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Cambridgeshire. He says: "My attention was first attracted to this species some time since, during a visit to our fens, by the marked difference in the song of a bird somewhat similar in appearance to the true S. arundinacea (i. e., strepera); it was louder, clearer, and sweetertoned than that of the last-named. Its mode of flight, too, was more undulated and quicker. It was more shy and timid, continually retreating to the thickest covert. Never, so far as my experience goes, does it emit notes similar to the syllables 'chee-chee-chee' so common to S. arundinacea!'
Another specimen of this bird was obtained in Cambridgeshire by the late James Hamilton, jun., of Minard, during the summer of 1864, and was exhibited at a meeting of the Natural History Society of Glasgow in February, 1865, as recorded by Mr. E. R. Alston in the "Zoologist," 1866, p. 496.
In the same year, Mr. Robert Mitford gave an account ("Zoologist," 1864, p. 9109) of a Reed Warbler which he found nesting in lilac trees in his garden at Hampstead, and which at the time was thought to differ specifically from S. strepera, and possibly to be S. palustris. In the summer of 1863 Mr. Mitford had found four pairs of this bird breeding in gardens under similar circumstances, and in July, 1865, he shot two of the same birds, both males, and found, as he says, " two nests similar in structure, and similarly situated to those of the previous year in my garden, from both of which the young had evidently flown only a few days previously. The birds were not in good order, but just beginning their moult. I so arranged the matter that at the time I shot these birds I received from Romney Marsh fresh-killed specimens of the true Reed Warbler, shot in the reeds of the fen ditches; and in comparing the two birds in the flesh together, I have little hesitation in saying that the inland warbler is not our Reed Warbler. I will not enter into the chief points of difference at present, as I hope next May to get a specimen or two in finer plumage." (" Zoologist," 1865, p. 9847.)
Mr. Mitford I believe has not altered the opinion which he originally expressed; but, from a careful examination of the birds shot by him, I am inclined to regard them all as 5. strepera. This peculiarity in the Reed Warbler of nesting at a distance from water has since been noticed by naturalists in other parts of the country. In 1866 I referred to a confirmation of the fact as communicated by a friend at Ealing,1 and Mr. A. C. Kennedy, in his "Birds of Berks and Bucks" (p. 81), has alluded to the same habit from his own observation near Windsor. In all probability the birds seen by Lord Clermont in lilac bushes at Twickenham2 were also Reed Warblers.
Mr. Frederick Bond some time since called my attention to the occurrence of the rarer S. palustris in Norfolk, and kindly lent me a series of skins of both species procured in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Sussex. Of these, two specimens of S. palustris were killed at Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, many years ago, under the impression that they were 5. strepera; and three others near Norwich in June, 1869, under the like misapprehension. They do not differ in any way from skins of palustris from France and Germany, with which I have compared them.
1 "The Birds of Middlesex," p. 47. 1 "Zoologist," 1865, p. 9729.
The characters by which this species may be distinguished from S. strepera may be briefly stated as follows :—
Although the colour of the upper portion of the plumage in both is a uniform olive-brown, .S. palustris is yellower. It is a somewhat longer bird, with a shorter and broader bill; a buffy-white line, extending from the base of the bill over the eye, is clearly defined. In strepera this line is so faint as to be scarcely discernible. Mr. Yarrell, indeed, considered it to be absent in strepera; but, from this circumstance, and from the fact of his describing the legs of this species as pale-brown, it may be inferred that he had before him, and figured, a young bird.
The first primary in the wing of both is very
short, quite rudimentary, in fact; while the third in each is the longest in the wing. Inpalustris the second primary is equal to the fourth; while in strepera the second is equal to the fifth. It is doubtful whether this can be invariably relied upon, for the length of feathers, even in the same species, will sometimes vary considerably, through age, moult, or accident.
The readiest means of distinguishing the two birds at a glance will be by the colour of the legs and toes. In living or freshly-killed specimens it will be observed that the tarsi and feet of strepera are of a slaty-brown colour, while in palustris the same parts are flesh-colour. In dried skins, the former turns to hair-brown ; the latter to yellowish-brown. The tarsus of palustris, moreover, is rather longer and stouter than that of its congener. From this it appears that Mr. Gould in his "Birds of Great Britain" has figured palustris for strepera.
Dr. Bree, in his "Birds of Europe," has unfortunately figured palustris with slate-coloured legs and feet, which quite alters its appearance,