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Title: Among the Birds in Northern Shires
Author: Dixon, Charles
Language: English
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Transcriber Note

Emphasis is denoted as _Italic text_.



                               AMONG THE

                       BIRDS IN NORTHERN SHIRES



                         [Illustration: (M618)

                         Bird-haunted Handa.]



                            AMONG THE BIRDS

                                  IN

                            NORTHERN SHIRES


                                  BY
                             CHARLES DIXON

    Author of "Rural Bird-life" "The Game Birds and Wild Fowl
    of the British Islands" "British Sea Birds" "Curiosities of
    Bird-life" "The Migration of Birds" "The Migration of British
    Birds" "Bird-life in a Southern County" &c


       _WITH COLOURED FRONTISPIECE AND FORTY OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS
                          BY CHARLES WHYMPER_


                        BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
                       LONDON GLASGOW AND DUBLIN
                                 1900



PREFACE.


The present volume must be regarded more as a popular introduction to
the bird-life of our northern shires than in any way as an exhaustive
faunal treatise, although at the same time we believe almost every
indigenous species has been included. For twenty years we lived
surrounded by these northern birds, so that we may fairly claim to have
served our ornithological apprenticeship amongst them. With the birds
of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire we are specially familiar;
whilst repeated visits not only to the Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and
Northumbrian littoral, but farther afield into Lancashire, and various
parts of the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland, have enabled us to
acquire much personal information relating to the avifauna of many a
northern shire.

The difference between the avifaunæ of the northern and southern shires
is strongly marked in many respects. Their study makes a record of
avine comparisons of the most intense interest. The important effects
separated areas make material for fascinating investigation, and have
been fully dwelt upon as opportunities were presented. This variation
in avine phenomena is not only far too often entirely ignored, but is
apt to lead the student of bird-lore astray; due allowance has to
be made in many cases for this difference in latitude, and all that
it involves. The present volume, then, to a great extent a study of
ornithological comparisons, will, we trust, be of some service to the
bird lover or the bird student in his task of making allowances.

Unquestionably these northern shires from an ornithological point
of view are much more interesting than the southern, and especially
the south-western counties. Their avifauna is richer, and presents
far greater variety, notably during the breeding season; whilst the
marvellous phenomenon of Migration there unfolds itself each season in
a manner that is never remarked elsewhere.

                                                  CHARLES DIXON.

Paignton, S. Devon.



CONTENTS.


  Chap.                                                Page

     I. By Upland Streams                                11

    II. On Moorlands and Roughs                          35

   III. On Mountain and Loch                             74

    IV. On Heaths and Marshes                            105

     V. In Forest and Copse                              131

    VI. In Farm and Garden                               158

   VII. By River and Pool                                186

  VIII. On Sea and Shore                                 209

    IX. On Crag and Sea-cliff                            236

     X. Migration in the Northern Shires                 261

        Index                                            295



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                        Page

  Bird-haunted Handa                          _Frontispiece_
  The Dipper                                              15
  The Gray Wagtail                                        25
  The Common Sandpiper                                    28
  The Red Grouse                                          38
  The Twite                                               49
  The Ring-ouzel                                          53
  The Merlin                                              58
  The Lapwing                                             67
  The Ptarmigan                                           76
  The Raven                                               77
  The Dotterel                                            91
  The Red-breasted Merganser                              96
  The Black-throated Diver                                96
  The Nightjar                                           107
  The Stone Curlew                                       118
  The Short-eared Owl                                    123
  The Black-headed Gull                                  128
  The Common Buzzard                                     135
  The Woodcock                                           145
  The Black Grouse                                       150
  The Greater Spotted Woodpecker                         153
  The Rook                                               161
  The Brambling                                          165
  The Whinchat                                           174
  The Yellow Wagtail                                     179
  The Kingfisher                                         188
  Titmice                                                190
  The Tufted Duck                                        199
  The Lesser Tern                                        211
  The Ringed Plover                                      211
  Sheldrakes                                             215
  The Lesser Black-backed Gull                           219
  The Eider Duck                                         225
  Gulls and Terns                                        229
  The Razorbill                                          241
  The Gannets                                            245
  The Fork-tailed Petrel                                 255
  The Fulmar                                             257
  Migrants at a Lighthouse                               270
  The Hooded Crow                                        274
  The Chiffchaff                                         287
  The Wheatear                                           287
  Fieldfare and Titmouse                                 292



AMONG THE BIRDS IN NORTHERN SHIRES.



CHAPTER I.

BY UPLAND STREAMS.


There are few things more interesting to the lover of bird-life than
the comparison of ornithological phenomena as they are presented
in various localities, separated, it may be, by but few degrees of
latitude. Not only does this apply to the species themselves--for even
in our own islands the geographical distribution of birds conforms
a good deal to latitude,--but to their migrational movements, their
resumption of voice, their seasons of reproduction, their gatherings
and movements generally, and finally to not a few habits that appear
to be confined within narrow territorial limits. We have already
dealt with bird-life in its many aspects in southern haunts with a
view to the comparison of avine phenomena with that of more northern
localities; we now propose in the present volume to review the most
salient ornithological characteristics of certain favoured northern
shires, especially with the object of bringing them out in contrast by
their comparative study. The ornithologist with a southern experience,
studying bird-life in a northern county--say in Yorkshire, for
example--will soon find that the avifauna of the two areas, although
it possesses much in common, is in many respects different. Birds that
he was wont to find common in southern haunts are rare here; others
that were scarce in the south, and which he was apt to regard even as
rarities, are quite common. Not a few species are met with that are
seldom normally seen in southern haunts, and opportunities are afforded
him of studying the nesting economy of species, the breeding areas
of which are decidedly boreal. Then, again, the change of latitude
involves a change of climate, especially in winter; slight, perhaps,
it may be, comparatively speaking, but yet sufficient to influence
the habits and movements of birds in quite a different way from those
prevailing in the milder atmosphere of southern haunts. Birds that sing
all the winter through in these southern shires are silent here at that
season; others that are sedentary there are of migratory habits in the
wilder and colder north--in obedience to those climatic influences
that act upon the food supply, and so on. The farther north he goes
the more acute will the contrast in avine phenomena become; and in
species common to the two areas--to northern and southern counties
respectively--he will find differences of from one to two months in
the ornithological calendar. Lastly, he will meet with a multitude of
interesting forms, both in summer and in winter, that are normally
strangers to southern localities at one season or the other, or at both
seasons.

We will commence our observations by an investigation of the bird-life
along the upland streams--not in their lower and quieter reaches,
but at some elevation up the hillsides where the waters hurry and
tumble along over rocky beds and between more or less precipitous
banks fringed with alders, mountain-ashes, bracken, and brambles. The
southern counties can boast no such streams; and even in the wilder
south-west of England the becks are wanting in that grandeur that
characterizes most of these turbulent northern waters. For twenty
years or more we lived surrounded by them and within ear of their
noisy clamour; whilst the birds upon their banks were our constant
companions summer and winter alike. To our mind the ideal upland stream
is one of the most picturesque features in the Peak district. They
may be grander and wilder farther north, but with experiences of them
in the remote Highlands and the Hebrides in mind, for romantic charm
and wealth of bird-life these Derbyshire and Yorkshire brooks, in our
opinion, remain unequalled. Almost every valley in the Peak can boast
a streamlet of some kind. Some of course are more imposing than others,
drain larger areas of upland, and contain a much greater volume of
water. Some plough their way across the open moorland, their bed in
summer being dry or nearly so; whilst others purl down wooded valleys
and along well-timbered bottoms, between the ridges of millstone grit
that are such a prominent feature in this particular kind of country.
In their higher and wilder reaches such rivers as the Dove, the Wye,
and the Derwent--all beloved by the angler for trout and grayling--may
be taken as very excellent examples of upland streams. The Rivelin,
with its charming branches of Blackbrook and Wyming brook, and itself
a tributary of the now polluted and ill-used Don, upon which grimy
Sheffield is partly situated, were all favourite streams of ours rich
in ornithological associations. So, too, was the Sheaf, with once
picturesque Meersbrook, especially in its upper waters between the
villages of Dore and Hathersage.

[Illustration: The Dipper.]

Were we asked to name the most characteristic bird of these upland
streams we should unhesitatingly answer, the Dipper. Not that the bird
can be regarded as plentiful anywhere; and we know not a few streams
where this engaging species has dwindled seriously in numbers during
the past twenty years, due partly to the senseless persecution of
keepers and others, and partly to the much greater number of people
that wander along the banks nowadays compared with years ago. Be this
as it may, the Dipper is still sparingly dispersed along most of the
streams suited to its requirements. Its exclusive habits tend to
characterize it as rarer than it actually is, and its peculiarity of
keeping a length of water reserved for itself and its mate creates an
impression of absolute scarcity which in many cases does not actually
exist. No wonder the old school of naturalists were at a loss to assign
a place in their classifications to this curious bird. Brisson included
it among the Sandpipers and called it Tringa merula aquatica; but
Linnæus, with more discernment, associated it with the Passeres in
his genus Sturnus, which is now restricted to the typical Starlings.
Modern ornithologists have fared little better, and the poor Dipper,
even in quite recent years, has been tossed about from one group to
another utterly regardless of its true affinities. In some modern books
we find it associated with the Thrushes, in others with the Wrens, but
with neither group falling naturally. There may be some of its special
characteristics, as, for instance, the coat of down that more or less
covers the body below the feathers, due to its peculiar habits and
economy; but, on the other hand, the very peculiar character of its
nest and eggs (which we regard as of some importance in determining
its taxonomic position) seems to suggest that the small group of birds
of which the Common Dipper is typical, is not very closely allied to
any other existing group, and fully to warrant the separation of these
birds from other Passeres into a family apart. Small as this family is,
the dozen species of which it is composed are scattered over a very
large proportion of the earth's surface. Dippers in one form or another
are found over the greater part of Europe, Asia, and North Africa; they
occur on the upland streams of the Himalayas, and in the mountains of
Formosa. Across the Atlantic they inhabit the hill streams of the
Rocky Mountains and the Andes.

Our British Dipper, as probably most readers at all familiar with the
bird may be aware, is one of the most sedentary of our indigenous
species. Both here and in those parts of continental Europe which
the typical species frequents, as well as the slightly different
northern form from Scandinavia, the birds keep closely to their
native streams summer and winter alike, only wandering from them in
the very exceptional event of the torrents becoming frost-bound. Such
a peculiarity has resulted in the establishment by variation and
isolation of an almost endless number of local races or sub-specific
forms. To a slight extent this may be remarked even in our own islands,
birds from various localities exhibiting differences of coloration,
but when we come to review the Dippers of the entire Palæarctic region
the amount of variation amongst them is much more pronounced. The
scope of the present little volume forbids a scientific revision of
the genus Cinclus; but a glimpse of the sprightly little brown and
white bird bobbing up and down like a fleck of foam amidst the whirling
waters of a northern trout stream suggests a passing allusion to these
interesting facts.

The English local names of the Dipper are not without interest. It
is somewhat curious to find that the local name of Water-crow has
been applied to this bird not only in Cornwall but almost universally
in Scotland. The names Water-ouzel and Dipper are of very ancient
application. That of "Dipper" was not "apparently invented in 1804",
as Professor Newton suggests in his _Dictionary of Birds_ (p. 151), by
the author of the letterpress in Bewick's _British Birds_ (presumably
Beilby); for we find it used many years previously (in 1771) by
Tunstall in his _Ornithologia Britannica_, a work which was reprinted
by the Willughby Society in 1880 under the editorship of Professor
Newton himself! There can be no doubt whatever that the name had been
applied much earlier still. The derivation of the words Water-crow and
Water-ouzel is not difficult to determine; but that of "Dipper" is open
to considerable doubt. To us it seems just as reasonable to presume
that the bird received this name from its unique habit of "dipping" in
the stream as from its singular dipping or bobbing motion when perched
on some stone or rock in the bed of the torrent, as is suggested in
Bewick's work on British birds. In some parts of the Highlands the
Dipper is known locally as the Kingfisher.

Although we have had not a little experience of the Dipper on the
streams of a southern county we are bound to confess that the bird
seems somewhat out of place upon them, possibly because we have
been so accustomed to his society amidst wilder surroundings in
much more northern shires. We picture him best upon the wild trout
streams of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, or as a tenant of the dancing
burns of the Highlands and the Western Isles. Here he is one of the
most characteristic species of the stream, constantly attached to
the turbulent foam-flecked waters, part and parcel of the scenery
itself. As a musician the Dipper does not take a very prominent place
in the avine chorus, but his music is in full harmony with its wild
surroundings, though often overpowered by the noise of the torrent--a
low-pitched jerky and uneven carol, not very long-continued if uttered
at frequent intervals. Perhaps we might not be strictly accurate in
describing the Dipper as a habitual perennial songster like the Robin,
nevertheless he warbles now and then during the winter months, and is
one of the first birds to resume regular music in the early spring. We
are assured that the Dipper sings at intervals during all the rigour
of a Scotch winter, proof of his robustness and hardy temperament.
In Devonshire his winter song might be naturally expected; for there
the Song Thrush and the Sky-lark are musical enough at that season,
although mute, or nearly so, in northern shires. We have listened to
his wild uneven music on some of the Yorkshire streams during winter
when icicles a couple of feet in length have draped the rocks, or
when the surrounding country-side has been covered deep with snow.
Unfortunately, almost everywhere the Dipper somehow has got a bad
name--a reputation amongst anglers for destroying the spawn of sporting
fishes. Like the poor Owl, and not a few other feathered outcasts, he
is universally persecuted for these imaginary misdeeds. But in reality
he is one of the actual preservers of the ova he is accused of eating,
for his food largely consists of larvæ of certain insects which in
that stage of their existence are particularly destructive to the
spawn. We have dissected a great many Dippers at one time and another
from many different localities, and have always been much impressed
with the uniform similarity of the contents of their stomachs--a
little grit and the remains of insects and worms. We have, however,
known the Dipper in exceptional cases to prey upon small fish, but
are convinced, by the experience of a lifetime, that such food is
taken so rarely as scarcely to deserve mention at all. Whenever we
pause to watch the aquatic gambols of this sprightly bird, we feel
less inclined to wonder why a past generation of naturalists included
it amongst the water-fowl. The way it enters the quiet pools or the
swifter running reaches of the stream, dashing beneath the surface
from some water-encircled stone, and rising again some distance away
just to take breath and then again to disappear, is never without a
certain element of surprise, accustomed as we are to the habits of
this bird. We can recall a northern stream--situated in the Rivelin
valley close to Hollow Meadows--specially favourable for watching the
actions of the Dipper. In some parts it was confined by lofty banks,
upon which we could lie concealed and look right down into the clear
water, and here, when the pair of Dippers that frequented the spot
were on the feed, we might watch their every movement whilst they were
under the surface. This stream is used as a conduit to convey the water
from one large reservoir to another, and was consequently often in
flood. We have often remarked that the Dippers were exceptionally busy
in searching for food on these occasions, doubtless because insects
and larvæ were disturbed by the unusual flow of water. Such times,
however, were not favourable for observation. We liked best to watch
the ways of these charming birds when the stream flowed slower, when
the water was clearer, and certain reaches were almost undisturbed by
the current. The Kingfisher, as most readers may know, has but one
method of feeding, by plunging into the water and returning to the
air almost at once. The Dipper, on the other hand, in his quest for
sustenance, is as much aquatic as a Grebe or a Moorhen. He is quite as
much at home in the water as in the air or on dry land. Sometimes he
walks deliberately from the bank or from a sloping moss-covered stone
into the water; at others he takes a short flight over the stream and
drops suddenly down into the pool; whilst yet again we have often seen
him arrest a long-continued flight--which, by the way, follows every
bend of the brook--and, fluttering for a moment, poise and disappear
beneath the surface at once. The Dipper only maintains his subaqueous
position by much evident exertion of his wings and legs and feet.
Generally the wings are kept in motion whilst the bird searches the
bed of the stream, but sometimes these may be seen at rest, and the
body is kept beneath the water by the feet clutching the big stones
and the strands of moss and other aquatic plants. Not only does the
bird float buoyantly enough upon the water, but it swims well, often
for many yards at a time. Dippers are exceedingly attached to certain
reaches of the stream and to favourite nesting sites, using the latter
year after year, often in spite of much disturbance. In this special
valley we always used to find the nest in one particular spot--wedged
under an overhanging rock on the bank of the stream. The nest of this
species is a very characteristic one, and cannot readily be mistaken
for that of any other British bird. In external appearance it bears
some resemblance to that of the Wren, being of the same globular
form, but a cursory examination will soon set any doubt at rest. In
a great many--we might almost say the majority of--cases the nest is
made outwardly of moss (sphagnum always by preference), amongst which
a little dry grass is interwoven, especially round the entrance hole.
This mossy globe is lined with grass roots and sometimes fine twigs,
and then again lined with an enormous quantity of dead leaves all
arranged very neatly layer over layer. There is never any lining of
wool or feathers, and the five or six white eggs are almost exactly
the same size as those of the Song Thrush. The Dipper is an early
breeder even in the northern shires, commencing to build at the end of
March or early in April, and rearing several broods during the course
of the season. The young birds are most interesting little creatures.
We retain many vivid remembrances of the actions of broods of Dippers
that we have unexpectedly disturbed. The tiny creatures, when only able
to fly or flutter for a few yards at most, will take to the water to
escape pursuit just as readily as the chicks of a Grebe or a Moorhen,
and are equally as alert and active in that element. We have upon more
than one occasion known the four or five youngsters flutter out of the
nest one after the other, and at once tumble into the stream below,
where all efforts at capture have usually been unavailing. Not only do
the nestlings dive and flutter about the water, but they are adepts
at concealing themselves amongst chinks of the rocks or under the moss
and herbage growing in the stream. When required for examination, we
always found the best way to secure them was with our landing-net.
The song of the Dipper declines considerably as spring merges into
summer. The cock bird warbles most frequently whilst sitting on some
water-encircled stone or rock, but we have known him to perch and sing
in the alder-trees growing by the water-side. We always consider him
to be in finest voice during March and April--a habit fully in keeping
with his robust temperament, and one which instantly puts us in mind of
a louder and sweeter singer, the Missel-thrush. The Dipper is the one
constant avine dweller on the upland streams, consequently we must in
fairness regard him as the most characteristic bird of these localities.

[Illustration: The Gray Wagtail.]

Another and daintier species, however, is almost his equal in this
respect, and that is the Gray Wagtail. This bird is more susceptible to
the changing seasons, and at the approach of winter deserts the higher
streams altogether, or comes down to the lower and more sheltered
reaches of others. The Gray Wagtail is a familiar bird along all our
Yorkshire and Derbyshire streams and rivers. We look for him quite as
a matter of course when we reach the rocks, and the alder and birch
and mountain-ash trees, just as we expect there to find the Dipper.
But this is in summer mostly; in winter he becomes far more familiar,
and during that season comes much nearer to the busy haunts of men. We
have often seen Gray Wagtails in the bed of the grimy Don and Sheaf in
the very heart of smoky Sheffield during mid-winter; and we know the
bird as a winter resident about all the streams and sluices and dams
in the series of Endcliffe Woods. The bird seems, however, closely
attached to the stream in its upland solitudes, and at the first sign
of spring goes back to favourite haunts among the moorlands and hills.
We can recall many a romantic reach of the Derwent, the Wye, and the
Dove, where the Gray Wagtail, the Dipper, and the Kingfisher might be
watched together, the former bird, daintiest and most charming of its
kind, deftly poised on a rock in mid-stream vigorously beating its
long tail, looking like a single feather until it was opened as the
startled bird took flight; the two latter species flying alarmed away
arrow-like, following the winding waters, the one as a particoloured
ball, the other as a blue undefined streak of refulgent light. So
likewise has the Gray Wagtail oft been our sole bird companion on many
a Highland water, both on the mainland and in Skye. We never tire
of watching its sylph-like actions, the dainty way it poises on the
stones or flits along before us stage after stage in undulating flight
uttering its cheery _chiz zit_ as it goes, or of admiring the exquisite
blending of its showy yet delicately coloured plumage. We have often
made his acquaintance upon more southern waters, far away in the remote
south-west of England, but somehow he never there evokes the same
feelings with which we greet him in northern haunts. The Gray Wagtail
visits these upland streams for the purpose of rearing its young. Not
every wanderer by the water-side is fortunate enough to get a peep
at this bird's domestic arrangements. It has, fortunately perhaps, a
happy way of concealing its nest under some large stone or overhanging
rock, or in a quiet nook, not necessarily in a secluded spot, but often
close by the wayside, where the very audacity of the selection proves
a source of safety. A scrappy little nest it is, dry grass and roots
and such-like litter thrown carelessly together, and lined with hair
or more rarely a few feathers; artless, yet possessing a rustic beauty
if wanting that elaborate finish of more painstaking nest-builders.
The five or six eggs are as unassuming as the nest that holds them,
grayish-white freckled with brown, and perhaps with here and there a
scratch of darker hue. The bird is an early breeder, making its nest
in April, although we have remarked that in Scotland it is a little
later in its operations. This pretty Wagtail still further endears
itself to us by its attachment to a certain breeding-place, returning
in many cases year by year to build its nest in one particular spot.
Unfortunately the Gray Wagtail can claim but low rank as a songster.
None of our British Wagtails are singers of much merit, and all confine
their melody to fitful and short snatches of rambling song, almost
invariably uttered as the bird hovers and flutters in the air. The Gray
Wagtail's charm rests in its pretty dress, its graceful actions, and
to some extent in its loneliness, for there are few other small birds
to arrest attention in the haunts it loves. It can claim our almost
undivided admiration on the streams of the uplands from one extreme
corner of Great Britain to the other. Certainly of few other birds can
we say so much; although such an extended distribution is entirely
due to physical conditions--to the presence of mountains and uplands
throughout that area.

[Illustration: The Common Sandpiper.]

The Dipper and the Gray Wagtail are the two characteristic birds of
the upland brook and river-side, rarely if ever seen anywhere else
under normal circumstances, and, so far as our observations go, their
happy lives are passed in much the same manner on the streams of both
northern and southern shires, with the one exceptional movement to more
sheltered areas on the part of the latter species in boreal localities.
There is, however, another charming bird of the mountain streams which
we cannot pass unnoticed, and that is the Common Sandpiper, or "Summer
Snipe" as it is called in many districts. But this species is by
no means exclusively confined to the banks and waters of the upland
streams; neither is it a permanent dweller in such localities. It is
a frequenter of our rivers and streams during summer only, the season
of their greatest attractiveness; speeding south to Africa like the
Swallows when autumn creeps over the uplands. From Cornwall to the
Shetlands, wherever there are mountain streams and upland pools we may
meet with the Common Sandpiper between the months of May and September,
but it is in the northern shires that the bird becomes most abundant,
say from the Peak district onwards. Our experience of this engaging
bird has been a lifelong one. Each succeeding spring we used to note
its arrival in the old accustomed haunts on the banks of the Yorkshire
streams and moorland pools towards the end of April. It appears upon
our Devonshire and Cornish waters nearly a fortnight earlier, yet
farther north, in the Highlands, it is seldom seen before the first
or second week in May. The return journey varies in a corresponding
manner, August and September marking its southern departure from the
north; but in the south it lingers into October, November, and even
December--not, however, by the stream side, but on the sea-shore. The
persistency with which this Sandpiper returns each year to certain
localities, and its habit of nesting in the same spot summer after
summer after a prolonged absence of seven months and a double journey
of thousands of miles, are not the least attractive portions of its
economy. For more summers than we can now recall, the streams and
reservoirs at Hollow Meadows and Red Mires--within an hour or so's walk
of Sheffield--were visited by many pairs of Summer Snipes, and their
nests came under our observation with unfailing certainty. Two pairs
of these birds were remarkably conservative in their nesting-grounds,
and used to return each summer to one spot of ground no larger than our
writing-table, and there make their nests--one pair on the steep banks
of a conduit between the reservoirs, the other on a few square yards
of gravelly ground beside Wyming brook. We could always depend upon
finding the nests of other pairs within a hundred yards of the stream
banks on certain lengths of the water. We would hazard the conjecture
that descendants of these birds continue to do so to the present day.
During summer the Sandpiper was quite as familiar an object along these
northern streams as the Dipper or the Gray Wagtail. Many a time have
we seen the three species by the water-side together. Farther north,
in Scotland, this Sandpiper becomes even more numerous, and in some
parts of the Highlands is, or used to be, most unaccountably mixed up
with the Dipper. The latter term included both species, the keepers
not distinguishing between them. We have heard the Sandpiper called a
"Water-crow" in various parts of Skye especially. Few birds evince more
anxiety at the nest, or when their helpless chicks are just abroad.
For the newly-laid eggs we cannot recall an instance of this species
displaying any concern; but when those eggs are deeply incubated or the
young hatched out the behaviour of the female bird especially becomes
very different. She will feign a broken wing or lameness, or endeavour
to draw all attention upon herself by running just out of reach of any
observer foolish enough to give pursuit. But once the young birds have
concealed themselves the parent flies away, or circles about in the
air, generally being joined by her mate. The four handsome pear-shaped
eggs--pale buff, splashed and spotted with rich brown and gray--in
their scanty nest, usually made beneath the shelter of a heath tuft or
bunch of grass, require no special protection from the parent, for they
harmonize so closely in tint with surrounding objects that discovery
is difficult in the extreme, even when we know the exact location of
their resting-place. Curiously enough the Sandpiper is not aquatic in
its habits. It never swims nor dives save when wounded, but obtains
its food whilst tripping round the muddy and sandy portions of the
water's edge. In early summer, just after their arrival, the cock
birds may frequently be seen running along the tops of walls and fences
with outspread drooping wings, or even soaring into the air uttering a
shrill note, both actions being connected with courtship and love. The
usual note of the Common Sandpiper is a shrill _weet_ uttered several
times in succession, and heard most frequently as the bird rises
startled from the bank and pursues its way across the water, often so
low as to strike the surface with its wings.

There are many other birds, of course, that may be met with by upland
streams, but the foregoing are the characteristic species, each in
every way adapted to a life in, or by, the side of their turbulent
waters. These other species found by the mountain or upland waters may
be met with in even greater plenty elsewhere, so that a mere passing
mention of them will suffice in the present chapter. The Heron, of
course, is a visitor to the side of the upland stream; often flushed
from the quiet reaches where the trout and grayling hide under the
moss-grown stones. He is, however, just as much at home by the
margin of lowland pools and streams, or about the rocky coasts and
estuaries, and no exclusive dweller or sojourner in one locality more
than another. Then the Mallard, especially in the Highlands, shows
a strong preference for these upland burns, especially during the
breeding season; and we can recall instances of flushing the duck of
this species with a numerous progeny from these mountain torrents. On
one occasion we were tramping the moorlands in Skye in company with
a gamekeeper friend and a fine retriever. Suddenly we came upon a
brood of young Wild Ducks and their mother. The young birds scattered
in all directions, and hid themselves in holes and corners by the
stream and amongst the tufts of rushes. The old bird, however, would
not leave her brood notwithstanding the onslaught of the barking dog.
With bill wide open and wings expanded she refused to be driven from
the spot; so that, to save her life we were obliged to secure the dog
and to leave the spot, where doubtless she soon gathered her brood
around her again. Then the Redshank, one of the prettiest and most
graceful of our indigenous wading birds, is a by no means unfrequent
visitor to the sandy reaches about the eddies in the Highland burns.
This we have repeatedly remarked to be the case in Cromartyshire, in
the streams that flow into Loch Carron, and in the vicinity of Strome
Ferry. But more of all these interesting birds anon. Lower down the
hillsides, where the course of the upland streams is marked by a fringe
of alder-trees, we have avine visitors in some variety, especially
during the autumn and winter months. These trees are a favourite resort
of Redpoles, Siskins, and almost all the British species of Titmice
between October and March. The Kingfisher again should claim passing
notice in the bird-life of the upland stream. He, like the Heron, may
be often met with during a ramble along the banks of these romantic
water-ways, but inasmuch as he is also a dweller on all descriptions of
water from the hills to the flat country, we cannot fairly claim him as
a special feature in the bird-life of an upland stream. There are, for
instance, many pairs of Kingfishers that habitually nest in the steep
banks of the Derwent in its higher reaches among the hills and dales of
the Peak; there are others on many of the hill brooks in the vicinity
of Sheffield; whilst we have repeatedly seen this gem-like bird on many
a Scottish burn. Lastly, we might mention that the cries of Plovers,
Curlews, Grouse, and Greenshanks, the song of Ring-ouzel, Twite, and
Titlark, the bleating of the Snipe, and the gag of Wild Geese may often
be heard mingling with the babble of these upland torrents, and the
birds themselves met with on their banks, or within a short distance
of their waters; but all these species more correctly belong to other
localities, and must be dealt with elsewhere.



CHAPTER II.

ON MOORLANDS AND ROUGHS.[1]


In a previous volume, dealing with bird-life in a southern county,
we expressed disappointment not only with the miniature moorlands of
Devonshire, but with their lack of feathered inhabitants. Tame these
lands must ever seem by comparison with the typical moors, and from an
ornithological point of view wanting in interest to persons familiar
with the grand expanse of heath and mountain waste in the north. For
many years we lived within little more than an hour's walk of the
Yorkshire and Derbyshire moors. At one period we used to visit them
several times a week in quest of ornithological information, varying
our experience by occasional much more extended excursions over them.
We know them in the heat and the brightness of spring and summer; in
the autumn, when their rolling expanse is aflame with a glow of purple
and brazen bloom from the heath and gorse; as well as in winter, when
the wind sweeps across them in resistless fury, and the snow covers
them with a dazzling pall, levelling the hollows and drifting into
fantastic wreaths. We retain vivid memories (supplemented with copious
notes) of the constantly changing aspects of bird-life upon them.
Farther afield we are well familiar with some of the wildest and
grandest of the Highland heaths. Monotonous as these vast wastes may
seem, relieved by little or no sylvan variety, a detailed examination
will not fail to reveal that the impression gained by a casual scrutiny
is an erroneous one. The configuration of their surface is subject
to as much diversity as more pastoral or arboreal country. We find
lofty eminences, spacious valleys, rolling billowy tracts, extensive
plains, hills, and dales--all for the most part devoid of timber, yet
presenting considerable variety in the vegetation according to the
nature of the soil. The heather (of various kinds) is of course the one
predominating shrub, but mingled amongst it are more or less extensive
tracts of bilberry and kindred plants, of bracken, bramble, briar, and
a host of others, the botanical names of which we need not stay here to
specify. This is upon the drier ground; where marshy conditions prevail
we find grasses of various kinds, rushes, large patches of sphagnum,
variegated here and there with sundew and clumps of bell-heather,
the latter easily identified by its large pale-pink blooms. Here and
there the monotony of the moors is relieved by lofty crags and ridges
of millstone grit, the slopes below them studded with boulders of
varying size right down to the stream. In some parts the soil is deep
and peaty, almost black; in others it is scanty, and the bed-rocks peep
through the stone-strewn ground, where the sturdy ling and wire-like
bilberry have a hard struggle to maintain themselves. Roughly speaking,
each description of moorland ground has its own peculiar birds. Some
species there are, it is true, that distribute themselves more or
less universally throughout the moorlands, but others are confined to
well-defined limits. Then, again, these moors are inhabited by two
very distinct avifaunæ--a limited one which is practically sedentary,
and a more extensive one composed entirely of migratory species. As
might naturally be expected, the birds that can exist upon these
bleak storm-swept moorlands during winter are extremely few; possibly
we might reduce the number to a single species, and even this is
occasionally partially driven from its heathy haunts by the inclemency
of the northern winter. Of the avine visitors that flock to the moors
each recurring spring-time, and just as surely depart in autumn, there
are close upon thirty species--a goodly list, and which is slightly
increased by a few passing migrants. From this it will be seen that
these uplands, with their universal reputation for barrenness, are
by no means devoid of bird-life, and that in summer especially they
abound with interest to the ornithologist. The lover of birds, however,
will in many, if not in most cases, find that his quest for knowledge
is hampered by not a few restrictions. Almost everywhere these moors
are jealously guarded from the intrusion of strangers, however harmless
they may be. Keepers are ever on the look-out to warn intruders off the
sacred breeding grounds of the Red Grouse; the hillsides and plains are
systematically swept by the keeper's telescope in quest of trespassers;
innumerable notice-boards threaten the innocent wayfarer with all
the rigours of the law should he chance to wander from the scarcely
discernible footpath or the public highway. To ornithologize in comfort
one must make our peace--usually purchasable at a certain price--with
the custodians of the moors, and then all is plain sailing. There is
much to be said both for and against such restrictions. On the one hand
the Grouse represent vast sums of money to the owners of the moors, an
income in not a few cases to many an otherwise impoverished landlord;
considerable expense is incurred in maintaining a staff of keepers
and watchers, and there is no small outlay in many other directions.
On the other hand, there are those that argue that the public have
a legitimate right to wander at will over these noble expanses of
heather, that they should be free to all, and that no vested rights
should be allowed in such an utterly wild bird as the Red Grouse.
Unfortunately there can be little doubt that if the bird were not
strictly preserved, and its shooting an expensive luxury, there would
soon be no Red Grouse left. Of the two evils we would prefer the former
after all, for every naturalist worthy of the name would deeply deplore
the extermination of such an interesting species, found as it is in no
other part of the world except on the British moorlands. Let us keep
the species strong and vigorous and abundant, by whatever means, rather
than see it meet the same wretched fate as the Great Auk and scores of
other interesting avine forms that have vanished from this world for
ever as a direct result of man's crass stupidity and wanton slaughter!

[Illustration: The Red Grouse.]

Practically there is but one species confined to the moors all the
year round, absolutely indigenous to them, and found in no other
localities. This is the famous Red Grouse, a species familiar by
name if not by appearance to most people. The abundance of this bird
in the game-dealers' shops from the 12th of August onwards to the
middle of December renders it familiar enough with the multitude; but
comparatively few people know the bird in life amidst its wild and
breezy upland haunts. Not that it is a species that takes much finding,
or that secretes itself in the remoter parts of its wild home; it is
obtrusive enough, by no means shy, and may generally be seen in plenty
from the highways. Very frequently half a dozen or more Grouse may
be seen sitting upon the top of the rough stone walls that separate
the heath from the road; tame enough, too, to allow an observer to
approach them within a few paces before they take wing with noisy cries
and hide themselves among the brown heath. Or again, the wanderer
over the moors who keeps a sharp look-out may detect plenty of Grouse
among the heather, craning their necks above the vegetation, ready
to fly off to safer quarters if too deeply alarmed. Then, in spring
especially, their very peculiar and unmistakable notes never fail to
arrest the attention; and not unfrequently the birds will startle one
as they rise, calling loudly, from the herbage at our very feet by
the wayside. Or very often the big brown birds may be approached very
closely during a fog. In these districts fogs frequently come on with
absolutely startling rapidity. Not the yellow soup-like abominations
that are so familiar in London and other big cities, but dense shrouds
of white vapour that chill one to the very marrow, obscure every
landmark, and render the moors practically impassable for the time
being. Often have we been so caught in these moorland fogs and been
compelled to wait amongst the heath until they cleared. On other
occasions they have overtaken us upon the highways across the moors,
and then we have remarked the apparent stupidity of the Grouse amongst
the mist. We have approached the birds as they sat bewildered in the
stunted thorn and birch trees by the wayside, or upon the walls, and
often remarked how loth they were to take wing, allowing us to come
within a few feet of them without showing the slightest concern. The
poacher would make the most of such splendid opportunities, but his
fraternity are scarce upon the moors, and the keepers are not much
bothered by such gentry. He has perhaps the most to fear from the
wandering gypsy--that curious mixture of itinerant tinker, hawker,
horse-dealer, and romany, that scours the country-side nomad-like,
with a retinue of scraggy horses, dirty children, tilted wagon and
tent. This man takes every Grouse egg that he can with impunity, and
every bird that comes in his way. We well remember how one of the most
disastrous moorland fires in South Yorkshire was attributed to these
gypsies. Some of their number, we believe, had been prosecuted for
poaching or egg-stealing, and out of revenge the moors were fired. For
days the heather burned in all directions in spite of every effort to
subdue it, and vast numbers of Grouse were destroyed in the flames, and
their ancient strongholds reduced to a blackened waste. The fire, which
we could see from our residence at Heeley, was a most impressive sight
by night, and must have cost the owner of the moors a large sum even
in the mechanical labour of arresting its progress, to say nothing of
the destruction of the long heather which takes years to replace and
become suitable cover for Grouse. As some readers may be aware, the
heather is systematically fired, usually in spring, so that a supply of
tender shoots from the resprouting ling may be furnished as food for
the Grouse. Great judgment and care are required, or vast tracts of
cover may be ruined for years. We have known farmers so destroy many
acres of valuable Grouse cover purely to secure pasturage for sheep.
The Grouse loves to frequent this long, well-matured ling; it affords
a splendid shelter during winter, whilst the buds and tender tops
form favourite food. Next to the Ptarmigan, the Red Grouse is by far
the wildest of British game birds, and the least dependent upon the
protection of man. Owing, however, to the ever-increasing value of the
bird for sporting purposes (a sovereign per brace shot being considered
by no means an exorbitant price), the preservation and propagation of
Red Grouse now receive more care and consideration than ever. Grouse
breeding is becoming as important in one direction as Pheasant and
Partridge breeding is in another. The birds are not kept up to their
present numbers, notwithstanding the inroads of the sportsman and the
periodical epidemics of disease, without the exercise of great care and
skill, not only in the preservation of a necessary amount of breeding
stock, but by the improvement of the moors by surface-draining,
burning, and so on.

The Red Grouse is much more of a ground bird than the Capercailzie or
the Black Grouse, although it may be seen perched in trees from time
to time. This is all the more interesting because its near ally, the
Willow Grouse--the Lagopus albus of ornithologists--is greatly attached
to trees, roosting in them, and is chiefly met with amongst birch or
willow thickets. Another interesting fact concerning the Red Grouse
is its strictly monogamous habits, and, as is almost universally the
rule in such cases, the male resembles the female in colour much more
closely than in Grouse where polygamous instincts prevail. Marvellously
protective in coloration is the plumage of the Red Grouse in both
sexes and at all times of the year. The birds are seen only with
the greatest difficulty as they skulk amongst the heath and other
moorland vegetation; the sitting bird upon her nest is one of the most
impressive object-lessons in protective coloration that we have, whilst
the eggs and chicks themselves are tinted in colours that harmonize
most beautifully with the objects around them. Very early in spring
the crow of the cock Grouse proclaims the approaching breeding season.
This, however, varies to some extent, the birds on the highest and most
exposed moors being later to nest than those dwelling on more sheltered
heaths. Late snow-storms often destroy many nests, even on the English
moors; and we have seen nests in April in South Yorkshire buried in
snow and the eggs frozen. Farther north, on the Scottish moors, the
young birds sometimes suffer considerably from late snow-storms, whilst
persistent wet is almost as fatal to them. The nest is scanty enough,
and always made upon the ground amongst the ling and heather, being
merely a hollow scratched out by the hen bird and lined with a little
vegetable refuse, such as bents, withered sprays of heath, and fern
fronds. Many nests are made quite close to the highways and footpaths.
We have known nests within half a dozen yards of the turnpike road
along which traffic of some kind was continually passing. The number
of eggs varies a good deal according to the season, age of the hen
bird, and situation of the moor. Few of our British eggs are handsomer,
being cream-white in ground colour, thickly marked with brown of
varying shades from red and crimson to nearly black. The colour,
however, is by no means a "fast" one, and may be easily washed off, so
that they require to be taken as soon as laid, and handled and kept
for some weeks at least with care, if their beauty is to be preserved
in the cabinet. Although the Red Grouse is not polygamous, the cock
bird does not assist in the duties of incubation, still he assists
the hen in bringing up the brood. During autumn and winter the life
of the Red Grouse is by no means a happy one, that is to say in some
ways. From the 12th of August to the 10th of December he has to run the
gauntlet of the gunner; and now that the deadly practice of "driving"
is almost universally resorted to, on the Yorkshire moors at all
events, even the wary old birds are shot down practically at will. Then
when the shooters are done with him the Grouse has all the hardships
of a northern winter to go through. Snow-storms of unusual severity
often drive Red Grouse from the moors to the lower and more sheltered
valleys, even to the nearest farmyards, where we have known them search
for food with the poultry. During some winters the Grouse have been
so hard pressed as to quit the heather in numbers, and we have then
known them actually to be taken in the streets of Sheffield! With a
moderate winter, however, the birds manage fairly well, snow-storms
being always the most fatal to them. Upon the return of spring, given
an absence from disease, the birds soon get into prime condition again;
most of the weakly ones have been weeded out, and the surviving stock
of vigorous birds are ready to propagate their kind.

