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THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.BYCUTHBERT COLLINGWOOD,M.A., F.L.S., ETC.,AUTHOR OFRAMBLESS OF A NATURALIST ON THE SHORES AND WATERS OF THE-CHINA SEA," "A VISION OF CREATION-A POEM," ETC.SECOND EDITION.LONDON:CHARLES BEAN, 81, NEW NORTH ROAD, HOXTON.1873.[All rights reserved.]fe-
Sbiicatrb toAMY,IN MEMORY OFHAPPY DAYS.
PREFACE.IN the following pages the Author has endeavoured topresent the facts of Migration in such a light as to be at-tractive to youthful readers. And, although the subjectis one which is of itself highly interesting, he believesthat its form of a dialogue adapted to young capacitieswill render it more acceptable, by entirely divesting itof all repellent technicalities. This end he hopes themore effectually to have secured by making the birds inthe alternate chapters tell their own story, thus convey-ing accurate information in a form which can scarcelyfail to be appreciated by the readers for whom chieflythe work was written.C. C.UPPER NORWOOD,July, 1872.NOTE (to Second Edition).-That the Robin is well-known to be a bird of passage on the Continent ofEurope, and is probably subject to a seasonal and partialmigration in this country, need not, it is conceived, in-terfere with the position assigned to the bird in thisvolume.C. C.
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.CHAPTER I.BACKWARDS and forwards, in the chilly blue sky of anApril morning, flew a solitary swallow, which seemedeither to be busy catching his dinner of insects, or elsewas merely flapping his wings by way of exercise tokeep himself warm. For the weather was by no meanssummery, and a cool easterly wind was blowing, andevery now and then the sun was darkened by a heavycloud, which came up-you could hardly say from where-poured down a sharp shower, and then vanished, youcould hardly say where to. When the cloud came, thesolitary swallow disappeared for a time, but when thesun once more shone out, he might be seen again dartingbackwards and forwards, making all sorts of strangepatterns and crossed figures in the pale blue sky-hisglossy blue-black wings and back reflecting the sunlight,and his chestnut neck and breast showing very plainly,every now and then, as he flew over the heads of twochildren who were running about merrily at play.As soon as the swallow was observed, the eldest, a boy1
2 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.of some ten years old, shouted out in great glee, " Ohlook Amy, there's a swallow I'm sure it is one, becauseI often watched them last summer; and I'm so glad, forthis is the first one I've seen, and it shows that summeris coming."The little girl had no doubt that her brother wasright, so they ceased from their play and stood watchingthe swallow, which continued to flit about in silence-sometimes almost passing out of their sight, and thenreturning again; now sweeping almost along the ground,and then flying high into the air, but keeping chiefly inthe neighbourhood of a small pool of ornamental water,near to which the children were standing."Papa told me," continued the little lad, "that allthe swallows go away before the cold weather comes,and that nobody sees them all the winter ; and that whenthe cold weather is all gone, and the summer is comingagain, then the swallows all come back. And, of course,they can't come back all at once-there must be one first-and this is the first ; and I'm so glad.""But where do they go to, Harry " said his littleseven-year-old sister, Amy, who was becoming interestedin the poor swallows ; " do you think they go home andshut the door, and keep the cold weather and the snowout ? because they can't put on warmer clothes, you know,li kewe do."Harry felt inclined to smile at his little sister's notionof their shutting the door, or putting on warmer clothes;but as he felt rather proud of being able to tell her
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 3something about the birds, he did not laugh at her, butonly said, " Oh, no, Amy, they fly a long way off-everso far, to some country where it is warm even in winter;and there they stay, away from the cold ice and snow,and fly about in the warm sunshine all day long, while weare sliding here, or making snowballs."Little Amy opened her blue eyes wide at this informa-tion, and exclaimed, "But, Harry, where is that nicewarm country ? I'm sure it must be a very, very longway off; and are you sure that swallows can fly such avery long way ? Besides, if the swallows know of sucha nice warm country, why don't they tell the otherbirds; it is very selfish, I think, if they keep it all tothemselves.""But they do not," exclaimed Harry, "for I recollectthat the cuckoos go too. You know you never hearda cuckoo in winter time.""No, indeed, I have not," returned Amy; "but youknow the robins, and blackbirds, and sparrows alwayswant to be fed in winter time. So they don't go, yousee. Besides, in my map, there's ever so much sea allround England, and the swallows would have to flyright over the water, and they might fall in and bedrowned."Harry began to be somewhat puzzled himself, andsaid, "Well, Amy, I don't think all the birds go therein winter; and I can't tell you where the warm countryis to which they fly, nor how far it is off. But as fortheir crossing the sea, I know papa told me that the1-2
4 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.swallows really do so, so they don't all fall in and getdrowned, that's certain; for here is one come back, andthere will soon be some more. But when we go homewe will ask papa, and he will tell us all about it."So the children went on with their play, every nowand then, however, casting a glance up at the swallow, asif to assure themselves that it was still in sight.Meanwhile the solitary swallow flew to and fro, catch-ing the tiny insects which it alone could see, a greatmany of which were necessary to make a dinner; anddoing its best to keep itself comfortably warm. ForHarry was quite right in saying that it was the firstof the swallows, and it had but just arrived from foreignlands, where palm trees grow, where oranges get ripe inthe open air, and where winter never comes. And thepoor swallow keenly felt the difference between thatsunny climate and the cool April morningin England.It was not so bad as long as the sun was shining, butwhen the clouds came up, and the smart April showerfell, the poor bird flew shivering and wet to the nearestshelter. But it was soon over, and the sun came outagain; and with the sunshine its spirits returned, andit ventured forth again from its hiding-place. Still itfelt rather lonely, and when at length it had succeededin making a pretty good meal (for there was certainly nolack of flies), it perched upon a twig to rest and smoothits feathers, and to take time to think over matters alittle. It thought of the sunny land it had so lately left,
TIE TRAVELLING BIRDS.and of the perils of the long journey which had provedfatal to many of its companions, and it wondered whynone of them had yet come back to the old spot wherethey had spent so many summer days together last year.Presently a piping song on a neighboring twig causedthe swallow to look round, and there, perched besidehim, was a Robin, looking very handsome in his newspring red waistcoat and brown coat, and eyeing himwith his little black, sparkling beads of eyes. The Robin,who had long been settled at home, and was bringing upa family, thought it would be but civil to say a word ofwelcome to the newly arrived bird, so he said, good-naturedly:-"Good morning to you, you are one of the travellingbirds, I believe; I'm glad you've got back again safely."" Thank you," replied the Swallow. " Yes, I've justarrived; and I find the change of air rather trying to mydelicate constitution. I wish it was just a little warmer,and that there were a few more leaves on the trees."" Ah, yes," said the Robin, " I suppose you have beenaccustomed to a warmer climate, but I can assure you thatit is getting milder every day ; and the buds have beenopening so fast the last week or two, that one can almostsee them grow. In a very few days the country willbegin to look quite green. I have already put on myspring clothes, you see, and I dare say you will soon getaccustomed to the bracing air. But where are all yourbrothers and sisters ? You are the first Swallow I haveseen."
6 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."Well, really," returned the Swallow, "I can't thinkwhy they are so long. I do, indeed, wish some of themwere here, for it is very lonely without them. We cameover the sea in a large party, or, rather, we all startedtogether; but that dreadful sea journey separated us,and I fear it went badly with some of them, for therewas no place to rest, and they seemed very weary; andwhen the wind blew rather strong, they lagged behind,and got out of sight. For although being young andstrong I managed to get over myself without muchfatigue, I could not have been of any assistance to them,for we are all obliged to depend on our own wings aloneto carry us safely over, unless, indeed, we meet with aship."" A ship !" exclaimed the Robin, "you don't mean tosay you venture upon ships !""Indeed ships are very convenient sometimes to restupon," said the Swallow. " Ah if you only knew howtired we get sometimes. We fly and fly over the sea-nothing to be seen but sea and sky, sea and sky; andthen comes a wind blowing right against us-not a highwind, perhaps, but a steady breeze which wearies usout, and we cannot fly half so fast against it, and we feelready to drop into the water. Oh, then, if we could onlysee a ship-if we could only rest upon it for half-an-hour !""But are you not afraid of the people on the ship 1"asked the Robin."We are afraid of nothing when we are so tired," re-
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 7turned the Swallow, "we only want to rest or die. Iremember once I was with a small party flying low overthe waves, silently plodding along for dear life, when wesaw a ship, and made for it. When we got there wefound lots of our friends on the i .i--_. and many othertravelling birds-birds that you never see in this country,or very rarely. Besides Chiff Chaffs, Redstarts, Quails,Wheatears, Whitethroats, Willow Wrens, Buntings,&c., there were Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles, Ibises,Hoopoes, and other strange birds. We did not see themall at once, but while we stood near the ship these birdscame from time to time. Some stayed a little time andthen went on, while others returned again and again;and I have no doubt the lives of many of them weresaved by the rest it gave them.""Ah !" said the Robin, "it must be a dreadful jour-ney. I can't think why you should go. I am quite surenothing could induce me to undertake it. And althoughI have heard it is a beautiful rich country that you goto, where the sun always shines, and there is alwaysplenty to eat, still it can hardly be worth the terriblerisk. For my part I have no desire to go, though cer-tainly it is hard work to support oneself here in winter.You will, perhaps, scarcely believe me when I tell youthat for weeks together the ground was covered withsnow.""With snow !" cried the Swallow, interrupting him;"" what is that ?"" Why, you don't mean to tell me you don't know
8 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.what snow is !" exclaimed the Robin. " Why, snow isa horrible white thing that comes down from the sky inwinter, and covers all the ground, and the houses, andthe trees, and everything, even the very ponds andstreams-soft and deep, and white and cold-so thatall the country is buried in it for days, or even weeks,as the case may be. All this time not a worm could begot for love or money; for besides this, when the snowblows away, or is swept off, the ground underneath is ashard as a stone."" How dreadful !" said the Swallow."Indeed it is," continued the Robin; "and I do notbelieve Ilshould ever have got through that terrible time,if some kind people had not thrown some crumbs ofbread out of the window every morning. And it wasalmost as difficult to get anything to drink, for all theponds and streams, and even the very puddles andgutters, were covered with hard ice."" Is ice a kind of snow ?" enquired the Swallow."Well, yes, perhaps, it is," replied the Robin, " butmuch worse; for snow is soft, and although it is colditself, it has sometimes seemed to keep me warm; butice is hard, like stone, and colder than even snow, andit keeps the water shut up all to itself. It was indeed aterrible time."" Then," replied the Swallow, who had listened com-placently to this woeful tale, " I am quite sure that, withmy delicate constitution, I could never have survived.And, besides, I cannot eat bread crumbs-none of my
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.family can; and we do not care for worms. And as Ifind that the little flies we like are most plentiful inthe warmest weather, I expect that in that dreadful coldtime, we must have been absolutely starved if we hadremained here, even if we had not been frozen to deathfirst.""Well, I dare say you are right," replied the Robin ;"constitutions do differ, and tastes also. Still, for mypart, I would rather run the risk of starving at home,than start off on such a perilous journey.""Would you " rejoined the Swallow. "Well, I daresay it may seem strange to you that we should travel atall, but I can assure you it is all for the best. If all theother travelling birds have such delicate constitutions asI have, I am sure travelling must be the best thing forthem; and it would be nothing less than death to themall if they remained here during the winter. I am cer-tain I should never survive it, nor my cousins the house-martins and sand-swallows. But, indeed, we have nochance of staying if we wished to do so ever so much.""How can you talk such nonsense !" said the Robin,rather rudely. "Do you mean to say that you couldnot stay if you liked to try it ? Nobody drives youaway, and yet you are off even while there are plentyof flies to be had. But I beg your pardon for beingso abrupt; no doubt you know your own businessbest.""That's true enough," remarked the Swallow, a littleruffled, "and it is evident you do not understand the
10 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.feelings of the travelling birds. But as you are not atravelling bird yourself, you can hardly be expected todo so, and may, perhaps, be excused. But what I saidis quite true; and if you ask any travelling bird he willtell you that when the time is come that he ought to bepreparing to start he begins to feel so uneasy in his mindthat he must go. It is just as if someone were whisper-ing to him night and day, Winter is coming get readyto go you can't stay here get ready to go for go youmust; you're a travelling bird, and travel you must;you'll be frozen here-get ready to go for go you must;-next week !' And then we feel so unsettled anduneasy, that even if any one tried to keep us they couldnot."" But suppose a travelling bird were caught and putin a cage," suggested the Robin."It would die," said the Swallow, sadly." But if it is not too intrusive," asked the Robin, "mayI ask why you ever come back from that nice warmcountry, where everything is so snug in the winter?One would have thought you would never wish toreturn.""Ah," said the Swallow, "but if we did not comeback we should no longer be travelling birds. Besides,although that country is nice and warm when it is socold here,--when the summer comes, the sun gets so hotthat all the water gets dried up almost, and we shouldbe as badly off as you are in winter here. Then, thiscountry just suits us, and we can no more stay when the
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 11spring is come than we can stay here after summer isgone; for the same voice is always whispering to us:'Spring is coming--you must go back! it is time tobuild nests you must go back you can't bring up yourfamilies in this hot place you must go back! you aretravelling birds, and travel you must; get ready to go-for go you must-next week !' And then we are sodelighted with the thought of making our nests andbringing up our families, that we are nothing loath to goback, notwithstanding the long journey and the changeof air, which is rather too cold and bracing for my deli.cate constitution, at all events just at first.""Well !" exclaimed the Robin, " that is very strange.I never heard the like It is quite true; I never feltany uneasiness in autumn,-but then our family are nottravelling birds. Well-a-day we all have our pleasuresand our trials, and each must be contented with his ownlot. Then you have not built any nests in the warmcountry you have just come from ?""No," returned the Swallow; "travelling birds onlybuild their nests when they come here.""Then what in the world, may I ask, do you do withyourselves all the time you are away ?" asked the Robin,who was inclined to be pert and a little disbelieving;"you must lead very idle lives, surely."" Indeed," returned the Swallow, " we do not do muchbeyond eating and drinking. We certainly do not buildany nests in those countries, nor do we feel any inclina-tion to do so. But you must remember that we only go
12 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.there to save our lives, which we could not do in thiscold country. Exposure and hunger would kill us here,and we are protected from both those evils by the climate-that's all.""Well, it's wonderful !" exclaimed the Robin, " andit's true enough that exposure and hunger are dreadfulthings. I can bear them myself, and I have borne them,but I have seen my friends dying round me by dozens, inwinter time.""And what do you do, may I ask, in winter time?"enquired the Swallow. "It is not always so cold, Isuppose ?"" Well, I think we do much the same as you do," repliedthe Robin, " that is, nothing, but try to save ourselvesalive till the nesting time comes. I don't see a pinto choose between us, only our constitutions are thestrongest, and so we stay here and bear it as best wemay-while yours are so delicate that you are wise enoughnot to try the experiment.""Yes," said the Swallow, meditatively, "that seemsto be the state of the case, and spring seems to be ourbusy time as well as yours, and you know we all comeback here in spring.""Not all," said the Robin, "for some friends of mine,whom I have seen a good deal of this last winter, havejust left for the north, and they certainly have not builttheir nests here." (He meant the fieldfares and redwings,but he did not mention their names, for the Swallow hadno acquaintance with them.) "I wonder," he continued,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 13musingly, "if they intend to bring up their familiesin Norway. I must take some opportunity of askingthe thrushes and blackbirds, for they are their rela-tions, and they will know-and I feel curious on thesubject."" May I ask," said the Swallow, "if you have begunto build your nest yet ?""Bless my soul!" exclaimed the Robin, " begun tobuild it! why I have a wife and five young children,whom I had almost forgotten, while I stood gossipingwith you. What will my wife say? I shall get a cur-tain lecture at least, if not a good pecking. Pray excuseme for leaving you so abruptly, but I have enjoyed yourconversation immensely, and I daresay I shall meet youagain shortly, when I am more at leisure. I want to askyou if you have any news of our old friends. You stayin these parts, do you not ?""Yes," replied the Swallow, "this is my home; I wasborn here.""So was I. Well, then, good-bye," and away flewthe Robin to his nest of little ones." Good-bye," twittered the Swallow, and then he flewoff the twig, and began to skim over the water in searchof flies for supper. For this long conversation had givenhim an appetite.
