« AnteriorContinuar »
with whom Mr. Thompson was in correspondence in all parts of Ireland, it is singular that so few of them should have been able to report the presence of this bird in their respective districts. I have already referred to the changes which have taken place in the local distribution of many species of birds within the last twenty or thirty years, and there is no reason for doubting that the statements published by Mr. Thompson in 1849, and the observations of naturalists of the present day, are both perfectly correct, and that the Garden Warbler, like many other birds, is now common in localities where formerly it was unknown. The number of resident naturalists in Wales is very small as compared with England; nevertheless, it is to be hoped that those who have the opportunity will examine into the truth of the alleged absence from Wales of this bird, and publish the result of their investigations.
The limit of the Garden Warbler's range northwards in the British Islands has not been satisfactorily ascertained. That it is found in many parts of the south of Scotland we know from the observations of Macgillivray and the late Sir William Jardine; but we have yet to learn whether it penetrates to the Highlands or visits the Hebrides. According to Selby, it is found throughout the greater part of Scotland; but Mr. Robert Gray, in his recently published "Birds of the West of Scotland," is disposed to think that it is not commonly distributed. It is, as he says, very difficult to judge of the comparative numbers of so shy a bird, as it is even less frequently noticed, save by the patient observer, than some other species of greater rarity. "In the sheltered and wooded districts of the midland and southern counties," he adds, "it is one of the most attractive songsters, tuning its loud and gleeful pipe on the top of some fruit tree an hour or two after daybreak, and again about the dusk of the evening. These love notes, however, are not of long continuance, for the bird becomes silent after the young are hatched, unless a second brood is reared, when the same wild yet mellow blackbird-like song is again for a short time heard. Mr. Sinclair has observed the Garden Warbler at Inverkip in Renfrewshire, where the richlywooded preserves afford it a constant shelter during its summer sojourn." In Shetland, according to Dr. Saxby,1 it is a rare autumn visitor, usually occurring in September. By exercising great caution he has sometimes approached within a few feet of the bird, and watched it picking the green aphides from the sycamore leaves. It does not appear to have been observed in Orkney. Its range northwards in Europe, according to Nilsson, extends to Sweden, where it is observed to be a regular summer visitant, arriving in May and leaving in August. In all the countries bordering the Mediterranean it appears to be well known. Mr. Saunders informs me that it is common in Spain in spring and autumn; and Mr. Wright, referring to its presence at the same seasons in Malta, where it is
known as the far-famed "beccafico" of the Italians, says that as many as a hundred dozen are sometimes brought in at a time.1 Lord Lilford has once found this bird nesting in Epirus.2 The late Mr. C. J. Andersson met with, it as far south as Damaraland, South-west Africa. In habits the Garden Warbler closely resembles other members of the genus. Shy and restless, it differs from the Blackcap in its inferior powers of song, and from the Whitethroats in being less garrulous. It is nevertheless a beautiful songster, and will sometimes sit in the midst of a thick bush in the evening, like a Nightingale, and maintain a continued warble for several minutes without a pause. Its song is somewhat irregular, both in time and tune, but it is wonderfully mellow for so small a bird. It sometimes commences its song like a Blackbird, but always ends with its own. In some of its actions it resembles the Willow Wren, for it seems constantly in motion, hopping from bough
to bough in search of insects, and singing at intervals. It is very partial to fruit of all kinds, but at the same time destroys vast numbers of caterpillars, spiders, and aphides. Much against my inclination I have shot a few Garden Warblers in the spring soon after their arrival, for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of their food, and can therefore affirm, from personal inspection, that they destroy quantities of. insects which are destructive to foliage. Under the head of Blackcap, I have referred to the nest of the Garden Warbler for the purpose of comparison, and need only add here that it is generally well concealed, and that, unless the owner is seen near the nest, it is oftentimes not very easy to distinguish the eggs from those of its congener, which have been already described.