Page images
PDF
EPUB

of a thick covert, to utter a pretty constant grating sound (somewhat like scolding, in our opinion,) of cha, cha, cha; which it leaves off as soon as it is disturbed.

In the United States there is a little bird, called the Maryland yellow-throat, whose habits resemble our whitethroat. “It might with propriety be denominated Humility (says Wilson); its business or ambition seldom leading it higher than the tops of the underwood. Insects and their larva are its usual food. It dives into the deepest of the thicket, rambles among the roots, searches round the stems, examines both sides of the leaf, raising itself on its legs so as to peep into every crevice; amusing itself at times with a very simple, and not disagreeable, song or twitter, - whitititee, whitititee, whitititee; pausing for half a minute or so, and then repeating its notes as before.”*

There is another species, called the LESSER WHITETHROAT, found in the southern counties, differing little from the preceding, and inferior in song

“ It will soon become tame and familiar; and will readily take to feed on bread and milk, and also on bruised hemp-seed and bread.” Bewick says, “ It is of a shy and solitary disposition, and not often seen; darting

Sweet says:

* Wilson's American Ornithology.

like a mouse through the interior branches of the brakes and underwoods, among which it shelters itself.”

There is one handsome visiter often seen about our shrubberies, whose splendid plumage of grey, red, and black must attract every observer. It is the REDSTART, sometimes called redtail, or brantail. We have often watched it with much interest; by its gaudy apparel, it is distinguished from most of the other warblers, and has some habits peculiar to itself. “ During its residence with us, it will generally be found in the vicinity of old walls, in the crevices of which, as well as in the holes of decayed trees, it prepares its nest.

This is formed of moss, with a lining of hair and feathers, and contains from five to eight eggs, of a fine greenish blue, lighter in shade than those of the hedge warbler (our resident). It is an active and restless bird ; and, when perched, shakes its tail with a rapid and singularly tremulous motion. From its song, (which, though short, is of sweet and pleasant notes,) together with its light elegant shape and varied plumage, it may be considered one of the most interesting of our summer visitants." *

If we visit, in the summer season, any

of

* Selby.

those old castles or monastic ruins which give so much additional interest to many parts of our country, whilst the daws respond to each other with their appropriate melancholy call, as we walk round the ruined walls and fallen fragments, this elegant bird will often flit before us; and, standing on a broken battlement or moss-grown pillar, shake its bright plumage, as if in triumph over the works of man!

It is said, “ that when it first arrives in spring, it mounts to the top of the loftiest trees, where it will sit and sing for hours, beginning at day-break.” This species is singularly attached to its nest : we remember one,

which had made its nesting-place in a garden wall, being discovered by a young lady, who used to visit it daily, and who dexterously caught the old bird, when sitting, and carried it, with great tenderness, into the house, to show her sister; and then replaced it on the nest. Notwithstanding this, and that the eggs and young ones were afterwards frequently handled, the redstart reared her progeny safely: and the young lady, who may think she had some hand in the matter, looks for the arrival of her friends every

summer. * Mr. Sweet says that, “in confinement, the redstart will sing by night as well as by day, if a light be kept in the room where it is : it will soon get very tame, and be much attached to the person that feeds it: if brought up from the nest, it may be taught to sing any tune that is whistled to it. One that I was in possession of,” continues he, “ learned to sing the Copenhagen waltz, only it would sometimes stop in the middle of it and say, “Chipput,' — a name by which it was generally called, and which it would always repeat every time I entered the room where it was, either by night or day.”

* We do not recommend this practice to our young friends.

It may be, that, in our summer walks, leaving the shrubbery and the groves, we sometimes visit the margins of rivers and brooks, where, refreshed in the heat by moist exhalations, the foliage is greenest, and the wild plants most luxuriant; frequently, amid the damp underwood or swampy places overgrown with briars, we shall hear a long-continued monotonous birring note, like that of a field cricket; “ the note consists of a sort of sibilant ringing cry, repeated for many minutes without intermission." This proceeds from the GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, “ a remarkably shy and timid species; it is seldom seen on the wing, but remains shrouded in the middle of the thickest furze or other entanglements, which it threads with the rapidity of a mouse.” Mr. Montagu thinks the sound

may serve as a decoy note to the mole cricket, and also as an invitation to the bird's mate. *

However that be, our little songster is a sort of ventriloquist, as it can cause the sound, at one moment, to proceed from the immediate neighbourhood of the listener, and, at the next, as if removed “to some distance; and this, without any actual change of place in the operator.”+ An observer remarks, “ they occasionally drop to a third below the key, but soon resume it again.”! The general plumage is of an oil green, well suited to concealment amid the underwood. The tail is wedge-shaped. It is sometimes found in thick hedges and on damp commons; its nest is concealed in a most artful

“ Nothing can be more amusing," says Mr. White, “than the whisper of this little bird, which seems to be close by, though at a hundred yards' distance; and, when close at your ear, is scarce any louder than when a great way off. The country people laugh when you

tell them it is the note of a bird.”'S If we pursue our walk to some sweep of the river “ with verdant alders crowned,” or to the sedgy meer or reedy pool, we shall hear the little

* “This note begins in the dusk of the evening, and the grasshoppers chirp with the setting sun.” — Montagu. + Selby.

# Mag. Nat. Hist., vol. v. p. 18. Ś White's Selborne.

manner.

« PreviousContinue »