14 TIHE TRAVELLING BIRDS.CHAPTER II.As soon as Harry and Amy reached home, they imme-diately began to besiege their papa with questions aboutthe swallows, for their play had not put the subjectout of their heads; on the contrary, the sight of theirfather in the garden made them the more eager to rushupon it."Oh! papa," they exclaimed, both at once, " what doyou think ? We saw a swallow this morning.""A swallow ? only one !" said he, smiling at theireagerness. "Well, you know what the proverb says,'One swallow does not make a summer.'""Oh, yes," said Harry, "but this was the first one;and if one swallow does not make a summer, it does makea spring, I think, papa, don't you ?""Well, I dare say you are right, Harry, for it wouldbe strange if the swallows had begun to come back, andit were not spring. Let me see what is to-day ? The14th of April, to be sure; this is just the time we mightexpect to see them, and there will soon be plenty ofthem.""I am so glad of that," cried Amy, " for the poor
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 1 5swallow looked so lonely, flying about all by himself.How glad he will be to see some more swallows. Andwhy did he not bring some more with him, papa ?""Well, I suppose he left them all behind, Amy," saidher papa, " and didn't wait for them, so it is his ownfault. Or perhaps they couldn't keep up with him, andsent him on before to tell the other birds that the swal-lows were coming."" Oh, do you think so, papa ?" exclaimed little Amy,"that would be charming, for I'm sure all the birdswould be very glad when the swallows come back." I'm not quite sure of that, my little one," returnedher papa, " though there's no doubt all the birds arevery happy that the spring has come back."" Will you tell Amy where they go to in winter,papa ?" said Harry; " she asked me if they shut them-selves indoors to keep the cold out-only fancy !""My dear Harry," said his father, "your little sisteris not the only wise head which has thought that. Manypeople have believed, and, perhaps, do still believe, thatthey shut themselves up in holes and crevices, and go tosleep till the sun wakes them up again in spring.""Do they really, papa ?" said Harry; "why I thoughteverybody knew that they went away to some warmcountry, where they were happy and comfortable all thetime there is cold weather here. Do they not ?""What do you think, Harry, of their going to sleepat the bottom of a pond ?" asked their papa."Why, I think," returned Harry, briskly, " that they
16 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.would never come up again,- and would certainly bedrowned."" So do I," said his papa, "but yet many persons havetried to persuade us that they do so; ay and cleverpersons who might be supposed to know somethingabout it."" What a strange idea !" said Harry. " I should havethought they were laughing at me, if any one else hadtold me, papa.""No less strange than true, Harry," returned hispapa, " that is, that people have believed this story. But Iread a book the other day, written by a very learnedman, who tried to prove that they all flew to the moonin the winter time, and came back in the summer."" Oh but that's nonsense, papa," said Harry, " we allknow that; but do tell us where they really go to.""Well, my boy," said his papa, " I don't know that Ican tell you where they really go to ; but all I can sayis that they leave this country for a more southern andwarmer one, on the approach of winter."" And do they fly over the sea ?" asked Amy." Yes, my child, that they must do, they cannot quitthis country without crossing the sea; for you know thatEngland is an island, and islands are surrounded bywater. But that is not the only sea they must cross.For the country that most of these birds seek is a longway off, and they must overcome more than one obstaclein order to reach it.""I suppose you mean the Mediterranean Sea, said
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 17Harry, "which separates Europe from Africa. Do younot, papa ?""Yes, my boy, you are right. It is probable thatdifferent kinds of birds fly different distances in searchof warmth and foodin winter. Some are content withthe south of France, or with Spain, but, probably, manycross the Mediterranean Sea, and spend the winter inthe warm palm-groves of Africa.""Africa!" cried Harry and Amy together; "why,"said Harry, " I have heard of a great traveller who hadbeen to Africa, and people seemed to think a great dealof it. The birds are travellers too, then, are they not ?""Yes; they may be called travelling birds with greattruth. They make a long journey twice a year, and passthrough as many perils and dangers as most travellers.":"And do it all with their own wings !" exclaimedHarry; "they do not want railways and steam boats, dothey, papa ?"" Not so fast, Harry, said his papa; "it is true theydon't trouble railways much, but I am much mistaken ifthey are not glad of a lift in a ship, now and then, asthey cross the sea.""A ship !" cried the children, surprised."Ay, a ship ; you little know the dangers and fatiguesto which the poor birds are exposed in crossing the ocean.The times of year selected for their journey are not themost tranquil: and when they have set out under thebest prospects, changes may arise in the weather, whichmay seriously damage their chance of a safe passage."2
18 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS." But, papa," said Amy, "who chooses the time forthem to go? I suppose they go when they like?"" If my little girl will get her Bible, and turn to the8th Chapter of Jeremiah, and the 7th verse, she will findit says 'Yea: the stork in the heaven knoweth herappointed time; and the turtle and the crane and theswallow observe the time of their coming.' So everybird is taught to come and go at an] appointed season,by its Maker.""And when is the season, papa I" said Harry; "theycome in spring.""In a general way you may say they come in spring,and go in autumn. But every bird has his special timefor coining and going, and they usually come and go,one after another, in a regular order."" But, papa," said Harry, " what other birds besidesswallows travel ?"" Oh a great many more, Harry. I will tell you moreabout them another time. At present, let us keep to thesubject, that is the swallows. We were talking abouttheir journey. I don't suppose there is much to choosebetween spring and autumn, as far as the safety ordanger of that journey is concerned; but as it is nowspring, and we are talking of newly-arrived swallows, Iwill tell you something about their return here."" Why do they return here at all, papa, if they havesuch a nice place to live in ?" asked Harry."Because, my boy, they only go away to escape thewinter, which they are not hardy enough to bear, andtheir exile from their native country is only intended to
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 19last until the season is sufficiently fine and warm forthem to come back again. It is just like a delicate personbeing ordered to a warm climate for the winter-he doesnot stay for the summer as well."" Is this their native country, then, papa ? How doyou know that i" inquired Harry." Yes, this is the native country of all birds whichspend the summer here," answered the father, "and forthe simple reason that it is only in spring and summerthat birds build their nests, lay their eggs, and hatchtheir young. Spring is the season for all these processes.You don't expect to find bird's-nests in winter, do you ?""No indeed," replied Harry, " except old worn-outthings that are always dirty and empty.""Just so," returned his papa, "and so all the travel-ling birds hasten home in spring, impelled by the desireto build their nests and rear their. young ones. All thebirds which do not travel-like robins, and wrens, andthrushes and blackbirds-build their nests in spring,only a little earlier than the travelling birds, becausethey are already on the spot, and are more hardy, andcan take advantage of early seasons; but the travellingbirds come flocking after them, and very soon after theirarrival begin the business of building nests, so thatby the end of May there is not a bird, traveller or stay-at-home, which is not provided with a home.""Oh, I'm [so glad," cried little Amy, " that all thelittle birds have nests How nice it must be in the finesummer nights for them all to be snuggling up in the open2-2
20 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.air in their nests. I always think it would be such fun,and I often play with my dolls at sleeping out of doors."" Ah, ha my little blue eyes, if you could choose yournights it would, perhaps, be all very well; but recollect,the poor birds have often wet and stormy nights, withthunder and lightning, and, perhaps, hail enough tobatter them out of the hedges. How my little girlwould be frightened if her nest was in a bush in thegarden on such a night !""Yes, indeed I should, papa," said the little Amy, towhom this idea of bird-life was new. " I hope the birdsare not frightened; but, perhaps, they're quite used to it.""We will hope so," remarked her father. "Well,then, as I was saying, the eggs are laid and duly hatched,and the young ones fly; and by the time the seasonarrives for them to travel south, the young ones are asready and able to fly as their papas and mammas."" Oh, I see," said Harry; "then next spring, theseyoung ones come back and build nests, too, in the samecountry where they were hatched themselves.""Just so, Harry; so that you see the swallows are re-turning to their native country, as I told you. I cannottell you the exact nature of the impulse which makesthem leave the nice warm country, where they havebeen happy enough all the winter. No doubt it is notquite the same as that which drives them away from herein autumn. For that must be to save their lives, whereasit is a much more joyous feeling which brings them back.Whatever it is, it must be very powerful, for it makes
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 21them return, whatever the weather may be, almost to aday at their appointed time, and encounter all thedangers of the journey.""Do they not wait till the weather is fine, papa ."asked Harry."My dear boy," returned his papa, "how can thebirds be such conjurors as to know, when they are inAfrica, whether it is an early or a late spring here P""That they certainly cannot," agreed Harry."Well, then, you see they must be guided by theirown instinctive feelings as to the time they set out, andreach here at or about the appointed time, whether theweather is fit to receive them or not."" Oh, but surely," said Harry, "it must be nearly fit.Is it not always pretty warm in April?""I assure, Harry, I have seen as severe a snow-stormin May as at any time in December or January; and themiddle of April is often exceedingly raw and cold, so thateven the stay-at-home birds are not sure winter is over.""Whatever do the poor swallows do then," exclaimedboth the children, " if they come in such weather as that ?"" Why, my dears, I fear that great numbers of themdie. They come, and they may be seen flying about fora day or two, and then, numbed by the chill air, theyretire to eaves and crevices, where they fall victims tothe inclemency of the season. They may, perhaps, re-cover, if a genial sun comes out, and warms back theirlife; but if this weather lasts any time, but few cansurvive."
