The Balduin Library
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
NEW BOOKS FOR COUNTRY BOYS.
SECOND EDITION. Crown 8vo. price 7s. 6d. gilt edges.
THE OUTDOOR WORLD
or, The Young Collector's Handbook.
By W. FURNEAUX, F.R.G.S.
With 16 Coloured Plates and 530 Illustrations in the Text.
Crown 8vo. price 10s. 6d. net, gilt top.
BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS (British).
By W. FURNEAUX, F.R.G.S.
With 12 Coloured Plates and 241 Illustrations in the Text.
In the press.
Crown 8vo. price 10s. Gd. net, gilt top
By W. H. HUDSON, F.Z.S.
With a Chapter on Structure and Classification by FRANK E. BBEDDARD, F.R.S.
With 17 Plates (8 of which are Coloured) and over 100 Illustrations
in the Text.
London: LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.
and New York.
BY P. ANDERSON GRAHAM
WITH 252 ILLUSTRATIONS
AND NEW YORK
All rights reserved
IN ORDER to avoid misunderstanding, it may be useful to
say a few words about the scope and aim of the present,
volume. A glance at the Table of Contents will show that
it does not pretend to be, in any sense, an Encyclopaedia of
Games. The Author had a less ambitious object in view.
At school, and in the midst of lively companions, a boy is
seldom at a loss for amusement or in dii ul,, !t, about picking
up a knowledge of the games in vogue. It was felt that a few
pages of instruction would be no great help to proficiency
in cricket, football, tennis, and other highly specialised
and organised amusements; and for that reason alone they
have been deliberately omitted.
But there are times-and, perhaps, they might advan-
tageously be made more frequent-when a boy is thrown on
his own resources, or reduced to the fellowship of a single
friend, it may be during holidays, or owing to other circum-
stances. Such periods are not infrequently remembered as.
dull and unprofitable, whereas they might easily be filled
with the most delightful occupations, which could hardly be
pursued without the acquisition of an intimate knowledge
of the streams, moors, fields, woodlands, and copses in the
neighbourhood and of their living tenants. And in how
many instances does childhood carry forward to later life a.
world of pleasant memories derived from the associations.
The Author has not, however, attempted to turn amuse-
viii COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
ment into a medium of instruction; he will be content if
the volume helps, even in a little way, to arouse the love
bf open-air life and habit of observation, which, after all,
form the most desirable basis for study. Great care has
been taken, however, to see that the facts are trustworthy.
