--"Mr. Dewar makes us laugh while he teaches us....
These twenty essays are in all ways delightful."

_Saturday Review_.--"A number of excellent books on Natural
History ... proceed from Anglo-Indian authors; and certainly this ... is
worthy of its predecessors."

_Academy_.--"A chatty anecdote book ... showing a sense of humour and
kindly insight ... many amusing stories."

_Indian Daily News_.--"Brightly and cleverly written ... pleasant and
amusing reading."

_Morning Post_ (Delhi).--"A treasure-trove of literary art."

_Madras Mail_.--"Mr. Dewar ... displays quite remarkable knowledge and
insight as well as a pretty wit.... Mr. Dewar's volume is calculated
to give delight to all who are interested in the creatures of God's
earth. Its humours will raise many a smile, while its keenness and
accuracy of observation should induce many readers to study more
closely the ... life ... around them."

_Civil and Military Gazette_.--"Shows the faculty of observation as
well as a pleasant style."

_Englishman_.--"The reader will easily fall under the sway of the
writer's charms.... Mr. Dewar's book is as interesting as it is
entertaining."



BOMBAY DUCKS
AN ACCOUNT OF SOME OF THE EVERYDAY BIRDS AND BEASTS FOUND IN A
NATURALIST'S EL DORADO
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR
ILLUSTRATED BY MAJOR F. D. S. FAYRER


PRESS OPINIONS

_Standard_.--"The book is entertaining, even to a reader who is not a
naturalist first and a reader afterwards.... The illustrations cannot
be too highly praised."

_Daily News_.--"A charming introduction to a great many interesting
birds."

_Scotsman_.--"Like a good curry, it is richly and agreeably seasoned
with a pungent humour."

_Manchester Guardian_.--"A series of clever and accurate essays on
Indian Natural History written by a man who really knows the birds and
beasts."

_Daily Chronicle_.--"A series of informing and often diverting
chapters."

_Tribune_.--"Those who know India ... will find themselves smiling
again and again at the vivid recollection called up by these
descriptions."

_Times_.--"A collection of bright popular papers by an observant
naturalist."

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"Most entertaining dissertations on the tricks
and manners of many birds and beasts in India."

_Yorkshire Daily Observer_.--"This handsome and charming book ... the
author has many interesting observations to record, and he does so in
a very racy manner."

_Spectator_.--"Mr. Douglas Dewar's book is excellent ... the
photographs of birds by Captain Fayrer ... are most remarkable."

_Graphic_.--"Light and easy, yet full of information."

_County Gentleman_.--"Thoroughly interesting."

_Illustrated London News_.--"Mr. Dewar ... has collected a series of
essays on bird life which for sprightliness and charm are equal to
anything written since that classic 'The Tribes on my Frontier' was
published."

_Shooting Times_.--"... a more delightful work ... has not passed
through our hands for many a long day.... There is not a dull line in
the book, which is beautifully illustrated."

_Truth_.--"... a naturalist with a happy gift for writing in a bright
and entertaining way, yet without any sacrifice of scientific
accuracy."

_Outlook_.--"... the essays make pleasant reading.... We doubt if
anything better has been done in bird photography."

_Pioneer_.--"... not only is the book very fascinating to read, but
most instructive."

_Indian Daily News_.--"Mr. Dewar's excellent book ... beautifully
illustrated."

_Indian Daily Telegraph_.--"Mr. Dewar's book is of the kind of
delightful volume which is always to be kept at hand and dipped into."

_Madras Mail_.--"Phil Robinson delighted a generation that knew not
'Eha,' and now Mr. Dewar will complete a trio which, for some time to
come at least, will stand for all that is best in that branch of
literature which they have made their own."

_Civil and Military Gazette_.--"A volume which is far the best of its
kind since the immortal works of Phil Robinson and 'Eha.'"

_The Indian Field_.--"... these charming chapters.... There is not a
dull paragraph in the whole book."



BIRDS OF THE PLAINS
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Daily Chronicle_.--"Here is a work worthy of all commendation to
those who love birds."

_Daily Graphic_.--"... a work which all bird lovers will welcome ...
beautifully illustrated."

_Daily Express_.--"... light, sprightly and thoroughly entertaining."

_Globe_.--"Mr. Dewar ... is gifted with the descriptive art in a high
degree, and his vivacious style communicates the characters and habits
of the birds with unerring fidelity and infinite spirit."

_Sportsman_.--"Mr. Dewar has a delightfully simple and quaintly
humorous way of expressing himself, and his clever word-pictures of
bird-life make charming reading."

_Manchester Guardian_.--"His breezy style is pleasant and easy
reading. The photographs deserve the highest praise."