22 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."Oh, how sad !" exclaimed Harry. "Then, papa,there would be no swallows all the summer !"" If they all came at once it might be so, but youknow they do not. You have only seen one yet, and forsome reason, they come over in flocks, some much afterothers. I cannot tell you what makes some come sosoon, and others so much later; but the latter ones havea better chance ; and if the first arrivals are thus unfor-tunate, those coming afterwards supply us with swallowsfor the summer. But it often happens that in the incle-ment and cold seasons, swallows are very scarce in earlysummer; until, indeed, those which survive have hatchedtheir young, which soon fly about, and make a show ofincreased numbers.""Poor swallows !" said Amy. " After all their trou-bles in flying over the sea, to be killed by the unkind coldas soon as they have come I am so sorry for them.""Yes, it is hard for the poor swallows, and I wasgoing to tell you about their troubles on the way.""On the way, papa," exclaimed Harry, " but how canany one know what they do on the way, for the .swal-lows can't tell any one, surely !""Not so fast, Master Harry; the swallows can't tell,but observation may. And you may be sure the swal-lows and other birds have not been flying backwardsand forwards on their travels for so many years, withoutanybody seeing them. I have seen them myself. Justat this time of the year I was once travelling from Doverto Paris-going, that is, from N.W. to S.E.-and I saw
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 23flocks of swallows the whole afternoon meeting us, thatis, flying from S.E. to N.W., evidently making for thenearest point to England. I had not seen one in Eng-land, which I had just left; but I saw hundreds andhundreds that afternoon, all going the same way. Notone could I see flying southward; and it was only abouthouses and villages that they were skimming backwardsand forwards catching flies, as if they had stopped thereto rest and bait."" " Oh, how I should like to have seen them !" criedHarry; " but did you ever see them on the sea, papa ?""Yes, Harry, I have, but I prefer to tell you whatothers have seen. A gentleman cruising in the Mediter-ranean Sea in April, relates that during seven days he fre-quently saw various travelling birds,: which sometimesrested on the rigging, and sometimes remained a wholeday about the ship. They were evidently passing north-ward from Africa to Europe on their spring travels.The common swallow was among these, sometimescatching flies about the deck, and sometimes perched onthe rigging. There were martins, too, in some numbers-one, he says, flew into the cabin, and was found deadshortly afterwards, although no one had hurt it.""Oh, papa !" exclaimed little Amy,' " what a pity'!why did it die ?""Fatigue, I suppose, killed it, my darling; and [pro-bably it could not get a proper supply of food such as itrequired. The officers of the ship said they had fre-quently known birds of different species, when crossing
24 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.the Mediterranean, thus fly into the cabin, hide them-selves and die.""Poor birds, how unfortunate they are !" cried thesympathizing little Amy." Yes, and another traveller reports that coming intothe Channel in the spring, .a great flock of swallows.came and settled on all the rigging; every rope wascovered; they hung on one another like a swarm ofbees. They seemed almost famished and spent, andwere only feathers and bone ; but being recruited with anight's rest, took their flight in the morning. And youmay fancy how much worse off they would have beenif there had been no ship for them -to settle on and rest.Many died even then, and how many more would havedied without that and similar assistance Then, again,supposing that after they set out, the wind should turncontrary and hinder them, and tire them-or a stormshould arise, against which it would be impossible forthem to resist-and you may picture to yourself some ofthe perils and dangers of this passage.""I see now," said Harry, " and 1 wonder so manycome over safely. But I suppose they have no trouble inflying over the land.""I dare say," replied papa, "that that is compara-tively easy; the only risk would be, I suppose, thatwhere there are so many birds passing the same way thesupply of their particular food might run short. Thereare certainly some birds which suffer from that cause.""What birds, papa ?" asked Harry." The Passenger pigeons of America, which travel some-
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 25times in such vast flocks, that they almost darken theair, and break down the branches of the trees by roostingon them, thus killing one another in great numbers.An American naturalist, named Audubon, has given amost wonderful account of them. They are like theflocks of locusts mentioned in the Bible, which devastatethe whole country through which they pass."" How curious !" said Harry 3 " but when the swallowsget to land, how do they know which way to go next 1"" Well, that is more than I can tell you; they havea kind of wonderful instinct implanted in them whichdirects them on their way. You know a carrier pigeonwill find his way back to his home if he is taken a hun-dred miles away without any difficulty, and thereforethey are used for taking letters and messages with greatrapidity. No doubt they could fly straight back from amuch greater distance, and all travelling birds have thesame instinct. They never make the mistake of flyingnorth in winter instead of south, or south in summer in-stead of north.""How interesting !" said Harry; "but when theyhave got to land; I should have thought they would havesettled down at once, and never have ventured to crossthe sea again-to come to England, for instance."" Then in that case all the swallows would be settledalong the coast, and there would be none inland orEurope would be full of them, and we should have notravelling birds at all in England. But now I am goingto tell you something which will surprise you more, andthat is, that there is every probability that the swallows
26 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.and other birds very often return not only to the countrywhere they were born, but to the very spot, to the samevillage or copse from whence they departed last year.Nay, that probably a bird which has built its nest underthe eaves of a house, and reared its young ones there,will return to the same eave next year, and build itsnest there again.""Oh, papa," cried little Amy, clapping her hands, " isit really true ? How much better I like the swallowsnow-though I was very fond of them before-I shallnever see them building their nests again without think-ing of that. Only think that perhaps I have seen thesame swallows before, last year, and that since then theyhave perhaps been to Africa, and come all the way backagain. But, papa," added she, a little staggered, "howdo you know they are the same swallows ? They seemto me all alike, and I should never know any swallowparticularly, if I saw it again next year.""No, my dear, I dare say you would not. But sup-pose you saw one with a peculiarly formed wing, orsome special mark about it which attracted your parti-cular notice, and next year you saw a bird flying abouthaving the same particular mark, would you not considerit to be most likely the same bird ?"" Oh, yes, papa," cried Amy."Or suppose you caught a swallow at a particularnest, and made a nick on its bill, or some mark by whichyou would know it again, and next year you caught abird at the same nest and found the mark on it, would
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 27you not be quite certain the same bird had come backagain ?""Oh, yes, papa," said Harry; "I see now how theycould find out that the same birds come back to thesame places. It is very interesting.""Yes," said their papa thoughtfully, "there is a greatdeal in the migrations of birds which is extremely inter-esting.""The what, papa?" asked Harry; "what do youcall it ?""Migrations, Harry, that is the proper term. Wehave called them travelling birds, but the correct term ismigratory birds, and their travels are migrations. So infuture I shall perhaps sometimes use one word andsometimes the other."" Oh, papa," exclaimed both Harry and Amy, " dotell us some more about them."But at this moment a bell rang, and the childrencried, disappointed, " Oh, there's the dinner bell! whata pity !"" Yes," said papa, " there's the end of our conversa-tion at present; and I have told you quite 'enough forone day if you will remember it all. But I promise youI will tell you more another time, if you come to ask me.""Indeed we will, you need not fear we shall forget,"they both cried together." Well, then, away with you for the present, and getready for dinner."
28 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.CHAPTER III.IT was two or three days after the conversation recordedin the first chapter, and the Swallow was flying brisklyabout, hawking, as usual, for flies, but no longer alone.Several other swallows accompanied him, his earliestfollowers and companions, and there were also a fewmartins, which, when their tails were turned towardsyou, looked for all the world like little balls of whiteworsted skimming through the air. The day was fineand bright, so that he no longer felt lonely and down-hearted. As he darted by an overhanging branch, heheard a familiar voice, and saw his friend the Robintaking a rest and solacing himself with a song; andmindful of his former civility, he perched down besidehim, and bade him good morning." A fine morning for your family," returned the Robin,"and I am glad to see some of them have arrived.Really after what you told me the other day, I hardlyexpected to see any of them come back. But now tellme the news. Did you see any of our friends on yourtravels ?"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 29"Oh, yes, plenty of them," said the Swallow, "bothon the journey and in the warm country. Of course mycousins the Martins and Sand-martins went with us, andwe had altogether quite a large family party last autumn.But although we started together, we soon got split upinto little knots, for the good fliers cannot wait forlaggards.""No," said the Robin, "I suppose it is every one forhimself. But are not the Swifts your relations ?"" Yes, indeed," returned the Swallow, "but they givethemselves airs-they are too grand for us. Would youbelieve it, they would not wait for us, but must needsset off by themselves fully six weeks before us, asif they thought our company not good enough forthem ?""Well, that seems unfriendly, certainly," remarkedthe Robin. "I believe they can only scream, and theyare certainly very black."" No," said the Swallow, "they have no taste for music,but they certainly are magnificent fliers. We are reckonedpretty good generally, but I must say the Swifts beat ushollow; and I must give them credit for that."" Well," replied the Robin, " it becomes you to say so,but for my part I don't see much use in being here andthere and everywhere all at once. They seem to me tobe always showing off. Give me a rose-stick or a clothes-prop to perch on, and I am content to let them tire them-selves out with their antics, for me."" But they never are tired," interposed the Swallow
30 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.with family pride, "and you don't understand themperhaps as well as I do. But I won't dispute with youabout that. At the same time, I confess I cannot quitemake them out.""Do they talk of coming back soon?" asked theRobin."No," replied the Swallow. " I did not see many allthe while I was away, and I was told they had gonefarther south. I asked a Swift if he thought of comingback with us, but he said his family intended to remainthree or four weeks longer."" Well," cried the Robin, " they won't have much timeto attend to their families when they do come. Why, Iwant all the summer to look after mine."" They only rear one family," said the Swallow, " whilewe have two.""And I have three!" exclaimed the Robin, withimportance. "Good Heavens, what laziness !"The Swallow, finding the Swifts an obnoxious subject,hastened to change it."We saw the Chiffchaffs, and their cousins the Willow-wrens," said he, "on the way, and I really am surprisedthat they should be travelling birds, for they scarcelyever practise flying, and are never long on the wing at atime, as we are."" Ah that reminds me," said the Robin, " that theChiffchaffs have been back the last ten days or so, andseem to be none the worse for their journey. In factthey seem in high spirits, and although they can't sing,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 31they have been chattering away in the most lively mannerever since they came. The Willow-wrens have just comeand are singing in every tree. In fact this is really quitean exciting time, and every day may be expected to bringnew and fashionable arrivals. But the Wrynecks camefirst, I think, for I heard them quite a fortnight ago;but I have not yet had an opportunity of speaking toany of them.""Yes," said the Swallow, "they and the Chiffchaffsare generally the first of the travelling birds; and theycan stand your cold springs better than we can, for I sup-pose their constitutions are not so delicate as mine is.But, tell me, have you heard our most distinguishedtraveller yet ? I mean, of course, the Nightingale."" No, not yet," replied the Robin, " but now you arecome, the Nightingale will not be far behind. We shallsoon be able to have our spring concert again. I havebeen tuning up for some time past, and so have theThrushes and Blackbirds; in fact we seldom let any-thing, except that dreadful frost, stop us from practising.Have you not begun to twitter yet ?""No, indeed, I have not," answered the Swallow, "forwe do not sing much out there; and when we first re-turn, it takes us some few days to get into conditionenough to find our voices. I met several Nightingalesand Blackcaps, and many others, but they were all veryquiet, and seemed all to have left their voices behind.Even the noisy Cuckoos could hardly say o to a goose'when we met them."