But we must now leave the Red Grouse crowing so lustily to each other
amongst the heather, and devote a portion of our space to the many
other feathered dwellers upon the moors and heaths. Perhaps it may be
best to clear off the few Passerine species first. These are all birds
of migratory habits, although some are greater travellers than others.
Beginning with those that journey the shortest distance, we may notice
first the Meadow Pipit. Although by no means an exclusively moorland
bird, the Meadow Pipit is almost universally distributed over these
wastes between spring and autumn, wherever the ground is wet. Almost to
a bird these Pipits leave the South Yorkshire moors during September
and October. We used sometimes to meet with odd birds on the rough
grounds below the moors during winter, but, speaking generally, the
migrational movement is pretty complete. Meadow Pipits always give us
the impression of being somewhat sad little birds, taking life very
seriously, as even human dwellers on these moorland solitudes are apt
to do. We may illustrate this by a comparison of the cheery Wren with
these Pipits, and then the reader will quite understand our meaning.
The melancholy complaining note of the Meadow Pipit is one of the most
characteristic small-bird notes on the moors between April and October.
Every marshy spot is almost certain to contain a pair or more of them,
and their nests are the favourite nursery of the Cuckoo. The song of
this species is a pleasing one, uttered as the bird descends from a
short flight into the air. All through the genial days of a moorland
spring the birds may be watched rising and falling, shuttlecock-like,
from the heath and cotton-grass. Then, when the nesting season is
past, the young and old join into flocks of varying size and betake
themselves to the lower ground, appearing in autumn in large numbers
in turnip-fields and potato patches. The breeding season of this Pipit
varies considerably according to latitude. On the southern uplands, in
Devonshire for instance, the nest is made in April; in the Highlands
it is from one to two months later. The migrational movements are
about the same date in Yorkshire as they are in Devonshire; and the
journey extends in both localities from the high inland moors down
to the marshy meadows and saltings of the coast. We have found nests
of this Pipit in the Rivelin Valley built absolutely in shallow pools
of stagnant water, the moss of the foundation being saturated with
moisture. These nests contained the usual complement of eggs and the
birds were sitting upon them.

[Illustration: The Twite.]

Another characteristic bird of the moors, and one with almost exactly
the same migrational movements as the Meadow Pipit, is the Twite. This
unassuming species is the one Finch of the wide undulating expanses
of heather. It may be readily identified by the merest novice. Like
a Linnet in general appearance, but wanting the exquisite carmine
flush that adorns the more homely bird, as well as the ruby-coloured
patch on the crown, its distinction is its bright yellow bill. The
Twite, most appropriately called in many districts the "Heather
Lintie", is but a bird of summer amongst the heather, retiring in
autumn to the lowland fields, where we shall meet with it again amidst
much more pastoral surroundings. Usually one meets with it sitting
on some tall twig of ling, uttering its monotonous note, which the
imagination of ornithologists has syllabled as _twa-ite_; hence the
bird's trivial name. It will thus sit and call monotonously until our
nearer approach disturbs it, and it rises and flits in a drooping
manner just above the heather to another perching-place a little
farther on, to repeat its call and again to await our advance, when
once more it rises to drop upon some twig and renew its plaint. The
Twite gains an additional interest when we remember how rare a bird it
is in the south; we know it as a by no means common winter visitor in
Devonshire, notwithstanding the fact that there are many localities
where one might expect to find it in summer; whilst even in treeless
Cornwall--a wild rugged land enough--the bird is so rare that Rodd
knew of but a single example, and that was obtained near Penzance.
Then again the bird is confined during the breeding season exclusively
to the British moors, with the exception of the coast districts of
Norway. From the midlands of England northwards to the Shetlands,
the Twite has its only summer residence with us. We fear that we
never appreciated the Twite sufficiently when we lived so close to
its haunts and considered him too common for any special notice or
admiration. It is only after we have dwelt in districts where he is
unknown that we have begun to regard him with exceptional attention;
and now, profiting by past experience, we never see him flitting about
the heather without giving a thought to his localness. After all, he
is a most interesting little bird; and his pretty nest, cunningly
concealed amongst the tangled heath, possesses a rustic beauty that
well rewards one's patience for the often toilsome search. It is a
cup-shaped structure, made externally of grass bents, twigs, and moss,
the inside warmly lined with down from willow catkin and cotton-grass,
wool from the sheep that graze upon the moors, and feathers. The five
or six eggs are very similar to those of the Linnet, pale bluish-green
spotted with reddish-brown and gray. The Twite gets back to the moors
in April, and its domestic duties, accompanied by its weak little
song, are performed in April and May. In the Highlands the birds
nest later than in Yorkshire, but not much, for we have seen flocks
of young birds strong on the wing in Scotland in June. The moorlands
are finally deserted for the winter during September and October--a
vertical migration as interesting, if not so extensive, as the
Swallows' flight to Africa. A passing glance should also be given at
the Wheatear. This bird is by no means confined to the moors, yet it
is very characteristic of many parts of them, especially in the far
north. In Yorkshire it is by no means uncommon about the old quarries
and pits on the moors; farther north it becomes more numerous, although
scarcely attached to the heather in the same way as the Twite. Like
its congeners it is a dweller among the stones, a trait which has not
escaped the notice of the Highland peasants, who call the Wheatear a
"Clacharan", a "Stone-clatter", or a "Little Mason". This may possibly
be because his note resembles the clicking noise made by two pebbles
struck together, as well as from his propensity for the rocks and
stones. On the Scottish moorlands we have found this bird specially
common about the peat-pits and stacks, and in these latter we have
often found its nest--a somewhat untidy structure made of dry grass and
sometimes lined with hair and feathers, usually containing five or six
pale-blue eggs. The migrations of the Wheatear must be performed very
quickly. In Devonshire we note its arrival towards the end of March,
and yet by the first half-dozen days of April it has penetrated even
as far as the Orkneys and the Hebrides! Passing mention should here
also be made of the Sky-lark and the Stonechat--neither bird strictly
a moorland one, yet both found in the locality. The Stonechat, we
remember, used to be, and may be now, fairly common on the rough broken
ground, not exactly true moorland, in the valley of the Rivelin at
Hollow Meadows, half a dozen miles west of Sheffield.

Our last moorland Passere is the Ring-ouzel, a prime favourite with
us, and a species with which we have been exceptionally familiar from
boyhood's days. This bird always impressed us to a remarkable degree,
possibly because it is such a bold and assertive one. With a lifelong
experience of this handsome Ouzel--he is known to the country people
in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire as the "Tor Ouzel", _i.e._
Mountain Ouzel--we should unhesitatingly state that it is commonest
in the district of the Peak. He breeds upon the Cornish uplands, and
in Devonshire upon Dartmoor, as we have repeatedly remarked; then we
find him on the uplands of Somerset, and increasingly common over the
Welsh mountains northwards to the vast solitudes of the Pennine chain.
Farther north in Scotland he is found, but our experience is that the
bird is local, and common nowhere in the latter country. The moors
west of Sheffield, for some reason or another, are specially sought by
the Ring-ouzel; and nowhere in that district is the bird more abundant
than in the Rivelin Valley and between Stanage Edge and Derwent Edge,
and on the Bamford and Bradfield moors. South of Sheffield we may meet
with this Ouzel in fair numbers about Dore, Owler Bar, and westwards
over the Hathersage uplands.

[Illustration: The Ring-ouzel.]

As most readers may know, the Ring-ouzel is a spring migrant to the
British Islands, and the only migratory Thrush that comes to that area
to rear its young. Like some other northern migrants, its passage is
by no means a slow one. It arrives in South Devon sometimes as early
as the end of March, more usually the beginning of April, and what is
rather remarkable, this date is practically coincident with its arrival
in South Yorkshire. For many years we paid special attention to the
migrational movements of this bird, and should give its date of arrival
as the first week in April in that district. This seems to indicate
beyond question that Ring-ouzels migrate direct to their breeding areas
after landing on our southern coasts. They journey in flocks, often
of considerable size, and several seasons we were fortunate enough to
observe them in companies numbering several hundreds of birds, on the
very day of their appearance in the Rivelin Valley. These flocks soon
disband; in a day or so they break up, and the birds scatter themselves
in pairs over all the suitable breeding-places. The cock bird is not
only a handsome one, but very distinctively marked, easily recognized
as far as the eye can reach by his pure white gorget; otherwise he very
closely resembles the Blackbird in general appearance. The resemblance
does not end here, though, and in its habits and movements generally,
as well as in the nest and eggs, we have an equal similarity.

Whilst in flocks the birds are wary and wild enough, but when breeding
they become bold and venturesome to an astonishing degree--in these
respects exactly resembling their ally, the Missel-thrush. We remark
this Ouzel's habit of elevating the tail after alighting, just as
the Blackbird does; we also cannot fail to notice its exceeding
noisiness just prior to seeking a roosting-place; neither shall we
fail to observe its very Blackbird-like way of feeding, ever alert
and watchful. Soon after their arrival, but never, so far as we have
observed, before the flocks or travelling parties have disbanded,
the cock birds regain their vernal music characteristic of the love
season. With the resumption of song the bird loses a good deal of its
wariness, a fact we may notice in not a few other species. He will
sit and warble on the big boulders of granite or millstone grit, or
when perched on the top of a rough wall or some bending spray of ling
or gorse, just as sweetly as when sitting in the higher branches of
some birch or mountain-ash. His music is not of that rich excellence
that marks the song of the Blackbird, nor has it the variety so
characteristic of the Thrush; yet there is a wild beauty in harmony
with the surrounding scene that makes ample recompense for its failings
in other ways. Unfortunately the bird continually spoils his music
by introducing a series of inharmonious harsh notes. Like that of
the Blackbird the song is all too short, and even lacks the redeeming
feature of continuous flute-like melody, short as it is, that saves
the Blackbird's from being classed as commonplace. To our mind, the
Ring-ouzel always increased in interest during the breeding season.
Many scores of nests of this bird have we kept under observation, not
a few of them from the time the first twig was laid until the four
or five nestlings left them for ever. The birds are much attached to
certain spots, and return to nest in them with wonderful pertinacity.
Then, again, how often have we remarked their absurd attachment to
a nest in the course of building. We have known Ring-ouzels show
more concern for a handful of nest material--by no means a finished
nest--than scores of other species display over the absolute loss of a
nest and eggs. The Ring-ouzel is the Stormcock of the moor--ready to
do battle with much noisy clamour the moment its nest is approached.
This nest is not always made amongst the ling and heather; numbers are
placed in low bushes on the outskirts of the moor, and on the banks
of the streams and by the sides of the roughly-formed cart-tracks,
especially where the banks are steep. In early autumn Ring-ouzels
again become more or less social and gregarious; they then begin to
wander off the moors to the nearest fruit-gardens, and so gradually
work south in parties and flocks. Gilbert White, whose pleasure at
his discovery of the migrating Ring-ouzels across the Sussex Downs
may easily be surmised by the reader of his ever-charming letters,
tells us that he used to see these Thrushes--more than a hundred
years ago--in little parties about Michaelmas, and again in April,
and remarked their tameness. The birds are not so common in that area
now; times have changed and many species are gone, for in the same
letter (No. VII) he tells us that there are Bustards on the wide downs
near Brighthelmstone! Perhaps we might here take the opportunity
of mentioning that flocks of Snow Buntings sometimes appear on the
Highland moors, but our own experience of this charming arctic stranger
relates to more southern shires, and where we hope to meet with it
again later on in the present work.

[Illustration: The Merlin.]

The birds of prey that haunt the moors are all more or less migratory
in their habits, as might naturally be expected, because the species
upon which they depend for food are non-resident too. The Red Grouse,
it is true, is sedentary, but no raptorial bird frequents the moors
that preys exclusively upon that species, and it chiefly suffers
during the breeding season when the young chicks and poults are about.
The Merlin is the most deadly enemy of these. It is a spring migrant
to the moors, and is not known to breed with certainty south of
Wales. It may just possibly do so on Exmoor, but certainly does not
on Dartmoor; in fact, to Devonshire it must be regarded as a rare
visitor in autumn and winter. We have always found the Merlin to
be fairly common throughout the moors of North Derbyshire and South
Yorkshire. It is ruthlessly persecuted by the gamekeeper, and its
numbers consequently have declined almost to the vanishing point in not
a few districts. We never saw much of the Merlin on the moors between
Castleton and Sheffield before April. There are many favourite haunts
on these moors in which the bird may be found breeding every summer;
and curiously enough, although pair after pair may be destroyed, others
come and settle in the district the following season. We are glad
to be able to record that the bird has not been so severely hunted
down in one or two places, and consequently its numbers seem to be on
the increase. The spirited dash of this pretty little Falcon is not
exceeded by that of the Peregrine itself. Times without number have we
witnessed its fatal chase of the smaller birds of the moor--Twites,
Ring-ouzels, Meadow Pipits, and less frequently of Plovers, Grouse,
and occasionally Cuckoos. In the higher valley of the Rivelin, we once
watched an exciting chase by this bird of a Common Sandpiper, which
had been flushed from the heath-clad bank of one of the reservoirs at
Hollow Meadows. Pursuer and pursued strove their utmost, the Sandpiper
doubling, rising, and turning from side to side, and the relentless
Merlin following closely every movement as though each bird were
guided simultaneously by a common impulse. The chase was continued
over the large reservoir, and we had a fine uninterrupted view of each
bird's powers of wing. The Sandpiper, after the water was crossed,
gained a brief respite by hiding amongst the rushes on the opposite
bank; but the Falcon, undeterred, hovered above the spot and once more
flushed its quarry. The poor little Sandpiper wheeled rapidly round
and then flew off across a rough bit of rock and heath-strewn ground,
but its strength was exhausted; the Merlin's superior powers of flight
and endurance asserted themselves, and the Sandpiper, with a piteous
_weet weet_ of terror, was struck down. But the various birds of the
moorlands are by no means the Merlin's only food. Like most, if not all
the smaller Falcons, it subsists largely on certain insects. Whether
the bird's good offices in this direction counterbalance its tax upon
young Grouse we need not stay here to enquire. Perhaps in this case
they do not, for the insects caught can do little or no damage in such
localities; but on the other hand, we must remember that the Falcon
assists in keeping up the Grouse to a strong and vigorous standard by
killing off--if amongst others--a certain percentage of weakly and
unfit birds. There is some evidence to show that Grouse disease appears
in regular cycles on most moors--say every seven years--and competent
observers have attributed it to old birds spreading the contagion.
Now, had the larger Raptores not been so ruthlessly exterminated in
these localities, surely it is only reasonable to suppose that they
would have thinned out many of these birds, not perhaps preventing an
epidemic, but thus assisting in rendering it of a milder character than
otherwise prevails. Depend upon it, man seldom or never meddles with
the delicately-adjusted balance of nature without unfortunate results
in some direction. But to return to the Merlin and its economy. Like
the Sparrow-hawk and many other raptorial birds, this pretty species
selects some spot or spots in its haunts to which it conveys its
captures to devour them in peace. The nest is almost invariably made at
no great distance from these "dining-tables" or "larders", where the
bare and often rock-strewn ground is sprinkled with feathers, bones,
pellets, wing-cases and wings of insects, the remains of the Merlin's
food. These haunts, as previously remarked, are tenanted yearly with
wonderful regularity, and the nest each season is made in much the
same locality as in previous years. This nest is of the simplest, and
always, so far as we know, upon the ground. "Nests" have been recorded
in Scotland in the old nest of some other bird in a tree;[2] whilst in
some foreign countries a ledge of a cliff is said to be selected. Our
experience is that it is invariably upon the ground, and generally on
a rather bare spot amongst the heather or ling, often on an eminence
of some kind. Here in a slight hollow, with no lining as likely as
not, the four or five pretty red eggs of the Merlin are laid. They are
absolutely indistinguishable from those of the much commoner Kestrel,
but their terrestrial resting-place should prevent the novice confusing
them _in situ_. In autumn the Merlins quit the moors. It is difficult
to say how far these birds indigenous to our own moorlands migrate;
there is evidence to suggest that the movement is limited to a trip
to the lowlands, extending even to the coast. On the other hand, the
bird is certainly a species with a strongly marked and regular passage
in most parts of its extra British range. A word as to the plumage
of this interesting Falcon. The cock bird, with his slate-gray upper
parts, rufous nape, more or less distinctly barred tail, dark wings,
and rufous under parts streaked with dark brown, is possibly familiar
to most readers. The hen bird, so far as we can determine, is not only
slightly bigger than her mate, but much less handsome in colour. She
is dark rufous-brown on the upper parts, each feather with a paler
margin, the buff nape patch is paler and much less distinctly defined,
the tail is browner, and the under parts are dirty white streaked with
brown. This plumage closely resembles that of the young male. During
the past quarter of a century we have examined a great many skins of
the Merlin, and almost without exception the sexual differences in
colour were as described above. There are authorities, however, that
maintain that the adult plumage of the female of this Falcon is very
similar to that of the male. In this we are disposed to concur, for we
have examined an adult female obtained by Dr. Scully in Gilgit (and
his sexing of specimens is most reliable, as every naturalist who has
had the pleasure of seeing them will agree, the sexual organs being in
most cases sketched on the labels attached to the skins), in which the
sexual differences of colour were most trifling. It is said that the
females are shot off in this country before they can obtain their fully
adult dress. In fairness, however, we must state that there is always
the possibility of very old females assuming the male plumage, and
their apparent rarity may be due to this fact.

Unfortunately the other moorland birds of prey are now rare almost to
the verge of extinction; indeed, we regret to say the Merlin itself
in not a few localities is fast approaching the same condition. The
species that we shall allude to here is the Hen Harrier. This bird,
like nearly all the other birds of the moors, is a migratory one,
although there is some evidence to suggest that in our islands the
movement is to some extent confined to a journey to the lowlands and
the southern counties. Formerly this Harrier was a fairly familiar
bird on the moors of the south-western counties, where, however, its
local names of "Blue Hawk" and "Furze Kite", indicative of old-time
abundance, are nearly all that is left to us. We may remark in
connection with this bird that a century ago the male and female (being
so much unlike each other in plumage) were almost universally regarded
as two distinct species, the latter known as the "Ring-tail" Hawk.
Montagu cleared up the confusion by rearing a brood (doubtless from
a Devonshire nest), and clearly demonstrated that the two supposed
species were in reality the opposite sexes of one. About the South
Yorkshire moors the Hen Harrier is practically unknown. Our limited
experience of the bird was obtained on the moors of Skye, where we
believe it still continues to nest. We have there seen it beating along
the hillsides in a slow deliberate manner just above the tall ling,
amongst which, in this island, it almost invariably makes its nest,
placing it upon the ground. The four or five very pale-blue eggs are
often destroyed by sheep; in fact, we were assured by an intelligent
keeper in Skye that to this cause alone its diminishing numbers must
be attributed. This Harrier reaches the moors in April or early May,
and nests during the latter month and the first half of June. The cock
is a beautiful bird, with gray upper parts, darker on the throat and
breast, the remainder of the under parts and the upper tail-coverts
pure white, the primaries black. The hen is somewhat larger, dark-brown
above, paler brown below, streaked with rufous-brown; the upper
tail-coverts are, however, nearly white as in the male, which fact
seems to suggest that they are a recognition mark (Conf. _Curiosities
of Bird Life_, p. 249). The principal food of this Harrier consists of
small animals, such as moles, mice; of frogs, lizards, and insects. The
bird is also a great egg eater, robbing the nests of other moorland
species. Although to some small extent it may prey upon birds, there
is nothing in its habits to cause uneasiness to the owner of a Grouse
moor; the bird's comparative harmlessness should secure for it greater
immunity from gun, trap, and poison than it at present receives. There
are one or two other Raptores we may just allude to here as dwellers
on or fairly regular visitors to the moorlands. On the South Yorkshire
moors the Kestrel is, we are glad to say, still a fairly common bird.
It is fond of the outskirts of the moors, the rough grounds often
crowned with ridges--ranges of low cliffs--of millstone grit, and
in these it habitually nests. Then the Sparrow-hawk is a frequent
visitor to the heath-clad wastes, but chiefly to the borderland and in
localities where there are plantations of larch and fir, in which the
bird can find seclusion and a suitable nesting haunt. We have often
remarked that these moorland Sparrow-hawks quit such areas during
winter when small birds are absent. The Rough-legged Buzzard passes
over many parts of the South Yorkshire moors on migration, especially
in autumn. We have examined many fine examples of this bird, obtained
on the Ashopton moors and about Derwent, chiefly birds of the year. The
two species of British Eagles must also be mentioned as visitors to the
Highland moors, although not exclusively indigenous to them. They are
better described as mountain birds, and shall receive more detailed
notice in our chapter devoted to the avine characteristics of such
localities. (conf. p. 81.) So also may we remark that the Raven will be
dealt with in the same chapter. In Devonshire the Raven is still to be
found on Dartmoor--one of the few inland localities that it frequents
in England nowadays; but elsewhere on the English moors, so far as our
experience goes, the bird is but a casual visitant.

[Illustration: The Lapwing.]

The moorlands, being as they are the least changed districts in the
British area, continue to be the resort of a large number of shy birds
of the Plover and Sandpiper tribe during the breeding season. In some
places no doubt the number of these birds is visibly diminishing, but
in the wilder districts there still remain sufficient to constitute
a decided ornithological feature. One of the best-known of these is
the Lapwing. Fortunately we can still class the Lapwing as a common
and even abundant bird in suitable districts, and now that its eggs
are protected by law in not a few spots we may hope to see a welcome
increase. This beautiful Plover--one of the handsomest of the entire
group--is by no means confined to the moors; it is a most adaptive
species, and makes itself at home on arable land as readily as in
wilder areas, still it is a prominent feature in not a few moorland
scenes. Who does not know the sad mewing cries and the restless
uneven flight of this Plover, as it rises startled from the ground and
commences its plaintive protest against our intrusion? Large numbers of
Lapwings breed on the North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire moorlands,
as well as on the rough grounds in their vicinity. We remember on one
occasion--we have a note recording the fact--seeing a pair of Lapwings
drop quietly to the ground just behind a stone wall that separated the
moor from the highway. Creeping carefully up to the spot we looked
through a chink in the wall and saw the two old birds with four chicks
which could not have been hatched many hours. The scene was a charming
one. The downy long-legged little creatures were running about picking
here and there, their parents standing guard, alert and watchful, yet
totally unconscious of prying human eyes not a dozen feet away from
them. After watching this family party for some time we intentionally
came into view, when the scene instantly became more interesting than
it was before. Both old birds rose into the air and commenced wheeling
and rolling about just above our head, the female by far the most
venturesome of the two. Then she alighted a yard or so away, and with
both her broad wings sweeping the ground dragged herself along for a
few paces, striving her hardest to get us to follow. But we confined
our attention for a time to the chicks. All four of these artful
youngsters at the first alarm scattered in as many different directions
and hid themselves amongst the heath and grass almost with the rapidity
of thought. Search as we might we could find but two, although we knew
full well the others were concealed on a patch of ground no larger than
an ordinary table. These two chicks we pocketed for specimens, but we
were so touched by the way the old Lapwings followed us over the moor
crying so plaintively that more humane feelings got the better of us,
and we returned to the spot and placed both young birds where we had
found them. Such little episodes as these go so far, we always think,
in making ornithology so very attractive.

Another allied species breeding on most of our northern moors (and
in some few instances in the south-western counties) is the Golden
Plover. There are few more handsome birds of this order than the Golden
Plover in wedding plumage. The upper parts--as they are all the year
round--are thickly spotted with golden yellow on a dark-brown ground,
the under surface is black as jet. We begin to see these Plovers back
upon their moorland breeding-places in March; in April they become more
numerous. Like most of the other birds found on these moors in summer
they spend the winter upon the lowlands; in this case frequenting
the flat coasts and marshy meadows and saltings near the sea. They
love the swampy portions of the moors--the spacious hollows between
the hills, where the wet ground is clothed with a dense growth of
rushes, cotton-grass, and sphagnum, amongst which the heath and ling in
scattered patches mark the drier portions of the ground. At the first
alarm the ever-watchful Plovers rise one after the other from all parts
of the waste, and then begins a chorus of flute-like whistling cries,
bird after bird taking up the chorus and alarming all other and less
demonstrative species within hearing. Here and there a Golden Plover
may be seen quietly standing upon the spongy ground. But it needs sharp
eyes to see them, so closely does their spangled backs harmonize with
the golden sphagnum and other vegetation. May is their breeding season,
and their four large pear-shaped eggs are deposited in a scantily-lined
hollow, often beneath the shade of a tuft of rushes or cotton-grass.
These eggs are very much the same in general appearance as those of
the Lapwing, but the tints are richer and brighter. Of the Sandpiper
or Snipe tribe there are at least half a dozen more or less common
species that visit the moors in spring to breed. Most of them are
never met with on our south-western uplands at this season, although
the Snipe, the Curlew, and the Dunlin are more cosmopolitan in their
choice. The two former species are by far the commonest and most
widely dispersed on the Yorkshire moors, the remaining four or five
are rarer, more local, or absent altogether. The peculiar drumming or
bleating of the Snipe is one of the most characteristic of avine sounds
upon these moors in spring; the quavering whistle (uttered always, or
nearly so, whilst the bird is upon the ground), or the better known
and somewhat mournful _curlee_ (heard whilst the bird is careering to
and fro in mid-air) of the Curlew is little, if any, less familiar.
On the Hebridean moors, as well as on those of Orkney and Shetland,
in the neighbourhood of the sea, the Whimbrel breeds sparingly. It
is extremely local, but its habits and economy generally are very
similar to those of the larger and better known Curlew. It differs,
however, in its migrations, and is a summer visitor only to the British
Islands, the greater number passing over them to still more northern
breeding grounds in the Faroes, Iceland, and elsewhere. The Dunlin,
notwithstanding the fact that it nests on some of our south-western
uplands, finds its favourite breeding grounds on more northern moors
up to the Orkneys and the Shetlands. Here again we have a species
donning a jet-black belly for the nuptial season. It also displays a
very decided preference for the swampy portions of the moors in which
to perform its nesting duties. Then there are the two species of
Totani, the one easily distinguished by its orange-coloured legs (the
Redshank), the other by its green legs and slightly upturned bill (the
Greenshank). The latter, however, is much rarer than the former, and
is only known to breed in the Highlands. The Redshank is fairly common
during summer on our northern moors, but this species, like one or two
others, is as much at home in more lowland haunts. You may meet with
it during summer amongst scenery of a directly opposite character--the
fens and broads of the eastern counties. Redshanks are alert and noisy
birds, rising from their moorland haunts when alarmed, and keeping up
their shrill double note with almost irritating persistency. As numbers
often breed in the same district, the din from the frightened birds
soon becomes general. The Greenshank visits its breeding grounds in
April and May, coming from over the sea like all our strictly summer
visitors, and departing in September and October with its young. This
bird again is a noisy one when disturbed, and careers about the air in
excitement until left in peace. All these birds breed upon the ground,
lay four eggs possessing very similar characteristics in colour and
shape, and their nests are found with some difficulty, owing to the
protective tints of their eggs.

Of the Duck family the Mallard is by far the commonest and most widely
dispersed. It loves the pools and streams and marshy spots upon the
moors, but as it breeds as generally in more lowland localities we can
scarcely describe it as a typical moorland bird. The same remarks may
be said to apply to the Teal, the Wigeon, and some few others. Then
in the moorland fastnesses of the Hebrides, and in some parts of the
mainland Highlands, the Gray-lag Goose still finds a haunt sufficiently
seclusive, although we are assured that its numbers are decreasing.
We know from personal experience that it breeds amongst the ling and
heather on some of the Outer Hebrides, making a huge nest of branches
and twigs, rushes, and other dry vegetation which is finally lined
with down. The six to eight eggs are creamy-white in colour. This bird
again is by no means a typical moorland one, for it formerly bred
in the fens of East Anglia, and would do so to this day had it not
been exterminated. Of the Gull tribe, perhaps the most characteristic
moorland species are the Skuas, two species of which are summer
migrants to certain of our wildest Highland moors. Where the moors
extend down to the coast in various northern districts, such birds as
Terns, Sheldrakes, and Eider Ducks may be found breeding upon them, but
we can scarcely regard such species or such localities to come within
the scope of the present chapter.



CHAPTER III.

ON MOUNTAIN AND LOCH.


Mountain bird-life, if scarce, is not without its charm. That of the
loch, taking one season with another, is more varied and abundant; so
that combining the two districts together--and they are in most cases
inseparably associated--we shall have abundant material to interest
us. The mountain bird-life of England--except, perhaps, in the extreme
north--is comparatively limited, especially nowadays when persecution
has worked such havoc amongst certain species. That of the loch is
peculiarly of a Scottish type inasmuch as the present chapter is
concerned. The bird-life of these two districts is essentially of a
northern type, belonging, like the mountains and lochs themselves, to a
wilder and more rugged scenery than any the southern shires can boast.
Many of the avine forms belonging to these localities are strictly
boreal or even arctic in their distribution, finding a suitable habitat
by altitude rather than latitude; many of them are but winter visitors
or abnormal wanderers to the south. In some cases these particular
localities are the home of representative species that take the place
of more southern types, and afford us a fine series of ornithological
comparisons of the deepest interest. The naturalist familiar with
bird-life in the southern counties only, will, in investigating the
avifauna of mountain and loch, enter upon an entirely novel series of
avine phenomena.

[Illustration: The Ptarmigan.]

[Illustration: The Raven.]

From the moorlands to the mountains and lochs is in many localities a
transition of an almost imperceptible character. In not a few cases the
moors terminate in mountain summits beyond the borderland, where the
two species of heather cease to climb, or the most sturdy and tenacious
ling that clothes the hillsides for still another thousand feet or
more. In a similar manner the lochs are usually situated in hollows
among the hills, or penetrate in winding fiords from the sea between
towering highlands or heath-clothed wastes that at higher altitudes
terminate in bare and wind-swept mountain summits. As with the avifauna
of the moors and heaths we shall find that the birds of the mountains
are more or less a shifting population. Indeed the similarity is
made even more complete by the fact that in both regions--moor and
mountain--we find but one sedentary species. Upon the moors we found
the practically resident Red Grouse; upon the mountains we shall find
the Ptarmigan, a bird that clings to the bleak summits throughout the
year. In some respects the Ptarmigan is a more interesting species
than the Red Grouse; there is more variety in its economy, and the bird
itself is one of the most beautiful examples of protective coloration
that the entire range of organic life can show. Our first acquaintance
with the Ptarmigan was made nearly twenty years ago, near the summit
of the Cuchullin Hills in Skye. Although the time was May, patches of
snow were lying in the hollows and a cold piercing wind swept along the
hillsides. Lower down the slopes we had lingered to watch the gambols
of a pair of Ravens that were haunting the rocks; whilst a Peregrine
Falcon had just swept by. Upon a small piece of level ground we flushed
several Ptarmigan, one after the other, that had been lying concealed
on the stony face of the mountain. They were readily identified by
their white wings. After the first bird had risen we scanned the ground
carefully for others, but none were seen until they rose in noisy
flight and sped away. It is interesting to remark that the Peregrine
we had seen a short time before must have flown right over the spot
where these Ptarmigan were crouching. Possibly the recent appearance
of the Falcon had made them lie closer than usual, and rendered them
loth to take wing. With the exception of a few weeks in the very depth
of winter, the Ptarmigan is more or less changing in colour throughout
the year. In mid-winter, as most readers may know, the bird is pure
unsullied white, with the exception of a jet-black patch in front of
the eye in the male, and the outermost tail-feathers, which are black
in both sexes. In early spring, sometimes it is said by the middle or
end of February, the first signs of the coming summer plumage are seen
on the neck, and during the three succeeding months the birds undergo
a complete transformation, the feathers on the breast, it should be
noted, being assumed last of all. It is a significant fact that the
parts of the plumage least exposed, such as the flight feathers and
the feathers on the belly, present the smallest amount of change
from the white winter dress. This is more apparent in the male than
in the female, doubtless owing to the fact that the latter is more
liable to injury whilst brooding on the nest. Broadly speaking, in
the male in summer plumage the upper parts and the breast and flanks
are dark-brown, more or less mottled, and barred with gray and buff;
whilst in the female the upper parts are darker, practically black,
mottled with gray and rufous, and the under parts are chestnut-buff
barred with dark-brown. This plumage prevails during June and July,
although subject to some change by sun and abrasion, whilst towards
the end of the latter month signs of the autumn livery begin to be
apparent. In this dress again the sexes are similar, as we might
naturally expect to be the case, now that the breeding season is over,
and both male and female are exposed to the same conditions of life.
The upper parts, the breast and flanks, are gray, vermiculated with
black. By the end of August this autumn dress is fully attained. It is
worn for nearly a couple of months, subject of course to some change
from abrasion and sun. Then comes the transition to the white winter
plumage, which in most cases becomes complete by the middle of November
contemporaneously with the snow that lies upon the mountains for the
next three months or more. This beautiful arrangement of nature becomes
even more impressive by certain comparisons. For instance, the Red
Grouse, living as it does amongst the ling and heath, and in a region
where snow seldom covers the ground for many days at a time, retains
a brown dress throughout the year; in this species also the flight
feathers are constantly brown in hue, just as those of the Ptarmigan
are white. But the nearest ally of the Red Grouse, the Willow Grouse
(the Lagopus albus of ornithologists), inhabiting the tundras of the
arctic regions right round the world, assumes a pure white plumage for
the winter (readily distinguished, by the way, from the Ptarmigan by
the absence of the black patch before the eye), and in this case again
the flight feathers are constantly white--a dress that is admirably
protective amidst the winter snows of its northern home. Here, then,
we have two birds distantly related, like the Ptarmigan and the Willow
Grouse, donning white plumage in winter for protection, whilst the Red
Grouse, so closely allied to the Willow Grouse, and resembling it in
many details of its economy, remains practically the same in appearance
summer and winter alike. The retention of the white quills is a very
interesting fact. These Grouse moult their flight feathers but once in
the year, in autumn; and probably the reason they are constantly white
is because this tint is no disadvantage to the species, being always
concealed except during flight. As we know, these birds take wing most
reluctantly, always endeavouring to elude observation by crouching
close to the ground. Similarly, the central tail-feathers of the Willow
Grouse and Ptarmigan are the only ones that change in colour with the
seasons--varying from white in winter to brown marked with gray and
buff in summer, and gray mottled with black in autumn--the remainder
being constantly black, and when the tail is closed of course concealed
by the central pair.

Ptarmigan are nothing near such noisy birds as Red Grouse, and their
usual note is a hoarse and guttural croak. Otherwise there is much
in their economy of general resemblance. They pair in spring, make
a scanty nest upon the ground, and their eggs very closely resemble
those of the more familiar species, but the markings are larger and
not so heavily dispersed--characters that are in perfect harmony with
the different nature of the ground upon which they rest. The eggs are
generally laid in May. Then again we remark the same tendency to flock
in autumn, as in the Red Grouse. As previously remarked, this single
species practically exhausts the resident avifauna of the mountain
heights. There are a few other species still to be noticed, but none of
them are confined to these localities, although they may be met with in
them at any season. Some of these birds are migratory, others wander
about visiting lower ground, and are therefore in no sense permanently
indigenous to the mountain tops, or even to their lower slopes.

Dealing with the resident species first, we have the two species of
British Eagles that in spite of persecution have managed to retain
their place in our avifauna. They owe their survival most probably to
the inaccessibility of their haunts. Time was when the Golden Eagle
frequented the Peak district of Derbyshire, and when the White-tailed
Eagle regularly bred in the area of the English Lakes and even in
the Isle of Man; whilst farther south still we find records of its
nest in Lundy Island and the Isle of Wight. Persecution has succeeded
in exterminating these Eagles in all such lowland haunts; even the
South of Scotland has proved no safer refuge, and at the present
day the mountains of the north are the sole locality in which they
are normally found. We can vividly recall our first meeting with
the Golden Eagle. We had spent many days amongst the Highlands in
fruitless quest of this fine bird, but all that rewarded us were a few
heads and feet, time-worn and ancient, nailed here and there to some
stable or kennel door of a gamekeeper's premises, and any number of
tales told by shepherds and keepers of how the species had been shot
and trapped without mercy. At last our search was rewarded by the
discovery of an eyrie in a magnificent cliff. We shall never forget
how we watched the big black bird soar out of the rocks and circle
overhead, and how we stood gazing in admiration as it swept down from
the air towards its nest, with its mighty wings held up and expanded
to their utmost, just as we had often seen the Kestrel do, or tame
Pigeons, to give a more familiar instance. We have seen a good many
Eagles--of both species--since that eventful morning nearly twenty
years ago, but never with such excitement as then. We are glad to say
that the Golden Eagle in one or two localities seems to be increasing.
This is specially the case in certain deer forests, where the bird is
held (and justly so) to be harmless. There is, however, plenty of room
left for the preservation of this fine bird, and we should like to
see the placing of poisoned meat made illegal. The White-tailed Eagle
is perhaps the most familiar species of the two, but this bird loves
the hills near the sea, and its favourite resorts at the present time
are amongst the grand mountain scenery of the Hebrides, the Orkneys
and Shetland. We have often watched the magnificent aerial movements
of this Eagle from the mountain tops in the haunt of the Ptarmigan
and the blue hare. Like the larger Gulls and the Vultures, it will
remain in the highest air for long periods, sailing round and round in
spacious circles, ever and anon gliding obliquely down, then resuming
its ordinary flight. We often used to meet with it high up the hills
in Skye, a district which we believe still continues famous for this
Eagle, and we knew of several nests or eyries scattered over the
island. Both these eagles breed very early in the year, long before
the ordinary stream of tourists flows northwards; but this, we regret
to say, does not prevent many an eyrie being robbed of its eggs by
shepherds and others, in the pay of the collector or dealer from the
south. The last pair of Scotch Golden Eagles' eggs that we examined
had been forwarded unblown from the Highlands, roughly packed in a tin
box, and both were broken. One of these eggs, we believe, is now in the
Weston Park Museum at Sheffield. Eagles are somewhat sluggish birds,
resembling Buzzards in disposition, and exhibit none of that dash and
activity characteristic of the Falcons, or even of the short-winged
Hawks. They are also very unclean feeders, being little better than
Vultures in this respect. Of the two the White-tailed Eagle is the
worst; he is a regular scavenger of the shore, and in not a few cases
we have known him lured to his doom with a mass of stinking offal,
a putrid lamb, or decaying fish. Healthy vigorous birds or animals
are seldom attacked by this Eagle; it confines its attentions to the
weakly and the wounded creatures that cannot move fast or offer any
serious resistance. The Golden Eagle is a trifle more fastidious in
its selection of food, and frequently captures living and healthy
creatures, such as Grouse and hares, but even he does not refuse to
make a meal on carrion. When we take into consideration the food and
the sluggish habits of these Eagles, we are at a still greater loss
to understand the ruthless war of extermination that has been waged
against them for so long. As birds of prey go they are comparatively
harmless, and should be left in peace. We have heard a good deal
about the destruction of newly-dropped lambs by these Eagles, but
there is much to be said on the other side. Lambs at this early age
are liable to many fatalities, and it is scarcely fair to attribute
their disappearance to the Eagles. Many lambs are drowned or killed by
storms, and by accidental falls over rocks and cliffs: their bodies
offer a welcome meal to the Eagles. Some of these fatalities are due
to the carelessness of shepherds and keepers, who take good care that
the sheep farmer shall be made to believe that Eagles are responsible
for them. Many years ago we were up the hills with a keeper and his
dog. The latter--a wild unruly brute of a retriever--chased a lamb, and
knocked it over a steep bank into a mountain loch. We recovered the
body, and then the keeper with a sly look informed me that he should
tell so and so that the loss of this lamb was due to an Eagle! It is
the tale of the lowland coverts over again. There a scarcity of game is
attributed to poachers or vermin, whilst in reality a dishonest keeper
has disposed of it to an equally dishonest dealer. In the Highlands
the loss of Grouse and lambs and deer calves is too often laid to the
Eagles' charge, but let us hope that such a custom will cease, and that
these beautiful birds will duly profit by the circumstance.

