Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

1 have been familiar enough with birds in their winter quarters, and have no hesitation* in asserting that migratory species (with the remarkable exceptions named) do not even pair until they have returned to their summer haunts. Were they to do so, I could not but have repeatedly noticed the fact, and must needs have seen very many of their nests and young."

To my suggestion that from Mr. Layard's observation of young birds there, the Common Swallow, H. rustica, probably breeds at the Cape during the season that it is absent from the British Islands, Mr. Blyth replied:—

"According to my experience of Hirundo rustica (and I have had the best opportunities for observation), it decidedly does not breed in its winter quarters. Some birds of this species, which pass their non-breeding season within the tropics, may migrate south instead of north, and breed in the summer ot the southern hemisphere instead of that of the northern hemisphere; but there is no reason to suppose that they are the same individuals. Were it so, the Cape colony would indeed be flooded with Hirundo rustica. Besides, these birds renew their plumage (as the Cuckoo likewise does) when in their winter quarters; whereas the Sand-martins (Cotyle), as I am all but sure from recollection, resemble the great majority of our summer migrants in moulting before they take their departure equatorward. That our British Sand-martin (C. riparia) breeds in Egypt during the winter months is noticed in the 'Proceedings of the Zoological Society' for 1863 (p. 288), and that its ordinary representative in India and the countries eastward (C. sinensis) does the same I can vouch from personal observation, having myself taken both eggs and young about the turn of the year from their burrows in the banks of the Hugh; while Mr. Swinhoe noticed their breeding when in their winter haunts, in the 'Ibis' for 1863, p. 257, and 1866, p. 134."

THE BLACKCAP.

{Sylvia atricapilla.)

IVE species may be conveniently grouped

under the generic term Sylvia, or Fruiteating Warblers, and these, with one exception, visit Great Britain regularly in the spring. Two of them, the Blackcap and Garden Warbler, enjoy little more immunity from traps and birdlime than does the Nightingale. Their fine song marks them at once as the prey of the professional bird-catcher, and during the month of April immense numbers are taken daily. The Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat are also sought after as cage-birds, but not to the same extent, for their song is neither so musical nor so varied.

[graphic]

In no part of the country are these four species more plentiful than in the south-eastern counties of England; and the neighbourhood of the metropolis seems to have some special attraction for them. Far from shunning "the busy haunts of men," they appear to be nowhere more at home than in our gardens and orchards. The reason is obvious as soon as we become acquainted with their habits, and the nature of their food. We then discover that their motives are not so disinterested as we might suppose, since the real attraction is fruit. Upon this the parent birds live to a great extent; and after bringing up their young upon various kinds of insects which infest fruit trees-—in which they unquestionably do us good service—they introduce their progeny at length to the more palatable pulp upon which they themselves have been faring so sumptuously. No wonder, then, that the large market-gardens of Kent, Surrey,

and Middlesex should entice such numbers of these little birds to remain in their vicinity throughout the summer.

The Blackcap {Sylvia atricapilld) is the earliest of the genus to make his appearance, and seems to be hardier also than any of his congeners. Many instances are on record of Blackcaps having remained in this country throughout the winter, and this has been noticed as particularly the case in Ireland. It is rather singular that Mr. Yarrell, in referring to the sister isle, says that the Blackcap "has been taken, once at least, in the north of' Ireland," as if he were of opinion that its occurrence there were doubtful, or at least extremely rare. Mr. Thompson, in his excellent "Natural History of Ireland" (vol. i. p. 183), notices the Blackcap as a regular summer visitant there; but he adds that it must be considered very local. In Scotland it is considered rare, being confined chiefly to the south; but since the observations were published from which these remarks are drawn, considerable changes seem

« AnteriorContinuar »