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Full text of "Kearton's nature pictures beautifully reproduced in photogravure, colour, and black and white from photographs"

THE STONECHAT 

''The male is a strikingly handsome bird* 



KEARTONS' 
NATURE PICTURES 

BEAUTIFULLY REPRODUCED IN PHOTOGRAVURE, 
COLOUR, AND BLACK AND WHITE FROM 

PHOTOGRAPHS BY 
RICHARD AND CHERRY KEARTON 




WITH DESCRIPTIVE TEXT 

BY 

RICHARD KEARTON, F.Z.S., F.R.P.S. 



LONDON 

THE WAVERLEY BOOK COMPANY, LIMITED 
7, 8 fif 9 OLD BAILEY 




ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



-qi 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME I 

PACT. 

m u.riNCH, THE . 15 

i.i rciiER BIRD, TIII:, on RED-BACKED SHRIKE 17 

CORMORANT, Till-: COMMON 25 

CRO\V, THE HOODY OR GREY . . 11 

CICKOO, THE 03 

l)i>i;\mi si.. THE COMMON ... 81 

DOTTEREL, THE COMMON .... ... .59 

ro\, THE ..... . 5 

GUILLEMOT, THE COMMON ... . ... 3 

GULL, THE BLACK-HEADED . . . . .47 

GULL, THE COMMON . . . . . .69 

GULL, THE GREAT BLACK-BACKED ... .21 

GULL, THE KITTIWAKE . . . ... 85 

HAWK, THE SPARROW . . ... ... 11 

HEDGEHOG, THE, OR URCHIN . . . .27 

HEDGE-SPARROW, THE ... 13 

KESTREL, THE . . 87 

LAPWING, THE, OR PEEWIT . . 31 

LINNET, THE ... . . ... 71 

MERLIN, THE .... . ... 29 

MOLE, THE COMMON . . . .... 19 

MOUSE, THE COMMON .... .... 53 

NIGHTJAR, THE .... . ... 65 

OWL, THE SHORT-EARED . . . ... 49 

OXEYE, THE, OR GREAT TIT 79 

OYSTER CATCHER, THE . 51 

PARTRIDGE, THE COMMON . 83 

PEEWIT. THE, OR LAPWING. ... ... 31 

PLOVER, THE RINGED . . . ... 95 

PTARMIGAN. THE .... ... 39 

RARRIT. THE . . . . .... 67 

RAT, THE BROWN . 57 






E336340O 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

RODIN, THE .... .89 

SANDPIPER, THE COMMON ... ... 77 

SEDGF. WARBLER, THE .93 

SHRIKE, THE RED-HACKED ... 17 

SQUIRREL, THE ... 9 

SNAKE. THF COMMON OR RINGED 73 

SNIPE, THE COMMON 43 

SPARROW HAWK, THE 11 

STONECHAT, THE 1 

TERN, THE COMMON .... ... 01 

TERN, THE LESSER 37 

THRUSH, THE SONG 7 

TIT, THE GREAT . .79 

TOAD, THE NATTERJACK, OR RUSH . . .33 

TROUT. THE COMMON 45 

VOLE, THE WATER ... .91 
WARBLER, THE MARSH . . .55 
WARBLER. THE SEDGE . . . 93 
WHITETHROAT, THE COMMON OR GREATER . .... 73 
WHITETHROAT, THE LESSER . 23 
WRYNECK, THE .... 35 




LIST OF PLATES 

IMi: STONECHAT (colour) .... Frontispiece 

FACING PAOK 

COMMON GUILLEMOTS 2 

THE FOX . . 4 

YOl'NG SONG THRUSHES . .... .6 

THE SQUIRREL (colour) . . . ... 8 

FEMALE SPAKROW HAWK AND YOUNG 10 

HEDGE-SPARROW ON NEST . ... .12 

BULLFINCH ON NEST . 14 

MALE RED-BACKED SHRIKE (colour) . . Ifi 

THE MOLE . 18 

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL AT HOME 20 

LESSER WHITETHROAT AT NEST 22 

CORMORANTS (colour) ... 24 

A HEDGEHOG FAMILY . 20 

NESTLING MERLINS 28 

LAPWING ON EGGS . 30 

THE NATTERJACK TOAD (colour) . 32 

WRYNECK AT NESTING-HOLE . .34 

LESSER TERN . . .... . 3i; 

PTARMIGAN ON NEST . . . .38 

YOUNG HOODY CROWS (colour) . . 40 

SNIPES COVERING YOfNG . 42 

THE COMMON TROUT . . . . 41 

BLACK-HEADED GfLL ... 40 

THE SHORT-EARED OWL (colour) .... . .48 

OYSTER-CATCHER AT HOME .50 

MICE AT SUPPER . ... 52 

THE MARSH WARBLER . ... 54 

THE BROWN RAT (colour) . . 56 

COMMON DOTTEREL ON NEST .58 

COMMON TERN ON NEST . ... . 60 

TREE PIPIT FEEDING A YOUNG CUCKOO 62 



LIST OF PLATES 

FACING PACK 

THE NIGHTJAR (colour) .64 

YOUNG RABBITS AT HOME ... .6(5 

THE COMMON GULL .-68 

LINNET FEEDING YOUNG .... .70 

YOUNG COMMON WHITETHROATS (colour) .... .72 

THE COMMON, OR RINGED SNAKE . . 74 

THE COMMON SANDPIPER ON HER NEST "6 

GREAT TIT, OR OXEYE . 78 

THE COMMON DORMOUSE (colour) . 80 

THE COMMON PARTRIDGE ... .82 

THE KITTIWAKE GULL ... .84 

THE KESTREL .... .86 
THE ROBIN (colour) .... 

THE WATER VOLE ... 90 

THE SEDGE-WARBLER .... .92 

THE RINGED PLOVER 94 





PREFACE 



D 




O not go through the world 
blind to Nature's beauties 
or deaf to her music. 

Every intelligent man 
and woman should learn to 
read something in the great 
wonder book of Nature, 
and thus add an incalcu- 
lable pleasure to life. The world and 
all that is in it belongs only to those 
who enjoy it. One day I was walking 
across an estate in my neighbourhood, 
and was met by a stranger who asked : 
" To whom does this place belong ? " 
" To me," I replied. I suppose my sun- 
bleached green tweed jacket and rough, 
muddy boots filled him with worldly 
incredulity, for he exclaimed : " In- 
deed ! I thought it was owned by Sir 
So-and-So." "Yes," I answered, "he 
is the nominal owner, and takes the 
rent and the trouble, but I get all the 



pleasure out of the place and count that 
the real test of ownership." 

Even a little knowledge of birds, 
beasts, insects, and flowers adds a great 
and unfailing joy to life, for they are 
constant friends, with an infinite variety 
of appeal to all that is sanest, healthiest, 
and best in human nature. Take our 
feathered friends as an example ; they 
charm us by their sweet songs, brilliant 
colours, graceful movements, and inter- 
esting habits, yet never seem to grow 
stale or lose their sprightly youth. You 
may have left your old home in Devon- 
shire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, Ire- 
land, or anywhere else, to dwell in the 
murk and gloom of some great city ; 
and if you return again ten, twenty, or 
thirty years afterwards, you will find 
that, although the men and women you 
left behind have changed and grown 
old, the birds have not. They show no 



in 



IV 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



change of colour, no weakening of voice, 
no lack of activity, or loss of beauty. 
Therein lies one of their greatest charms : 
they link you to your youth, revive your 
hope, and renew your capacity for 
healthy enjoyment. 

The present work has been prepared 
at the request of friends who have ex- 
pressed a wish for Kearton pictures from 
Nature on a larger scale of reproduction, 
and in order to give the man or woman, 
boy or girl, who knows but little of the 
country-side a bright and stimulating 
glimpse of the wild creatures dwelling 
therein. 

As a gentleman who recently took 
the chair at one of my public lectures 
very aptly put it : " The camera and 
its devotees have altered the whole 
attitude of the public towards the sub- 
ject, and to-day there is a demand for 
accurate pictures and first-hand obser- 
vation." 

Throughout the pages of this work no 
system will be followed ; birds, beasts, 
reptiles, and insects will jostle together 
as they jostle in Nature's own domain. 
The reader may, therefore, dip into it 
here, there, or anywhere, and find some- 
thing to interest or admire, just as he 
or she might do in a walk through the 
woods, along the seashore, or across 
some lonely moor. 

First and foremost this is a picture- 
book, as its title implies ; but the text, 



although of secondary importance, will 
be as accurate, informatory, and in- 
teresting as care and experience can 
make it. 

Familiar wild birds and beasts, seen 
almost daily round some British home- 
stead or other, will find a place side by 
side with the very rarest feathered 
friends that visit our islands to breed. 
Bold Cock Robin will be figured together 
with the rare and gentle Red-Necked 
Phalarope, the cunning and wary Fox 
sitting outside his " earth," and the wee, 
timid Mouse at supper ; the Ptarmigan 
in the grey solitudes of her mist- 
wreathed mountain home, and the Par- 
tridge in the hedge ; the noisy Oyster 
Catcher by the restless sea, and the 
Skylark in the peaceful meadow ; the 
gay Green Lizard and the sober-coloured 
Toad ; the Wood-Pigeon that coos softly 
in the copse, and the Owl that screeches 
weirdly in the woods by night ; the 
Gannet sitting in stately grandeur on 
the topmost ledge of a towering maritime 
cliff, and the Ringed Plover that meekly 
runs upon the shingle below : these, 
and many others, will be figured and 
described. 

In short, it is confidently believed that 
the work will form the finest gallery of 
sun pictures of wild birds and beasts, 
taken amidst their natural surroundings, 
ever published in this or any other 
country. R> KEARTON> 





'The male helps the female to feed the young ones." 



THE STONECHAT 



T 




HE Stonechat is an inhabitant 
of rough commons and 
waste lands, where furze, 
heather, and brambles grow 
in tangled profusion. The 
male is a strikingly hand- 
some bird. His sharply 
contrasted colours of black, 
white, and rusty brown, added to his 
fondness for perching on the topmost 
spray of any and every bush that comes 
in his way, make it well-nigh impossible 
to pass him by unseen. Restlessness 
seems to be one of his most pronounced 
characteristics, for he is always busy 
flying from one bush to another, or 
dropping from his elevated look-out to 
the ground in pursuit of some insect 
which his sharp little eye has detected 
below. 

Although not a very accomplished 



vocalist when compared with the Night- 
ingale or the Blackcap, his excited 
antics whilst delivering his short, sweet 
notes on the wing are sometimes very 
amusing. My friend Mr. Ussher has 
very aptly described them, in his " Birds 
of Ireland," as like a ball rising and 
falling on the jet of a fountain. 

The female differs considerably in 
appearance from her strikingly attired 
mate, but in spite of this fact one feels 
that her sober brown plumage is entirely 
in harmony with her natural surround- 
ings. 

The spring call-notes of the Stonechat 
may be imitated with ease and exact- 
ness by tapping two pebbles together, 
but, curiously enough, after the young 
ones have been hatched they change 
in sound from u-tic, u-tic to notes 
resembling chuck, chuck. 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




MALE STOXECHAT. 



Nest - build- 
ing is com- 
menced in 
April or May, 
the structure 
being well hid- 
den at the foot 
of a gorse 
bush amongst 
heather, or 
tangled grass 
growing round 
brambles. It 
is very diffi- 
cult to find unless the female is sitting 
hard, and can be watched on to her 
eggs. Otherwise a pair of birds may 
be kept under observation for hours 
in vain. 

The eggs number from four to six, 
of a pale bluish green ground colour, 
closely mottled round the larger end 
with reddish brown spots. Occasionally 
these are very faint and I have seen 
specimens from which they were absent 
altogether. Eggs may occasionally be 
found as late as the end of June, which 



seems to support the contention of some 
ornithologists that the species is double- 
brooded. 

If a Stonechat's nest be kept under 
observation for a few hours it will be 
seen that the male helps the female to 
feed the young ones, but that he works 
with considerable irregularity. Some- 
times he will remain away from the 
nest for an hour at a stretch, and at 
others he will visit it with insects as 
many as thirty times in the space of 
sixty minutes. Like the male mem- 
bers of many other species, he is guilty 
of the cowardice of passing over any 
food he may have collected for his 
offspring to his mate for conveyance 
to the nest, if there should be any- 
thing near it calculated to make him 
nervous. 

Although the Stonechat is a migra- 
tory bird in Continental countries, where 
it breeds, it stays with us during the 
whole round of the year, and I have 
seen it more numerously in the Isle of 
Man during the winter than in any other 
part of the United Kingdom. 





Common Guillemots. 




"The Common Guillemot rides the waves as buoyantly as a cork." 



THE COMMON GUILLEMOT 



T 



HE Common Guillemot is a 
bird of the boundless ocean. 
It rides the waves as buoy- 
antly as a cork, dives with 
great ease and strength, 
and makes but little use 
of the solid earth, except- 
ing in the breeding season, 
or when driven ashore by a succession 
of power-exhausting gales. 

It breeds on flat-topped ocean rock 
stacks and ledges of maritime cliffs, and 
is common in all suitable localities round 
the British coast. In cliffs with long 
ledges running in the lines of stratifica- 
tion the birds sit shoulder to shoulder, 
and their pure white breasts and dark 
heads and necks frequently make them 
stand out in bold and striking contrast 
to the rock behind them. 



This bird does not make the slightest 
pretence whatsoever at nest-building. 
Her single egg is of large size, and admir- 
ably shaped for the perilous position it 
generally occupies. Instead of being oval 
in shape, like those of the owl, it is 
formed after the manner of an elongated 
pear, so that when stirred by a strong 
gust of wind, or by the bird leaving it 
in undue haste, it does not roll away, 
but simply revolves upon its own axis, 
describes a small circle, and is in a great 
many cases thus saved from destruction. 
This fact probably gave rise to the one- 
time belief that the Guillemot glued her 
egg to the rock whereon it was laid. 
Of course, it does not always avail, for 
I have seen eggs fall off very narrow 
ledges in showers when the sitting birds 
have suddenly been frightened by the 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




discharge of a 
small cannon 
aboard an excur- 
sion steamer. In 
such circumstances 
it is quite pathetic 
to watch a Guille- 
mot darting after 
her treasure in 
helpless anguish as 
it rushes down- 
ward through the 
air and falls with 
a plop into the 
sea. 

The eggs laid by this species present 
an almost endless variation, both in 
ground colour and markings, and it 
would be almost impossible to select two 
specimens exactly alike out of a col- 
lection of thousands. Every tint of 
ground colour, from white to pea-green 
blue or purplish-brown, may be met 
with, spotted, blotched, and streaked 
with every shade of brown and black. 
Another curious thing in regard to this 



GUILLEMOTS EGG. 



matter is the fairly well established fact 
that an individual bird always lays the 
same type of egg. 

Where Guillemots breed by the thou- 
sand together on flat -topped rock stacks, 
svich as the Pinnacles at the Fame 
Islands, it is interesting to speculate 
upon whether each bird recognises its 
own egg, whilst it remains clean, by its 
ground colour and markings. When 
breeding on ledges it has been proved 
beyond dispute, by marking birds, that 
each individual returns to incubate its 
own egg. 

When a young Guillemot is between 
three and four weeks old it is taken 
down to the sea by its mother. Some 
observers say that she carries it on her 
back, and others that she holds it in her 
bill by one wing whilst she descends to 
the water. 

Fishermen call this bird the Murre, 
a name derived from the sound which 
may be heard, morning, noon, and night, 
wherever a vast colony has assembled 
for breeding purposes. 




^ 




The Fox. 




The haunt of the Fox. 



THE FOX 



T 







HIS cunning and exceedingly 
wary little animal is be- 
loved of the huntsman, and 
hated by the gamekeeper 
and the hen-wife. 

A whole volume of won- 
derful stories of its sagacity 
might be written. I have 
heard it asserted in widely different parts 
of the country, by people who firmly 
believed in it, that a Fox, when infested 
with vermin, will secure a piece of 
rabbit's skin, proceed to some pond or 
stream, back slowly into the water, and 
finally immerse himself, allowing the 
piece of fur-clad skin to slip from between 
his jaws and float away with its cargo of 
cheated parasites. 

Our photogravure plate was secured 



in the following circumstances : I 
was standing one evening watching 
through my field-glasses some almost 
full-grown cubs, playing like puppies 
round the mouth of an " earth," on a 
Surrey hilltop, some seven hundred 
yards distant, when a gamekeeper who 
joined me suggested that I ought to try 
to get a photograph of them. Shaking 
my head, I replied that it would be 
vanity, as I required to be so close with 
my stereoscopic camera that the animals 
would scent me and never come out. 
However, one day the wind was blow- 
ing so strongly and steadily across the 
Foxes' hole towards a thorn bush some 
seven yards away, that I determined to 
try my hand. 

Making a detour, I crept beneath the 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




' 
z*** -&* * 



WHO SAID 'KOX ? 



bush, fixed my 
apparatus, 
and then cut 
innumerable 
branches off 
other thorn 
trees grow- 
ing not far 
away and 
drove them 
into the 
ground 

right round the one beneath which 
my camera was hidden. At last I 
had only two small peep-holes, one 
for the lenses and the other for me 
to watch my field of focus through. 
Placing myself at full length upon the 
ground, I waited five hours and a quarter 
on end before Reynard put in an appear- 
ance. When he did it was so late in 
the evening that I was compelled to 
give an " Imperial " flashlight plate a 
two-seconds' exposure, with only stop 16 



on a lens working at f 6. Judging that 
it would be useless to try to turn my 
dark slide round with a view to making 
a second exposure, I put my fingers to 
my lips and began to squeal in imitation 
of a rabbit being killed by a stoat or 
weasel. This greatly excited my " sitter," 
and his forefeet were moving so rapidly 
up and down that he appeared to be 
literally dancing on the mound in front 
of him. At last he lost control over 
himself, and came stealthily forward to 
investigate. When he got half-way 
between his home and the bush be- 
neath which I was hidden, his Vulpine 
heart failed him, and he returned to 
cover. 

Foxes usually bring forth from three 
to five young ones, although a larger 
number is sometimes met with, and 
feed them upon rabbits, leverets, wild 
duck, grouse, curlew, partridges, young 
blackbirds, and thrushes, and even such 
small deer as mice. 





' The Song Thrush builds a nest quite unlike that of any other British bird." 



