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come to its full colours. In about a year it began to look dingy; and, blackening every succeeding year, it became coal-black at the end of four. Its chief food was hempseed. Such influence has food on the colour of animals! The pied and mottled colours of domesticated animals are supposed to be owing to high, various, and unusual food. *
I had remarked, for years, that the root of the cuckoo-pint (arum) was frequently scratched out of the dry banks of hedges, and eaten in severe snowy weather. After observing, with some exactness, myself, and getting others to do the same, we found it was the thrush kind that searched it out. The root of the arum is remarkably warm and pungent.
Our flocks of female chaffinches have not yet forsaken us.
The blackbirds and thrushes are very much thinned down by that fierce weather in January.
In the middle of February I discovered, in my tall hedges, a little bird that raised my curiosity: it was of that yellow-green colour that belongs to the salicaria kind, and, I think, was soft-billed.
It was no parus ; and was too long and too big for the goldencrowned wren, appearing most like the largest willowwren.t It hung sometimes with its back downwards,
* It is no very unusual circumstance to find white and pied varieties among birds of dark plumage. Mr. Yarrell mentions white and cream-coloured as well as pied Ravens ; and white Blackbirds are not uncommon. In a domesticated state food will, no doubt, somewhat influence the colour. is known that fish take some of their colour from the bottom of the river; and Mr. Pegge, in his “Anonymia," mentions “that butterflies partake of the colours of the flowers they feed on;" a curious fact, if true. But it is difficult to see how the food of wild birds can affect the plumage of individuals since all fare alike.-ED.
† Probably the Dartford Warbler (Melirophilis Dartfordiensis), which breeds with us, and specimens of which have
but never continuing one moment in the same place. I shot at it, but it was so desultory that I missed my aim.
I wonder that the stone curlew, charadrius oedicnemus, should be mentioned by the writers as a rare bird: it abounds in all the campaign parts of Hampshire and Sussex, and breeds, I think, all the summer, having young ones, I know, very late in the autumn. Already they begin clamouring in the evening. They cannot, I think, with any propriety, be called, as they are by Mr. Ray, dwellers about streams or ponds, circa aquas versantes; for with us, by day at least, they haunt only the most dry, open, upland fields and sheep walks, far removed from water: what they may do in the night I cannot say. Worms are their usual food, but they also eat toads and frogs.
I can show you some good specimens of my new mice. Linnæus perhaps would call the species mus minimus.
been killed at Alton. They are active little creatures, erecting the crest and tail, flying in a short jerking manner, and seizing small insects on the wing. It also feeds whilst flying, suspending itself with back and head down, as described in the text.-ED.
Fans MHE history of the stone curlew, chara
& drius oedicnemus, is as follows. It lays Se its eggs, usually two, never more than MS N three, on the bare ground, without any nest, in the field; so that the countryman, in stirring his fallows, often destroys them. The young run immediately from the egg like partridges, &c., and are withdrawn to some finty field by the dam, where they skulk among the stones, which are their best security; for their feathers are so exactly of the colour of our gray spotted flints, that the most exact observer, unless he catches the eye of the young bird, may be eluded. The eggs are short and round; of a dirty white, spotted with dark bloody blotches. Though I might not be able, just when I pleased, to procure you a bird, yet I could show you them almost any day; and any evening you may hear them round the village, for they make a clamour which may be heard a mile. Oedicnemus is a most apt and expressive name for them, since their legs seem swollen like those of a gouty man. After harvest I have shot them before the pointers in turnip-fields.
· I make no doubt but there are three species of the willow-wrens: two I know perfectly; but have not been able yet to procure the third. No two birds can differ more in their notes, and that constantly, than those two that I am acquainted with; for the one has a joyous, easy, laughing note; the other a harsh loud chirp.* The former is every way larger, and three quarters of an inch longer, and weighs two drams and a-half; while the latter weighs but two: so the songster is one-fifth heavier than the chirper. - The chirper (being the first summer-bird of passage that is heard, the wryneck sometimes excepted) begins his two notes in the middle of March, and continues them through the spring and summer till the end of August, as appears by my journals. The legs of the larger of these two are flesh-coloured; of the less, black.
The grasshopper-lark began his sibilous note in my fields last Saturday. Nothing can be more amusing than the whisper of this little bird, which seems to be close by though at an hundred yards distance; and, when close at your ear, is scarce any louder than when a great way off. Had I not been a little acquainted with insects, and known that the grasshopper kind is not yet hatched, I should have hardly believed but that it had been a locusta whispering in the bushes. The country people laugh when you tell them that it is the note of a bird. It is a most artful creature, sculking in the thickest part of a bush; and will sing at a yard distance, provided it be concealed. I was obliged to get a person to go on the
The yellow Wood-wren, Sylva sibilatrix, the willow Woodwren, Motacilla trochilus, and the Chiff-chaff, or short-winged Wood-wren, Sylva hippolais, are three well-established species. -ED.
other side of the hedge where it haunted; and then it would run, creeping like a mouse, before us for an hundred yards together, through the bottom of the thorns; yet it would not come into fair sight: but in a morning early, and when undisturbed, it sings on the top of a twig, gaping and shivering with its wings. Mr. Ray himself had no knowledge of this bird, but received his account from Mr. Johnson, who apparently confounds it with the reguli non cristati, from which it is very distinct.
The Ay-catcher (stoparola, Ray) has not yet appeared: it usually breeds in my vine. The redstart begins to sing : its note is short and imperfect, but is continued till about the middle of June. The willow-wrens (the smaller sort) are horrid pests in a garden, destroying the peas, cherries, and currants, and are so tame that a gun will not scare them.*
* A List of the Summer Birds of Passage discovered in this neighbourhood, ranged somewhat in the Order in which they appear :
Jynx torquilla :
Motacilla trochilus :
Alauda trivialis :
Rallus crex :