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chaffinch, the blackbird, the golden-crested wren, and the yellow-hammer. The ring-doves begin to coo to each other; and sometimes, though only on a very mild bright day, the skylark may be heard pouring out the first of his melodious strains. It is now that the rooks assemble in flocks and revisit their colony:
The sable tenants of five hundred years,
Did you ever observe the return of these birds to their rookery? If not, you can hardly imagine what a scene of animation and excitement it is ! Many meetings are held, at which earnest consultations appear to take place. What clamour and squabbling on every side ! What an endless screaming, cawing, wheeling aloft and then round and round the trees in rapid flight ! All foreign intruders are, if possible, banished. At length matters are arranged, the rooks pair off, and at once set to work to repair their old nests or build new ones. Perhaps some members of the community are of a lazy turn, and, instead of gathering their own, prefer stealing the materials of their neighbours. It is said that all such pilferers, if detected, are tried in the presence of the whole assembly, and summarily expelled—serves them right—the idle rogues and vagabonds.
March sees the nests of the rooks complete; and during this month the old birds fly off to the fields, where they follow the ploughshare, watching for the worms, grubs, and snails which it turns up.
These they gobble up by thousands, and in this manner destroy much vermin, so that they may well be pardoned for the corn, or the cherries, they sometimes take it into their wise heads to devour. During this month, too, the lark may be often seen and heard gaily carolling in the deepblue sky. The robin's song is now more lively, as he is looking out for his mate; the plaintive coo, coo, of the ring-dove to his partner is heard more frequently; the blackbird's lay is louder and stronger, and the thrush, after some few attempts, bursts into song.
A merry blithe old boy is he;
On the topmost twig of the mountain tree. In April, the woods, fields, and hedge-rows are all alive with birds intent on important business. Each one has chosen its mate, and nest-building has begun and is being carried on in downright earnest. All our winter visitants have gone northward; while numbers of our well-remembered feathered friends now return from the warmer climes where they have been sojourning during our cold season. The different species of swallows are with us again, enlivening the air with their rapid flight and their twitterings. At first you see a single swallow, or perhaps two, skimming past you; but soon after they arrive in vast numbers. The swallow, bonny birdie, comes sharp twittering o'er the sea, And gladly is her carol heard for the sunny days to be ; She shares not with us wintry glooms, but yet, no faithless
thing, She hunts the summer o'er the earth with wearied little wing. The lambs like snow all nibbling go upon the ferny hills; Light winds are in the leafy woods, and birds, and bubbling
rills ; Then welcome, little swallow, by our morning lattice heard; Because thou com’st when Nature bids bright days be thy
These birds have often a house to return to; for if they find their old nest not destroyed, they soon put it to rights, and do not build a new one. In this manner a pair of martins have been known to return to and use the same nest for several successive years.
It is very interesting to study the nest-building of the different kinds of birds; and we may watch and note our feathered favourites engaged in their work, without in any way disturbing or injuring them.
The poet Thomson writes thus of the building of
Some to the holly-hedge
Clean and complete, their habitation grows.
What melting sentiments of kindly care,
The search begins.
occupations, and in sight of everyone. We all know what a careless fellow the common sparrow is! What odd places he chooses for his nest, in the construction of which he rarely takes much pains. Mary Howitt thus describes a sparrow's dwelling that had been blown out of an old elm tree :
What a medley thing it is!
See, hair of dog, and fur of cat,
Compacted cunningly together. But if we cannot say much in praise of the structure of such nests as the sparrow, the wood-pigeon, and the rook build and are satisfied with, there are numbers of other birds whose homes are most exquisitely and beautifully formed. Look, for example, how compact and elegant are those of the chaffinch and goldfinch! Did you ever see one? If so, you will fully agree with the lines of Hurdis
It wins my admiration
Could make me such another?'
build in enclosed grounds, and have a particular fancy for making a dwelling-place on the fruit-trees in orchards. The blackbird dearly loves a thick hawthorn hedge by the side of a stream, or a bank covered with last year's withered grass.
The thrush frequently chooses a plantation, and there makes a deep basinshaped nest of small twigs, withered grass, leaves, and moss, lined with clay, which is put in wet, and dried by the heat of her own body. The following is the poet Clare's description of a thrush's nest :
Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
That overhung a molehill, large and round,
I watched her secret toils from day to day;
And modelled it within with wood and clay.
There lay her shining eggs as bright as flowers,
And there I witnessed, in the summer hours,
Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky. No one ever wrote about the dwellings of these little creatures better than John Clare, the peasant poet of Northamptonshire. What a delightful picture he gives us of the nest of another bird !
Just by the wooden bridge a bird flew up,