Изображения страниц

There are not wanting, however, numerous instances, in which situations have been chosen, without any regard to exposure. Thus, in the

Magazine of Natural History," it is recorded

[graphic][merged small]

that a mill-wright engaged with three of his men in constructing a threshing-machine for a farmer living near Fife, “ wrought in a cart-shed, which they had used for some time as their workshop; and one morning they observed a Mavis enter the wide door of the shed, over their heads, and fly out again after a short while. This she did two or three times, until their curiosity was excited to watch the motions of the birds more narrowly; for they began to suspect that the male and female were both implicated in this issue and entry. Upon the joists of the shed were placed along with some timber and old implements, two small harrows used for grass seeds, laid one above the other; and they were soon aware that their new companions were employed, with all the diligence of their kind, in making their nest in this singular situation. They had built it, said the workman, between one of the butts of the harrow and the adjoining tooth; and by that time, about seven o'clock, and an hour after he and his lads had commenced their work, the birds had made such progress, that they must have begun by the break of day. Of course, he did not fail to remark the future proceedings of his new friends. Their activity was incessant; and he noticed that they began to carry mortar (he said), which he and his companions well knew was for plastering the inside. Late in the same afternoon, and at six o'clock next morning, when the lads and he entered the shed, the first thing they did was to look at the Mavis's nest, which they were surprised to find occupied by one of the birds, while the other plied its unwearied toil. At last the sitting bird, or hen, as they now called her, left the nest likewise ; and he ordered one of the apprentices to climb the baulks, who called out that she had laid an egg; and this she had been compelled to do some time before the nest was finished; only plastering the bottom, which could not have been done so well afterwards. When all was finished, the cock

took his share in the hatching; but he did not sit so long as the hen, and he often fed her while she was upon the nest. In thirteen days the young birds were out of the shells, which the old ones always carried off."*

Sir William Jardine records the following anecdote as illustrating the occasional familiarity and unsuspecting confidence of this bird :—" In our own garden, last spring (1837), a somewhat singular circumstance occurred. The nest [of a SongThrush] was placed in a common laurel bush, within easy reach of the ground, and being discovered, was many times daily visited by the younger branches of our family. It occurred to some that the poor Thrush would be hungry with a seat so constant, and a proposal was made to supply the want. A good deal of difficulty occurred, from the fear of disturbing her, but it was at last proposed that the food should be tied on the end of a stick ; this was done, and the bird cautiously approached and took the first offering. The stick was gradually shortened, and in a few days the Thrush fed freely from the hand, until the young were half fledged. After this, when the parent was more frequently absent, a visit would immediately bring both male and female, who now uttered angry cries, and struck at the hand when brought near the nest.”+

In 1833 a pair of Thrushes built their nest in a low tree at the bottom of Gray's Inn Gardens, near the gates, where passengers are going by all day long. The hen laid her complement of eggs, and was sitting on them, when a cat climbed

up * Mag. of Nat. Hist. iii. 238. + Nat. Lib. ORNITHOLOGY, ii. 93.

and killed her on the nest. The cock immediately deserted the place.


(Flycatchers.) The present family seems to form the link by which the Dentirostres are connected with the Fissirostres. Like the latter, they possess a beak broad at the base, and flattened horizontally, the tip generally hooked, and the gape environed with bristles; like them, their feet are for the most part feeble, or at least not so much developed as the wings; and, like them, they feed upon winged insects, which they capture during flight. They are, however, much more sedentary in their habits; they do not pursue insects in the higher regions of the atmosphere, or wheel and course after them, as do the Swallows, but like the Todies (which have in fact often been placed in this family), they choose some prominent post of observation, where they sit and watch for vagrant insects that may pass within a short distance ; on these they dart out upon the wing, but if unsuccessful at the first swoop, rarely pursue it more than a few yards; and if successful, snapping it up with the broad and bristled beak, they return to the very spot whence they sallied out, to eat it. The habit of selecting some particular twig, or the top of a post, or other spot, from which to watch and make their assaults, and to which they return after each essay, is very characteristic of these birds.

The Muscicapade comprise a vast number of species, scattered over every part of the globe, and differing widely in the details of generic character. They are all, however, well united together by common peculiarities of structure; and in particular, by the beak being strong, broad, flat, angular on the summit, and notched at the tip, and by the presence of strong hairs or bristles that surround its base.

GENUS MUSCICAPA. (Linn.) In this genus, the only British representative of the great Family to which it belongs, the beak is rather strong, triangular, sharply ridged along the upper edge, moderately dilated at the base, where it is furnished with fine but stiff hairs. The nostrils are placed near the base, are somewhat oval, and partially covered with hairs pointing forwards. The wings are rather long and pointed, the first quill very small and rudimentary, the third longest. The tail is of moderate length, either even at the extremity, or slightly forked. The feet are rather weak, the tarsus and the middle toe somewhat lengthened.

In England we have two species of this genus, of which the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa grisola, Linn.) is the most common. The upper parts are dusky brown, the lower parts white, the throat, breast, and sides, spotted with narrow dashes of brown.'

The Spotted Flycatcher, though sufficiently abundant throughout Great Britain, is yet only one of our migratory visitors; and its stay with us is among the very shortest. It rarely arrives before the latter end of May, when the summer is

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »