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to do in cages, their whole frame seems to be agitated by their musical efforts."
The strong attachment of this species to their young has been the subject of remark by many naturalists; Mr. Blyth records, that " some mowers actually shaved off the upper part of a nest of the skylark without injuring the female, which was sitting on her young; still she did not fly away, and the mowers levelled the grass all round her, without her taking further notice of their proceedings. A young friend of mine, son of the owner of the crop, witnessed this; and about an hour afterwards went to see if she were safe, when, to his great surprise, he found that she had actually constructed a dome of dry grass over the nest during the interval, leaving an aperture on one side for ingress and egress, thus endeavouring to secure a continuance of the shelter previously supplied by the long grass." Two or three instances are recorded of the skylark moving its eggs under the fear of impending danger; and Mr. Jesse, in the fourth edition of his " Gleanings," speaks of the attempted removal of a young bird of this species to a place of safety by its parent, which, however, had not sufficient strength for the purpose, but was obliged to drop the fledgeling from a height of about thirty feet, so that it was killed by the fall.
Yarrell observes, that " skylarks constantly dust themselves, appearing to take great pleasure in the operation, shuffling and rubbing themselves along the ground, setting up their feathers, and, by a peculiar action of the legs and wings, throwing the smaller and looser portion of the soil over every part of their bodies. This is supposed to be done in order to rid themselves of small parasitic insects." This author also says, "that during the time of producing the eggs, the female has occasionally been heard to sing with a power and variety of tone equal to the voice of her mate. The male skylark, though at other times timid, is, while the female is sitting, bold and pugnacious; driving every other bird away that ventures too near his charge, both watching and feeding her with unceasing solicitude."
The nightingale inhabits Europe from Italy and Spain in the south to Sweden in the north. It is also found in Siberia, and has been seen in some parts of Asia and Africa. It leaves the temperate countries of Europe as winter approaches, and retires into warmer regions. Sonnini has observed the arrival of nightingales in Lower Egypt during the autumn, has seen them during winter on the fresh and smiling plains of the Delta, and has also witnessed their passage in the islands of the Archipelago. In some parts of Asia Minor the nightingale is common, and never quits the woods in which it has taken up its abode. These birds are found in considerable numbers on the coast of Barbary, where they are always more numerous at the time when they have quite disappeared from the countries of the north. So powerful is the instinct of migration in the nightingale, that those which are kept in captivity usually exhibit much agitation, especially during the night, at the periods when the species migrate. The departure and return of these birds is due not only to the change in the season, but to the abundance or scarcity of their appropriate food.
When passing through countries which are foreign to them, on their route to their winter or summer home, nightingales never sing; it is only during the nesting season, and when they are rearing their young, that those strains are heard which give so much delight. The song of these birds is said to be richer and more varied in some countries than in others. The nightingales of Persia, Karamania and Greece are said to sing better than those of Italy; the Italian birds again are valued above those of France, and the French above the English. Whether this be anything more than a fanciful theory, we have no good means of judging; but the following testimony seems to contradict the idea that situation has much influence on the song of this bird. "In 1802," says Mr. Symes, "being at Geneva, at the residence of a friend, about three miles from the town, in a quiet sequestered spot, surrounded by gardens and forests, and within hearing of the murmur of the Rhone, there, on a beautiful still evening, the air soft and balmy, the windows of the house open, and the twilight chequered by trees, there we heard two nightingales sing indeed most delightfully,—but not more so than one we heard down a stair in a dark cellar in the High Street, in Edinburgh;—such a place as that described in "The Antiquary!" no window, and no light admitted, but what
came from the open door, and the atmosphere charged with the fumes of tobacco and spirits; it was a place where carriers lodged or put up,—and the heads of the porters and chairmen, carrying luggage, nearly came in contact with the cage, which was hung at the foot of the staircase; yet even here did this bird sing in as mellow, as sweet, and as sprightly a manner as did those at Geneva."