Another raptorial bird by no means unfrequently met with on the
mountains is the Peregrine. In some parts of the Highlands this Falcon
may be found breeding on the face of some towering storr rock amongst
the frowning hills. We had an interesting experience of such a nest on
the lofty storr at Talisker, in Skye. This charming little spot nestles
in a hollow in the hills, is surrounded by trees of goodly growth and a
wealth of other vegetation--literally an oasis among bare mountains and
upland moors. We used to sit out in the garden and grounds there and
watch the Peregrines about their nest, which was situated in a gaping
fissure perhaps two-thirds of the distance up the face of the cliff.
A pair of Ravens also had their nest in the same rock, together with
numbers of Jackdaws and Starlings. Whether the Peregrines respected
the lives of their more weakly neighbours we cannot say, but the
Ravens oft resented the near approach of these Falcons, sallying out
from the cliffs and buffeting them in mid-air. Time after time we
watched these Falcons dart down from the higher air with both wings
closed and enter the fissure which contained their nest. The late Mr.
Cameron, then residing at Talisker, informed me that these Peregrines
had frequented the rocks here for many years, notwithstanding the fact
that their eggs or young were taken every season. At such a vast height
the Peregrines looked no bigger than Jackdaws, whilst the latter birds
resembled Starlings flying to and fro before the rugged cliff. The
Raven, we are glad to say, is a familiar bird still among the mountains
of the north. The time has gone for ever when we could number this
fine species as a denizen of the mountains of the Peak and some other
English uplands, although we have heard that it still nests amongst the
hills of the Lake district. The hoarse croak of the Raven is one of the
most familiar bird-notes heard among the Highlands. Notwithstanding
gun, trap, and poison, the bird somehow or another still maintains its
position; possibly its excessive cunning and wariness are the chief
means of its salvation. This bird is one of the few species indigenous
to both the north and south of England that is still commonest in
some of the southern shires. In Devonshire, especially, it is by no
means uncommon, both on the central plateau of Dartmoor as well as
along the rock-bound coasts. Indeed, until within the past few years
it used to breed within a mile or so of Torquay. We own to a special
weakness for the Raven notwithstanding his questionable means of
getting a livelihood. He has been our sole companion in many a rocky
glen, and cheered us by his wicked croaking on many a lonely ramble
over the wild hills of the north. We specially recall his lively ways
at St. Kilda, when of an evening we used to wander up the heights of
Connacher to watch the Fulmars and admire the glorious sunsets that
canopied the lonely Atlantic. We can also remember how we were cheered
by his croak when wandering, lost and hungry and tired out, across
the mountain heaths enshrouded in a dense mist between Sligachan and
Talisker, just as night was falling, and when, after making up our
mind for a night on the hills, we had the good fortune to meet with
a shepherd and obtain from him our bearings. For a northern bird the
Raven is another early breeder; and it is interesting to remark that
there is very little difference between the date of nesting in the
extreme south of England and the Highlands, March being the month in
both areas. In the Highlands, Ravens' nests are invariably destroyed
whenever they are accessible; but fortunately the wily birds, in not a
few localities, select fissures and rock ledges quite inaccessible save
to a winged enemy. A dead sheep or other animal will almost without
fail attract Ravens from a large area, and we have on one occasion
counted no less than seven on such a carcass, sharing the prize with
the Hooded Crow. A keeper friend of ours informed us of a much larger
congregation at the body of a dead horse, the birds in time picking the
bones of every scrap of flesh. Speaking of Ravens brings us of course
to a passing notice of the Hooded Crow. In England we have plenty of
Hooded Crows during autumn and winter, especially in the eastern
counties, but they do not breed in the country (if we except possibly
the Isle of Man). In the Highlands, however, the bird is a resident
pest--like the poor, always with us, and, sad to relate, as little
welcome. Amongst the mountains of the north, especially in the littoral
districts, the Hooded Crow is certainly the commonest bird of the Crow
tribe. He practically replaces the Carrion Crow, the familiar species
of the southern shires. These Hooded Crows are wary birds; they need
to be, or their race would soon be exterminated in Scotland. But for
downright impudence and cunning commend us to the Hooded Crows of St.
Kilda. These gray-coated rascals would allow us repeatedly to approach
them within a few paces; indeed, they would sometimes allow us almost
to kick them out of our way, as the saying goes; but this was only as
long as we did not carry a gun. Had we such a weapon with us the crafty
fellows would invariably keep at a safe distance. This was all the
more remarkable, for at the time of our visit and stay on St. Kilda,
in 1884, there was not a gun on the island except the one we carried,
so that the birds could not have been taught to shun such an object by
experience. We might attempt an explanation of the fact by suggesting
that the birds became suspicious when they saw a person carrying an
unfamiliar object; but against this we have the behaviour of birds in
other localities where guns are common, being no more wary than these
unsophisticated crows of St. Kilda. The St. Kildans detest them, and
with good cause, for they commit sad havoc amongst their fields and
gardens, and are as keen "collectors" of eggs as the men themselves.
The Hooded Crow is a far more sociable bird than the Carrion Crow, and
we have remarked them gregarious at all times of the year. In winter,
of course, they become most so, and nowhere is this trait more apparent
than in the low-lying English counties. We shall have occasion to meet
with this interesting bird in a future chapter (conf. p. 276). This
brief list practically exhausts the typical land birds and Passeres
of the mountains, with the sole exception of the charming little Snow
Bunting. In not a few northern English shires this species is a fairly
well-known winter migrant, but it breeds sparingly on some of the
Scottish mountains, a few pairs finding an arctic climate by vertical
instead of latitudinal migration, but most of its kindred journey far
beyond our limits to rear their young.

[Illustration: The Dotterel.]

Our last mountain bird is the Dotterel. But this is a bird of passage
from the south, resorting only to the northern heights during summer.
Unfortunately, the species is not so common on our English mountains as
was formerly the case; its eggs are eagerly sought by collectors; the
bird itself is in great request for its feathers, which are used to
make trout and salmon flies. Although becoming rarer, it still breeds
on some of the mountains of Cumberland; whilst across the Border it is
more numerous, and we believe regularly nests on the Grampians and in
a few other places. It is late to arrive on these mountains in spring,
as might naturally be inferred, when we bear in mind their bleak and
barren character, reaching them in May, and quitting them in September.
We have seen eggs of the Dotterel that had been taken on the Cumberland
mountains in June. It would seem that the birds do not retire to the
elevated nesting-grounds directly they arrive, but frequent the more
lowland fields for a week or so ere ascending to them. The summer home
of the Dotterel is shared, in some instances at least, with that still
more mountain bird, the Ptarmigan. The Dotterel is one of the very few
species in which the hen bird is larger and more brightly coloured than
the cock, and the latter consequently incubates the eggs and takes the
greater share in the task of rearing the young. The hen is even said
to take the initiative in courtship, but we have yet to learn that the
"new woman" has quoted the fact in support of her advanced opinions!
But then the Dotterel is widely known by the accompanying and preceding
epithet of "foolish", and its English name is said to be the diminutive
of "Dolt"; whilst its Latin name of _morinellus_ is said by some to
have been derived from _morus_, a fool--facts which those interested in
so-called "sex problems" will also do well to bear in mind.

Now a few words respecting the bird-life of the lochs. These lochs,
so far as the present chapter is concerned, may be divided into two
distinct classes. First, we have the mountain pools--sheets of water
of varying size, often at considerable elevations, situated in hollows
among the hills, and an especial feature of many districts in the
Highlands. Second, we have at sea-level the marine lochs or fiords,
another almost exclusive Scottish feature, the nearest approach to
them, so far as our experience extends, being some of the charming
land-locked rivers or fiords in the south-west of England. Some few of
the birds that we meet with on or about these lochs may be seen in many
a southern shire at one season or another, but on the other hand there
is a predominating number of species that stamps the avifauna of these
northern localities with distinctness. Many of these lochs are grandly
picturesque, surrounded as they are with lofty mountains and rolling
uplands; their solitude in not a few cases is intense. No wonder that
some of our shyest birds resort to them, especially as they present the
additional attraction of abundance of food. Upon the shores of some of
them we have come across the rare Greenshank; on others in the Hebrides
the Red-necked Phalarope (gentlest and most trustful of all wading
birds) lives in colonies during the summer. From time to time the
various Plovers and Sandpipers resort to their shallow margin, coming
there to feed from nesting-places on the moors. Now and then in certain
favoured spots the shadow of the Osprey--rarest, perhaps, of all our
indigenous birds of prey--is reflected in the calm unruffled water as
the bird soars over, and perhaps drops down upon some surface-floating
fish. Our first introduction to the Osprey took place nearly twenty
years ago in Ross-shire, at the head of Loch Carron. We had been kept
rain-bound for a couple of days in the hotel at Strome Ferry, and a
most miserable and depressing time we had of it, the surrounding hills
hidden by clouds and the surface of the loch churned into foam by
the incessant downpour. The second evening the weather cleared, and
we started off for a long ramble along the loch-side; the sun shone
out brilliantly, and began to dispel the caps of clouds hanging on
the hills. The most abundant bird on the loch was the Common Gull,
respecting which we shall have more to say on a future page. We saw
several pairs of Redshanks near the swollen streams, many Plovers in
the distance, a few Dippers, Common Sandpipers, and Mergansers. But
the bird that interested us most was an Osprey, flying slowly over the
loch about thirty feet above the water. It was hovering with quivering
wings, the head almost hidden as the bird peered down in quest of prey.
Every few moments the bird flapped its long wings as if to steady
itself and gain fresh momentum for its flight. For some time we watched
it hovering above the shallow water close inshore, and then it poised
for a moment and dropped like a stone into the loch, the noise of its
plunge being distinctly audible more than a quarter of a mile away. It
rose in a few seconds, and then, after hovering a short time, went off
in a slow laboured flight to a clump of trees, and we saw it no more.
As we previously stated, the Osprey is one of our rarest raptorial
birds. A hundred years ago it is recorded as breeding in the English
Lake district, whilst at a still more distant date it is known to have
nested on the south coast of England. Although more than once thought
by competent observers to have become absolutely extinct as a breeding
species in the British Islands, the bird still lingers on and returns
to nest in one or two places in Scotland, the exact location of which
its best friends will desire to remain unpublished. Unfortunately,
the Osprey is a summer migrant to our area, and the poor birds in
travelling to and from their Highland haunts are exposed to much
persecution. A favourite situation for the eyrie of this bird is an
island in some secluded loch amongst the mountains, and in some cases
a ruin of some ancient chieftain's stronghold supports the nest. There
is no more harmless bird of prey in Scotland, for its food is composed
exclusively of fish.

[Illustration: 1. The Red-breasted Merganser.

2. The Black-throated Diver.]

The birds of these mountain lochs are all migratory, visiting them
chiefly in summer for the purpose of rearing their young; whilst a few,
chiefly Ducks, may be met with in their vicinity during open weather
in winter. Of course these remarks apply only to the fresh-water lochs
amongst the hills; the sea-water lochs have a perennial supply of
birds, because they are never completely ice-bound in our islands,
and furnish an abundance of food all the year round. Among the most
characteristic of the birds of these hill lochs we may mention the
Divers. Of these there are two species that breed near them, one
of them, however, the Red-throated Diver, being much commoner than
the other, the Black-throated Diver. These birds are more or less
migratory, and are only to be found upon fresh-water lochs during
summer. In winter they retire to the coasts, where the open sea
ensures a constant food supply, and then wander far south of their
breeding area. Possibly there are few other districts in the world
more depressing in continued wet weather than the Hebrides--a wild
savage land of rock and loch and ling surrounded by stormy seas, and
only too often shrouded in gray mist. During such weather the cries
of the Divers from the upland lochs sound more uncanny and melancholy
than ever--oft-repeated wails or screams, compared with which we
should describe the nocturnal lament of a tom-cat musical; and even
more impressive and unearthly do they become when uttered during the
few hours of darkness that characterize the night in summer in these
northern lands. These cries have irritated us too often for us to say
that we love them; still, they are not without a certain charm, imbuing
as they often do with life scenes where solitude otherwise reigns
supreme. Both these Divers rarely visit the land except to breed; they
are clumsy birds out of the water, but in that element are as much at
home as the fish themselves. They fly well and rapidly, and are perhaps
more frequently seen in the air than standing on the ground. Both
species may be found nesting on the lochs of the Outer Hebrides. The
nests are never made far from the water; in fact, we have seen the eggs
so close to the margin of the loch that the least rise in the water--a
frequent occurrence in such wet districts--must have washed them away.
In these cases there can be little doubt that the birds removed them
to a safer distance when they were threatened with such a danger. A
favourite locality is on some small islet in the loch. In some cases
little or no nest is made, but in others a substantial structure of
grass, weeds, and stalks of plants is formed. Very often the nest may
be discovered by the path the old birds make in going to and from
the water. The two eggs are much like those of a Gull in colour, but
are very elongated. There can be little doubt that both these Divers
consume a vast number of trout in the course of a summer. But the
supply of fish is almost inexhaustible; we know lochs that literally
teem with trout. The fish, however, are very small and scarcely worthy
of the angler's attention.

The Mallard or Wild Duck is another very common bird on these mountain
lochs during summer, especially on those that contain islands. Some
of these latter are clothed with a dense growth of heath and gorse,
and in such localities we have known several nests within a radius of
a few yards. But the Wild Duck is one of the most cosmopolitan of our
indigenous birds, breeding almost as commonly in the extreme south of
England amidst pastoral surroundings, as in the Highlands where its
solitude is seldom disturbed save by a wandering keeper or shepherd.
Its nest, however, varies considerably; neither is water essential to
its location. We have seen its nest amongst the bracken, far from
water, in the open parts of Sherwood Forest, we have taken it from the
rushes near a stagnant lowland pool, as well as from the knee-deep
ling, the bare ground on the hillsides, and the bramble-covered banks
of river and stream. Some nests are made of little else than down from
the female's body, others are much more elaborately constructed of
almost any kind of vegetation growing near. We may also mention that
this Duck breeds in some numbers near most of the tarns and pools of
the moorlands from the Peak district northwards. Here and there in the
more remote Highlands--Caithness, Sutherlandshire, and Ross-shire--a
few pairs of Scoters frequent the mountain lochs. The Teal, on the
other hand, is a much commoner species in these localities, whilst the
Red-breasted Merganser is even of wider distribution still throughout
the Highlands. We cannot well leave these fresh-water lochs without a
passing glance at the Red-necked Phalarope. This again is a migratory
species which arrives at the mountain pools in May. Its favourite
haunts are the clear tarns surrounded with rushes and sphagnum on the
moors, at no great distance from the sea. So far as we know, this
Phalarope nests on no part of the British mainland now; its summer
resorts are in the Outer Hebrides, in Orkney and Shetland. To these
pools the birds return each summer with unfailing regularity. Their
gregarious habits very largely increase their charm and interest.
We know of few, if any, birds more trustful and tame. When their
breeding-place is approached the pretty little birds either run or fly
to the neighbouring pool and there swim about in the most unsuspicious
and confiding manner, utterly regardless of danger. They make their
slight nests on the banks of the water, and lay four very pretty eggs,
olive or buff in ground colour, heavily marked with dark brown, paler
brown, and gray. Here again we have another instance in which the hen
Phalarope is more brilliant in colour than the cock bird, and not only
takes the initiative in courtship, but leaves the care of the eggs
and young chiefly to him. Possibly the females of these birds and
Dotterels hold strongly advanced views on the question of sex and its
rights and privileges; anyway, they must be ranked amongst the very
few female creatures that have partially succeeded in emancipating
themselves from the ordinary duties of their sex. Perhaps in the remote
future the principle will universally apply to civilized man himself,
for there are not wanting signs of this sexual evolution towards such
emancipation.

We will bring the present chapter to a close with a brief notice of
the bird-life to be met with on the sea-lochs. Many a charming essay
on ornithology is reflected in their clear waters; many a page from
the story of our native birds is graven along their rocky shores. We
have had the good fortune to explore not a few of these charming
Highland fiords, to dwell beside them for weeks at a time, and thus
become familiar with the birds upon them and with their most engaging
ways. One of the most familiar birds of these Highland lochs is the
Red-breasted Merganser, known throughout these localities as the
"Sawbill" (conf. p. 96). The drake is a very pretty bird, the duck
more soberly arrayed, yet both easily identified by their long narrow
bill. They are generally met with in pairs during summer, and their
actions in the water furnish us with many an hour's amusement. This
Merganser is a most expert diver, and every few moments either one or
the other of the pair disappears in quest of food. Rarely or never do
both birds dive at the same time, one always keeping on the surface
as if on the look-out. Sometimes, however, the birds will suddenly
commence to chase each other through the water in sportive play, and
then both may dive, churning the water into foam. When fishing, the
birds frequently, after diving, stand erect in the water and flap their
wings vigorously for a few moments. These birds are very regular in
their movements, especially on tidal water, and we have frequently
remarked how they would visit certain spots to feed at low-water,
flying up at great speed from different parts of the loch, their wings
making a peculiar whistling sound as they hurried along. Sometimes they
may be seen standing on some low, sea-surrounded rock basking in the
sun and digesting their meal. Each pair of birds seem attached to a
certain locality, and may be found in it from day to day right through
the breeding season. We have taken many nests of this Merganser, and
invariably found them made on islands in the lochs. In not a few
instances the first eggs are laid on the bare earth, usually under the
shelter of a rock, or in a hollow amongst the gorse or ling close to
the water's edge. These eggs eventually become surrounded with down
plucked from the female's body, but before this is arranged, when
there are but one or two laid, they are left bare and uncovered. The
much rarer Goosander may occasionally be met with on these Highland
sea-lochs, especially in the Outer Hebrides. Other birds of the Duck
tribe that frequent these lochs and the islands in them are the
Sheldrake and the Eider.

Needless to remark, these lochs are favourite haunts of Gulls and
Terns. Of the former the most interesting, perhaps, is the Common Gull,
a species that has no English breeding-place, yet in some of these
northern fiords it nests in abundance. In this case again islands are
invariably selected if any are to be had. This Gull we found nesting in
large numbers in Loch Follart in Skye, but owing to the relentless way
in which its eggs were taken we should presume that it has now become
much scarcer. Then on the islands again we may meet with colonies
of Arctic Terns. These graceful birds are quite a summer feature of
the lochs, their airy movements as they fish just off the shore being
highly interesting. The Common Tern is much more local, and yet there
are not a few colonies scattered up and down these lochs amongst the
Hebrides, at least as far north as Skye. Of the Terns we shall have
more to say in a later chapter (conf. p. 221). Where the cliffs are
steep by the loch-side, in not a few of these northern waters, we shall
be sure to find the Black Guillemot, a bird, as its name indicates,
almost uniform black in colour (during summer), with white wing-bars
and coral-red legs and bill. This bird is never seen in such numbers
together as the better-known and larger Common Guillemot; rather is it
found in scattered pairs, fishing close inshore where the rocks fall
sheer down into deep water. Its habits, however, are very similar;
it dives with the same agility, feeds on fry, crustaceans, and small
shell-fish, and is just as thoroughly marine in its tastes. We must
note, however, one important difference, and that concerning its
nesting economy. Like the Razorbill, it breeds in holes and fissures
of the rocks, makes no nest, and its eggs are very similar to those
of the latter species but much smaller, and two in number. As most
readers may be aware, the Guillemot and the Razorbill are content
to lay one only. Both these latter birds may be met with swimming
about the marine lochs, and there are many colonies of them scattered
about the Hebrides. These we hope to notice in greater detail in
our chapter devoted to the bird-life of the ocean cliffs (conf. p.
240). Of the wading birds that haunt these lochs mention may be made
of the Oyster-catcher and the Ringed Plover. The former bird is one
of the noisiest to be found in such localities, especially when its
nesting-places are invaded by man. It loves the stretches of shingly
beach, laying its three eggs just above high-water mark on the line
of drifted weed and rubbish that marks the limits of spring-tide. Its
so-called "nest" is worthy of special examination, the shells and
pebbles often being arranged very systematically round the eggs. Other
nest there is none, but in most cases a number of sham or empty "nests"
or hollows in the shingle will be found close to the one that contains
the eggs. Many of these birds wander far southwards from these northern
lochs during winter, and at that season are found in localities which
they just as regularly leave as spring returns.



CHAPTER IV.

ON HEATHS AND MARSHES.


The title of the present chapter, to some readers, may seem rather a
misnomer, especially the first portion of it. We have already made a
brief survey of bird-life among the heather, but then a moor is not
exactly a heath. For the purpose of the present volume the definition
of the word "heath" must be taken to be a small area of uncultivated
ground, covered with bracken, brambles, gorse, and briars, with patches
of heather here and there, studded with stunted trees and bushes, and
in not a few cases surrounded with woods, arable lands, and pastures.
There are many such delightful bits of waste ground in the northern
shires, not only inland, but at no great distance from the sea. Of
the bogs and marshes we may claim a fair share, although drainage and
reclamation have reduced their area considerably in not a few cases, or
removed others entirely. The fens of the low-lying eastern counties--of
Norfolk and Suffolk--scarcely come within our limits, whilst those of
Lincolnshire exist almost only in name. The bird-life of these heaths
and marshes is characteristic and interesting, although perhaps there
is greater similarity between the species and those of more southern
localities than we have hitherto found to be the case.

[Illustration: The Nightjar.]

Heaths have always been favourite places of ours. They are never of
such barren and forbidding aspect as the moorlands, even in mid-winter;
vegetation is more generous; trees, in which we delight, are not
altogether absent; and most important attraction of all, bird-life in
considerable variety may be found upon and near them throughout the
year. Although many bits of heath known to us have been cleared and
brought into cultivation, there are not a few still left where birds
of various species linger unmolested. For instance (to indicate but
a few), there are such areas in the Sherwood Forest district; here
and there in north Lincolnshire, in north Derbyshire, and in south
Yorkshire, especially in the vicinity of Wharncliffe Crags, a few miles
north-west of Sheffield. One of the most interesting birds found upon
these heaths is the Nightjar, or perhaps even better known by the name
of Goatsucker. Like most birds possessing some peculiarity in note or
appearance easily remarked by the multitude, the present species has
many aliases, some of which at any rate are as undeserved as they are
disastrous. Thus, that of "Night-hawk" brings the bird into evil repute
with gamekeepers, and it is shot down in many localities under the
firm belief that it preys upon young Pheasants and Partridges! That
of "Goatsucker" is even more widely prevailing, not only in our own
country, but it has an equivalent in almost every European language,
in some cases dating from a very remote antiquity. Needless to say
that this appellation has proved even more fatal, and has caused the
poor bird needless persecution in many other countries than ours,
owing to the absurd superstition it describes and fosters of the
Nightjar's utterly fictitious habit of sucking the teats of cows and
goats! Lastly, it has been the long-suffering possessor of the names
of "Fern Owl" or "Churn Owl", one relating to its haunts, the other
to its singular note, and both suggestive of birds that have been
sorely persecuted by man, in most cases for purely imaginary offences.
Anything flying under the name of "Owl", whether with "fern", or
"wood", or "barn", or "horned" attached, is considered harmful, and
fair food for powder and shot, so that the poor Nightjar has suffered
with the rest. To his habits and appearance most, if not all, his
misfortunes are due. He flies about at dusk and during the night-time,
and has a way of flitting round the cattle in the meadows close to
the heath in quest of moths and cockchafers; his plumage is soft and
pencilled and Owl-like, whilst his enormous mouth, to the ignorant
countryman, seems capable of swallowing anything! And yet there is no
more harmless bird in the British Islands than the Nightjar. It preys
upon no single creature that man might covet (if perhaps we except
the entomologist, who does not like to see rare moths and beetles
disappear like magic in the evening gloom), but, on the other hand,
rids the fields and groves of countless numbers of injurious insect
pests. Apart from any concrete injury that it may be thought to do, it
also falls under the ban of the superstitious, its weird and curious
notes, together with its crepuscular habits, being very apt to inspire
dread in the credulous countryfolk, who are firm believers in omens,
prognostics, and the like, notwithstanding the unprecedented extent to
which the schoolmaster has been abroad during the past twenty years
or more. We ought also to mention another name bestowed upon the
Nightjar, and which, like most of the others, has caused the poor bird
not a little senseless persecution. This is "Puckeridge", a term also
applied to a fatal distemper which often attacks weanling calves. The
Nightjar was thought by the ignorant countryman to convey this disorder
to the calves whilst flitting about them. Poor little Nightjar! The
wonder is that there are any of its species left to struggle under
such an overwhelming burden of bad names begotten of superstition
and ignorance. In some districts this bird is known as the "Eve-jar"
or "Evening-jar", and in others as the "Wheel-bird"--names innocent
enough, suggestive of no ill-deeds, but eminently expressive of its
habits and its notes combined. In Devonshire it is known locally as
the "Dor-hawk", from its habit of catching dor-beetles or cockchafers;
also as the "Night-crow", possibly the least applicable in the entire
series, unless we interpret it as being derived from the bird's habit
of calling (crowing) at night. It is possibly a fortunate thing for the
Nightjar that it only spends a few months out of the twelve in Europe,
amongst such a crowd of civilized enemies of all countries and creeds,
finding fewer, if any, human persecutors amidst the dusky heathen
races of Africa, whither it retires after visiting us. It is one of
our latest birds of passage, not even reaching the southern parts of
England before the end of April or early May--a date which is not quite
coincident with its arrival in the northern shires, which it does not
reach much before the middle of the latter month. The life-history
of this pretty and much-maligned bird is packed full of interest.
Unfortunately the Nightjar is only abroad of its own choice during
hours when darkness renders observation difficult; we must perforce
crowd most of our scrutiny into the twilight hour, and just before
the rising of the sun. The bird, like the bat and the Owl, sleeps
during the daytime, either crouched flat upon the ground under the
bracken or underwood, or seated lengthwise on some broad flat branch
of a tree where dense foliage gives the shade and gloom it seeks, and
where its beautifully mottled and vermiculated plumage harmonizes most
closely with surrounding tints. It is said that the Nightjar sometimes
comes abroad during mid-day, and that it even calls at that time, but
such has never been our experience of this species, and we should be
inclined to think that when seen out and about at such a time it had
been disturbed from its diurnal resting-place. At the approach of
evening, however, the sleepy bird rouses itself, and, hungry and alert
and active enough, leaves its daytime haunt and commences its evening
peregrinations in quest of food and enjoyment. As the sun sinks lower
behind the western hills and the shadows intensify, the Nightjars
become more lively. The most impressive thing about them is their
curious music. It is a song that appeals to the most casual listener,
compelling recognition by its very singularity. Whilst on the wing
circling to and fro the note is an oft-repeated cry, resembling the
syllables _co-ic_, _co-ic_, _co-ic_; but when the bird drops lightly
down on to some wall or fence or gate, another and still more curious
sound is produced. This is the familiar "churring" or vibrating noise,
long continued, and putting one in mind of the monotonous reel of the
Grasshopper Warbler, so far as its pertinacity is concerned. This
latter noise is never heard unless the bird is sitting. The bird also
makes another sound whilst in the air, produced by striking its wings
smartly together; otherwise the flight of this species is remarkably
silent and Owl-like. It is by no means shy, and will hawk for insects
round our head, dart to and fro on noiseless pinions, or circle about
in chasing and toying with its mate, with little show of fear. The
wings of the male bird are marked with three white spots, one on each
of the first three primaries, and these are very conspicuous during
flight, as are also the white tips to the outermost tail-feathers.
This even applies to young males in their first plumage, although the
spots are buff instead of white. It is possible that these markings are
sexual recognition marks, enabling the female to follow or discover
the whereabouts of her mate in the gloom. The Nightjar breeds in May
or June, a little later in the north than in the south. It makes no
nest, but the hen bird lays her two curiously oval eggs on the bare
ground, sometimes beneath a spray of bracken or a furze bush, less
frequently on the flat low branch of a convenient tree. These eggs are
very beautiful, and he who finds them cannot confuse them with those
of any other species that breeds in our islands. They are generally
white and glossy, the surface mottled, blotched, streaked and veined
with various shades of brown and gray. The young are covered with
down--in this respect showing affinity with the Owls--but are otherwise
helpless, being fed by their parents not only during infancy, but for
some time after they can fly. The old birds show great solicitude for
them should they be disturbed, fluttering round the intruder's head,
and seeking to attract all attention to themselves. The Nightjar leaves
the northern shires in September for its winter quarters in Africa,
although it is by no means uncommonly observed quite a month later
in the extreme south and south-west of England. It is said, by the
way, that the Nightjar captures cockchafers with its feet, and that
its serrated middle claw is for this purpose. But this we have never
noticed, although we have had a life's experience with the bird, and
it seems more than doubtful when we bear in mind the extremely short
legs and comparatively weak feet of this species--so unlike those of
the Kestrel, which we know frequently catches these insects with its
feet. But we have lingered too long already with the Nightjar, and must
pass on to a notice of other birds upon the heath. The unusual interest
attaching to it must be our sole excuse.

Another very interesting little bird not unfrequently met with upon
the heaths, especially those where the soil is sandy and trees are
numerous around them, is the Wood-lark. Unfortunately the bird-catcher
has literally exterminated this species in not a few localities, the
bird's lovely song being the attraction. Here we have a species that
becomes rarer and more local in the northern shires than it is farther
south. The Wood-lark is not only a most industrious and persistent
singer, but is almost a perennial one. That is to say, in the south;
up here amongst the northern shires it seldom warbles during winter,
unless tempted into voice by exceptionally mild weather. Its regular
breeding song is not resumed so early in the year up here, and we
should say there is a month or more between the nesting season in north
and south respectively. We have known of Devonshire nests as early as
March, of Nottingham ones as late as May. Possibly this Lark is only
double-brooded in the more southern portions of its British range. The
birds seem much attached to certain spots, and, like the Tree Pipit,
seldom wander far from their nesting-grounds throughout the breeding
season. Unlike the Sky-lark, which very exceptionally indeed perches
upon a bush or a tree, the Wood-lark may be constantly seen high up
the branches. Indeed, like the Tree Pipit, the cock bird selects some
favourite branch, and here early and late he sits, and ever and anon
flies out and upwards to warble his rich and joyous song. There are
those who maintain that the song of the Wood-lark is even superior to
that of the Sky-lark. It may be to some extent a matter of taste, and
possibly they are right; but on the other hand the song of the Sky-lark
is far better known, more popular with the multitude, and we always
thinks it seems more cheerful, as it certainly is somewhat louder. The
Wood-lark has more flute-like music in his voice, more melody, and
even more continuity. There are not a few persons that confuse the two
birds together, although the Wood-lark may be readily distinguished by
its short tail, more rounded wing, and its habit of perching in trees.
One has only to watch the aerial songster long enough to notice the
latter peculiarity without fail. When once the bird has been surely
identified, the difference between the songs of the two species will
soon be impressed upon the listener, even though the species until then
had been unfamiliar to him. The bird will also warble just as sweetly
and just as continuously not only whilst sitting on the branches, but
when standing on the ground. We may also mention that the Wood-lark is
not so aerial as the commoner species, never ascending to such vast
elevations during the course of its song. This Lark becomes gregarious
in autumn like most, if not all, its congeners, and then wanders more
or less from its native heath. It builds an unassuming little nest upon
the ground, usually under the shadow of some bush or inequality of the
turf, composed of dry grass and lined with hair. In this it lays four
or five eggs, the markings on them being more distinct and scattered
than is the case with those of the Sky-lark. The latter species is
by no means an uncommon one upon the heaths, but after what we have
already said there need be no confusion between the two.

There are various other Passerine birds to be found in these
localities, due attention being given to the predominant vegetation.
The silvery-throated Whitethroat is a regular visitor each spring-time
to the thickets of briar and bramble; the Grasshopper Warbler may be
heard where the vegetation is most tangled, reeling off his seemingly
interminable chirping song, if in reality it is worthy of such a name
in the company of so many more sweet-voiced choristers. The Stonechat,
gay in his black-and-white and chestnut livery, perches on the topmost
sprays of the cruel-thorned gorse and eyes us suspiciously, with a
flicking tail and a harsh tac of welcome or resentment. The equally
beautiful Linnet, with swollen carmine breast, bears him company
amongst the gorse; whilst the Yellow Bunting may not unfrequently
be noticed crying his few monotonous notes time after time, and as
often answered by some rival near at hand, both of them perched as
high as possible on the stunted thorns or the silver-barked birches.
All through the early summer the cheery notes of the Cuckoo (not a
Passere, by the way) are a familiar sound on or near these heaths, and
now and then the blue-gray bird himself, looking all wings and tail,
may be seen skimming across to the distant belt of trees, or his mate
may be watched poking about the thickets in a suspicious sort of way
seeking some unprotected nest in which to drop her alien egg. One bird,
however, we miss from these northern heaths in particular, and that is
the Dartford Warbler. He seldom penetrates as far north as Yorkshire,
although we have taken his nest in a gorse covert within a few miles
of Sheffield. But that was long ago, and, truth to tell, we failed to
recognize the importance of our discovery for years afterwards, and
when nest and eggs had been lost. This Warbler is said to breed in
Derbyshire, but we have had no experience of it in that county. It is
interesting to remark that the species appears first to have been made
known to science from a pair that were shot on a Kentish heath near
Dartford, a century and a quarter ago. Few other British birds have,
therefore, a more unassailable right to their trivial name.

[Illustration: The Stone Curlew.]

That curious bird the Stone Curlew, perhaps equally as well known as
the "Thick-knee", is to be found on certain heaths as far northwards
as Yorkshire. It becomes more numerous possibly in Lincolnshire, and
thence it is generally dispersed over Norfolk and Suffolk and most
of the "home counties". Owing to drainage, the haunts of this bird
have become much more restricted than formerly, and in not a few
localities it has been exterminated completely. It loves the more open
and bare heath-lands, especially such as are interspersed with stony
and chalky ground and free from trees and brushwood, for cover is in
no way essential to its requirements. It derives safety in another
way. Its plumage of mottled brown is eminently protective on these
chalky heaths, and when alarmed, if it does not take wing, it quietly
crouches flat to the ground, extending its neck and head, which are
also pressed close to the soil, and there, perfectly motionless, it
awaits until danger is past, or until it is almost trodden under
foot, when it is reluctantly compelled to disclose itself. The Stone
Curlew is known by various local names, all more or less expressive
of some of its characteristics or relating to the haunts it affects.
That of Stone Curlew probably refers to the stony haunt and the very
Curlew-like appearance of the bird itself; whilst those of Norfolk
Plover and Stone Plover are indicative of a favourite resort of the
species in England and a more correct determination of its affinities,
for there can be no doubt that the bird is more closely allied to
the Charadriinæ than to the Scolopacinæ. Less happily the bird has
been called the "Thick-knee" because of the peculiar enlargement of
the tibio-tarsal joint, but this is not the "knee" in an anatomical
sense, but analogous to the ankle-joint in man. With more propriety,
therefore, if with less euphony the bird should be termed a
"Think-ankle", or a "Thick-heel". Lastly, it is known to some as the
"Thick-kneed Plover" or "Thick-kneed Bustard". In this latter case
popular judgment is to some extent supported by anatomical facts, for
the Stone Curlew is by no means distantly related to the Bustards,
certainly more nearly than to the Curlews. It is rather a remarkable
fact that the Stone Curlew is a migratory bird, when we bear in mind
that on both shores of the Mediterranean it is a sedentary species,
and that its food--worms, snails, beetles, frogs, and mice--might be
obtained in sufficient abundance in England throughout the winter.
In fact, there are many instances on record of this bird passing the
winter in England, although we should scarcely feel disposed to class
these individuals as indigenous to our country, but rather as lost and
wandering birds from continental localities. Be all this as it may,
the Stone Curlew visits us in spring to breed, arriving in April, and
returns south in autumn, leaving in October. Its large eyes (bright
yellow in colour) betoken it to be a nocturnal bird, and during the
night it obtains most of its food. It then often wanders far from its
dry parched native heath, and visits more marshy spots, especially
arable lands and wet meadows; sometimes lingering, both in going and
returning, to fly about the air uttering its loud and plaintive cry.
The Stone Curlew seems to be fully alive to the fact that the safest
hiding-place is often the most conspicuous and open one. In this matter
it resembles the Missel-thrush, which often builds in safety its bulky
nest in such an exposed spot that we marvel afterwards (when the young
are fledged and gone) how it could have escaped notice. Acting on this
principle the Stone Curlew, in May or June, lays its two eggs side by
side upon the barest of ground, and where their tints and markings so
closely resemble the yellow stones and pebbles scattered around them
that discovery is extremely difficult. The sitting bird renders the
deception more complete by running from the eggs at the least alarm
and leaving them to that almost perfect safety that their protective
colours ensure. These eggs are buff in ground colour, blotched,
spotted, or streaked with brown and gray of various shades. We ought
also to mention, by the way, that the artful bird selects, as a rule,
some little eminence for its breeding-place, where it can command a
good view of approaching danger and slip quietly away. We have heard
countrymen insist that the Stone Curlew will remove its eggs if it
becomes aware that they have been discovered, but we cannot vouch for
the accuracy of the statement.

We occasionally meet with three of our most familiar Game Birds upon
the heaths; perhaps we might add a fourth, as we include Lincolnshire
in our area of the northern shires, for there is some evidence to
suggest that the alien Red-legged Partridge is invading the latter
county. On many heaths the English Partridge lives at the present time,
and the harsh crow of the Pheasant is by no means an unfamiliar sound
in these localities, especially when they adjoin covers. This latter
bird is a confirmed wanderer, given to straying far from its usual
haunts. We have repeatedly noticed fine old cock birds on the moors,
miles from coverts. Whether these wanderers ever interbreed with the
Grouse we cannot say, and we are not aware that hybrids between these
species have ever been obtained or recorded. Lastly, the Black Grouse
has a weakness for the heaths, especially in localities where a belt
of timber adjoins them. Strange as it may seem, we must include the
Mallard as a heath bird. To mention one locality only where this bird
breeds regularly upon heaths we may name the Sherwood Forest area. We
have taken nests here far from water or wet ground of any description,
made amongst dead bracken; and what is also worthy of remark, these
nests were by far the handsomest we have ever seen of this Duck. They
were composed principally of down from the female's body, intermixed
with fronds of bracken, and were raised from eight to ten inches above
the surrounding ground. Here again we had another instance of nests
being most difficult to see in the barest localities. Some were made
where the bracken had been cut, amongst scattered green stems of the
new growth and upon green turf; and yet we can remember how we had to
look long and closely before we saw them, as they were actually pointed
out to us by a keeper acquaintance. In one instance--and that where the
nest was the most exposed of all--we could not see the nest, and did
not, until the big brown duck went lumbering off. Of course when the
nests were discovered they seemed conspicuous in the highest degree,
and we could do nothing but wonder how ever it was possible to overlook
them.

[Illustration: The Short-eared Owl.]

One more bird deserves notice ere we bring our survey of avine life
upon the heaths to a conclusion, and that is the Short-eared Owl.
This bird is quite cosmopolitan in its choice of a haunt. It is as
much a fen or a marsh, a gorse covert or a moor bird as it is a heath
one, apparently as much at home in one locality as another. We shall
have more to say about this species, especially its migrations, when
we come to deal with bird-life on the coast. But as this Owl breeds
upon the heaths, amongst other places, we may as well take this
opportunity of a peep at its domestic arrangements, and one or two
other characteristics, distinct from its migrational movements. Owls
are popularly supposed to be exclusive birds of darkness--crepuscular
and nocturnal; but the Short-eared Owl is a regular day-flier, and
may often be seen beating about in its own peculiar unsteady erratic
way during bright sunshine without any visible sign of inconvenience.
Neither does it seem ever dazed by the brilliant gleam of lighthouses,
but takes advantage of the glare to catch birds more susceptible to
the artificial light. During the autumn months especially we may meet
with this species in the most unlikely spots, amongst the sand dunes,
in turnip-fields, in wet meadows and saltings. The birds that breed
on the heaths, however--especially in the English shires--seem to be
sedentary. Although this Owl unquestionably feeds upon birds, say
up to the size of a Missel-thrush, as its diurnal habits apparently
suggest, there can be no doubt of its great usefulness to man in
killing off voles, mice, reptiles, beetles, and such-like destructive
pests. We need only point to the extraordinary numbers of this Owl
that congregated in Scotland some few years ago during the plague of
voles, and the way in which they preyed upon them, for an object-lesson
of this bird's usefulness to man. In the matter of its nesting the
Short-eared Owl presents us with another anomaly. Fully in keeping
with its love for open country and its partiality for daylight, it
nests upon the bare ground, and in this respect differs from all the
other British species. We say "nests", but in reality there is little
or no provision made for the eggs, beyond a mere hollow in which a few
scraps of withered herbage are strewn. The half-dozen creamy-white
eggs are, therefore, conspicuous enough in many places, though better
concealed in others when they are laid under bracken or amongst heath.
The sitting bird, however, crouches close over them, and shields them
from observation by her own protective-coloured plumage. These eggs are
usually laid in May in the northern shires, several weeks earlier in
more southern localities.

With a passing glimpse at some of the more interesting phases of
bird-life in the northern marshes we will bring the present chapter
to a close. The Bittern, formerly a dweller in them, has long been
banished from the bogs and mires not only of the northern shires,
but everywhere else in our islands, and exists now as a tradition
only--that is to say, as a breeding species. The Marsh Harrier--a
name sufficiently suggestive of the haunts it formerly affected--has
similarly disappeared from the two northern shires (Yorkshire and
Lancashire), where it formerly bred. One of the most widely-dispersed
birds in these marshy situations is the Water Rail--a species that is,
perhaps, more overlooked, owing to its secretive habits, than any other
found in our islands. It is astonishing what a small bit of marsh
or bog will content a Water Rail, provided there is a sufficiency of
cover. Like our old friend the Moorhen, it may also often be met with
wandering from its usual boggy retreats into such unlikely places as
gardens and farmyards. Although it is flushed with difficulty, it is
by no means uncommonly seen on open spots or even in the branches of
trees. In not a few heaths it is an almost unknown and unsuspected
dweller in the marshy drains and round the rushes that fringe the
shallow pools where peat or turf has been cut; indeed, we have met
with it almost within hail of some of our busiest towns. Its rather
bulky nest, made of a varied collection of dead and decaying herbage
and aquatic plants, is always placed upon the ground in some quiet
nook in its haunts, and its half-dozen or so eggs are buff in ground
colour, spotted with reddish-brown and gray. Though far more local than
the preceding, the Spotted Crake must also be included in our review
of northern bird-life. Unlike the Water Rail, however, it is a summer
migrant to the British Islands. Some individuals, however, appear to
winter with us in the southern counties. The migrants appear in April
in the south, several weeks later in the north. The habits of the
two species are similar in many respects. The Lapwing, the Redshank,
and the Common Snipe may also be met with in these situations, the
Redshank in summer only, when it retires to them to breed, seeking
the coasts in autumn; the others at all seasons. Amongst the Passerine
birds of the marshes we may instance the Sedge Warbler--one of the
most widely distributed of British species--the varied chattering
music of which is a very characteristic marsh sound during the summer.
At a few localities in Yorkshire and Lancashire the Reed Warbler may
be met with, a migratory species like the last, but not penetrating
to Scotland. Then the Reed Bunting is a familiar bird on many a
marshy waste, so too is the Sky-lark and the Meadow Pipit; whilst in
winter-time these places are often made lively by large congregations
of Lapwings, Starlings, Rooks and Redwings, and scattered Jack Snipes
from far northern haunts.