THE SONG THRUSH 



T 




HIS sober-coloured bird is one 
of the best known and 
most widely appreciated 
feathered vocalists inhabit- 
ing the British Islands. 
It sings for practically 
eleven months in the year, 
and at the height of the 
season the late Mr. Witchel recorded 
one bird thus engaged for no less than 
sixteen hours during a single day. It 
will pour forth its vehemently cheerful 
song from the top of a tall tree, a lowly 
bush, a cabbage, or even the bare ground, 
and may occasionally be heard whilst it 
is on the wing. A friend of mine was 
listening to a Throstle as the bird is 



called in the North of England in full 
song in a tree over his head one day, 
when, to his great surprise, the unfor- 
tunate creature suddenly stopped and 
fell dead at his feet ; over-exertion 
had probably ruptured some important 
blood-vessel. 

In the summer of 1909 a pair of these 
birds reared a brood of young ones in 
a laurel close to the back door of my 
house, and I noticed that the male fre- 
quently took up his station on the top 
of a rustic arch and sang between his 
journeyings after food for the young. 
Another curious thing was that he always 
entered the nesting bush from one side, 
and his mate from the other. 



8 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




MALE SONO THKUSII. 



One morning, whilst waiting for an 
opportunity to take some moving pic- 
tures of the thrushes feeding their chicks, 
the male came sidling across a lawn 
towards me in fighting attitude. For 
a long time I could not understand the 
reason for this strange behaviour, but 
at last noticed a worm on the ground 
close by where I was standing, and 



understood that he wanted the creature 
and was threatening me. Retiring a 
few paces, I watched him pick it up 
and carry it off to his chicks in triumph. 
After this I secured a garden fork and 
frequently dug worms for him. We 
were soon on the best of terms, and he 
never went far in search of food when 
he saw me with the implement in my 
hands. 

The Song Thrush builds a nest quite 
unlike that of any other British bird. 
It is made externally of slender twigs, 
dead grass, and moss, mixed with clay 
or mud, and lined with cow-dung, or 
mud mixed with dead wood. When 
lined with the first-named material, it 
will hold water to such an extent that 
after a very heavy downpour of rain I 
have seen the eggs under water. This 
happened, of course, before the Thrush 
had commenced to sit. Why the species 
makes such a structure is a mystery, for 
the hard lining is not an imperative 
necessity, as is proved by chicks occa- 
sionally being reared in a nest similar 
to that of the blackbird, when the usual 
materials for its interior cannot be 
secured. 






THE SQUIRREL 

'Sitting up on a stump with its bushy tail over its back/ 




' A warm sunny day will always tempt it forth." 



THE SQUIRREL 



A 




S Macgillivray, the old Scottish 
naturalist, truly remarks, 
" the agility of the Squirrel, 
its lively disposition and 
beautiful form, render it 
a general favourite." It 
looks much more at home, 
and far prettier, when 
scampering amongst the boughs of a 
tree, or sitting up on a stump with its 
bushy tail over its back, than it does on 
the ground, where it runs like a rabbit, 
with its brush stretched out behind it. 
Although so exceedingly nimble, I have 
on more than one occasion seen a 
Squirrel, when alarmed, miscalculate the 
distance from one branch to another, 
and fall to the ground below. 

A Cumberland gamekeeper recently 
told me that he once witnessed a great 
chase between a stoat and a Squirrel, 
the latter animal only escaping by reason 
of its greater ability to leap from the 
slender branch of one tree to that of 

2 9 



another. I can readily believe this, for 
I have watched stoats climb thorn 
bushes, and even straight smooth hazels 
no thicker than a man's thumb, with 
ease and expedition, and remember on 
one occasion a boy, who was out climbing 
for me in a Westmorland wood, finding 
a dead one in a Squirrel's nest amongst 
the branches of a fir tree, not less than 
forty feet from the ground. 

It is a popular but quite mistaken 
belief that the Squirrel hibernates during 
the winter months. A warm sunny 
day will always tempt it forth to one 
of its hidden stores of food ; I have, 
indeed, seen Squirrels abroad showing all 
their wonted animation even when the 
snowflakes have been flying thick and 
fast. I do not know whether the same 
thing holds good in regard to the grey 
Squirrel or not, but I have seen it in 
America hunting for food during very 
cold weather in the early spring. 

The food of the Squirrel consists of 



10 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



hazel nuts, acorns, beech mast, buds, 
branches and bark of young trees, and 




A CHARACTERISTIC Alllll'DE. 

sometimes an individual will develop a 
morbid taste for the eggs or young of 
birds. Some years ago, whilst wandering 
through a Surrey wood, I heard a couple 
of song thrushes making a great ado, 
and creeping cautiously towards the 
place saw a Squirrel scamper away from 
their nest, in which I found the remains 
of a newly-killed young one. 



There can be no denying the fact 
that this pretty little animal, when too 
numerous, does considerable harm in 
plantations of young trees ; and 
whilst in Berlin, on one occasion, 
I was told that the keepers in the 
Tiergarten are on this account reluc- 
tantly compelled to shoot a number 
every year. 

The Squirrel makes its nest of dead 
grass, leaves, moss and wool. In the 
North of England the last-named 
material is nearly always present in 
large quantities. The nest is placed on 
the branches of fir trees, in forks 
where the large branches separate from 
the trunk, occasionally in holes in 
trees, and I have known of one 
instance where a family was reared 
in a nest built in the thatch of a 
haystack. 

The young ones generally number 
three or four, and when taken quite 
early make interesting though very un- 
certain-tempered pets. Squirrels show 
great aversion to ferrets, and develop 
an amusing storm of anger upon catching 
sight of one. 





Female Sparrow Hawk and Young. 




"Directly young Sparrow Hanks see their mother approaching . . . they sit up 

in the nest." 



THE SPARROW HAWK 



T 



HIS species breeds in well- 
wooded districts through- 
out the British Isles. At 
one time it was thought by 
naturalists whose opinion 
was entitled to a great 
deal of respect that it 
never built its own nest, 
but simply contented itself with the 
old home of a carrion crow or wood- 
pigeon. I have always thought other- 
wise, and some years ago not only 
watched a hen Sparrow Hawk adding 
sticks to her nest, but photographed 
her in the act of doing so, as shown 
on the next page. The structure is a 
mere platform of twigs with a slight hol- 
low in the centre, and as incubation ad- 
vances the sticks become flecked with bits 
of white down from the bird's body ; but 
whether these are an intentional adorn- 
ment, or simply drop out by accident 



whilst she is preening herself, it is im- 
possible to say. The nest may sometimes 
be found thirty or forty feet from the 
ground, and at others can be touched with 
a walking-stick in the hand of a man of 
average height standing beneath it. On 
one occasion I found a nest in a holly bush. 

The eggs number from four to six, 
five being a usual clutch. In ground 
colour they are white tinged with blue 
or bluish green, and are handsomely 
marked with pale and rich dark brown 
spots and blotches. 

The male Sparrow Hawk is somewhat 
smaller than the female. He provides 
food for her whilst she is sitting, but never 
brings any kind of prey to the nest. 
I have watched him fetch a full-grown 
peewit along in his talons, alight with it 
on some dead tree stump fifty or sixty 
yards away, call her, and, whilst she was 
enjoying a meal, fly down to the nest 



1 1 



12 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




and leisure- 
ly examine 
the eggs. 

Individ- 
ual birds of 
this species 
differ very 
widely in 
the matter 
of bold- 
ness. Some 
years ago I 
climbed to 
a nest containing hard sat eggs, and 
was mobbed by both parent birds. The 
female tried several times to strike my 
head, and I had to duck involuntarily 
in order to avoid her, whilst a shepherd 
who accompanied me stood at the foot 
of the tree, laughing at my novel ex- 
perience. 

When the down-clad young ones are 
hatched, family labours in their welfare 
are divided. The male bird does all 



FEMALE SPARROW HAWK ADDING 
STICKS TO HER NEST. 



the hunting for prey, whilst the female 
stays at home to look after the chicks 
and impartially divide the food amongst 
them when it has been secured. 
During this period the fledglings of 
small, defenceless birds are much perse- 
cuted ; and, judging from the widely 
different species brought to the nest, 
the male Sparrow Hawk must make 
long flights in search of his quarry. 

Directly young Sparrow Hawks see 
their mother approaching, they give her 
a noisy welcome by soft, oft-repeated 
chittering notes, uttered whilst they sit 
up in the nest ; but if she should happen 
to give vent to her alarm-cry, they 
instantly become silent and crouch quite 
flat. 

Like many other species, this bird is 
very partial to an old haunt, and I 
know small favourite woods in the North 
of England where a nest may be found 
season after season with unbroken regu- 
larity. 





Hedge Sparrow on Nest. 




"The chicks were photographed just after they had fluttered out of the nest. 



THE HEDGE SPARROW 



T 



HIS gentle little bird in its 
unobtrusive coat of brown 
is almost as well known as 
robin redbreast himself. 
It frequents our gardens all 
the year round, quietly 
picking up crumbs, or what- 
soever else it can find, in 
the winter, and ridding them of noxious 
pests in the summer. It may always be 
known by the nervous shuffling of its 
wings as it hops about. 

The male has a cheerful, though not 
long-sustained, song, which I have on 
several occasions heard him uttering as 
late as ten o'clock at night, when 
most feathered vocalists, saving per- 
haps the nightingale and the garrulous 
sedge warbler, are supposed to be 
asleep. 

This species commences nesting opera- 
tions as early as March, if the weather 
happens to be mild and open, and con- 
tinues breeding until June, or even later. 



As a matter of fact, the chicks figured 
at the head of this chapter were photo- 
graphed just after they had fluttered 
out of the nest, on the last day of July. 
At least two broods are reared in a 
season, and I have known this to occur 
in the same nest. 

The Hedge Sparrow builds in haw- 
thorn and privet hedges, brambles, 
nettles, and low bushes of almost every 
kind, and sometimes it may even be 
found in heather. The structure con- 
sists of slender twigs, rootlets, bits of 
dead grass and moss, with an inner 
lining of wool, hair, and feathers. In 
finishing off her nest the Hedge Accentor, 
as some naturalists prefer to call the bird 
on account of its slender bill, exercises 
great pains, taking piece after piece of 
material, placing it in position, and then 
turning round and round in the struc- 
ture, pressing her breast against its 
inner walls, and thus rendering them 
smooth and neat. 



14 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




HKDGE SPARROWS NEST. 



The eggs, numbering from four to 
six, are of a beautiful turquoise blue 
colour. Before commencing to sit, indi- 
vidual members of this species some- 
times resort to the curious practice of 
covering their eggs with moss and hair, 
before the work of incubation has com- 
menced, as if conscious of the fact 



that their striking colour might attract 
attention. 

The cuckoo frequently victimises this 
bird, and it is quite pathetic to see a 
pair of poor little Hedge Sparrows vainly 
trying to satisfy the enormous appetite 
of . the monster foster chick in their 
nest. 

Although a timid creature, easily 
scared away to cover, the Hedge Accen- 
tor does not appear readily to profit 
by experience. In the winter I have 
trapped specimens, marked, and released 
them, but only to find, within an hour 
or two of their release, that they were 
again dallying round the food that had 
lured them into captivity. The same 
kind of indiscretion characterises the 
doings of the robin and blue tit, but not 
the Common Sparrow. I have never in 
my life deceived a member of the last- 
named species twice by the same trick. 





s 



J= 

I 






' Her mete fed the chicks about every quarter of an hour." 



THE BULLFINCH 



N 



O British bird has increased 
in numbers during recent 
years to the same extent 
as the Bullfinch, and this 
increase is said to be directly 
attributable to the bene- 
volent efforts of the Wild 
Birds' Protection Society. 
In many respects it is a bird of curious 
character, and in spite of the fact that 
it is common and much studied, we 
know little of the why and wherefore 
of its ways. For instance, what reason 
has it for attacking fruit buds, and 
leaving those that produce leaves alone ? 
Why does the bird devote so much 
unwelcome attention to one tree and 
none to another, which, to mere human 
discernment, appears equally suitable 
and tempting ? 

Although seen in families at certain 
periods of the year the Bullfinch never 



appears to associate with its feathered 
neighbours of a different species. It is 
inordinately fond of water, and I know 
of no bird, in this or any other country, 
that drinks and bathes so much during 
hot weather. Individuals of this species 
differ as widely in disposition as members 
of the human race. I have known an 
incubating female so full of nerve and 
confidence that after a few days' ac- 
quaintance she grew so bold that she 
would allow me to take her in my 
hand, and place her in any different 
position I chose in the nest. On the 
contrary, some individuals of the 
species are of such a shy and wild 
disposition that they will forsake their 
eggs rather than face the ordeal of the 
camera. 

It is a very fortunate arrangement 
for the chicks of many species of birds 
that both parents attend to their wants. 



16 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




BULLFINCH S NEST. 



A few seasons ago I found the nest of 
a Bullfinch in a stunted yew growing on 
the edge of a wood. When the young 
had been hatched I fixed a hiding tent 
near by and spent three days in making 
observations and taking photographs. 
The old birds always called to each 
other as they approached the nest, 
brought the caterpillar and other insect 
food, which they had collected in the 
crop, and regurgitated it for the young. 
During the first day male and female 



came turn and turn about, but through- 
out the second and third days the latter 
never once put in an appearance, nor 
did I hear her utter a single call note. 
In all probability she had fallen a victim 
to some stealthy sparrow hawk or 
marauding cat. Her mate fed the 
chicks about every quarter of an hour, 
but did not appear to utter his plaintive 
call note so frequently. 

The Bullfinch builds a somewhat 
curious nest, consisting of a platform 
of slender birch twigs, cunningly inter- 
laced with a depression in the middle. 
It is neatly lined with fine fibrous 
roots, and, occasionally, hairs. The eggs 
are of a pale greenish blue ground 
colour, spotted, speckled, and some- 
times streaked with purplish brown, and 
number from four to six. 

The song of this bird is very soft 
and short, and its plaintive call note, 
frequently uttered, sounds something 
like poneet. 






MALE RED-BACKED SHRIKE 

"He makes an ideal lover and a good husband.' 





" Besides killing small birds for their own consumption, they sometimes feed their chicks 

upon them." 



THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE OR BUTCHER BIRD 



T 




HE Red-Backed Shrike is 
probably the most fierce 
and pugnacious small bird 
to be found breeding 
within the confines of 
the British Isles. I have 
on more than one occasion 
seen the male in hot pur- 
suit of a blackbird, or song thrush, 
that had quite innocently strayed too 
near the tyrant's sitting mate for his 
peace of mind. In fact, the nest of this 
species may frequently be found by 
simply watching a male and noting his 
behaviour towards smaller birds when 
they approach the immediate locality 
of a bush or hedgerow wherein his mate 
is brooding. He will not tolerate tres- 
passers, and such are his courage and 
ferocity that he will, sometimes, not 

3 17 



hesitate to attack even a man in de- 
fence of his offspring. More than once 
during my wanderings I have been 
struck on the head by a Shrike when 
he considered his young ones were in 
imminent danger. 

The widely used alternative name of 
Butcher Bird no doubt had its origin in 
the creature's curious habit of spitting 
small birds, mice, and beetles upon 
thorn bushes, and then tearing them to 
pieces when required for food. Near 
the nest figured in the accompanying 
coloured plate was a larder with the 
remains of a blue tit hanging in it. 
Besides killing small birds for their 
own consumption they sometimes feed 
their chicks upon them. One morning, 
when I visited a nest containing nearly 
full-grown young Shrikes, I observed 



18 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




RED-BACKED SIIIUKE ON ITS NEST. 



something protruding about an inch 
from the mouth of one of them. To 
my surprise I discovered that it was 
the wing of an adult blue tit. Young 
Shrikes eject pellets of undigestible 
food just in the manner common to 
hawks and owls. 

Although the male bird of this species 
is such a dour, unlovable creature when 
judged from a human standpoint, he 
makes an ideal lover and a good hus- 
band. During the days of courtship 
he is true to the universal traditions 
of his sex in making himself look 
thoroughly ridiculous, and throughout 
the time of wedded bliss is most kind 
and attentive to his mate. 



The members of this species build 
large nests of slender twigs, honeysuckle 
stems, rootlets, dead grass, moss, wool, 
and hair, in isolated thorn bushes, 
hedges, woods, and rough commons in 
most parts of England, with the excep- 
tion of the extreme north and west, 
where it is less frequent. 

The eggs number from four to six, and 
are liable to great variation both in 
regard to ground colour and markings, 
hence the species exercises a great fas- 
cination over egg collectors who make 
varieties a speciality. Sometimes the 
ground colour is white, and at others pale 
buff, pale green, or salmon coloured, 
spotted, blotched, and freckled with 
pale brown, violet, grey, or reddish 
brown. Generally the markings form 
a zone round the larger end. I have 
seen a show case with something like 
fifty clutches in it, no two of which 
were alike. 

This bird does not, as a rule, arrive 
in its summer haunts until the month 
of May, and departs again for Africa in 
August and September. 





" 




Its appetite is appalling." 



THE COMMON MOLE 



T 



[HE Common Mole is one of 
the most wonderful animals 
alive. If you stroke it from 
head to tail it is all right, 
and if you reverse the pro- 
cess and stroke it from 
tail to head it is equally so, 
because upon occasion it 
has to progress both ways in its bur- 
rows, and its fur is specially adapted to 
the creature's mode of existence. Moult- 
ing, or casting, of the old coat appears 
to take place from the head and tail in 
equal proportions, and in June a saddle 
of old fur may frequently be seen still 
clinging, as shown in our photogravure, 
to the back of the animal. 

The strength of a Mole is enormous, 
and, as might be expected in a creature 
with such a lavish expenditure of energy, 
its appetite is appalling. It can con- 
sume its own weight of food in twenty- 
four hours, and cannot in the adult 



stage live for more than twelve without 
sustenance. 

A great deal of misapprehension seems 
to exist in regard to the life and habits 
of this quadruped. For instance, many 
people imagine that when a Mole is 
engaged in throwing up a hillock of 
earth it is working after worms. If this 
were its only method of catching them 
starvation would overtake the unfortu- 
nate beast in a week. Worms are easily 
scared, and the majority of them make 
haste, as every working gardener knows, 
to leave earth where any kind of vibra- 
tory disturbance is taking place. I 
have frequently seen them hurry to the 
surface where a Mole has been working, 
and birds aware of this fact wait and 
devour them. 