_Manchester Courier_.--"Mr. Dewar has produced a book that will
delight not only ornithologists, but all who have the good fortune to
light on this humorously instructive volume."

_Western Morning News_.--"The book is enjoyable from the playful
preface to the last chapter."

_Spectator_.--"... the contents are excellent."

_Field_.--"... it may well stand on the same bookshelf with the
entertaining and instructive writings of 'Eha.'"

_Madame_.--"... accounts of many birds written in the author's
inimitable style."

_Outlook_.--"... as charming a volume--avowedly ornithological--as it
has been our good fortune to encounter."

_Sunday Times_.--"Mr. Dewar, like Goldsmith, has a delightful style."

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"Mr. Dewar's volume is one of the best recent
examples of sound information conveyed in attractive literary form."

_Literary World_.--"Upon every page ... there is a merit to justify
the existence of the page."

_Dundee Advertiser_.--"... just as good reading as ... 'Bombay Ducks,'
and to say so much is to bestow high praise."

_Birmingham Post_.--"There is a gladness in his aspect, a pleasing
inquisitiveness concerning bird mystery, and a simple, candid style of
self-revelation in his essays full of fascination, with touches now
and again that remind one of the descriptive qualities of Francis A.
Knight. The wood-joy that inspired the felicitous phrases and
delightful reflections of John Burroughs in the Western Hemisphere
finds its counterpart in these Indian bird-pictures."

_Indian Field_.--"... not a volume that will grow dusty and uncared
for on a neglected shelf."

_Times of India_.--"The book has a charm all its own, and is written
with rare humour, a humour that in no way detracts from its scientific
utility."

_Englishman_.--"One of the most interesting books on bird-life we have
seen."



INDIAN BIRDS
A KEY TO THE COMMON BIRDS OF THE PLAINS OF INDIA
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"This practical and useful work ... is a key to
the everyday birds of the Indian plains, in which birds are classified
according to their habits and outward differences ... and familiarity
with these pages would enable the average man in a few weeks to know
all the birds he meets in an Indian station."

_Daily Mail_.--"The plan of this clever little volume ... is as simple
as it is ingenious.... It is a safe and thorough guide."

_Athenaeum_.--"Mr. Dewar is a capable guide."

_Manchester Guardian_.--"... new, original and invaluable to the
beginner ... it is a small book, but it represents a wonderful amount
of thoughtful ingenuity and patient work."

_Daily News_.--"We feel inclined to defy any Indian bird to hide its
identity from an enquirer armed with this volume."

_Truth_.--"An admirable practical handbook of Indian ornithology."

_Scotsman_.--"Mr. Dewar's compact, clearly classified, concise and
comprehensive manual ... cannot but prove eminently serviceable."

_Spectator_.--"The book is most carefully compiled and much ingenuity
is displayed in framing this artificial analysis."

_Western Daily Mercury_.--"A very interesting volume."

_Manchester Courier_.--"All ornithologists in India ... will
appreciate and value 'Indian Birds.'"

_Literary Post_.--"... a model of all that such a book should be."

_Pioneer_.--"The plan of the book is unique.... It can be heartily
recommended."

_Indian Field_.--"We can thoroughly recommend this book to all not
versed in ornithology and who wish to know our birds without having to
kill them."



JUNGLE FOLK
ACCOUNTS OF SOME OF THE SMALLER FRY OF THE INDIAN JUNGLE
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Westminster Gazette_.--"Mr. Dewar writes brightly and cleverly about
these lesser jungle folk."

_Scotsman_.--"... interesting and delightful."

_Evening Standard_.--"The author ... writes not only out of the
fulness of his knowledge, but in a pleasant unpedantic style."

_Liverpool Daily Post_.--"... most readable and enjoyable."

_Sunday Times_.--"We give his book the highest praise possible when we
say that it will serve as a matter-of-fact commentary to Mr. Kipling's
'Jungle Books.'"

_Irish Independent_.--"... a work of the most captivating charm."

_Outlook_.--"... pleasant little essays."

_Literary World_.--"This lively book ... abounds in word-pictures and
happy humour."

_Glasgow Evening News_.--"Mr. Douglas Dewar writes with accustomed
grace and sympathetic knowledge."

_Academy_.--"... with Mr. Dewar there is a smile on every page, and
his touch is so light that one only realises, when the process is at
an end, that a large amount of information has been imparted in an
amusing form."

_Western Morning News_.--"Every page makes for easy reading and ready
attention."

_Shooting Times_.--"... delightful reading."

_Catholic Herald_.--"Quite the most interesting natural history work
we have seen for a long time."

_Manchester Courier_.--"Mr. Dewar's ... shrewd observation, his quaint
humour and his wide knowledge of Indian bird-life make his every page
interesting."