[Illustration: The Black-headed Gull.]

We may conclude our brief notice of marsh bird-life by a glimpse at
the Black-headed Gull. This charming bird visits many a swampy piece
of ground far from the sea during spring and summer to rear its
young. In Lincolnshire there is an extensive gullery near Brigg--at
Twigmoor--from which we have had many eggs during our long residence
in South Yorkshire. There is another in South Yorkshire near Thorne;
a third at Cockerham Moss in Lancashire. As we proceed northwards the
colonies of this Gull increase in number, and in Scotland they are
still more frequent. Many of these gulleries are situated on islands in
pools in the marshes and on the heaths. Not a few of them are almost
surrounded by trees of various kinds, and at the North Lincolnshire
settlement nests are not unfrequently made in the branches. We have
already described the colonies of the Black-headed Gull in previous
works, so that but few details are needed here. In Lincolnshire the
birds wander far and wide from their station near Brigg, and parties
of them may be met with on the fields many miles from home. The Gulls
are as regular in their habits as Rooks, with which we have often seen
them fraternizing, flying out to feed on the wet meadows, and following
the plough until evening, returning home in straggling streams just
like their sable companions. As we get near Brigg the birds become
more abundant in the fields; we remember, on one occasion, to have
seen a ploughed field black and white with Rooks and Gulls, many of
which when disturbed flew up from the furrows into the nearest trees;
and very curious the white Gulls looked--birds that we associate with
the water so closely--as they sat in the branches side by side with
cawing Rooks. Early in the year, and before the birds leave the coast,
the sooty-brown hood characteristic of the breeding season and of both
sexes begins to be assumed. In Devonshire this takes place nearly a
month earlier than in the north. In March they congregate at the old
familiar stations which have been in use from time immemorial, and
nest-building commences almost at once. The nests are ready for eggs
by the first or second week in April. These are generally made upon
the spongy ground of the marshy islands or on the marshes themselves,
and in many cases are little more than hollows lined with a little dry
grass. Other nests are bulkier, and these, we have often remarked,
are nearest to the water, or even in the shallow pools. The three
eggs are subject to much variation, but the ordinary type is brown or
olive-green in ground colour, spotted and blotched with darker brown
and gray. In many localities the eggs of the first laying are gathered
by the tenant or proprietor of the gullery, as they are sold in vast
numbers for food. Many, we know, are passed off as Plovers' eggs,
but the fraud we should say would never be successful with anyone
acquainted with the latter delicacy. The scene at the nests when the
place is invaded by man is a very charming one, the Gulls rising in
clouds into the air and wheeling about in bewildering confusion,
uttering their noisy cries of remonstrance. Even more animated does the
scene become when the young are hatched, for then the old birds show
much greater solicitude. An inland gullery always seems to strike us as
a trifle incongruous, for we are always apt to associate a Gull with
the sea; yet here, miles away from the salt water, often surrounded by
rural scenes, are Gulls in thousands as happy and contented as though
they had never been near a coast in their lives. When the young are
able to fly, however, the instinct of the sea apparently returns to
them, and back they go to the salt water to wander far and wide, and
lead a life of errantry until love brings them inland again in the
following spring.



CHAPTER V.

IN FOREST AND COPSE.


Perhaps the avifauna of the woods and coppices, in northern and
southern shires alike, is more similar in its general aspects than that
of any other special localities with the same difference of latitude
between them. Nevertheless there are southern species absent from these
northern woodlands, and others common enough up here that are not seen
in the counties of the south. Then again some species become rarer or
commoner in the north, as the case may be, or exactly the reverse; or
we shall find not a little difference in the habits of some of these
woodland birds, as compared with those of southern haunts, and also
in many cases considerable variation in the date of the arrival or
departure of migratory species.

We confess at the beginning of this chapter to a very decided
partiality for well-timbered districts, for woods and shrubberies,
grand old forests and more youthful coppices; for, apart from the
natural beauty of these sylvan spots, they are such favourite haunts of
birds. For many years we lived almost surrounded by woodlands, and in
some directions could wander for half a score miles or more amongst
little else but trees--hence our affection for these places, which we
got to know by heart, and in doing so became familiar with the rich
array of bird-life that dwelt in their shady depths. We also retain
many a vivid memory of wanderings in fir and pine wood farther north in
quest of ornithological information; whilst grand old Sherwood Forest
on one side of Sheffield, and equally attractive Wharncliffe Woods
on the other, were the scene of many an exploration after knowledge
relating to the bird-life of such localities. Then in other directions
we had the noble woodlands at Eccleshall, Beauchief, and Totley, and
along the Rivelin Valley--all of them nearer home, and all of them
well favoured with bird-life in great variety. These extensive woods,
however, are not favourite haunts of the smaller Passeres; rather are
they the home of Hawks, Magpies, Crows, Jays, Doves, Woodpeckers,
Pheasants, and so on; the coppices, plantations, smaller woods,
and well-timbered bottoms, together with extensive shrubberies and
tree-filled parks--these are the grand haunts of hosts of little birds
of many species, the varied habits of which were to us a constant
source of keenest delight. There is one charm about woodlands that
scarcely any other description of scenery can claim constantly, and
that is, summer and winter alike birds are plentiful amongst them. The
moors and the sea-crags, the shore and the stream, the marsh and the
heath, have their times of avine abundance, in summer or in winter, and
then they are more or less deserted, but the woods and shrubberies,
the coppices and timbered parks, are a haunt in summer and a refuge in
winter of a vast and varied bird population as well as an aviary of
almost perennial song!

These splendid woods ought to be the haunt of not a few raptorial
birds, but unfortunately they are not, as persecution has done
its disastrous work, and Kites and Buzzards and Hobbys have been
practically exterminated by the gamekeeper. Now the Kestrel and the
Sparrow-hawk are the only two that are left, at least in the localities
we have specified above. In some of the Scottish woods the Buzzard
still continues to breed; the Kite is restricted to one or two spots in
Wales and Scotland; whilst the Hobby, though still a nesting species
in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, is so rare that few observers will have
the good fortune to meet with it. Once more we would urge our plea
on behalf of these three species, all of them practically harmless
and inoffensive birds, yet threatened with absolute extermination if
the landed proprietors will not come to their assistance. An appeal
to powerful land-owners--the owners of vast areas of woodlands--is
possibly more effective than protective legislation, for in their
hands lies all the machinery for the effectual protection of such
species. Peremptory and strict orders to keepers should do all that is
necessary; we have a lifelong experience of such men, and can therefore
testify to their usual obedience to instructions, whether for good
or evil, as regards the so-called feathered vermin dwelling in their
preserves. We are therefore firmly convinced that the winning over of
the land-owner to the side of those who seek to preserve our avifauna
intact would be of more real benefit than any half-dozen acts of
parliament so long as it is nobody's business to enforce them.

[Illustration: The Common Buzzard.]

Of the three raptorial birds mentioned above the Common Buzzard (what
irony of fate for such a species to possess so misleading a name!) is
the only one of which we can record any personal experience within the
woodlands of Notts, North Derbyshire, and South Yorkshire, specified
above. This happened many years ago, notwithstanding which we retain a
very vivid remembrance of all the circumstances. We had spent the day
with an old poacher, who not unfrequently allowed us to accompany him
on his illegal wanderings (and we flatter ourselves on that subtle if
youthful diplomacy that enabled us to stand well with both gamekeepers
and poachers alike), fishing in prohibited waters, and were returning
homewards through a large wood, known locally as "the Rawlinson".
This wood stands just on the border-line of Derbyshire and Yorkshire;
in fact, the trout stream that flows through it we believe actually
divides the two counties. It used to contain many grand oaks, and was
always a favourite cover for Pheasants because of the many clumps of
holly-trees within it. In one of these oaks we spied a huge nest of
sticks, and our poacher companion, when this was pointed out to him,
volunteered the information that it was a "Big Hawk's" nest. Tired
and weary as we were, but incited by the possibility of finding some
hitherto unknown eggs, we set to work to climb the mast-like trunk for
some sixty feet. We can recall even now our frequent pauses for breath
as we slowly approached the spot; how the nest seemed to get larger and
larger as each succeeding branch was passed; and then how the big brown
bird slipped off with a flutter that made our heart beat fast with
anticipation; and how finally we reached the forking limbs where the
nest was built, and placed our arm over the rim of sticks and felt the
three warm eggs lying on the smooth lining. We climbed no higher, but
transferring the precious eggs to our hat, and encouraged by the old
rascal below--who would not have climbed so high for all the eggs in
Christendom--we got safely down. There was some outcry afterwards from
the keepers respecting the robbing of this nest, for they had intended
to trap the old birds, but we kept discreetly silent. During a long
residence in the neighbourhood we never saw or heard of another nest of
this Buzzard.

Notwithstanding persecution, the Kestrel and the Sparrow-hawk happily
can still be regarded as fairly common birds in all these woodlands.
Trapping and shooting do their best each year to hasten on their
extermination, but fortunately both birds breed in localities where
their nests are not so very easy to discover. The Kestrel is especially
fortunate in this respect, for it breeds in the deserted nests of
Crows, Stock Doves, and Magpies, or in the old drey of a squirrel, and
a good many of these nests may be searched without finding the one
selected; not only so, but the trees are generally in full foliage
before the eggs are laid or the young hatched, and this fact conduces
greatly to the concealment of many a nest. We can recall many occasions
when we have climbed to a score or more deserted nests in a single
day, amongst these grand old woods, on the off-chance of discovering
Kestrels' or Long-eared Owls' eggs, and considered ourselves well
rewarded if we found one or two at most occupied by these second
tenants. On the other hand, many have been the times when we have
seen keepers shoot into these old nests, as well as fire and kill the
brooding Hawk as she sat upon her eggs or sheltered her downy young,
in spite of all remonstrance upon our part. The Sparrow-hawk breeds
a little earlier. We have had a long and varied experience with the
domestic economy of this plucky little bird, and we have invariably
found that it not only builds its own nest, but makes a new one
every season. Indeed, in not a few cases we have noticed that when
its eggs have been taken from one nest it has built another in the
vicinity in which to lay a new clutch. The larch woods in the Rivelin
Valley--around Hollow Meadows--are, or used to be, a very favourite
resort of this Hawk, possibly because keepers were somewhat lax,
or never visited some of the coppices from one year to another. In
these larch and spruce-fir woods, many old nests of the Sparrow-hawk
might be seen, the deserted tenements of years and years. It was
also rather remarkable that most of these nests were in trees within
a stone's-throw of the artillery volunteers' target, and all around
them were larches and spruces snapped and splintered, and the ground
and rocks scored by the conical cannon-balls which lay in dozens all
over the place. From one nest in this wood we obtained, by careful
management, never quite emptying it, no less than fourteen eggs during
a single spring. Curiously enough upon more than one occasion we have
found a nest of the Goldcrest in the same spruce-fir as the nest of the
Sparrow-hawk.

Nowhere else in our experience were the Magpies allowed to live in
such peace as they enjoyed in this romantic valley. On the south side,
from Bell Hagg onwards to Hollow Meadows, was almost one continuous
woodland, coppice succeeding coppice, until they terminated in the
larch and spruce woods, where the Sparrow-hawks bred, and through which
Wyming Brook bored its way under a perfect archway of trees from its
source on the Bamford Moors near Redmires. Within this few miles of
timber we have frequently known as many as a dozen nests of the Magpie
all occupied. In not a few cases the old nest was returned to each
spring, renovated and used again. Some of these nests were made high
up in the oak and alder trees, others were placed in birch-trees, and
less frequently in a stunted white-thorn growing amidst the briars
and brambles and bracken and boulders of millstone grit on the open
rough land. Not a few were placed in the alder-trees that fringed the
streams between the reservoirs. The Jay, on the other hand, was a
scarce bird here, for the woods had little or no undergrowth, in which
that bird specially delights. In most other woods of our acquaintance
the Magpie was a sorely-persecuted species, and every bird and every
nest were destroyed that the keepers could discover. Several times
during the course of the spring many keepers hold a grand "vermin
battue". A keeper will gather round him half a dozen village loafers,
and then the precious party will proceed to hunt the covers, killing
every Magpie, Jay, or Hawk that comes in their way, and pulling out
every nest they can discover. We know the ways of these gentry only
too well, for years ago we often accompanied such a party, helpless
to save, yet glad to increase our knowledge of woodland bird-life.
Not a few nests have we seen on these occasions and held our peace,
or visited others containing young Hawks and Magpies which we have
saved by a fictitious report to the expectant keeper and his murdering
band below. In any case the slaughter at the close of the day was sad
enough; and as the capacious game-bags were emptied, and the Jays and
Magpies and Hawks, with perhaps an odd Nightjar or an Owl--beautiful
creatures each one of them, and some of the fairest avine ornaments our
woodlands can boast--were turned out into a heap by the kennel door,
we ceased to wonder why such species in not a few localities exist as
names or traditions only. Apart from any utilitarian motive that should
prompt their preservation--and mind, some of these birds are perfectly
harmless or of downright service to man--surely on æsthetic grounds a
universal plea should be raised for their protection, and such brutal
slaughter staid once and for ever.

As we previously remarked, the Jay is not so universally distributed
as the Magpie; it loves cover, and delights in such woods where the
undergrowth of hazel is dense and where clumps of holly-trees abound.
It is also fond of the large shrubberies and copses, especially such
as adjoin parks and well-timbered farm lands. We had Jays nesting more
or less commonly close to our residence, in the shrubbery attached to
Meersbrook Park--a famous spot for birds five-and-twenty years ago,
before the builder appeared upon the scene and before it became one of
the public parks of Sheffield. Here was established a fine rookery, and
the densely wooded grounds round what is now the Ruskin Museum were the
favourite haunts of Thrushes and Blackbirds, of Redwings and Bramblings
during winter, of Greenfinches, Bullfinches, Titmice, seclusion-loving
Warblers, Flycatchers, Robins, Wrens, and other birds. For many years
this half-wood half-shrubbery was our constant resort. The wary Rooks
got to know us most intimately, and never left the tree-tops or made
any unusual noise or disturbance as we wandered under the nests. But
let a stranger venture near and all was commotion and uproar at once.
The sable fellows would not allow me a companion; and whenever I walked
beneath the nest-trees accompanied by a friend the birds would be sure
to raise a prolonged chorus of protesting cries. We never knew a spot
where more birds came at nightfall during winter to roost amongst the
evergreens. For years we used to conceal ourselves in some favourite
spot and watch the interesting ways and doings of these mixed avine
hosts as they settled themselves to rest. In spring and summer it was
equally favoured as a nesting-place. Fortunately all bird-life here was
respected; every species was safe and welcome within this fair domain;
it was a sanctuary, a place of refuge for all birds irrespective of
their ill-deeds, their bad or shady characters. No gun was ever fired
within the sacred fences, and the birds could live their happy lives
in peace. Small wonder then that the Jay took kindly to such a haven
of safety and seclusion; and it was always a source of delight to
watch the troops of young birds and their parents, that in summer-time
used to troop about the underwood, patches of gaudy colour amongst the
green, and noisy and impudent as is ever their wont. In the earlier
years of our experience an odd Pheasant or two dwelt in this spot and
added to its interest; their disappearance was a sign of that coming
change that was to find its culmination in the more or less complete
banishment of bird-life from this chosen spot.

[Illustration: The Woodcock.]

Sherwood Forest, especially in the Dukeries and round about Edwinstowe,
was also another favourite woodland haunt of ours. Here, however, the
conditions were somewhat different. Game reigned supreme; the deity of
the woods was the Pheasant, and less favoured birds were harassed and
persecuted by the keepers. Notwithstanding this there is a good deal of
bird-life in the forest of surpassing interest to the ornithologist.
For instance, one of the most interesting colonies of Jackdaws in
our islands is established there. The birds have taken possession of
the hollow and ancient oak-trees--many of them mere shells of bark,
yet outwardly presenting a green and vigorous appearance and bearing
their heavy crops of acorns in the autumn--which for a thousand years
or more have stood in sunshine and storm upon ground made classic by
Robin Hood. Indeed, it requires little stretch of the imagination to
repeople these forest glades with the sturdy outlaws that tradition
says dwelt amongst them once upon a time, in open defiance of the
authorities, and fed sumptuously upon the deer and other game with
which the Forest abounded. Then the oak-trees were in their prime; now
they are gnarled and knotted and wrinkled, loaded with dead branches,
and full of hollows and crevices, the result of countless storms and
tempests. The adaptive Jackdaw has not been slow to seize upon such an
advantageous spot, and has multiplied apace. Many hundreds of nests
may be counted in one comparatively small area of the forest, and
some of the tree-trunks are literally choked with sticks from root to
summit, the accumulation of more years than any of us can remember.
Scattered amongst these Jackdaws is an almost equally extensive colony
of Starlings, many of these latter birds nesting in the same holes as
them. We have repeatedly found that some of the largest piles of sticks
contained no nest at the top--as if the original owners had finally
succumbed to old age, yet not before they had hoarded and left as a
monument to their many years of industry a cart-load or more of nest
materials. We have noticed the same thing in Rooks' nests, piles of
sticks a yard high or more, yet never occupied season after season,
until blown out by winter gales or filched by other members of the
community. The grand old timber here is also attractive to the Stock
Dove; and whilst we are examining the homes of the Jackdaws and the
Starlings, a Stock Dove every now and then dashes with impetuous haste
out of the holes and crannies. Rarest of all, we may sometimes stumble
across the home of the Tawny Owl. The keeper in this particular part
of the forest takes good care that Owls shall not live in it in peace,
nevertheless a fair number contrive to elude him. He had also tales to
tell of Hawks (possibly Hobbys and Buzzards) that formerly bred round
about his special beats, but "none of late years". More interested
was he in the Wild Ducks and Woodcocks that nested up and down the
forest, and much information he was disposed to impart concerning the
latter birds (about which he had several theories of his own) as we
used to sit in his wood-surrounded cottage and quaff his home-brewed
ale, which he was never tired of assuring us would never produce any
evil or intoxicating effects. Then after our chat and refreshment he
would be prevailed upon to wander out into the woodlands, after first
carefully taking down from its pegs the scrupulously clean pin-fire
breech-loader, and whistling to his favourite dog, and conduct us by
paths only known to himself to many a secluded spot where shy birds
were nesting. Here it might be a Pheasant's nest he would allow us
cautiously to approach, and peer down at the brown-mottled back of
the hen bird as she quietly brooded over her numerous eggs; there
a Wild Duck's nest out amongst the bracken would be pointed out;
whilst on rare occasions he would wander farther abroad into the most
secluded woodlands, and take us to inspect the home of the Woodcock
placed snugly under the bracken and brambles. Unfortunately, like
all his class, he was dead set against "vermin" of every kind, furred
and feathered, even including the squirrels that leapt about in the
branches overhead. Against these he had a particular aversion, for he
said they were "pestering varmints" that sucked every egg they could
find. In the more open parts of the forest, where the birch-trees
are abundant, we often used to find a nest of the Missel-thrush; not
that there was anything specially remarkable in this, but we never
saw a nest of this Thrush in Sherwood Forest without thinking of the
tradition that so inseparably connects the mistletoe with it. There
is no other district in our islands known to us where this parasitic
plant is so plentiful; it grows in huge bushes on the poplar trees, a
conspicuous object for miles across the country in the Dukeries, and
the white-thorns in some spots are thickly studded with it, best seen,
of course, during winter. And yet we have never noticed Missel-thrushes
in any exceptional numbers in this district, nor have we ever seen
them feeding upon the berries. Talking of the nest of this bird brings
to mind a fact we have remarked in at least two widely different
localities, and that is the number of nests that are sometimes built
quite close together. Along the streams in the Rivelin Valley they used
to be found in the alder-trees, perhaps half a dozen within a hundred
yards or so; whilst in the swampy corner of a wood at Norton we have
remarked several nests in adjoining trees. The prettiest nests of this
Thrush we have ever seen were from the Rivelin Valley, and composed
externally almost completely of sphagnum moss, amongst which a few
slender birch twigs were interwoven. We never found more than four
eggs in the nest of the Missel-thrush, and always consider that this
is the normal number, never less and never more. Indeed, the bird is
as regular in this respect as the Snipes, and more so, perhaps, than
any other Passerine species. The Carrion Crow, we are glad to say,
still manages to maintain a place in these northern woodlands, but in
not a few places he is yearly becoming scarcer. He is without doubt a
sad thief and a plundering rascal, yet in spite of all his dark deeds
we should be sorry to see him banished. His bulky well-made nest, to
which he returns, when left unmolested, year by year, is generally
placed far up one of the tallest trees in the wood. It is interesting
to remark, however, that he is a much later breeder in these northern
woods than in the southern shires. In Devonshire we have known the
Carrion Crow commence building in March, but in South Yorkshire the
eggs are not usually laid before the end of April or even in May.
Farther north, as readers may be aware, this species is gradually and
almost entirely replaced by the Hooded Crow, a bird that we have
already noticed. Birds of the Pigeon tribe are common in most of these
northern woods. Of these the Ring Dove is by far the most numerous--too
numerous for the farmers in not a few localities. Until we came south
we had scarcely any idea of how tame and trustful this species is when
left unmolested. We always knew it as one of the shyest and wariest
of birds, never allowing us to approach it within gunshot unless it
thought itself unseen, and best shot from an ambuscade in the woods or
during the evening when it came to certain favourite spots to roost.
Gamekeepers shoot a great many of these birds from the rough platforms
in the woods erected to scatter food upon for the Pheasants. The
Stock Dove is not so common, but this is perhaps because it is not so
conservative in choice of a haunt, and is therefore scattered over a
much wider area. In some parts of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire
it is known as the "Rockier". We have few other birds that adapt
themselves to such a diversity of haunt, from the dense woods to the
bare warrens, quarries, and ocean cliffs. Both these birds are breeding
right through the spring and summer, well into the autumn. On the other
hand, the Turtle Dove is a summer visitor only to the woods; but it is
a local and somewhat scarce bird so far north as South Yorkshire. We
know it breeds regularly in the well-timbered country about Bawtry;
we have seen it in the Wharncliffe Woods, and occasionally in suitable
spots in North Derbyshire. It rarely reaches this northern fringe of
its British habitat before May, but in Devonshire it may frequently
be seen at the end of April. Its migrations, however, are somewhat
rapid, for there is not much difference between the date of arrival in
northern and southern counties alike. This Dove, like the Jay, loves
woods with plenty of undergrowth and fields that are surrounded with
tall uncut hedges full of trees. Its noisy love-cry in early summer we
always think is one of the most pleasing sounds of the green woods, but
unfortunately one that is not very frequent in our northern shires. Its
migration south begins in September.

[Illustration: The Black Grouse.]

Of the Game Birds of the woodlands we shall have little to say. The
Pheasant, of course, is the most familiar of all; comparatively
few observers are fortunate enough to meet with the magnificent
Capercailzie, and the Black Grouse is scarcely common enough to
be classed as a well-known one. We often think it would have been
better had the Romans left the Pheasant to its continental home, for
indirectly its introduction to our islands has caused many a beautiful
indigenous bird to suffer persecution. The Pheasant is by no means a
harmless bird; it works a good deal of mischief amongst the crops, as
many a poor struggling farmer knows; it would probably become extinct
in a few years were it not strictly preserved and its numbers increased
by artificial means; whilst it has been the cause of more ill-feeling,
crime, and absolute human bloodshed than any other bird in the British
Islands. The price we pay to maintain this alien amongst our avifauna
is a high one; its presence is purchased at the cost of countless
numbers of indigenous birds of greater and more effective beauty; its
protection is made an excuse for the incessant butchery of some of
our most interesting species. The introduction of exotic species into
any country is sure, sooner or later, to affect some portion of the
native fauna in a disastrous way; and yet there are writers--deeming
themselves naturalists--who urge the introduction of various gaudy
exotic birds, as if our woods and fields were not ornamented
sufficiently by what is normally there, and which surely have the right
to live--all Game Birds notwithstanding. We hear of no crusade against
Hawks, and Owls, and Crows, and such-like species in wild uncivilized
countries, and yet winged game is always abundant--at least until man
and his breech-loader comes upon the scene; and we maintain that our
indigenous Game Birds would well hold their own if all vermin were left
in peace, and would be the healthier and stronger for it. The alien
Pheasant we are not quite so certain about; but if not able to maintain
itself against such enemies, then these islands would be all the better
without it.

More interesting to the naturalist in these woods of the northern
shires are the Woodpeckers. All three British species are represented
in them, but the Green Woodpecker, the largest and showiest of all,
is decidedly the least common. Curiously enough the exact reverse is
the case in many a southern shire; in Devonshire, for instance, we may
see more Green Woodpeckers in a week than we might see in a year in
not a few of our northern woods. The two Spotted Woodpeckers are none
the less interesting, however, although unfortunately they are much
more difficult to discover, and apt to be thought much rarer than they
really are. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is by far the most restricted
in its distribution; indeed, we doubt if it is found at all north of
Yorkshire. The Greater Spotted Woodpecker ranges a little farther
north, but we are very near its normal limits in this direction in
Yorkshire. It is somewhat remarkable that the forests of Scotland are
devoid of Woodpeckers; whilst Ireland is equally unfortunate, none of
the three species being known to breed there. This seems all the more
extraordinary when we know that all three species breed up to much
higher latitudes on the Continent, the two Spotted species going up
to or beyond the Arctic circle, the Green species to a higher degree
than the Shetlands. We have met with the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in
very small copses, and even in gardens and parks. During winter both
species may be met with amongst timber, which they never frequent
during the breeding season; in fact, they are given to wandering, and
may be detected during the cold months in almost every description
of well-timbered country. The habits of these birds are very similar,
and they all breed in holes, and lay shining white eggs. Rarer and
more local still is the curious Wryneck, a summer visitor only to our
islands, and finding no habitation at all in Ireland. Its arrival in
most places is usually coincident with that of the Cuckoo--hence in
not a few localities it is known as the "Cuckoo's Mate". Here again we
have a bird that is much overlooked, its chaste and sober colouring
(yet exquisitely beautiful in detail) and its shy and retiring ways
and love for the timber all assisting in its concealment. The Wryneck
is something of an anomaly. Internally it resembles the Woodpeckers
(the Wrynecks form a sub-family of the Picidæ); its plumage is mottled
and dusted and pencilled like that of a Nightjar; its tail-feathers
are soft and flexible; it rarely, if ever, climbs the timber, and hops
about the slender branches like the typical Passeres. These external
characteristics are, however, quite in harmony with its ways of life.

[Illustration: The Greater Spotted Woodpecker.]

Among the more familiar Passerine birds of the woodlands we may
first allude to the Titmice. They are the special small birds of the
trees, and every British species--if we exclude the abnormal Bearded
Titmouse--is found amongst them. Not only so, but the northern woods in
certain parts of Scotland are the exclusive home of the Crested Tit--a
bird that we saw on one occasion near Sheffield. Few woods in our
experience more abounded with Titmice than the birch and alder coppices
along the Rivelin Valley, especially in autumn, and invariably mingled
with them at that season were flights of migrant Goldcrests. Allied
to the Titmice we also have the soberly arrayed little Creeper, and
the more showy plumaged Nuthatch. The latter, however, is exceedingly
local in our Yorkshire woods, and we are not aware that it breeds to
the north of the county, or that it is found at all in Ireland. The
Nightingale penetrates as far north as the Plain of York, perhaps
exceptionally beyond, but it is rare enough in the neighbourhood of
Sheffield, and we never had the good fortune to meet with it there
during a residence of nearly twenty years, although we know the Sedge
Warbler has not unfrequently been mistaken for it. A member of one
of the allied genera, however, is common enough, we mean the gay and
lively Redstart--the showiest, perhaps, of all the migrant band. In the
coppice just above Bell Hagg the Redstart was very common. The Wheatear
bred in the quarries there, but the Redstart loved the range of rocks
that ran bulwark-like along the valley above the copse. We used to find
its nest in the crevices of these rocks, as well as in holes among the
birch-trees. We remember one nest in a decayed birch that contained
eight eggs ranged neatly round in rows; another beneath the rock, at
the top of Blackbrook, that bears an inscription to the effect that
upon it Elliott the "corn-law rhymer" used to sit and write his poetry.
Both Redstart and Wheatear are only birds of summer in our islands,
the latter arriving perhaps a week before the former, in April. The
three species of Willow Wren must also be included in this brief résumé
of bird-life in the northern woods. Commonest of this charming trio
we must class the Willow Wren. Our northern woods from April onwards
are a specially chosen haunt of this delicate-looking little bird. It
abounds in most, from the borders of the moors right up to the suburbs
of the grimy northern manufacturing towns, and its sweet little refrain
is one of the most familiar songs of the spring. Next, perhaps, in
order of abundance we should place the Wood Wren, the largest, and at
the same time the showiest of the three species. It is interesting
to know that for more than two hundred years we have records of the
Wood Wren in what are now the western suburbs of Sheffield. Francis
Jessop of Sheffield sent an example of the Wood Wren to Willughby,
and Ray published a description of it in his _Ornithologia_, one of
the earliest works dealing with British birds. The Wood Wren is the
most attached to the woods of all the three species, and its peculiar
shivering "song" is a familiar sound from the tree-tops throughout the
spring and summer. Lastly, we have the Chiffchaff, certainly the rarest
and most local of all. In the south-west of England the reverse is
the case, and there its monotonous cry may be heard from the close of
March onwards to September. It does not, however, reach the northern
shires until the first or second week in April, although we have a
Sherwood Forest record for March. All these birds build more or less
domed nests, usually on the ground, and often in woods (the Chiffchaff
sometimes makes its nest some distance from the ground), the Willow
Wren and the Chiffchaff lining theirs with feathers, but the Wood Wren
contents itself with fine grass and hair. The Wood Wren is the latest
to arrive towards the end of April, and departs the earliest in autumn;
the Willow Wren leaves us in September, the Chiffchaff not unfrequently
lingering on into October. It should be remarked that not only the
Willow Wren but the Chiffchaff are not by any means confined to woods,
but are equally common in gardens, orchards, hedgerows, and thickets.



CHAPTER VI.

IN FARM AND GARDEN.


One of the greatest charms about bird-life of the farm and garden is
its great variety. Any person who cares to go the right way to work
can acquire a very fair ornithological education in such places, a
large percentage of our best-known birds being found in them at one
time of the year or another. It was our good fortune for a great many
years to ornithologize upon several hundreds of acres of farm land of
the most diversified character; whilst an additional advantage was the
fact that we had to contend with no high-farming, the greater portion
of it being worked on the good old slovenly plan--weedy corners, long
stubbles, uncut hedges, and general untidiness--so attractive to birds.
Almost every possible description of cover could be found. We had high
ground, sheltered valleys, wooded bottoms, plenty of timber in field
and hedgerow, trout streams and sunk fences, patches of bog, and great
thickets of briar and bramble in unused corners; large stackyards,
plenty of old sheds and buildings, some of them covered with ivy, and
an abundance of evergreens round about the homesteads, which were in
some cases surrounded by orchards and old-fashioned gardens. We have
only to add that large woods adjoined here and there, together with
smaller plantations and shrubberies in some of which rookeries were
established, and also that gamekeepers were absent and much of the
surrounding property was unpreserved as regards game, to complete the
brief description of an ideal haunt for wild birds. Unfortunately we
lived long enough near this avine paradise to see much of it destroyed,
turned over to the builder, and bird-life banished. Those who remember
the quaint old village of Heeley (now, alas! a suburb of Sheffield) in
the days before the railway, when the mail-coach passed through twice
a day and caused the only commotion, when the old flour-mill driven by
water, with its tree-surrounded dam, stood where the railway-station
does now, may perhaps recall the matchless sylvan beauty of Meersbrook,
the Banks, and the old hall at Norton Lees. Much of it now has been
transformed into a wilderness of bricks and mortar. There are many
other similar spots about the northern shires in which the annual cycle
of bird-life is much the same--at least we have found it so--and in the
present chapter we propose to outline some of its most salient features.

Perhaps the most familiar birds of the open fields, especially in
spring, are the Rooks. They may be found on every kind of field in
turn. They visit the grass-lands, especially when manure is being
spread; they are constant companions of the ploughman's team, and
search furrow after furrow as the bright share turns over the brown
earth; whilst all the newly-sown patches are sought for any seed
that may chance to be within reach. In seed-time Rooks are certainly
troublesome, and usually one or two of the marauders have to be shot
and hung up from stakes on the scene of their misdeeds as a warning to
the rest before the pilfering ceases. And yet happy is the farmer that
has a rookery within easy distance of his land. The birds will increase
its value and fertility by ridding pasture and arable land of countless
insect pests, and for nine or ten months out of the twelve wage a
never-ending war upon the real enemies of his crops. Many farmers we
have known will admit that the Rook is of service; others have been
converted into staunch friends of the bird after we have satisfied
them by ocular demonstration of the number of wire-worms a healthy
hearty Rook will devour in the course of a morning. Very beautiful
these birds look in their purple-black plumage, almost as polished as
bright steel, in the sunlight as they walk about the ploughed fields
and pastures. And then their home in the cluster of elm-trees yonder
is a place fraught with interest if full of noise. Towards the close
of February, or, if the weather be still inclement, not until the
beginning of March, and at least a fortnight or three weeks later
than in Devonshire, the Rooks begin to tidy up their big nests in the
slender branches at the tree-tops. Others, less fortunate, commence to
build entirely new nests. But this building is by no means universal
for a week or more; the mania for collecting sticks and turf has not
yet spread through the entire colony, and numbers of birds may be
seen looking on with indifference at the efforts of more industrious
neighbours. What a noisy animated scene the old rookery is for the
next month, until the eggs are laid in the big massive nests; then
there is comparative quietness until the young are hatched, when the
noisy clamour begins again with greater volume until nestlings and
parents get on to the adjoining fields. They return in many cases to
the nest-trees to roost, and then each evening the din is deafening as
troop after troop of tired birds come straggling in from all directions
and caw themselves hoarse before dropping off to sleep in the tall
trees.

[Illustration: The Rook.]

Another familiar bird of the farm is the Starling--a species that does
not reveal its beauty unless examined minutely. There are few birds in
this country more gorgeously arrayed with metallic sheen than a fine
old cock Starling in the full flush and vigour of spring plumage. His
lemon-yellow bill at this season also increases the effect. As harmless
as it is useful, it keeps close company with the Rooks, although it
shows little inclination to follow those birds on to the arable land;
it loves the grass fields and manure heaps, being somewhat of an
unclean feeder. Then it always selects a covered site of some kind for
nesting purposes, being most adaptive in this respect. We used to place
boxes for its accommodation in the trees; and we have known a disused
pigeon-cot fastened to a high wall packed to its utmost capacity with
nests. Few birds are more attached to their breeding-place. For many
years a pair of Starlings bred in a hole in a tall elm-tree in one of
the fields. From this nest we actually obtained forty eggs in a season,
and sometimes for a couple of years in succession the birds did not
succeed in raising a brood. Every summer the Starlings of the entire
district gathered into one or two large flocks, and these came evening
by evening to roost in a cluster of white-thorns until the late autumn,
when they changed their quarters to the evergreens close by. Another
thing that endears the Starling to us is its perennial song. Few other
song-birds make so much fuss over their music as the Starling. Action
of some kind seems always essential to vocal effort; and the way he
erects almost every feather, or sways about or stands in some grotesque
attitude, during his periods of song is most entertaining. The House
Sparrow is another familiar bird of the farm and garden. Unfortunately
he is far too common for most farmers, especially in the vicinity
of large towns and villages; and the way these pilfering birds will
thresh out a field of wheat or oats is literally surprising. Friends
of the Sparrow, usually utterly ignorant of its habits and the serious
mischief it can do, cannot understand the farmers' indignation, and
are always protesting against its wanton slaughter. But then there is
reason in all things, and in grain-growing districts the bird should
be kept down. The boy with his clappers amongst the corn may, if he
conscientiously sticks to his work (and this rarely happens), keep
the vast flocks of Sparrows on the move, but the birds will gorge
themselves with grain meantime; whilst shooting round the fields
is little more effective, for the feathered thieves soon desert the
hedge-sides and settle in the centre of the crops, where it is next to
impossible to dislodge them, or to alarm them by repeated discharges
of the gun. The Sparrow nuisance is philosophically endured by many
farmers, and regarded, like the weather, as beyond their control. In
some cases we have known farmers absolutely cease growing corn at
all because the birds take such a large proportion of the crop! Here
the usefulness of the Sparrow-hawk becomes only too apparent, but
the keepers shoot that bird down--every one they can reach--and the
Sparrows have things all their own way.

[Illustration: The Brambling.]

There are many other birds of the Finch tribe frequenting farm and
garden. The Chaffinch, one of the handsomest of all, is also one of
the commonest, and his sprightly song is one of the most cheering
harbingers of spring the fields can boast. The resumption of song
by the Chaffinch offers an interesting contrast between the habits
of individuals of the same species in northern and southern shires
respectively. In Yorkshire the music of this bird is seldom or never
heard before the first week in March; in Devonshire it is familiar
enough in the early days of February, and may sometimes be detected
towards the close of January--a remarkable instance of the effect
of climate upon avine song. Another thing we have remarked in this
species, and that is its much handsomer nests in Yorkshire than in
Devonshire. We never found much garniture of paper, lichen, and
cocoons on nests in the latter county; in fact, the faculty of mimicry
does not seem so pronounced in these southern individuals. During
winter the northern shires are invaded by vast flocks of Chaffinches,
presumably from continental areas. Upon their first appearance in
November these flocks are almost entirely composed of males; the
females arrive later, and before the winter is over the sexes are more
or less intermixed. The Brambling, of course, we have as a winter
visitor only. We have repeatedly remarked the regularity with which
this bird returns to certain winter quarters. For years and years
we have known flocks to arrive in November--practically about the
same time as the migratory Chaffinches--and take up their quarters
in certain woods and shrubberies, where they used nightly to roost
throughout the winter, spending the day on the surrounding open fields.
Redwings also frequented the same places in similar large companies,
the natural inference being that all these birds were from the same
continental localities, and followed the same route inland from the
coast, although the latter birds were always the first to appear
towards the end of October. The Bullfinch we have always with us, but
in small and apparently decreasing numbers. For this the rascally
bird-catcher is largely to blame. To the naturalist there are few
more irritating persons than a bird-catcher. We would sooner tolerate
a shooter, for he at least kills the bird and has done with it, and
the discharge of his gun at intervals makes the birds alert and wary.
But the bird-catcher by his sly insinuating methods will carry off a
dozen birds where a gunner might not get more than one. He is at his
nefarious business early and late in a certain spot so long as he knows
a single bird worth catching remains in it. His nets close upon all
birds alike--birds he prizes and birds he cares nothing about, cocks
and hens and young indiscriminately; all are caged and carried off,
to a worse fate by far, in most instances, than sudden dissolution
from a shot-gun. It is true the bird-catcher must ply his wretched
business with due regard to an all too brief close time; but this in
not a few cases he ignores, and thus still further constitutes himself
the scourge of the fields and hedgerows. We invariably remarked that
Bullfinches retired to the cover of shrubberies and gardens to breed.
During the remainder of the year they kept to the hedgerows, especially
such as contained plenty of weeds beside them, almost invariably in
pairs, one bird trooping in undulating flight after the other, and both
made very conspicuous by the white rump. The Hawfinch was much rarer.
This shy bird loves the small plantations, but in fruit time comes into
the gardens near its usual haunts. We should class it as perhaps the
most local of the Finches (with the possible exception of the Siskin)
in the northern shires of England, whilst north of these it seems
almost everywhere to be a winter visitor only. During winter flocks of
Crossbills are occasionally met with, but they are no common feature
of the bird-life of farm and garden in Yorkshire or Derbyshire. The
Tree Sparrow is another very local and uncommon species, and especially
during the breeding season. We have records of odd nests made in holes
in trees on some of the farms, but we find it more frequent in wilder
localities. In winter it sometimes visits the farmyards, and we have
noticed it mingled with flocks of Lesser Redpoles on the stubbles and
clover fields in late autumn. The Linnet, with its close allies the
Twite and the Lesser Redpole, are familiar winter visitors to the
fields, wandering about in flocks, each usually composed of a single
species. As we have already seen, the Twite is a common bird in summer
upon the moors; in autumn it leaves them in companies for the fields.
In its habits the Linnet is very similar. All the winter through large
flocks--sometimes numbering many hundreds of birds--resort to certain
weed-grown pastures and stubbles, where they spend most of the day upon
the ground in never-ending quest of tiny seeds. If alarmed, they rise
somewhat in straggling order, but quickly bunch together and resort
to some tree-top, from which they again descend in scattered numbers.
Their twittering chorus whilst in the trees is very remarkable, and the
observer will note that this becomes much more musical and prolonged as
the spring approaches. The birds then quit the fields and retire to the
higher ground gorse coverts and roughs near the moors where they breed.
The Lesser Redpole, to our mind, is the most charming of the three.
It is, of course, most numerous on our Yorkshire and Derbyshire farms
during winter, when it congregates upon them in flocks that frequent
much the same localities as the Linnets and Twites. But it is not
exclusively confined to these spots, as we shall see in a later chapter
(conf. p. 189). Many odd pairs of Redpoles linger behind on these
northern farms to breed, making their exquisite little cup-shaped nest
in the hedges towards the end of May. This pretty nest, combined with
the short pleasing song of the male bird, and the utter trustfulness
of both sexes, summer and winter alike, endear the Redpole to us in a
way that few other species do. It is decidedly a bird of the northern
shires, becoming rarer and more local through the midlands, and only
breeding here and there farther south. Both Goldfinch and Greenfinch
also require passing notice. The former bird is another that has
been almost exterminated by the rascally bird-catcher; still, it is
observed in sufficient numbers to render it familiar in many a garden
and hedgerow. Perhaps they are most frequently remarked during winter,
when, in pairs, they love to haunt the weed-grown wastes and the sides
of the fields where thistles and docks are abundant. The Greenfinch
is much more common, but here again we remark a change of habitat
with the season, the birds quitting the open fields for shrubberies
and gardens as the breeding season approaches. Notwithstanding this,
however, a good many nests are made in the hedges in the fields, in
the white-thorn by preference. We have also found many nests of this
Finch placed at high elevations in elm-trees, especially about the
farm lands. Occasionally a Siskin may be remarked in company with
Redpoles on the stubbles and wild weed-grown pastures, but as a rule
this engaging little species confines itself to the trees along the
river-side during its winter sojourn in Yorkshire, and there we shall
meet with it in the following chapter. Some of these Finches, those
that breed within the limits of farm and garden, betake themselves to
the fields of mowing grass in June, the House Sparrow especially; and
then when the hay is cut or the wheat and oats are sufficiently forward
they pass on to the corn-fields to renew their depredations.