When burrows have been excavated. 
Moles make periodical rounds of them 
in order to pick up worms, beetles, and 
other creatures that may have dropped 



20 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



into these subterranean passages, and 
in this way maintain themselves. Al- 
though a Mole may keep one particular 




YOUNG MOLES IN NEST. 



piece of ground for himself, his mate, 
or young, the runs that connect one 
field with another or communicate with 
water are regarded as common property. 
In making a burrow it is not always 
necessary and especially so in fairly 
loose earth to throw up a hillock. It 
has been said that the Mole's movements 
are so quick that he can " swim through 
the earth." This is, of course, a poetical 
exaggeration. I have on more than one 



occasion torn the earth up after the 
animal and overtaken it with ease. 

There are one or two interesting 
questions that need an answer in regard 
to this wonderful creature's economy. 
For instance, how does a Mole sub- 
sist during frosty weather, when worms 
retire to a considerable depth and lie 
curled up in a more or less dormant con- 
dition ? It has been stated that the 
animal makes store-chambers and places 
in them worms which it has disabled. 
Incredible as this may appear, I am 
inclined to think there is some germ of 
truth in it. On one occasion I placed 
a dog Mole inside a large washing tin 
containing mould only an inch deep 
in order that I might watch his actions 
without difficulty. He fed upon worms 
until he was completely satiated, 
and then bit the heads and tails of 
those he was unable to consume and 
stored them all in one place in his prison 
yard and covered them with mould. 

Moles make large nests of dry grass 
and bring forth four or five young 
ones at a litter. A nesting hillock may 
always be distinguished even at a dis- 
tance by its larger size. 





o 

E 



O 



o 

<9 



3 

21 




" The young do not attain full plumage until they are about five years of age." 



THE GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL 




HE Great Black Back or 
Cob as it is called in some 
parts of England is the 
largest Gull found breeding 
in the British Islands. Its 
length is about thirty inches 
and from tip to tip its 
outstretched wings measure 
nearly six feet. It may always be 
distinguished with certainty from its 
smaller yet more numerous relative, 
the Lesser Black-Backed Gull, by the 
fact that it has flesh-coloured legs and 
feet, whereas those of its congener are 
yellow. 

The Great Black-Backed Gull, although 
found scattered all round our coast in 
winter, breeds much more numerously 
in Scotland and Ireland than in England 
or Wales, where only a few pairs are to 
be met with. 

It lives upon dead fish left stranded 
by the tide, young birds, eggs, dead 
lambs, and all kinds of carrion. I 
have watched it do almost incredible 
things in the way of swallowing young 



birds, and killing sickly puffins in the 
sea, and do not wonder that the High- 
land gamekeeper is its sworn enemy. 
If the naturalist finds and examines the 
nest of a wild goose, or other defenceless 
bird breeding in the heather, he may 
cover the eggs up ever so carefully, but 
if he is within sight of a Cob that nest 
is almost certain to be robbed directly 
he has turned his back upon it. 

As an illustration of the intelligence 
and cunning of the Great Black-Backed 
Gull I will relate an experience which I 
had some years ago. Two or three pairs 
were nesting on a small rocky island in 
a fresh- water loch in the Highlands 
where our full-page photogravure was 
obtained. I induced a keeper who 
accompanied me to the place to help 
me to build a hide-up of sallow bushes. 
When this was completed and I had 
been duly installed with my apparatus, 
the keeper rowed away and left me. 
After much waiting I secured a number 
of pictures, but as the birds were some- 
what small on my plates, on account 



21 



22 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



of the dis- 
tance I was 
away from 
the rock 
upon which 
they alight- 
ed, I re- 
turned to 
the fray a 
day or two 
afterwards. 
On this oc- 
ca s io n I 
was accom- 
panied by 
a different 
keeper, who 

helped me to move my hiding con- 
trivance a few feet nearer to the rock. 
After I had been carefully hidden my 
companion went away to fish for trout 
on the loch. Although I waited long 
and patiently, and could hear the 
Gulls uttering their alarm notes high 
overhead, they would not come down, 
and I was at last reluctantly compelled 




THE GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. 



to acknowledge defeat, crawl out of my 
place of hiding, and hail the keeper. 
On our way home I remarked that the 
behaviour of the birds had completely 
puzzled me. Seeing that they had been 
fairly bold during my first visit, and 
had had time in which to grow familiar 
with my hiding contrivance, I could not 
understand why they had grown shyer 
instead of bolder. 

" Ah, well," remarked my companion, 
" the explanation is probably to be 
sought in the fact that I shot at the Gulls 
about a week ago ; they could see me 
fishing on the loch whilst you were wait- 
ing, would remember me, and, no doubt, 
feared another attack." And that in all 
probability was a correct solution of the 
problem. 

The Great Black Back makes a large, 
slovenly nest of seaweed, heather, dead 
grass, and bits of wool. The eggs gener- 
ally number three, although only two 
are sometimes met with It is said that 
the young do not obtain full plumage 
until they are about five years of age. 





Lesser Whitethroat at Nest. 




" The nest is composed of dead grass and stalks." 



THE LESSER WHITETHROAT 



T 




all but the initiated in orni- 
thology this bird is likely 
to be passed by, or confused 
with its more numerous 
cousin, the Greater or Com- 
mon Whitethroat. In order, 
therefore, to help the stu- 
dent to distinguish it, I 
will mention one or two points wherein 
it differs from the last-named species. 
It is, as its name implies, smaller, measur- 
ing only from five to five and a quarter 
inches in length, whereas its congener 
is about five and a half inches long from 
the tip of the bill to the end of the tail. 
It has darker ear coverts, and especially 
so in the case of the male ; the dusky 
wing and tail feathers are edged with 
greyish-brown, whereas in the case of 
the Greater Whitethroat these qiiills are 
bordered with chestnut. The species 
under notice generally builds in a higher 
situation, and lays smaller eggs, which 
are white or creamy white in ground 
colour, with a very faint tinge of green, 



and somewhat boldly spotted and 
speckled, especially at the larger end, 
with greenish-brown and ash grey. 

The nest is composed of dead grass 
stalks, with an inner lining of horse- 
hair, and is sometimes bound together 
by means of cobwebs. 

The specimen figured in our photo- 
gravure nested about four feet from the 
ground in an old hedgerow running 
parallel with a well-used footpath, and 
almost overgrown with brambles. Within 
a dceen yards of her a Common or 
Greater Whitethroat sat covering a 
brood of tiny chicks, and, contrary to 
expectation, the smaller bird proved to 
be much bolder in confronting the 
camera. At first she would tolerate the 
apparatus, but not the photographer, 
and whenever I approached to expose a 
plate she quietly slipped off the nest 
and scolded me vehemently in harsh, 
angry notes from the darkest depths of 
the straggling overgrown hedgerow. The 
male bird fed her as she sat upon the 



24 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




LESSER WHITETHROAT FEEDING 
ITS YOUNG. 



nest, and if 
I happened 
to disturb 
these very 
pretty meet- 
ings he be- 
came ex- 
ceedingly 
angry and 
protested 
even more 
loudly and 
boldly than 



. 

A pair 

of birds of this species has bred for 
years in succession at the same spot 



in a Surrey hedgerow near my 
home. 

The Lesser Whitethroat, although a 
graceful and interesting bird, is not a 
very accomplished vocalist ; the male, 
however, tries with a will to make up any 
deficiencies in quality by a prodigal 
liberality in quantity. I have known 
instances when he appeared to sing 
almost incessantly the whole day long. 
He also remains in song later in the 
summer than his better-known rela- 
tive. 

This species arrives upon our shores 
in April and departs again for its winter 
abode in Africa during September, strag- 
glers occasionally tarrying until October. 





*^r ^ ^ 



- 



; 



CORMORANTS 

"The nest is generally a bulky structure composed of sticks, twigs, 
seaweed, turf, and coarse grass." 




A Cormorant's breeding colony is not exactly a pleasant place to visit." 



THE COMMON CORMORANT 



T 



HIS bird lias an exceedingly 
wide geographical distri- 
bution, for it is found all 
over Europe, in Asia, 
Northern Africa, and on 
the Atlantic shores of 
North America. It may 
be easily distinguished 
from its near relative the Green Cor- 
morant, or Shag, by its greater size, 
and the absence of green from the 
colour of its plumage. 

It feeds upon fishes, which it pursues 
under water, and can catch with equal 
ease and dexterity in river, lake, or sea. 
When captured young it is easily tamed, 
and for generations Chinese and Japanese 
fishermen have taken advantage of this 
fact, and made use of the bird's services 
in obtaining a livelihood. A leather 



strap or ring is placed round the Cor- 
morant's neck, in such a way as to allow 
it to breathe freely, but yet prevent it 
from swallowing its prey. The bird is 
then taken out to the fishing grounds 
on a raft and released. After it has 
dived a number of times and obtained 
a little rest between each capture, as 
it does in a natural state, its Oriental 
master removes the ring or strap and 
allows his feathered assistant to do a 
little fishing on its own account. 

Cormorants are very fond of standing 
on a post in the water, or upon some 
dead tree stump overhanging it, also 
of basking with outspread wings on an 
ocean rock, and when a group of birds 
is seen standing in a row thus engaged 
the sight is a very curious one indeed. 

This species breeds generally round 



26 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




COKMOKANT'S NEST AND KOOS. 

our coast wherever suitable accommoda- 
tion can be found on ledges of maritime 
cliffs, low rocky islands, such as the 
Fames off the coast of Northumberland, 
in trees growing upon islands in inland 
lakes, and even amongst long grass 
where no trees grow. The nest is gener- 
ally a bulky structure composed of sticks, 
twigs, seaweed, turf, and coarse grass. 
Building operations commence in April, 
but when visiting a large colony as late 
as the middle of July I have seen some 
birds still busy bringing seaweed, and 
others sitting on fresh eggs, whilst their 
earlier friends had fast-feathering young 
ones wandering about the island. The 



eggs, numbering from three to six, are 
pale blue in colour when the coating of 
chalk has been scraped away and the 
true shell revealed. 

Young Cormorants when newly 
hatched are of a bluish-black colour, 
and without a particle of down upon 
their shiny nigger-like little bodies. 

A Cormorant's breeding colony is not 
exactly a pleasant place to visit, espe- 
cially late in the season, for the offensive 
stench from droppings and decomposing 
fish is well nigh unendurable. 

During my last visit to the principal 
Fame Islands Cormorant station which 
is so low that occasionally every nest is 
washed away by a high tide and a strong 
north-easterly breeze I saw several 
common guillemots' eggs lying about on 
the rock. They had been so much be- 
fouled by the droppings of the legitimate 
owners of the place that they were only 
recognisable by their shape. 

Young Cormorants are excessively 
nervous, and upon the approach of a 
visitor disgorge their last meal and 
tremble all over in the most violent and 
distressing manner. 







be 
o 



E 
< 




' When quite young they are unable to roll up into a ball of defence." 



THE HEDGEHOG, OR URCHIN 




HIS familiar quadruped is 
too well known to need 
any kind of description, 
and I shall therefore con- 
tent myself by mentioning 
a few interesting facts rela- 
tive to its life and habits. 
It is a nocturnal animal, 
sleeping by day, and coming forth 
towards evening to ramble about during 
the hours of darkness in search of beetles, 
worms, birds' eggs, young frogs, snakes, 
or whatsoever its strength and skill 
will allow it to overpower and slay. It 
is common nearly all over Europe, and 
hibernates during the winter months. 
In the autumn it makes for itself a nice 
warm nest of moss, dead grass and leaves, 
and, curling itself up, lapses into a more 
or less torpid condition. I say " more 
or less torpid," because if disturbed 
during mild weather, even in January, 
it will take umbrage and forsake its 
carefully prepared quarters. I have on 



more than one occasion taken a " Hedge- 
pig " from its nest during cold weather in 
the winter, and placed it in front of a 
fire in order to observe at what tempera- 
ture the animal would awake, and, judg- 
ing from the accelerated heart -beat ing, 
and the convulsive manner in which it 
breathed, the experiment could not have 
been good for its health. 

A great deal of uncertainty seems to 
prevail in regard to the precise season 
at which the Hedgehog brings forth its 
young. Some authorities contend that 
the breeding season is in the early 
summer, and others not until July or 
August. Personally I have found nests 
containing young ones as early as the 
beginning of June, and as late as the 
end of August. There is also room for 
a good deal more observation in regard to 
the number of young Hedgepigs in a 
litter ; some naturalists assert that four 
is the limit, whilst others mention double 
that number in a nest. I have never 



28 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



seen fewer 
than three 
or more 
than six. 

Young 
Hedgeho g s 
are born 
with their 
eyes closed. 
Their 
spines are 
white, as 
shown in 
the accom- 
p a n y i n g 
picture, and 
fl exi ble . 

When quite young they are unable 
to roll up into a ball of defence. 
Hedgehogs in a wild, free state seldom 
utter any kind of sound, but whilst try- 
ing to escape from confinement they 
frequently utter cries, which are difficult 




A VKBY YOUNG HEDGEHOG. 



to describe, but may be termed some- 
thing between a grunt and a squeal. 
Young ones that have missed their 
mother call to her in a voice highly 
suggestive of that of a bird. 

Although dogs appear to experience 
considerable difficulty in killing a 
Hedgehog, foxes and badgers seem to 
slay it with ease, in spite of its 
armour. 

The animal is said, on the authority 
of gipsies, who cook it in a some- 
what crude and curious manner, to 
supply good eating. It is rolled up 
inside a kind of clay dumpling, and 
when this has been sufficiently baked 
in a stick fire it is opened ; the spines 
and skin of the Urchin adhere to the 
hot clay, and the rest, like a kernel, is 
ready for consumption. 

Hedgehogs do not readily take to 
the water, yet swim with great ease and 
expedition if thrown into it. 





Nestling Merlins. 




'The eggs ... are laid in a slight hollow . . . amongst deep heather." 



THE MERLIN 



T 




HIS bird claims the dis- 
tinction of being the 
smallest member of the 
Falcon family found breed- 
ing in the British Islands. 
The male is only about 

the size of a missel thrush, 

but his courage exceeds 
even that of the noble peregrine, and 
he has been known to attack and kill 
game even twice his own weight. 

Although remaining with us all the 
year round, this species is subject to a 
good deal of local migration, and the 
individuals seen in the southern counties 
during the winter retire to the wild 
moorland parts of Wales, the north of 
England, Scotland, and Ireland in the 
spring to breed. It nests quite com- 



monly for its kind on some of the islands 
in the Outer Hebrides. 

The eggs, numbering from three to six, 
are creamy-white in ground colour, but 
are generally so thickly marked with 
reddish brown that the underlying tint 
is difficult to discover. They are laid 
in a slight hollow, which sometimes has 
a meagre lining of bits of dead heather, 
grass, or moss, amongst deep heather 
or scattered rocks. Occasionally the 
old habitation of some tree-building 
species is occupied, but this departure 
is more often indulged in on the Con- 
tinent than in this country. 

The Merlin, or Stone Falcon, as it is 
occasionally called, shows a great affec- 
tion for a favourite old haunt of its 
species, and in spite of persecution a 



29 



30 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



pair will turn up season after season at 
the same place to breed. 

The female sits very closely, and when 




MERLIN'S NEST AND EGOS 

disturbed flies in circles high over the 
head of her disturber, uttering shrill 
alarm cries, which frequently bring her 
mate upon the scene. During the period 
of incubation the male provides the 
female with all the food she requires. 
I have frequently watched him bring 
a small bird to some knoll a hundred 
yards away from the nest, call his 
mate to the place, and, whilst she has 



been engaged in plucking and eating 
her meal, he has flown to the nest 
and critically examined the eggs. The 
male sparrow hawk sometimes does 
precisely the same kind of thing, but 
I have never seen one of either species 
attempt to undertake the task of incu- 
bation. 

During the period that young Merlins 
are in down the female does not wander 
far from the nest, but contents herself 
by either brooding or waiting on some 
commanding eminence for the return 
of the male with prey, which she plucks 
and divides amongst the members of 
her voracious family. 

One day, whilst waiting for a Merlin 
to come back to her fast feathering 
chicks, a violent thunderstorm broke 
over the hills. When the hail and rain 
descended in earnest the youngsters 
appeared to get frightened and began to 
call out tway, tway, tway in the most 
pathetic tones. This had the desired 
effect, for the old bird soon faced the 
ordeal of my lens ; but although I 
secured two or three photographs they 
were of very little use on account of the 
miserably wet and bedraggled condition 
of the bird. 







Lapwing on Eggs. 




1 The nest is slight hollow scratched in the ground." 



THE LAPWING, OR PEEWIT 




E\V birds are more useful 
to the farmer, or of greater 
interest to the naturalist, 
than the Lapwing, and yet 
it is persecuted beyond all 
reason. In the spring its 
eggs are persistently gath- 
ered and sold as breakfast- 
table delicacies, and in the winter it is 
shot and netted for the miserable price 
its body will fetch in the poulterer's 
shop. In many parts of the country 
its numbers are gradually, yet surely, 
decreasing, to the regret of the agri- 
culturist, who greatly appreciates its 
services in clearing his land of slugs 
and all kinds of noxious insects. If 
early clutches were taken and a close 
time instituted, as is now the case in 
some Continental countries, the species 
would be allowed a chance of maintain- 
ing its position in point of numbers, but 
such persistent collecting goes on in 
some parts of the country that by the 
middle of June the old birds have 
given ip all hope of rearing a brood 
and commenced to flock. Many people 



think when they see large flocks on 
flooded meadows in the winter that the 
species cannot be diminishing in numbers, 
but they forget that these flocks are 
largely composed of Continental mi- 
grants. 

The Lapwing, or Green Plover, as it 
is frequently called, breeds in nearly 
all suitable localities, and the love- 
making notes, drumming flight, and 
aerial antics of the male are most in- 
teresting harbingers of spring. The 
nest is a slight hollow scratched in the 
ground and lined with a few dead grass 
straws, or bits of rushes. In nearly all 
cases the eggs number four, although 
late in the season a bird may frequently 
be found sitting upon three. Very 
rarely a clutch of five may be met with, 
and upon two occasions I have found a 
small stone bearing every evidence of hav- 
ing been added to a clutch of three eggs. 