Although the book is written largely from memory and ex-
perience, wherever it was possible these have been tested
by comparison with the best authorities. At the same time
much is left unsaid, because, beyond everything else, a book
intended for children of nine or ten ought to be clear and
simple. Some of the pastimes are left at the point where a
work for older boys might very well begin. In selecting
games it will be noticed that preference has been given to
those most suitable for a solitary boy. Perhaps, too, a little
weakness is displayed for diversions gone rather out of
While elder people are content merely to watch the
natural habits of birds and beasts, it is certain that the
average boy desires to catch and handle them. Not at all
from intention, but owing merely to thoughtlessness, this, it
is useless to deny, often leads to cruelty; and it is difficult to
determine how best to counteract the tendency. To draw
the bow tight, and merely forbid anything of the kind, is to
risk its being broken. The Author has preferred in every
case to try to guide rather than force the inclination. For
instance, although an expert may catch and tame almost any
-wild bird or animal, the attempt of a child to do so is nearly
*certain to involve cruelty and end in failure; but by rearing
from the nest the desired result may be attained with com-
parative ease. Again, it is useless, even if it were desirable,
to hinder boys from collecting eggs; but one may tell them
how to do so without paining the parent birds. The hunting
instinct is one of the strongest possessed by boys, and to
crush it out of existence is impossible. Under training and
guidance, however, even it may be made conducive to
I. BIIDS'-NESTING 1
II. BIRD PETS 01
III FAMILIAR BIRDS FOR TAMING 132
IV. POULTRY AND PIGEONS 185
V. MISCELLANEOUS PETS 199
VI. FISHING WITHOUT TACKLE 2
VII. BOTTOM AND FLOAT FISHING 247
VIII. Coln ON POND AND RIVER FISH .. 260
IX. RAMBLING 283
X. NUTTING. 317
XL AUTUMN BERRIES .325
XII. POISONOUS PLANTS AND BERRIES. 387
XIII. IN SNOW AND ICE S61
XIV. SKATING . 873
XV. TOBOGGANING AND SLIDING 88
XVI. BATHING AND SWIMMING .. 889
XVII. TOY-BOAT MAKING AND SAILING 398
XVIII. MAKING AND FLYING A KITE 408
XIX. ToP 412
XX. GAMES AT MARBLES AND THE HOOP 417
XXI. KNUCKLEBONES 428
XXII. SOME OPEN-AIR GAMES . 4432
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
HEAVILY LADEN ..Frontisece
1. LAPWING: WINTER PLUMAGE .
2. LAPWING : SUMMER PLUMAGE
3. THE CAPERCAILLIE IN BRIDAL PLUMAGE
4. PARTRIDGES AT PAIRING TIME
5. WOODPIGEON FEEDING YOUNG ONE .
6. SWALLOW FEEDING YOUNG
7. THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST
8. A ROBIN'S NEST
9. PLASTERED NESTING-HOLE OF NUTHATCH
10. THE YAFFLE'S NEST
11. THE WRYNECK .
12. NEST OF THE LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE
13. A SPARRow-HAWK'S EGG
14. Rooi's NEST
15. A ROOK'S EGG .
16. THE HERON'S NEST
17. RING-DOVE ON NEST .
18. MAGPIE'S NEST .
19. GOLDEN ORIOLE (FEMALE) AND NEST
20. NEST OF GOLDFINCH
22. THBUSH'S NEST .
23. NEST OF THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE .
24. THE REED-BUNTING'S NEST
25. CHAFFINCH IN NEST .
26. THE NEST OF THE BULLFINCH
27. NEST OF HAWFINCH
28. NEST OF THE NIGHTINGALE
20. THE CUCKOO
80. CUCKOO'S EGG
81. HEDGE-SPARROW'S EGGa
82. THE CUCKOO AND ITS FOSTER BROTHERS
88. A SMALL FOSTER MOTHER
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
84. THE STORM PETREL'S NEST
35. PUFFINS AND RABBITS
36. THE LAPWING'S NEST
87. EGGS OF RINGED PLOVER
38. THE PHEASANT'S NEST
39. THE CORN CRAKE'S NEST.
40. YOUNG PARTRIDGES
40A. A PIED WAGTAIL'S NEST
40B. A WILLOW-WARBLER'S NEST
41. THE WOODCOCK
42. NEST OF GROUSE
48. A SKYLARK'S NEST
44. THE MEADOW-IPPIT'S NEST
45. THE COMMON BUNTING'S NEST
46. THE NIGHTJAR .
47. EIDER DUCK'S NEST
48. THE STONECHAT
49. A PAIR OF SHOVELLERS .
50. HERRING GULL IN NEST
51. THE HOUSE-MARTIN'S NEST
52. A SWALLOW'S NEST AND EGGS
58. SPOTTED FLYCATCHER'S NEST
54. THE REDSTART'S NEST
55. A WREN'S NEST
568 WILD DUCK AND YOUNG
57. THE WATERMEN'S NEST
58. YOUNG COOTS .
59. A BLACK-HEADED GULL'S NEST
60. THE KINGFISHER
61. SEDGE-WARBLER'S NEST
61A. A DABCHICK'S NEST .