From the Finches to the Buntings is not a very great stride in avine
classification, and the latter birds are common enough upon the farm.
That is to say, a single species only, during summer, namely, the
Yellow Bunting. The Cirl Bunting is absent from the northern shires,
and the Common Bunting is far more local than his name suggests,
occurring most frequently in the maritime localities. In winter we have
the Snow Buntings in localized flocks upon the fields, very capricious
in their appearance, and sometimes not being seen for several years in
succession. We can recall a very large flock of these Buntings that
frequented some pasture fields at Endcliffe, quite close to grimy
Sheffield, but unfortunately they were sadly reduced in numbers by
local gunners during the winter of their stay. The Reed Bunting also
visits the farm during this season, and we have from time to time
detected them amongst the ricks with Sparrows and other hard-billed
birds in severe weather. The Yellow Bunting, however, is the one
familiar Bunting of the farm in most parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
It is one of our showiest native birds, and, as is usually the case,
what it gains in colour it loses in melody. There are few bird-songs of
the field and hedgerows more monotonous than that of the "Yoldring",
as the Yorkshire lads call him, and yet the oft-repeated refrain has
a genuine ring of spring about it. This song usually commences about
the beginning of March in the north of England, but in the southern
counties it is not unfrequent in February, another instance of climatic
influence. We all of us know the yellow-crowned musician, sitting on
the top of the hedge or in some wayside tree, trilling his simple lay;
we most of us know his rustic nest on the bank of the hedgerow, and his
mate's four or five curiously-scrawled eggs--a peculiarity which has
gained for him the local name of "Writing Lark" in not a few country
places. There are also many birds of the Thrush tribe to be met with
in farm and garden--indeed every British species might be included,
if we except the Ring-ouzel; but even that one is occasionally seen
on the meadows and about the fruit-gardens on its way to and from the
moors where it breeds. Song Thrush and Missel-thrush and Blackbird
frequent almost every hedge and field at one time of the year or
another, nesting commonly in these places, the Stormcock showing the
only partiality for the trees. Then in autumn--in October--comes
the Redwing from Scandinavian fell and forest, followed in November
(sometimes as early as mid October) by the Fieldfare from the same
far northern lands, both species frequenting farm and garden alike,
the former delighting in the wet meadows and grass-lands, the latter
showing a stronger preference for the hawthorns, holly-bushes, and
other berry-bearing trees. By the end of September the Missel-thrush
has gathered into flocks of considerable size. But this gregariousness
is continued for scarcely three months, and for the remainder of the
winter the birds live in pairs or small parties, or attach themselves
to companies of Fieldfares. We find a marked difference in the duration
of the melody of the Song Thrush between birds inhabiting the northern
and southern shires. In Devonshire, for example, this Thrush warbles
throughout the year, except during the moult; in Yorkshire it may be
heard to sing in September (chiefly young birds), and occasionally
in October, but during the three succeeding months it remains mute,
resuming its song the following February. It is interesting to remark
that the Blackbird in both northern and southern shires does not
regain its song after the moult until the following February, and even
then, in both latitudes, it is by no means a regular or a constant
singer before March. Indeed the Song Thrush is to a very great extent
migratory in the northern shires, its place being partially taken by
the Redwing. In South Yorkshire, as I remarked twenty years ago, the
birds are almost all gone early in November. They return, sometimes in
companies, by the end of January or the beginning of February. There
is also a very marked decrease in the number of Blackbirds in the late
autumn, the birds reappearing early in February. Possibly some of the
Song Thrushes migrate into the south-western counties, and to this fact
is due the exceptional abundance of this species in Devonshire during
winter.

[Illustration: The Whinchat.]

Leaving the hedgerows and the trees for a time we shall find the
hay-meadows contain several interesting birds. One of the most easily
recognized of these is the Whinchat, a bird that is somewhat rare and
local in the south-western counties, but widely and commonly dispersed
over the northern shires of England; in Scotland it again becomes
somewhat local. We usually detect it clinging to some tall dock plant,
meadow-sweet, or stem of cow-parsley, where it sits and utters a
sharp double note, resembling the syllables _u-tac_, at intervals,
jerking its tail meanwhile. Its mate may be seen sitting in a similar
manner on another stem not far away, and when disturbed they flit from
stalk to stalk about the field. These birds are only seen in England
during summer: they arrive in the southern counties about the middle
of April, but do not reach the south Yorkshire hay-meadows before
the end of the month or even the first week in May. Their pretty nest
is snugly hidden amongst the long meadow grass, a simple structure
of dry grass, lined with a few horse-hairs, and the half-dozen eggs
are turquoise-blue, with just the faintest indication of a zone of
pale-brown spots round the end. Incidentally we may remark that the
Whinchat is also a frequenter of the gorse coverts and the moorlands.
In the late summer, when the brood and parents are about the fields,
they resort to the corn, and even feed upon it; but the farmer need not
be alarmed at their visits to the grain, for they destroy a countless
number of injurious insects during their stay in the fields as an ample
recompense. A Whinchat we once dissected, shot on the 29th of April,
was crammed with small beetles, ants, larvæ of the drake-fly, and
several centipedes. In July and August the Whinchat is moulting, and
by the third week in September it has departed with its young to the
south, although it prolongs its stay into October in Devonshire. These
smiling meadows and grain-fields are also the summer home of the Tree
Pipit, from April onwards to September. This species also rears its
young in a slight nest amongst the grass, the cock bird spending most
of his time before the eggs are hatched in a series of song flights
from some favourite tree. We knew a Tree Pipit to return for many years
in succession to a sapling oak growing in a hedgerow, and to use one
special branch from which to soar and sing throughout the early summer.
These birds also frequent the corn-fields, and eat the soft milky
grain, but their usual food consists of insects, worms, and grubs.

Another well-known summer visitor to the meadows and corn-lands is
the Landrail, known almost as generally as the Corncrake. Few persons
there are that do not know the rasping, monotonous double cry of
this bird, and yet few people ever see a Corncrake all their lives,
and still fewer, perhaps, could describe or identify it. Its note is
almost as familiar as that of the Cuckoo, and equally characteristic
of spring and early summer. There is something romantic about this
rasping cry, that sounds almost all night long from the meadow grass.
The bird itself is rarely seen, it runs through the dense herbage
with astonishing rapidity, and should it by chance disclose itself
to our scrutiny, it is seldom imprudent enough to repeat the action.
And yet the Corncrake is not quite such a skulking bird as some would
make him. When all is quiet he not unfrequently wanders out of the
hay-meadow through the hedge into the barer pasture beyond, sometimes
running a score of yards into the open field; but at the least alarm
he is off back again and soon concealed amongst the weeds and long
grass in the bottom of the hedge. Rarely indeed is he flushed even
by the aid of dogs; we have known him perch on the top of a thick
low hedge when put up by a collie. He flies slowly and in a somewhat
laboured way, with his long legs dangling down, and all his efforts
seem directed into reaching cover of some kind. The hay harvest in
July is a cause of much disturbance to the Corncrake. As the mowers or
the more modern mowing-machine lay swathe after swathe of tall grass
its haunts become more and more restricted; the brooding Crake at last
slips quietly off her nest alarmed at the approaching scythes or rattle
of the machine, until at last her home with its numerous eggs is left
bare and desolate. We have known her to remove her eggs in the course
of a night and place them amongst still standing grass, but the end
eventually was just the same. Probably this destruction of nests during
hay harvest is responsible for the diminishing numbers of this species
in not a few districts. But if the cutting of the grass brings ruin to
some birds it also brings an abundance of food to others. These are the
Thrushes and Starlings that may then be seen on the shorn fields busily
in quest of snails and worms. The Corncrake calls no longer; perhaps
the old birds retire to the clover, the standing corn, or even to the
turnip and potato fields, and about these places they skulk for the
remainder of their stay, and then return broodless to the south. No
wonder their return in spring seems to be in fewer and fewer numbers.
The Sky-lark is more fortunate. It breeds in much the same localities
as the Corncrake, but nests earlier, so that the young are generally
able to fly before the mowers enter the fields. Speaking of Sky-larks
we may mention that large flocks of this bird appear upon certain
suitable fields in the late autumn, remaining throughout the winter.
These birds are from the Continent, and come to our isles in that vast
tide of migration that sets westwards across Europe from the far East
in October and November. The birds always prefer high ground, and we
have remarked this choice in the southern counties as well, and seldom
wander far from a district during their stay, except under the pressure
of continued snow-storms. They invariably return to the usual haunts
when the ground is clear again.

[Illustration: The Yellow Wagtail.]

At least two species of Wagtails are common birds upon the fields and
pastures of the northern shires. The Pied Wagtail is perhaps the most
familiar, although both this bird and the Yellow Wagtail are more or
less migratory. Perhaps these birds are most interesting when they
congregate in large numbers upon the ploughed fields in March, and
run to and fro with dainty steps about the heels of the ploughman and
his team. We knew an old farmer who had a special liking for these
pretty birds. He knew they lived entirely on insects, worms, and
such-like creatures, without professing any knowledge of ornithology.
Indeed, we well remember when the old boy heard that we had just
published our first book on bird-life, _Rural Bird-life: being Essays
on Ornithology_, how he paused one day at his work in the fields and
solemnly put the question: "Charley, what is this 'Ornithowlogy'; is
it a new religion?" We confess to feeling fairly nonplussed at such
a remark, and did our best to tell him, with as serious a look as we
could command, the proper meaning of the awful word. Poor old White, at
a ripe age, has been gathered to his fathers. He was one of the most
tolerant and philosophic farmers that we ever met, and we dwell thus
affectionately upon his memory; for we were always welcome, boy and
man, to wander about his land at all times and seasons without let or
hindrance, and study the birds upon it to our heart's content. But to
return to the Wagtails. The Yellow Wagtail is the most closely attached
to the fields and pastures of the two; it may often be seen running
amongst the cattle, and is a numerous visitor to the fallows in March.
Both in spring and autumn Wagtails gather into flocks and migrate
thus together. The Pied Wagtail is very fond of nesting in a hole in
the wall of some outbuilding, and will tenant one spot with great
regularity season after season. The Yellow Wagtail is perhaps the least
aquatic in its habits, as the Gray Wagtail is the most. Both Magpies
and Jays are also very frequently observed upon the fields searching
for worms and grubs; whilst the fleet-winged Swallows and Martins
during their summer sojourn fly over many times every acre of the farm,
and, as most readers know, are extremely fond of rearing their broods
in or on the buildings attached thereto. We never met a farmer who
would allow these birds to be molested. Happy birds! They at least are
secure in the farmers' friendship, and not even the gamekeeper can say
a word against them. The Cuckoo is much less fortunate in this respect;
the farmer, we honestly believe, has a genuine love for the bird, and
delights to hear its loud and happy voice across his fields, for it
tells him that winter is passed, and that better times are approaching
both for man and beast. The gamekeeper knocks it over with an oath, and
fills its tuneful yellow bill with blood, because it not only looks
like a Hawk, but he is "sartin sure" that it turns into one for the
winter!

The turnip fields in autumn are always a favourite resort of birds.
They are not only the last of the cover left upon the farm, but they
abound with food for various species especially. They are the one
spot where the migrant Pipits, Thrushes, and even Warblers can always
be certain of a meal, to say nothing of an odd Woodcock now and then
and the last lingering coveys of Partridges. Even in winter the birds
are fond of such a retreat. On many farms the turnips are left in the
ground--especially the white variety--until they are wanted for the
cattle; the ground is soft and moist, and abounds with food the small
birds desire, whilst the broad leaves are a shelter.

Then in late autumn the Jack Snipe once more appears upon the few
square yards of bog beside the pond where the cattle drink, or in the
sunk fences which usually become rills during the wetter portions of
the year. This little bird, we know, breeds upon the Scandinavian
fells, and yet it will return winter after winter to the very centre of
England to some square yard of bog on a South Yorkshire farm, coming
and going so quietly that no man may say exactly when it arrives
or departs, and living here for months in this warm corner in the
fields, in solitary state, a recluse waxing fat in its solitude. Then
winter comes round once more. All the summer birds of farm and garden
are far beyond the seas; new birds are here from other and sterner
lands. The snow-storms come, and the birds congregate in rich variety
about the ricks and farmsteads; flocks of Lapwings cross over the
fields bewildered and forlorn; the Moorhen leaves the frozen pond and
fraternizes with the poultry; the Larks disappear from the snow-drifted
high lands; the Fieldfares congregate in the hawthorns, the Redwings
starve. At night the scene becomes even more interesting as half-frozen
birds seek roosting-places in the ricks and amongst the ivy; yet amidst
frost and snow the Robin and the Wren, and perhaps the Hedge Accentor,
carol forth an evening song. The snow melts; the once green pastures
are brown and withered; scarcely a fleck of green relieves field or
hedgerow, the birds scatter on to the open ground again, and so the
northern winter runs its course. How different in the warmer southern
county, where all is green, and the visit of winter so light that it is
scarcely felt by bird or beast!

Garden bird-life is too familiar to require much detailed notice here.
The garden hedge we know is always sure to contain one of the first
Hedge Accentors' nests of the year; whilst the Wren is as certain to
select the ivy on the wall in which to construct her ball-like abode.
The Robin as surely returns each spring to rear its young in some hole
in the wall itself. Amongst the fruit trees the Titmice and Flycatchers
have their favourite nooks and crannies, and the Redstart has returned
as long as we can remember to the hole in the old pear-tree. One bird,
however, that frequents the gardens of the northern shires is specially
interesting to South Yorkshire naturalists. This is the Garden Warbler;
and its exceptional interest centres in the fact that the bird was
first described from an example obtained near Sheffield--possibly in
the immediate neighbourhood of Broom Hall--and sent by Francis Jessop
to Willughby, the co-worker with Ray nearly a century and a half ago,
the latter naturalist describing it in his _Ornithologia_. It is the
"Pettichaps" of Latham, a name, according to Professor Newton, that
had not become obsolete in 1873 in the vicinity of Sheffield, although
we never heard of it being applied to this species during a residence
there of some twenty years. It is a late migrant, seldom reaching its
Yorkshire haunts before the beginning of May, and, as its name implies,
is very partial to large gardens. Its habits somewhat closely resemble
those of the Blackcap; and of all the Warbler band its song is only
inferior to that of this species. Its nest is frequently made in a
currant or gooseberry bush, a flimsy little structure enough, made of
dry grass stalks and roots and lined with horse-hair. The eggs are very
similar to those of the Blackcap, and four or five in number. During
fruit time this Warbler is often to be met with in the garden feeding
upon currants and other berries. It is most secretive in its habits,
usually betraying its whereabouts by its sharp call-note of _tec_ or
_tac_. Its food consists of insects, larvæ, and most kinds of soft
fruit and berries. It leaves Yorkshire in September. There are many
other birds that visit the gardens in the northern shires for fruit
or vegetable food. In cherry time the Blackbird and the Starling are
troublesome enough; the Ring-ouzel visits the gardens near the moors
for a similar purpose. Then the Hawfinch and the Jay have a great
weakness for green peas; whilst the small Finches play havoc amongst
the newly-sown beds. Kestrel and Sparrow-hawk, however, often visit
such localities too, the former for mice, the latter for birds.

Before finally leaving the farmstead we ought to give a passing word
to the Barn Owl. This bird is not so abundant now in many places as
was formerly the case, but it must still be regarded as common in
most parts of the northern shires. There are not a few farmers, we
are glad to say, who fully recognize the merits of this useful bird,
worth more than half a dozen cats in any farmstead, and requiring no
keep whatever. These birds are specially fond of the tall-roofed barns
where nothing intervenes between the rafters and the slates or tiles,
where little daylight ever enters, and where ready means of getting
out and in are presented. There are farms where the Owl is quite an
institution, where no one ever thinks of molesting it, and where its
peculiar noises and nightly wanderings create not the least curiosity.
In fact, the bird is regarded as part and parcel of the barns, a useful
adjunct to the cats and village rat-catcher, and a good many times more
effective in ridding buildings and land of some of their most annoying
pests. We need scarcely state that the Swift is a well-known summer
visitor to farm and farmstead. We shall have occasion to allude to this
bird again in a future chapter (conf. p. 271).



CHAPTER VII.

BY RIVER AND POOL.


Broadly speaking, the northern shires are remarkably well-watered; not
only by a net-work of rivers, but by an almost endless succession of
pools and lakes, canals and dams, the latter to some extent being due
to the necessities of the vast and busy centres of manufacture and
commerce. Bird-life in great variety and of exceptional interest is to
be found upon these rivers and pools and along their banks and margins,
and again presenting us with not a little room for comparison with that
frequenting similar localities in more southern counties. Here again
we miss some birds that are familiar farther south; we find others
that are rarer, or less known there. Unfortunately too many of these
northern waters are polluted, especially in their lower reaches and in
the immediate neighbourhood of towns, by drainage and factory refuse of
various kinds. Rivers that run in their higher reaches over moss-grown
stones and sandy beds, clear as crystal, and fringed on either bank
with brushwood and timber, become little more than open sewers as they
pass the big centres of manufacturing life. The waters are stained
as with ochre from the filthy "wheel swarf", and poisoned with refuse
from dyes and sundry chemicals. Yet even in these forbidding places
bird-life is not altogether absent, and from time to time Wagtails,
Pipits, and such-like species may be remarked on passage even in the
centre of so grimy a place as Sheffield. Above the towns where the
water still runs clear, and some miles below them where the sediment
has settled and the water again become more purified, these canals and
rivers are favourite haunts of birds. Then far away amidst rural scenes
there are many meres and clear pools where Nature is still undefiled
by man; in some of the suburban areas there are clear still mill-dams,
which drive the grinding wheels, and which are yet so pure that trout
live in them in abundance.

[Illustration: The Kingfisher.]

Now, even about such a prosaic spot as a mill-dam there is usually not
a little to interest the lover of birds. That refulgent avine gem, the
Kingfisher, is a frequent haunter of the shuttles, and the dyke just
above and below the sluice. We have seen this bird perch on a branch
sticking out of the shallow water at the far end of a mill-dam and
plunge again and again into the pool in chase of minnows, and not fifty
yards away a dozen sturdy Sheffield grinders were hard at work astride
their stones in the hull which resounded with the fitful deafening roar
and screech as the metal met the grindstones so familiar to such a
spot. Where the horsetail reeds grow up in a dense forest of dark-green
from out the shallow parts of the mill-dam, the Moorhen is often
common enough, and rears its young from a floating nest some distance
from the bank where only boats can reach it. This latter species is
much more familiar than the Kingfisher, and it is astonishing how
the Moorhen will continue to haunt such a spot long after the entire
aspect of it has been changed. We know of dams, once surrounded by
gardens and fields, now almost hidden by houses and workshops, where
this bird still lingers and breeds every year, amidst a never-ceasing
din from water-driven tilts and forges. The series of dams in the
Endcliffe Valley, one following the other through a succession of
picturesque woods, and united by a broad stream, all situated in the
western suburbs of Sheffield, were a very favoured haunt of birds.
There can be little doubt that a century and a half ago Francis Jessop
used to search this valley for ornithological information; from that
day to this not a few of the birds that are intimately associated
with his name continue to frequent the place. Here may the Kingfisher
be watched, gliding like a spot of blue across the water and up the
wooded stream, which is a favourite resort of the Gray Wagtail. Then
the fringe of alders by many of these Yorkshire pools and rivers is
a favourite resort of Titmice, Redpoles, and Siskins. Nowhere in the
northern shires does the alder flourish better than here; its wood
is used to make the clogs--or wooden-soled shoes--so universally
worn by the mill hands, colliers, and poorer classes of Lancashire
and Yorkshire. During its growth, here by the river-side, its seeds
are a great attraction to these little birds. The Siskin is one of
the most interesting of them. We often met with it in company with
Redpoles, especially in many parts of South Yorkshire, which locality
it visits during winter. We never found a nest in the county, although
we believe the Siskin has been known to breed therein, as well as
in many other counties farther south. As previously remarked, the
favourite summer home of the Siskin is the pine-woods of Scotland. Very
engaging these birds are in the alder-trees, as they cling in almost
every possible attitude and pick out the seeds. They also visit the
birch-trees in the same localities, and here they are sometimes joined
by a company of Bramblings. These larger and heavier-looking birds are
equally at home amongst the long slender twigs, hanging head downwards
like a Tit or a Goldcrest, and swaying to and fro like animated
pendulums, all the time keeping up a chorus of twittering notes.
Possibly the Brambling is a life-paired species, for we have often
witnessed various little marks of affection between the sexes during
winter. The Titmice are equally engaging. Five out of the half-dozen
British species may be met with singly in parties or in mixed companies
amongst the alders and birches along the river-side, each one with its
characteristic note and all with the acrobat-like ways that ever make
them so amusing. These remarks more specially relate to autumn and
winter; in spring they scatter far and wide to less riparian haunts to
rear their young in spots that fancy or necessity requires.

[Illustration: Titmice.]

In autumn many of these mill-dams are recognized gathering-places
of birds of the Swallow tribe. In August and September Swallows and
Martins in countless hosts congregate over them, flitting to and fro in
a mazy throng the livelong day, preying upon the swarms of gnats and
midges hovering above the surface. These birds are thus forgathering
where they have been wont to do for many previous autumns previous to
starting off to a winter haunt in Africa. Then in winter not a few
shyer and rarer birds are attracted to these open sheets of water,
Ducks and Geese and even Wild Swans paying them visits as they roam
about the country. There is a fine example of Bewick's Swan in the
Weston Park Museum at Sheffield, which was shot from a mill-dam close
to the town, an exceptionally favoured spot, for Ducks and various
other strange fowl are by no means rare visitors during the winter
months. Our sombre little friend, the Sand Martin, loves these dams
and reservoirs, and delights to tunnel into the steep banks to make
its nest. Numbers of Sand Martins so do at the reservoirs at Hollow
Meadows, for instance. The Pied Wagtail delights in such spots,
tripping daintily round the water's edge in quest of insects, and
building its nest in some hole in a wall or about the hulls. We have
seen the nest of this species in a crevice of the masonry supporting
the heavy cumbersome water-wheel, and not many inches from it, with
its continuous splash and roar. Now and then such an unusual bird as
a Stormy Petrel or a Gull visits them; whilst during migration time in
spring and autumn the Ringed Plover, the Dunlin, the Wigeon, the Teal,
and the Pochard are all known to alight occasionally near or upon the
dams and reservoirs of South Yorkshire. Coots, Water Rails, and Spotted
Crakes either frequent some of them all the year round or visit them
from time to time.

The bird-life along our canal banks if somewhat sparse is by no means
uninteresting. In rural districts one of the most familiar species is
the Reed-bunting--not inaptly named by some observers a "Riverside
Bunting". We can recall how very common this bird was along the
water-side and about the towing-paths of the canal just outside Walton
Park, once the famous seat of Charles Waterton, the old-time Yorkshire
naturalist. The bird is by no means a shy or a timid one. It will sit
and await your approach, watching you with uneasy flicks of its tail as
it clings to some willow twig or reed stem, then start off in dipping
flight for a little way to wait again. Finally, as likely as not, it
returns to its original haunt, flitting just above the surface. The
cock bird is readily identified by the black head and throat, and
white cheeks: in the hen these parts are reddish-brown streaked with
darker brown. Its song is very similar to that of the better-known
Yellow Bunting, consisting of a double note several times repeated and
finishing up with a short spluttering trill. In Yorkshire this song
commences early in April, sometimes at the end of March, and continues
into the late summer, when the moult arrests it. During winter this
Bunting often wanders from the water-side, and then we have seen it in
the stackyards, but at no time of the year is it ever so gregarious as
the Yellow or Cirl Buntings. Flocks of this bird have been recorded
from Redcar towards the end of September, and there is other evidence
to suggest that our resident individuals are increased in numbers by
migrants from the Continent. The first nests of the year are usually
made by the end of April, and are placed on or near the ground, amongst
a tuft of rushes or amongst the dense vegetation on the banks of the
canal or pool. Externally these are made of dry grass, moss, and
scraps of aquatic vegetation; inside they are lined with finer grass
and hair. The eggs are from four to six in number, olive or buff in
ground colour, streaked and spotted with purplish brown and gray. It is
worthy of remark, however, that the intricate pencilling so prominent a
feature in the eggs of the Yellow Bunting are absent, the lines being
shorter and broader and the spots larger and rounder. One might fancy
that they had been put on with a quill rather than with a steel pen.
Both Pied and Gray Wagtails are familiar objects on the towing-path;
whilst among the vegetation near the water the Sedge Warbler has its
summer home. This latter bird arrives here in April and leaves again in
September. The Reed Warbler is much more local in Yorkshire, although
it is known to breed at Hornsea Mere and one or two other places.
In the back-waters of the canals, amongst the reeds and flags, both
Coots and Moorhens have their residence, whilst the Little Grebe, if
not quite so familiar, owing to its more skulking habits, is by no
means rare. It is rather surprising what small pools of water will in
some cases content a pair of these amusing little birds, whilst it
is equally noteworthy how often this species is entirely overlooked.
Possibly their alertness and partiality for cover to some extent
explains it. Least showy, as they are the smallest, of all the British
Grebes, they are often mistaken for a rat or even a fish; certainly
they are as much at home in the water as the latter. Towards the end
of March they build a bulky floating nest among the flags and rushes,
composed of dead and rotten stalks matted and heaped together, the
half-dozen white eggs (stained brown almost as soon as laid) resting
in a shallow hollow at the top. The marvellous celerity with which the
sitting bird covers her eggs with weed when the nest is approached must
be familiar to every bird's-nester. A great many of the chicks are
destroyed by hungry pike, and to this, perhaps, must we attribute the
fact of its seldom increasing in numbers, even in localities where it
is never otherwise molested. As a rule the canals are too deep to admit
of birds obtaining much food from their margins; but the insect life
that flits over the surface is sought by Swallow, Martin, and Swift.

We must include a brief visit to the fish-ponds in the present chapter.
There are many of these scattered about the parks of our northern
shires, and not a few of them are frequented by birds in plenty. Most
readers will remember what a paradise for aquatic birds the lake at
Walton Hall became under the loving care of the famous old Yorkshire
naturalist; how the birds used to flock there in winter and join the
resident population that dwelt in that valley of peace. And this, mind,
at no great distance from populous towns and villages, in a country
filled with collieries and workshops, crossed by railways, and many
miles from the coast. It only shows what can be done if we encourage
and protect the birds that visit us. Many a picturesque old fish-pond
we can recall in Yorkshire and Derbyshire--spots where the deep water
teemed with fish, and the big elms and horse-chestnut trees almost
swept the surface with their spreading branches, high up in which
the Rooks and Herons reared their young. Amongst the clumps of iris
and flag that grew so luxuriantly in the shallows Coot and Moorhen
made their nests, and their broods of black downy chicks might be
seen paddling about the broad flat leaves of the water-lily and the
candock, or resting and sunning themselves on the floating vegetation.
The steel-blue Swallows and Martins come from the adjoining meadows
and park to dart to and fro with shrill twitter, and thread their way
beneath the drooping branches of the chestnuts gaily ornamented with
their noble spikes of fair yet evil-smelling bloom, like miniature
candelabra. The Herons all day long fly up and down from their nests
in the tree-tops to and from the shallows, where the roach are an easy
prey. How stately the big gray birds look standing so solemn in the
shallows! With what patience they wait and watch and finally strike,
sending that formidable spear-like bill into the doomed fish, which
is quickly disposed of with a grunt of satisfaction! Now and then the
Kingfisher's radiant beauty is reflected in the unruffled water as he
glides across; at intervals a shy Water-rail or a Grebe sails timidly
out from the rushes, dives at the least alarm, and the scarcely-ruffled
surface indicates the quick return under water to the sheltering
greenery. In winter these ponds are often visited by Wild Ducks,
Wigeons, and Teals, with sometimes much rarer fowl. Indeed, the very
uncertainty of what might be found was one of the greatest attractions
of such a spot. Here also dwell the stately Swans, half-domesticated
it is true, yet none the less ornamental for that. These birds mate
for life, and are apparently much attached to each other. They always
select the tiny islet in the pool for their domestic arrangements;
and on this in April they construct a big nest of straw and sticks
and other rubbish, in which the hen bird lays her massive pale-green
eggs. At first the young birds are brown and dingy looking; nor do they
acquire that pure white dress characteristic of their parents until the
following autumn.

[Illustration: The Tufted Duck.]

In a previous chapter we dealt at some length with the bird-life of
Sherwood Forest. We will now return to that area in order to make
a brief survey of the birds that frequent some of the pools in the
vicinity of the Dukeries, round about Clumber and Newstead. It would
be difficult to find a more suitable place for Ducks throughout the
length and breadth of England than some of the charming rush-fringed
ponds that are such a feature of this part of Nottinghamshire. They
afford plenty of cover and food, not only the ponds themselves but the
streams and marshes by which many of them are joined together, and
above all they are well watched by vigilant keepers, so that the birds
are practically safe from molestation during the nesting season. Here
may the habits of the Tufted Duck be studied to perfection. This bird
is an old friend of ours; we have seen much of it in more southern
haunts, especially during the non-breeding season. Most if not all the
Tufted Ducks leave Devonshire for more northern haunts in spring, but
in the Dukeries they are to be seen throughout the year, apparently
in undiminished numbers. There can be little doubt, we think, that
this Duck pairs for life; certainly it may be seen in company with its
mate summer and winter alike. During winter the birds are sociable and
gregarious, and the fact is not so readily remarked, but as spring
draws on they separate more, and from that time onwards to the laying
season live almost exclusively in pairs. The nesting season of this
Duck varies a good deal according to locality. In southern haunts the
duck commences to lay at the end of April or early in May; in North
Notts the birds are at least two or three weeks later. The nest is
frequently made in a tuft or tussock of sedge, amongst long grass, or
beneath a small bush. It is merely a hollow lined with a little dry
vegetation, but as the eight or ten eggs accumulate, the duck surrounds
them with a bed of down plucked from her own body. These eggs are
greenish-buff in colour. Tufted Ducks are most expert divers, and feed
much towards evening, during the night, and early in the morning. By
day they may usually be seen swimming lazily about, preening their
plumage, and now and then sleeping, as they float buoyantly upon the
water far out from shore. The Mallard is also a common bird about these
ponds and pools. We have already seen that it not unfrequently nests
far from water amongst the more open parts of the grand old forest; but
nevertheless a fair number of birds frequent these pools for domestic
purposes. The Shoveler is also present, if in much smaller numbers,
and hides its very similar nest in much the same sort of places. Its
nine or ten eggs are, however, pale buffish-white, with a faint tinge
of olive. The tame and confiding little Teal--smallest of all our
British Ducks--is also a common resident in this district. We cannot
say whether the Pochard breeds here or not. We have seen it during
autumn and spring, perhaps on passage only; but it certainly breeds in
Yorkshire at Hornsea Mere, in the East Riding. We have also remarked
several of the above-named species on the beautiful ponds at Newstead
Abbey, once the classic home of Byron, during the early summer months,
so that some of them may breed in this immediate neighbourhood.

Returning now to the rivers of our northern shires, we will briefly
glance at one or two birds that are specially associated with such
water-ways. Here in Yorkshire, Dipper, Gray Wagtail, and Heron may
perhaps be the most familiar birds, but to our mind the Kingfisher
is the most distinguished, and from some points of view the most
interesting. We always think a special charm attaches to birds that
have a place in ancient history, or that are surrounded by more or less
classic legends and superstitions. The Kingfisher is one of these. From
the very earliest times of which we possess any record, the bird, for
some reason that to the modern mind does not seem always very clear,
has figured largely in myth and superstition. Some of these are by no
means wanting in poetic imagination. Legend, for instance, accounts for
the beautiful colour of its plumage in the following amusing way: When
the Kingfisher was liberated from the Ark it was a plain gray-plumaged
bird, but flying towards the sun it became of the same hue as the
sky on its upper parts, whilst its lower parts were scorched by the
solar rays to the chestnut tint they now are. Fable is also curiously
associated with the domestic arrangements of the Kingfisher, mid-winter
being given as the date of its reproduction. Ovid tells us that during
this period Æolus, the god of wind, exerted his influence, so that
the tempests were quieted and the sea remained calm, upon which the
floating nest might remain in safety for the seven Halcyon Days. As old
Shakespeare has it:

    "This night the siege assuredly I'll raise:
    Expect Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days".

  --_Henry V._

We also find under the term Halcyon (another name for the Kingfisher)
in Minsben's _Dictionary_ the following quaint passage bearing on this
fable: "A bird called also Kingfisher, because she fisheth in the sea,
and casteth herself with such force at the fishes. She conceiveth in
the sea, and in it she brings forth her young--and that in chill and
cold weather; and meanwhile the heaven is serene, and the sea tranquil,
nor agitated by troubles of winds. Hence those serene days are called
Halcyon-days." Superstition attributed to the Kingfisher not a few
virtues. For instance, Lupton, three hundred odd years ago, in a book
entitled _A Thousand Notable Things_, &c., writes: "A little bird
called the King's fisher, being hanged up in the air by the neck, his
neb or bill will be always direct or straight against the wind. This
was told me for a very truth by one that knew it by proof, as he said."
Possibly the superstition widely prevailed at that remote date, as four
years later Storer, in his _Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal_,
gives it thus:

              "As a Halcyon with her turning breast
    Demonstrates wind from wind, and east from west".

Marlowe (_Jew of Malta_, i. 1) has another rendering of the
superstition, thus:

    "But now how stands the wind?
    Into what corner peers my Halcyon's bill?
    Ha! To the East? Yes! See, how stand the vanes?
    East and by south."

It is interesting to remark that the quaint old superstition is not
quite dead, even at the close of the nineteenth century! We have on
more than one occasion come across country people in Yorkshire and
Derbyshire who have assured us that the dead body of the Kingfisher, if
hung up by a thread, will turn its beak in the direction of the wind
then prevailing. Mummified Kingfishers were also believed to be a charm
against thunderbolts, and also a preservative against clothes-moths.
Professor Newton informs us in his _Dictionary of Birds_ that in many
islands of the Pacific Ocean the indigenous Kingfisher (of various
species) is an object of much veneration.

Surely after these few extracts from some of the many legends in
which the Kingfisher is involved the gem-like bird acquires a greater
interest as we watch it passing like a gleam of blue light along the
river. Even in our own day there is not a little fiction and absurdity
gathered round the nesting habits of the Kingfisher. We are told that
the bird is careful to make a nest of fish-bones for its eggs; this is
a widely prevailing idea among persons who should know better, such
as keepers, fishermen, and bird-nesting boys, for their experience
is generally personal. Perhaps appearances have fostered, if they
have not absolutely originated this belief. The Kingfisher pairs for
life, and returns in most cases to the same place to nest season after
season. This nest is usually in a hole, in many cases in a steep bank
overhanging the river, and generally excavated by the birds themselves.
Very often, however, a rat's hole will be selected and various trifling
alterations made to suit the new tenant. The hole almost invariably
slopes upwards from the entrance, and is from three to four feet in
length, enlarged at the end into a kind of chamber. The birds, it
should be remarked, resort to this hole to roost, and frequent it
generally long before the eggs are laid, so that a collection of bones,
decaying fish, and droppings accumulates in the chamber. Upon these
fish-bones the six or eight pearly-white eggs are deposited, surrounded
in course of time by a heap of most offensive matter. When the young
are hatched the place becomes even more filthy, owing to the increased
amount of droppings and the number of fish brought for their food.
We are not aware that more than one brood is reared in the season,
although several clutches of eggs will be laid in the efforts to
accomplish this, if the eggs chance to be destroyed. Not a few persons
believe the Kingfisher to be mute; but this is not the case. Its note
is shrill, but not very loud, and resembles the word _peep_, sometimes
uttered several times in quick succession. It is not, however, by any
means a garrulous bird, and usually flies along in silence. By the
way, we might mention that the Kingfisher is by no means the only bird
of gay plumage that as it were fouls its own nest, for the Hoopoe, a
handsome bird with a wonderful crest, possesses a nest which, during
the course of incubation, is rendered filthy and obnoxious from the
droppings of the female, conditions which become worse when the
young are hatched. How different this from the cleanly habits of the
Starling, for instance, that conveys the droppings of its young away
most carefully, usually after every visit with food.

As many of the rivers of the northern shires approach the sea they
widen into estuaries, the shores of which are the resort of a great
variety of bird-life. The Humber and the Tyne on the east coast,
the Solway, the Lune, the Ribble, and the Mersey on the west coast
of England are capital instances of such. The mud-flats up to tidal
limits, often extending many miles inland, are favourite feeding-places
of large numbers of wading birds, not only during the two seasons of
migration, but throughout the winter months. In summer these places are
more or less uninviting; the birds are scattered far and wide, not only
over our own uplands and inland waters, but beyond the seas on arctic
tundras; in early autumn the birds appear again in small numbers, and
as that season advances become increasingly numerous. When these birds
of mud-flat and sand-bank depart, little else is left but an occasional
Gull, or possibly a laggard wading bird or two that from some reason
or another have not migrated with their companions. We might, however,
mention that in or near the beds of some of these northern rivers the
Ringed Plover breeds. In spring and autumn companies of Terns hang
about these estuaries; the Sandwich, Common, Arctic, and Lesser Terns
appear from the middle of April onwards; their return is noticed
during August and the first half of September. These dates are nearly
coincident with those at which we notice these birds in the Devonshire
estuaries, save that in autumn the migration continues into October,
and during some years is even prolonged into November. Sanderlings,
Curlew Sandpipers, and Knots, birds that migrate amongst the latest
in spring and breed in the high north, are some of the first to
reappear in autumn, even at the end of July or early in August. Common
Sandpipers, as their name suggests, are abundant during their short
stay at the mouths of these northern rivers previous to passing south.
In the Humber district especially, vast flights of Dunlins often
appear upon the mud-flats towards the end of August, and remain for
the winter. When the rising tide drives them from the muds, they often
resort to the fields to wait until the ebb. The movements of these
birds are most interesting, as a vast flock wheels and spreads out or
closes up with as much precision as drilled troops. Scattered amongst
them are many odd Stints and Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers. Curlews,
Whimbrels, and Bar-tailed Godwits also appear about these estuaries
during migration time, and some of them remain upon them throughout
the winter. At the latter season Ducks of various species are regular
visitors. Some of these, however, keep well off the land out at sea,
only entering the river mouths during rough weather, or at night
for the purpose of feeding in the shallower water. One of the most
familiar, perhaps, is the Scaup; the Pochard is another, with a much
more marked preference for rivers; the Pintail is a third. Companies
of Swans from time to time may be observed, usually consisting of
Whoopers, and much more rarely of Bewick's Swans.

During the migration season in spring, and more especially in autumn,
these northern river-valleys are frequented by great numbers of land
birds on their way to more northern and eastern breeding grounds in
Continental areas, or returning south and west to winter in our islands
or to cross over them to warmer latitudes. These northern rivers are
exceptionally favourable for migration, so many of them trending in the
same general direction as the birds are bent on following. Vast numbers
of migrant small birds follow such river-valleys as the Tees and the
Humber, on their way into Yorkshire, Notts, and Derbyshire, by way of
the Don and its tributary streams. It is unnecessary here to dwell upon
these species in detail, for we hope to go much deeper into the matter
when we come to a study of the migration of birds in the northern
shires. We have gathered much evidence in support of this migration
during a residence of many years at no great distance from the Humber
and certain valleys in direct communication with that important
estuary--next, perhaps, in interest, so far as bird-life is concerned,
to that still more wonderful locality the Wash, a little lower down the
coast.



CHAPTER VIII.

ON SEA AND SHORE.