Young Lapwings run directly they 
leave the egg shells, and if any form of 
danger should appear they instantly 
crouch flat upon the ground, and remain 
absolutely still until a reassuring cry 



3' 



32 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




LAPWING'S NEST AND EGGS. 



from one or other of their parents tells 
them that the danger has passed. The 
down covering a young Peewit is splen- 
didly adapted for protection, for, in 
addition to its yellowish fawn ground- 
colour being broken up by blackish 
brown markings, a greyish white collar 



runs round the neck in such a way as, 
in certain aspects, to break the con- 
tinuity of the outline of the body, 
and thus make the bird appear to its 
enemies as two distinct objects instead 
of one. A little reflection will show 
what a wonderful provision of Nature 
this is for the protection of a defence- 
less chick. 

Even when a young Lapwing is fully 
clothed in its first coat of feathers, and 
able to fly a couple of hundred yards, 
it will trust to its hiding powers, and 
I must confess to having passed by 
chicks in positions similar to those 
shown in the illustration below, having 
mistaken their appearance for bits of 
dried cow-dung. 

The male Peewit wears a longer 
crest than the female, and has a shriller 
voice. Both birds show great courage 
in defence of their young, and it is 
sometimes amusing to watch them 
driving sheep away from the neighbour- 
hood of their nests. 







THE NATTERJACK TOAD. 

'A bright yellow line running down the centre of its back 
proclaims its identity." 





Although rarer than the Common Toad or Frog, the Natterjack is more beautiful than 

either of them." 



THE NATTERJACK, OR RUSH TOAD 



A 




I/THOUGH rarer than the 
Common Toad or Frog, 
the Natterjack is more 
beautiful than either of 
them, if such an adjec- 
tive can be applied to 
what Gilbert White would 
have called " a vile reptile." 
It is lighter coloured than its better- 
known relative, being of a yellowish 
brown tint, clouded with dull olive. 
A well-defined bright yellow line running 
down the centre of the back proclaims 
its identity with certainty and ease, 
even to the most casual observer. It 
has a habit of standing with its body 
higher than that of the Common Toad, 
and when moving about on land gets 
over the ground more quickly. 

I have kept it in confinement on 
several occasions, and as it is a hardy 
creature capable of sustaining itself in 
dry places, I have tried to acclimatise 



it to the Surrey hills, but in vain. 
Norfolk and other specimens turned 
loose in the neighbourhood of Cater- 
ham Valley, where the Common Toad 
is abundant, have apparently shared 
the same fate as edible snails, which I 
have sent to broad-land, viz., vanished. 

Some of my readers may say : 
" Exactly what was to be expected, as 
the Natterjack is a creature of ditches, 
ponds, and damp places." Not entirely, 
I submit, for it is to be found amongst 
the sand dunes at Ravenglass in Cumber- 
land, and Professor Bell, who lived for 
a time in Gilbert White's old house ^t 
Selborne, records that the favourite 
resort of the Rush Toads inhabiting the 
famous naturalist's garden was under 
a shallow layer of turf, covering the 
top of a wall which was 'exposed to 
the summer sun in the hottest part 
of the garden. 

It is said that the Natterjack emits 



33 



34 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




THE NATTERJACK TOAD. 

a smell not unlike the smoke of gun- 
powder, but although I have handled a 
good many specimens from time to time 
I have never noticed this peculiarity. 

It does not appear to be either as 
nervous or sullen as the Common Toad, 
and will, when in captivity, accept small 
worms and swallow them with relish 



much more readily Avhilst under obser- 
vation than its better known relative. 

The notes of the male sound some- 
thing like glouk, glouk, and can be 
heard at a great distance, but neither 
this creature nor the Common Frog can 
compare, from a musical point of view, 
with a small relative of theirs which 
I have heard in the United States. At 
sundown towards the end of April every 
marshy place in the country seems to 
palpitate with the shrill piping music of 
frogs. In fact they produce such a pro- 
digious and penetrating din that it is 
almost impossible to listen to any kind 
of bird notes. Frog music in an Ameri- 
can marsh seems to me to take the place 
of song thrush music in a sheltered Eng- 
lish wood about the same time of year. 
Hardly anything else can be heard. 

The eggs of the Natterjack are laid in 
the water, but its young ones do not 
occupy the tadpole stage of their 
existence much longer than from six to 
seven weeks. 





Wryneck at Nesting-hole. 




" The Wryneck can run up or down the trunk of tree with equal 



and expedition.' 



THE WRYNECK 



T 




HE Wryneck, or Cuckoo's 
Mate, as it is sometimes 
called, on account of the 
fact that it arrives upon 
our shores about the same 
time as that much-lookcd- 
for harbinger of spring, 
is a very interesting bird. 
It always makes its presence known 
" from early morn till dewy eve " by 
a rather wearisome reiteration of its 
kestrel-like call notes, que, que, que, 
which are rapidly uttered. 

In the distance it looks an ordinary 
brown sparrow-like bird, but when 
observed within two or three feet its 



plumage is seen to consist of the most 
beautiful admixture of varying shades 
of brown, buff, grey, and black, the 
barrings and pencillings producing an 
effect highly suggestive of a pretty piece 
of lacework. 

It breeds in holes in trees and decay- 
ing fence posts, and is very partial to 
a favourite old haunt, to which it will 
return season after season in unbroken 
succession. If a woodpecker's hole, or 
other accommodation of a like character, 
cannot be found, the friendly shelter of 
a nesting box erected in a garden or 
orchard will be readily adapted. Should 
a great tit be already in possession, 



35 



36 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



the fact 
presents no 
difficulties 
of a moral 
or physical 
character 
to the ag- 
gressive 
Wryneck, 
for she sim- 
ply ejects 
the right- 
ful owner 
and her 
eggs and 
takes pos- 
session. Al- 
though this species does not make any 
kind of nest of its own as a rule, it 
docs not appear to object to the com- 
fortable down-lined home of the bird 
it has evicted. 

Seven or eight pure white unspotted 
eggs, easily mistaken for those of the 
lesser spotted woodpecker, are laid, and 
if any prying intruder should come along 
whilst the Wryneck is sitting, she resorts 
to the most astonishing forms of decep- 
tion. First of all she tries to terrify, 




A YOUNG WKYNKCK. 



by hissing like an angry snake, and if 
this does not succeed in frightening 
away the molester of her peace, and she 
is captured, she will feign serious illness 
until an opportune moment for escape 
presents itself, when she suddenly darts 
away from her captor. 

A large proportion of the food of the 
Wryneck consists of ants arid their eggs, 
for the capture of which the bird has 
been bountifully provided by Nature. 
Its tongue, which is long and worm-like, 
is supplied with a sticky secretion to 
which the insects adhere until they 
have been withdrawn between the man- 
dibles of their captor. The individual 
figured in the accompanying plate will 
be seen to have a large number of ants 
in its bill, if the illustration be examined 
with a magnifier. 

Having two toes in front, and two 
behind, the Wryneck can run up or 
down the trunk of a tree with equal ease 
and expedition. On the ground it pro- 
gresses by means of short, quick hops. 

This bird is commonest in the 
south and south-east of England. It 
is a migrant arriving in April and 
leaving again during September. 





Lesser Tern. 




"The favourite breeding haunts of the Lesser Tern are on sandy flat coasts." 



THE LESSER TERN 




HIS bird is the smallest of 
the sea swallows resorting 
to the British Archipelago 
to breed. It only measures 
between eight and nine 
inches in length, although 
it looks longer when on the 
wing. It may easily be 
distinguished from its congeners, the 
Common and Arctic Terns, by its smaller 
size, and the fact that it has a white 
patch on the forehead just above the 
base of the bill. The practised ornith- 
ologist, can also readily recognise it by 
the difference in the sound of its call 
notes. It is not so numerous as either 
of the above-mentioned species, and in 
the breeding season is more frequently 
met with in companies consisting of 
a few pairs than in large colonies. 



The favourite breeding haunts of the 
lesser Tern are on sandy flat coasts, 
interspersed with banks of shells and 
small shingle. It sometimes nests on 
the shores of large bodies of fresh water, 
such as Loch Lomond, but this is more 
commonly the case on the Continent 
than in this country. For some un- 
known reason the bird exhibits consider- 
able fickleness in regard to its breeding 
ground. One season a small number of 
pairs may arrive, and the next a com- 
paratively large colony, without any 
apparent reason for the change. 

Very little in the way of nest-building 
is attempted. Sometimes a slight hollow 
is made in the sand and lined with small 
shells, and at others the eggs are laid 
upon the sand or shingle, without any 
discernible attempt on the part of the 



37 



38 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




I.ESSKR TERN'S KOOS. 



bird to create a hollow for their recep- 
tion. The eggs generally number two 
or three, although as many as four may 
be met with. They vary from pale 
brown to stone yellow in ground 
colour, and are marked with grey and 
dark chestnut-brown spots and blotches. 
At Ravenglass, in Cumberland, where 
our photographs were taken, the watcher 
has an ingenious method of circumventing 
the collector by marking every Lesser 
Tern's egg he finds with an indelible ink 
pencil. When my friend, Mr. Jasper 



Atkinson, of Leeds, showed me a clutch 
of eggs streaked and scrawled over I 
was bewildered until the reason was 
explained to me. 

During dry windy weather this species 
must sometimes suffer calamity in the 
laying season from a curious source. 
Whilst waiting to take the photograph 
from which the accompanying photo- 
gravure was reproduced, I noticed that 
if the Tern remained away from her 
eggs for a little while the drifting sand 
almost covered them over, and she was 
compelled to remove it before sitting 
down to incubate them. When the 
wind was blowing its hardest she sat 
with her bill pointing straight in the 
direction from which it came, and, with 
half-closed eyes, patiently endured the 
inconvenience, occasionally shaking the 
fine sand from her plumage. 

Young Lesser Terns harmonise with 
their natural surroundings in the most 
wonderful manner, and as they have a 
habit of clapping flat upon the sand or 
shingle, and keeping quite still when their 
parents sound the first alarm note, they 
are very difficult to find. 





Ptarmigan on Nest. 




"Snow wreaths, many feet deep, ttill lingered." 



THE PTARMIGAN 




HE Ptarmigan is essentially 

Ta bird of mountain and 
mist. It represents the 
dreary solitudes of Nature 
where silence is almost 
eternal. So far as our 
islands are concerned the 
species is only found north 
of the Tweed. Its sober coat of mixed 
greys and browns harmonises so perfectly 
with the natural surroundings of the 
creature that it can scarcely be detected 
even when crouching at one's feet. As 
if conscious of this advantage the bird 
will often allow the wayfarer to pass it 
within a few paces without stirring. 

I remember on one occasion, with a 
friend, climbing a mountain nearly four 



thousand feet in height for photographs 
of this species at home. In order to 
enjoy the advantage of the cool hours 
wherein to climb with our weighty ap- 
paratus, we started out at midnight. 
About 4 a.m. we reached the elevation 
at which snow-wreaths, many feet deep, 
still lingered, although it was close upon 
midsummer. My friend took me to a 
Ptarmigan's nest which he had found 
a few days previously, but as I was 
somewhat fastidious about figuring a 
bird in a situation I considered more 
typical of the species, we wandered 
along the mountain side to another of 
which he had knowledge. Alas ! the 
hoody crows or herring gulls, both of 
which were breeding at a lower elevation, 



40 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




PTARMIGAN'S NEST AND EGOS. 

had sucked the eggs. By dint of much 
searching we found another nest close 
by a huge patch of unmelted snow, 
but its owner was unusually wild, and 
would not tolerate the camera within a 
gunshot of her. Taking stretch after 
stretch of likely ground we beat each 
one carefully, but although we frequently 
put up birds that flew away uttering 
their melancholy croaking notes, we only 
found empty nests with egg-shells scat- 
tered round them, and were at last 
compelled to retrace our steps and 
devote our attention to the first seen 



bird. Luckily she proved a good sitter, 
in a double sense of the term, and we 
exposed plates upon her from every 
possible point of view. 

As an illustration of the difficulties 
of detecting a bird of this species on her 
nest, and the closeness with which she 
will sit when on the point of hatching, 
I have heard of an ornithologist who 
had sought hard and long in vain. 
Whilst sitting upon a stone eating his 
luncheon he happened to look down, 
and was astonished to discover that the 
crumbs from his sandwich were falling 
upon the back of a Ptarmigan on her 
eggs between his feet ! 

This species lays from seven to ten, 
and sometimes as many as twelve, eggs, 
of a pale reddish or greyish-white 
ground colour, blotched and spotted 
with reddish-brown markings. 

When the female is disturbed whilst 
covering her chicks she flutters round 
and round the intruder, feigning injury, 
and in an instant the young ones have 
scattered north, south, east, and west, 
and vanished as completely as if the 
earth had suddenly opened and swal- 
lowed them up. 




YOUNG HOODY CROWS 

try over their far-heard notes. 





"The Hoody breeds in maritime cliff's." 



THE HOODY, OR GREY CROW 



T 



r 

" 



HIS bird is chiefly known 
in England through Con- 
tinental specimens that 
arrive on the East Coast 
in October, and scatter 
themselves over the coun- 
tryside to spend the winter 
searching for any kind of 
food that our less rigorous climate may 
afford them. I have never met with 
it breeding in either England or Wales, 
although in Ireland, the Isle of Man, 
and parts of Scotland it practically takes 
the place of the Carrion or Black Crow. 
Where these two winged scavengers 
meet in their geographical range, both 
in the United Kingdom and on the 



Continent, they will interbreed. Taking 
this fact, their structural identity, and 
similarity of habits into consideration, 
many naturalists regard the Hoody 
only as a variety of the Carrion Crow, 
and not entitled, therefore, to any kind 
of specific distinction. 

The beak and legs of the Royston 
Crow as the Hoody is sometimes 
called are jet black ; head, throat, 
wings, and tail shining blue-black ; 
whilst the nape, back, and under- 
parts are of a dark slaty-grey colour. 
Whether in flight or at rest its bold 
parti-colours render it easily distin- 
guishable, almost at any distance. 

I have generally found that the Hoody 



42 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




HOODY CROW'S NEST. 



breeds in maritime cliffs, or in deep 
heather on the ground ; but my friend, 
Mr. Richard Ussher, who has given it 
a great deal of attention in Ireland, says 
that he has never found its nest in the 
latter situation. The structure is made 
of sticks, twigs, heather, dry seaweed, 
rootlets, moss, hair, and wool. 

The eggs generally number five, of a 



greyish-green ground colour, spotted and 
blotched with olive or greenish-brown 
markings of varying shades. 

When the young ones first leave the 
nest they sit about in trees, or upon 
rocks, and frequently try over their far- 
heard notes, as shown in our coloured 
plate, and especially when they see 
their parents flying high overhead. 

The Hoody Crow feeds upon beetles, 
worms, birds' eggs, and young, all kinds 
of carrion, and shell-fish ; in the opening 
of the latter it shows great astute- 
ness. As far back as the twelfth century 
Giraldus Cambrensis mentioned that this 
bird had a habit of taking shell-fish up 
into the air and letting them drop on 
rocks in order that they might be 
broken. This interesting habit is still 
practised all round our coast during 
the winter, and I have noticed that if 
the first fall does not accomplish the 
bird's purpose it takes the shell-fish 
higher and higher until the desired 
end is accomplished. 





1 



s. 




'The nest consists of a few blades of dead trans placed in a hollow under an overhanging 

cuuock of coarse grass." 



THE COMMON SNIPE 



T 



HIS well-known bird breeds 
in almost every suitable 
quarter of the British Is- 
lands, and during the winter 
months its ranks are greatly 
swollen by the arrival of 
vast numbers of migrants 
from Scandinavia. Its 
swift, zigzag flight renders it of peculiar 
interest to the sportsman, and the weird 
bleating, or drumming, made by the 
male in the breeding season, to the 
naturalist. Although the latter pecu- 
liarity has been closely observed, and 
widely discussed by able ornithologists 
for more than a century, opinions still 
differ as to how the sound is produced. 
Some contend that it is of vocal origin, 
and others that it is made by the tail 
or wings. 

When a Snipe is going to indulge in 
a drumming exercise, which is generally 
during the cool hours of dusk although 
individual birds occasionally do so in 
the sunshine of broad noontide he rises 



into the air to some considerable height 
uttering his familiar and far sounding 
tjick, tjick, tjick notes. Upon reaching 
a suitable altitude he descends in a 
slanting direction with outspread wings 
and tail, and it is then that the bleat- 
ing or drumming sound is produced. 
Numerous observations through powerful 
field-glasses have convinced me that 
the sound is not of vocal origin, for the 
bill is always closed whilst the bird is 
descending. The wings undoubtedly 
have a great deal to do with the produc- 
tion of the sound, but how far they are 
assisted by the tail quills I am not pre- 
pared to say. 

The Common Snipe will readily 
perch on stone walls, gates, rails, and 
sometimes even on the tops of tall trees. 
Its bill is a wonderful organ, being 
crowded with nerves right down to its 
very tip. It is more sensitive to touch 
than the human finger, and thus enables 
its owner to find worms, and other edible 
trifles, hidden in soft mud. 



43 



44 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




SNIl'K 8 NEST. 



In open seasons nests belonging to 
this species may be found as early as 
March, and on one occasion I met with 
one containing fresh eggs as late as the 
end of July. The nest consists of a few 
blades of dead grass, or bits of rush, 
placed in a hollow under an overhanging 
tussock of coarse grass, or in a bunch 
of rushes on swampy marsh-land. The 
four pyriform eggs are olive green to 
greyish yellow in ground colour, boldly 



marked with varying shades of brown 
and grey. The young ones commence 
to run about directly after they are 
hatched. 

One cold May morning I quite acci- 
dentally came upon the two chicks 
figured in the picture at the foot of this 
page. Seeing that they were unable to 
travel very far on account of the rough 
character of the ground and their chilled 
condition, I erected a hiding tent, which 
a boy was carrying for me at the time, 
retired inside with my camera, and 
speedily exposed a number of plates 
upon their mother in the act of brooding 
them. Presently a long bill was nerv- 
ously thrust through the rushes behind 
the crouching bird and instantly dis- 
appeared again. This was repeated at 
intervals of about a minute for quite a 
while, then the head of the male appeared, 
and finally he came forth into the open 
with a small piece of food of some kind 
between his long mandibles. This was 
given to one of the chicks, and after- 
wards male and female each brooded 
a member of their small family, and I 
photographed them in the act. 