32 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."Well!" exclaimed the Robin, "wonders will nevercease. I thought they never could be quiet. But wemust give them their due, and they are such vagabonds,that if anything can be said for them we must give themthe benefit of it. Pray who else did you meet ?""Oh," said the Swallow, considering, "let me see!There were the Sedge-warblers and their cousins theReed-warblers and Grasshopper Larks, and a family partyof Garden Warblers and Whitethroats-cousins of theBlackcaps. Then we saw some of the Redstarts, and afew Tree Pipits. Ah and I must not forget the Wood-wrens, cousins of the Willow-wrens and Chiffchaffs.""Wood-wrens ?" said the Robin. "I think I knowthem-they dress in green, don't they ? and have notmuch voice. But if they are cousins of the Chiffchaffs,they are sadly behind them. The Chiffchaffs are amongthe first travelling birds, and the' Wood-wrens almost thelast. I never see them except in hot weather."" Then I suppose," answered the Swallow, " their con-stitutions are more delicate; that must be the reason.Then there were the larger travellers [I have not yetmentioned. I dare say you are not on speaking acquaint-ance with them, and I should not know them myself, if Idid not meet them sometimes on their travels.""Which do you mean ?" asked the Robin." Oh, the Turtle Doves and the Fern Owls," repliedthe Swallow, " and the Quails, and the Landrails, andPlovers. They are all travelling birds-but when theyare here, they mix in a society of their own, and do not
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 33trouble us much. But when we are on our travels, wespeak a civil word now and then."" Oh, no," said the Robin, " I don't know any of thosegentry, and I have no wish to. They are too big, andfrighten me. I like friends of my own size, or there-abouts. I dare say they may be very amiable amongthemselves, but their gruff voices and clattering wingswould terrify me out of my senses, if they came nearme.""Very likely," returned the Swallow; "we are allnaturally most fond of birds of our own feather. Well,now I think I've told you all the news, suppose youchange the subject, and tell me a little about the stay-at-homes. I see you are all very busy; the thrushes andblackbirds sing well, but I always think the blackbirdsat least are rather melancholy."" Ah!" returned the Robin, "they are rather introuble just now-perhaps that's the reason. I shouldnot wonder.""Indeed," said the Swallow, "I am sorry to hear that-what are they in trouble about? I thought that justnow everybody was enjoying himself."" Oh !" replied the Robin, "they have just had a sadsplit in their family; for their cousins, the Redwings andFieldfares, which have been spending the winter here,and have shared all their troubles and cares with them,gave out about a fortnight ago that they would soonhave to leave; and now they are just gone away."" Gone away !" exclaimed the Swallow, " well, that is3
34 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.strange; why do they go away just as the travellingbirds are all coming? But they must be travelling birdsthemselves, if they go away-and whoever heard oftravelling birds staying here in the winter, and going toa warmer place in summer ?"" Ah !" said the Robin, "but they have not gone to awarmer place; they have gone, I am told, to Norway;where I believe they intend to spend the summer in thepine-forests. But they'll be glad enough to come back,I fancy, next autumn, for I have heard that the coldup there is frightful; much worse in winter than it ishere.""Wonderful!" exclaimed the Swallow reflectively;"why I find it cold enough here now, without going toNorway. The Redwings and Fieldfares must be veryhardy birds; but constitutions do differ, and mine is sodelicate, you know. Still I think it is a little unnaturalof them to leave their relations' at the most enjoyabletime of the year. What will they do about nests ?"" Oh," said the Robin, " the thrushes told me theyintended to build their nests there, and I think theysaid that all the Redwings and Fieldfares were born inNorway, themselves, and so like to have their eggshatched in the same place. But, you know, if theywere, they must be foreigners, and not English birds atall.""That's news," said the Swallow. "I should notlike to have foreign relations."" Well, then there are the Tree Pipits," said the Robin,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 35"although they are near relations of the Skylarks, yetthey will never stay with them in winter, but alwaysdesert them for this travelling business-and indeed yousay you saw them. And the Whinchats and Wheatearsalways run off in autumn, and leave their cousins, theStonechats, to shift for themselves as well as they can.And this sort of thing seems to me worse than the Field-fares and Redwings running off in spring, for then thosethat are left are sure to do very well. The Willow-wrens are a sort of distant cousins of niine, but I nevercan get them to stay."" You must not be hard upon them," said the Swallow;"after all, it is their nature; and I know by experiencehow strong is the inducement to travel."" Nature, indeed !" said the Robin warmly, " I haveno patience with them. Why this precious travellingbusiness sometimes separates relations altogether; for afriend of mine, a water-wagtail, told me that he has acousin, a yellow wagtail, and another cousin a gray wag-tail, which are both travelling birds; but would youbelieve it, his yellow cousin always comes, like you do,and spends the summer with him, while his gray cousinonly comes to spend the winter, so that the yellow wag-tail and the gray wag-tail never meet, except perhapsaccidentally just for a day or two as they are packing upfor the journey."While the Robin and the Swallow were thus amicablyconversing together, the latter was suddenly startled byhearing close beside him the shrill song of a bird uttered3-2
36 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.with extraordinary rapidity; no sooner was it finished,with a jerk, than it began again, and then Again, threetimes in succession, with scarcely any interval between,just as if it was wound up with a spring to go threetimes, and then ran down, or as if indeed it went bysteam." Good gracious !" cried the Swallow, " what is that ?What a start it gave me! It nearly made me jump offmy perch."" Oh pray, don't be frightened," said the Robin, " itis only my friend the Wren. Let me introduce you."Then he said to the Wren, " This is one of the travellingbirds, who has only just arrived from foreign parts.He was giving me some interesting information abouthis travels."No sooner had the Robin said that than off went theWren again with his steam engine, all the while hoppingabout, bowing his head and perking his tail, and eye-ing the Swallow with his little beads of eyes." What wonderful spirits for such a small person,"said the Swallow sententiously." Ha," said the Wren, " one need have good spiritsto make one's way in the world, or else birds of my sizewould be nowhere. But I flatter myself Wrens are notbirds to be despised, though they are not giants, andthough they may not be travelling birds, if the Swallowwill excuse me for saying so. I have been told that insome places they call the wren the king of the hedge, andalthough we don't wear any crown, like our friends the
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 37Goldcrests, who by the way don't live in hedges at all,still we can thread the bushes all the better for oursmallness, and I doubt if many birds are more cunningat hiding their nests than we are."All the while the Wren was making this long speech,he was not quiet an instant. He hopped about fromtwig to twig, now here, now there, now above, and nowbelow them; while the Robin turned his head a little onone side and kept one of his little black eyes fixed onhim, and the Swallowregardedhim in silent amazement.The Swallow thought he must say something polite,so he remarked,-" You are not a travelling bird, yousay, and I must say I think you must be very clever tokeep yourself all through the winter in this country.My friend the Robin here has been giving me a mostdoleful account of what he had to endure."" Ah," said the Wren, " don't talk of winter now itis spring. Winter's all over, and I hope it will nevercome again, though I fear it will; but spring, that's theseason for birds. Why in winter I was as near gone asanything, and hadn't even a wife to look after me.Every one is selfish then, and looks after himself, and Iam sure I would have given my nest, if I had had one,for a mouthful of grubs; but they were not to be hadfor any price. Even all the elderberries were gone longago, and as long as it was not too cold, I hopped aboutthe stables and outhouses and picked up a little; butmany of my brothers and sisters got into any hole theycould, and crept under the eaves of the haystacks, and,
38 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.if I am not much mistaken, many of them never cameout again, for I missed numbers of them afterwards."" Well, it seems to me," said the Swallow, "that thetravellers and stay-at-homes are pretty even in the end.If you had seen, as I have, a flight of swallows set outto cross the sea, and met by contrary winds and storms,and then the sorry sight of 'the remnant that reachedland, you would not complain of your own lot.""I don't complain," said the Wren, "for you see Iam in good spirits, only if you will talk of winter inspring-time, you must take the consequences."" Yet even this spring-time is hardly warm enough formy delicate constitution," said the Swallow; " and I canassure you that when my brothers and sisters first comehere, they often get a fatal chill in the first week,although you may perhaps think the weather charming."" A chill in April 1" cried the Wren; " well, you mustbe molly-coddles. Why I have been busy this monthpast helping my wife to built nests.""Build nests'!" cried the Swallow in his turn, "prayhow many nests do you build ?""Oh, I can tell you," said the Robin, laughing; "itis a little joke against my friend the Wren. His wifebuilds a nest, and lines it with feathers, and makes itall snug, and then lays her eggs and hatches them in it.But Mr. Wren, here, gets so excited by the springseason, that he tries to help her in his own way, or elseat all events to amuse himself; and he sets about tryinghis hand at building all round about. He makes no end
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 39of nests, but he always forgets to line them, and hiswife Jenny takes care to use only her own snuggery.""All very well," said the Wren, good-humouredly,hopping about as usual, "for Cock Robin to laugh, buthe forgets how it puzzles the wretches who go aboutbirdsnesting. The mischievous brats who take thepoor birds' nests find mine, and think they have got aprize; and then it is refreshing to see their disappoint-ment when they find it is only a cock-nest. They musthave good eyes to find my wife's nursery. But nowyou've had your joke, you must excuse me, for this is abusy time, and I can'tfstay long away from Jenny. Sogood-bye-see you again," and off he scampered, singingas he flew his steam ditty." That's a merry little soul," said the Swallow as hewent." Yes," said the Robin, "he was always a great friendof mine," and I have a great regard for his family. But,as he remarked, it is a busy time, and for me as well asfor him. So adieu for the present, and many thanks foryour instructive conversation."" Yes, it is dinner time, I believe," said the Swallow,who had no nest yet, " at least I feel as if it was. Sogood-bye,"-and they flew different ways.
40 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.CHAPTER IV.IT was not long before the children claimed the fulfil-ment of their father's promise that he would tell themmore about the travelling birds. When they went outthey looked out for the swallows, and in a day or twothey perceived that several were hawking about, as wellas other similar birds with them, and they could not helprecalling to mind what they had been told about theswallows returning to the same spots which they formerlyfrequented. They were eager to resume the conversationwhich had been broken off by the sound of the dinnerbell, and before long an opportunity occurred." Oh, papa," said Harry, " will you tell us more aboutthe swallows We saw a number flying about to-day,and there were some other birds, that did not seem quiteswallows, and yet they were like them."" They were martins, perhaps; their tails were notlong, like the swallows, were they? but forked; and whenthey were flying from you they showed white behind."" Yes, papa, and Amy said they looked like balls ofwhite wool. They must have been martins. How manykinds of swallows are there, then ?"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 41"There are three which visit this country-the chim-ney swallow (or swallow, as it is commonly called), thehouse-martins, your new friends, and the bank-swallows,or sand-martins. These are a smaller kind, which you willknow when you see them, because they have not the longforked tail of the swallow, nor the white back of the mar-tin, but are small, and of a general mouse-colour all over.""And do they all come about the same time ?" in-quired Harry."Yes, these three kinds all arrive abont the middle ofApril, though I think perhaps the swallow is usuallyfirst, and the sand-martins, if anything, last; but thereare but a few days between them, as a rule.""Do the sand-swallows live in the sand, papa ?" askedAmy; "there are no sands here."" The sand-swallows, or bank-martins, as they aresometimes called, make round holes in soft cliffs andbanks, and burrow into them a little way, and then maketheir nests at the end of them, Amy.""And where do the swallows and martins build theirnests T" asked Harry." The swallows, Harry, are generally supposed to becountry birds, and the martins town birds. You do notoften see the swallow's nest, for they build them some-times in barns and outhouses, but usually in chimneys.""In chimneys, papa ?" cried Amy; "but surely theywould be smothered.""No, my darling, they are often called chimney swal-lows, from this habit. They really build their nests in-
42 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.side a chimney, about five or six feet down; and theyare often wise enough to choose a chimney which is nextto the kitchen chimney. For there is nearly always firein the kitchen grate, and the next chimney is a warmplace; and although it is rather smoky work going inand out so often, they do not seem to mind that."" How curious !" said Harry; " and what sort of a nestdo they make, papa ?"" They make a sort of crust or shell, like half a dish,wide open at the top, and adhering by one side to thechimney. It is made of mud mixed with little bits ofstraw, which they know, as well as the ancient Egyptiansdid, will make the mud bind more firmly together whenit is dry. Then in this dish they lay fine grass andfeathers to make it soft and comfortable."" But how awkward it must be to get up and downthe narrow chimneys, papa."" Yes, Harry, it must be they hover over it, and letthemselves down most cleverly, and sometimes theirwings make a noise down the chimney, which sounds inthe room like the rumbling of thunder. But the situa-tion has its advantages, for owls and such like birds can-not so easily get at the young; and sometimes they falldown the chimney in the attempt."" Oh, I'm so glad !" cried Amy, impulsively; " and yetI am sorry for the owls."" But I thought, papa," said Harry, "that those wereswallows' nests, which stuck against the wall just underthe roof of our house."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 43" Those, Harry, were martins' nests. The martinsalways build under eaves, and in such situations, and canbe more easily watched. They cling by their claws tothe rough wall, and hold themselves up behind by theirtails, and then stick little bits of mud or clay, which theybring in their bills, to the wall above them. Thus theymake a little layer, perhaps half an inch thick, very earlyevery morning, and then leave it all day to dry; andin ten days or a fortnight they have a strong nest made."" Oh, how clever, papa !" cried Amy. " I suppose ifthey built it too fast it would tumble down."" Yes, my child, it would if they did not give thelayers plenty of time to dry and harden. They also, like.the swallows, mix little bits of straw with the mud, butthe nest is differently shaped. Instead of being like halfan open dish, the martin's nest is nearly round, with alittle hole near the top, to go in and out of. Then thisnest is lined with fine grass and feathers, or sometimeswith moss and wool." Howniceand soft it sounds," said Amy, "andhow gladthey must be when their house is built, and all the furni-ture in. Isuppose the moss andfeathers arethefurniture.""Yes, but you will be sorry to hear, Amy, that thesparrows, which are always hopping about and quarrel-ling in the neighbourhood, often watch the martins maketheir nest; and when it is finished they sometimes drive,the poor martins away, and seize upon their new house,and furnish it in their own way, which is not nearly soneat and nice."
