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The DARTFORD WARBLER is another visitant of furze commons in the southern counties, and has a pleasing song: being, however, a local and rare species, we will only refer to Montagu or Selby for its habits. In Provence it is said to be common, and to roost within the fold of the leaves of the large field cabbage (a comfortable shelter) to secure itself (says Buffon) from the bat. This imputation on the poor bat is, however, probably quite groundless.
Mr. White gives the following table of the commencement of song in different birds in Hampshire:1. Missel Bird · January and February. 2. Song Thrush
- February and to August. 3. Blackbird - Feb. and Mar. to Whitsuntide. 4. Woodlark - January, and through summer and
autumn. 5. Robin 6. Wren 7. Skylark - Early in February. 8. Hedge-sparrow - Early in February to July 10. 9. Yellowhammer - Early in February to August 21. 10. Swallow
April to September. 11. Blackcap - April to July 13. 12. Titlark
Middle of April to July 16.
All the year. - All the year.
17. Linnet • Till August, and again in October,
and again when the flock separate. 18. Willow Wren - April to June 15. 19. Redstart - May to June 15. 20. Chaffinch
- February to June. 21. Nightingale • April to June 15. 22. Grasshopper Lark April 15. to August. 23. Wood Wren - May to August.
There are yet two summer visitants to our shrubberies and groves unnoticed, viz. the grey and pied flycatcher. They have little bristles or hairs at the base of the bill, and are con
stantly busy in our service, if their song is of no great value. The PIED, or Black and White, FLYCATCHER we cannot mistake, if we see him; but the bird is rather rare, and is not found in all places. One author says: Its manners somewhat resemble those of the other flycatchers, by snapping flies, and returning again and again to the same stand. They look
like a magpie in miniature, with a white spot, as it were the last snowdrop, very conspicuous on the forehead.”
The GREY FLYCATCHER is a common and very amusing species.t Being of a tame disposition, we may easily watch all his movements : perched (in warm weather) on a rail or post, every minute or two he leaves his resting-place in pursuit of some vagrant gnat, follows it in a zigzag flight, like a butterfly, or, flying upwards two or three feet to take his
prey, descends again to wait for more; returning repeatedly to the same station, where he stands sentinel against our insect tormentors.
Of what inestimable value would some birds of this or similar species be if domesticated in the dwellings of those who live in Italy or the West Indies, or countries teeming with gnats, midges, and mosquitoes! As Mr. Sweet and others have succeeded in preserving, for years, soft-billed and insect-eating birds, in aviaries, through our winters, we do not think it would be difficult, in more genial climates, to cherish these feathered assistants. The stork, and vulture, and the fish-hawk, are preserved as useful to
* Magazine of Natural History, No. xxiii.
+ Mr. Knapp has observed, as Mr. White did before him, this affectionate bird flutter for hours over its nest to intercept the burning rays of the sun from its offspring.
mankind in different countries. The two former are almost tame; why might not our attention and protection win to our aid, in like manner, these beautiful and diminutive allies, whose efforts in such a war would be more effective than if a race of giants rose up to help
The wild falcon and the hawk have been reclaimed so as to leave our hand at a signal, dash through the heavens after their quarry, and return to us again; and why may not a gentler race of birds be also partially tamed? Then, instead of a person of rank coming forth, bearing a hawk (the emblem of gentility), as in old times, every one of gentle blood in warm climates would be accompanied by his little plumed protector, who, perched on his patron's shoulder, would destroy and drive away
his insect enemies; or, in the sultry mid-day, stand sentinel over his slumbers. Thus would the weak assist the strong, and the strong would be bound in gratitude to give shelter to the weak. We have ourselves seen times and places, where a brace of good flycatchers would have been worth a king's ransom.
* See Humboldt's account of the winged insects on the Orinoco. “ How were you off for mosquitoes last night ? ” it seems, is the morning salutation in parts of South America, as “ How do you do?” is here.
“ The flycatcher," says White,“ is, of all our summer birds, the most mute and the most familiar; it also appears the last of any. It builds in a vine or sweetbriar, against the wall of a house, or on the end of a beam or plate, or in the hole of a wall, and often close to the post of a door, where people are going in and out all day long. This bird does not make the least pretension to song, but uses a little inward wailing note when it thinks its young in danger from cats or other annoyances. It breeds but once, and retires early."* It will build for several successive years in the same tree, if not the same place. One of them made its nest, for two years following, under the writer's study window, in a pear tree. It was very amusing to watch the old bird first catching her prey, and then feeding her young. If, however, she perceived she was watched, she would wait with her mouth full a long time, till the observer disappeared. This bird would probably have built many summers in the same place, but the gardener, who was cutting some boughs near,
“ This reminds me,” says Humboldt, “ of a salutation said to be used in China, and indicating the former state of the celestial empire, — “Tou vou hou;” or, “ How were you off for serpents in your bed last night ? ” Personal Narrative. * Selborne.