The nightingale is naturally timid and solitary, and arrives and departs alone. It appears in England from the middle of April to the beginning of May, according to the season. At first it remains in hedges and thickets on the borders of cultivated ground, where an abundant supply of food can be procured; but as soon as the larger trees are covered with foliage it retires into the woods, and hides in the thickest recesses. The neighbourhood of some purling stream is generally chosen by the bird, and the male usually has two or three favourite trees near the nest, on one or the other of which he constantly sings during the period of incubation, and never allows one of his own species to approach the spot. The nest is usually commenced about the beginning of May, and is formed with coarse weeds and dried oak-leaves on the outside, and with horse-hair, little roots, and cow-hair on the inside. It is placed near the ground in brushwood at the foot of a hedge, or on the low branches of some thick shrub, and is so slightly constructed that an attempt to displace it will often cause it to crumble to pieces. Four or five eggs of a greenish brown colour are deposited in it, and the male supplies food to the female while she is sitting. The little ones have the body covered with feathers in a fortnight from the time they are hatched, and quit the nest before they are able to fly, following their parents, as well as they can, by jumping from branch to branch. When they are fully fledged the mother-bird leaves them to the care of her mate, and begins to construct a new nest for her second brood.
The full-grown nightingale is a bird of elegant proportions, but of unattractive plumage. It is about five inches long, two and a-half of which belong to the tail. The bill is more than half an inch long, slender, of a dull brown colour, with a yellowish tinge at the base of the lower mandible. The upper parts of the body are yellowish brown, the wings and tail dusky, with a reddish tinge at the margin of the feathers. The sides of the neck and flanks are pale ashen grey, passing into white on the throat and the middle of the belly. None of the colours are by any means decided, and there is nothing striking in the appearance of the bird. The female differs little from the male, but the head is rounder, the eyes are rather smaller, and the throat is not so white. Bechstein notices a striking resemblance between the female redstart and the nightingale, but says of the latter, "His step and attitude are prouder, and his actions more deliberate. When he walks it is by measured regular hops. After a certain number he stops, looks at himself, shakes his wings, raises his tail gracefully, spreads it a little, stoops his head several times, raises his tail several times, and proceeds. If any object attracts his attention, he bends his head towards it, and generally looks at it with only one eye. It is true that he jumps hastily upon the insects which constitute his food; but he does not seize them as eagerly as other birds; on the contrary, he stops short, and seems to deliberate whether it is prudent to eat them or not. Generally he has a serious circumspect air, but his foresight is not proportioned to it, for he falls readily into all the snares which are laid for him. If he once escapes, however, he is not so easily caught again, and becomes as cunning as any other bird."
Some naturalists affirm that there is a part of the night in which nightingales seldom sing; that they are not, according to their name, "lovers of darkness," but hail the moonlight or the dawn of day. Others affirm, that they are silent only on dark and windy nights, but at other times, having once commenced their song, they continue it without intermission the whole night. "This I know," says Neville Wood, "from actual observation, having more than once remained out of doors nearly the whole night, purposely to discover whether the bird or the naturalist would first be wearied. If on a dark and windy night it does not sing, it may generally be roused by imitating its strains; if this be done on a favourable night, it will commence instantly; but on a cold and chilly night it is sometimes very difficult to rouse, though I have seldom been so unfortunate as to fail
entirely. The shutting of an adjoining gate, the striking of a church clock, the passing of a cart or coach, if near a road, or even the hearing passengers walking along the hard turnpike road, will frequently cause it to commence singing; the very incidents which one might have supposed would disturb so shy a bird."
"May 2nd. A delicious evening;—bright sunshine; light summer air; a sky almost cloudless; and a fresh, yet delicate verdure on the hedges and in the fields;—an evening that seems made for a visit to my newly-discovered haunt, the mossy dell, one of the most beautiful spots in the neighbourhood, which after passing, times without number, the field which it terminates, we found out about two months ago.
"Thither accordingly we bend our way;—through the village; up the hill; along the common; past the avenue;