62. ROBIN REDBREAST.
63. LITTLE GAPING MOUTHS
64. AN OLDER BROOD .
65. ToY BASKET USED FOR NESTLINGS
66. THE COCK-SPAB OW
67. WIRE-NETTING TRAP FOR SPARROWS.
68. THE BRICK TAP .
69. THE Box TRAP.
70. THE SIEVE TRAP
71. A HAND NET .
73. BATH FOR BIRDS
74. A SEA-GULL
75. JACKDAW'S HOUSE
76. THE CHOUGH
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xiii
77. ROOKS, JACKDAWS, AND STARLINGS 135
. 78. THE STALLING 138
79. THE RAVEN 140
80. THE MAGPIE . 141
81. THE JAY. 142
82. THE GOSHAWK 145
83. THE KESTREL 147
84. A TETHER OR JESS 148
85. A SPARnow-HAwK TETHERED 149
86. GROUSE HAWKING 151
87. THE MERLIN FEEDING. 155
88. HERON HAWKING 157
89. THE WOOD-OwL 159
90. THE BARN-OWL 161
91. THE DIPPEr 3.. .
92. THE CORMORANT IN SumIER DRESS 166
93. THE PASSENGER PIGEON 167
94. THE TURTLE-DovE 168
95. THE ROCK-DOVE 168
96. THE RING-DOVE 169
97. THE STOCK-DOVE 170
98. THE BULLFINCH 171
99. THE LESSER REDPOLL 174
100. THE YELLOWHAER 179
101. THE LINNET 180
102. THE THRUSH 183
103. FANCY POULTRY 187
104. FERTILE EGG. 190
105. STERILE EGG 190
106. JUST COME OUT 191
107. A GlouP or PIGEONS. 194
108. PIGEON-HOPPER, FOR STANDING AGAINST A WALL 196
109. ROUND PIGEON-HOPPER 196
110. SWINGING WIRE Doo 196
111. READY TO SPRING 02
112. A BACON Box FOR RABBIT-HUTCH 204
113. BABBIT-HUTCH 204
114. FANCY RABBITS 207
115. WILD ABBITS 209
116. THE SQUIRREL 212
117. FINGAL ..' 213
118. THE COMMON SHREW 219
119. THE LONG-TAILED FIELD MOUSE 220
120. THE WATER-SHREW 221
121. THE WATER-AT 222
122. THE HARVEST MOUSE AND ITS NEST 228
xiv COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
123. Box HOUSE FOR HARE
124. THE HEDGEHOG
125. RUN FOR HEDGEHOG
126. FRESHWATER MUSSEL
127. CATCHING MUSSELS
128. THE LOACH
129. AN EEL-SPEAR.
180. HEAD OF EEL-SPEAR
181. THE MINNOW
182. A GOOD RING
137. A KNIFE WITH SCISSORS
188. FISHING BOOKS
189. SHEET LEAD FOR PLUMMET
140. GENTLE BOX
141. CANS FOR BAIT
142. LANDING NETS .
143. A SEAT-BASKET
144. THE PERCH
145. PENNELL'S TWO-HOOX WORM TACKLE
146. PENNELL'S TWO-HOOx WOER TACKLE BAITED
147. Two-Hoox MINNOW TACKLE BAITED
148. A PIKE IN THE WATER
149. A TROUT IN THE WATER .
150. THE GRAYLING .
151. THE BLEA. .
152. THE GUDGEON .
153. THE DACE .
154. THE CHUB
155. THE ROACH
156. THE CARP
157. GOLDEN TENCH IN THE WATER .
158. BREAM .
159. THE BARBEL
160. THE COMMON EEL
161. A FISHING BAG
162. THE Fox's DEN
164. THE WATER-WHEEL
165. WEASEL SHAMMING DEAD
166. A GARDEN SPIDER
167. THE STOAT .
168. THE HARE IN HER 'FOR' .
169. A RABBIT'S RUN .
170. OUTSIDE OF BURROW .
171. SECTION OF RABBIT-HOLE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xv
172. THE BADGER 301
173. SPRING FLOWERS . 804
174. AN ADDER .. 08
175. THE COMMON SNAKE 809
176. THE SLOW-WORM OR BLIND-WORM 309
177. GAMEKEEPER AND PHEASANT COOPS 312
178. THE SHEPHERD'S DOG. 13
179. ELI COLLINS, TRUFFLE-HUNTER 315
180. NUTTING CROOK 817
181. THE HAZEL 8 . 820
182. THE HORSE-CHESTNUT 321
183. THE SWEET CHESTNUT 322
184. THE PIG-NUT .,824
185. THE BLACKBERRY 826
186. WILD ROSE AND HIPS 828
187. HAWTHORN BLOSSOM AND FRUIT 329
188. THE BLACKTHORN 3830
189. MOUNTAIN ASH 831
190. CRAB APPLES 332
191. WILD STRAWEERRIES 838
192. WILD RASPBERRIES 333
193. HOLLY BERRIES 334
194. THE SPINDLE TREE 335
195. WHORTLEBERRY, COWBERRY, CROWBERRY, CRANBERRY 335
196. FLOWER AND BERRIES OF YEW 888
197. THE PRIVET 39
198. LunNU 340
199. ELDER 842
200. HEMLOCK 843
-201. FoOL'S PARSLEY 844
202. WATERWORT 845
203. HELLEBOE 846
204. ROOT OF HEMLOCK 3. 847
205. BITTERSWEET AND BERRIES 348
206. BELLADONNA .. 849
207. FOXGLO 351
208. BLACx BRYONY 352
209. WHITE BRYONY 853
210. MARSH MARIGOLD 354
211. WATER CROWFOOT. 354
212. LORDS AND LADtES 3 55
213. POPPY 357
214. FUN I 359
215. FEEDING THE BIRDS 863
216. THE SNOW-MAN. 369
217. ROLLER-SKATE 873
xvi COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
218. A SUPERIOR SKATE
219. SCREW AND BUCKLE SKATE
220. ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
221. HOCKEY ON THE ICE
222. A CANADIAN TOBOGGAN
223. Swiss CHILDREN COASTING
224. ENJoYING IT
226. LEARNING TO FLOAT
227. SWIMMING ON THE BACK .
228. TREADING THE WATER
229. TAXING A HEADER
280. IMPLEMENTS FOR BOAT-MAKING
231. A BLOCK OF WHITE PINE
282. DIAGRAM OF BOAT
235. Do. .
287. A MODEL '.
238. RACING .
289. THE KITE .
240. HumMING TOP, PEG Top, WHIPPING TOP
241. KNUCKLING THE MARBLE .
242. THE BIG RING .
248. THE LITTLE RING .
244. THE THREE HOLES
245. NINE-HOLES BOARu
246. THE HOOP AND CROOK
247. A SET OF KNUCKLEBONES
248. DIAGRAM OF HOP-SCOTCH
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
THIS is the healthiest, pleasantest, and most interesting of all
open-air recreations. It carries one away on long rambles across
the fields, along the hedgerows, and by the river-banks, at that de-
lightful season of the year when life is stirring again after the long
sleep of winter, when young lambs are bleating in the meadows, and
the rooks are cawing above their nests, and birds are singing, and
tiny little rabbits are taking a first peep out of their burrow. For
eye and ear and brain, as well as limbs, it provides the most invigo-
rating exercise. The simplest baby might find some nests; others
are hidden so cunningly that their discovery is a puzzle to the
It would be a mistake to assume that for its enjoyment one must
be intent on collecting eggs or obtaining young birds. The pleasure
of finding a nest in no way depends on these pursuits. Whether
you combine birds'-nesting and collecting or not, I hope you will
make it a rule always to avoid everything likely to cause a pair of
birds to forsake their nest. Very few boys, indeed, would think of
trying to make them do so of set purpose but the evil occasionally
occurs through a ivant of taking thought. For the sake of those
who have not observed the consequences of certain actions it may
be worth while to enumerate a few of the more flagrant offences.
First there is the temptation to clap the bird in.' Birds that
nest in holes and crevices are the greatest sufferers. As hatching-
time approaches they sit very closely and it is comparatively easy
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
to steal softly up to the tree or wall and place a hand over the open-
ing to the nest, and thus prevent the escape of the old bird. But
this is usually fatal to housekeeping. Probably enough no actual
injury will be done to the captive. She or he is taken out, handled
gently, admired, and allowed to fly away. Very often, however,
eggs are smashed in the scramble of catching, for a bird will hardly
ever sit still when a hand is stretched out to lay hold of her, and she
finds herself trapped. VWhether she struggles or not, the fright is
so great that after it eggs just on the point of being hatched, or even
callow young, are in most cases forsaken. This is still more certain
to happen if advantage of the dark is taken to 'clap in.' But all
the pleasure to be obtained is so slight in proportion to the pain
caused that the practice is not worth following.
Secondly, there are boys too persistently curious about a bird's
nest. Not content with looking once, they return again and again
to the spot, often several times a day, till the birds, from being so
much disturbed, leave their home altogether.
Thirdly, a boy who is perfectly innocent of any intention to do
harm is occasionally the indirect cause of a nest being harried.
Many birds build in places that it is difficult to approach without
leaving marks. Some are in the long grass at the edge of the field,
through which a distinctly marked trail remains after you have
passed. To get at another, it is necessary to step over a ditch with
a clay edge that receives a well-defined footprint. Slender young
twigs are roughly broken or thrust aside before a view of one is
obtained and the marks of climbing on a tree point the way to
another. Any moderately observant person walking by a hedgerow
in the season can generally discover many nests by merely observing
where the ground is trodden or the foliage disturbed. Every new-
comer deepens the rut till a well-trodden footpath leads to the nest.