44 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS." Oh, papa !" cried Amy, indignantly, "what wickedsparrows I did not know birds could be so naughty.Why do the martins let them ?""Because, my darling, they cannot help it. Themartins are not strong birds for fighting, but have littlesoft bills for catching tiny flies, but the sparrows havegreat, strong, hard bills for cracking seeds, and themartins have no chance against them if they are attackedIt is very hard, no doubt.""It is a'shame !" cried Harry. "I used to like thesparrows, and think them great fun, but I did not knowthey were such thieves and house-breakers.""Well, Harry, I do not exactly defend the sparrows,but you must recollect they are not bound by the samelaws as we are. Birds, as well as beasts, prey and arepreyed upon. Some take lives, some only take property,and it is not always that the sparrows are masters; theyhave their trials, I can assure you."" But the swallows do them no harm; they do not robthem of their nests, and why can't they make nests forthemselves ?" exclaimed Harry." Well, my boy, I am glad to hear you inveigh againstinjustice, and defend the innocent and weak. But willit be any satisfaction to you if I tell you that the spar-rows are often robbed of their nests by another kind ofswallow, which I have not yet told you of-the swift ?"" Oh, poor sparrows !" cried Amy, "why ever can't allthe naughty birds build nests for themselves, and letthe others alone ?"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 45"Oh it's poor swallows now, is it ? Well, well, I thinkit likely that when the sparrows build in towers andsteeples, the swifts finding such nice heaps of feathersand grasses, covet them, and drive the sparrows out, andthus save themselves a good deal of trouble. So you seethe sparrows are not without their anxieties, and I daresay we should find the swifts, in their turn, have theirown troubles.""Then I suppose," remarked Harry, " that these nestswhich are made of mud are well sheltered from the rain,or they would soon turn to mud again-would they not V""You are right, Harry. Birds in general are parti-cularly careful in their choice of a suitable place to buildtheir nests, and the martins have not only to guardagainst rain, which in too shallow corners, unprotectedby eaves, would wash away their nests as fast as theymake them; but they have also to remember that thesun will crack and destroy their nests also if it shinestoo powerfully upon them, so they generally choose situa-tions facing the north-east or north-west; and undersheltering projections."" It is very wonderful, papa," said Harry, "that theyshould be so thoughtful, is it not ?""It is indeed, Harry; so wonderful that it seems tous strange when we find them making mistakes. GilbertWhite tells of some martins which chose to build theirnests in the shallow corners of the windows of a housewithout eaves, facing south-east; so that the nests werewashed down with every hard rain; and yet he says the
46 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.birds drudged on from summer to summer, withoutchanging aspect or house.""What a pity !" cried Harry; "but who was Gilbert"White ?"" He was a good man who lived a hundred years ago,the clergyman of a place called Selborne, in Hampshire.He was very fond of birds, and a very clever observer ofeverything relating to Natural History; and wrote aseries of most entertaining letters on the natural historyof the place in which he lived. These letters were col-lected, and now form a most interesting book, calledWhite's Natural History of Selborne,' which I will giveyou to read."" Oh, thank you, I am sure I shall so much like toread it. But I suppose when the nest is in a good place,it lasts all the summer."" Not only all the summer, Harry, but if it is wellsheltered, the birds-probably the same birds-use it forseveral summers, just repairing it to make it fit to in-habit. So that when they come back they have not somuch trouble to get their nests ready."" Oh, then they have more time to play," put in Amy,"have they not ? I am sure they seem to be always atplay as they fly about in the air so prettily.""You must not suppose, Amy, that it is all play withthem. When the nests are quite ready, they very soonlay some pretty little eggs in them, the swallow five orsix white eggs, speckled with red dots, and the martinfour or five, quite white. Then the hen has to sit onthese eggs for many days and nights, to keep them warm,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 47or else they would never be hatched; and all that timethe other swallow has to fly about to catch enoughflies for himself and his little wife, to whom he is con-stantly taking some dinner.""Oh, how kind theymust be to one another!" cried Amy."But afterwards, when they have five or six little,helpless, featherless, young birds to attend to, thenis their busy time. For the parent swallows have tofly about all day long to catch insects for them. Theirbeaks are very wide, and they fly open-mouthed, andwhen they catch an insect you may sometimes hear thebeak snap upon it, and when they have a mouthful, awaythey fly to their young with it."" What hard work it must be," said Harry."Indeed it must, for young birds are a hungry crew,and all the five or six are on the look-out for food, andit must be difficult for the parent birds not to give moreto one than another. The sole object of the young birdis to get something to eat, and if they were not fedfrequently they would very soon starve."" Oh, but they do not let them starve, papa ?" saidAmy alarmed."No more than your mamma and papa would lettheir little Amy starve, as long as they can help it.But suppose an accident happened to either of theparents, or a cat caught one or both, then the pooryoung birds must starve.""Then if one of them were caught and put in a cage,the young would starve ?" asked Harry." Yes, I fear they would; and you see, therefore, how
48 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.cruel it is to catch birds at that season of the year-more so than at any other time, for then they have ahelpless brood entirely dependent upon them from hour tohour. And how thoughtless and cruel to shoot birdsjust for the sake of sport; for if the parent bird be killed,all the brood must also perish.""I am sure," cried Harry, "I will never do so, andI shall hate to see a man carrying a gun in spring orsummer time. But I suppose it does not take long forthe young ones to grow up and help themselves ?""No; after a few weeks the young birds get so bigand lively, that they! do not like being cooped up intheir nest, and they sit all day with their heads peepingout, and the parents cling to the nest by their littleclaws, and feed them from morning till night. Theyoung swallows which live in chimneys have no smalltrouble to get out of them, and not unfrequently falldown the chimney in the attempt to get up, and tumbleinto the rooms. Then at last they get perched on thechimney-top, and for a day or two they stay there; thenthey get to a neighboring bough of a tree, where they,sit all in a row."" Oh, how funny they must look, papa," cried Amy."Don't you recollect when we were in the Isle of Wight,and went in a boat to the Needles, how funny thecormorants looked perched all in a row upon the top ofthe rocks 1""Yes, Amy, I recollect how you laughed when yousaw them. Well, these perchers, as they are called, in a
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 49few more days begin to fly, but even then they cannotcatch insects for themselves, and the parents feed themas they fly, but so-quickly that you could only see it byclosely watching them." I had no idea they had to take so much troubleabout their young ones," said Harry; "but after that,when they can feed themselves, what do they do ?"" Then, Harry, there is an end of the whole affair, asfar as the connexion between the parents and young isconcerned.""Do you mean that the young ones run or fly awayfrom their parents as soon as they can get nothingmore out of them, papa 1""No, Harry, I mean that as soon as the young can.altogether shift for themselves, the parent birds willhave nothing more to do with them, and drive themaway to follow their own devices. For it is a curiousand wonderful provision of nature that birds should havea profound affection for their young as long as theyrequire their care; but when that care is no longer-necessary, the feeling of affection is succeeded by a feel-ing akin to hatred, which makes them drive them awaythat they may be left free to make preparations foranother brood."" How unkind that seems, papa," said Harry."My dear boy," answered his papa, "you must notpretend to judge the wise provisions of nature by yourignorant judgment. For the wisest of us know butlittle of the conditions and requirements of wild animals,4
50 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.such as birds are, which make their own way in theworld, feed themselves, rear young ones, and carry onall the processes of bird-life entirely as taught by theirCreator. The provisions, when we do understand them,often seem to us to be admirable and wonderful, and wemust be content to believe that those we do not fullyunderstand are equally well adapted for their happinessand well-being.""But birds are very fond of their young as long asthey stay with them, are they not, papa ?"" Yes, Harry, they willingly risk their own lives forthe preservation of their offspring. A bird will allowitself to be handled on its nest rather than desert itsyoung. Hens will attack a cat or a hawk if theirchickens are in danger, and smaller birds will boldlymatch themselves against much larger and strongerenemies in like circumstances. If there is serious riskof destruction to the nest and young, as by the felling ofa tree, for example, the parent bird has been known toperish with it, rather than desert its nest; and I haveheard a touching story of some storks, which build onthe tops of houses in Holland, and which, when a housetook fire, remained to be destroyed by the flames withtheir young and helpless brood, rather than leave themto perish alone."" Poor birds," said Amy, "I am sure no one wouldhurt them, if they knew how kind they are to theirlittle ones.""Perhaps not, Amy, and yet such kindness often
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 51meets but an ill. return; but to return to the curiousfeeling which makes them drive their young away assoon as they can shift for themselves, you may see,Harry, one advantage in .it, and that is that the birdsare obliged to go to some other place, and thus no onedistrict is crowded to excess, while others are forsaken,but the birds are uniformly dispersed over the country."" Then the swallows have more than one set of youngones in the summer, papa ?""Yes, the first brood of swallows comes out aboutthe end of June, and no sooner are these able to feedthemselves, than the parents begin to think of rearing a second brood. This second brood is hatched aboutthe latter part of August. The martins and the sand-martins also rear two broods during the season theyspend in this country; but the martins appear to breedsomewhat later, and the sand-martins somewhat earlierthan the swallows.""Ah, papa, you have not told us much about thesand-martins yet.""No, but I will not forget them. They are in manyrespects very different in their habits from the otherswallows, they are much wilder, and are the smallest ofthe three kinds. They dig holes in sand-banks withtheir little beaks in a very wonderful manner, perfectlyround, and extending about two feet straight into thebank or cliff; then the hole makes a turn, and at theend of this turn they make a nest of grasses andfeathers."4-2
.52 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."What a deal of trouble for they have to make ahole as well as a nest."" Yes; and, moreover, it seems that sometimes they'make several holes which they are obliged to leave, be--cause perhaps the sand becomes harder as they bore in,and they cannot dig through it. Sand-banks and cliffsare often quite full of holes made by the sand-martins.""The nest must be very warm in such a hole-almosttoo hot, I should think," said Harry." "Yes, and you see the eggs are laid and hatched, andthe young fed and reared, all in the dark.""Why, so they must," cried Harry; "how very un-comfortable and inconvenient.""Well, I don't know that, for they seem to managetheir business very well, and be none the worse for thedarkness. Their nests are at all events pretty secure asa rule, and the five or six delicate, white, and almosttransparent eggs seldom fall into the hands of robbers,except that sometimes the sparrows treat them as they dothe martins.""Then we can only see sand-martins where there arecliffs and sand-banks, I suppose?" asked Harry." Not so, Harry, for they are as common almost as theother swallows, especially in the neighbourhood of largepieces of water. Even in the heart of Ldndon they maybe seen, and perhaps make their nests in the scaffold-holes of building houses, as they certainly do in some:situations."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 53S"Why do all the swallows seem to be most commonwhere there is water ?" asked Harry." I expect, Harry, that the flies and insects which con-stitute their food are chiefly found near water, and manyof these very likely pass a part of their life in the water..Then the three kinds of swallows all drink as they fly,skimming over the surface of a pool, and in general theywash also on the wing, dropping and dipping into thewater several times successively."" I have seen them touch the water, papa," said Harry,"and I think it is beautiful to see them flying about ona summer's evening, crossing and recrossing, and seemingto chase one another in the air. Does not the swallowfly best ?""Yes, Harry, he has the longest wings, and the longforked tail helps him in his rapid turns and curves. Themartins are perhaps the least nimble of the three, fortheir tails and wings are both short. They do not makethe bold excursions high in air, and over the sea, thatswallows do, nor are they fond of flying in windyweather. The sand-martins have a curious jerking flightwhich reminds one of a butterfly, and, indeed, are saidto be actually sometimes mistaken for butterflies by somepeople."" Yes, the swallow is my favourite," said Harry. " Hetwitters so prettily as he flies. Do the martins andsand-martins sing ?""Scarcely, Harry; the martin makes a soft twitteringon its nest, and the sand-martin merely chirps as it flies.
54 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.The swallow is on all accounts the most general favourite.He seems to combine in the greatest degree all the inter-esting characters of his tribe.""" But did you not say the swifts were a kind of swal-low? You have only spoken of three kinds."" Yes, Harry, swifts are nearly related to swallows,but I must defer telling you about them till anothertime. I am sure you have heard as much as you willremember this time; and see, Amy is getting tired.Another day I will talk to you again about the travellingbirds. Now run and play."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 5BCHAPTER V.No season of the year is so interesting to a lover ofNature as the latter part of April and beginning of May.It is then that Nature puts on her gayest aspect, eachday seems to add some new beauty to the landscape, andthe ever increasing power of the sun seems to bring intoactivity all the processes of life both of flowers and trees,and of birds and insects. But the latter part of April isparticularly interesting as regards birds. It is in all re-spects their jubilee. Birds which have stayed with us allthe winter are already actively preparing their nests, andaccompany their labours with a stronger strain and moreperfect song than at any other period of the year, andthe travelling birds are fast arriving, one after another,tumbling over one another's heels, as it were, every daybringing fresh arrivals of visitors, who very soon findtheir voices, and make every copse and every hedge re-echo with their merry notes.A week or more had passed since our friends theSwallow and Robin had had the gossip last recorded, andthey were now in the last days of April. A greatadvance was visible in the season during this interval;
56 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.the trees -were greener, the bushes thicker, the weathermilder, and showers less frequent, and the tender sum-mer birds had arrived in crowds from their winteringplaces; all the distinguished songsters were come back totheir old haunts, and day and night were alike renderedmusical by their never-tiring melodies.The Robin would not, if he could have helped it, havegone so long without a chat with his new friend, butcircumstances connected with the important business ofthe season had so engaged his attention for more than aweek, that he scarce had had a moment to spare. Now,however, he thought he would look up the Swallow, andtalk over the new arrivals. He soon found him amonga number of others, circling about over a large pond ofwater, and on seeing him, the Swallow alighted besidehim, and twittered-" Good afternoon to you. I am glad to see you again.Where have you been so long o""I've really not had a moment to spare," returned theRobin. "There is so much to do. But if you can afford.time for a little chat now, I'm at your service."" Thanks," said the Swallow. " To tell you the truth,I shall not be sorry for a rest, for it does make one'swings ache a little, whirling and skimming about inces-santly after these tiny flies. I assure you it takes a goodmany to make a dinner.""No doubt," replied the Robin. "Now, when I doget a good-sized worm, it serves me for a tolerable meal;.but then I have to wait and watch for the chance."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 57"Ah, I daresay it comes to much the same thing inthe end," observed the Swallow."Perhaps so," said the Robin. "But I must con-gratulate you on being joined by your travelling com-panions once more. I think most of them are herenow.""Yes," returned the Swallow. "And I must returnmy congratulations upon the delightful concert which isheld every day now. I know what a good ear you havefor music."" Thank you," said the Robin, feeling flattered. " Youare very kind. It is quite true that, since we last met,.the most distinguished musicians have arrived. Indeed,the Blackcaps made themselves heard that very day, andI must say I rather admire their note."" So do I," replied the Swallow; "though I have notso much opportunity of making acquaintance with it asyou have.""No; they live near me," said the Robin. "Andthere is a sweetness and wildness about their song whichI can appreciate. In fact, I often think that our songhas more resemblance to it than to that of any otherbird, though I am quite sensible we do not come nearthem.""You are modest," said the Swallow."It is merely the truth," responded the Robin ; "and,besides, the Blackcaps are such simple and inoffensiveneighbours, that I should be very ill-natured to cheatthem of their due."
