Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

unlike that of any of the river warblers; for, instead of being of a uniform brown, it has a broad band of black across both webs of all the feathers (except the two centre ones) towards their extremities, which black band is terminated by white. This is very conspicuous as the bird moves it up and down, and could not fail to attract the notice of anyone who has paid attention to birds. It does not appear, however, that this species has been identified in this country with certainty more than twice, although it may possibly have occurred oftener. A specimen shot at Plumpton Bosthill, near Brighton, in September, 1854, was recorded by Mr. Borrer in the "Zoologist" for that year (p. 45n), and was figured by Mr. Yarrell in the third edition of his " History of British Birds" (i. p. 314). A second, obtained at Start Point, Devonshire, in September, 1859, was noticed by Mr. Llewellyn in the "Annals and Magazine of Nat. History," 1859 (iv. p. 399), and in the "Ibis," i860 (p. 103). It is possible that this may be the Red-tailed Warbler (Sylvia erythaca), six specimens of which are stated to have been taken near Plymouth, and to have occurred there for the first time in Britain.1 From a want of acquaintance with its habits, this bird has been erroneously called the Rufous Sedge Warbler. It is never found in the neighbourhood of sedge, but on the driest ground, amidst scrub and thick underwood. In fact, as regards structure and habits, it differs in so many respects from the river warblers that it has been generally separated from them, and, except for convenience, ought not to be included in the present sketch. Its real home seems to be North Africa and Palestine; but it is not uncommon in some parts of Southern Europe, and is found (accidentally only) as far north as the British Islands.

1 Cf. Bellamy's "Nat. Hist. South Devon," p. 205.

[graphic][merged small]

(Motacilla Yarrellu)

BY many writers on ornithology, the Pied Wagtail has been regarded as a resident species in Great Britain, since it is to be met with in some parts of the country all the year round, but there can be no doubt that large numbers migrate southward for the winter, and return to our shores again in spring. On several occasions when crossing by steamer to the opposite coasts of France and Belgium, I have seen Pied Wagtails passing across and at times even alighting on board the vessel for a short rest.

On quitting the ship they would fly round and round for some seconds with their peculiar undulatory flight, and finally make off for the land in a straight line, often directly in the vessel's course.

According to the observations of Mr. Knox, the Pied Wagtails which have wintered abroad reach the coast of Sussex about the middle of March, and on fine days may be seen approaching the shore, aided by a gentle breeze from the south, their well-known call-note being distinctly audible from the sea long before the birds come in sight.

The neighbouring fields, where but a short time previously not a bird of the kind was to be seen, are soon tenanted by numbers, and for several days they continue dropping on the beach in small parties. The old males come first, while the females and males of the previous year do not appear until some days later. After resting near the coast for a few days the new comers proceed inland, and any good observer there stationed may perceive how much the numbers of the species increase at this season. About the middle of August there is a general return movement towards the coast, and the Wagtails now first become gregarious. At that time Mr. Knox has frequently observed them in the interior of the county, where they remain but a few days, making way for fresh detachments, which in their turn follow the same route to the sea. At the end of the month, or early in September, they may be seen of a morning, flying invariably from west to east, parallel to the shore, but following each other in constant succession.

These flights continue from daybreak until about ten o'clock in the forenoon, and so steadily do the birds pursue their course that even when one or more of an advancing party have been shot, the remainder do not fly in a different direction, but opening to right and left close their ranks and continue their progress as before. During this transit their proximity to the coast depends to some degree on the character of the country lying between the South Downs and the sea; but as they advance towards Brighton,

« AnteriorContinuar »