The end, in nine cases out of ten, is that it is harried by some unscru-
pulous youth guided by the footprints. Now, when a nest is found
out, care should be taken to prevent this from occurring. You have,
with more or less cleverness, penetrated the bird's little secret, and
ought to respect it. Try invariably to leave everything about the
place exactly as you found it, and let the next comer have the same
trouble as you had to find the nest.
The last warning is meant especially for the egg-collector. No
harm whatever is done by abstracting a single egg, or even carrying
away one young bird (provided that it be well cared for afterwards);
but there is a danger of causing a nest to be forsaken if several are
taken. Frequently this occurs owing to a common practice of
blowing the eggs close to the nest. A clumsy operator smashes
one, and, not liking to be beaten, tries another and another till he is
surprised to see the whole clutch gone. But it is far better to carry
the eggs home and blow them carefully and at leisure in the house.
Occasionally more than one are wanted for exchanging, but these
may generally be obtained from different nests. The same remarks
apply to nestlings taken for rearing. Never carry off a whole brood.
THE COURTSHIP OF BIRDS
WVhen you go a-rambling after nests in spring I hope it will not
be merely to seek eggs. There are many curious and interesting
things to notice which cannot be brought home and stuffed or blown.
For these memory is the only collecting case. It is, let us suppose,
a bright smnny day; the buds on the trees are just bursting into
leaf, primroses are flowering at the roots of the great old hawthorns,
cowslips appearing in the meadows, wood-anemones glittering white
under the oaks and beeches.
For now the Heavenly Power
Makes all things new,
And thaws the cold and fills
The flowers with dew.
Lord Tennyson, who wrote these lines, knew so much about all
kinds of open-air life that the more you understand it, the more
you will like reading his poems. I am going to quote some other
lines of his in order to direct attention to certain remarkable changes
observable at this season.
In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove;
In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
Evidently when little Alfred Tennyson went birds'-nesting
among the wolds or in the woods near the rectory at Somersby he
used his eyes to purpose. Spring is the wedding season of the birds
and when they go sweethearting they get decked out in the most
gorgeous attire. Lord Tennyson has given three very pretty and
familiar examples, in the robin, the lapwing, and the dove. A few
more may be added, and then you may be left to complete the list
by adding to it the names of such birds of your neighbourhood as
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
don some special bridal dress for purposes of ornament and attrac-
tion. All birds are most handsome at pairing-time, but with some
the change is only that their plumage becomes more lustrous.
Look at the little tit, clinging to half-budded sprays: is not its deli-
cate blue, just that of a forget-me-not flower, brighter than it was
in winter ? What a difference there is in the cock chaffinch, too,
from what he was in winter-time The brown-red of his breast
and the white bar on his wings are ever so much more brilliant.
Compare the shining back of a breeding reed-sparrow's head with
the dusky brown work-a-day dress it wears in winter. During your
rambles you may notice a great many similar changes. In winter,
,, II ,I
FiG. 1.-LAPWING. Winter plumage
take any bird you have trapped and write down with as much detail
and accuracy as you can every one of its colours, and later on it will
be easier to draw a contrast.
But the lapwing obtaining another crest illustrates a still more
decided change that is to be observed in many birds in Spring, viz.,
the addition of some ornament that has been absent or invisible
during the preceding months. The most remarkable of these altera-
tions is the coloured ruff that appears on the strange and unhappily
rare bird of that name when he wishes to charm his lady the reeve.
Special love ornaments are worn also by the pheasant, the heron,
the cormorant, and many diving birds. It would be out of place
here to explain these all in detail; enough has been said to show
the advantage of keeping your eyes open to anything of the
The love-making of birds is in full swing during the nesting
season, and numberless opportunities will be afforded of watching
the singular antics and gambols by which the bird gallant seeks to
win the heart of the hen. He is a hearty believer in the charm of
music, and myriads of whistling throats fill the woods with merri-
ment. Many birds, however, seem to like singing for its own sake.
The lark, for instance, pours out melody all the year round, except
for a short interlude during the moulting season, but others seem
to reserve their song especially for serenading. It will be noticed
FIG. 2.-LAPWING. Summer plumage
that most of the very brilliant singers are clad in sober and quiet
dresses. Neither the lark, nightingale, thrush, blackbird, nor linnet
is very gaily apparelled. On the other hand, brilliantly-plumaged
birds are generally unmusical. The pheasant, the jay, and the
kingfisher will at once occur to your mind. Still the rule has
many exceptions. Rooks, daws, choughs, and ravens do not go in
splendid attire, and yet their musical accomplishments are trifling.
In its dress of homely brown the partridge' is not gay, and it has no
song worth speaking of. Some very handsome birds, such as the
goldfinch, sing prettily.
No doubt you have watched with amusement the wooing of an
ordinary pigeon, with what vigour it coos, how it blows out its crop,
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
depresses its tail and scrapes the end of the feathers on the ground.
The absurdly vain and pompous manner in which Chanticleer
stands before Dame Partlett, whirring his outspread wing on the
ground and performing other evolutions, is equally ludicrous. Wild
birds have still more curious modes of courtship. If ever you have
a chance you must study the love-making of the capercaillie, but
there are.plenty of birds near at hand for you to observe. Among
FIG. 3.-THE CAPERCAILLIE IN BRIDAL PLUMAGE
many I will only allude to the pheasant, and pie, the duck and
other water birds. When you see the mad jack hare scampering after
his mate on the bare March fallows, and the partridges running in
pairs among the furrows, that is the time to look out for courting
birds and new bridal dresses.
As might be expected courtship often leads to violent battles
among the rivals. One of the best places to notice this is the rookery.