I 

e 

i 

e 




Trout-tickling. 



THE COMMON TROUT 



T 




HE Common Trout is a fas- 
cinating fish, whether we 
regard it from the natural- 
ist's point of view, or from 
that of the angler. My 
early history is inextricably 
mixed up with its life and 
haunts, for when I was a 
boy nothing could keep me away from 
the becks of my native county. I have 
tickled it in brawling beck and sluggish 
stream, and angled it with every known 
form of rod, from an ash sapling to a 
split cane. 

The ways of the Trout are past finding 
out. One day it will be as sulky as a 
donkey, and the next as playful as a 
kitten. It is as fickle as fortune, and 
as courageous as a lion. On some days 



it will feed like a gourmand, and upon 
others, that appear to human judgment 
equally suitable, it will fast like a soul- 
mortifying saint. 

The diversity of food indulged in by 
this fish is nothing less than astonishing. 
I have caught it with a mouse in its 
mouth, and bullheads, loaches, and even 
members of its own species are in- 
cluded in its dietary. Indeed, old Trout 
are very liable to develop cannibalistic 
habits in preference to obtaining a liveli- 
hood by catching small flies, larvae, and 
worms. 

In the autumn the majority of Trout 
old enough to propagate their species 
migrate up stream in search of suit- 
able breeding quarters. A sluggish 
tributary with a sandy or gravelly 



45 



46 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



bottom and an equable temperature is 
an ideal haunt lor spawning purposes. 




MAY-FLIES. 



When the spawning has been accom- 
plished, males and females alike descend 
again to deeper waters. In due season 
the young Trout are hatched and remain 
in the quiet-flowing waters until they 
have grown strong enough and wise 
enough to descend the rivers and enter 
a world of subtle enemies. 

To the spawning grounds the Trout's 



two great enemies the otter and the 
heron hie in October. This is taking an 
unfair advantage, but Nature is not a 
great moralist. When moving about 
in shallow places spawning Trout may 
frequently be seen with their backs out 
of water, and at such times are occasion- 
ally carried off even by the water-hating 
cat or stealthy owl. 

At this season of the year the fish 
is more easily attracted by artificial 
light than at any other, according to 
my experience, and with a bull's-eye 
lantern and a landing net I have caught 
it wholesale for friends interested in 
artificial breeding and rearing. 

Our photogravure has been reproduced 
from a photograph taken in a clear 
shallow Westmorland stream with an 
almost imperceptible current. 

The Common Trout varies in size, 
coloration, and flavour, according to 
the character of the soil through which 
the river wherein it lives flows. In 
some streams it never weighs more than 
a few ounces, whilst in others of the same 
size and in the same neighbourhood it 
will attain to a weight of several pounds. 






Black-Headed Gull. 




'A young Black-Headed Gull in its first coat of feathers." 



THE BLACK-HEADED GULL 




HE Black-Headed Gull is a 
familiar bird, even to those 
who have seldom or never 
visited the sea, for, in 
addition to being exceed- 
ingly common, it pene- 
trates the remotest parts 
of the country in search 
of food or breeding quarters. 

In the spring time, when the birds 
assume their nuptial black or very dark- 
brown head-dress, which is brought 
about by a change of colour and not of 
feathers, they leave most of our tidal 
rivers, and betake themselves to their 
favourite breeding haunts on the edges 
of meres and tarns. Boggy, wet places 
are by no means essential, however, to 



the well-being of their eggs and chicks, 
for at Ravenglass, in Cumberland, where 
our photographs were taken, Black- 
Headed Gulls breed in vast numbers on 
sand-dunes, with the sea on one side and 
tidal rivers on the other. Although a 
gregarious species, I have on several 
occasions met with a solitary pair breed- 
ing on some small mountain tarn. At 
Scoulton Mere, in Norfolk, great num- 
bers of this species have bred for over 
three hundred years in unbroken suc- 
cession, and at Pallisbourne, in North- 
umberland, there is a very old Gullery. 
The Black-Headed Gull commences to 
breed in April, and makes a rough nest 
of sedges, rushes, reeds, bits of dead 
heather, or grass, on the ground amongst 



47 



48 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




YOUNG BLACK-HEADED GL'LLS. 

tufts of rushes, tussocks of grass, nettles, 
or heather, and lays two generally three, 
and occasionally four eggs. These vary 
from pale olive green to light umber 
brown in ground colour, and are blotched, 
spotted, and streaked with blackish 
brown and dark grey. The young com- 
mence to run about or swim if there 
is water near directly they are hatched, 
and it is a mystery how the parent 
birds find their own chicks in the hungry 
crowd when they return home with 
food. 

It will be seen in our illustration how 



widely a young Black-Headed Gull in 
its first coat of feathers differs from its 
parents in appearance. 

A peculiar thing noticeable at Black- 
Headed Gulleries in June is that a young 
bird of this species may be able to fly 
quite well before it has been fed, but 
not afterwards, until the food has been 
disgorged or digested. Apparently con- 
scious of this fact, a young Gull falling 
into danger soon after a meal will dis- 
gorge the food and, taking wing, fly away. 

Like other defenceless birds, this Gull 
has many enemies. At Ravenglass jack- 
daws breed in rabbits' burrows and prey 
upon its eggs, and peregrines come down 
from the mountains to snatch up its 
feathered young ones. 

This charming Gull has endeared itself 
to Londoners by regularly visiting the 
Thames above bridge every winter since 
the rigorous weather of 1895. It is a 
great friend and benefactor of the 
farmer, whose land it clears of 
noxious grubs ; but is said to be an 
enemy of the fisherman on account of 
its destruction of fry. 





" The young vary very much in size." 



THE SHORT-EARED OWL 



A 




FEJV pairs of birds of this 
species breed on the marshes 
in East Anglia, and in 
the heather in the North 
of England, Scotland, and 
the Orkneys every spring ; 
but by far the greater 
number seen in this country 
during the winter months are migrants 
from the Continent. It is a bird with 
a very wide geographical distribution, 
being found in Europe, Asia, Africa, 
and America, with very little difference in 
its appearance or habits in any of them. 
It is called by sportsmen the Wood- 
cock Owl, on account of the fact that its 
arrival in numbers upon our shores 
synchronises with that of the bird be- 
loved by every devotee of the shot gun. 
It is frequently seen in small companies 
by sportsmen when out partridge or 
snipe shooting. 

7 40 



A very interesting thing in regard to 
this species is that during the recent 
great vole plagues that have afflicted 
the Lowlands of Scotland, numbers of 
Short-eared Owls have congregated in 
order to take advantage of the plentiful 
supply of food, just as they did in the 
sixteenth century when " a sore plague 
of strange mice " visited Kent and Essex. 
Another remarkable fact in this con- 
nection is that when they enjoy their 
natural food in such lavish plenitude 
they breed earlier in the season, and 
their fecundity is greatly increased. 
Normally this species lays from three 
to five eggs although upon occasion 
I have seen as many as seven in a nest 
and breeds in April and May ; but Mr. 
Richard Bell records that, during the 
great vole plague of 1890-93 in Scotland, 
one of his shepherds found a nest con- 
taining twelve eggs on February 29th. 



50 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




NEST OK THE SHOUT-BAKED OWI.. 

The ground was covered with snow at 
the time, and no fewer than seventeen 
dead voles were lying round the sit- 
ting female. These had been brought 
by the male bird for his mate. Long 
ago the Short-eared Owl was reported 
to lay as many as ten or twelve eggs 
in the fur countries, but the state- 
ment was received with incredulity by 
ornithologists. 

The nest is a slight hollow scratched 
in the ground, and lined with a few bits 



of dead grass or moss. I have on more 
than one occasion, however, seen the 
white oval-shaped eggs lying upon the 
bare earth. 

The young vary very much in size, as 
may be seen from the illustration on 
the previous page. They leave the nest 
long before they are able to fly, and 
crouch amongst heather, rushes, or 
other vegetation affording cover. 

Our coloured plate of an adult bird 
on her eggs was obtained on the edge 
of a Hebridean loch. She was a very 
shy specimen, and uttered a shrill cry 
of anger whenever her nest was ap- 
proached. My lens appeared to be an 
object of special mistrust, and she 
always sat with her beautiful eyes 
steadily fixed vipon it. 

This species hunts in broad light of 
day without any apparent inconvenience, 
and when seen working a moor in search 
of prey the bird's erratic flight suggests 
a piece of brown paper being carried 
hither and thither by a fickle wind. 





Oyster-Catcher at Home. 




" The Oyster Catcher is a handsome bird." 



THE OYSTER CATCHER 




HETHEll seen upon the 
wing, or standing in 
solemn meditation where 
the waves ripple along 
the shores of some far- 
stretching sandy bay, the 
Oyster Catcher is a hand- 
some bird. Its well 
denned black and white plumage renders 
it conspicuous almost anywhere, and the 
dullest student of Nature can never 
forget the bird's loud clear voice once it 
has been heard. 

Whilst staying on the Fame Islands, 
and at other places where this species 
breeds, I have heard the birds uttering 
their clamorous chatter in chorus during 
every hour of the night. 

It lives upon all kinds of mollusca, 
and is particularly dexterous in detach- 



ing limpets from their native rocks 
with its wedge-like orange-coloured bill. 
The Oyster Catcher breeds generally 
round our coasts where suitable localities 
are to be found, and in Scotland on the 
banks of rivers and lochs, often at a 
considerable distance from the sea. 
Sometimes quite a number of pebbles 
and shells are collected wherewith to 
line the nest, and at others the eggs 
may be found on shingle, sand, or even 
bare rock, with little or nothing in the 
shape of a lining to the slight hollow 
selected for their reception. In the 
Shetlands I have found the bird breeding 
upon a most unlikely ledge of rock 
some ten feet above the shore, and at the 
Fame Islands young ones have been 
hatched for years in succession on the 
top of an old wall seven or eight feet in 



52 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




OYSTKK CATCHKR'S NEST. 

height. I am also aware of the same 
nest being used year after year in the 
Outer Hebrides. Although the Oyster 
Catcher is a very sagacious bird, and 
generally lays her eggs well above high- 
water mark, on rare occasions she is 
caught napping, and her little declivity 
in the sand or shingle is inundated by 
a high tide. 

Whilst waiting to secure the photo- 
graph from which our plate has been 
made I learnt that the male bird 
takes his share in the work of incuba- 
tion. When his turn to sit upon the 



eggs came he was very mistrustful of 
the lens staring from the walls of my 
improvised stone house, and instead 
of walking on to the nest, he strode 
solemnly round and round, turning 
over small stones with his bill, picking 
up pebbles and showing every sign 
of anger. 

The eggs generally number three, 
although sometimes two, and occasion- 
ally four, are found. They are cream 
or yellowish stone in ground colour, and 
spotted, blotched, and streaked with 
dark brown and grey. 

The young ones, both in down and in 
their first coat of feathers, harmonise 
very closely with their natural sur- 
roundings, and upon the first sign of 
danger, which is generally detected 
from afar by their ever watchful parents, 
crouch flat upon the ground and remain 
perfectly still until they are re-assured 
by a warning note from one or other 
of the old birds. In the winter Oyster 
Catchers frequently consort with curlews 
upon the seashore. 





s. 

0. 

co 



8 




'It is a pretty and interesting little animal." 



THE COMMON MOUSE 



T 




HE Common Mouse is too 
well known by everybody 
to need description. In 
character it is quite cos- 
mopolitan, and sticks to 
man closer than a brother. 
It is a pretty and inter- 
esting little animal, but, 
alas ! cursed by two awful drawbacks 
to universal popularity an evil scent, 
and a desperately mischievous disposi- 
tion. With the blackbeetle it shares 
the distinction of dividing women into 
two classes those who are afraid of it, 
and those who are not. 

Whether in cottage or palace, cleaving 
the mighty ocean or delving in the 
darkest depths of the earth, it is all the 
same to the Common Mouse. If there 
is a hole to hide in, and a crumb to 
eat, there will he be cheerfully sharing 
the weal and woe of mortal man. Some 
years ago I descended a coal mine to 
view the workings, and found an old 
labourer clearing debris out of a pony 
stable, in which mice were so numerous 
that he had been obliged to tie string 



tightly round his ankles in order to 
prevent the nimble creatures from 
running up the insides of his trouser- 
legs. 

The Common Mouse can climb 
window curtains with ease, and even 
run up and down ordinary string sus- 
pending a bird-cage containing seed, 
of which it is inordinately fond. It 
can leap from a height of ten or twelve 
feet without inconvenience, and I have 
even known one fall from the second 
story of a London warehouse into the 
street, and then run off without having 
suffered any apparent injury. 

This rodent has something of the 
persistency of King Bruce's spider in 
its composition. Not long ago a friend 
told me that one inhabiting his study 
came forth every evening, when normal 
quiet prevailed, and amused itself by 
climbing some bulrushes placed in a vase 
for decorative purposes. One blade 
of the vegetation seemed to exercise a 
peculiar fascination over the animal, 
and although it bent and let the little 
gymnast fall to the floor every time an 



53 



54 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



attempt was made to climb to its tip, 
the mouse, without dismay or apparent 




THE COMMON MOUSE. 



understanding, tried again and again 
evening after evening. 



The two specimens figured in our plate 
lived with others of their kind in a 
tool shed in my garden. Observing 
that they came forth towards evening 
in search of food, I placed some oatmeal 
on a path close by, and fixed my camera 
in position. After making a number of 
exposures I hopefully developed, but, 
alas ! only to discover that all I had 
secured were the portraits of india-rubber 
mice stretching from one side to the other 
of each plate. The timid little beasties 
had heard my time shutter open, and 
had moved. Here was a pretty problem. 
The animals were too quick for a slow 
exposure, and the light too poor for a 
fast one ! This is how I surmounted 
the difficulty. Placing two cameras in 
front of the food one with a plate in 
it and the other without I practised 
the shutter of the empty apparatus 
until the mice grew used to its slight 
grating sound, and then quietly opened 
the other in front of my unexposed 
plate with entirely satisfactory results. 





The Marsh Warbler. 




" The nest is not such an exquisite structure as that of the Reed Warbler." 



THE MARSH WARBLER 



o 




NE day, whilst lying face 
downwards under a thick 
canopy of brambles and 
nettles, with a sluggish, 
muddy West Country river 
meandering silently to- 
wards the sea on one side 
of me, and an ancient 
clay-pit, overgrown with reeds and osiers, 
on the other, I suddenly heard a bird 
I had never listened to before. It was 
far more musical than the Reed Warbler, 
and, although a pronounced plagiarist, 
had nothing of the incontinent spluttering 
of the sedge bird in its delivery. 

Peering upwards through an opening 
in the foliage with great caution, I 
beheld the vocalist sitting on the top- 
most spray of a bramble only a few 
feet away. It was the very bird I had 
come a long way to study a Marsh 
Warbler, singing to his mate. He was 
a little brown bird, about the same size 



and shape as a Reed Warbler, but 
without the rusty red on his sides and 
rump, and his legs were pale flesh 
colour instead of slaty brown. His vocal 
powers supplied the most striking differ- 
ence, however, for if Nature has denied 
him brilliant plumage, she has certainly 
made amends in the character of his 
voice. Whilst I listened this master- 
singer imitated the song thrush, the 
blackbird, and the nightingale, amongst 
other birds, and after rendering one 
item from his wonderfully varied reper- 
toire, he paused as if to allow of its 
being considered and enjoyed before 
he went on to another. 

It is difficult to understand why such 
an accomplished musician should have 
remained undiscovered, or confused with 
another bird of inferior vocal powers, 
for such a length of time. Even Prof. 
Alfred Newton considered it premature 
to admit it as a British bird in the latest 



56 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




M \K-II WAKHI.EK'S NEST. 



edition of " Yarrell," published between 
1870-80. Thanks, however, to the pains- 
taking labours of Mr. Harting, the Rev. 
Ward Fowler, and others, it has been 
proved to breed in Somersetshire, Glou- 
cestershire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and 
Cambridgeshire. 

The nest, which consists of dry grass- 
stems, moss, downy fibre and horsehair, 



is not such an exquisite structure as 
that of the Reed Warbler. It is sus- 
pended amongst nettles, meadow-sweet, 
and mugwood, and upon occasion I 
have even seen it in a hedgerow at a 
height of four or five feet from the 
ground. One remarkable difference in 
regard to it is that it is not built over 
water, whereas that of the species with 
which it has been confused invariably is. 

The eggs, numbering from four to 
seven, luckily supply very definite diag- 
nostic characteristics. Their greenish 
white to greenish blue ground colour is 
much lighter and clearer than is the case 
in the eggs of the more widely known 
Reed Warbler. They are spotted and 
blotched with olive brown, with under- 
lying markings of grey. Sometimes these 
markings are numerous, and at others 
they occur sparingly. 

The male bird sings on the wing 
during the days of courtship, and some- 
times lifts up his sweet voice by night. 

As might be expected, this species is 
migratory, arriving in England in May, 
and leaving again during August. 




THE BROWN RAT. 



" In the summer-time it takes to hedge-bank* 




>D 




"My hospitality was greatly appreciated." 



THE BROWN RAT 



T 




HIS animal is of Asiatic origin, 
and first found its way 
into Britain during the 
eighteenth century, since 
which time it has prac- 
tically banished its fore- 
runner the Black Rat. To 
the field naturalist, whom 
experience and temperament teach to 
look upon everything with an unpreju- 
diced eye, it is an extremely interesting 
creature. Although his hand has ever 
been raised in enmity against it, it has 
followed man as a scavenger to the 
uttermost ends of the earth, ploughed 
the mighty deep of every sea with him, 
and descended the darkest depths of 
the earth in order to take advantage 
of his ill-considered trifles. It can exist 
almost anywhere, and upon anything, 
from limpets to leather. Often living 
amidst the most filthy surroundings, it 
takes the utmost pains to keep itself 
scrupulously clean. It can climb like 
a squirrel, leap like a greyhound, and 
swim like an otter. 
8 



In the summer time it takes to hedge- 
banks and those of streams, where it 
breeds most prolifically. The usual num- 
ber of young ones in a litter is from seven 
to twelve, but as many as seventeen 
have been found in a single nest. 
During the autumn old and young 
alike commence to search for warmer 
and drier quarters in ricks, dwelling- 
houses, stables, and sheds. 

