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and Scotland; and yet it is the fact that the boundary line, over which it seldom if ever flies, excludes it from Cornwall, West Devon; part of Somerset, Gloucester, and Hereford; the whole of Wales (a fortiori from Ireland), part of Shropshire, the whole of Cheshire, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland. I am well aware that the Nightingale has been stated to have been heard and seen in Wales, Cumberland, and even in Mid-Lothian (see "Zoologist," p. 241); but, even if they could be relied on in every case, which is doubtful, these instances can only be regarded as exceptional. In those counties only to the east of the line indicated can the bird be considered a regular summer visitant. Mr. Blyth has expressed the opinion1 that the Nightingale migrates almost due north and south, deviating but a very little indeed either to the right or left. "There are none in Brittany," he says, "nor in the Channel Islands, and the most westward of them probably cross the Channel at Cape la Hogue, arriving on the coast of Dorsetshire, and thence apparently proceeding northwards, rather than dispersing towards the west; so that they are only known as accidental stragglers a little beyond the third degree of western longitude." They arrive generally about the end of the second week in April, and it is a well-ascertained fact that the males invariably precede the females by several days. In 1867 three London birdcatchers, between April 13 and May 2, took 225 Nightingales, and the whole of these, with five or six exceptions only, were cock birds. The previous year these same bird-catchers had supplied the dealer by whom they were employed with 280 Nightingales, of which not more than sixty were hens. From these statistics we may infer that in no locality would Nightingales be more plentiful if unmolested than in the neighbourhood of London; but if one dealer only is instrumental in capturing between 200 and 300 in the season, it is easy to account for the scarcity of the species. On the arrival of the hen birds the cocks soon pair, and assist in building, during which time, and during the time the hens are sitting, they are in full song. When the young are hatched the males leave off singing, and busy themselves in bringing food to the nest.
1 Note to his edition of White's " Selborne," 1836, p. 141.
The song generally ceases before the end of the first week in June. Occasionally, however, I have heard a Nightingale sing on throughout June, but accounted for this by supposing that the nest had been robbed, and that the cock was singing while the hen hatched a second brood. Naturalists who live in London need not travel more than five miles from Charing Cross to hear the Nightingale in full song. Nay, a friend who is well acquainted with the note, has heard the bird frequently in Victoria Park, which is only two miles distant from the Bank of England, and on several occasions attentive observers have recognized the unmistakable notes of the Nightingale in the Botanical Gardens, Regent's Park, and in Kensington Gardens.
It is curious how wide-spread is the belief that the Nightingale warbles only at eve. The reason, no doubt, is that amidst the general chorus by day its song is less noticed or attended to. But that it sings constantly by day is a fact, of which we have satisfied ourselves repeatedly. Moreover, it is by no means the only bird to sing at night. The Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Woodlark, Skylark, and Thrush, may often be heard long after sunset; while the Cuckoo is fre-1 quently to be heard at midnight, and the Landrail constantly.
It would appear that of the large number of persons who profess a love for song birds very few, comparatively, have the ear to distinguish a song unless they can see the author of it. Hence it frequently happens that they listen to a Thrush of Blackcap in the early spring, and immediately inform their friends that they have heard the Nightingale weeks before it has reached this country.
Many poets have perpetuated the odd belief
that the mournful notes of the Nightingale are caused by the bird's leaning against a thorn to sing! Shakespeare, for example, in his "Passionate Pilgrim," says:
"Everything did banish moan,
These lines, by the way, although generally
.attributed to Shakespeare, and included in most
editions of his poems, were written, it is said,
by Richard Barnefield in 1598, and published
by him in a work entitled "Poems in divers
humors."1 Shakespeare's Lucrece, however,
invoking Philomel, says:
"And whiles against a thom thou bear'st thy part
Fletcher speaks of
"The bird forlorn,
1 See Ellis's "Specimens of the Early English Poets," vol. ii. p. 356