FIa. 4.---PARTEIDGES AT PAIRING TIIE
We have classed the rooks among 'timber tuned' birds, yet even
they make a pretence of singing. It sounds a little lugubrious, for
the voice of the rook grows naturally hoarse in Spring. Yet an old
rook when 'making up' to a hen mumbles and croons in what he
evidently means to be a soft and fascinating tone. Should a rival
attempt to interfere with his wooing a fight takes place at once. On
a mild February afternoon you may sometimes see a long succes-
sion of such encounters. The other rooks sit almost as if they had
formed ring to see fair play and the two rivals go on pecking
and cuffing one another till they lose their balance and begin to
descend close to the tree stems. But the combatants keep on fight-
ing all the way to the very ground, and are so busily engaged giving
and receiving buffets that if you are standing down below they will
almost alight on the top of your head. No sooner is one battle over
than another begins. The ladies have no foolish sentiment about
the matter but placidly accept the lover who can fight best. As to
the defeated candidate he must go off and try conclusions with some
less formidable pugilist or reconcile himself to the life of a bachelor.
Occasionally the fray has a tragical ending in the death of one of the
In a love quarrel tiny birds are just as fierce and domineering
as their larger neighbours. No one can have failed to notice the
vigorous warfare carried on by rival sparrows. The robin is a
very jealous bully, and so are the chaffinch and yellow-hammer.
Even the diminutive wrens get up as much swagger as if they
were Knights of King Arthur's Table wandering to seek adventures.
Should you have a collection of eggs you will increase its value
and also find an agreeable pastime by placing under each specimen
a paper stating exactly what you have noticed about the parent
birds. Tell the difference between their winter and their breeding
plumage, what evolutions the male goes through at the season of
courtship, and give an account of any fight you have witnessed
between two males.
METHODS OF NURSING
Another point worth noticing when you are out after eggs is the
manner in which parent birds attend to the wants of their young.
Birds do not all go to the nest at the same time. While some are
just beginning their courtship and others have only laid a few bits
of moss or leaf to the foundation of their house a proportion are
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
already sitting on a full clutch of eggs, and not a few have a family
to care for. So you can see all these things being performed at
once. By watching chicks in the poultry yard an insight may be
obtained into one method of feeding. These creatures are not really
fed by their mother. She only scratches the ground for them or leads
them where food is to be obtained. Each chick picks up the grain
or crumbs on its own account. Many wild birds do exactly the same.
The little grey pheasants and tiny brown partridges from the first
pick their own food.
The best way of learning about wild creatures is to observe
those at home, and if you turn to the pigeons you will discover that
they pursue a very different method. Their young do not begin to
birds follow the same plan.
But most of the smaller birds pursue still a different method.
FIG. 5.---Woo0PIGEON FEEDING YoUNG ONE
pick till comparatively late in life, and the mother and father feed
them by taking the bills of their !-!. I p, in their own and pumping
the food up from their crops. The wild pigeons and many other
birds follow the same plan.
But most of the smaller birds pursue still a different method.
From the commencement they feed their -.ff.- r;. with precisely
the same food that they eat themselves. You may see them carry-
ing grubs, and grain, and bits of green-stuff in their mouths, and
the nestlings simply gape and swallow.
Now of every species you should satisfy yourself how they feed
their young. It is an interesting point, and of more importance
than you perhaps imagine.
FIG. 6. -SWALLOW FEEDING YOUNG
More than that; you will often see the cock bird very kindly and
lovingly feeding his wife, sometimes when she is sitting on the nest
and is reluctant to rise and search for her own food, sometimes out of
mere affection just as Chanticleer when he finds a particularly nice
worm, clucks to the pullets and invites them to eat it, while he with
great self-sacrifice and gallantry abstains.
I think you must collect eggs really to know about them, but
mere collecting is very much less interesting and admirable than
finding out all you can about these and the other habits of birds.
ON 'FINDING NESTS
Birds are generally so anxious about their offspring that a clue
to the whereabouts of a nest is obtained by noting the signs of alarm
manifested by the old birds. Some only cry out, but others have a
curious trick for deceiving the searcher. For instance, the partridge
when she has been disturbed either on eggs or with cheepers will try
to induce you to give chase by hurrying away with a running tumbling
sort of motion, exactly as if her wing or leg were broken.. The same
artifice is employed by the lapwing and many other birds. By
a diligent search it is generally possible to discover either a nest or
young when the mother pretends to be lame.
Small birds may almost be said to play a game of hot boiled
beans with the passers-by. No sooner does one come into the
neighbourhood of their home than a soft and oft-repeated Peep I
Peep I tells of their solicitude. As the stranger nears the sacred spot
the cry increases in loudness and vivacity as though they were crying
Hot 1 Hot I then when the nest is passed the tumult calms down and
they resume the quiet and soft cry which may be interpreted Rather
cold. This procedure is characteristic of many species, but of none
more markedly than the chaffinch, which is a bold bird with a strong
clear decided voice. Others speak with their wings. Let anyone
stand before the nest of.a wren or a hedge-sparrow, and neither of
these birds cries out much, but they flutter past and past, and the
sound of wings nervously quivering is as easy to understand as the
loudest chirp. Other signs are still more unmistakable. If you go
birds'-nesting very quietly and alone-that being the only way to
enjoy this pastime thoroughly-many birds will go about their work
without paying much attention to you. By watching one with a
tuft of moss or a tiny feather in its mouth a nest may be discovered
14 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
in process of erection. Another carrying a grub or worm is saluted
with a chorus of thin eager cries from the centre of the bush where
it alights, and one can easily guess what to look for there.
Broadly speaking, if the nest of a particular species be wanted
the place to look for it is where food is most plentiful. At the time
when ploughmen are preparing the spring fields for seed the laughing
seagull comes inland to pick up worms from the furrow, and builds
in marshy places near at hand. The song thrush chooses a bush
close to moist ground where snails are plentiful. So much do birds
follow this rule that in a damp mild autumn when grubs and other
food abound some of them begin breeding just as if it were spring.