In order to secure the pictures illus- 
trating this article I fed Rats living in 
a Surrey hedgebank every evening for a 
week or two upon coarse oatmeal, of 
which they are excessively fond. My 
hospitality was greatly appreciated, 
and occasionally I had as many as ten 
Rats all sitting round the little hillock 
of food at once. 

A Rat's nose is of much more import- 
ance to him than his eyes, and by it 
nearly every kind of critical inquiry is 
made. If a stranger arrived at my impro- 
vised supper-table all the animals sitting 
round would take a careful inquiring 
sniff at him. I was always particular 



58 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



not to touch the oatmeal with my hands, 
and one evening, before allowing it to 




BKOWN KATS. 



trickle from the bag in which I carried 
it, cleared away some vegetation from the 
side of the hedgebank. An attenuated 
rootlet defied my best efforts to pull it 
out, so I left it trailing over the track 
used by the rodents when on their way 
to supper. The first Rat that came 
along sniffed it over in the most critical 
manner, and, retreating, made a detour 
in order to reach the food. I rubbed the 



head of a kipper along a smooth, straight 
stick that grew upright in the hedgerow, 
and then tied it with string about a 
yard above ground. The scent at the 
bottom was soon detected, and followed 
up the stick, Rat after Rat ascending to 
nibble at the tasty morsel. After this 
I suspended a scrap of fish so that it 
was on a level with the crown of the bank, 
but about seven inches from the sloping 
part immediately beneath it. One ro- 
dent after another caught the scent, but 
in attempting to follow it down the 
sloping bank, lost it, and apparently 
could not see the source of its origin 
dangling just overhead. By-and-by a 
veteran came along, worked the scent 
until it was lost, then looking up espied 
the food, and tried to pull it down. This 
proving useless* the patriarch tiptoed, bit 
through the string by which the kipper's 
head was suspended, and scampered 
off in triumph with the tit-bit. 

Rats show great courage in defence 
of their young, and will swim streams 
with them in their mouths when danger 
threatens their safety. They also know 
by some mysterious means when rain is 
coming, and, if living in a dry place, 
grow very restless over the prospects of 
a drink. 




' ? 'ivi '/ * * 1 > + *. v ' 

^^v v >% ; ;^;r^. v 

"^-*r:! ? 5:oV ' ."> 'S'V'J^-* " 




2 

e 
o 

8 
^J 



I 

e 

o 

(J 




" The nest is a slight natural hollow." 



THE DOTTEREL 



I 




T is a curious reflection that 
the brown trout should 
have innocently exercised 
such a baleful influence 
over the chances of this 
rare and interesting bird 
propagating its species in 
England. Until a few 
decades ago the Dotterel nested regu* 
larly on several mountain tops in Cum- 
berland, Westmorland, nnd Yorkshire, 
but, owing to the unfortunate fact that 
some of its feathers make excellent arti- 
ficial trout-flies, it was persistently shot 
for the sake of these, and finally banished. 
Solitary pairs still try to re-establish 
themselves in the ancient strongholds 
of their species, but alas ! in vain for 
the ubiquitous egg collector, who always 
argues that a rival may come that way 
and take what his conscience tells him 
for pity's sake to spare, sees to it that 
the luckless bird shall have no quarter. 
In order to secure the photographs 
illustrating this article I journeyed to a 
Scottish mountain top, which in the 



interests of the bird had better remain 
nameless, and there, at an elevation of 
something like 3,000 feet above sea 
level, I enjoyed an excellent opportunity 
of studying the Dotterel at home. Its 
summer haunts are amidst the quiet 
solitudes of the lonely mountain tops 
where the silence is only broken by the 
distant croak of a raven, and hardly 
another bird saving the melancholy 
ptarmigan is to be seen. 

The nest is a slight, natural hollow 
amongst woolly-fringe lichen, and the 
stunted vegetation common to the 
general barrenness of considerable ele- 
vations. It is said that the Dotterel's 
nest, as a rule, is without any kind of 
lining, but (he one figured contained a 
few bits of lichen and dead grass that 
had evidently been gathered for the 
purpose. 

This species presents no difficulties 
whatsoever to the naturalist -photo- 
grapher, for after an acquaintance of 
two days with the male of the pair I 
studied, he became so confident in the 



60 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



harmlessness of my intentions that he 
allowed me to stroke him on the back 




NEST OF DOTTEREL. 



with my hand, and this whilst two game- 
keepers stood only a few yards away 
watching me. In fact whilst I was 
exposing a plate upon the eggs he spoilt 
it by coming and sitting down in the 
nest. 

It is said that the male bird assists 



the female in the work of incubation. 
In the present instance he did all the 
work, and waxed angry whenever his 
mate came along to see how matters were 
progressing. Several times when she 
approached within forty or fifty yards 
he rose and with a great show of anger 
chased her right away from the neigh- 
bourhood of the nest. Once or twice she 
waited for his coming, and when he flew 
straight at her she ducked in order to 
avoid the blow, and losing his balance 
he rolled over and over. It may be 
that his irritable temper was occasioned 
by the fact that the chicks were on the 
point of hatching out, as they could be 
plainly heard cheeping, and he did not 
wish to be bothered at such a critical 
period. 

Both male and female have a curious 
habit of standing very erect, and jerking 
their bodies upwards, in such a way as 
to make it appear as if they were in 
danger of falling over backwards. 

This species arrives in Britain during 
April and May, and leaves again during 
August and September to spend the 
winter months in Palestine, Egypt, and 
Northern Africa. 





c 
o 



e 
o 
S 

6 

o 

U 




" It breeds quite commonly round the coast on the shores of estuaries and inland lakes." 



THE COMMON TERN 



T 



HE Common Tern, or Sea 
Swallow, arrives upon our 
shores about the end of 
April and during the first 
half of May, breeds in 
June, and leaves us again 
for the Sunny South in 
August and September, 
sometimes lingering as late as October. 
It is not so numerous as its relative, 
the Arctic Tern, but breeds quite com- 
monly round the coast on the shores 
of estuaries and inland lakes. I have 
frequently seen it on large bodies of 
water near London, such as the Elstrcc 
reservoir, and it may occasionally be 
observed hovering over the Serpentine 
during the migration season. 

At close quarters, or through good 
field-glasses, this species may be readily 
distinguished from the Arctic Tern by 
the fact that the tip of its bill is black, 
whereas that of the last named bird is 
all coral-red. Unfortunately, an ordinary 
photographic plate does not show this 
distinguishing peculiarity. 



Like its congeners, the Common Tern 
breeds in colonies. The nest consists of 
a few bits of dead grass, or other herbsige, 
placed in a slight hollow, but sometimes 
there is nothing at all, the eggs lying on 
sand amongst stones or upon rock. 
They number two or three, of a light 
stone buff, olive or umber brown ground 
colour, with ash grey and light and 
dark brown markings. Specimens be- 
longing to this species may occasionally 
be met with of a light greenish blue 
ground colour. The nest figured in our 
illustration contained a dwarf egg, which 
looked somewhat odd l>cside its normal 
sized companion. 

The photographs illustrating this 
article were all obtained at Raven- 
glass in Cumberland, where the species 
breeds in great numbers, especially on 
the flat ground to the left of the sand 
dunes shown in the above illustration. 

The Common Tern, although a beau- 
tiful creature, whether at rest or on the 
wing, is one of the most ill-natured 
birds breeding in the British Isles. 



61 



62 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



N 




TERXS AT HOME. 



Whilst at Ravenglass I noticed that if 
a young black-headed gull happened 
to stray from the sand dunes where it 
had been bred on to the ground occu- 
pied by the Terns, it was instantly 
attacked in the most savage and per- 
sistent manner. Again and again a 
bird would swoop from an altitude of 
twenty or thirty feet, strike the un- 
fortunate chick on the head, and roll 
it over and over until it retreated to 



its own quarters, and took shelter 
beneath a friendly bunch of nettles, 
or tuft of coarse grass. One day I was 
making some remark upon the vicious- 
ness of sea swallows to young Farren, 
the boatman who assists his aged 
father to ferry visitors from the village 
of Ravenglass over to the gullery, when 
he told me of an extraordinary in- 
cident he once witnessed. A couple 
of partridges which innocently strayed, 
w r ith their brood of young ones, amidst 
the Common Terns were instantly 
attacked, and all slain outright with 
the exception of one of the parent 
birds. 

When the breeding ground of a large 
colony of these birds is visited they all 
rise into the air, and, with loud, sharp 
notes that sound like " pirre," fly over- 
head, sometimes performing the most 
wonderful aerial evolutions. If the in- 
truder should keep still, however, for a 
little while, they will all, with exception 
of the birds owning nests within a few 
yards of him, settle down again to their 
duties. 





I 



u 

M 

e 
o 



I 



a 






A young Cuckoo stretching its wings. 



THE CUCKOO 



w 



HOLE volumes have been 
written upon the history 
and habits of this pecu- 
liarly interesting visitor 
to our shores, but, in spite 
of this fact, many strange 
problems relating to its 
life and economy remain 
still unsolved. 

Arriving in April, its welcome voice 
is heard in nearly every quarter of the 
British Isles throughout May and June. 
By the middle of the latter month, how- 
ever, its song has deteriorated in quality, 
and the first note is frequently doubled 
in a way that suggests stammering. The 
bird frequently sings on the wing, and 
may sometimes be heard " telling its 
name to all the hills " throughout every 
hour of the night. 

By the middle of July nearly all our 



adult Cuckoos have commenced to wing 
their way to Africa, leaving their off- 
spring to the care of foster-mothers, and 
to take the hazard of an unguided 
flight to the winter haunts of their 
species. 

The Cuckoo, it is hardly necessary to 
relate, does not build a nest, sit on its 
eggs, or rear its own young. Like other 
members of its family found in the Old 
World, and birds in no way related to 
it in America, it deposits an egg, which 
is very small in comparison with the 
layer, in some other bird's nest, and 
leaves the dupe to hatch out and rear 
its offspring. How this parasitic habit 
originated no man knows, and all the 
ingenious speculations that have been 
formulated to account for it are to my 
mind based upon insufficient evidence. 

Although female Cuckoos undoubtedly 



64 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




SEDGE WAKBLKR8 NEST CONTAINING A 
CUCKOO'S EGO. 

lay several eggs (some authorities put 
the number at five), as a rule, only one 
is deposited in the nest of each small 
bird victimised ; sometimes two are 
found, and occasionally as many as 
three, and it is reasonable to suppose 
in such cases they are deposited by 
different birds. Several observers have 
witnessed a Cuckoo lay her egg on the 
ground, pick it up in her bill, and place 



it in the nest of the dupe that she 
intends to rear her young. 

Sometimes the egg is deposited be- 
fore the owner of the nest has com- 
menced to lay, and at others after 
she has begun to sit. This, however, 
does not make any difference to the 
young Cuckoo, for if it is hatched first 
it throws the eggs out of the nest, and 
if last, the young ones, and secures the 
whole home to itself. If two young 
Cuckoos should happen to be hatched 
in the same nest, the stronger generally 
succeeds in ejecting the weaker. 

All kinds of small birds, such as hedge 
sparrows, robins, wagtails, meadow pipits, 
tree pipits, sedge warblers, reed warblers, 
and yellow-hammers are victimised. The 
foster parents always appear to be proud 
of their giant chick, and the tree pipit 
shown in our plate worked particularly 
hard to supply the ever-hungry young 
chick with insects. After a young 
Cuckoo has fledged it sits about on 
branches and other objects, and fre- 
quently stretches its wings, as seen in 
the headpiece to this article, whilst 
waiting for its foster parents to return 
with more food. 





" Young Nightjars harmonise with their natural surroundings in an admirable manner." 



THE NIGHTJAR 




HE Nightjar, Goatsucker, or 
Fern Owl, as it is various- 
ly known, is a migrant, 
arriving in May and depart- 
ing again in September or 
October. It is a quaint, 
sleepy-looking bird, with 
the gravity of an owl when 
at rest, and the activity of a hawk when 
on the wing. It has one peculiarity 
that distinguishes it from all other 
British birds, for, when at rest in a tree, 
instead of sitting athwart a branch, it 
lies right along it, and with its head 
depressed below the level of its body, 
and its harmonising coloration becomes 
very difficult to see. 

The Nightjar makes no kind of nest 
whatsoever, but contents itself by drop- 
ping its two white, or greyish-white, 
eggs clouded, blotched, and marbled 
with dark brown and underlying mark- 
ings of bluish lead colour on the 
ground, beneath bracken, heather, 
furze bushes, or quite in the open on 
heaths, commons, and open spaces in 

9 65 



woods and copses in dry sandy dis- 
tricts. 

Whilst the female is sitting on her 
eggs or young she generally has her eyes 
closed, or only partially open, and the 
mixed greys and browns of her plumage 
make her resemble a piece of bark or 
dead branch so closely that she is often 
passed without being detected by the 
wayfarer. If she should be discovered 
and driven from her charge she will 
frequently alight on a neighbouring 
stump or other convenient vantage- 
point, and opening her large, flesh- 
coloured mouth, threaten the intruder. 

Young Nightjars harmonise with their 
natural surroundings in an admirable 
manner, as may be seen by the illustra- 
tion on this page. 

This species lives upon moths, cock- 
chafers, and other insects that become 
active during twilight, and the bird's 
wonderful powers of flight when twist- 
ing and turning in pursuit of its 
winged prey make it difficult to 
believe that it is the sluggish-looking 



66 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



creature seen at 
broad light of day. 



rest during the 




NIGHTJAR'S KQC.B. 

The Fern Owl has a serrated claw 
on the middle toe of each foot, but for 



what purpose it has been made saw- 
like is not clearly known. Naturalists 
have evolved all kinds of ingenious 
theories to explain its purposes such as, 
that it is used as an aid in catching prey, 
to comb the bristles growing round the 
base of the upper mandible, to assist 
in maintaining its position on a bough, 
and so forth but, without definite 
evidence, none of them appears con- 
vincing. 

The so-called song of this species 
consists of the continuous repetition of 
a single jarring note, which has been 
compared to the noise of a spinning-wheel 
by some observers, and to gas bubbling 
through water by others. It may be 
heard during a calm evening when the 
vocalist is nearly half a mile away. 

A pair of these interesting birds will 
return to the same breeding place year 
by year with the utmost regularity. 





Young Rabbits at Home. 



, 






" The nesting burrow ... is generally made in a field or wood at some distance from the warren." 



THE RABBIT 



T 




HIS exceedingly common 
animal is at once useful 
and mischievous. It fur- 
nishes sport for the 
humble gunner, food for 
the million, and warm 
winter wraps for those 
who cannot indulge in more 
expensive furs ; but, alas ! when it 
Incomes too numerous it is very harm- 
ful to the farmers' crops. 

It lives in colonies of varying size, 
according to the food supply at hand, 
and the measure of protection it receives 
amongst rocks and in burrows excavated 
by its own labours. 

Its hind legs are longer and stronger 
than its fore ones, and in consequence 
of this it can run with greater ease 
and expedition up - hill than down. 
Another curious thing in this connection 



is that recognised tracks lead from all 
burrows to the feeding ground round 
about, and a Rabbit can travel faster 
along one of these tracks than it can 
over unfamiliar ground. 

Young Rabbits are born blind and 
without a particle of down upon their 
dusky little bodies. A separate burrow 
is made for breeding purposes. As a 
rule it is about a couple of feet in length, 
and terminates in a circular chamber, 
which is plentifully lined with soft 
dead grass and down plucked from the 
under-parts of the mother Rabbit's body. 
This serves a two-fold, useful purpose. 
It keeps the young Rabbits warm, and 
enables them to find the maternal foun- 
tains of sustenance the more easily. 
The nesting burrow, or " stop," is 
generally made in a field or wood at 
some distance from the warren, but 



68 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



upon occasion it simply consists of a 
short tunnel, running at right angles 




ON THE AI.KRT. 



from a much-used burrow. Here its 
greater depth preserves its helpless 
occupants from the fox and the badger, 
but not from the dreaded stoat or weasel. 
When a nest is made out in an open 
field the young ones are fed by night, 



and until their eyes are open their 
mother invariably stops up the mouth 
of the hole with earth before leaving in 
the early hours of the morning. I have, 
however, known an old Rabbit stay 
with her young in the nesting burrow all 
day. 

After young Rabbits have left the 
nesting " stop," and been led to the 
warren, their mother overlooks their 
goings and comings until they are able 
to take care of themselves. If any form 
of danger should suddenly appear upon 
the scene whilst they are all away from 
the warren, feeding in the dusk of even- 
ing, she warns them by vigorously 
stamping the ground with her hind feet. 

Although a stoat can generally para- 
lyse a Rabbit with fear, to the point of 
abject helplessness, such is the courage 
of maternal love that a doe has been 
known to attack the deadly enemy of her 
species in defence of her helpless young. 

A male Rabbit may be distinguished 
from a female by the fact that he has 
a broader, chubbier head and less grace- 
ful facial outlines. 





The Common Gull. 




' The Common Gull is by no means an easy bird to photograph." 



THE COMMON GULL 




HIS bird does not breed in 
either England or Wales, 
so that, during a part of 
the year at any rate, it 
enjoys a somewhat mis- 
leading popular name on 
the southern side of the 
Tweed. In Scotland it 
certainly is " common," for in the 
Hebrides I have known a ploughman 
obliged to wear his oilskins whilst at 
work in order to prevent his clothes 
being whitewashed by its droppings. 

This species is frequently confused 
with the Kittiwake Gull, but its identity 
may always be assured by remembering 
the following simple facts. The Common 
Gull has greenish yellow legs and feet, 
and breeds on the ground on grassy 
slopes facing the sea, amongst rocks 
shelving down to the ocean, and on 
islands in fresh-water lochs, whereas the 
Kittiwake nests on ledges in precipitous 



maritime cliffs, and has dusky coloured 
legs and feet. 

When the breeding season is over the 
Common Gull wanders south, and may 
be seen in numbers not only on the sea- 
shore, but inland, where it will follow 
the plough as assiduously as the Black- 
headed Gull. It never goes far from 
land, and is soon driven inshore by bad 
weather at sea. 