.58 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."True," observed the Swallow. "Do you know anyof their relations; and are they as amiable V"" Oh, yes," replied the Robin. "There are the White-throats, pretty and sprightly, always flying in and out ofthe hedges for mere sport, and they sing too all daylong; and the little Miller, as we call him (the lesserWhitethroat), a sort of young cousin, who babbles awayin the trees, almost in a whisper, but every now and thenspeaking out a little louder. I have seen them boththis last week.""They seem to be a very agreeable family," said] theSwallow."Yes, and highly accomplished," added the Robin;"for the Garden Warbler is one of them, and althoughhe is rather late in coming, he is one of the best per-formers. They have not arrived yet, indeed; but whenthey do come the chorus will be complete."" Are they very clever performers ?" asked the Swallow." Yes," replied the Robin; " first rate, and that's whythey are great friends of the Nightingales. They almostlive together in the thick copses.""Ah," said the Swallow; "there will be no musiciansto come after them. Last, not least,' is their motto, Iexpect. But I suppose you have been charmed by theNightingale before this. You have heard the Princessin the wood, haven't you 1"" Oh, yes," returned the Robin; "this week, and more.Have not you also ?""Well, you see," said the Swallow, "my business
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 59takes me more into open country and among houses, andI have not so much chance of hearing the music whichcomes from shady coverts, as you have.""True," remarked the Robin; "and the greater yourloss, for the Nightingale, Garden Warbler, and Blackcapare all three lovers of woodland, and they are the threevery best singers among the travelling birds. But stillyou have some very lively music from the Whitethroats,Redstarts, and Titlarks, who are not to be despisedeither."" You are quite right," said the Swallow, " and I don'tknow which I like best. Certainly, the Whitethroatsare the most sprightly, both in their ways and notes.The Redstarts always strike me as being somewhatmelancholy in their strain, and the Titlarks are per-haps, something between the two; lively enough, andyet there is a plaintiveness in their long-drawn notes asthey sink down in the air, which is very agreeable.""Yes, there is plenty of variety among them all," re-marked the Robin, " even without the select trio, andone need not be dull."" No, indeed," returned the Swallow; "and then whenI hawk over the commons, there are Whinchats andWheatears, and along the river's bank there are plentyof Sedge-warblers and Reed-warblers to keep up one'sspirits, if that were necessary, indeed."" Ah, to be sure," said the Robin. "Busy little birdsthey are, those Sedge-warblers. Why, I've been toldthey sing all night as well as day, like the Nightingales;
60 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.but I don't live near the river myself, so I don'tknow.""Indeed, it is perfectly true," answered the Swallow."When they sleep, I can't tell, but they are ready tosing at all hours. I have heard them myself when I layawake, which is not often certainly.""I expect not indeed," echoed the Robin. "Afterflying about all day, as you do, you must be too tired tolie awake much. Indeed, it often puzzles me to imaginewhy these birds should spend so much time in the night,singing when everybody else is asleep, and can't hearthem. It seems a pity that the Nightingales waste somuch music on the moon."At this moment some noisy sparrows came quarrellingamong the boughs where the friends were perched, andsuch a chirping and clatter they made that the conversa-tion was perforce stopped for the moment, and their at-tention was directed to the uproar. The unruly birdschased one another through the leaves with loud outcries,and in the most tumultuous manner; and then, suddenlyscattering, flew off in different directions, all except one,which remained, panting, and smoothing his ruffled-feathers, for he had been in the midst of the fray." Why, whatever is all this hubbub l" exclaimed theRobin, as soon as they had recovered from the start."It's very odd you sparrows can't agree a little better."" Oh, there's not much the matter," replied the Cock-Sparrow, panting for breath, " but some of those sparrowsare such thieves, that it is no wonder that they end in
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 61fighting sometimes, and then you know we must join inand help one side or the other.""Those sparrows, indeed!" exclaimed the Robin, " asif you were not one of them Do you mean to say thatyou do not know what you have been fighting about.""Well, I'm not quite sure," returned the Sparrow, re-covering from his breathlessness, " but I think some onestole something from somebody, and they began to fight,and seeing a fight going on, of course I helped."" Then I'm glad I'm a peaceable bird," said the Swal-low. "I was having a quiet chat with my friend theRobin here, but this clatter has quite put out of my headwhat we were talking about."" Yes," put in the Robin, " this is one of the travellingbirds, and his conversation is very instructive, for travelimproves the mind vastly; and we were just talking ofhis travelling companions who have lately arrived, andhow excellently some of them sing."" Sing !" exclaimed the Cock-Sparrow, contemptuously,"is that all ? Well, they do say those foreign gentry cansing, but upon my word I can't see that it is much re-commendation !""What!" cried the Robin, indignantly, "you don'tmean to say that you are so churlish as to refuse to wel-come the travelling birds, who do so much to enliven usall the summer !"" Well, I don't know about enlivenment," said theCock-Sparrow, carelessly ; "if anybody would enliven usin the winter it would be something, but I don't think
62 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.we want it much in the summer; at least I don't thinkwe Sparrows do. There are plenty of us for company, andwe can always enliven one another, as you saw just now."" Good gracious !" exclaimed the Robin, "do you callthat uproar lively? I call it Babel. Why, have you noear for music ?"" Not that I know of," replied the Cock-Sparrow;"that is, if you call the noise these travelling birds makeall day long, music, I don't think I have. I call it a row.It's.bad enough before they come, when the Blackbirdsand Thrushes and such like are at it, but when thetravelling birds do come, it's rather too much of a goodthing.""Well, upon my word," cried the Robin, "I think youmight shew a little more politeness to my friend theSwallow, who is one of the travelling birds, as I told you,and a good singer too.""Oh, pray don't mind me," said the Swallow, slightlyruffled. "His remarks do not hurt my feelings at allI think them rather amusing; and you know," he addedin a lower tone to the Robin, "it is his loss, not mine, ifhe cannot appreciate music."" Oh," said the Cock-Sparrow, saucily, " I hope I don'toffend Mr. Swallow, but I only speak my mind. And,in fact, there is only one of the travelling birds which,in my opinion, is fit to be heard.""Ah! the Nightingale he means the Nightingale !"exclaimed the Robin, greatly relieved. "I really begyour pardon for having misjudged you so."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 63"Pooh !" said the Cock-Sparrow, "pray spare yourapologies I don't mean the Nightingale, I assure you.I mean the Cuckoo.""The Cuckoo!" cried the Robin. "He means theCuckoo! Oh, I shall choke! Ha ha! that is reallygood; the Cuckoo oh !"" I must say it is amusing," said the Swallow, sarcasti-cally, " and novel too."" Why, what could have possessed you to suppose Imeant the Nightingale ?" asked the Cock-Sparrow; "thenoisiest of them all. I think Nightingales, and Black-caps, and all such birds ought to be put down.""And Swallows too ?" asked the Swallow, with polite-ness, just a little tinged with sarcasm."Oh, no; I can put up with Swallows," replied theCock-Sparrow, trying his hand at a joke, " for really Idon't hear them much, they are very mild in theirattempts at singing ; and, besides, their nests are not atall bad."At this insinuation, the Swallow felt as much anger asa swallow could feel, for many a time had the sparrowsrobbed the swallows and martins of their nests; but hecontented himself with saying, " You are hardly compli-mentary, and I think it would have been more modest tohave spared yourself the last remark.""Oh, we Cock-Sparrows don't go in for modesty," re-plied the bird, coolly, "we leave that to our friends theCock-Robins."At this impudent thrust, the Robin's breast swelled
64 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.with indignation, and became redder than usual, ifpossible; but he said nothing." You talk of the Nightingales," continued the Cock-Sparrow, "as if they had deserved well of the birds,while I look upon them as the greatest nuisancespossible."" Oh, you cannot surprise me with anything you say,"said the Robin, " but still, might one ask in what theNightingales are nuisances ?""Why, is it not a nuisance to be not only botheredby their noise all day long," returned the Cock-Sparrow," but that honest birds like me must be kept awake intheir nests all night by their clatter ? Why cannot theNightingales go to sleep at night like other birds, insteadof howling in that extraordinary manner ? They musthave very uneasy consciences, I fancy, or else they wouldbe able to sleep in peace.""What heresy !" exclaimed the Robin, "did you everhear the like ? It's monstrous !""It is peculiar, to say the least," said the Swallow,placidly."Well, I'm a matter-of-fact bird," continued the Cock-Sparrow, "and I hate to hear such nonsense aboutNightingales 'complaining to the moon,' and so on-bosh What have the Nightingales got to complain of, Ishould like to know? They must be discontented pu-ling creatures. And if they do complain I only wishthey'd do it.quietly.""Why, don't you know," interposed the Robin, "that
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 65that is only a figure of speech ? If you had any poetryin your composition you would understand it.""I assure you I haven't, and I don't profess to have,"said the Cock-Sparrow, uncompromisingly, " and am verythankful that I have not. Poetry would not build mynest, nor give me a grain of corn more in winter, or apea or cherry more in summer. And there is no poetryin being kept awake at night by noisy birds, that I knowof. There's first your Nightingales, and they must betired sometimes, but when they knock off, then theSedge-birds begin, and it's well if there is no Woodlarkwithin hearing; but between them all I sometimeshardly get a wink of sleep.""Really," remarked the Swallow, with much sym-pathy, " I am sorry to hear that you are so disturbed.I have a friend, a Nightingale, living near me, and I willtell him how disagreeable his singing is to the Cock-Sparrows, and I'm sure he'll leave off out of respect foryou.""Thank you for nothing," said the Cock-Sparrow;"but I really can't waste my time talking to you, and Isee a garden over there with several good things in it,and, if I mistake not, some gooseberry buds and youngmustard and cress. I think I'll go and pitch into them.Good day ta-ta 1"And off he flew-the two friends looking after himwith mingled feelings of wonder and disgust."A good riddance !" cried the Swallow, fetching a.long breath. " What a vulgar, ill-bred creature !"5
66 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS." Yes, he has not much--Refinement, the Swallow was going to say, but just atthat moment they were startled by the report of a gunin the garden, to which the Cock-Sparrow had flown.The gardener, while at work, had kept a loaded gun byhis side, and seeing the Sparrow nipping the buds off hisgooseberry bushes, he took it up and fired at him.Almost at the same moment they saw the Cock-Sparrowfly out with his feathers all awry, but evidently notseriously hurt. He was horribly frightened, but hadescaped this time."Well," said the Robin, somewhat relieved, "I amglad the creature is not killed, but upon my word I thinkI never listened to such rubbish as he talked, and so con-ceited and forward withal. But we can't make a silkpurse out of a sow's ear, and I suppose it is too much toexpect any sense or modesty from a gutter percher.""But they are wonderful pushing birds, these spar-rows," said the Swallow. "What an immense familythere is of them; and although they are always quarrel-ling and fighting, they seem to increase faster than anyother bird, and I believe they are as common in manyother countries as they are here; notwithstanding thatthe farmers and gardeners are always vowing vengeanceagainst them for their pilferings in the fields and kitchengardens."" Well, he's gone now, and joy go with him," said theRobin. " Let me see what were we talking about whenhe interrupted us ?"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 67"If you recollect, we were talking of the travellingbirds which had arrived since we met last," replied the'Swallow."Ah, to be sure !" cried the Robin, "and discussingtheir musical talents. I think we had mentioned allthat.are worth hearing."" Yes, there are some more, but they are no songsters,"remarked the Swallow, "unless, perhaps, the Red-backed Shrike and Yellow Wagtail; but I do not knowmuch about either of them.""Why, you have not mentioned the Cuckoo!" ex-claimed the Robin, slyly. " Surely his song is worthhearing, at least some birds think so.""No, I have not; but the Cock-Sparrow gave himhis due, to say the least of it," answered the Swallow," and he is not forgotten."" By the way, I wonder he did not fall in love withthe Corn-Crake," remarked the Robin. "They sing(save the mark !) all night, and might perhaps be put asa set-off to the Nightingale nuisance. They have hardlybegun yet, certainly, but Cock-Sparrow must have heardthem before now, and if that style of music pleaseshim, he can lay awake and listen to it as much as helikes.""True," said the Swallow; " and now I think thereis only the Grasshopper Lark that I know of among therecent arrivals. Are you acquainted with him ""Ah, yes, a little shy silent creature," said theRobin; " one might easily believe that such a bird did5-2
68 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.not exist, for he has a way of creeping about more like amouse, and a voice like an insect rather than a bird.""A little oddity," said the Swallow; "it is strangethat he should undertake to travel. It often puzzles mehow such birds manage to make a long journey. Whythey never fly at all, hardly, when they are here, andseem unable to do more than flit from one hedge toanother, and yet they must do what even we Swallowsfind trying work. It is very strange."" Strange it is," replied the Robin; "and excuse me,it is strange that you have forgotten a friend of yours,as I suppose he must be, for he is always skimmingacross the river, which is your favourite resort.""Oh, the Summer Snipe, to be sure," said the Swal-low; " no, I had not exactly forgotten him, but I thinkwe have really done him the compliment of puttinghim last.""A compliment indeed," laughed the Robin. "Well,do you know it is time somebody came last, for I dobelieve I see my wife looking for me. If I don't turnup, I fear I shall catch a scolding at least. When wehave the pleasure of another chat, I dare say we shallhave more arrivals to canvass. Will you excuse me 1"" Oh, certainly," politely returned the Swallow; "mytime must be up, too, so good-day to you, and to ournext meeting.""Good-day, and many thanks for your society," saidthe Robin ; and so they flew offmutually pleased.