It is the bird-life of sea and shore especially that renders these
northern shires so much more interesting than the littoral counties of
the south and west. Compared with these the southern coasts seem tame
and deserted, indeed. This is principally due not only to the fact
that so many marine species breed in northern areas only, but also to
the much greater strength of migration generally along the coasts. All
along the coast from Lincolnshire northwards to the Firth of Forth,
and onwards to the Hebrides, St. Kilda, the Orkneys and the Shetlands,
we have vast and varied bird populations, not only scattered up and
down the shore, but congested here and there where the sea-fowl in
unnumbered hosts congregate to rear their broods. The southern counties
present us with nothing approaching to this; the wealth and variety of
the marine avifauna of the northern shires is one of the most pleasing
of their many characteristics.

For the sake of comparison we may here state that along the entire
coast-line of South Devon--embracing some of the finest cliff scenery
in England and full of sandy reaches, rolling downs, rocky islets
and stacks, and lengths of shingle and sand--there are but two
typical marine species (at most three, if we include the doubtful
Oyster-catcher) that breed, and one only of these, the Herring Gull,
in any numbers; the other, the Ringed Plover, is local and nowhere
numerous! But how very different is the case when we get round the
English coast as far as the Wash and enter that area which for the
purposes of the present work we describe as the northern shires. Let us
follow this line of varied coast, with its alternating lengths of sand
and shingle, buttress-like cliffs, rocky shores, and islets round to
the Forth, and briefly glance at the several species that frequent it
and breed upon it in succession. We will, however, leave for a future
chapter the birds that are more strictly confined to the sea-cliffs,
and deal with those only that nest either along the flat shores or low
rocky islands.

[Illustration:  1. The Lesser Tern.  2. The Ringed Plover.]

The first two species that we shall meet with during summer on the
sandy reaches of the Lincolnshire coast are the Lesser Tern and the
Ringed Plover. The first-named of these is a summer migrant and a late
one. We remark it passing up the Devon coast early in May; it reaches
its breeding-places by the middle or the third week in that month on
the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire coasts, but is later still in Scotland.
The return passage is made towards the end of August and through
September. Incidentally we may remark that not only this but the other
British species of Tern often continue their migrations at night. We
have frequently heard the well-known note sounding from the darkened
air as flocks of these birds passed north or south along the coast, a
short distance from shore. The Lesser Tern breeds in May. It makes no
nest, but deposits two or three eggs upon the bare shingle, in spots
where the debris of the shore is large--pebbles, broken shells, and
the like--not on the fine sand. We may remark that we have taken as
many as four eggs in a clutch from this part of the coast. The eggs
are very difficult to see on the rough shingle, and during our search
for them the distressed little birds flutter and beat about the air
uttering their shrill note incessantly, peering down most anxiously,
yet displaying no increased alarm when they are actually found and
taken. It is a most unfortunate circumstance that this Tern prefers
the coast of the mainland to an island for breeding purposes. To this
fact its absolute extermination is largely due in not a few localities.
There can be no doubt that the three or four other British Terns would
have shared the same fate, and become rare and local long ago, in
England especially, had they not bred in much less accessible spots,
as on the Farne Islands, for instance. Upon the same coast the Ringed
Plover also breeds. This bird is a resident in the British Islands,
but subject to a good deal of local movement during autumn and winter.
We shall find, however, that it always prefers to deposit its four
pear-shaped eggs upon the finest brown sand, where scarce a pebble or
a shell can be seen. The reason for this curious choice is because the
eggs are only spotted, not blotched, and therefore they best resemble
such a resting-place as is chosen for them. They would be much more
conspicuous upon the shingle where the Tern's eggs rest. Both eggs have
a buff ground-colour closely resembling the sand, but those of one
bird are heavily marked to harmonize with shingle, those of the other
finely spotted to imitate grains of sand. These birds, again, evince
little or no anxiety during our search for their eggs; they seem fully
aware that the best policy is to leave them to the safety ensured by
their protective coloration. They are laid in Lincolnshire in June,
and fresh eggs of both species may be got together during that month;
and during the daytime the nearly vertical sun renders incubation
scarcely necessary. Both these species may be found breeding here and
there along the shore right up to the Humber, and from Spurn still
farther northwards until the coast assumes a more rocky character as
we approach the famous Flamborough headland. When we reach the rocks a
little Passerine bird makes its appearance, and this is the Rock Pipit.
As its name implies--and it is a most appropriate one--the bird is only
found breeding on a rocky shore. Given this, its distribution round
our entire coast-line is a very general one. It breeds as commonly on
the rocky shores of Devon as on the Hebrides and the Farne Islands;
but there are no Rock Pipits on the flat coast-line between the Thames
and the Humber. We meet with it again, however, here on the Yorkshire
coast, and cannot easily mistake it, for it is about the only small
bird that dwells in such a haunt during summer.

[Illustration: Sheldrakes.]

Travelling northwards again until we reach the coast of Northumberland,
where between the towns of North Sunderland and Berwick we shall find
another length of shore of great interest to the ornithologist. Indeed
between these two points are situated the famous Farne Islands, the
grandest and most imposing haunt of sea-birds round the entire English
coast. On the mainland, nearly opposite to the Farne Islands, there is
a long reach of sand dunes between the sea and the cultivated land,
and these are frequented by at least one bird of exceptional interest.
We may dismiss the Gulls that beat along in restless flight, and pay
small attention to the Common Buntings that here justify their name,
and for the time being confine our observations to the Sheldrakes that
haunt this part of the coast. These sand dunes are an ideal locality
for such a bird. Should the tide chance to be out, more likely than
not this species will be detected upon them. It is a shy and wary
fowl, though, and we need the aid of our powerful binocular to bring
it within range of much detailed scrutiny. This Duck is to our mind
quite the handsomest of its family in our islands, a combination of
very pronounced black, white, and chestnut, with a dash of crimson
and pink on bill and legs thrown in. You may watch it thus through
your glass walking in a somewhat stately way, not waddling like a more
typical Duck; but should you attempt a much nearer scrutiny the big
bird unfolds its broad party-coloured wings and seeks a more secluded
resting-place. Should the time be high-water, and the blue sparkling
sea reaches almost up to the links, most probably a few Sheldrakes will
be observed flying over the water up or down the coast. The flight is
very characteristic, unlike that of the true Ducks, more like that
of a Goose or a Swan, the wings moved up and down with slow measured
strokes, so very different from the rapid beats of the bird's Anatine
relations. In this species the sexes are very similar in colour; indeed
the chief external difference is the absence of the frontal shield
from the female. Following the almost universal law, this conspicuous
hen bird takes good care to conceal herself from enemies during the
critical period of incubation, and lays her eggs at the end of a long
and often winding burrow in the sand. In this particular district a
rabbit hole is almost invariably selected, and some of the chosen
burrows are so intricate that we may spend hours in the fruitless
search for the exact position of the nest. This is usually made at
the end of the burrow, and consists in the first place of a handful
of dry grass--possibly a rabbit's old abode; but as the creamy-white
and fragile eggs accumulate (to the number of a dozen or sometimes
more) the old birds surround them with down of exquisite softness and
lavender-gray in colour. As is generally the case where both sexes are
showy, and incubate in covered or concealed nests, the male bird takes
his due share in the duty of hatching; but so careful are the birds
in relieving each other--usually at morning and evening--that they
seldom betray the whereabouts of the nest. The young birds, soon after
being hatched, quit the burrow and betake themselves in their parents'
company to the sea-shore. In this locality the bird is certainly
becoming rarer owing to the way the young are captured and the eggs
taken by fishermen and others. We once inspected an entire brood of a
dozen ducklings that a fisher lad was rearing at Seahouses. He had them
confined in a small pen and fed them chiefly upon sand-hoppers, which
they were marvellously adept at capturing as he threw them down one by
one amongst the downy little creatures. From Holy Island right round to
the Forth, this Duck may be met with breeding, preferring in the latter
locality the numerous sandy islets. Round the coasts of Scotland it
becomes even more numerous and widely dispersed.

We will now retrace our steps to the Farne Islands and make a brief
inspection of such birds that build their nests on the flat surface,
reserving the cliff-haunting species for our next chapter. Repeated
visits to these islands only increase their charm. A single visit is
bewildering, renewed acquaintance impresses their wonders upon us
and enables us fully to realize the grandeur of the scene and more
completely to enjoy the avine wonders of the place. Apart from their
bird-life, there is a strong human interest clinging to them, for Grace
Darling casts a halo of romance around them by her daring deed long
years ago, and which is still a stock subject for conversation up and
down the coast. These rocky islands lying a few miles off the shore
are nowadays almost a perfect sanctuary for sea-birds. This was not
always so; for we can recall the time when the eggs especially were
gathered in such a wholesale way that the wonder is there were any
sea-birds left there. Strict protection is now the rule, and visitors
are generally kept under such close supervision that the lifting of
an egg without permission is almost an impossibility. There are, of
course, a good many birds on and off these islands at all times of
the year; now and then, especially in winter or during migration
time, a rare straggler of some non-indigenous British species appears,
and the light-keepers have repeatedly assured us that at intervals
the sea around them during winter often swarms with Ducks and other
northern birds. It is, however, in spring and summer that the islands
become crowded with their normal inhabitants--Gulls, Terns, Eider
Ducks, Cormorants, Ringed Plovers, Oyster-catchers, Guillemots, and
Puffins--assembled there for the express purpose of rearing their
young. One of the most characteristic birds of the islands is the
Lesser Black-backed Gull--in fact the entire group may be regarded as
one vast colony of this species, and perhaps the most densely populated
one throughout the length and breadth of the British archipelago. These
birds return to the islands--coming from the south from many parts of
the German Ocean and the English Channel--early in spring, but the
exact date varies a good deal in different years. In some seasons they
return _en masse_ as early as from the middle to the end of March;
in other seasons not before the middle of April. A month later they
are engaged in nesting duties. The date of breeding, however, varies
little, and the eggs are invariably laid during May and June. On
approaching some of the islands, the first impression is that this
Gull monopolizes the whole of the ground, as it occurs in such vast
abundance. The air seems full of them, the ground and bare rocks are
crowded; and as our boat finally grates against the rough beach and
we eagerly jump ashore all becomes noisy excitement--a perfect babel
of protesting cries that is persistently kept up until we leave the
place. We shall find that the nests vary a good deal in size, some
being little more than hollows trampled out amongst the dense beds of
campion and thrift, others more substantial and composed of pieces
of turf, sea-weed, stalks of herbage and grass. The eggs are three or
four in number, and subject to an incredible amount of variation in
colour--greens, olives, browns, and grays of almost every possible
shade representing the shell tints; browns and grays the markings,
which take the form of round spots, blotches, streaks, either evenly
distributed over most of the surface, scattered here and there, or
forming zones round the end. Right through the summer these Gulls are
employed in rearing their young, the period being unusually prolonged
because so many of the first clutches of eggs are taken for culinary
and other purposes. During the latter part of August and throughout
September these Gulls and their young leave the islands and work their
way southwards, scattering far and wide over the seas, following the
shoals of herrings and sprats and other fish, some of them possibly
wandering as far as the Spanish and north-west African coasts. A few
Herring Gulls breed here and there among the other species, but this
bird has very few large colonies in the northern shires. This is the
one species of Gull that breeds on the south coast of Devon, and there
its colonies are larger than any we have visited elsewhere in the
British Islands. Scattered pairs, however, may be met with here and
there along the coasts, and in some few inland spots throughout the
northern shires. The Kittiwake also breeds in numbers at the Farnes,
but we will reserve our notice of it for a later chapter.

[Illustration: The Lesser Black-backed Gull.]

Next to the Lesser Black-backed Gull the Terns are certainly the most
numerous and most interesting birds. Three out of the five British
species return each spring to these famous islands to breed. The
Roseate Tern, rarest of all the indigenous species, used formerly
to breed here, but it eventually became extinct, although from time
to time an odd pair or so are observed in their old-time haunts, so
that the bird may re-establish itself in them, more especially as
the sea-birds are now so strictly preserved there. The three regular
breeding species are the Sandwich Tern, the Common Tern, and the Arctic
Tern. All are summer migrants only to the British Islands. The Sandwich
Tern, by far the largest of the three species, arrives at the islands
during the last half of April, as a rule, but some seasons is not seen
until the beginning of May. There is much in their early movements
that reminds us of the actions of Rooks just previous to nesting.
Every morning for perhaps a month after their arrival they assemble
at the islands and stay for a short time, previous to dispersing over
the surrounding sea to search for food, lingering longer and longer
as the actual breeding time approaches, until they finally decide
upon a spot to nest, and about a week after this the first eggs are
laid. The laying season lasts a month, say from the middle of May
until the middle of June. The earliest young may be remarked about the
latter date, and from that time onwards rapidly increase in numbers
from day to day. July is a busy month indeed for the parent birds.
In exceptionally early seasons some of the young are able to fly by
the beginning of August, and by the end of the month the birds quit
the breeding-place, and finally desert the vicinity of the islands
during the first week in September. Sometimes the autumn exodus is
made, but the birds return in a day or so and linger about the islands
before finally taking their departure south. The Sandwich Terns do
not always breed in exactly the same spot every season. Sometimes an
exceptionally high spring-tide will wash away most of the eggs, and
then the poor birds move to another situation, perhaps to another
island, and try again. This happened in the summer of 1883, and we saw
the beach literally strewn with broken egg-shells, the sole remains of
the wrecked colony. On our way from the beach towards the barer rising
ground in the centre, where the main colony chances to be established,
we pass many outlying nests, not only of this Tern, but of Gulls and
Eiders. Birds are rising from all parts of the ground, and gradually
congregating into a dense bewildering, drifting, noisy throng above
our heads. At last we reach the colony of Sandwich Terns, and there we
find for an area of many square yards the ground literally covered so
closely with eggs that to walk amongst them without breaking them is
almost an impossible feat, not only because the nests are but a few
feet apart, but because the eggs themselves so closely resemble the
ground in colour. The nests are slight enough, many of them nothing
but hollows in the ground, some of them with a few bits of weed and
grass loosely arranged, and chiefly round the margin. The two, or less
frequently three, eggs are very beautiful objects, and vary enormously
in the character of the markings. The ground colour may be any shade
between rich buff and dull white; the markings are brown of many
shades, and ink-gray. These latter vary considerably in shape and size,
from large irregular blotches that conceal nearly a third of the shell
to splashes, spots, and streaks, sometimes distributed over the entire
surface, or in zones, or irregularly here and there. During the whole
period of our stay the birds remain above us, fluttering and gliding to
and fro uttering shrill notes of alarm.

The Arctic Tern, on an average, arrives later than the preceding
species, generally about the first week in May, sometimes not before
the third week in that month. A week or so elapses before the birds
finally settle down to nesting duties, so that the eggs are seldom
laid before June, exceptionally during the last few days of May. As a
rule the breeding season is over by August, and the bulk of the birds
quit the islands in the first week of September. In later seasons they
may not leave until the end of that month, and a few in rare instances
linger into October. The eggs are generally laid close to the water's
edge, and so far as our experience extends (and that is a rather wide
one, for we have visited colonies in many parts of the British area) no
nest is ever made for their reception. They are placed upon the bare
sand and shingle, and upon the line of rubbish that marks the limit
of the highest water-mark. Two or three eggs are laid for a clutch,
varying from buff to olive and pale-green in ground colour, heavily
spotted and blotched with brown of many shades, and gray. Lastly, we
have the Common Tern, a bird that arrives and departs at about the same
dates as the preceding species. We generally found the breeding-places
of this Tern at a greater distance from the water than those of the
Arctic Tern, amongst the grass and sea campion on the higher parts of
the island. As our boat approaches the nursery of this Tern, numbers of
birds may be seen squatting on the beach or swimming about in the rock
pools. These are the first to take alarm, and as we finally land others
rise from the island, and the air is soon filled with screaming birds.
The colony is established on some rising bare ground, and the eggs are
laid in scanty nests--hollows lined with bits of grass and stalks of
marine plants. The eggs, two or three in number, very closely resemble
those of the Arctic Tern, but are larger, rounder, and never appear to
have any olive or green tint on the shell.

[Illustration: The Eider Duck.]

Many pairs of Eider Ducks also breed upon the Farne Islands, placing
their nests amongst the campion and long grass, in crevices of the
lichen-covered rocks, or in holes in the ruins that are to be found on
some of the islets. These Eiders are remarkably tame, and allow the
observer to watch them as they brood over their eggs. The male birds,
however, are much shyer, and never come near the nests at all, spending
most of their time upon the sea off the islands. Then the Ringed Plover
breeds here in small numbers, also the Oyster-catcher (a noisy, shy
bird enough), and not a few Rock Pipits. Upon an outlying reef the
Cormorants have their colony--a dirty, evil-smelling spot, which
apparently by common consent is shunned by all the other species. This
islet is low, not more than a dozen feet above the sea in its highest
part, sloping to the water's edge on one side. Where the huge nests of
the Cormorants are built there is scarcely a trace of any vegetation;
everything is more or less covered with droppings, and decaying fish
are strewn here and there--the whole place smelling most offensively
on a calm hot day. These nests are made of sea-weed, stalks of marine
plants and turf, and many are lined with green herbage. The three or
four long oval eggs are pale-green, but so thickly coated with lime and
dirt that all trace of this is hidden until they are washed and well
scraped.

The Farnes are also a great breeding resort of the Puffin (called
"Coulter-neb" by some people because its beak closely resembles the
coulter of a plough), some of the islands being so undermined by their
burrows that almost every few steps we sink deep into the soft loamy
soil. During the non-breeding season these birds disperse far and wide
over the sea, roaming immense distances from their birthplace, but as
spring arrives they collect at the old familiar spots to rear their
young. Puffins cannot be regarded as common about the Farne Islands
until April, but from then until the end of the following August they
are one of the most abundant species at them, although, owing to
their subterranean habits, the fact is not very palpable to ordinary
observation. These birds excavate a long burrow in the soft soil, often
extending many yards underground, and at the end, upon a handful of dry
grass perhaps mixed with a few feathers, the hen bird lays a solitary
egg, dull-white in colour, very sparingly marked with pale-brown and
gray. When the colony is approached such birds as may chance to be
above ground soon betake themselves to the sea; those in the burrows
remain to be dug out before they will usually budge from their egg,
resenting this by bites and scratches dealt in the most savage manner.
There is something immensely ludicrous about the look of a Puffin as
you drag the struggling bird into the daylight; but we would warn those
who might essay the experiment to encase their hands in strong gloves,
or they may repent the business. Had space permitted, we should have
liked to say something about the curious transformation the beak of
this bird undergoes as the pairing season approaches, but we must wait
for a future opportunity. Most, in fact all, of these species breed
in many other parts of the coasts of the northern shires, but we have
elected to describe them here, for the Farne Islands are probably the
most accessible locality and admirably situated for studying all these
birds within a very small area.

The bird-life at sea off our northern shires is replete with interest
at all seasons of the year. In summer, in the neighbourhood of the
great breeding colonies of sea-fowl, the surrounding seas for many
miles are full of animation, the birds scattering from these home
centres far and wide in quest of their finny prey. What a variety of
birds we meet with thus, each searching in its own peculiar way for
sustenance! How varied their actions; how diversified their habits and
economy! In winter these self-same waters are the home of countless
birds that migrate from arctic latitudes to spend that season where
food is ever plentiful and the water always open. Hordes of Ducks and
Geese swell the more sedentary avine populations, or replace such
species as Terns, that migrate or wander south with the approach of
winter. Vast numbers of Divers and birds of the Auk tribe move south
to these seas off the northern shires; Gulls in uncounted hosts do
the same. At varying distances from the land armies of these sea-fowl
migrate south in autumn and north in spring; sometimes for days in
succession Gulls or Skuas, Terns, Gannets, Guillemots, and so on pass
to and fro according to season, these avine movements being on a much
grander scale than ever we remark on our southern coast lines.

[Illustration: Gulls and Terns.]

From shore, on this bright May morning, for instance, there is nothing
to indicate that much of special interest is to be seen among the
birds at sea. From where we stand, near the old-fashioned little quay
of this northern fishing village, redolent of tar and stale fish, the
sparkling water right away to the headland yonder, and still beyond
to the line of the horizon where blue sky and blue sea seem to meet
in an indistinct haze, is apparently deserted of bird-life. But we
will get aboard this well-found taut little coble, hoist the brown
sail and put her nose before the spanking breeze, and see what birds
we may fall in with during a few hours' cruise. Behind the headland
yonder, and at no great distance from land, a mixed company of Terns
are fishing. There are few prettier sights than this amongst bird-life
on the sea, especially should a shoal of fry chance to be swimming
close to the surface. Above the moving mass of glittering fish the
snow-white looking Terns flutter and poise and drift to and fro in a
constantly-changing throng; many birds are swimming above the shoal,
and every few moments one of the flying Terns drops down like a
stone into the water with a splash that we can hear half a mile or
more across the sea. The force with which they descend is scarcely
sufficient to immerse their light bodies, and before the spray has
cleared the bird is either up again into the air, or swallowing
the captured fish whilst sitting on the surface. A few Gulls are
flying about close by, but these birds prefer larger game; although
occasionally they will chase a Tern that may chance to be passing
with a tiny fish and endeavour to make the poor little bird drop its
capture. Out in the offing the Gulls are much more numerous, for there
the fishing fleet is at work, and the birds hover around ready to pick
up any unconsidered trifles that may chance to come in their way. A
mile or so off the headland the sea is literally alive with birds of
the Auk tribe that are breeding on the long range of cliffs. Here we
renew our acquaintance with the comical-looking Puffins--hundreds of
them swimming about, diving at intervals, preening their plumage, and
disporting themselves generally. Many of them allow the bows of the
coble almost to reach them before they dive with startling speed and
reappear some distance ahead or astern, the first thing they do upon
reaching the surface again being to look about in all directions for
any possible further danger. Mingled amongst them are the Guillemots
and Razorbills, the one bird easily identified by its long pointed
bill, the other by its deep flattened one crossed with a conspicuous
white line on either side. The Razorbill may be further distinguished
by the white streak of plumage which runs from the base of the upper
mandible to the eye. In the Ringed Guillemot, a form of the Common
Guillemot, the white streak extends backwards behind the eye. Both
birds are very similar in their actions out here at sea, swimming
and diving with great celerity. Here and there small parties of one
species or the other may be seen flying swiftly along just above the
waves on their way to or from the headland where they are now breeding.
They feed on fish--here in these northern waters young herrings and
coal-fish are favourite fare--crustaceans, and molluscs, chasing the
former with great dexterity through the water, searching for the latter
in soundings amongst the weed and rocks. We shall have more to say
about these Auks in the following chapter. They are all resident in
British seas, coming to the land in summer to breed, and during the
remainder of the year wandering far and wide over the waste of waters,
and then visiting coasts and estuaries and harbours where they are
never seen during the season of reproduction. Here and there in our
northern waters, but only off the western coast-line during summer, we
may frequently fall in with Petrels and Shearwaters. These birds are
the most pelagic of all, and only visit the land to breed. The Fulmar
is the largest indigenous British species, and looks very like a Gull
as it flies about over the water. The Manx Shearwater comes next in
size, but it is a dark-plumaged bird on the upper parts, only white
below. Its long wings are very noteworthy, as it skims and dashes about
round our boat. The Fork-tailed Petrel comes next in point of size.
This and the following species are more nocturnal in their habits,
but equally as pelagic as the foregoing. Lastly we have the Stormy
Petrel--the smallest of web-footed birds--perhaps the most widely
and commonly distributed of all, and often met with not only in our
northern seas during summer, but as far to the south as the English
Channel, in which it has at least one known nesting station. None of
these birds are known to breed anywhere along the east coast of England
or Scotland. The typical Petrels may be readily identified by the
sooty-black plumage, relieved by a patch of white across the rump and
the upper tail-coverts. These small Petrels rarely alight upon the sea
to swim notwithstanding their webbed feet. They flutter often close to
the big waves, and may then be seen to drop their legs downwards and to
pat the water with their feet, seeming sometimes literally to run down
the glassy surface of some huge roller. We shall have occasion to enter
into more details respecting all these Petrels in the following chapter.

Then during the wild winter months many parts of the sea off the
northern shires teem with bird-life, much of it consisting of migrants
from the arctic regions. Vast flocks of Scaups and Scoters hang about
these northern waters; companies of Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks
especially may be met with long distances from land. Flocks of Scoters
may occasionally be seen upon these waters all the summer through,
and we have heard of Pink-footed Geese also apparently foregoing
their usual summer journey to the north. In mid-winter large flocks
of Sheldrakes frequent various parts of the North Sea, whilst Wigeon
and Mallard often occur in enormous numbers. Occasionally during
winter the rare King Eider is detected in company with the commoner
species. The congregations of Brent Geese (in some years but not in
others) that assemble off the lower-lying coasts especially are also a
feature of winter bird-life at sea. Indeed, we should state that the
latter season is by far the best for birds in such a locality, for the
land is then only visited under exceptional circumstances. Lastly, we
might allude to the Gannet. During summer this bird assembles at a few
recognized breeding-stations round the British coasts, and here we hope
presently to visit them; but throughout the remainder of the year it is
a thoroughly pelagic species, and wanders south down both east and west
coast-lines to the English Channel and even beyond. There are few more
charming sights amongst bird-life at sea than a company of Gannets when
fully on the feed. Sometimes they may be watched from the shore, at
others they pursue their labours far out at sea. The way the big white
birds hurl themselves down into the water from hundreds of feet above
is most impressive, especially if the sun is shining full upon them.
Then their magnificent powers of flight are very attractive to us, as
we watch them by the hour together sailing to and fro above the water
at vast heights on never-tiring wings.

Space forbids but a passing allusion to the bird-life upon the
mud-flats of the Wash during autumn and winter. We shall, however, have
another opportunity of dealing with this area more especially in our
final chapter relating to migration in the northern shires.



CHAPTER IX.

ON CRAG AND SEA-CLIFF.


The bird-life of the inland crags nowadays is comparatively limited,
but what it lacks in numbers is to some extent made up in interest.
Time was when the Golden Eagle bred on some of these inland precipices
of the northern shires; when the Raven and the Buzzard made them their
home. For the purpose of the present work we propose to glance at
the few birds that frequent the various crags and rocks--chiefly of
limestone and millstone grit--of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.
They may be taken as typical of many similar localities in the northern
shires. It would certainly be difficult to find more grandly romantic
scenery than is contained in the district of the limestone rocks of the
Peak--in such spacious valleys as Dove Dale, Monsal Dale, and Millers
Dale, or in such savage glens as are in the vicinity of Castleton. As
examples of the crags of millstone grit we have the noble range of
rocks known as Wharncliffe, that crest the valleys like a series of
colossal bulwarks, below which is a sea of rolling wood and bracken.
It is hard to believe that so much beautiful scenery still remains,
surrounded as it is by some of the blackest towns and grimiest centres
of manufacturing industry in the British Islands.

One of the commonest birds throughout this district of crags is
the Jackdaw. In the south of England this bird perhaps shows more
partiality for marine cliffs; inland, as in Yorkshire, it frequents
churches and other buildings. Perhaps this is because such inland
cliffs are not so common in the south. There is scarcely a rocky glen
in the Peak that does not echo the Jackdaw's cackling cry. At Castleton
there is an exceptionally fine colony established in the lofty cliffs
at Devil's Hole, and which are crowned with the crumbling ruins of the
keep of once-famous Peveril Castle. Here many times we used to stand
at the mouth of the vast yawning cavern, in which the rope-makers are
established, as the dusk gathered, and watch the noisy Daws come home
to roost. Usually in one compact flock they came, sometimes in several
detached parties, and after wheeling and fluttering they finally
settled upon the scraggy trees growing out of the rock face. Their
cackling cries made the grand old gorge echo again--a chorus that
was kept up till their sable forms could not be distinguished in the
evening gloom. They make their nests here in the holes and crevices
of the mighty cliffs. Another common bird is the Rock Dove. Whether
this white-rumped Dove is the truly feral Rock Dove, or whether they
are descendants of tame birds run wild, it is perhaps difficult now
to say; but our own opinion leans to the latter view, because we
believe that the true wild Rock Dove is found nowhere but on maritime
cliffs. Whatever their origin, however, here the birds are now, and
wild enough. Their abundance is reflected in the names that they have
inspired for "Dove" river, and "Dove" dale, both of them famous haunts
of these birds. They nest in crevices of the limestone crags, and their
habits generally are very similar to those of their relatives along
the coast, which they also resemble closely in appearance. Another,
yet much smaller colony of these Doves, is to be found in the range
of crags that crest the right-hand side of the Rivelin Valley going
westwards, close to the Norfolk Arms at Hollow Meadows. We can state
from long personal observation, confirmed by keepers and others, that
these birds arrive at this place in February, and after rearing several
broods during the spring and summer and early autumn, that they leave
in October. We have seen these birds perch upon a narrow rail fence on
the edge of the crags they frequent. Vast numbers of Starlings also
build in these places up and down the Peak and elsewhere. Another very
common species is the House Martin. There must be many thousands of
nests of this bird in the dales of North Derbyshire alone--a profoundly
interesting fact, which indicates that such situations were invariably
selected in prehistoric times before such things as houses and bridges
were in existence. Talking of bridges brings to mind the fact that on
some of the railway viaducts in these dales the copings are so thickly
studded with nests in some places as to hide the masonry. We ought
also to mention that the Kestrel breeds commonly in these limestone
crags, and not a few Redstarts and Wheatears have their homes in
crevices among them, at a lower level and near the ground, of course.
Swifts are equally common, and in their choice of a haunt suggest a
habit that has been retained from a remote period, although changed by
many individuals in more recent times. We might also mention that the
Peregrine Falcon still breeds locally on some of these inland crags of
the northern shires, especially in the Lake District.

So far the inland crags; we will now proceed to a study of the
bird-life on the sea-cliffs of the north. It is in these localities
again that the northern shires show to advantage over most southern
counties in the matter of their bird-life. Nowhere in the south can
be found such vast bird bazaars as those that are established in such
wonderful abundance upon the sea-cliffs of the northern shires. From
Yorkshire northwards to the Hebrides and the Shetlands, one stirring
scene of bird-life after another in bewildering numbers crowd upon the
observer. From Flamborough's cliffs to the Pinnacles at the Farnes;
thence onwards to the Bass Rock, and across the Highlands to the
Hebrides and to St. Kilda in one direction; or up the east coast of
Scotland to the wall-like crags of Sutherlandshire and Caithness, and
across the Pentland Firth to Orkney and on to Shetland, in another,
what famous bird-stations may be found! We will visit a selection of
these in turn, commencing our inspection upon the noble headland at
Flamborough, at Speeton and Bempton.

[Illustration: The Razorbill.]

Some of the finest cliff scenery in the north of England lies between
Flamborough Head and Filey on the Yorkshire coast, and what is of
more importance from an ornithologist's point of view, its bird-life
is correspondingly impressive. We have many fine cliff-scapes in the
south of England, but the birds are disappointing, because they occur
in small numbers only, or are absent altogether, as is the case in
South Devonshire, for instance. There are few such haunts of Guillemots
and Razorbills in the northern shires of England as are located upon
some of these grand cliffs. During the non-breeding season they are
practically deserted by sea-fowl, left to the undisputed possession
of Jackdaws and Rock Doves. But with the approach of spring a great
change comes over the scene, and Gulls and Auks begin to assemble
once more upon the famous cliffs. Large numbers of eggs, especially
of the Guillemot, are taken every season, and prove a welcome source
of income to the intrepid climbers who risk their lives in gathering
this somewhat unusual harvest. From the summit of the cliffs but little
can be observed of the stirring scenes going on upon the rock face.
The ground at the top is too sloping to peer over, and it is only here
and there where the sea has made a deep indentation, and a view of the
cliff face can be seen from the opposite side of the gorge, that we can
obtain some faint idea of the bird wonders of the place. For more years
than "the oldest inhabitant" of Bempton or Flamborough can recall, the
birds have bred here in enormous numbers and have been as regularly
robbed. The Guillemots and Razorbills and Puffins are somewhat
irregular in their date of return to the cliffs in spring. Sometime
towards the end of April is perhaps an average date, although they have
been known to come back as early as February (1884). At the Farnes they
are apparently earlier, assembling usually some time in March. The
young and old birds generally leave the breeding-places for good during
the last ten days of August in both of these localities. The eggs of
the Guillemot are the easiest to obtain, being laid upon the ledges
and in the numberless little hollows about the cliffs; the Razorbill
deposits its big solitary egg in a crevice where in not a few cases it
is absolutely safe from man; the Puffins, breeding nearer to the top
of the cliffs, lay their single egg in burrows. It would be impossible
here to describe the wonderful variety in the eggs of the Guillemot:
they are by far the most beautiful of any of those of the sea-fowl.
Great numbers of these eggs are taken for food; and we can remember
how the climbers at Flamborough used to return home to breakfast
hungry as Hawks, and break the pretty eggs into the frying-pan with
the bacon--forming a meal a gourmand might envy, provided his appetite
has been sharpened by a long morning in the bracing air that blows
in from the German Ocean. The "Pinnacles" at the Farne Islands are
another famous haunt of the Guillemot; the most attractive of all the
breeding-stations of this species throughout our islands, owing to the
exceptional ease with which the birds can be observed. These pinnacles
are a group of flat-topped rocks, rising perpendicularly from the sea,
close to one of the islands, from which a good view can be obtained
right on to their table-like summits. These are crowded, densely packed
in fact, with a struggling mass of Guillemots. When the birds dash off
and fly down headlong into the sea, a still more extraordinary sight is
presented; for all over the surface are strewn hundreds of eggs--like
great pears--of almost every conceivable hue and pattern of marking.
The Guillemots are comparatively silent; but the scene is noisy enough,
because on the sides of the perpendicular rocks numbers of Kittiwakes
are nesting, and their cries are incessant, sounding high above the
surging sea and the whirring of the wings of the departing Guillemots.
Into many of these Kittiwakes' nests we can look from the summit of the
island adjoining, and are thus able to count the eggs or young as soon
as the brooding birds are driven off.

[Illustration: The Gannets.]

Our next rocky haunt of sea-fowl lies far away to the northward, and
is the widely and justly famous Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. This
is another favourite locality of ours; we have visited it repeatedly,
and the stirring scenes of bird-life we have witnessed there each time
are indelibly fixed upon the memory. It was at the Bass that we went
through our apprenticeship to marine cliff-climbing, and where we first
made the acquaintance of the Gannet at home. As most readers may know,
the Bass is one of the few grand breeding-places of the Gannet in the
British archipelago. There are several other rock-birds breeding in
some plenty upon the Bass, but the Gannet stamps the rock with its
individuality, and all other species are overpowered and comparatively
lost amidst its numbers. Perhaps we might make an exception in the case
of the Puffins. There is a large colony of these birds established in
the walls of a ruined fortification facing the sea, and Puffins may
be seen repeatedly coming and going in their usual hasty way. There
are many more of these birds breeding here and there about the rock,
but this, so far as we know, is the largest congregation. The Gannet
is a thoroughly pelagic bird, and only comes to the land to breed,
retiring once more to the sea as soon as its young can fly. During the
late autumn and throughout the winter the Bass is practically deserted
by birds. At the end of March or during the first half of April the
Gannets begin to assemble at the time-honoured nesting-place. At first
their stay is fleeting, but it gradually becomes longer and longer
until nest-building commences, and from that time onwards the Bass is
the grand head-quarters of many thousands of Gannets. It has been
computed that at least twelve thousand adult birds frequent the Bass;
probably this under-estimates the actual number, although we must
remember that in 1831 Macgillivray gave twenty thousand. In any case,
judging from the most reliable information obtainable, the Gannets seem
to be on the decrease. Throughout the summer the Bass is literally
vignetted in a throng of ever-moving Gannets; but even at this season
many of the birds fly long distances out to sea to feed, coming home
stuffed with fish, lots of which are disgorged at the nests. Numbers
of the birds begin nest-building at the beginning of May, but, as is
the case with Rooks, the operation is not commenced simultaneously by
all, and a fortnight later, when many of the nests contain an egg,
there are a good number of others in an uncompleted state. At this time
many of the birds flying about will be remarked with pieces of turf or
other material in their bills, which they will thus carry for a long
period without attempting to alight and work it into the unfinished
nests. The grand home of the Gannets here is situated upon the north,
north-east, and west cliffs. Here on the grassy downs, near the edge of
the cliffs, numbers of Gannets may be seen standing quietly, some fast
asleep with their head buried in the dorsal plumage. We have caught
Gannets when thus asleep, but care must be exercised to grip the bird
firmly round the neck, or a stab from the formidable beak will reward
the would-be captor's rashness. The nests are made almost anywhere--at
the top of the cliffs amidst the broken rocks and crags, lower down the
cliffs where any ordinary climber can reach them, and, most numerously
of all, on the ledges far below which are only accessible with the
aid of a rope. To say the least, the nest is not a very attractive
one; it is often trodden out of all semblance to such a structure,
and frequently covered with droppings and slime, whilst around it are
dead and decaying fish, many of them disgorged when partly digested.
The hot sun soon completes the work of decomposition, and generates a
fearsome stench which it requires all the fortitude of an enthusiastic
ornithologist to tolerate. The nests are made of sea-weed, turf,
straws, and scraps of moss, the soil from the turf being trampled
into a mortar-like mass and binding the whole together. In a shallow
cavity at the top of this cone-like structure a single egg is laid,
originally white coated thickly with lime, but soon becoming stained
into a rich brown from contact with the big webbed feet of the parent
birds. Numbers of nests in some spots are crowded together, often so
closely that the cliff is literally white with sitting birds. The
noise is deafening. The Gannets in the air are quiet enough, gliding
to and fro in a bewildering throng, but the birds on the cliffs and
the grassy downs at the summit, those that are standing or sitting,
keep up a never-ending chorus of harsh cries. As we wander to and fro
inspecting the dwellings in this curious city of birds the indignant
owners bark defiance with sparkling eyes, and only tumble off their
solitary egg when prompted by feelings for their own personal safety.
They are quarrelsome birds too, possibly because so very overcrowded,
and fights and sparrings are continually taking place. Every now and
then two birds will each seize the other in its powerful bill and go
tumbling over the cliffs together, not to separate until they have
perhaps fallen a hundred feet or so, when they will part, and soon lose
their identity among the drifting crowd that circles about the face of
the cliff in never-ending activity. All the time of our stay birds are
coming and going, dropping lightly on to the land or soaring upwards
into the air; whilst the sea below is well sprinkled with birds, and
some distance down the Firth many others may be seen busily engaged
in fishing. The scene becomes still more animated when the young are
hatched. At first these are ugly, ungainly-looking objects, blind,
and covered with dark-gray skin. This, however, is soon clothed with
dense down of dazzling whiteness, which in its turn is succeeded by
a speckled plumage--brown spotted with white. The young birds pass
through several stages of plumage before they acquire the white livery
characteristic of their parents; neither do they breed until they are
four or five years old. A few of these party-coloured immature birds
may be detected amongst the crowd of adults at the Bass; but, as a
rule, these young ones do not congregate much at the breeding-places
until ready to propagate their species. In many respects the Gannet
is a very remarkable bird. The nostrils are closed, being practically
obliterated, the tongue is small and aborted, whilst nearly the
entire surface of the body is covered with a net-work of subcutaneous
air-cells, communicating with the lungs, and thus emptied or inflated
as the bird may desire. We have already dwelt at some length upon the
Gannet's ways of life, and it will at once be seen from the above facts
how admirably the bird is fitted not only for an aerial existence, but
for withstanding the great pressure of the water during its repeated
plunges into the sea from high altitudes.

There are also many Kittiwakes nesting about the cliffs of the Bass,
and a few Herring Gulls. The former birds breed most abundantly upon
the precipitous cliffs, low down many of them, and in very inaccessible
spots. We have, however, taken many eggs of this Gull from nests nearer
the top of the cliffs, and in places which we had little difficulty
in reaching without the aid of a rope. The nest of this Gull is a
substantial one, made largely of turf, which is trampled into a solid
mass by the owners. Sea-weed and dry grass, as well as the dead stalks
of plants, are also used. The eggs are usually two or three in number,
green, or olive, or brown, of various shades, marked with darker brown
and gray. Then amongst the cliffs great numbers of Guillemots and
smaller numbers of Razorbills deposit their eggs in suitable spots;
whilst the Jackdaw and the Rock Dove frequent them. The Daws are
great robbers of eggs, and as soon as the Auks or Kittiwakes chance
to leave them unprotected the foraging birds beat along the cliffs
and pounce upon them, carrying them off transfixed on their bill. The
Herring Gulls prefer the grassy downs in the hollow on the north side
of the Bass, making their somewhat slight nests amongst the herbage.
Their eggs closely resemble those of the Lesser Black-backed Gull--the
brown varieties--but do not present anything like the same diversity,
although they are as a rule perceptibly larger. We are glad to be
able to state that the Peregrine Falcon breeds upon the rock, and on
more than one occasion, after an exciting climb, aided by a rope, we
have succeeded in reaching and minutely examining the nest of this
interesting bird. It preys upon the Puffins, Rock Doves, and Guillemots
that make the Bass their summer home, and we earnestly hope that it may
long continue to frequent this noble pile of rock.