This species builds a somewhat bulky 
nest of heather, dry seaweed, and dead 
grass, and on more than one occasion 
I have had the roof of one of my hiding 
contrivances stripped by it and the 
Herring Gull of heather stalks which 
I had pulled for the purpose of concealing 
myself from birds flying overhead. It 
lays three eggs as a rule, although two 
only may sometimes be found, and, 
occasionally, as many as four. They are 
bufTish or dark olive-brown in ground 
colour, spotted, blotched, and streaked 



69 



70 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




NEWLY-HATCHED COMMON GULLS. 

with grey, dark brown and black ; and 
are easily distinguished from those of 
other British breeding Gulls by their size, 
smallness of the markings upon them, 
and the locality of the nest. 

Although capable of making a great 
clamour when its nesting haunt is visited, 
the Common Gull is by no means an easy 
bird to photograph. In spite of the fact 



that the subject of our illustration was 
nesting close to some rough rocks, upon 
which the waves of the Atlantic thun- 
dered all day long, she was so quick of 
hearing that if I made the slightest 
sound inside my stone house, she in- 
stantly heard it and left her nest in a 
great hurry. 

The Common Gull is very fond of 
resting on some coign of vantage, such 
as a large pointed stone on an island in 
the middle of a loch. After one bird 
has occupied the position for a while 
another will come along and take its 
place, but whether any kind of sentinel 
work is intended it is difficult to say. 
An Irish friend tells me that he has 
noticed the same kind of predilection 
for the top of a flagstaff, and adds that 
the birds always appear to be very 
courteous to each other, for after one 
has rested for a while it readily gives 
place to a companion. 





Linnet Feeding Young. 




" Furze bushes form the moat favourite sites of all for the nest of the Linnet." 



THE LINNET 



T 



HE ever-cheerful little Linnet 
is the poor man's favourite 
cage pet. If caught in the 
autumn it readily adapts 
itself to confinement, but 
if in the spring the wee 
prisoner generally mopes 
and dies. 

A fine male, arrayed in all the glory of 
his wedding garments, has the top of 
the head and breast coloured in rich 
glossy blood-red. This is very variable, 
however, in tint, and may be anything 
from brownish red to lemon yellow. 
The red is never seen on birds kept in 
captivity. 

The Linnet is common all over the 
country where furze bushes abound. It 
is gregarious, excepting in the breeding 



season, when the flocks break up. I 
have, however, seen small companies 
of adult birds roaming over the country- 
side in the middle of May, when nests 
containing eggs or small young ones are 
common. 

It is more numerous in the summer 
than the winter, being partly a migrat- 
ory, and partly a resident species. From 
January to March flocks of Linnets 
that have been wandering over stubble 
fields and uncultivated pasture-lands in 
search of small seeds will, during the 
late afternoon of a fine day, alight in 
some tall tree and engage in a delightful 
chant. This chorus singing seems to 
be inspired by the soft sunshine. After 
March the proper individual song com- 
mences and is kept up until July. I 



72 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



have heard it, however, as late as 
August during more than one season. 




THE LINNKT. 



Throughout the pairing time the male 
birds are wont to alight on the highest 
sprays of furze and other bushes, where 
they sing almost incessantly. The 
" careless lay," as a poet has described 
it, is frequently poured forth whilst the 
vocalist is gracefully descending through 
the air to some favourite perching 
place. 

The breeding season commences in 



April and is continued as late as July, 
and even August, when I have found 
nests containing eggs. Furze bushes 
form the most favourite sites of all for 
the nest of the Linnet, but it may be 
found in young fir trees, heather, juniper 
and other bushes. I have met with it 
almost on the ground in the rough 
herbage growing on a sea-wall, and at 
a height of twelve feet in an old thorn 
hedge. It is composed of small twigs, 
grass stems, and rootlets, with an inner 
lining of wool, hair, feathers or down. 
The eggs, numbering from four to six, 
are greyish white tinged with green or 
blue, and sparingly spotted with 
purplish brown. 

Both parent birds engage in the work 
of feeding the chicks. All the food is 
brought along in the crop and regurgi- 
tated. The great anxiety of the old 
birds to deliver their partly digested 
caterpillars and other forms of insect 
life is only equalled by that of their 
open-mouthed offspring to receive them. 




SL^ 




YOUNG COMMON WHITETHROATS. 

" They seemed quite unconcerned about the camera." 




'The female spends nearly all her time covering her chicks.' 



THE COMMON, OR GREATER WHITETHROAT 



T 




HIS very common and widely 
distributed warbler arrives 
upon our shores in April 
and May, and departs 
again for its winter quar- 
ters in the more congenial 
South during September 
and October. The males, 
as in the case of so many other species, 
come first, and pairing and nest-building 
commence soon after the appearance of 
the members of the opposite sex. 

The male Whitethroat is a persistent 
vocalist, and performs all kinds of wild 
antics, such as jerking his tail and shak- 
ing his wings, raising the feathers on 
his head, and puffing out his throat 
whilst delivering his passionate little 
ditty. He may sometimes be heard 
singing on the wing. According to my 
observations, he is the chief nest-builder 
and feeder of the chicks, and whilst 
engaged in the former task evidently 
believes that " song lightens toil," for 
10 



he will frequently give utterance to his 
lively refrain even when he has dead 
grass straws in his bill. 

The Common Whitethroat makes its 
nest at no great height from the ground 
in brambles, thick rough grass, wild 
rose bushes, heather, and nettles. The 
structure is a deep, slender, net-like 
affair, made of dead grass stems, and 
lined with horsehair. By country 
people this bird is widely known as 
the Nettle Creeper, on account of its 
habit of breeding amongst nettles and 
slipping stealthily away between their 
stems when disturbed. 

The eggs number from four to six, and 
are of a dirty greenish-white ground 
colour, spotted and speckled with grey 
and brown. When disturbed, the female 
slips away amongst the undergrowth 
and commences to scold the intruder in 
notes that sound something like cka, 
cha, and purr, purr. If, however, the 
male happens to be near the nest when 



74 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




COMMON Wm I KT H HOST'S XEST. 

his mate is disturbed he is even more 
emphatic in his remonstrance than 
she is. 

I have heard it said that the Greater 
Whitethroat is easily tamed, and am 
willing to believe it on account of 
the small amount of trouble the group 
of pretty little chicks shown in the 
coloured plate gave me in securing 
their portraits ; they seemed, indeed, 
quite unconcerned about the camera. 



During July and August families of 
these birds sometimes visit my garden, 
but, although they are said to be fruit- 
eaters, I have never observed them in 
the act of doing damage whilst search- 
ing for caterpillars and other forms of 
insect life. 

Throughout the prevalence of cold 
weather the female spends nearlv all her 
time covering her chicks and keeping 
them warm, whilst her mate, with com- 
mendable industry, searches for food 
which he distributes amongst the 
chicks with great celerity and im- 
partiality. 

Booth has left it upon record that 
during the spring migration, if there is 
any wind blowing whilst the Common 
Whitethroats are crossing the English 
Channel, the birds fly as low down as 
possible, in order to avoid its full force ; 
if a heavy sea happens to be run- 
ning at the time many of them are 
knocked down into the water by spray 
and never regain wing. 





2 
I 



O 





" It grows to a length of from thirty to thirty-six inches." 



THE COMMON, OR RINGED SNAKE 




HIS creature is far commoner 
in many parts of Britain 
than the general public 
would imagine. I have met 
with it in the outer suburbs 
both on the northern and 
southern sides of London, 
and some years ago had a 
young one brought to me that had been 
picked up in a street close to Ludgate 
Hill. It had in all probability been 
conveyed thither from the country in- 
side a roll of printing paper. 

The Grass or Water Snake, as it is also 
sometimes called, frequents low, damp 
meadows, moist woods and tangled 
hedgerows growing in the neighbour- 
hood of ponds, but may frequently be 
met with far from water of any kind. 
It grows to a length of from thirty 
to thirty-six inches, and occasionally 
even longer specimens are found. The 
general coloration of the upper parts 
of the reptile's body is light brownish- 
grey, tinged with green, and marked 



with two rows of black spots. Im- 
mediately behind the head there is a 
broad band, or two curved spots of 
bright yellow, and this fact, together 
with its longer and more attenuated 
tail, readily distinguish it from the 
viper or adder, even when only a 
momentary glance of it is obtained. 

The Common Snake casts its skin 
several times during the course of the 
summer, and looks very beautiful when 
the sun is shining upon its new coat of 
scales. 

It swims with ease and expedition. 
In the water it catches frogs and 
small fishes, and, upon land, toads, 
lizards, mice, and small birds. I do not 
think, however, that it climbs bushes 
in order to rob birds' nests. On one 
occasion I surprised a member of this 
species in the act of swallowing a large 
toad, and Bell records the fact that he 
has heard a frog croak several minutes 
after it had been swallowed by its 
captor. 



75 



76 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




KINGKD SNAKK ON THE ALKKT. 

The female lays from fifteen to twenty 
eggs of about the size of those produced 
by a domestic pigeon. As many as 
thirty, or even forty, have, however, 
occasionally been found. They are 
connected together by a glutinous sub- 
stance, and deposited in a heap of 
manure, or collection of decaying leaves, 



and left to be hatched by the natural 
heat of such situations, aided by the 
warmth of the sun. If frightened 
whilst curled up sunning itself on a 
sheltered bank, the Common Snake 
timidly glides away for cover, but its 
track is frequently betrayed by the 
peculiar rustle of dead leaves over or 
through which it may be passing. 
When pursued it generally emits an 
offensive odour, which I have known 
to prove very disagreeable to a too 
inquisitive puppy. 

Not long ago I had a young snake of 
this species sent to me which had two 
heads. 

In the autumn Grass Snakes glide into 
holes under the roots of trees and other 
sequestered places, where a number of 
them will remain coiled together until 
roused to activity again by the warmth 
of spring sunshine. 









I 

S 



-v 

J 




"Sometimes the nest may be found close beside an almost earth-buried rock." 



THE COMMON SANDPIPER 



T 



HIS interesting little member 
of the wader family has a 
very wide geographical dis- 
tribution, being found prac- 
tically all over the Old 
World. It is a migrant 
to our shores, arriving in 
April, and departing again 
in September and October. 

The gravel-strewn shores of rivers, 
brooks, and lakes, along which it runs 
with great celerity and nimbleness in 
search of food, are its favourite haunts. 
Upon being disturbed the Sandpiper 
flies away some distance, and, alighting 
on a stone or other prominence, utters 
its soft plaintive call-notes, which sound 
something like tcheet, wheel, wheel. Its 
tail and hindquarters are nearly always 
working up and down, as if actuated by 
some hidden spring. 

It is about seven inches in length, and 



is known in many parts of the country 
as the Summer Snipe. 

I have frequently watched it wade 
into shallow water in search of food, 
and, when necessity arises, it can dive 
and swim with ease. 

The nest is made of short pieces of 
dead rushes, bracken, dry grass or 
leaves, and is placed in a hole in a 
bank, under a tangle of dead bracken, 
or in the shelter of a tuft of grass or 
rushes. Sometimes it may be found 
amongst large stones or close beside an 
almost earth-buried rock or old stump. 
A small island in the middle of a river 
nearly always forms a favourite nesting 
place. I have, however, on several 
occasions found members of this 
species breeding more than a hundred 
yards away from water. 

The eggs number four, and are creamy 
yellow or pale straw in ground colour, 



77 



78 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



marked with umber brown spots and 
blotches. On rare occasions the mark- 




SANDPIl'KR'S NKST. 

ings form a ring round the larger 
end. 

As Selby truly says : " If disturbed 
during the period of incubation, the 
female quits the nest as quietly as 



possible, and usually flies to a distance, 
making at this time no outcry ; as soon, 
however, as the young are hatched, 
her manners completely alter, and the 
greatest agitation is manifested on the 
apprehension of danger, and every 
stratagem is tried, such as feigning lame- 
ness and inability of flight, to divert the 
attention of the intruder from the un- 
fledged brood." 

Young Sandpipers commence to run 
about almost directly after they leave 
the shell, and if any form of danger 
should suddenly appear upon the scene, 
at the first cry of warning from either 
of their parents, they instantly crouch 
flat upon the ground and remain abso- 
lutely still until the " all is well " note 
has again been sounded. 

The protective coloration of the down 
on a young Sandpiper's back is strikingly 
manifested when the chick is seen 
crouching on the sandy margin of a 
river. 





& 



o 

5 

P 



o 




Nenly-Bedfed Great Tiu. 



THE GREAT TIT, OR OXEYE 



T 




HE striking colours, lively 
habits and oft-repeated 
notes of this bird render 
it familiar to everybody 
who takes the slightest in- 
terest in the science of 
ornithology. It is the 
largest member of the Tit- 
mouse family found in Britain, and is 
generally distributed wherever sheltered 
woods and gardens are to be found. 

The male may readily be distinguished 
from the female by his brighter colours 
and the fact that the black line running 
down the centre of his yellow breast is 
broader and more pronounced than in 
the case of his mate. 

The Great Tit feeds upon insects in 
varying stages of development, seeds, 
hazel nuts, and, alas, sometimes peas ! 
Very frequently it may be seen and 
heard in the late autumn and early 
winter, holding a hazel nut down on 



a branch with its strong feet, whilst it 
delivers a rapid succession of far-sound- 
ing blows with its powerful bill in 
order to split the shell. In such cir- 
cumstances I have, on more than one 
occasion, seen a nut slip from the grasp 
of an Oxeye and, shooting off at a tan- 
gent, strike some twig and roll beneath 
a collection of dead leaves or down the 
run of a mouse. After an accident of 
this kind the disappointed bird will 
search about for its lost treasure for a 
little while, and then, resuming its 
wonted cheerfulness, fly away in search 
of more food. 

Every winter my children hang out 
the kernels of Barcelona nuts threaded 
upon black cotton, and it is amusing to 
watch the Great Tit trying to emulate 
the gymnastic feats of its smaller rela- 
tive the " Blue Bonnet," which can 
hang upside down whilst clinging to 
the fruit, and feed even when twirled 



79 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




GREAT TIT'S NEST BUILT UNDER AN INVERTED 
FLOWER-POT. 



round and round by the wind. 
Although the Oxeye cannot accomplish 
this, I have seen the bird, over 
and over again, stand on the branch 



to which the thread was fastened and 
haul it in reef by reef until the prize 
was secured. 

In mild weather the male Oxeye will 
commence to utter his love notes as 
early as January. They are loud and 
harsh, and sound very much like the 
noise made by a saw-sharpener. 

Almost any kind of hole, provided 
it be large enough, will suit this species 
for nesting purposes. In woods it fre- 
quently utilises the interior of a decaying 
stump, and in gardens an inverted 
plant pot will frequently be adopted. 
On several occasions I have found the 
old nest of a song thrush or blackbird 
lined with rabbit's down made to do 
service. 

The eggs, numbering from six to 
ten, as a rule are white, spotted and 
speckled with red. The hen sits closely 
and hisses like a snake upon being 
molested. 






THE COMMON DORMOUSE. 

' It is to all intents and purposes a miniature squirrel." 





Its eyes are black, prominent, and bead-like.' 



THE COMMON DORMOUSE 



T 







HIS engaging little animal is 
common in most parts of 
the country where hazel 
bnshes abound. It is to 
all intents and purposes a 
miniature squirrel, running 
along branches and leaping 
from twig to twig with the 
same amount of agility and assurance as 
its larger woodland neighbour. 

The Common Dormouse is about five 
and a-half inches in length from the tip 
of its nose to the end of its tail. Its 
eyes are black, prominent, and bead- 
like. The fur on the upper parts of 
the animal's body is of a light tawny- 
brown colour, inclining to yellow be- 
neath. On the throat and chest there 
is an elongated white patch, and in 
some specimens the tail is tipped with 
white. 

Dormice feed upon nuts, acorns, and 
fruits of different kinds, which are 
generally consumed in the dusk of 
evening. During the autumn they lay 

11 81 



up stores of food in hollow stumps 
for winter consumption, and about the 
middle of October, when chilly winds 
commence to blow, curl up and go to 
sleep. On mild, sunny days, however, 
they, like the squirrel, wake up in 
order to partake of food. The first 
sign of a resumption of activity is a 
low whistling kind of sound, and in con- 
sequence of it the animals are known 
to woodcutters as " Singing Mice." 

Nuts are held between the fore-paws 
whilst a hole is being gnawed in them, 
and in the spring-time numbers of 
empty shells may be seen scattered 
outside some moss-grown hollow stump 
which has served as a storehouse during 
the winter months. 

Nests for breeding purposes arc built 
in hazels, brambles, blackthorns, yews, 
and other bushes. During a walk in 
Surrey I have found as many as five 
within two or three hundred yards. 
They are sometimes made inside the 
old homes of blackbirds and thrushes, 



82 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




NEST OF DORMOUSE 



and consist for the greater part of 
dead grass, the finest blades forming 
the inner lining. I have been fre- 
quently surprised at the amount of 
heavy wind-lashed rain their domed 
roofs will withstand before they are 
penetrated by moisture. 



The young usually number four, and 
are born in the spring, although a litter 
may occasionally be met with as late 
as September. On one occasion I had 
a hiding tent fixed up in a Surrey wood 
near my home, and although I was using 
it almost daily a Dormouse made her 
nest in some hazel branches I had bent 
down in order to obscure my canvas, 
and reared a family of young ones. 
When these began to leave their slender 
cradle of dead grass I could frequently 
hear and see them playing about on my 
tent cover overhead, as I sat taking 
photographs of different birds that came 
to drink and bathe in a little pool in 
front of me. 

Dormice readily reconcile themselves 
to captivity, and are, in consequence, 
much esteemed by children as cage 
pets. 





10 
V 

z 



c 
o 

V 

b 



n 

I 

g 

6 

6 

o 

U 




Good Partridge country. 



THE COMMON PARTRIDGE 



w 




HO does not know and love 
this little sporting bird, 
with its nut-brown plum- 
age, whirring flight, and 
skirling call notes ? It is 
plentiful in nearly all 
cultivated districts, and, 
indeed, so numerous, where 
preserving is resorted to on a large 
scale, that in Norfolk I have counted 
as many as seven pairs in a single field 
during the early spring. In high moor- 
land districts, where it may sometimes 
be found breeding on the same ground 
as the red grouse, it is, of course, much 
less numerous, smaller in size, and, 
epicures say, of better flavour. 

