« AnteriorContinuar »
larger end. It has been carefully preserved by Mr. Tomlin.
As long as his man remained in the tree the hen bird continued to fly round, uttering at intervals a loud flute-like note, and occasionally making a curious noise, such as a cat makes when angry.
It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remark that, as regards situation, form, and the materials of which it was composed, the nest did not differ from those which one is accustomed to see on the Continent. Invariably placed in, and suspended under, the fork of a horizontal bough, the sides of the nest are firmly bound to each branch of the fork with blades of dry grasses and fibrous roots. There is generally a good deal of sheep's wool in the nest itself, which, taken in connection with its peculiar shape, gives it a very singular and unique appearance.
On the 12th of July, as we approached the nest in question, the hen bird was sitting, but left as we advanced, and perched in a neighbouring elm, whence at intervals she uttered the peculiar noise to which I have referred. Not wishing to keep her too long from her young, we left the spot in about ten minutes, after carefully inspecting the nest with a binocular. Returning again in half-an-hour, and a third time two or three hours later, we saw the hen on each occasion quit the nest and take up her position, as before, at a little distance. Once only did I catch a glimpse of her more brightlycoloured mate as he darted between two trees. He was very shy, and silent too, being seldom heard, except very early in the morning, or at twilight. This, however, is the case with most song-birds after the young are hatched, for they are then so busy providing food for the little mouths that they have scarcely time to sit and sing. Mr. Tomlin, who had other and better opportunities for observing him, gave me to understand that he was not in the fully adult plumage,1 so that it seems the males of this
1 On this point the late Mr. Blyth, writing in the Natural History columns of " The Field," 17th August, 1872, under the signature "Z.," remarked that Orioles are amongst the
species breed before they have assumed their beautiful black and yellow colours.
On the 22nd of July the man again ascended the tree and peeped into the nest. The young had flown, but were subsequently discovered sitting about in the park with the old birds. As soon as the nest was no longer wanted, Mr. Tomlin had the branch which supported it cut off, and, writing to me on the subject the following day, he observed, that " upon examining the nest we found the corners tightly bound with long pieces of matting. One would almost imagine that a basketmaker had been at work."
Both the old and young birds continued to haunt the park until the 1st of August, after which date they were no longer seen. The young were, however, well feathered by that
few birds which breed before attaining the mature plumage, and the females acquire this later than the males, being always, however, of a greener shade. He had observed this in 0. melanocephalus, O. chinensis, 0. tenuirostris, and O. acrorhynchus, but thought that " the old females of O. galbula, and 0. kundoo, less frequently attain the male colouring than those of the other species mentioned."
time, and able to take care of themselves. Let us hope that they contrived to escape the eyes of prowling gunners beyond the park, and that they will return again in succeeding years to gladden the eyes and ears of their kind protector.
It is much to be wished that other proprietors would follow the good example thus set by Mr. Bankes Tomlin. Could they be induced to do so, they would become acquainted with many beautiful birds which visit us from the Continent every spring, and which would in most cases rear their young here if allowed to remain unmolested. Apart from the gratification to be derived from seeing these brightly-coloured birds within view of the windows, and hearing their mellow flute-like notes, they would be found to be most useful allies to the gardener in ridding the trees of caterpillars, which they devour greedily, and keeping many other noxious insects in check.
THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE.
QUITE unlike any other of our summer migrants in appearance, the Red-backed Shrike, or Butcher-bird, as it is more frequentlycalled, differs from them all in habits, and from the majority in having no song to recommend it to notice. It is a curious bird in its way, shy and retired in its disposition, and prefers tall tangled hedgerows or the thick foliage of the lower branches of the oak, where it can sit unobservedly and dart out upon its unsuspecting