From the Bass it is a long jaunt to St. Kilda, but we will do the
distance on Icarian wings, and contrive to reach the famous islands
during the very height of the breeding season of the birds. We have
appropriately left this romantic place to the last, for it is here,
we say without hesitation, that littoral rock scenery throughout
the northern shires culminates in grandeur, and that rock bird-life
attains to its highest degree of impressiveness. Sixteen years ago the
group of islands (collectively known as St. Kilda) were comparatively
unknown to British ornithologists. Of their existence, of course,
most bird-lovers knew, but only in a hazy sort of a way, whilst the
wonders of their bird-life were even more traditional to most of us.
Nowadays St. Kilda has become ornithologically "fashionable"; it is
considered quite the correct thing to "do" the archipelago, and the
place has become popularized--we had almost written a much stronger,
if perhaps not quite so genteel a word. Sixteen years ago we visited
the islands and published an account of their bird-life--the first,
we believe, that had been written for nearly twenty years. We have
in various works still further emphasized the richness of the place
from an ornithological point of view. This, we profoundly regret
to say, has resulted in a wild rush of collectors to the islands,
with the inevitable result that the natives have been corrupted, and
the Wren peculiar to the place has become threatened with absolute
extermination! Better perhaps had we remained silent, at least until
sufficient steps had been taken to secure the safety of perhaps
the most interesting bird on the islands, if the most diminutive.
Collectors have taught the St. Kildan that there is more wealth in
the long-despised Wren than in the much-vaunted and highly protected
Fulmar, but the source of it will prove a transient one indeed if
something be not quickly done for its preservation.

It would be difficult to find, or even to imagine, more grandly
beautiful rock scenery than St. Kilda presents. There is not, for
instance, in all the British Islands, a precipice approaching in
magnificence to that of Connacher, which is formed literally by the
side of an island twelve hundred feet high falling sheer into the
Atlantic; and when we add that this awful wall of rock is crowded
with birds, almost from foot to summit, we complete a description
which has no parallel in Britain. This is but one item in the grand
sum total of the crags of St. Kilda. It would be as hard to conceive
a more majestic outline of sea-crags than is formed by the towering
jagged summits that cut the sky-line and form the long narrow sister
island of Doon, forming the southern horn of a most picturesque, if
somewhat treacherous bay, of which a spur of St. Kilda itself completes
the watery enclosure. The cliffs that buttress the western isle of
Soay, though not so high, are in their way as picturesque; whilst both
islands literally swarm with birds, some of them the most local in
the British avifauna. Then lying away to the north, four miles from
St. Kilda, in lonely isolation, towers the lofty island rock mass of
Borreay, with its two attendant satellites, Stacks Lii and Armin, all
sacred to the Gannets that in tens of thousands crowd upon them during
the summer months. This island itself rises nearly sheer in parts a
thousand feet or so from the ocean. Undoubtedly the grand secret of
the charm that has attracted sea-birds in such numbers to these rocky
islets is their utter isolation and loneliness, combined with the vast
food supply furnished by the surrounding sea. These islands are far
without the ocean highways of vessels; they are rarely approached by
man; whilst the small number of people--quite an ideal commonwealth in
its way--that live there are sensible enough to treat the birds fairly,
and not literally to kill the Geese that lay the golden eggs. They farm
the birds as an agriculturist would his land, or a stock-keeper his
sheep and cows; they allow them a close time, or perhaps the place is
so extensive that these few fowlers are unable to exhaust the store,
and the supply is kept up by natural increase. Be this as it may the
birds live and thrive, and this notwithstanding the fact that the Sea
Birds Protection Acts do not apply to any of the islands, possibly,
as some readers might say, because it would be utterly impossible to
enforce them, not even by removing every living soul from the place.

We need not linger here at any length upon species that we have already
dealt with elsewhere. Such birds as Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins,
and Gannets are here in vast abundance, but our space is required for
the description of a few birds that we meet with nowhere else in the
British archipelago in such numbers. The island of Doon, for instance,
so thickly swarms with Puffins that when we land upon it these birds
glide down to the sea in such countless hordes that the very face of
the hillsides seems slipping away beneath us. As for the Guillemots,
we knew an old St. Kildan, so the story ran in the village, who came
across such numbers of their eggs upon the cliffs that he was compelled
to take off his breeches and turn them into a bag to hold them! But
there are more interesting birds to us, perhaps, breeding on Doon, and
these are the Fork-tailed Petrels. They have their nests in burrows
upon the grassy summit of the island. Those we discovered were on the
western end, nearest to St. Kilda, and made in the rich soft soil, the
burrows some two to five feet in length. At the end of this burrow
the Petrel makes a scanty nest of dry grass, moss, and roots, upon
which it lays a single egg, white in colour, faintly marked with
dust-like specks of brown and gray. Sometimes a nest is dispensed with
altogether. We caught some of the Petrels upon their nests, which,
when released, flew about in a dazed sort of way as if unaccustomed
to the light. These Petrels are chiefly crepuscular or nocturnal in
their habits, and during the daytime not a bird will be seen. The St.
Kildans pay little or no attention to such small birds, and possibly
the Fork-tailed Petrels had remained here undisturbed for ages, for
we are not aware that Bullock obtained any eggs from this colony when
he discovered the species in the British Islands upwards of eighty
years ago. Bullock, we might mention, came very near the honour of
discovering this bird absolutely, for he was only anticipated by a year
by Vieillot.

[Illustration: The Fork-tailed Petrel.]

St. Kilda is indeed the grand head-quarters of our British Petrels.
All the indigenous species breed there, and in greater numbers than
they do anywhere else. The Stormy Petrel is common enough, and
doubtless breeds on every island in the group. Its habits are almost
precisely the same as those of the Fork-tailed Petrel, and its egg
is similar in colour, only much smaller in size, as the bird is
itself. But the grand colony of Manx Shearwaters is perhaps of more
general interest; the bird breeds in many other parts of our islands,
although nowhere in such numbers as it does here. Soay is its grand
head-quarters, but great numbers breed in suitable localities on every
other island in the group. This Petrel is also nocturnal in its habits,
lying close concealed in its burrow during the day, coming out at dusk
to search for food over the surrounding sea. St. Kildans say that the
Manx Shearwater is one of their first bird visitors in spring, and
amongst the last to leave in autumn. Probably the real fact of the
case is that the bird haunts the islands throughout the year. Towards
the end of May this Shearwater commences to lay. It provides a scanty
nest of dry grass at the end of the burrow it has excavated, and here
it lays a single white egg. Like the Owls and the Nightjars, this bird
becomes active at nightfall. The Shearwaters then leave their burrows
in thousands, and the grassy island becomes a scene of activity, birds
coming and going in the gloom, and their cries filling the air. The
"Scrapire", as the St. Kildans call this bird, is a favourite article
of food with them, and large quantities are caught at night, when
parties of men visit the birds' haunts and knock the poor Shearwaters
down with sticks or drag them from their holes.

[Illustration: The Fulmar.]

But the most important bird of all in the entire group of islands is
the far-famed Fulmar. Its numbers here would be very difficult to
estimate even approximately, but some faint idea may be derived from
the fact that the St. Kildans are reputed to take, during one special
week in August which custom has long reserved for the purpose, no less
than twenty thousand young birds! To these we must add the numbers of
old birds that are snared on their nests during the hatching season;
whilst we must also bear in mind that comparatively a small proportion
of birds are caught at all. Darwin had certainly strong grounds for
asserting that the Fulmar is the most numerous bird in the world.
Without being held in any way to support an assertion which is so
difficult of proof, we may certainly state that no other sea-bird
breeds in such vast numbers anywhere in the British archipelago. The
Fulmar commences to breed in May, the eggs being laid from the middle
of that month onwards to early June. Unlike the Shearwaters and the
more typical Petrels, this bird rarely makes a burrow big enough to
hide itself, but is content to scratch out a hollow in the soil, or
even to deposit its egg on ledges of the cliffs. In some parts of the
cliffs the nests are so close to each other that from a distance the
birds seem crowded together into great white masses. Beyond a small
portion of dry grass the Fulmar makes no nest, although some we found
on Doon were hollows lined with small bits of rock. The single egg
is white, rough in texture, and with a strong pungent smell. Of all
the varied scenes of bird-life that it has been our good fortune to
witness, not one has been quite so impressive as that we witnessed from
a shoulder of Connacher, when, after a stiff climb from the village,
we suddenly came upon the assembly of Fulmars at their nests. The
first thing that impressed us was the _silence_ of it all. We had
hitherto been so used to a noisy din as an inseparable accompaniment
to a gathering of sea-fowl that the silence of these Fulmars seemed
almost weirdly strange. We can only compare this scene to a dense
snow-storm in which each flake was a separate bird. In an apparently
never-ending throng the big white birds drifted by, those nearest to
the cliffs passing in one direction, those farther out at sea going
directly opposite. There seemed thus to be two streams of birds passing
and repassing each other, whilst as far as the eye could reach the air
was filled with gliding fluttering birds--some of them so indifferent
to our presence that they approached almost within arm's-length. No
birds were flying over the land, all were above the water or floating
on its surface far down below. We stood looking at the wonderful scene
for quite an hour literally spellbound; and even now, after the lapse
of many years, we can see the whole thing again as we write these
lines, graven as it is indelibly upon the memory. There was a strange
indescribable fascination about the whole scene which held us to the
spot, and many times during our fortnights sojourn upon these islands
we wended our way alone to the summit of the cliffs to sit there and
watch the comings and the goings of these wonderful birds. Even more
impressive still does all again become when viewed from the sea below.
Then the masses of birds, as they appear to fall away from the rock
face, literally darken the air and overpower us with their numbers.

The St. Kildans are expert fowlers, snaring the Fulmars as they sit
upon their nests, with long rods to which a horse-hair noose is
attached. The birds that breed here are the source of the St. Kildans'
wealth; thousands of them are killed and salted for food; thousands
of eggs are taken for a similar purpose. When caught, the Petrels are
made to vomit a quantity of oil into the dried gullet of a Gannet
that the fowler carries attached to him; and this oil, together with
the feathers from these birds, Gannets and others, are also a further
source of income.



CHAPTER X.

MIGRATION IN THE NORTHERN SHIRES.


We propose to bring the present volume to a close by a brief review
of the more salient features of avine migration in the northern
shires, especially as it is presented on the coasts of Lincolnshire
and Yorkshire, and in some of the river-valleys in the south of the
latter county. It is perhaps in the migration of birds that comparisons
become most pronounced between the avine characteristics of the
northern and south-western counties of England. In the latter area, as
we have already pointed out, not only in our volume dealing with the
season-flight of British birds, but in another devoted to bird-life in
a southern county, migration is almost as remarkable for what it omits
as for what it includes; the south-west peninsula of England being
singularly poor in migrational phenomena. In the northern shires, on
the other hand, the story of migration is unfolded every season in all
its wondrous grandeur, and along our eastern sea-board, especially
in autumn, birds in uncounted hosts pass to and fro in a way more
impressive than any words can tell. Another thing, there is infinitely
more local movement amongst birds in the northern shires than in the
southern and south-western counties. The former area is subject to
much greater climatic vicissitudes, to sudden falls of temperature,
and heavy snow-storms, disturbances that have a marked effect upon
birds, and cause them to wander to an extent seldom remarked in the
south-west, where conditions are much more equable and the temperature
uniformly higher. For instance, we believe the isotherm of January in
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is about 37°, whilst in the south-west of
England it is as high as 43°. In one way the southern counties possess
perhaps an exceptional migrational interest, from the fact that they
are the first point of arrival as they are the last of departure of
birds moving north or south into or from the British area. But many
of the northern shires are exceptionally fortunate, for on their
coast-line breaks that mighty tide of east-to-west migration in autumn,
as also that from the north and north-east at that season, together
with the departures in the reverse direction in spring--movements
which are but faintly or never indicated at all in the south-west of
England. In that remote district the tide of migration from the north
and north-east is comparatively weak and exhausted by the time it is
reached.

In spring, migration in the northern shires is to some extent, and in
certain directions, perceptibly less marked than it is in many of the
southern counties, especially as regards our normal summer migrants. It
is, on the other hand, more emphasized in connection with the spring
departure of birds that breed in northerly or easterly localities
beyond the British area, and also perhaps in so far as it relates to
the coasting migration of certain species. Here in the northern shires,
as elsewhere, the first indication of migratory movement among the
birds is the departure of some of the species that have been spending
the winter in them. But so far as South Yorkshire is concerned, perhaps
we ought to say that migration is absolutely initiated by the return of
the Song Thrush at the end of January or early in February, and of many
Blackbirds at the beginning of the latter month--individuals breeding
in this district, but leaving it in November. The movement may be small
and comparatively unimportant, nevertheless it is to be remarked by the
careful observer of birds. There is also some slight movement north or
north-east of the Redwing and the Fieldfare; whilst Song Thrushes and
Blackbirds that have been wintering in the southern portions of our
islands begin to migrate towards continental and perhaps North British
haunts. The same remarks also apply to the Robin, the Greenfinch, the
Linnet, the Chaffinch, the Tree Sparrow,[3] the Snow Bunting, the
Sky-lark, and the Shore Lark especially. Starlings, Jackdaws, and
Rooks also initiate a migrational movement during February; and there
is also some evidence to show that Sparrow-hawks, Bitterns, Geese,
Swans, many Ducks, Ring Doves, Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Woodcocks and
Snipes, Redshanks, Curlews, Little Auks, the three British species
of Divers, and the Red-necked and Sclavonian Grebes are at least in
movement of a definite character. This applies not only to an actual
departure from our shores, but to a coasting movement across them from
winter stations still farther south. With the exception, perhaps, of
the Shore Lark and the two species of Swans, the migration can only
be regarded as slight, and becomes in the majority of cases much more
emphasized in the following month, more especially as concerns the Song
Thrush, the Greenfinch, the Linnet, the Chaffinch, the Sky-lark, the
Starling, and the Jackdaw among Passerine birds; and the Bernacle and
Brent Geese, the Mallard and other Ducks, the Snipes and the Divers
among others. It will be remarked that the earliest birds to leave are
those that breed in continental areas due east of the British area; the
next species to go are such as have their breeding-places in a general
north-easterly or north-westerly direction. It should also be stated
that many species--especially among the Ducks and Waders--are still
found on passage in the northern shires, long after they have finally
deserted our southern coasts for the season. Thus the Scoters mostly
leave Devonshire during March and April, but they are still passing
the coasts of Yorkshire in May; the Jack Snipe, the Dunlin, and the
Sanderling leave in March; in the northern shires they are still on
passage in April and May.

With the advent of March a further exodus of our winter visitors takes
place, and many of these birds continue to leave throughout this
and the following month. March initiates a migration north of the
Stonechat, the Hedge Accentor, the Goldcrest, the Titmice, the Pied
Wagtail, and the Wren, the Goldfinch and the Brambling, the Yellow,
Common, and Reed Buntings, the Carrion and Hooded Crows, the Jay, and
the Short-eared Owl, the White-fronted, Bean, and Pink-footed Geese,
the Teal and the Wigeon, the Tufted Duck and the Golden-eye, the Gray
Plover, the Turnstone, the Dunlin, and the Purple Sandpiper. This
movement is continued throughout the month and into April, in many
cases gradually dying out in May. Fieldfares and Redwings migrate in
large numbers during April, as also do Goldcrests, some of the Finches,
Snow Buntings, Starlings, Golden Plovers, and Woodcocks; Dunlins
perhaps leave most abundantly in May, as also do Turnstones, Gray
Plovers, Knots, Sanderlings, and Godwits--birds that breed late in the
arctic regions. The coasting migration of the Pied Wagtail, the Hen
Harrier, the Merlin, the Ringed Plover, the Ruff, the Whimbrel, the
Little Stint, and the Curlew Sandpiper is most apparent in April and
May; the Skuas perhaps in April, with the exception of Buffon's Skua,
that is still passing the coasts of the northern shires in May and even
early June.

This grand departure of birds, however, does not appeal to the ordinary
observer one quarter as much as the arrival in spring of the first
Swallow or Cuckoo--birds which he associates inseparably with the
so-called mystery of migration. As it is always more difficult to
detect a departure than note an arrival, all these other birds slip
away during spring almost without being missed, and more especially so
because few of them are familiar species; whilst such that are more
widely known are usually still represented by sedentary individuals.
We allude to such species as Wrens, Robins, Titmice, Greenfinches,
Chaffinches, Hedge Sparrows, and so on. To the ordinary observer, then,
spring migration apparently commences with the appearance of the first
of our usual summer migrants--birds that come to our country to breed,
and leave it again without fail in autumn. This northern movement
is remarked, even in our northern shires, during the latter half of
March. In the north of England, as it is in the south, the Chiffchaff
is perhaps the most constant pioneer of the spring migrants. We have
known this bird arrive in Devonshire as early as the 5th of March; in
Yorkshire we have observed it a week later. These dates are somewhat
exceptional, but we can pretty safely depend upon its appearance
towards the end of that month. The migrations of the Wheatear are
practically coincident in date. In fact this bird, we believe, has been
recorded from the northern shires as early as February, but this is
certainly abnormal. The migrations of both species are, however, much
more marked in April. Another March migrant is the Ring-ouzel, but
these are venturesome birds ahead of their companions, and the usual
date of this bird's arrival in the northern shires is April. Similarly,
the Blackcap has been known to arrive in March, but its normal date is
the first week or so in April. This latter month brings the migrants
back in constantly increasing numbers, amongst which we may mention the
Redstart, the Whinchat, the Willow Wren, the Wryneck, and the Cuckoo.
Now during this month, especially during the latter half, may also be
noticed in their old accustomed haunts the Whitethroat and its congener
the Lesser Whitethroat, the Reed Warbler and the Sedge Warbler, the
Grasshopper Warbler, the Tree Pipit, the Pied Flycatcher, the Swallow,
and the two species of Martins. At the end of the month and early in
May come the Garden Warbler, the Wood Wren, the Tree Pipit, the Spotted
Flycatcher, the Swift, and the Nightjar. The Merlin migrates in April,
as also does the Hen Harrier; towards the end of the month we have the
Quail, the Stone Curlew, the Landrail, the Red-necked Phalarope, the
Greenshank, and the Common Sandpiper. The passage of most of these
birds continues into May, which is the usual date for the arrival of
the Turtle Dove, one of the very last to reach the northern woodlands.
We may remark that many of our more familiar summer migrants continue
to pass the northern shires well into May--individuals bound for higher
latitudes than Britain.

Spring migration is scarcely over for the year when signs of the
return movement begin to be seen. Indications of the southern exodus
first become apparent upon the coast with the arrival usually of a
few northern wading birds by the middle or towards the end of July.
Records kept along the coast also show that Wheatears, Swallows,
Martins, Pied Wagtails, Song Thrushes, Robins, Goldcrests, Wrens,
Whitethroats, Starlings, Cuckoos, and Landrails are certainly on the
move. In August migration becomes stronger, not only as regards birds
that are coming into our area for the winter, or simply passing over
it to more southern latitudes, but also those that, having bred in this
country, are now leaving it for winter quarters beyond the English
Channel. Among Passerine birds that are now entering the British area
may be mentioned the Missel-thrush, the Song Thrush, the Redwing, and
the Blackbird. Each of these, however, will continue to arrive in much
greater numbers during September and October, the migration dying down
again in November. Stonechats are now returning to us, as also in small
numbers are Robins and Hedge Accentors, both of which will arrive in
greater abundance during the two succeeding months. The same remarks
almost exactly apply to the Titmice, the Goldcrest, the Wren, and the
Pied Wagtail. Amongst the hard-billed Passeres such birds as Linnets,
Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Yellow Buntings, and Tree Sparrows are also
returning; as are also Sky-larks, Starlings, Rooks, and Short-eared
Owls. Among the Duck family and the Waders, the Bernacle and Brent
Geese, the Mallard, the Teal and Wigeon, the Scaup and the Scoters;
Plovers, Turnstones, Woodcock and Common Snipe, Ruffs, Redshanks,
Curlews, Godwits, Dunlins, Knots, and Sanderlings are now migrating,
but their numbers will enormously increase during the two, or in some
cases even three, succeeding months. But few of our own summer birds
depart from the northern shires in August, but there is certainly a
coasting movement apparent among most of the species--individuals
coming from more northern areas and passing over Britain to winter
homes in South Europe and Africa. There can be little doubt, however,
that many individual Whitethroats, Willow Wrens, Spotted Flycatchers,
and Turtle Doves move south from their summer haunts in the northern
shires during August. During this month the Swift and the Cuckoo leave
us, although some few of the latter may remain into September. Speaking
of Swifts brings to mind a very extraordinary migration of this species
that we witnessed in the early part of August, 1879, on the Yorkshire
coast at Flamborough. There must have been tens of thousands of birds
passing down the coast just below the lighthouse; all day the birds
kept migrating on in a leisurely sort of way, feeding as they went, and
a very large percentage consisted of young ones. During late August
many bands of Terns migrate south along the Yorkshire coast, not only
from the Farne Islands, but from more northern stations still.

[Illustration: Migrants at a Lighthouse.]

During September most of our own summer migrants disappear, but the
Ring-ouzel, the Whinchat, and the Wheatear prolong their passage into
October, as also does the Whitethroat, the Chiffchaff, the Willow Wren,
the Sedge Warbler, the Swallows and Martins, the Common Sandpiper, and
some others, but all in a more or less exceptional manner. Up to the
end of this month birds are constantly pouring into our islands from
the north and north-east; in October the general trend of migration
falls to nearly due east, and from this date onwards some of the most
wonderful scenes imaginable are to be witnessed upon many parts of our
eastern coast-line, more especially between Spurn in Yorkshire and the
Wash in Lincolnshire. Our own observations principally refer, so far
as this grand avine movement is concerned, to the latter district.
Here season after season we have watched during the late October and
early November days that wonderful influx of feathered life that breaks
like the waves of the ocean upon the shore, often in such multitudes
as to defy estimation. Indeed, we know of no other place on the entire
coast-line of the British Islands where the fascinating phenomenon of
migration can be studied to better advantage. Along this coast, at
intervals during the autumn, birds literally pour in from across the
North Sea, or are tempted to loiter upon it when following the entire
line of our eastern sea-board to winter quarters far to the south of
the British archipelago. Few wilder districts can be imagined, few more
monotonous, and even dreary, than the vast expanses of mud and sand
that fringe the Wash. At high-water the tide comes up close to the
huge banks that extend along the coast here, erected for the purpose
of keeping out the sea from the adjoining farms; although it is said
that these earth-works are the remains of Roman roads. At low-water the
sea is several miles from the banks, and the vast expanse of mud is
scored in many directions with tortuous streams and long narrow pools.
In summer few birds frequent the place; in autumn it is a grand resort
of birds, being in the direct pathway of that vast stream of migrants
that flows across the wild North Sea from regions possibly as remote as
Siberia.

[Illustration: The Hooded Crow.]

Although a very large proportion of indigenous British birds are
migratory--probably the greater number--a great many of these undertake
their annual journeys in such a very modest and undemonstrative way
that they escape general notice. On the other hand, there are a certain
if small number of species that migrate in such vast numbers that
even the most casual observer cannot fail to remark the fact. Of this
small proportion the Goldcrest, the Sky-lark, and the Hooded Crow are
certainly amongst the most prominent. The migrations of the first-named
bird in autumn are sometimes on a prodigious scale. The autumn of 1882
was remarkable in this respect, especially as regards the Yorkshire and
Lincolnshire coasts. This migration appears to have first been recorded
from Redcar on the 13th of August. During this month the birds came
in comparatively small numbers, which did not appreciably increase
during September, but in October they poured across the North Sea in
countless thousands, and from all parts of the east coast came reports
of the unusual visitation. Two nights in October were especially
remarkable for the marvellous migration waves of this tiny bird, which
not only spread across England, but reached Ireland, and possibly spent
themselves in the Atlantic beyond! So far as concerns our own special
length of coast-line, the migration appeared to reach its climax on
the 8th and the 12th of October, when vast numbers were recorded from
Whitby lighthouse; at Flamborough it was reported in unusual abundance
between the 7th and the 14th; at Spurn on the 7th and 8th, crowding
into the hedgerows and fields near the sea; whilst on the Lincolnshire
side of the Humber the 8th was remarkable for these migrants, many of
which actually sought refuge amongst the piles on the quays and in the
timber yards at Grimsby; in the district of the Wash the poor little
birds came on to the coast in a more or less exhausted condition three
or four days later, many migrating at night. One favourite line of
migration into inland districts of the northern shires, not only of
this species, but of Titmice, Chaffinches, Bramblings, and some others,
is along the Humber, and down the valley of the Don, which brings them
into the coppices and fields of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.
We have upon many occasions, during the twenty years or so that we
resided in Sheffield, met with these waves of migrant Goldcrests and
Titmice in the birch and alder coppices of the Rivelin Valley. This
district, as the crow flies, is sixty miles from Spurn, at the mouth of
the Humber, and about thirty miles from the head of that vast estuary,
with an abundance of suitable haunts by the way. Yet this vast tract of
intervening country has not absorbed the waves of birds, and we have
found them literally swarming in these Rivelin coppices during October.
It is also somewhat remarkable how confined these waves of birds in
many cases are. For instance, we never met with these birds in numbers
at all indicating a strong migration anywhere beyond the somewhat
narrow limits of this rock-girdled valley. To have reached it the birds
must absolutely have passed over Sheffield in incredible numbers; they
also appeared in rushes, that corresponded with similar extensive
incursions on the distant coast.

The Sky-lark is perhaps even more interesting in its autumnal invasion
of the coasts of the northern shires. Every autumn, especially
towards the end of October or early in November, incredible numbers
of Sky-larks cross the German Ocean both by day and by night, and
land in the district of the Wash, to name but one locality, although
similar phenomena may be witnessed here and there from one end of our
eastern coast-line to the other, from September onwards. Year after
year have we seen this autumn invasion of the Sky-lark. Day and night
the migration continues, the birds coming in from the sea in flocks and
smaller parties, flying at a moderate height, say from thirty to fifty
yards above the earth, and in a by no means hurried manner. We have
repeatedly noticed a few birds commence to warble the moment they left
the sea and reached the land. Many thousands of these birds continue
their way south along the coast, doubtless in some cases to follow the
rivers inland; others fly inland over the fields, continuing the exact
direction of the course followed over the sea. In the same district the
autumnal passage of the Hooded Crow is little if any less impressive.
This migration usually commences about the middle of October, and lasts
about a month. The arrival of this bird in the Wash district is almost
regarded with as much interest as the appearance of the Swallow in
spring. Fishermen and farmers in the locality say that the two birds
are never seen in the air together, meaning by this that the Swallow
has gone to the south before the Crow comes in from the east. Unlike
the two other species we have just alluded to, the Hooded Crow migrates
exclusively by day--at least that is our invariable experience. During
the periods of its passage the bird may be remarked coming towards the
land from the sea in parties, in twos and threes, and now and then in
a large open flock, flying at a moderate height and in a somewhat slow
and deliberate manner. Hundreds of thousands of this species must enter
the British Islands by way of the Wash alone. Many of these do not
penetrate inland far, but live during the ensuing winter on the farms
and saltings; others, however, follow the river-valleys to more central
areas. It is interesting to remark, however, that the Hooded Crow does
not migrate down the Humber and the Don valley to South Yorkshire,
where at all seasons it must be regarded as a rare bird.

There are many other migrants that enter our islands by way of the
Wash, some of them specially interesting. One of the most remarkable
of these is the Short-eared Owl, another the Woodcock. Very often
these two birds arrive together, making the sea passage from the
Continent during the same night. The Woodcock, however, appears to fly
high; the Owl at no great distance from the water. Large numbers of
wading birds also pass along this low coast in autumn; in October the
mud-flats there used literally to swarm with them. Here might be seen
great flocks of Knots and Dunlins assembled upon the marshes, whilst
on the banks of the many tidal streams and pools Redshanks, Curlews,
Bar-tailed Godwits, Plovers, and Sanderlings, in parties or singly,
might be watched. Keeping us at a more respectful distance were large
flocks of Brent Geese, whose noisy clamour came clanging in fitful
clashes across the mud-flats; whilst Wigeon, Scoters, and various other
Ducks bore them more or less close company. After a migration night
it was a most fascinating experience to wander out at dawn among the
birds. As we reached the second of the banks nearest to the sea, that
crosses the mile or so of straight road that leads from the cockle and
shrimp famous village of Friskney, we often used to flush Woodcocks
from the ditches at the bottom of the tall white-thorn hedges, and
this fact we always regarded as a sure indication that the past night
had been a favourable one for migrants. Then more Woodcocks would be
flushed from the long dry grass, on the sea-banks; perhaps an Owl; but
the latter birds we found to have a greater preference for the large
flat turnip-fields just over the earth-works. Then perhaps the warbling
cry of the Sky-lark would sound from the still dusky sky--the note of
tired pilgrims that had been winging their way across the wild sea
whilst men slept, and music which never failed to inspire a feeling of
sympathy in us. Poor tired and hungry little birds--we always wished
them well. Sometimes we should find the bushes and even the long
grass on the banks crowded with tired Goldcrests; some of them, poor
little mites, so weary that we have stood and watched them sitting
fast asleep or swaying on the twigs utterly overcome with fatigue and
hunger, quite exhausted and apparently indifferent to their own safety
any longer. Then on some lowering November afternoon an occasional
flock of Snow Buntings would suddenly appear on the wild salt-marshes,
little strangers from an ice-bound region far away to the north. They
would settle upon the weed-grown places, or perhaps amongst the drift
and tangled sea-weed upon the shore, and there busily search for food.
On other days, earlier in the autumn, vast flights of Finches would
arrive, and occasionally immense numbers of such familiar species as
Hedge Accentors, Redwings, and Fieldfares; whilst far overhead at
intervals during the short autumn days, company after company of Golden
Plovers would be noted either flying down the coast towards Norfolk
or passing inland. A gale, especially about the time of a new moon,
would be sure to bring us interesting birds to the coast. Then the
Fork-tailed Petrel would as likely as not be driven ashore; and at such
times we have seen Stormy Petrels flitting about over the roofs of the
cottages at Friskney--lost birds that had rashly entered the enclosed
waters of the Wash and been blown before the stiff nor'-easter right on
to the land. Now and then a Fulmar would be caught in the flight nets,
and Little Gulls and Great Gray Shrikes appear, whilst the late autumn
days sometimes brings a succession of flocks of Ring Doves and many
odd Bitterns. Now and then a rare Lapland Bunting is detected along
the shores of the Wash; we have shot it there in November close to
Wainfleet haven. The Shore Lark is also occasionally met with in this
district.

The mortality amongst these autumn migrants can scarcely be
over-estimated. Young birds of course predominate in every species,
and it is among them that the death-rate is highest. Gales and dark
nights, with driving rain or fog, are exceptionally fatal to these
journeying birds across the German Ocean. Some of the scenes at the
lighthouses and light-ships along the coasts of these northern shires
are most impressive on such nights as these. The lost bewildered birds,
attracted by the glare of the flashing brilliant lamps, crowd round
the lanterns, and many of them not only kill themselves by dashing
against the glass but are observed to fall exhausted into the sea
below. Birds of many species compose these lost and bewildered flocks.
Adversity makes strange companions, as the old saying has it, and never
perhaps was it better illustrated than by a crowd of birds at the
lantern of a lighthouse. Significantly enough, the return passage in
spring is invariably undertaken by numbers scarcely a tithe as great as
in autumn--the bulk of the little pilgrims having met their fate either
on passage or during the intervening winter.

In the northern shires birds of some species or another are almost
constantly moving about throughout the winter months. Even in inland
localities this fact is abundantly apparent to the most casual
observer of birds. Rough weather and snow-storms are almost invariably
accompanied or heralded by wandering flocks of Lapwings and Larks;
Finches and Fieldfares are constantly moving about as the food supply
becomes exhausted or inaccessible in various districts; Ducks and
other water-fowl change their haunts as frost compels them. We might
also here allude to the considerable amount of vertical migration
that takes place in the northern shires--that movement between the
uplands and the low-lying country and littoral districts, undertaken
by such species as Twites, Merlins, Meadow Pipits, Lapwings, Plovers,
Curlews, Mallards, and some few other Ducks. This movement has already
been described in detail in our accounts of these various species, so
it is not necessary to treat with it here at greater length. It is,
however, a migrational movement of no small interest, though not a
little overlooked by ordinary observers. Thus does the migration of
birds progress, in spring and in autumn, across these northern shires,
the phenomenon being very similar in its general aspects from year to
year. Variety is, however, furnished in the numbers of the several
species that so migrate, in the dates of their movements, and also in
the occurrences of those abnormal migrants for which these shires have
an exceptionally abundant share. We have not space here to chronicle
the species that have paid these shires such abnormal visits, but the
subject is certainly an interesting one and worthy of passing mention
at least.

We propose now to devote the concluding pages of the present chapter
to a brief résumé of the various ornithological events that so thickly
dot the field-naturalist's calendar, more especially as they relate
to South Yorkshire. There is a great charm about the observation of
these events, that from year to year take place in sequence that is
as remarkable for its order as for its punctuality; a greater charm
even in recording them season after season as the birds unfold their
story with the passing months. For a dozen years or more we kept such
a record, dealing more especially with the environs of Sheffield;
season after season we noted the arrival and departure of the migratory
species, the resumption and the cessation of song, the varying food
from month to month, the pairing and nest-building, the rearing of the
young; the flocking in autumn, the disbanding in spring, the habits of
birds at nightfall, their awakening from slumber, their various local
movements about the country-side, their actions generally in sunshine
and in storm, by daylight and in darkness throughout each month, each
week, each day, and not unfrequently each hour of the twenty-four. From
a store of notebooks which has accumulated through these long years
we will draw our information, that shall carry the story of the birds
onwards in a cycle through the months from January to December.

The northern shires are not specially remarkable for avine song during
the winter months, and here we have a deficiency that contrasts
very strongly with that musical abundance of some of the southern
counties. As Waterton remarked long ago, our three best-known perennial
choristers are the Robin, the Wren, and the Hedge Accentor, of which
trio the first is certainly the most persistent, as it is perhaps
the sweetest and most musical, whilst the last is the least so. The
Starling, however, is a very fair winter singer. The voice of the
Missel-thrush is also heard throughout January, but now and then we
have a day perhaps when he is silent, sure sign that music is on the
wane. Towards the end of the month the Song Thrushes are back again
in their accustomed haunts, and on exceptionally fine and sunny days
may be heard to sing a little; the Blackbird, however, is invariably
silent. Another irregular singer in January is the Sky-lark. It
requires a warm and spring-like day indeed to woo him into voice,
still his song must not be overlooked at this season. So far as most
birds are concerned, January is a typical winter month. There are few
signs among the birds here in South Yorkshire to indicate any change
of seasons. At the end of the month Sparrows may be remarked at their
old nests, and many Hedge Accentors undoubtedly pair at this time. The
Titmice are still leading a nomad life; but the Rook and the Starling
seldom fail to visit their nesting-places each morning. The Finches
are of course still in flocks, but a rapid abrasion of the pale edges
to the feathers is remarkable, sure sign that the nuptial period is
now approaching. This is specially the case with Chaffinches and
Bramblings: Greenfinches abrade later. Yellow Buntings are still in
flocks upon the fields; the Meadow Pipit, yet gregarious, is upon the
lowlands. The Moorhen, however, is about to pair; most other of our
familiar birds are still displaying characteristics of their winter
life.

In February, however, there is a marked change in the habits of
many birds, and the few signs of approaching spring rapidly develop
themselves. Perhaps these indications are most eloquently expressed in
song. During this month the Blackbird regains his voice, irregularly
it is true, but the fact is obvious nevertheless. The Song Thrush
has now fully regained its matchless varied song; the Sky-lark sings
more frequently, and our winter singers are in constant voice. Many
Kestrels return to their accustomed summer haunts this month; and the
Missel-thrush pairs at the beginning of it. Many Robins also pair;
and the Titmice may be heard uttering their love-notes amongst the
trees. Starlings are now in pairs; and odd pairs of Sparrows actually
commence nesting. March brings still more important changes among the
birds, and by many of their ways and movements we read the unerring
sign of spring's approach. Among other things may be mentioned the
nest-building of the Rooks, the resumption of song by the Chaffinch
and the Yellow Bunting, the flocks of both species now disbanding.
Avine song is everywhere on the increase; the Blackbird is getting
into finer and more frequent voice, the Hedge Accentor and the Wren
are particularly musical; whilst during this month we may find the
first nests of the Song Thrush and the Missel-thrush, the Robin and
the Hedge Accentor. In the northern shires, however, these early birds
not unfrequently suffer for their precocity, and a late fall of snow
destroys many nests and eggs. The Dipper is now full of nuptial song,
and the Gray Wagtail resorts to the streams where shortly it will rear
its young. There is also a considerable migrational movement going
on among Pied Wagtails, and Yellow Wagtails in some numbers appear
upon the fallows. The Bramblings leave their winter quarters in the
shrubberies, and the numbers of the Redwing visibly decline. The first
indication of our summer birds of passage is given by some venturesome
Chiffchaff or Wheatear; the flocks of Lapwings are dispersing to their
breeding-places; so too are the Mallards. March is generally a cold and
cheerless month in the south of Yorkshire, and the advance in bird-life
is not unfrequently checked by spells of winter weather.

We find abundant recompense for this, however, in the avine changes
associated with April. The Missel-thrush now finally becomes mute; but
every other singing species is full of song. Now the Yellow Bunting and
the Greenfinch are in fine voice, the Sky-lark warbles incessantly,
and the avine calendar is punctuated with the note of the Cuckoo once
more. Most of our resident birds are now nesting; migrants appear one
after the other as the month slips away--Willow Wrens, Whitethroats,
Blackcaps, Redstarts, Ring-ouzels, Tree Pipits, Swallows, and Martins
among the rest. Grouse are now breeding.

[Illustration: 1. The Chiffchaff.   2. The Wheatear.]

Bird-life in May perhaps reaches the zenith of its activity. It is a
month of song and a month of love, during which the nests of nearly
all our commoner birds may be found. It also marks the arrival of the
last of our summer migrants--the Swift, the Wood Wren, the Flycatcher,
the Nightjar, and the Turtle Dove especially. Merlins, Plovers,
Twites, and Ring-ouzels are nesting on the moors; Sparrow-hawks and
Kestrels in the woods; where also Pheasant, Jay, and Magpie are deep
in family cares. Away on the distant coast we also know that sea-fowl
are busy too, crowding on sea-cliff and islet, repairing to the sands
and shingles, for the sole purpose of reproduction during this and
the three succeeding months. Inland bird-life again presents marked
changes in June. The Common Sandpiper, which we know came back in
April, is now nesting by the side of upland waters; the Nightjar and
the Turtle Dove are breeding. One significant fact the chronicler of
avine annals will not fail now to remark is the slight cessation in the
glorious concert of the woods and fields. There is a decided decrease
in song, especially among our earliest breeding birds. Each may and
will be heard to warble on every day of June, but certainly not in such
abundance as characterized their melody in May. The Cuckoo is also in
less splendid voice, and not unfrequently cries in a treble series of
notes instead of the normal double one. As birds are notably later
here than in south-western counties, we shall also find that June is
certainly a more musical month in Yorkshire than it is in Devonshire.
With the advent of July, however, the beginning of the end arrives.
Thrush, Blackbird, and Robin sing fitfully, as also do the Blackcap
and Whitethroat and many others. By the end of the month much song has
ceased, Tree Pipits and Chaffinches especially becoming mute. Some
birds are still busy with their second or even third broods, but the
moulting season is coming on, and that is ever a time of moping and
of silence. This month also marks the flocking of many birds, notably
the Ring-ouzel, the Rook, the Twite, the Meadow Pipit, the Lapwing,
and the Curlew. Tits are also to be seen in family parties, as are
also Jays, Magpies, and Starlings. August is much of a repetition of
July among our common birds in inland northern districts. Moulting
is nearly universal; there is almost a complete cessation of music,
and gregarious instincts are becoming stronger. Already some of our
summer birds are gone before the middle of the month, especially the
Cuckoo and the Swift. Birds now congregate upon the hay-meadows, and
vast flocks of Sparrows and other Finches resort to the ripening corn.
Migration, of course, is more apparent along the coast; but from
time to time, during the stillness of the night, a flock of Waders
or Ducks may be detected passing onwards to the south. Towards the
close of August the Robin, having passed through his moult, in small
numbers regains his song; and the last few days almost invariably
reintroduce us to the glad wild lay of the Missel-thrush. The Wren
is a very irregular singer yet; but the Starling resumes his music,
whilst the Yellow Bunting and the Greenfinch during the first fortnight
lose theirs for the winter. The Chiffchaff also is an irregular singer
during August.

In September we have migration once more in full progress. Day by
day our summer visitors are now deserting us; birds that spend the
winter gregarious are closing up fast into flocks; Pipits, Twites, and
other moorland species come down to the lowland fields; the Swallows
and Martins congregate into those vast companies that invariably
herald their departure. Song Thrushes in great numbers frequent the
turnip-fields, as also do Meadow Pipits and Hedge Accentors; by the
end of the month Missel-thrushes are in flocks upon the fields, as
also are Starlings and Sparrows. Now the Ring-ouzels speed away to
the south, and the Blackbird shows a far too unwelcome partiality for
the fruit-garden. All the Warblers are migrating fast; the Rooks and
Jays complete their moult, as also do the Chaffinch, the Redpole, and
the Yellow Bunting. October, nut-brown October, finally clears away
the last of our summer visitors, and brings us bird guests from the
far north-east. One of the most familiar of these is the Redwing;
they return with pleasing regularity to their old haunts. Now the
coppices begin to swarm with migrant Goldcrests and Titmice; the
Merlins leave the moors finally for the winter; a few Fieldfares come
to us; the Stonechat quits the moorland roughs; the parties of Jays
disband; flocks of Finches resort to the stubbles; the Yellow Bunting
is gregarious once more; many of the Red Grouse resort to the highest
parts of the moors; Pheasants are still moulting; Woodcocks and Jack
Snipes appear in their accustomed winter haunts. On every side are
indications of avine habits and movements characteristic of winter. The
Robin, the Wren, and the Missel-thrush are now in charming voice, but
the Starling is only an occasional singer, as is also the Sky-lark.