The Common Partridge, although shy 
and wary after being shot at, is really a 
bold bird. It will sit unconcernedly on 
a railway embankment within a few feet 
of an express train thundering past at 
sixty or seventy miles an hour, and has 
been known to face a dog in defence of 
its chicks. The individual figured in the 
photogravure was so courageous that 



she allowed me to remove a number of 
blades of grass that trailed across her 
back in such a way as to impede my view, 
and only hissed and pecked my hand 
when I touched her. 

Although, apparently, ill-adapted for 
aquatic progression, this bird has been 
known to drop into the rough waters of 
a tidal river, and, in spite of a strong 
current, swim to the bank again in 
safety. Awkward accidents, however, 
sometimes happen to whole coveys when 
suddenly startled by some unexpected 
form of danger. The birds will fly out 
seawards, drop into the waves, and 
perish ; or will attempt to fly in front 
of a moving railway train and get struck 
down, or crash with fatal violence into 
a meshwork of telegraph wires. 

A Partridge's nest consists of a few 
blades of dead grass, bits of bracken, or 
leaves, placed in a slight hollow amongst 
the long grass at the foot of a hedgerow, 
under a bramble bush, in a bunch of 
nettles, in mowing grass, corn, or even 
on the top of a rick. The bird, indeed, 



84 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




A STORM-DRIVEN PARTRIDGE. 

appears to display a special liking 
for nesting in what would, at first 
sight, seem to be dangerous places 
but, thanks to a curious provision of 
Nature, is seldom discovered or molested. 
The scent thrown off her body during 
the usual course of her life is sup- 
pressed to a great extent throughout the 



critical period of incubation, thus 
saving her from a very potent source 
of danger. 

The olive brown eggs number from 
ten to sixteen or twenty, and occasion- 
ally even as many as thirty may be 
met with in the same structure. The 
last number, however, is undoubtedly 
the result of two hens laying in the 
same nest. There is nothing very won- 
derful in these instances of co-opera- 
tive housekeeping, for on two occasions 
I have known the Common Partridge 
and the French or Red-Legged species 
not only to lay in the same nest, but 
to sit side by side, in perfect harmony 
and goodwill, upon the mixed clutches 
of eggs. 

Both the male and female brood the 
chicks after they have been hatched, 
and show great affection for them. 





Kittiwake Gull and Young. 




' The Kittiwake breeds in all suitable cliffs round our coast." 



THE KITTIWAKE GULL 




MUST confess to a great 
partiality for this gentle- 
mannered, beautiful little 
Gull. Its affection for its 
mate, maternal solicitude 
when the young are in 
the nest, and quaint call 
notes all appeal to the 
naturalist with irresistible charm. It 
is purely maritime in its habits, and 
does not resort to fresh water or land 
in search of food, like its congeners the 
Black-headed and Common Gulls. 

Many people are apt to confuse this 
species with the Common Gull, but if 
they would remember that its feet and 
legs are of a dusky colour, and those of 
its relative greenish-yellow, they would 
have no difficulty in distinguishing the 
one bird from the other. 

The Kittiwake breeds in all suitable 
cliffs round our coast, and, although 
it returns to its old haunts as early 
as March, does not commence to lay 



before May. The nest is composed of 
dry seaweed and dead grass, and is gener- 
ally a small, compact structure ; this 
being infrequently an imperative neces- 
sity occasioned by the narrowness of the 
ledge upon which it is built. At the 
Noup of Noss in the Shetlands, where 
the weather has worn long horizontal 
fissures in the rock, great numbers of 
Kittiwakes may be seen sitting almost 
side by side, and from a distance look 
like long rows of white dots. 

On Ailsa Craig and at other places I 
have seen Kittiwakes, common guille- 
mots, and razor bills all breeding close 
together and living in perfect friend- 
ship and harmony. 

The eggs of this species number two 
or three and, occasionally, as many as 
four. In ground colour they vary from 
buffish brown to stone yellow, some- 
times shaded with blue, spotted and 
blotched with ash grey, light brown 
and reddish brown. 



86 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




KITTIWAKK8 NEST. 



The young fly at about the end of 
July or beginning of August, and some 
years ago their barred wings were in 
such demand as decoration for ladies' 
hats that as many as seven hundred 



birds were slaughtered in a single day 
at one breeding station alone. 

In olden times the Kittiwake was 
consumed as human food and considered 
as good eating as a partridge. Let us 
hope that we have outgrown any 
desire to do this lovable little Gull 
any harm either for its flesh or feathers. 
It is a favourite with many people who 
do not profess to a great interest in 
ornithology, for it always tells the 
merest tyro its name by crying out 
" Kittiwake," " Kittiwake," " Kitti- 
wake " whenever anyone approaches 
its breeding haunt. 

These notes sound more like the 
words "Get-away," "Get-away," "Get- 
away " to some people, and I must 
confess that I have placed the same 
interpretation upon them when I have 
been peering over the edge of a danger- 
ous cliff, or investigating the interior of 
some dark sea-cave in which the tide 
has been weirdly gurgling and moaning. 





Young Kestrel. 




' Its down-clad young ones crouchlni! in a little hollow on a ledge in the face of a 

limestone cliff." 



THE KESTREL 



T 




HE Kestrel is called the 
Windhover in many parts 
of the country, on account 
of its peculiar habit of 
facing the wind and sus- 
taining itself in the same 
position for some time by 
the rapid vibration of its 
outstretched wings, whilst it scans the 
ground below in search of food. I have 
met people who professed that they 
could not distinguish this bird from 
the sparrow hawk. If they would 
remember that the latter bird has longer 
wings, is brownish grey in hue, instead of 
reddish brown, and does not fly at any 
great height or hover in the air, they 
would have no difficulty in distinguish- 
ing the one species from the other. 

Many bird lovers express a fear that 
the Kestrel is growing rare in our 
country on account of the mistaken 
zeal of gamekeepers. I can assure them 



that their apprehension is groundless. 
On a recent railway journey between 
Liverpool and London I counted no 
fewer than seven individual birds on 
one side of the line alone, and on the 
day his late Majesty King Edward VII. 
died a friend showed me four old nests 
belonging to crows or magpies occupied 
by Kestrels within the radius of a mile 
in East Essex. 

As a species the Windhover is a com- 
paratively harmless bird, feeding upon 
mice, beetles, frogs, and grasshoppers, 
but individuals will sometimes take to 
preying upon small birds and the young 
of lapwings, partridges, and pheasants. 
During the summer of 1909 I was watch- 
ing three downling peewits through my 
glasses when a Kestrel suddenly appeared 
upon the scene, hovered, and, pouncing, 
seized one of the unfortunate chicks and 
carried it off to its down-clad young 
ones, crouching in a little hollow on a 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




YOUNG KKSTKEL. 

ledge in the face of a limestone cliff 
not far away, although mobbed by no 
fewer than five adult lapwings. 

As a rule the Windhover does not 
build any kind of nest. When breeding 



in woods it contents itself with the old 
home of a carrion crow or magpie, and 
when in a cliff it adopts a slight hollow 
in the mould on a ledge or in a 
crevice. Not long ago, however, I had 
a nest shown to me in Westmorland 
that had undoubtedly been built by 
the bird. It consisted of a few dead 
bracken stalks placed on a bare shelf 
of rock in a limestone cliff. 

The eggs number five or six as a rule, 
although I remember on one occasion 
finding seven. They are of a dirty 
creamy-white ground colour, thickly 
spotted and blotched with dark brownish 
red. 

The Kestrel breeds practically all 
over the British Islands, and seems 
equally at home in the chalk cliffs in the 
south of England, in the woods of the 
Midlands, or in a craggy gorge on the 
desolate moors of the North. 





1 Young Robins in their first dress of feathers do not at all resemble their parents." 



THE ROBIN 



N 




EXT to the house sparrow, 
Robin Redbreast is, per- 
haps, the most familiar bird 
of the country-side. It is 
partly resident and partly 
migratory, and it is said 
that individuals wintering 
away from our fog-laden 
climate are brighter in coloration when 
they return in the spring than those 
that have been faithful to the land of 
their nativity. 

Few birds are held in such venera- 
tion by all classes of the community. 
And there are many reasons to account 
for this. Its bold, engaging manners, 
usefulness in gardens, and the fact 
that it enlivens our leafless hedgerows 
with its sweet and plaintive song when 
nearly all other feathered vocalists 
are silent, are not the least amongst 
them. 

12 89 



Robins usually build their nests in 
holes in banks, and in walls where a 
brick or a stone has fallen out, but 
frequently select the oddest quarters 
for their little homes of leaves, rootlets, 
moss and hair. I have seen them in 
bookcases in occupied bedrooms, in horse- 
collars hanging up in stables, inside old 
kettles, teapots, coffee-pots, jam jars, 
old tin cans and even husks of coco- 
nuts emptied by tits during the previous 
winter. 

The eggs, as a rule, number five or 
six, but as many as seven and even 
eight may upon occasion be found. They 
are white or pale grey, freckled, and 
blotched with dull light red. 

Young Robins in their first dress of 
feathers do not at all resemble their 
parents, for, instead of having olive- 
brown backs and orange-red breasts, 
they are clothed in coats of sober brown 



90 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 



of varying shades. The feathers on the 
breast are dull reddish-brown, bordered 




ROBIN S NEST IN AN OLD TIN CAN. 

with a darker hue. When sitting quite 
still in a hedgerow through which the 
sunshine is playing fitfully, their colora- 
tion renders them difficult to detect, and 
is thus as protective as that of their 
more experienced parents is conspicuous. 



Individual Robins are by a little kind- 
ness easily tamed. A male that dwells 
for the greater part of his time in my 
orchard will fly down to me when I call 
his name, and take food from my hand. 
His mate, on the contrary, is very shy, 
and will not come near me. If a rival 
should happen to come along, my bird 
at once assumes a fighting attitude, 
and the intruder is soon made to 
understand something of the laws of 
proprietorship. 

A Robin will occasionally live quite a 
solitary life. I have met with such birds 
dwelling upon small treeless islands, and 
near lonely shepherd houses high up 
amongst the fells. 

The males of this species sometimes 
gratify their parental instincts by feed- 
ing the chicks of birds in no way related 
to them. I have watched an individual 
giving grubs and worms to nestling song 
thrushes, and a Robin with only one 
leg constantly amused himself a season 
or two ago by feeding young sparrows 
round a friend's house in Cumberland. 




ft By ,.' W? 

.,; r .- - _. - 




I 




1 I lii enemy is seated in silent contemplation of his victory on a partially 

submerged stump." 



THE WATER VOLE 



T 




II K Water Vole or Water Rat, 
as it is often erroneously 
called, is about a foot in 
length, one-third of this 
being accounted for by its 
tail, which, unlike that of 

the Common Rat, is covered 

with short, closely-adherent 
hairs. Its head is chubby and beaver- 
like, the ears being almost hidden by 
the surrounding fur. As a rule it is of 
a uniform greyish-brown colour, slightly 
tinged with red, but not infrequently 
black specimens may be met with, 
especially in Scotland. 

It is common nearly all over Great 
Britain, but is not found in Ireland, 
although it enjoys a wide geographical 
range in both Europe and Asia. 



The banks of sluggish streams, canals, 
ponds, dams and ditches are its favourite 
haunts. In these it excavates long 
tortuous burrows. When disturbed, it 
generally startles the wayfarer by sud- 
denly diving into the water and swimming 
beneath the surface to some submerged 
hole leading to its retreat. Upon occa- 
sion the animal propels itself through 
the water by the use of its hind feet 
only ; but, although it swims and dives 
with such great facility, it is not web- 
footed. 

The Water Vole feeds entirely upon 
vegetables, and it is amusing to watch 
it on a calm summer's evening dive to 
the root of a sword-flag, gnaw a piece of 
the plant off near the root, and swim 
with it to some coign of vantage, where 



92 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




* 



THE WATEK VOLE. 



it sits up like a squirrel and munches 
the sweet succulent part, allowing the 
older and more fibrous portions to fall 
into the water and float away. The 
individual figured in our plate was in the 
act of eating grass on the bank of a 
stream when the photograph was secured. 
I have also seen the animal eating the 



leaves of primroses, and common duck- 
weed occasionally proves acceptable. 
In the winter, turnips, mangel-wurzel, 
potatoes and the bark of osiers are con- 
sumed. 

The great natural enemies of the Water 
Vole are weazels and owls, and it is 
occasionally speared and swallowed 
whole by the heron. 

Whilst engaged in taking the photo- 
graphs illustrating the present article, 
I saw two Voles engaged in battle. 
They bit each other and boxed with 
their fore-paws like hares, and when the 
combat ended the vanquished animal 
swam up stream for a little distance 
and, landing on the bank, went 
through a most elaborate toilet. In 
the picture at the head of the article 
he is seen peeping from a burrow, whilst 
his enemy is seated in silent contem- 
plation of his victory on a partially 
submerged stump. 

The Water Vole brings forth from 
two to six young ones at a litter. 





Sedge Warbler on Nest. 




The nest is built amongst thick sedge grass." 



THE SEDGE WARBLER 



w 




HERE the wind rustles in 
great reed beds, and the 
waters dance and ripple 
in spring sunshine, the 
Sedge Warbler's merry, 
hurried song is sure to be 
heard. It is our com- 
monest warbler, and in- 
habits the shores of sedge-fringed lakes 
and broads, osier beds, the banks of 
sluggish streams, disused canals, and old 
clay-pits ; wherever, indeed, aquatic 
vegetation grows in sufficient quantity 
and strength to form suitable cover, 
throughout the three kingdoms. 

Although clothed in sober, incon- 
spicuous tints of brown this bird does 
not care to show itself very much, and 
is consequently, more often heard than 
seen. If, however, the observer will keep 
still for a time, he will discover that 



it has a habit of working its way 
to the topmost stems or branches, and 
then flitting to another part, frequently 
singing as it goes. Its two leading 
characteristics are restlessness and gar- 
rulity. Whenever I visit the Norfolk 
broads where this species is very 
numerous I always go to sleep the 
first night with its persistent loud, imi- 
tative song jerking and clattering through 
my brain. The bird does not seem con- 
tent with the long hours that span the 
sun's arch on a June day, but sings on 
and on until far into the night. Indeed, 
it is ready to oblige anybody, who is 
curious enough to listen, with a sample 
of its vocal powers at any hour of the 
night, and if you clap your hands, make 
a splash in the water, or any other noise 
near its sleeping-quarters, in reed bed 
or bush, it will instantly wake up and 



93 



94 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




THK SKDGE WARBLER. 



sing as blithely as if it were broad 
noontide. In fact, when the qualities 
of its music and borrowed notes are 
taken into consideration, one is inevit- 
ably driven to the conclusion that the 
Sedge Warbler lacks discretion, and 
overdoes its part in the great feathered 
orchestra. 

The nest is built amongst thick sedge 
grass, or brambles, in bushes and some- 
times on pollards. It is generally nearer 
the ground than that of the Reed 



Warbler, is never suspended, and not so 
neatly constructed. I have watched 
the industrious female making her little 
home of grass, moss, willow-down, and 
horse-hair, whilst her mate was idling 
around, a mildly interested spectator. 

The eggs number five or six of a 
yellowish brown ground-colour, mottled 
and clouded with darker brown Some- 
times specimens are found marked with 
black hair-like lines on the larger 
end. 

The cuckoo frequently victimises the 
Sedge Warbler, and it is a comical sight 
to see the wee birds feeding and attending 
their giant foster-chick. Their industry 
and solicitude are astonishing. All day 
long they are flitting hither and thither 
in search of insect food, and if any form 
of danger should approach the nest they 
utter their harsh scolding notes, and show 
every sign of distress until it has passed. 
Why they should expend so much care 
and affection upon a creature that never 
shows any sign of gratitude, or other 
lovable quality, is a mystery. 

Sedge Warblers arrive in this country 
in April and May, and depart again in 
September. 





The Ringed Plover. 




" Young Ringed Plovers run about directly they leave the egg-shell." 



THE RINGED PLOVER 




E have few British birds that 
present a more complete 
scheme of protective color- 
ation than the Ringed 
Plover. Adult birds, eggs, 
and young in down, all 
harmonise with their 
natural surroundings in 
such a way as to make them difficult 
to detect. On many occasions I have 
been quite puzzled to locate the where- 
abouts of a Ringed Dotterel (as the bird 
is sometimes called), although I could 
plainly hear its musical call-notes, and 
have only picked up the creature with 
my glasses through movement when it 
took one of its characteristic short, rapid 
runs. 

This species resides with us all the 
year round, having its flocks swollen 
considerably in the winter by migrants 
from more northern and inclement parts 
of Europe. 

It breeds on sand, shingle, and rocks 
by the seashore, on the banks of rivers 



and large bodies of fresh water. When 
the eggs are laid on sand or shingle a 
slight hollow is scratched out for their 
reception, but when on rock a few small 
shells are generally provided for them 
to lie upon. Some years ago I found a 
clutch in a nest formed of pebbles, 
which bore evidence of having been 
carried by the bird and placed on a 
patch of smooth green turf, and the 
example illustrated at the end of this 
article plainly shows that the light 
coloured pebbles had been collected 
in order to render the appearance of 
the eggs less conspicuous. On the 
other hand, I once found a nest con- 
taining three eggs and a newly hatched 
chick lying in a slight hollow amongst 
short silver-weed which did not appear 
to produce any harmonising effect. 

When the sitting female is disturbed 
she generally runs a considerable dis- 
tance from her eggs before uttering a 
sound of any kind. I have frequently 
noticed that when the eggs are laid upon 



95 



96 



KEARTONS' NATURE PICTURES 




RINGED PLOVER. 



soft, loose sand they show a tendency 
towards the period of hatching to rest 
with their small ends almost straight 
down. 



The eggs of this species number four, 
of a pale buff or cream ground-colour, 
spotted with small, evenly-distributed 
bluish-grey and blackish-brown spots. 
Two broods are frequently reared during 
the same season, hence eggs may be 
found as early as March, and occasion- 
ally as late as August. 

Young Ringed Plovers run about 
directly they leave the egg-shell, and 
unless they are seen when moving and 
carefully marked down, are most diffi- 
cult to find. 

If a bird of this species should happen 
to nest close by an oyster-catcher, she 
has a most unhappy time of it, for the 
latter bird will not tolerate her presence 
on ground where her own young ones 
are running about. On the other hand, 
the Ringed Plover will sometimes attack 
and drive off even the lesser black- 
backed gull in defence of her chicks.