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aside from the straight course before they fell. Down the dusty road, inches deep in sand, comes a sulphur butterfly, rushing as quick as if hastening to a butterfly-fair. If only rare, how valued he would be ! His colour is so evident and visible; he fills the road, being brighter than all, and for the moment is more than the trees and flowers.
Coming so suddenly over the hedge into the road close to me, he startled me as if I had been awakened from a dream I had been thinking it was August, and woke to find it February—for the sulphur butterfly is the February pleasure. Between the dark storms and wintry rains there is a warm sunny interval of a week in February. Away one goes for a walk, and presently there appears a bright yellow spot among the furze, dancing along like a flower let loose. It is a sulphur butterfly, who thus comes before the earliest chiffchaff-before the watch begins for the first swallow. I call it the February pleasure, as each month has its delight. So associated as this butterfly is with early spring, to see it again after months of leaf and flower-after June and July—with the wheat in shock and the scent of harvest in the land, is startling. The summer, then, is a dream! It is still winter; but no, here are the trees in leaf, the nuts reddening, the hum of bees, and dry summer dust on the high wiry grass. The sulphur butterfly comes twice; there is a second brood; but there are some facts that are always new and surprising, however well known. I may say again, if only rare, how this butterfly would be prized! Along the hedgerow there are several spiders' webs. In the centre
they are drawn inwards, forming a funnel, which goes back a few inches into the hedge, and at the bottom of this the spider waits. If you look down the funnel you see his claws at the bottom, ready to run up and seize a fly.
Sitting in the garden after a walk, it is pleasant to watch the eave-swallows feeding their young on the wing. The young bird follows the old one; then they face each other and stay a moment in the air, while the insect food is transferred from beak to beak; with a loud note they part. There was a constant warfare between the eave-swallows and the sparrows frequenting a house where I was staying during the early part of the summer. The sparrows strove their utmost to get possession of the nests the swallows built, and there was no peace between them. It is common enough for one or two swallows' nests to be attacked in this way, but here every nest along the eaves was fought for, and the sparrows succeeded in conquering many of them. The driven-out swallows after a while began to build again, and I noticed that more than a pair seemed to work at the same nest. One nest was worked at by four swallows; often all four came together and twittered at it.
NATURE ON THE ROOF.
INCREASED activity on the housetop marks the approach of spring and summer exactly as in the woods and hedges, for the roof has its migrants, its semimigrants, and its residents. When the first dandelion is opening on a sheltered bank, and the pale-blue field veronica flowers in the waste corner, the whistle of the starling comes from his favourite ledge. Day by day it is heard more and more, till, when the first green spray appears on the hawthorn, he visits the roof continually. Besides the roof-tree and the chimney-pot, he has his own special place, sometimes under an eave, sometimes between two gables ; and as I sit writing, I can see a pair who have a ledge which slightly projects from the wall between the eave and the highest window. This was made by the builder for an ornament; but my two starlings consider it their own particular possession. They alight with a sort of half-scream half-whistle just over the window, flap their wings, and whistle again, run along the ledge to a spot where there is a gable, and with another note, rise up and enter an aperture between the slates and the wall. There their nest will be in a little time, and busy indeed they will
be when the young require to be fed, to and fro the fields and the gable the whole day through ; the busiest and the most useful of birds, for they destroy thousands upon thousands of insects, and if farmers were wise, they would never have one shot, no matter how the thatch was pulled about.
My pair of starlings were frequently at this ledge last autumn, very late in autumn, and I suspect they had a winter brood there. The starling does rear a brood sometimes in the midst of the winter, contrary as that may seem to our general ideas of natural history. They may be called roof-residents, as they visit it all the year round; they nest in the roof, rearing two and sometimes three broods; and use it as their club and place of meeting. Towards July the young starlings and those that have for the time at least finished nesting, flock together, and pass the day in the fields, returning now and then to their old home. These flocks gradually increase ; the starling is so prolific that the flocks become immense, till in the latter part of the autumn in southern fields it is common to see a great elm-tree black with them, from the highest bough downwards, and the noise of their chattering can be heard a long distance. They roost in firs or in osier-beds. But in the blackest days of winter, when frost binds the ground hard as iron, the starlings return to the roof almost every day; they do not whistle much, but have a peculiar chuckling whistle at the instant of alighting. In very hard weather, especially snow, the starlings find it difficult to obtain a living, and at such times will come to the premises at the rear, and at farmhouses where cattle are in the yards, search about among them for insects.
The whole history of the starling is interesting, but I must here only mention it as a roof-bird. They are very handsome in their full plumage, which gleams bronze and green among the darker shades; quick in their motions, and full of spirit; loaded to the muzzle with energy, and never still.
I hope none of those who are so good as to read what I have written will ever keep a starling in a cage; the cruelty is extreme. As for shooting pigeons at a trap, it is mercy in comparison.
Even before the starling whistles much, the sparrows begin to chirp: in the dead of winter they are silent; but so soon as the warmer winds blow, if only for a day, they begin to chirp. In January this year I used to listen to the sparrows chirping, the starlings whistling, and the chaffinches' “chink, chink" about eight o'clock, or earlier, in the morning: the first two on the roof; the latter, which is not a roof-bird, in some garden shrubs. As the spring advances, the sparrows sing—it is a short song, it is true, but still it is singing—perched at the edge of a sunny wall. There is not a place about the house where they will not build-under the eaves, on the roof, anywhere where there is a projection or shelter, deep in the thatch, under the tiles, in old eave-swallows' nests. The last place I noticed as a favourite one in towns is on the half-bricks left projecting in perpendicular rows at the sides of unfinished houses. Half a dozen nests may be counted at the side of a house on these bricks; and like the starlings, they rear several