This, however, will become more evident as we consider the places
to hunt for nests.
THE HOLES IN A TREE
The art of climbing trees is one which the birds'-nester must
hasten to acquire. It is not easy to give directions that will be at
once intelligible and useful. Nothing but incessant practice and
perseverance will enable anyone to swarm up'the clean straight bole
of a young ash. With elms and oaks it is often possible to clamber
from bough to bough. In doing that no accident will happen if you
plant your feet as firmly as though you had no hands, and take a
grip with your hands as firm as if you had no legs to trust to. The
difficulty about firs is that the twigs and branches often grow so
thick it is almost impossible to penetrate them from below. Usually
it is best to keep looking upward, as one is much more apt to feel
giddy when the eyes are directed downward from a height, but in.
climbing a fir so much dust and rubbish is shaken from the thick
high foliage that unless they are averted the eyes will become per-
Trees differ so much in character and situation that what is
applicable to one is not to another. You would not expect to find
the same nests in the middle of a plantation that occur on a tree
growing out of a field hedgerow. Let us consider one or two of the
Birds, as you may observe, frequent the country lanes as much
as the fields. A spreading wayside elm is one of their favourite
resorts. If it is an old one and bushy round the roots and stump,
this part should be carefully examined first. A blackbird very likely
has its rather slovenly home here, though a better place to seek for
it is among the bunches of thorn left after a hedge has been pruned
or cut down. The redbreast may have taken possession of an odd
corner, though it, again, prefers a hole in some ivied wall or sheltered
bank, or the middle of a thick bush. A hedge-sparrow often chooses
FiG. 7.-Tnn BLACKaBIRD'S NEST
this site for its home. Still the centre of interest is higher up. A way-
side tree generally has a number of holes in it. They are produced
by wounds or disease forming a hollow in which the rain collects
and gradually rots and wears away the fibre. In early spring some
are half full of water, and these natural reservoirs have an interest all
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
their own. Stagnant as the water is, many creatures drink it eagerly.
You may see that by watching a tame squirrel. Place two drinking
vessels before it, one shallow and the other shaped like a mug. He
goes to the latter so readily and creeps down into it so naturally, you
cannot help thinking it reminds him of the crevices out of which
he drank when running wild among the trees. Perhaps the wood
impparts some medicinal property to the draught. At any rate I
have noticed that dogs of good scent often stand up on their hind
legs and whine to reach it, even when other water is near. Birds
Fie. 8.- A ROBI's NEST
of various kinds may also be seen at times dipping into this odd
drinking fountain. Doubtless in summer when the thirsty tree soaks
it all up and leaves the place dry some of these creatures are hard
put to it to allay their thirst.
There are many dry crevices in the tree, however, which repay
exploration. On the wayside the nests most common in holes of
trees are those of the starling and jackdaw. How cunningly does the
latter creep out of his hole, slip round the trunk, and make off as one
comes along I The tiny blue tit chooses a hole so small that you
cannot put two fingers in together, but such minute openings are
common only in certain species of fir. It is extremely difficult to
get the eggs without breaking some of them or destroying the nest;
a little crooked stick is usually employed for the purpose, but as all tits
do not build in such inaccessible crannies it is better to wait till you
find a nest within easier reach.
A bird to be looked out for in the hole of a tree is the familiar
nuthatch. You may easily recognize its dwelling, for after choosing
a hole much too large for the purpose it proceeds to plaster the
entrance with mud till there is just room enough for it to pop out and
in. It lays five white brown-spotted eggs. Unlike the jackdaw
and starling the nuthatch prefers the woodlands to the roadsides.
So does the yaffle or green woodpecker, whose nest boys are often
puzzled to discover, for the bird is shy and wary. When you know the
Fia. 9.-PLASTERED NESTING-HOLE OF NUTHATCH
yaffle's idea of house-building, however, the difficulty in part vanishes.
Its method is to find a tree with a soft rotten heart and to exca-
vate a hole for itself by pecking away little chips with its hard bill.
Now it seems a very simple matter to look out for a tree with bits
of rotten wood lying about its trunk, and so obtain a clue to the
woodpecker's nest. This, however, is not quite so easy as it looks.
The birds seem to carry off some of the chips and the others fall
among the grass and herbage, so that the eyes have to be keen and
watchful to catch this sign. Sometimes after you have found it and
climbed to the hole, disappointment follows; for if a starling hap-
pens to see the woodpecker's laboriously excavated home it lays
siege and usually manages to secure possession for its own brood.
One may tell at once what has happened, for the starling invariably
makes a nest while the woodpecker lays its clear white eggs on
18 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
the bare wood. But for a fine afternoon late in May there is not a
more delightful pastime than that of searching a large plantation
for the habitation of the yaffle. Besides this, if you live in the
south of England and not'in the north you may perhaps be lucky
enough to discover the nests of two other kinds of woodpecker in
similar -situations, the greater spotted and the lesser spotted. Not
one of these is at all common in the northern counties. In searching
for woodpeckers' nests be careful to avoid young plantations. They
FIG. 10.-THE YAFFLE'S NEST
like old neglected woods best where there are plenty of aged rotting
trees in which they may hunt for insects.
It is tolerably well known that snakes climb trees occasionally,
and it sometimes happens that the birds'-nester is horribly scared
when on thrusting his hand into the hole of a tree there arises an
ominous sound of hissing. Very speedily the hand is withdrawn,
and out pops no viper but a mother wryneck--the cuckoo's maid
as country folk call her-glad that her note of alarm has given the
intruder a fright. This power of hissing is by no means confined to
a solitary bird. Unpopular public speakers always know one fact in
Fia. 11.-THE WRYNECK
natural history, viz., that geese and serpents hiss and have been
known to tell their audiences so. No doubt you have heard the
swans hiss too, and I have often heard the little oxeye tit hiss quite
energetically when trapped in a nesting hole.
