Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

visitant to England, Scotland, and Ireland; that it is the earliest of the summer warblers to visit us; and that it remains with us until the first week of September, when it migrates to the south-east to spend the winter in a warmer climate. It appears to be common at that season in Italy, Sicily, the Maltese Islands, and Asia Minor; and Mr. Blyth has found it as far to the eastward as Calcutta.

Old English authors, who knew the Garden Warbler as the Greater Pettychaps, gave the Chiff-chaff the name of the Lesser Pettychaps, presumably from its general resemblance to it in miniature. These two names, however, may now be considered as obsolete.

Whilst on the subject of Willow Warblers, we may refer to the fact that a single example of another species, P. hypolais (vel icterina, the oldest name for it), which is common enough on the other side of the German Ocean, is recorded to have been taken in England, and another in Ireland. The bird is known as the Yellow-billed Chiff-chaff, Melodious Willow Warbler, and Icterine Warbler.1 So long ago as June, 1848, the English specimen referred to was killed at Eythorne, near Dover, and the fact was communicated by Dr. Plomley to Mr. Yarrell, who published it in his "History of British Birds." A second British example of this species was shot at Dunsinea, county Dublin, in June, 1856, and is now in the Royal Dublin Society's Museum.2 In size it equals the Wood Warbler, and resembles it somewhat in colour, but it has a shorter wing (275 in. instead of 3 in.); the whole of the under parts are sulphur-yellow, and the legs and toes are slate colour. These characters may serve to distinguish it at once should it again be met with by ornithologists in England. Should its song be heard, all doubts would at once be set at rest, for as a warbler it is far superior to any of the three species just mentioned. I have had many opportunities of seeing and hearing this little bird in Holland, and can testify to the power and variety of its song. Frequently I contrived to get within a few feet of it, and could almost see the notes as they poured out of its tiny throat. The eggs when fresh are the most lovely imaginable, being of a bright pink with dark purple spots, scattered chiefly at the larger end. The nest, as I have already hinted, is cup-shaped, and placed at a little height from the ground; the bird in this respect departing from the usual habit of the Willow Warblers.

1 See Professor Newton's edition of Yarrell's " History of British Birds," vol. i. p. 360.

2 This specimen was recorded at the time by Dr. Carte in the " Journal of the Royal Dublin Society," vol. i. p. 440.

These notes being intended rather as suggestions for those who desire to know a little about our summer birds, than as a condensed history of the species, I may observe, in concluding this chapter, that those who are anxious to glean further particulars about the Willow Warblers and their allies, will do well to consult an excellent article on the subject by Professor Schlegel, published (in French) in 1851 in the "Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of Amsterdam."

[graphic]

THE NIGHTINGALE.

(Philomela luscinia.)

T N common with one or two allied species, -*- the Nightingale differs so materially in structure and habits from the garden or fruiteating warblers (Sylvia), with which it has been generally associated, that most naturalists nowadays are agreed in regarding it as the type of a separate genus (Philomela). For want of a better English name, and as indicating their haunt, the members of this genus may be called " thicket warblers." As regards structure, they differ from the Garden Warblers in having the bill less compressed towards the tip, and wider near the gape; the legs much longer and not scutellated, the toes more adapted for walking than perching. In habits they are more retired, concealing themselves in thickets and copses, living a good deal on the ground, where they find the principal portion of their food, and building a loosely-constructed nest on or near the ground, instead of a more compact structure at a distance from it.

The sole representative of this genus in England is the far-famed Nightingale; and of all the summer migrants to this country, no species probably has attracted more attention, or given rise to more speculation and discussion amongst naturalists. The most remarkable fact in connection with its annual sojourn in England is its very partial distribution. When we find this bird in summer as far to the westward as Spain and Portugal, and as far to the northward as Sweden, we may well be surprised at its absence from Wales, Ireland,

D

« AnteriorContinuar »