« AnteriorContinuar »
THE GOLDEN ORIOLE.
IKE the Hoopoe, the Golden Oriole makes its annual visit to the European continent from the countries south of the Mediterranean, in the month of April, and returns in September. In the interval it may be found not uncommonly in the wooded parts of Central and Southern Europe; but it is rare in the north, being seldom seen in Sweden, and unknown in Norway. In England, where it may be regarded as an irregular summer migrant, it unfortunately meets with little or no protection, for its bright colours at once attract attention, and many get shot before they have been a week on our shores. The male bird is bright yellow, with black wings and a black and yellow tail. The female is dull green, with pitch-brown wings, the upper tail coverts greenish yellow, and the under parts greyish white, longitudinally streaked with brown on the shafts of the feathers; the flanks yellow, and streaked in the same way.
My impressions on meeting with Golden Orioles for the first time in France, now many years ago, will not be easily forgotten. I wanted to see them alive, hear their notes, shoot two or three to examine them closely, and ascertain the nature of their food; and accordingly I accepted the invitation of a friend and took up my quarters at an old country house, about halfway between Paris and Orleans. On looking over my note-book for that particular year, I find the following entry, relating to the Golden Oriole :—
"Long before six in the morning I was awakened by a perfect chorus of birds—Blackcap, Nightingale, Thrush, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch, Starling, and Magpie were all recognized; but what pleased me above all, was a beautiful mellow whistle, which I took to be that of the Golden Oriole, and in less than an hour afterwards I found that I was right in my surmise, for on walking through the woods which flank one side of the house, I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time alive several of these beautiful birds. They were very shy, and kept to the tops of the oak trees; but by proceeding cautiously I managed to get near enough to see and hear them well. Their note is really splendid, so mellow, loud, and clear—something of the Blackbird's tone about it, but yet very different; while in their mode of flight and perching they remind one of a Thrush. After a long search, I at length found a nest, placed at the extremity of a thin bough, and at the top of an oak tree, about sixty feet up. There were no branches for more than thirty feet, and it would have been almost impossible to reach it without assistance. I therefore marked the spot, and determined to get a long ladder a little later and try and take it. The keeper informed me that it was early yet for Orioles' eggs, and so I left the nest for the last day of my stay here. In the afternoon I went with the keeper to the Pare de Marolles. We could hear the Orioles, or Loriots, as the French call them from their notes, singing loudly in the recesses of the woods; but the foliage was so thick, and they kept so much to the tops of the trees, that it was almost impossible to catch sight of them. Their greenish-yellow feathers, too, harmonized so well with the leaves, that it rendered them still more difficult to see.
"Following the direction of the notes, I continued to make my way through the underwood as noiselessly as possible, peering through the branches, and striving in vain to catch sight of a bird. For a long time the sound seemed to be as far away as ever, or, as I advanced it receded. The sun was broiling hot, and the exertion of forcing my way through the underwood, and straining my neck forward in my endeavours to get a sight of the bird, put me in a profuse perspiration. The result of about three hours' work was, that I finally succeeded in getting three shots at long intervals, and secured a pair of Orioles, a young male and an old female. Subsequently, however, I got others. I found the stomachs of these birds crammed with caterpillars of various species, and can well understand the good they do in young plantations, by ridding the trees of these pests.
"The colours of the soft parts in these birds, as noted by me at the time, were as follows:— Iris, reddish hazel; bill, brownish flesh colour; legs and toes, pale lead colour.
"On June 3rd, after breakfast, I went to the wood near the house to take a Golden Oriole's nest, and a difficult matter it was. The nest was placed in a slender fork at the extremity of a thin bough of an oak tree, and almost at the top.
"The oaks here are not, as in England, sturdy