THE CROWN OF A POLLARD
The redstart and some other species build in similar situations,
but enough has been said to prove that the holes of a tree are full
of interest to the birds'-nester. Nearly every other part will repay
the same trouble. For example, the crown of a pollard is easily
reached, but is often neglected because from the ground it looks as
though it were nothing but wood. When the tree was polled-that
is, when the top was sawn off-a clean hard smooth round surface
was left. Gradually, however, rain, wind, and frost hollowed it out
more or less into the shape of a plate or basin, and new twigs
20 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
springing up around made a very fine nesting-place. This is called
the crown or stock of the pollard, and the stock-dove is said to take its
name from so frequently choosing it as a nesting place. The tawny
owl also adopts it sometimes. On the sea-coast I have found the
nest of this bird on a pollard with so many fish-bones lying about
as to prove beyond question that the mother owl goes a-fishing
when she can. The place referred to is just opposite Holy Island
oh the Northumbrian coast,. where the sands are very wide and level.
Lindisfarne is a peninsula when the tide is out, an island when
it is full. In the Low, or Lindis as the Romans called it, and in the
shallow pools adjacent there are many flat fish, and on these the
owls feed. The tawny owl also iti -t ,t. times in the hole of a tree,
like the jackdaw. Curiously enough in Orkney where people say
there are no trees I have found the nest in old rooks' nests in
bushes near the base of Wideford Hill. The tawny owl lays three
or four white eggs.
Another bird one would scarcely expect to find nesting in the
crown of a pollard is the wild duck. It often seems in a difficulty
about fixing upon a suitable place to build. It prefers a very lonely
home among the rushes or sedges by the margins of ponds and
rivers, or even a clunp of nettles on the bank, but though never
seen perching on a tree, it will, nest in one readily. The top of
a haystack is another of its resorts, and so is a heap of faggots.
Especially in the neighbourhood of towns the nest is often placed
in very peculiar situations. At one time the wild duck seemed
in danger of extinction, but it has grown very numerous again.
One spring when I was at Coate, where Richard Jefferies used to
live, I found the nest of a kestrel on the top of a :..1! 1 wing out
of a fence dividing the green meadows which lie between the house
and the Downs. This was not a usual position, but the fact shows
that a pollard standing in any retired place will often repay exami-
nation. Birds do not build by rule, and to find their nests it is often
necessary to hunt in places because they appear suitable, even if
you have never heard of the particular species choosing such a site.
AMONG THE BRANCHES
Another favourite position for nests is the cleft made where two
branches fork. The prettiest of all English nests, that of the long-
tailed titmouse, is now and then placed in this position. It is very
difficult to find, for the old birds cover the outside of their home
with lichens closely resembling the bark of the tree which you may
climb several times without noticing the nest. Should you desire
one for your museum, it is better to search among low bushes,
where the long-tailed tit builds more frequently than in the fork of
a tree, and where the nest may be obtained intact by cutting away
the branches. In any case much careful searching is required, but
if you begin by noticing the favourite haunt of the bird at breeding
time, perseverance will do the rest. The inside of the nest is lined
with feathers, and occasionally there are two exits.
FrI. 12.-NEST OF THE LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE
The sparrow-hawk, among other sites, occasionally chooses the
cleft of a tree that stands on the outside of a plantation. It does
not always care to be high. A laburnum, growing at the edge of a
'dene,' I have known to be chosen by a sparrow-hawk. This bird
also takes possession of a rook's nest sometimes. It lays four or
five handsome eggs, white, blotched with crimson.
Like the long-tailed titmouse the chaffinch has an excellent eye
22 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
for cplour, and very often affixes to the grey lichened bark of an old
ash a nest that looks almost as if it were a mere protuberance on
FIa. 13.-A SPAunow-HAWK'S EGG
There is a pretty little bird, one of the smallest in our islands,
you might take for a mouse as it runs silently up the branches. It
is called the tree-creeper. You should look for its nest in any old
trunk where the bark has begun to rot and start from the wood.
Within the interstice thus formed it often makes its home. But
you may at times find it in a stack of faggots or a crevice in a wall,
even in some cosy nook of an out-building. The outside of the
nest it makes of coarse stuff such as twigs, bits of hay, or even
straw; the lining is made warm and comfortable with softer material,
such as feathers or wool. It lays half-a-dozen or more eggs; they
are white, speckled with bright brown. You need sharp eyes to
find first the bird and then its nest.
.On ascending to the branches we meet with an enormous multi-
tude of bird homes. By far the commonest are those of the rooks.
Were they not as conspicuous as they are, the hoarse cawing and
calling of the old birds, and their continual flying to and fro or
hovering above the nest, would attract attention to them. One
of the most amusing things to do at a rookery is to sit quiet
after the young are out and watch what the fathers and mothers
bring to feed them. Some you will see carrying eggs between their
distended mandibles. I remember an old thief who came into the
poultry-yard of a Northumbrian country house and made off with
an earthenware nest-egg; his young cannot have feasted very gaily
that turn. During a very dry summer, when grubs and worms are
not easily procurable, they may be seen carrying rats, mice, very
young rabbits, fish, and even small birds. At such a time nothing
S 1 .
i i '.v :
FIG. 14.-ROOK'S NEST
eatable seems to come amiss to them. In Orkney, where there are
very fewhightrees,the rooks, as has been said, are obliged to nest very
low down, and may be reached without the climb which, though less
dangerousthan it looks, is apt to make fathers and mothers feel rather
nervous about any daring offspring who attempt it. The rook lays
from four to six eggs, of a colour between green and blue, with darker
markings and blotchings. On the outskirts of the rookery you may
often find the nest of the carrion crow. The raven used to have a
tree all to itself, often called the 'raven tree '; but persecution has
now driven it to wilder regions.