.THE TRAVELLING BIRDS, 69CHAPTER VI." COMIE, Harry, put on your hat, and let us take aramble this lovely evening; perhaps you may hearsomething more about the travelling birds, that is if youask me, or wish to know."" Wish to, papa !" cried Harry, "I should think so.Oh, it will be jolly-but is Amy to come ?""Amy* of course. Why, you don't suppose wewould leave her behind Come, my little blue-eyes, areyou ready T'" Yes, papa, in a minute; let us take Toby with us.""Certainly. Here, Toby! Toby!" but Toby, theblue Skye-terrier-or sky-blue terrier as he was some-times called by mistake-was all ready. He seldomneeded pressing to go out for a ramble, and he was bythis time rushing frantically about from door-mat todressing-room, and back to door-mat, as if he fearedlosing sight of his master and mistress for an instant,lest they should get out of the house by some unknownmeans. So off they set in high anticipation; and indeedit was a golden evening in early May. The trees weregetting rich in young green, and the low sun was
TO THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.shining through them, and deluging the woods with ruddyglory. The birds were singing merrily, high in the air;the swallows were sailing about like fishes in a bluecrystal pool; the turf beneath was spangled with flowers,and ever and anon a lark rose up from it, carolling intothe sweet evening sky."Oh, papa, I feel so happy!" cried Amy as sheskipped about among the grass with a bunch of wildflowers in her hand, and Toby at her heels; " and so isToby, I'm sure. Do you think all the birds are happytoo I am sure I do, for they sing so, and it must bedelightful flying about up there with no fear of tumblingdown."" Yes, I have no doubt they are as happy as birds canbe, for they have everything now to make them so. Itis high Spring, and that alone makes birds happy, whilethere is besides everything combining to add to theirenjoyment, as it does to yours, my little birdie."" Oh, why is it not Spring always, papa ? It would beso nice," exclaimed Amy." It is better as it is, pussy; you would soon want achange; do not suppose you would enjoy this evening asyou do, if it was the same every evening; and be surethe birds would not be so happy if they had not goneall through the troubles of winter, and the dangers oftravelling since Spring came last."" Oh, yes, Amy," said Harry, eagerly; "and therewould be no jolly sliding if there were no winter, andno cherries if there were no summer, and if there was
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 71no autumn, why, perhaps, we should not go to the sea-side, you know.""Ah, to be sure. I'm glad it is not always Spring,"said the easily-convinced little girl; " but Spring is thenicest, I think."" What are those birds that are darting along soswiftly, papa ?" asked Harry; " there, a number of themall skim down together with a loud whistle; they aresomething like swallows, but yet they fly differentlyfrom them.""They, are the swifts, Harry, they 'have but justcome. I told you I should tell you something aboutthem another time, and now is a good opportunity."" Swift is a capital name for them, for they do flyswiftly; why they are all out of sight now, where canthey have gone to ?"" Oh, I dare say you will see them again presently,Harry; they are perhaps unrivalled, as fliers, by anybird whatever.""How is that, papa ? what makes them fly so splen-didly ?""It all depends on the length and form of the wings,Harry; short-winged birds, that is, birds the quill-feathers of whose wings are short, are always poorfliers. And round-winged birds are always inferiorfliers to birds with pointed wings.""But what are round-winged and pointed-wingedbirds ?""That is the next thing I am going to explain to you.
72 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.If the first or outer feather of the wing, or the secondfeather, is the longest, and all the inner feathers becomegradually shorter, the wing is pointed; but if the firstfeather is short, the second longer, the third still longer,and perhaps the fourth longest, while the inner feathersdiminish again in nearly the same proportion, it givesthe end of the wing a rounded appearance.""Then the best fliers are those which have the firstor second feather of the wing longest," said Harry."Yes, when other things are equal. In the swift thesecond is really the longest, but the first is very littleshorter. And not only that, but the feathers of thewing are remarkably long, so that when the wings areclosed over the back they extend beyond the end of thetail, whereas you will see that in most birds they do notnearly reach the end of the tail.""I see," said Harry; " having the longest wings hecan fly best, just as a person with the longest legs couldwalk fastest.""It is something of the same kind, and the conse-quence is that swifts almost live on the wing. They arenever tired. They eat and drink, and, in fact, do every-thing, except sleep, and hatch their eggs, flying. Theynever settle on the ground if they can help it, for thelength of their wings prevents them rising again; nordo they perch on trees."" Then what's the use of their feet, papa ?" asked littleAmy."Their legs are very short, and their feet very strong,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 73Amy; but though they cannot walk, they can clingfirmly to walls with their claws, and this they require todo to enter their nests."" It seems to me," said Harry, " that they can do justwhat they want to do, and can't do what they don'twant to do. For if they live on the wing, they do notwant to walk, or perch on trees; and it is necessary thatthey should cling to walls, and so they can do it.""Spoken like a philosopher, Harry. That is the prin-ciple of adaptation to circumstances, which you will findthroughout the animal kingdom. The various habits ofanimals require various peculiarities of structure to carrythem out; and, on examination, we shall always findthat these peculiarities of habits and structure keep pacewith one another. And if we see a striking peculiarityof form in any animal, we may be sure that it is in someespecial manner connected with a remarkable habit,which is to be learnt by observation."" I suppose, papa, every bird and every animal differsa little in its ways," said Harry," That is just the secret of the extraordinary varietyin the forms of animals, my boy. Every kind of animalhas different habits, different modes of life, different food,or, in some respect or other, differs from every other ani-mal, in what is called its economy; and, therefore, theyall vary more or less in form or structure, according asthat difference of habit is greater or less; and each one isadmirably adapted in form to its especial mode of life. Butwe must not get too deep, or you will not understand me."
74 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS." I think I quite understand you, papa," said Harry."But tell me, why do the swifts come so much laterthan the other kinds of swallow?""That I fear I cannot tell you, Harry. There issomething very mysterious about their movements.They come early in May, and they leave us again earlyin August, thus only remaining about three months inthis country; while the swallows come in the middle ofApril, and do not leave us till the middle of October,that is, they remain six months, or double as long as theswifts."" How very odd !" exclaimed Harry. " Does any otherbird do so ?""No other bird stays so short a time. Nor can it besolely a deficiency of food which makes them leave us sosoon, for they have been known to remain till nearly theend of August, when their brood was accidentally de-layed from being fledged till that time."" Why, they have scarcely time to rear their brood,have they V" asked Harry." They only rear one brood in the season, whereas allthe other swallows have two. And another curious thingabout them is, that while all the other swallows lay fourto six eggs at a time, the swift never lays more than two-long, milk-white eggs-in the season.""Then I suppose there are not so many swifts asswallows," said Harry."That might fairly be supposed, Harry; but yet itdoes not follow. The swallows hatch two broods during
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 75the summer, and when they leave in autumn they do soin vast flocks, but those that come back in spring arebut a very small number in proportion to those that leftin autumn."" What becomes of them all, papa ?"" That no one can tell, Harry. Whether they die, orare wrecked on the passage, or stay behind, or peopleother lands on the way, cannot easily be ascertained. Soalso the swifts, which double themselves in this countryduring the brief time they are here, nevertheless comeback in about the same numbers every year, and no more.They are not very numerous, and eight pairs only havebeen counted year after year in a single village.""I should like to see those pretty milk-white eggs,papa," said Amy. " Where do the swifts build theirnests 1""Their nests, Amy, are not easily got at. In thefirst place, they are generally placed in towers andsteeples, on the tops of the walls of churches, and in holesin castles; or, if they are sometimes under the eaves ofcottages, they have to scramble up the wall, and twistthemselves into the hole; and in all cases their nests arein the dark, like those of the sand-martins.""Then no one, hardly, sees those pretty eggs," saidAmy. " What a pity, papa !"" I dare say the swifts are not anxious that they shouldbe seen, Amy, lest some one should take a fancy to them.The swifts' nests are nothing very particular to boast of.They make no mud walls, like the swallow and martin,
76 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.but put grass and feathers roughly together ; and it iseven doubtful if they take the trouble to bring thefeathers up themselves, but perhaps help themselves tothe heaps which the sparrows collect for their nests."" How uncomfortable it must be, sitting on the eggsso long in the dark," said Harry. "Does only one birddo it all?""I think the hen-swift performs that duty, thoughamong some birds the cock occasionally relieves her.The hen-swift, after sitting close the whole of a longmidsummer day, darts out about dark and enjoys a goodfly, and takes a hasty meal of a few minutes, and thenreturns to her business. But in the daytime the cocksfly all day long, and every now and then dash past thetowers, or spots where their nests are concealed, with aloud scream, intended perhaps as a greeting to the sit-ting hen, or afterwards to the unfledged young, and towhich, if you were near enough, you might hear themreply with a little inward complacent twitter, as muchas to say, We hear you, papa; make haste, and bringus something to eat.' "" Poor little wretches !" said Harry. "How gladthey must be to get out of the dark hole, and fly andscream like their parents. But, papa, you said youwould tell us what other birds travelled besides theswallows.""Certainly I will, Harry. I have been led to talkabout the swallows, because they are so well known to"you and to every one as travelling birds, and because
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 77their return has always been regarded as an unfailingharbinger of Spring.""They certainly seem to be very favourite birds," re-marked Harry."And have been for some thousands of years, Harry.The ancient poets were fond of writing about them, bothGreek and Roman; and it is said that at Rhodes, twothousand years ago, when the swallows first arrived,some were caught, and carried about from door to doorby boys, who sung a Greek song, which began likethis:-'The swallow has come! the swallow has come!Oh, fair are the seasons, and lightAre the days that she brings, with her dusky wings,And her bosom snowy white.' ""How pretty, papa! but it was rather cruel to catchthem, and put them in cages; don't you think so?"asked Amy."Yes, my child, I think so ; indeed, I expect it wasonly a plan by which the young rogues raised a littlemoney. Still, it shows the regard in which the swallowswere held as forerunners of fine seasons."" Well, now, papa," asked Harry, "how many tra-velling birds are there ?"" Let us see, then. The best way will be to tell youthem in the order in which they arrive. But, first ofall, I must beg you especially to take notice that thetravelling birds do not all come in spring to spend the
78 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.summer here, though the greater number of them do so.But there are certain birds which spend the winter hereand the summer elsewhere.""Oh, papa, what silly birds they must be !" exclaimedAmy." Not so, Amy. But they are hardier birds, and inthe summer they go to a less warm place than this is.But such a place would be too cold for them in winter,so they come here to winter, being hardy enough to en-dure the winter of this climate."" Oh, I see," said Harry. "Tender birds spend thesummer here, and hardier birds spend it further north.Is not that it ?""Just so, Harry. The principle of migration is verysimple, and I will explain it more fully afterwards. Butnow that you understand why some birds come here insummer, and some in winter, let us proceed. We have,therefore, two classes of travelling or migratory birdsvisiting us. First, those which we may call the summerbirds of ..... ; and, second, the winter birds of passage.First, let us attend to the summer birds of passage, orsummer visitants."" They all come from the south, do they not ?" askedHarry." Yes, you are right. All birds which come to us inspring, come from more southern and warmer lands,where they have been spending the winter. The firstthat comes is the wryneck.""The wryneck, papa!" exclaimed Amy, "did he
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 79get a wry neck from the cold weather, and does he comehere to get it cured ?""Not exactly, Amy; he's called the wryneck from apeculiar habit he has of twisting his neck and head aboutas he searches for his food. He writhes his neck aboutso much, that snake-birdc is a common name given him bythe country people, though that name may partly beowing to the hissing sound he makes when alarmed.""Is he a pretty bird, papa, and does he sing ?" askedAmy."Yes, I think he is both pretty and remarkable. Hiscolour is very peculiar, and delicately pencilled all over,dark above and light underneath. He does not sing,but cries, Pe, pe, pe, pe, several times over in a loud andplaintive voice, which may be heard in the latter part ofMarch, for so early does he appear in this country."" Where do they make their nests, papa ?""They are something like woodpeckers in their habits,and are, like them, climbers, having two toes in frontand two behind. They build their nests in holes oftrees, and lay small and elegant glossy white eggs.Their tongue, too, is singular, being long, and coiled upwhen not used; and at the point are some stiff, stickyhairs. This tongue he darts out of his straight beak,and glues on it the insects he finds in the crevices of thebark. The woodpeckers have a somewhat similartongue.""Well," said Harry, "I shall look out for the wry-neck another spring, and listen for his note, if he is the
80 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.first of the travelling birds, for that makes him inter-esting.""Yes, Harry, and for that reason he is known amongcountry people by the name of the curckoo's mate, forcountry folk all know the cuckoo better than any othertravelling bird, by his familiar note; and they know,when the wryneck is heard, that the cuckoo will not belong. The next bird, perhaps, that follows, is thewheatear."" The wheatear? I never heard his name before.""No, Harry, I dare say not; and yet he is a bird ofsome importance in the south of England-or was once,for he is not so abundant now as he once was."" Why is he important, papa V" asked Harry." Because he is very good to eat, Harry-quitesufficient reason. They are handsome birds with finegreybacks and fawn-coloured breasts, rather wild andtimid, but easily caught. Late in March great numbersarrive on the downs of Kent, Sussex, and Dorsetshire,and being very fat and great favourites with gourmands,the shepherds snare vast numbers with horsehair snaresand traps.""What a misfortune to them that they are so fat andgood," said Harry."It is. And when I tell you that a single shepherdhas been known to snare a thousand of them in one day,you may imagine the destruction among them, and thenumbers which find their way to market.""Poor birds !" said Amy, "do they sing ?"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 81" They have a very pretty song, which they sing asthey hover over the nest, opening and shutting theirtails like a fan. They make their nests under largestones and in holes in the ground, of grass, moss, andwool, and lay five or six pale bluish-green eggs."" Oh, I should not like to eat them, papa, now I knowwhat pretty birds they are," said Amy."Well, Amy, I dare say the people who admire themon the table, do not stop to inquire whether they sing,or what is the colour of their eggs. And you even donot object to eat a bit of lamb in spring, although youare delighted to see the lambkins sporting and friskingabout in the fields.""Oh, papa, no more I do; but a lamb or a sheep isenough to feed several people, but I suppose one personeats several of the poor wheatears at one meal. It seemslike an ogre eating a number of poor children," saidAmy." What makes them so good to eat " asked Harry."Is it the food they live on V"" I should think it is hardly that, Harry, unless youthink beetles and grubs particularly appetizing, for theylive on them. Perhaps the gourmands do not inquireinto this, however, either.""Are there any more travelling birds that come soearly as March, papa ?" asked Harry."There is but one more that comes habitually soearly, and that is a very pretty, lively little fellow calledthe chiff-chaff."6
82 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS." Chiff-chaff! what an odd name; why is he calledchiff-chaffl" asked Harry." For the same reason that the cuckoo is called cuckoo.The chiff-chaff does not sing, but has two lively noteswhich he is always chirping in the trees-' chiff-chaff-chivey-chavey-chiff-chaff'-it sounds at least somethinglike that. A little, greyish-olive bird, tinged with yellowabove, and primrose yellow beneath.""He is not good to eat, I hope, papa," said littleAmy."Make your mind easy about that, Amy. The chiff-chaff is too small for that, I should think; but I don'tknow that anyone ever tried. He is a very brisk littlefellow, and builds an oval nest of grass coated withleaves and lined with feathers, in a hedge or bank, orlow bush, and therein deposits six eggs, white, speckledat the large end with purplish-red. He eats insects andcaterpillars, and catches flies in the air.""So there are only three birds that come in March,"said Harry, " the wryneck, the wheatear, and the chiff-chaff; which one comes first in April?""The first arrival in April is a cousin of the chiff-chaff's, called the willow-wren. There are really threewillow-wrens; the chiff-chaff is called the least willow-wren, and the present one the middle willow-wren.""What do you mean by a cousin of the chiff-chaff,papa ?" asked Harry."I mean that he is a near relation, or nearly allied, asit is called-another species, in fact, of the same genus-
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 83a member, as it were, of the same family circle. Thewillow-wren is also called the yellow wren from itsgeneral yellowish colour; but it is no relation at all tothe wren, although it is called a willow-wren."" Is he as lively as his cousin, papa ?""Yes, I think he is; as soon as he arrives he percheson trees, and keeps up a cheerful song all day long. Hehas no great variety of song, but sings 'twee-twee, twee-twee,' twenty times or more in a descending cadence,and with a pretty, plaintive and yet lively tone."" You must tell us about his nest, papa."" It is not unlike the chiff-chaff's, oval, with a smallopening near the top, and is built in the same situations.It is composed of grass, moss, and dried leaves, andlined with feathers. The eggs, too, are like his littlecousin's, six or seven in number, only the spots arereddish brown. Its habits and manners are indeed verysimilar to those of the chiff-chaff, and yet it is a verydistinct bird.""Who comes next, papa ?" asked Harry." The swallows, I think, are the next to arrive, aboutwhich I have already told you all I have to say. Ofthese the chimney-swallow is perhaps the first, or thesand-martin, for they come about the same time, andthe house-martin usually a few days later. The swiftsyou know already are May birds. So having thus putthem in their places, we may dismiss them.""Well, then-""Well, then comes a crowd of the best and most6-2
84 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.brilliant singing birds, which I must tell you aboutanother time; for I really think you have now got asmuch knowledge as you can carry for the present. See,the sun has gone down, and all the birds have left offsinging, except that solitary cock-robin, which soundsquite melancholy all by himself. Nearly all the birdshave gone to bed, and this little birdie must follow theirexample. So run in-and good night !"