_The World_.--"We have read and enjoyed much of his work before, but
we think that 'Jungle Folk' makes even more delightful reading than
anything that has come from its author's pen."

_Birmingham Daily Post_.--"... entertaining sketches ... and light
dissertations."

_Times of India_.--"Mr. Dewar's bright and pleasant pages."

_Madras Mail_.--"The reader who has perused Mr. Dewar's books merely
for amusement will find that he has incidentally added a good deal to
his knowledge of Indian natural history."



GLIMPSES OF INDIAN BIRDS
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Globe_.--"Mr. Dewar gives us something more than 'glimpses' of Indian
bird-life in his very interesting volume."

_Standard_.--"Not the least merit of the book is the author's
unwillingness to take anything for granted."

_Spectator_.--"We know nothing better to recommend to an amateur
ornithologist who finds himself in India for the first time."

_Guardian_.--"... vivid and delightful."

_Observer_.--"... full of special knowledge."

_Scotsman_.--"... a lively and interesting series of short studies."

_Daily Graphic_.--"The book is full of the right sort of information
about birds."

_Field_.--"... chatty and graphically written."

_Daily Citizen_.--"... very pleasant and very instructive reading."

_The World_.--"We have read and enjoyed his earlier efforts, but we
think that his latest will be found the most valuable and enduring of
all his work."

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"... much first-hand observation and
experience."

_Birmingham Daily Post_.--"These ... 'glimpses' ... so full of alert
observation and racy description, are delightful and informing
reading."

_Newcastle Daily Chronicle_.--"... his accounts ... make us feel that
we have been with him in something more than the spirit."

_Pioneer_.--"The charm of the volume ... lies in the evidence of the
immense amount of observation carried out by the writer."



BIRDS OF INDIAN HILLS
A GUIDE TO THE COMMON BIRDS OF THE INDIAN HILL STATIONS
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


PRESS OPINIONS

_Sunday Times_.--"Excellent is hardly good enough a term for this
volume."

_Times_.--"Mr. Dewar writes accurately and vividly of his selected
group of birds in the Himalayas and Nilgiris, and adds a list of those
to be found in the Palni Hills."

_Field_.--"Mr. Dewar gives short descriptions of the most notable
species, not in wearisome detail as affected by some writers, but in a
few sentences which carry enough to enable the reader to recognise a
bird when he sees it."

_Aviatic Review_.--"... a very useful, compact little volume."

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"The book will appeal most of all to those who
have occasion to visit Indian hill stations."

_Morning Post_.--"Now and again he gives us little pictures of
bird-life, which are pleasant proofs that he is, like M. Fabre, a
master of the new science that will not select the facts or distort
them to suit some splendid generalisation."



THE MAKING OF SPECIES
BY DOUGLAS DEWAR AND FRANK FINN
_WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS_
A BOOK THAT BRINGS DARWINISM UP TO DATE


PRESS OPINIONS

_Truth_.--"'The Making of Species' will do much to arrest the
fossilisation of biological science in England."

_Outlook_.--"... a book of knowledge and originality. Messrs. Dewar
and Finn are capable investigators. This work is thoroughly
characteristic of our day. A long volume full of interest and very
clearly written."

_Literary World_.--"The book is certainly to be welcomed for the
concise way in which it deals with the greatest problem of zoology."

_Aberdeen Free Press_.--"The book is well written. We do not doubt
that the work will produce good fruit and attract considerable
attention."

_Daily Telegraph_.--"Interesting and suggestive. It should receive
wide attention."

_Dublin Daily Express_.--"The merits of the book are undoubtedly
great. We recommend it to the attentive study of all who are
interested in the subject of evolution."

_Manchester Courier_.--"The amateur entering this perplexing field
could hardly have a better guide."

_Nation_.--"An exceptionally interesting book."

_Scotsman_.--"Impartial and awakening."

_Bristol Mercury_.--"The authors ... handle a subject which has an
obvious controversial side with strength, and there are convincing
qualities as well as lucidity in the views so admirably set forth."

_Times_.--"The two authors ... deal suggestively with the difficulties
of natural selection ... and their arguments are supported by a goodly
array of facts."

_Liverpool Courier_.--"Contains a great deal of well-marshalled
observation."

_Lancet_.--"A very interesting book ... simply and clearly written."

_Dundee Advertiser_.--"... a book which is at the same time one of the
most interesting and readable on the controversial aspects of natural
history published in recent years."

_The Christian World_.--"This very interesting work."

_Bristol Times_.--"A work of value, which will give occasion to many
to think, and an admirable presentation of facts."

_Westminster Review_.--"... written in popular language and contains
many original observations."

_Daily Chronicle_.--"An interesting and suggestive book."





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