[Illustration: Fieldfare and Titmouse.]

With November we welcome the principal arrival of the Fieldfare; the
large flocks of Missel-thrushes disband; Song Thrushes, and Blackbirds
decrease in numbers almost imperceptibly. The Robin now shows a
marked tendency to leave exposed haunts, and to draw near to houses
and gardens; the Goldcrests disperse, the Titmice are nothing near
so gregarious; the House Sparrow deserts the fields and takes up its
residence about farmyards and homesteads; the uplands are now almost
entirely deserted; and shrubberies are filling rapidly with their mixed
avine populations characteristic of the winter; the Yellow Bunting
and the Lesser Redpole are still upon the stubbles left unploughed,
whilst the Pied Wagtail resorts to them as soon as the share turns
over the earth. In November the flocks of Bramblings return to the
beech-woods for the winter, and bird-life generally becomes much more
localized, crowded into areas where food and shelter chance to be
found most easily. December is but an emphasizing of the preceding
month. The Kestrel is now very rarely seen about the South Yorkshire
woods and fields. Now come the periodical snow-storms that usually
punctuate a Yorkshire winter, and with them bird-life becomes more or
less disorganized. We have now much wandering to and fro, the recurring
frosts drive birds from their usual haunts, and we meet with species
in localities where they are seldom seen at any other time. Many
birds change their food at such times; but others, not so adaptable,
perish in large numbers, especially Redwings. From time to time flocks
of Plovers or strings of Geese may be seen crossing over from one
sea-board to the other, and the whole month is filled with considerable
unrest among the feathered tribe. Avine song in this dreary month is
principally confined to the Missel-thrush, the Robin, the Wren, and the
Starling; more rarely the Sky-lark and the Hedge Accentor sing. And so
the month draws on, and gradually completes the cycle of the year with
the advent of January, the latter bringing with it a few slight changes
that indicate the beginning of another round of avine phenomena.


THE END.



INDEX

  Accentor, Hedge, 182, 183;
    migration, 265, 269, 279;
    in turnip fields, 290;
    nests in January, 286;
    song in March, 286;
    in December, 203;
    perennial song, 283.
  Africa, 16, 29, 51.
  Andes, 17.
  Anglia, East, 73.
  April, bird movement in 286;
    song in, 286.
  Armin, Stack, 253.
  Ashopton moors, 66.
  Asia, 16.
  Atlantic, 88.
  August, bird-life in, 289.
  Auk, 228, 231, 232, 241, 250.
  Auk, Great, fate of, 39.
  Auk, Little, migration, 264.

  Bamford, 53, 138.
  Banks, 159.
  Bass Rock, 240, 244-250.
  Bawtry, 149.
  Beauchief woodlands, 132.
  Beilby on the Dipper, 18.
  Bell Hagg, 138, 155.
  Bempton, 240, 242.
  Bernacle, migration of, 264.
  Berwick, 214.
  Bewick, 18.
  Bird-catcher, mischief done by, 166, 169.
  Bittern, 125;
    migration, 264, 280.
  Blackbird, 56, 141, 184, 172, 173;
    migration, 263, 269;
    in September, 290;
    in November, 291;
    song in February, 285;
    in March, 285-286;
    in July, 289.
  Blackbrook, 14, 155.
  Blackcap, 183, 184;
    migration, 184, 267, 287;
    song in July, 289.
  Blue Hawk, 64.
  Borreay, 253.
  Bradfield, 53.
  Brambling, 141, 165 fig.; 166, 191, 284, 286;
    migration, 166, 265, 275, 292.
  Brent Goose, 234.
  Brigg, 127, 128.
  Brighthelmstone, 57.
  Brisson on the Dipper, 15, 16.
  Broom Hall, 183.
  Bullfinch, 141, 166, 167.
  Bullock, 255.
  Bunting, Cirl, 170, 194.
  ---- Common, 170, 214;
    migration, 265.
  ---- Lapland, migration, 280.
  ---- Reed, 171, 193, 194;
    migration, 194, 265;
    song, 171;
    eggs, 194.
  ---- Riverside, 193.
  ---- Snow, 57, 90, 170;
    migration, 263-265.
  ---- Yellow, 116, 170, 171, 194, 284, 290, 291;
    eggs, 271;
    migration, 265, 269, 291;
    song, 281, 286.
  Buntings, migration of, 279.
  Bustard, 57.
  ---- Thick-kneed, 119.
  Buzzard, 84, 133, 144, 236.
  ---- Common, 134, 135 fig.; 136.
  ---- Rough-legged, 66.
  Byron, 201.

  Caithness, 99, 240.
  Capercailzie, 43, 149.
  Carron, Loch, 33, 94.
  Castleton, 59, 236, 237.
  Chaffinch, 164-166, 284, 289, 290;
    abrasion of feathers, 284;
    migration, 166, 263, 264, 266, 269, 275;
    song, 164, 285.
  Charadriinæ, 119.
  Chiffchaff, 156, 157, 286, 287 fig.;
    migration, 267, 271;
    song, 290.
  Churn Owl, 108.
  Cinclus, 17.
  Clacharan, 51.
  Clumber, 198.
  Cockerham Moss, 127.
  Connacher, 87, 252, 258.
  Continent, 278.
  Coot, 193, 195, 197.
  Copse, Forest and, 131.
  Cormorant, 218, 226.
  Corncrake, 176, 177, 178.
  Cornwall, 18, 29, 49, 52.
  Coulter-neb, 226.
  Crag and Sea-cliff, On, 236.
  Crake, Spotted, 126, 193;
    migration, 126.
  Creeper, 154.
  Cromartyshire, 33.
  Crossbill, 167.
  Crow, Carrion, 89, 90, 147;
    migration, 265.
  ---- Hooded, 88, 89, 90, 147;
    migration, 265, 273, 276, 277.
  Crows, 132, 137, 151.
  Cuchullin Hills, 76.
  Cuckoo, 47, 59, 116, 153, 176, 180, 286, 288;
    migration, 266-268, 271, 289;
    voice, 286, 288.
  Cuckoo and Meadow Pipit, 47.
  Cuckoo's Mate, 153.
  Cumberland, 91.
  Curlew, 34, 70, 71, 207;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 264, 269, 278, 282.
  ---- Stone, 117, 118 fig., 119, 120, 121;
    migration, 120, 268;
    protective coloration, 117, 118, 120, 121;
    local names, 118, 119;
    eggs, 120.

  Dartford, 117.
  Dartford Warbler, 116, 117.
  Dartmoor, 52, 58, 66, 87.
  Darwin, 258.
  Daws, 237, 250.
  December, bird-life in, 292.
  Derbyshire, 13, 19, 24, 52, 59, 68, 82, 106, 117, 133, 134, 148,
      149, 167, 168, 171, 196, 203, 208, 236, 239, 275;
    changing aspects of moors, 35;
    varied bird-life, 35.
  Derwent, 14, 25, 34, 66.
  ---- Edge, 53.
  Devil's Hole, 237.
  Devonshire, 19, 29, 47, 49, 52, 54, 58, 64, 66, 87, 114, 129, 147,
      149, 152, 165, 172, 173, 199, 206, 209, 210, 213, 220, 240,
      265, 267, 288;
    tameness of moors, 35;
    lack of bird-life on moors, 35.
  Dipper, 14, 15 fig., 16-25, 28, 30, 94, 201;
    difficulties of classification, 15, 16;
    world distribution, 16;
    variety of races, 17;
    local names, 17;
    song, 19, 24, 286;
    evil reputation, 20;
    usefulness, 20;
    food, 20, 21;
    habits and habitat, 20-22;
    nest, 22, 23.
  Diver, Black-throated, 96 fig.
  ---- Red-throated, 96.
  Divers, 96, 97, 228;
    migration, 264;
    eggs, 98;
    nest, 97, 98.
  Don, 14, 25, 208, 275, 277.
  Doon, 252, 254, 258.
  Dore, 14, 53.
  Dor-hawk, 109.
  Dotterel, 90, 91 fig., 92, 100;
    meaning of name, 92.
  Dove, river, 14, 25.
  ---- Ring, 148;
    migration, 264, 280.
  ---- Rock, 238, 240-241, 250.
  ---- Stock, 137, 144, 148.
  ---- Turtle, 148, 288;
    migration, 268, 271.
  Doves, 132.
  Dove Dale, 236.
  Duck, Eider, 73, 102, 218, 222, 225 fig., 233.
  ---- Long-tailed, 233.
  ---- Tufted, 198, 199 fig., 200;
    migration, 265;
    nest, 200;
    eggs, 200.
  ---- Wild, 33, 98, 99, 144, 145, 197.
  Ducks, 72, 95, 192, 198, 207, 218, 228;
    migration, 264, 265, 278, 281, 282, 289.
  Dukeries, 198, 199.
  Dunlin, 70, 71, 193, 207;
    migration, 265, 266, 269, 278.

  Eagle, 66.
  ---- Golden, 82, 83, 236;
    food, 84.
  ---- White-tailed, 82-84;
    unclean feeder, 84.
  Eccleshall, 132.
  Edwindstowe, 142.
  Eggs:--
    Bunting, Reed, 194.
    ---- Yellow, 171.
    Curlew, Stone, 120, 121.
    Diver, 98.
    Duck, Tufted, 200.
    Fulmar, 258.
    Gannet, 247.
    Goose, Gray-lag, 73.
    Grebe, Little, 195.
    Grouse, Red, 45.
    Gull, Herring, 250.
    ---- Lesser Black-backed, 220.
    Kingfisher, 205.
    Merlin, 62.
    Nightjar, 112.
    Owl, Short-eared, 125.
    Petrel, Fork-tailed, 255.
    Plover, Golden, 70.
    ---- Ringed, 212.
    Ptarmigan, 81.
    Sandpiper, Common, 31.
    Shearwater, Manx, 256.
    Sheldrake, 216.
    Swan, 198.
    Tern, Arctic, 224.
    ---- Common, 225.
    ---- Lesser, 211.
    ---- Sandwich, 223.
    Twite, 50.
    Whinchat, 175.
  Eider, King, 234.
  ---- Duck, 73, 102, 218, 222, 225 fig., 233.
  Endcliffe, 170-171.
  ---- Valley, 189.
  ---- Woods, 25.
  English Channel, 218, 233, 234.
  Europe, 16, 17.
  Eve-jar, 109.
  Evening-jar, 109.
  Exmoor, 58.

  Falcon, 59, 60, 62, 63, 84.
  ---- Peregrine, 59, 76-78, 85, 86, 239, 250.
  Farm and Garden, In, 158.
  Farne Islands, 212, 213, 214, 217, 221, 225-227, 240, 242, 243, 271.
  Faroes, 71.
  February, bird-life in, 285.
  Fern Owl, 108.
  Fieldfare, 172, 182, 292 fig.;
    migration, 172, 263, 265, 279, 281, 291.
  Filey, 240.
  Finches, 48, 164, 170, 279, 284, 289;
    migration, 265, 281, 261.
  Flamborough, 213, 240, 242, 271, 274.
  Flocking, 289.
  Flycatcher, Pied, migration, 268.
  ---- Spotted, migration, 268.
  Flycatchers, 141, 183, 271, 288.
  Follart, Loch, 102.
  Forest and Copse, In, 131.
  Formosa, 16.
  Forth, Firth of, 209, 210, 216, 244, 248.
  Friskney, 278, 280.
  Fulmar, 87, 232, 252, 257 fig., 259, 260;
    migration, 280;
    nest, 258;
    eggs, 258.
  Furze Kite, 64.

  Gannet, 229, 234, 244, 245 fig., 246, 253, 254, 260;
    nest, 247-249;
    eggs, 247.
  Garden, In Farm and, 158.
  Geese, 192, 228, 293;
    migration, 264.
  German Ocean, 218, 276, 280.
  Gilgit, 63.
  Goatsucker, 106, 107.
  Godwit, Bar-tailed, 207;
    migration, 278.
  Godwits, 266, 269.
  Goldcrest, 138, 154, 191, 291;
    migration, 265, 268, 269, 273, 275, 279, 291.
  Golden-eye, 265.
  Goldfinch, 169; migration, 265.
  Goosander, 102.
  Goose, Bean, 215, 265.
  ---- Bernacle, 269.
  ---- Brent, 234;
    migration, 264, 269, 278.
  ---- Gray-lag, 73;
    eggs, 73;
    nest, 73.
  ---- Pink-footed, 233;
    migration, 265.
  ---- White-footed, 265.
  ---- Wild, 34.
  Grace Darling, 217.
  Grasshopper Warbler, 111, 116;
    migration, 268.
  Gray-lag Goose, 73;
    eggs, 73.
  Grebe, 21, 23, 197.
  ---- Little, 195;
    eggs, 195;
    nest, 195.
  ---- Red-necked, 264.
  ---- Sclavonian, 264.
  Greenfinch, 141, 169, 284, 290;
    migration, 263, 264, 266, 269;
    song, 286.
  Greenshank, 34, 72, 93;
    migration, 268.
  Grimsby, 275.
  Grouse, 34, 59, 60, 287.
  ---- Black, 43, 121, 149, 150 fig.
  ---- Red, 38 fig., 39-46, 57, 75;
    preservation of, 38, 39;
    monogamous, 43;
    protective coloration, 43, 44, 79;
    migration, 291;
    nest, 44;
    eggs, 45.
  ---- Willow, 43, 80.
  Guillemot, Black, 103.
  ---- Common, 103, 231.
  ---- Ringed, 231.
  Guillemots, 218, 229, 231, 240-243, 250, 254.
  Gull, Black-headed, 127, 128 fig., 129,130;
    nest, 129.
  ---- Common, 94, 102.
  ---- Herring, 210, 220, 249,250;
    eggs, 250.
  ---- Lesser Black-backed, 218, 219 fig., 250;
    nest, 219;
    eggs, 220.
  Gulls, 73, 102, 193, 206, 214, 218, 222, 228, 229 fig., 241;
    migration, 280.

  Halcyon, 202.
  ---- Days, 202.
  Handa, Bird-haunted, frontispiece.
  Harrier, Hen, 63-65;
    migration, 63, 266, 268.
  ---- Marsh, 125.
  Hathersage, 14, 53.
  Hawfinch, 167, 184.
  Hawk, Blue, 64.
  ---- Dor-. 109.
  ---- Ring-tail, 64.
  ---- Sparrow-, 61, 65, 66, 133, 136-138, 164, 184;
    migration, 264;
    nesting, 288.
  Hawks, 132, 139, 140, 144, 151.
  Heather Lintie, 48.
  Heaths and Marshes, 105.
  Hebrides, 13, 52, 71, 73, 83, 97, 99, 102, 103, 208, 213, 240.
  Hedge Accentor. See Accentor.
  Heeley, 42, 159.
  Heron, 32, 34, 196, 197, 201.
  Highlands, 13, 18, 19, 26, 29, 30, 32, 35, 36, 38, 47, 51, 57, 66,
      73, 82, 87, 88, 99, 101, 102.
  Himalayas, 16.
  Hobbys, 133, 144.
  Hollow Meadows, 21, 30, 52, 59, 138, 192, 238.
  Holy Island, 216.
  Hoopoe, 205.
  Hornsea Mere, 195, 201.
  Humber, 206, 207, 208, 213, 274, 275, 277.

  Iceland, 71.
  Ireland, 152, 154.
  Isle of Man, 82, 89.

  Jackdaw, 142-144, 237, 240, 250;
    migration, 264.
  Jack Snipe, 127, 181, 291;
    migration, 181, 265.
  January, bird-life in, 284.
  Jay, 132, 139, 140, 142, 149, 180, 184, 265, 288-290;
    migration, 265, 291.
  Jessop, Francis, 156, 183, 189.
  July, bird-life in, 288-289.
  June, bird-life in, 288.

  Kent, 117.
  Kestrel, 62, 65, 82, 113, 133, 136, 137, 184, 239, 285, 292, 293.
  King Eider, 234.
  Kingfisher, 18, 21, 25, 34, 187, 188 fig., 189, 197;
    method of feeding, 21;
    legends concerning, 201-204;
    nest, 204;
    eggs, 205;
    note, 205.
  Kite, Furze, 64.
  Kites, 133.
  Kittiwake, 221, 243, 249, 250.
  Knot, 207;
    migration, 266, 269.

  Lagopus albus, 43, 79, 80.
  Lake District, 239.
  Lambs, destruction of, by Eagles, 84, 85.
  Lancashire, 125, 127.
  Landrail, 176-178;
    migration, 268.
  Lapwing, 67 fig., 68-70, 126, 127, 182, 286, 289;
    migration, 264, 281, 282.
  Lark, Shore, migration, 264, 280.
  ---- Sky-. See _Sky-lark_.
  ---- Wood-, 113-115;
    nest, 115;
    song, 113, 114.
  Larks, 182;
    migration, 281.
  Lii, Stack, 253.
  Lincolnshire, 106, 117, 127, 128, 209, 210, 213, 261, 262, 272-274.
  Linnæus, on the Dipper, 16.
  Linnet, 48, 50, 116, 168, 169;
    migration, 263, 264, 269.
  Lintie, Heather, 48.
  Loch, Mountain and, 74.
  Lundy Island, 82.

  Macgillivray, 246.
  Magpie, 132, 137-140, 180;
    flocking, 289;
    nesting, 288.
  Mallard, 32, 72, 98, 99, 122, 200, 233, 286;
    migration, 264, 269, 282.
  March, bird-life in, 285.
  Marlowe, 203.
  Marshes, 105.
  Martin, House, 238.
  ---- Sand, 192.
  Martins, 180, 192, 196, 197, 287;
    migration, 192, 268, 271, 290.
  Mason, Little, 51.
  May, bird-life in, 287, 288.
  Meersbrook, 14, 159.
  Meersbrook Park, 140.
  Merganser, 94.
  ---- Red-breasted, 96 fig., 99, 101.
  Merlin, 57, 58 fig., 59-63;
    migration, 266, 268, 282, 291;
    nesting, 288;
    eggs, 62.
  Mersey, 206.
  Migrants at a Lighthouse, 270 fig.
  Migration:--
    Accentor, Hedge, 265, 269, 279.
    Auk, Little, 264.
    Bernacle, 264.
    Bittern, 264, 280.
    Blackbird, 263, 269.
    Blackcap, 184, 267, 287.
    Brambling, 166, 265, 275, 292.
    Bunting, Common, 265.
    ---- Lapland, 280.
    ---- Reed, 194, 265.
    ---- Snow, 263-265.
    ---- Yellow, 265, 269, 291.
    Buntings, 279.
    Chaffinch, 166, 263, 264, 266, 269, 275.
    Chiffchaff, 267, 271.
    Crake, Spotted, 126.
    Crow, Carrion, 265.
    ---- Hooded, 265, 273, 276, 277.
    Cuckoo, 266-268, 271, 289.
    Curlew, 264, 269, 278, 282.
    ---- Stone, 120, 268.
    Divers, 264.
    Dove, Ring, 264, 280.
    ---- Turtle, 268, 271.
    Duck, Tufted, 265.
    Ducks, 264, 265, 278, 281, 282, 289.
    Dunlin, 265, 266, 269, 278.
    Fieldfare, 172, 263, 265, 279, 281, 291.
    Finches, 265, 281, 291.
    Flycatcher, Pied, 268.
    ---- Spotted, 268.
    Fulmar, 280.
    Geese, 264.
    Godwit, 278.
    Goldcrest, 265, 268, 269, 273, 275, 279, 291.
    Goldfinch, 265.
    Goose, Brent, 264, 269, 278.
    ---- Pink-footed, 265.
    Greenfinch, 263, 264, 266, 269.
    Greenshank, 268.
    Grouse, Red, 291.
    Gulls, 280.
    Harrier, Hen, 63, 266, 268.
    Hawk, Sparrow-, 264.
    Jackdaw, 264.
    Jay, 265, 291.
    Knot, 266, 269.
    Landrail, 268.
    Lapwing, 264, 281, 282.
    Lark, Shore, 264, 280.
    Larks, 281.
    Linnet, 263, 264, 269.
    Mallard, 264, 269, 282.
    Martins, 192, 268, 271, 290.
    Merlin, 266, 268, 282, 291.
    Nightjar, 109, 110, 268.
    Ouzel, Ring-, 53, 54, 267, 271, 290.
    Owl, Short-eared, 265, 269, 277, 278.
    Owls, 278.
    Phalarope, Red-necked, 268.
    Pipit, Meadow, 46, 47, 282.
    ---- Tree, 268.
    Pipits, 290.
    Plover, Golden, 264, 279.
    ---- Gray, 265, 266.
    ---- Ringed, 266.
    Plovers, 265, 269, 278, 282.
    Quail, 268.
    Rail, Land, 268.
    Redshank, 264, 269, 278.
    Redstart, 267.
    Redwing, 166, 172, 263, 265, 269, 279, 290.
    Robin, 263, 266, 268, 269.
    Rook, 264, 269.
    Ruff, 266.
    Sanderling, 265, 266, 269, 278.
    Sandpiper, 271.
    ---- Common, 29, 268.
    ---- Curlew, 266.
    Scaup, 269.
    Scoter, 265, 269, 278.
    Shrike, Great Gray, 280.
    Skua, 266.
    ---- Buffon's, 266.
    Sky-lark, 178, 264, 269, 273, 276, 279.
    Snipe, 264.
    ---- Common, 269.
    ---- Jack, 181, 265.
    Sparrow, Hedge, 266.
    -- House, 263-264 note.
    -- Tree, 263, 269.
    Starling, 264, 265, 268, 269.
    Stint, Little, 266.
    Stonechat, 265, 269, 291.
    Swallow, 192, 266, 268, 271, 277, 290.
    Swan, 264.
    Swift, 268, 270 fig., 271, 289.
    Teal, 265, 269.
    Tern, 271.
    Thrush, Missel-, 269, 291.
    ---- Song, 263.
    Titmice, 265, 266, 269, 275, 291.
    Turnstone, 269.
    Twite, 282, 290.
    Waders, 265, 289.
    Wagtail, Gray, 24.
    ---- Pied, 265, 266, 268, 269.
    Warbler, Garden, 268.
    ---- Grasshopper, 268.
    ---- Reed, 267.
    ---- Sedge, 268, 271.
    Warblers, 290.
    Wheatear, 51, 267.
    Whimbrel, 266.
    Whinchat, 267, 271.
    Whitethroat, 267, 271.
    ---- Lesser, 267.
    Wigeon, 265, 269, 278.
    Woodcock, 264-266.
    Wren, 265, 266.
    ---- Willow, 267, 271.
    ---- Wood, 268.
    Wryneck, 267.
  Migration in the Northern Shires, 261.
  Millers Dale, 236.
  Minsben's Dictionary, 202.
  Missel-thrush, 24, 55, 120, 124, 146, 147, 172, 285, 286, 290;
    migration, 269, 291;
    song, 284, 290, 291, 293.
  Monsal Dale, 236.
  Montagu, 64.
  Moorhen, 21, 23, 126, 182, 188, 189, 195, 197.
  Moorland fires, 41, 42.
  Moorlands and Roughs, 35.
  Mountain and Loch, 74.

  Nests:--
    Accentor, Hedge, 286.
    Dipper, 22, 23.
    Divers, 97, 98.
    Duck, Tufted, 200.
    Fulmar, 258.
    Gannet, 247-249.
    Goose, Gray-lag, 73.
    Grebe, Little, 195.
    Grouse, Red, 44.
    Gull, Black-headed, 129.
    ---- Lesser Black-backed, 219.
    Kingfisher, 204.
    Owl, Short-eared, 124, 125.
    Petrel, Fork-tailed, 254-255.
    Pipit, Meadow, 48.
    Plover, Golden, 70.
    Ptarmigan, 81.
    Puffin, 227.
    Robin, 286.
    Shearwater, Manx, 256.
    Sheldrake, 215, 216.
    Swan, 198.
    Twite, 50.
    Wagtail, Gray, 26, 27.
    Wheatear, 51.
    Whinchat, 175.
    Wood-lark, 115.
  Newstead, 198.
  Newstead Abbey, 201.
  Newton, Professor, on the Dipper, 18;
    on the Garden Warbler, 183;
    on the Kingfisher, 203.
  Night-crow, 109.
  Night-hawk, 106.
  Nightingale, 155.
  Nightjar, 106, 107 fig., 108-113, 140, 154, 256, 288;
    evil repute, 106, 107;
    names, 106-109;
    migration, 109, 110, 268;
    note, 111;
    colour, 111, 112;
    nesting, 288;
    eggs, 112.
  Norfolk, 117, 280.
  Norfolk Plover, 119.
  North Sea, 272-274.
  Northumberland, 213.
  Norton Lees, 159.
  Norway, 50.
  Nottinghamshire, 114, 134, 198, 200, 208.
  November, bird-life in, 291.
  Nuthatch, 154.

  October, bird-life in, 290.
  Orkneys, 52, 71, 83, 99, 209, 240.
  Osprey, 94, 95.
  Ouzel, Mountain, 52.
  ---- Ring-, 34, 52, 53 fig., 54-57, 59, 171, 184;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 53, 54, 267, 271, 290;
    nesting, 288;
    song, 55.
  ---- Tor, 52.
  ---- Water, 18.
  Ouzels, 287.
  Owl, Barn, 184.
  ---- Churn, 108.
  ---- Fern, 108.
  ---- Long-eared, 137.
  ---- Short-eared, 122, 123 fig., 124, 125;
    migration, 265, 269, 277, 278;
    nest, 124, 125;
    eggs, 125.
  ---- Tawny, 144.
  Owls, 20, 110, 112, 140, 144, 151, 185, 256;
    migration, 278.
  Owler Bar, 53.
  Oyster-catcher, 104, 210, 218, 226.

  Partridge, English, 121.
  ---- Red-legged, 121.
  Partridges, 43, 107, 181.
  Passeres, 16, 132, 154.
  Passerines, 46, 115, 127.
  Peak District, 13, 34, 52, 82, 236, 238.
  Pennine chain, 52.
  Pentland Firth, 240.
  Penzance, 49.
  Peregrine, 59, 76-78, 85, 86, 239, 250.
  Petrel, Fork-tailed, 232, 254, 255 fig., 280;
    nest, 254-255;
    eggs, 255, 256.
  ---- Stormy, 193, 232, 256, 280.
  Petrels, 232, 233, 258, 260.
  Pettichaps, 183.
  Peveril Castle, 237.
  Phalarope, Red-necked, 93, 99, 100;
    migration, 268.
  Pheasant, 43, 107, 121, 132, 135, 142, 145, 148, 149, 151, 288, 291.
  Picidæ, 154.
  Pigeon, 82, 148.
  Pinnacles, 240, 243.
  Pipit, Meadow, 46-48, 59, 127, 284, 290;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 46, 47, 282;
    nesting, 47, 48;
    song, 47.
  ---- Rock, 213, 226.
  ---- Tree, 114, 175, 287, 289;
    migration, 268.
  Pipits, 181, 187;
    migration, 290.
  Plover, Golden, 69, 70;
    migration, 264, 279;
    nest, 70;
    eggs, 70.
  ---- Gray, migration, 265, 266.
  ---- Norfolk, 119.
  ---- Ringed, 104, 193, 206, 207, 210, 211 fig., 212, 218, 225;
    migration, 266;
    eggs, 212.
  ---- Stone, 119.
  ---- Thick-kneed, 119.
  Plovers, 34, 59, 66-68, 93, 94, 293;
    migration, 265, 269, 278, 282;
    nesting, 288.
  Pochard, 201, 207.
  Pool, By River and, 186.
  Protection of birds, 38.
  Protective coloration:--
    Curlew, Stone, 117, 118, 120, 121;
    Grouse, Red, 43, 79;
    Grouse, Willow, 80;
    Gull, Lesser Black-backed, 220;
    Plover, 212;
    Ptarmigan, 76-79;
    Tern, Lesser, 211;
    Tern, Sandwich, 223.
  Ptarmigan, 42, 75, 76, 78, 80, 81, 83;
    protective coloration, 76, 78;
    note, 81;
    nest, 81;
    eggs, 81.
  Puckeridge, 109.
  Puffin, 218, 226, 227, 231, 242, 244, 250, 254;
    nest, 227.

  Quail, migration, 268.

  Rail, Land, 176-178;
    migration, 268.
  ---- Water, 125, 126, 193, 197.
  Raptores, 61, 65.
  Raven, 66, 76, 77 fig., 87, 88, 236.
  Rawlinson, 134.
  Ray, 183.
  Razorbill, 103, 231, 240, 241 fig., 242, 250, 254.
  Redcar, 194, 273.
  Redmires, 30, 139.
  Redpole, 33, 189, 190, 290.
  ---- Lesser, 168, 169, 170, 291.
  Redshank, 33, 72, 94, 126;
    migration, 264, 269, 278.
  Redstart, 155, 183, 239, 287;
    migration, 267.
  Redwing, 127, 141, 166, 172, 173, 182, 286, 293;
    migration, 166, 172, 263, 265, 269, 279, 290.
  Ribble, 206.
  Rivelin, 14, 21.
  Rivelin Valley, 48, 52, 53, 54, 59, 132, 138, 146, 154, 238, 275.
  River and Pool, By, 186.
  Robin, 141, 182, 183, 285, 291;
    song, 19, 289, 291, 293;
    perennial song, 19, 283;
    nest, 286;
    migration, 263, 266, 268, 269.
  Robin Hood, 143.
  Rockier, 148.
  Rocky Mountains, 17.
  Rodd, 50.
  Rook, 127, 129, 141, 144, 159, 160, 161 fig., 162, 196, 290;
    service to farmers, 160;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 264, 269;
    nesting, 284, 285.
  Ross-shire, 94, 99.
  Rough, meaning of, 35 note.
  Roughs, Moorlands and, 35.
  Ruff, migration, 266.

  Saint Kilda, 87, 89, 90, 209, 240, 251-257, 260.
  Sanderling, 207;
    migration, 265, 266, 269, 278.
  Sandpiper, 16, 66, 70, 93, 94;
   migration, 271.
  ---- Common, 28 fig., 29-32, 59, 60, 207;
    migration, 29, 268;
    nesting, 288;
    attachment to nesting-place, 29, 30;
    eggs, 31;
    note, 32.
  ---- Curlew, 207;
    migration, 266.
  Sawbill, 101.
  Scandinavia, 17.
  Scaup, 207, 233;
    migration, 269.
  Scolopacineæ, 119.
  Scoter, 99, 233;
    migration, 265, 269, 278.
  Scotland, 27, 30, 51, 52, 133, 152.
  Scrapire, 257.
  Scully, Dr., 63.
  Sea and Shore, On, 209.
  Sea-cliff, On Crag and, 236.
  September, bird-life in, 290.
  Shakespeare, on the Kingfisher, 202.
  Sheaf, 14, 25.
  Shearwater, 232, 258.
  ---- Manx, 232, 256;
    nest, 256;
    eggs, 256.
  Sheffield, 25, 30, 34, 46, 53, 59, 106, 117, 141, 154-156, 159,
      171, 183, 187, 189, 275, 283.
  Sheldrake, 73, 102, 214, 215 fig., 233;
    nest, 215, 216;
    eggs, 216.
  Sherwood Forest, 99, 106, 122, 132, 142, 146, 156, 198.
  Shetlands, 29, 50, 71, 83, 99, 152, 209, 240.
  Shore, On Sea and, 209.
  Shoveler, 200.
  Shrike, Great Gray, migration, 280.
  Siberia, 273.
  Siskin, 33, 167, 170, 189-191.
  Skua, 228;
    migration, 266.
  ---- Buffon's, migration, 266.
  Sky-lark, 19, 52, 114, 115, 127, 178;
    migration, 178, 264, 269, 273, 276, 279;
    song, 114, 115, 284-286, 291, 293.
  Skye, 26, 31, 33, 64, 76, 83, 86, 102.
  Sligachan, 87.
  Snipe, 34, 70, 71, 147;
    drumming, 71;
    migration, 264.
  ---- Common, 126;
    migration, 269.
  ---- Jack, 127, 181, 291;
    migration, 181, 265.
  ---- Summer, 28, 30.
  Soay, 253, 256.
  Solway, 206.
  Somerset, 52.
  Song note:--
    Accentor, Hedge, 283, 286, 293.
    Blackbird, 285, 286, 289.
    Blackcap, 289.
    Bunting, Reed, 171.
    ---- Yellow, 281, 286.
    Chaffinch, 164, 285.
    Chiffchaff, 290.
    Cuckoo, 286, 288.
    Curlew, 71.
    Dipper, 19, 24, 286.
    Greenfinch, 286.
    Kingfisher, 205.
    Nightjar, 111.
    Ouzel, Ring-, 55.
    Pipit, Meadow, 47.
    Ptarmigan, 81.
    Robin, 19, 289, 291, 293;
      perennial, 19, 283.
    Sandpiper, 32.
    Sky-lark, 114, 115, 284-286, 291, 293.
    Starling, 163, 177, 284, 290, 291, 293.
    Thrush, Missel-, 284, 290, 291, 293.
    ---- Song, 285.
    Twite, 48.
    Wagtail, Gray, 26, 27.
    Warbler, Garden, 183, 184.
    ---- Grasshopper, 116.
    ---- Sedge, 127.
    Wheatear, 51.
    Whitethroat, 289.
    Wood-lark, 113, 114.
    Wren, 286, 290, 291, 293;
      perennial, 283.
  Sparrow, in August, 289;
    in September, 290;
    nest in January, 284;
    in February, 285.
  Sparrow, Hedge, migration, 266.
  ---- House, 163, 170, 291;
    migration, 263-264 note;
    voracity, 163, 170.
  ---- Tree, 167;
    migration, 263, 269.
  Sparrow-hawk, 61, 65, 66, 133, 136-138, 164, 184;
    migration, 264;
    nesting, 288.
  Speeton, 240.
  Spurn, 213, 272, 274, 275.
  Stack Armin, 253.
  Stanage Edge, 53.
  Starling, 16, 127, 143, 162, 184, 205, 238, 290;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 264, 265, 268, 269;
    pairing, 284, 285;
    song, 163, 177, 284, 290, 291, 293.
  Stint, Little, migration, 266.
  Stints, 207.
  Stonechat, 52, 116;
    migration, 265, 269, 291.
  Stone-clatter, 51.
  Stone Curlew, 117, 118 fig., 119-121;
    protective coloration, 117, 118, 120, 121;
    local names, 118, 119;
    migration, 120, 268;
    eggs, 120.
  Stone Plover, 119.
  Storer, 203.
  Stormcock, 56, 172.
  Strome Ferry, 33, 94.
  Sturnus, 16.
  Suffolk, 117.
  Sunderland, 214.
  Sussex Downs, 57.
  Sutherland, 99, 240.
  Swallow, 29, 51, 180, 192, 196, 197, 287;
    migration, 192, 266, 268, 271, 277, 290.
  Swan, 192, 198, 208, 215;
    nest, 198;
    eggs, 198;
    migration, 264.
  Swan, Bewick's, 192, 208.
  Swift, 185, 196, 239, 288;
    migration, 260, 271, 289.

  Talisker, 86, 88.
  Teal, 73, 99, 193, 197, 200;
    migration, 265, 269.
  Tees, 208.
  Tern, 73, 102, 206, 218, 228, 229 fig., 230;
    migration, 271.
  ---- Arctic, 103, 206, 221, 223;
    eggs, 224.
  ---- Common, 103, 206, 221, 224;
    eggs, 225.
  ---- Lesser, 206, 210, 211 fig., 212;
    eggs, 211.
  ---- Roseate, 221.
  ---- Sandwich, 206, 221-223;
    eggs, 223.
  Thick-knee, 117, 119.
  Thorne, 127.
  Thrush, 16, 54, 55, 57, 141, 171, 177, 181.
  ---- Missel-, 24, 55, 120, 124, 146, 147, 172, 285, 286, 290;
    migration, 269-291;
    song, 284, 290, 291, 293.
  ---- Song, 19, 23, 172, 173, 289, 290;
    migration, 263, 264, 268, 269, 291;
    nest, 286;
    song, 285.
  Tit, 191;
    flocking, 289.
  ---- Crested, 154.
  Titlark, 34.
  Titmice, 34, 141, 154, 183, 190 fig., 191, 284, 291;
    migration, 265, 266, 269, 275, 291;
    pairing, 285.
  Titmouse, 292 fig.
  ---- Bearded, 154.
  Torquay, 87.
  Totani, 71.
  Totley, 132.
  Tringa merula aquatica, 16.
  Tunstall, on the Dipper, 18.
  Turnstone, migration, 269.
  Twigmoor, 127.
  Twite, 34, 48, 49 fig., 50, 51, 59, 168, 169;
    flocking, 289;
    migration, 282, 290;
    nest, 50;
    nesting, 280;
    note, 48;
    eggs, 50.
  Tyne, 206.

  Upland Streams, By, 11.

  Vieillot, 255.

  Waders, migration, 265, 289.
  Wagtail, Gray, 24, 25 fig., 26-28, 30, 180, 189, 194-195, 201, 286;
    migration, 24;
    nest, 26, 27;
    song, 26, 27;
    attachment to breeding-place, 27.
  ---- Pied, 178, 180, 192, 194-195, 286, 291-292;
    migration, 265, 266, 268, 269.
  ---- Yellow, 178, 179 fig., 180, 286.
  Wagtails, 187.
  Wainfleet, 280.
  Wales, 52, 58, 133.
  Walton Hall, 196.
  ---- Park, 193.
  Warbler, Dartford, 116, 117.
  ---- Garden, 183;
    migration, 268;
    song, 183, 184.
  ---- Grasshopper, 111, 116;
    migration, 268;
    song, 116.
  ---- Reed, 127, 195;
    migration, 267.
  ---- Sedge, 127, 155, 195;
    migration, 268, 271;
    song, 127.
  Warblers, 141, 181;
    migration, 290.
  Wash, 208, 210, 235, 272, 275-277, 280.
  Water-crow, 18, 31.
  Water-ouzel, 18.
  Water-rail, 125, 126, 193, 197.
  Waterton, Charles, 193, 283.
  Western Isles, 19.
  Wharncliffe, 236.
  ---- Crags, 106.
  ---- Woods, 132, 149.
  Wheatear, 51, 155, 239, 286, 287 fig.;
    migration, 51, 267, 268, 271;
    nest, 51;
    note 51.
  Wheel-bird, 109.
  Whimbrel, 71, 207;
    migration, 266.
  Whinchat, 173, 174 fig.;
    migration, 267, 271;
    nest, 175;
    eggs, 175.
  Whitby, 274.
  White, Gilbert, 57.
  Whitethroat, 115, 268, 287;
    migration, 267, 271;
    song, 289.
  ---- Lesser, migration, 267.
  Whoopers, 208.
  Wigeon, 73, 193, 197, 233;
    migration, 265, 269, 278.
  Wight, Isle of, 82.
  Willow Grouse, 43, 80.
  Willughby, 183.
  Woodcock, 144, 145 fig., 181, 291;
    migration, 264-266, 269, 277, 278.
  Wood-lark, 113-115;
    nest, 115;
    song, 113, 114.
  Woodpecker, 132, 151, 154;
    absent from Ireland and Scotland, 152.
  ---- Greater Spotted, 152, 153 fig.
  ---- Green, 151, 152.
  ---- Lesser Spotted, 152.
  Wren, 16, 22, 47, 141, 182, 183, 251, 252;
    migration, 265, 266, 268, 269;
    song, 286, 290, 291, 293;
    perennial songster, 283.
  ---- Willow, 155-157, 287;
    migration, 267, 271.
  ---- Wood, 156, 157, 288;
    migration, 268.
  Writing Lark, 171.
  Wryneck, 153, 154;
    migration, 267.
  Wye, 14, 25.
  Wyming Brook, 14, 30, 138.

  Yoldring, 171.
  Yorkshire, 12, 13, 19, 20, 24, 29, 44-47, 51, 52, 54, 64-66,
      68, 71, 106, 117, 125, 127, 133, 134, 147, 148, 152, 154,
      155, 165, 167, 168, 170-173, 175, 181, 183, 184, 190,
      193-196, 201, 203, 208, 210, 213, 236, 237, 239, 240, 261-263,
      265, 267, 271-273, 275, 277, 286, 288, 293.
  Yorkshire moors, changing aspects of, 35;
    varied bird-life on, 35.


       *       *       *       *       *


FOOTNOTES


[1] "Rough", a local name for wild, uncultivated, rocky lands on
    the borders of the moors, clothed with coarse herbage, bramble,
    heath, and a variety of Vacciniaceæ, sphagnum, and other plants.

[2] Conf. _Zoologist_, 1878, p. 29.

[3] We say nothing about the migrations of the House Sparrow,
    because at present they are not at all clear. The bird visits
    the lighthouses and light-vessels in spring and autumn, but
    the movement is not yet clearly defined.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber Notes


All paragraphs split by illustrations were rejoined. All obvious
typographical errors were corrected. Hyphenation was standardized
to the most prevalent version of word(s).





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