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 85CHAPTER VII.IT was now the beginning of May, and everything hadput on an appearance of full spring. The weather waslovely, the sun bright and warm, and the air still fresh,and laden with the odours of violets and cowslips. Thefields were bright with flowers, and tinted with paleprimroses peeping out from the tender green of the younggrass. Bees were humming among the blossoms of thelime trees, gaily-coloured butterflies, sulphur and tor-toiseshell, were flitting happily about; swallows wereskimming the pools, or careering high in the air, birdswere singing merrily in every tree and bush, and doveswere cooing among the young green shades of the fast-leafing trees.The 6th of May was just such a day as would make allnature happy. It was perfect, and left nothing to bedesired; and who was more happy than little Amy?For it was her birthday, and at seven years old, littlegirls think much of their birthdays, and long for them tocome with intense desire. No sooner is one past thanthey begin to look forward to the next! and for sixmonths befo re, at least, she had counted the months, and
86i THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.weeks, and days, till it should arrive. And now it hadcome, and the little girl's heart had been gladdened bysome birthday gifts, and she had got her little friendBeatrice to spend the day with her. So after due atten-tion had been paid to the family of dolls, in honour ofthe day, they went out together into the fields to makecowslip-balls, and wreath daisy-chains, or, for a change,to play at fairies, calling each other "Rosebud" and"Cowslip."As they were sitting under the shade of an openingbeech tree, plucking flowers and prattling to one another,Beatrice, happening to look up, saw perched upon abough not far from them, a swallow and a robin; theswallow twittering a contented and sweet warble everynow and then, and the robin from time to time utteringhis merry song."Oh, look, Amy !" said Beatrice, " don't those twobirds look as if they were talking to one another? Iwonder if they are. I dare say birds do talk and chatterso that they can understand one another.""You must call me Rosebud," returned Amy; " yes,Cowslip ; see, one is a robin red-breast and the other is aswallow. Papa has been telling Harry and me all aboutthe swallows lately, and it was so interesting. For theyare travelling birds, and go ever so far away in winter,and they have only lately come back. Yes, they do lookjust as if they were talkifig together. Perhaps the swal-low is telling the robin his adventures.""Sh-!" whispered Beatrice, "don't let us frighten
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 87them, Rosebud, or else the Fairy Queen might be dis-pleased. Let us watch them quietly while we make thiswreath for your hat; we have got plenty of flowershere.""Yes," said Amy, "let us; it is so nice to hear themsinging so close."So the children played quietly, and talked in a whis-per, while the two birds chatted away together, regard-less of their being so near, for they were not afraid oftwo such little innocent darlings; they knew they wouldnot hurt them. For Amy and Beatrice little knew thatthey were the very same Swallow and Robin whose con-versations have already been recorded in this book, andwho, having met once more on this lovely May day,' couldnot resist the temptation of stopping to have a littlefriendly, chat." This is something like spring !" the Robin was say-ing; " now I'll be bound to say that in that fine warmcountry you take such trouble to reach, you do not haveany days more delicious than this."" Indeed, you are right," replied the Swallow, "nowhere but here do we have spring. The other countryis a welcome refuge from winter, but it would be but apoor substitute for spring."" So I expect," said the Robin, pertly, " and the travel-ling birds show their wisdom in coming back here just atthis season. And yet I suppose you know that somelaggards have not come yet. The garden-warblers and
88 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.wood-wrens have scarcely had time to shake themselvessince they came, and as for the fly-catchers and yourgrand relations the swifts, Heaven only knows whenthey intend to favour us with their company.""Well," returned the Swallow, "we must do the bestwe can without them till they do come, and I dare saythey will be here very soon now."" For the matter of that," said the Robin, who had agreat notion that singing was the most respectable and"genteel" accomplishment a bird could possess, "if theswifts and fly-catchers never came at all, some of us wouldnot miss them. Excuse my freedom, since the swiftsare your relations, but to a bird with my ear for music,the screeching they make in hot weather is simply ex-cruciating; and as for the fly-catchers, they have not aword to say for themselves, good or bad; and they don'tknow a note of music.""That's true," said the Swallow, apologetically, " still,I must say I like to hear the swifts scream, as they dartlike lightning past their nests. It is not perhaps musical,but it has its charm for me. And as for the fly-catchers,though they are almost dumb, they are such unaffected,lively little birds, that I like them better than I do somebirds with much louder voices.""As the Cuckoo, for example," broke in the Robin."Well, tastes differ; but there I can agree with you.""You don't seem much to like the Cuckoo," said theSwallow, "I heard you abise them before.""The Cuckoos are impostors !" exclaimed the Robin,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 89warmly, "and not fit for the society of decent birds. Isuppose you know that they do not make a nest as allhonest birds do, but sponge upon some poor bird whocan ill afford it, and after all treat him and his family inthe most scurvy manner. I have no patience withthem !""I have heard something about it," said the Swallow,"but I thought it might be scandal, and I never listento such remarks unless I am sure there is good founda-tion for them."" I assure you," said the Robin, " there is too goodfoundation for this. Some of my own family have beencheated by the Cuckoos, although I have escaped beingtaken in myself. But listen we need not go far for awitness; I hear my neighbour the Hedge-sparrow singingclose by, and I will call him and ask him to tell youwhat happened to him, shall I ""Do, if you please," said the Swallow; "I shall bevery happy to make his acquaintance."As he spoke, there might be heard a soft and plaintivenote, more like the Wren's than any other bird's, but notnearly so sprightly; and looking in the direction whenceit proceeded, the friends saw a little bird with a browncoat, and ash-grey waistcoat, sitting meditatively upon aspray, jerking its wings occasionally, and singing hislittle song. Seeing the Robin beckoning to him, hejoined them, and cheerfully wished them good morn-ing."This is a friend of mine-one of the travelling birds,"
90 THE TRAVELLING BIRDS.said the Robin, " he has entertained me vastly by hisconversation, and we were just having a chat."" You're welcome back," said the Hedge-sparrow; "weall like to see the Swallows; "it's a good sign when youcome, for we know that this lovely weather is not faroff."" You're very kind," said the Swallow, " certainly noone can complain now, and this sort of day suits mydelicate constitution exactly. I have been here justthree weeks now, but at first it was rather trying.""Yes," said the Hedge-sparrow, "most of the travel-ling birds have come back now, and most of them arewelcome. I am sure no one is more pleased than I amto hear the sprightly Willow-wrens and Whitethroats,and the lively Titlarks and Blackcaps, to say nothing ofthe Nightingales. It is quite charming to hear the musicwhich goes on all day, and I consider it a great privilegeto be able to take a part in it, however humble it maybe."" Oh, my dear friend," said the Robin, " you need notundervalue your part. Because you and I help in thewinter concert, when there are few performers, you mustnot suppose that we are of no use in the summer. I amsure the Swallow here would not be so unkind as to saythat."" Not I, indeed," said the Swallow, who knew thatthe Robin rather piqued himself on his performance, andhis ear for music: "the concert would be very incom-plete without the parts of the Robin and Hedge-sparrow."
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 91"You are very kind to say so," said the Hedge-sparrow,"and really I believe that my friend Robin's notes getmuch more powerful when he is supported by the travel-ling musicians. Do you know I have sometimes latelyalmost mistaken him for a Blackcap."" You flatter me," said the Robin "and yet I havesometimes thought how much more spirit you put intoyour song, so that in May it is almost as sprightly as aWren's; and you know I have a good ear for music, andtake notice of these things."" Well, you see, there can be no doubt," said theHedge-sparrow, " that both the season and the companyare exhilarating and cheerful, and it is no wonder, whenwe have so many distinguished guests pouring in, thatwe should do our best to give them a welcome. Forthey are welcome, most of them.""Most of them?" said the Robin, slyly. "You havesaid that twice. Why do you say most of them ? Arethey not all welcome ?" And he gave a sidelong glanceat the Swallow, as much as to say, " Wait a momentand you will hear all about the Cuckoos, without anyquestions."" When I say most of them," replied the Hedge-sparrow,with more warmth than you might have thought himcapable of, "I mean, indeed all, except one, who is adisgrace to his kind, and has injured me and my familyin a manner beyond forgiveness."" Indeed !" said the Robin, innocently. " Why, whocan you mean ?"
92' THE TRAVELLING BIRDS."How can you ask! Who can I mean but theCuckoos !" broke out the Hedge-sparrow, as nearly in arage as he was able to get."The Cuckoos !" cried the Swallow, gravely, for theRobin was obliged to turn away his head, lest theHedge-sparrow should see him smile. " I know they arevery noisy birds, and I have heard strange stories aboutthem. Pray, what have they done to you, for I see youare very angry with them ""Oh, it is well that everyone should know theirtricks, and not be taken in as I was," grumbled theHedge-sparrow." Do be so kind as to relate the story to me," said theSwallow, sympathetically." Well, then, you must know that, last spring, I andmy wife had built our nest in a thorn-bush, and my wifehad laid some of her lovely blue eggs (and I'll back mywife against any bird for her pretty eggs, they are amongthe neatest things of the kind you can see anywhere"That's true," interrupted the Robin."Well," continued the Hedge-sparrow, "she had notbegun to sit, and one afternoon she told me it was timefor her to take to the nest. So I went with her to seethat she was all right, when we were awfully startled bya great lumbering Cuckoo flying out of the bush wherethe nest was. 'Oh!' cried my wife, 'I hope that greatcreature has not eaten up all my eggs.' I hope not, mydear,' said I, rather frightened, and we hastened to look,
THE TRAVELLING BIRDS. 93and there were the eggs all right, but one of them hadchanged colour. Instead of a lovely blue, it was brownand speckled. Well, we thought it strange; still, it didnot trouble us much, and I am not sure that we evencounted them to see if the number was correct."" Supposing you had," said the Swallow."Why we should have found one too many " said theHedge-sparrow."Too many !" echoed the Swallow." One too many," repeated the Hedge-sparrow. " Butwe did not count them, and my wife sat down uponthem. She had some difficulty in covering them all.'Very odd,' said she. 'I generally manage very well,but I can hardly tuck them all in this time. I am notthinner than usual, am Il' 'No, my dear,' said I; 'ifyou just bring this wing a little lower it will be all right.'' Well,' said she, it's not quite so comfortable as usual,but I daresay I shall manage it.' And so off I went toget provisions for her ?"" Well!" said the Swallow, eagerly. " Did the Cuckoodisturb her f""Not she," said the Hedge-sparrow, disdainfully. " Shedid not show her ugly face again. But, in due time allour little ones were hatched, and one of them was a crea-ture. He grew twice as fast as the others, and he cer-tainly seemed twice as hungry. Oh, the trouble we bothhad to get insects and grubs enough to satisfy him! In-stead of dividing them equally among them all, as wegenerally do, this young monster always pushed himself