Fia. 15.-A ROOK's EGG
The heron, which resembles the rook in nothing else, chooses a
similar position for its nest. In some plantations the heronry and
rookery are close together, and the birds are constantly bickering
and quarrelling. On the principle that might is right the herons
assert their claim to the best trees, while, on the other hand, rooks
increase so fast that they want to spread themselves all over the
wood. When hawking was a favourite sport the heron was care-
fully protected, but it has decreased in numbers since then, and
there are fewer heronries and fewer nests in them. They are dis-
tributed all over England, however, and you will not find it difficult
to learn which one is most easily reached. It is not always prac-
ticable to climb the trees of a heronry, and usually the birds'-nester
has to content himself with watching the old birds come and go.
Fortunately, however, the heron is not rigidly confined to a single
position. The bird is usually very plentiful on wild, hilly land, where
it feeds in the mountain streams. In some parts of Wales and
Scotland and the English Border a single nest built in some high
tree is no rarity. Usually it is one not very easy to climb, and I
well remember the sensation produced by the first I ever rifled. It
26 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
was placed at the top of a high tree in a lonely dale far up among
the Cheviots. At the time I was not more than nine, and was
FIG. 16.--THE HEION'S NEST
more than half terrified by the clamour of the old birds that, as they
saw the nest being approached, swooped so close to me that the wind
,i 4 i /)
made by their wings played coldly on my face like that of a fan.
In addition to their menacing swoops the slender branches swayed
as if they were going to break. However, though almost frightened
out of my wits, I wanted a young one, and persevered till I came
within sight of the half-fledged nestlings, whose bright, fierce-look-
ing eyes impressed me more than anything else about them. At
the cost of a lacerated hand, one was thrown out, and the descent
commenced with considerable alacrity. Where there are no suit-
able trees the heron will build on a cliff, ruin, or even the bare
earth, so that one who rambles in a wild, hilly country may pos-
sibly chance to obtain either eggs or young without any perilous
climbing adventure. The nest is very like that of a rook, but much
larger. If ever you do climb to one with eggs in it, unless they are
nearly on the point of being hatched, you may as well take them;
for the heron, on being rudely disturbed, is almost certain to for-
sake the nest. The heron lays three or four pale green eggs.
The cushat's nest is also generally placed among the branches,
but is much more easily obtained, because it is as often found in a
low fir or even a hawthorn as in more lofty trees. It hardly requires
i.t. 17.--RNa-DOVE ON NEST
more seeking than the other. Standing below, the glimmer of the
white eggs can often be discerned through the paltry structure of
crossed sticks that serves as a nest. Young ring-doves cannot be
28 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
seen in the same way, because the floor of the nest is thickened as
time goes on.
Very much more trouble is taken by the magpie to make a
home; but strangely enough this bird, which is so cunning and
clever in most respects, takes hardly any pains to conceal it. A
favourite position is high up among the boughs of a tree, though
sometimes you may find the nest in a hedgerow. The magpie
relies for protection on making the nest resemble something natural
to the tree, such as a thickness or a bunch of dried twigs, and on
weaving thorns into the structure. These precautions are of very
Fia. 18.-MAGPIE'S NEST
little use again ..-.I. -'greatest enemy, the gamekeeper. His
usual plan to 1!-.-t l-i-, from breeding on the estate is to shoot
the old birds as they leave the nest on his approach. If he is not
sure what the bundle of sticks may be, he discharges the contents of
a gun into it. In this way the magies are effectually reduced in
-- ., .
numbers, and the nest, which used to be a very common one, has
become rare and difficultto find. Ill-kept andhalf-neglected estates
FIG. 18.-- MxPIE's NEST
little use again-t ihri- Ii,.,. !' -' greatest enemy, the gamekeeper. His
usual plan to i' *--.-t I.hi: from breeding on the estate is to shoot
the old birds as they leave the nest on his approach. If he is not
sure what the bundle of sticks may be, he discharges the contents of
a gun into it. In this way the magpies are effectually reduced in
numbers, and the nest, which used to be a very common one, has
become rare and difficult to find. Ill-kept and half-neglected estates
are thebest on which to seek for it. The magpie's nest is dome-shaped
with a hole at the side, through which the birds pop out and in. Often
the same nest with a little renewal and renovation is made to serve
a number of years, but on the other hand, being carefully built it
remains long after having been forsaken, and it is just as well to
make sure that a nest is inhabited before -t in ,, to climb towards
it. There is much difference in individual nests. Some are most
carefully arranged to suit their environment, others resemble great
]i.... ;i,1 masses of dry sticks. The magpie lays from six to nine
eggs, bluish-green, with brown and grey speckles and blotches.
The jay builds lower down than the pie, but is much more
careful to keep its nest out of sight. During the breeding season
it becomes a very shy and quiet bird. If you walk through a wood
where there are jays at any other time of the year their hard dis-
cordant cry is raised whenever they are disturbed-it is one of the
most familiar sounds of the forest. But as nesting time comes the jay
retreats to the densest thickets, and hardly ever raises its voice, so
that one might imagine the old haunts had become deserted. The
way to find the nest is to make a vigilant search in suitable parts
of the wood. Where the undergrowth is thick and almost im-
penetrable is the place to search most. A hunt for this nest is
usually attended with torn clothes, but presents no other difficulty.
The jay lays about the same number of eggs as the magpie-the
ground colour is darker.
Nowadays the common buzzard belies its name, as, owing to
persecution, it has become very rare. In England it prefers to
build in a large wood, and the nest may be occasionally found on
Among our occasional visitors there is none more handsome
than the golden oriole, but it is so shy and wary that its beautiful
nest is iill.. ii1 to find. You might seek it unsuccessfully for years,
and then when doing something else come on it quite accidentally.
On its first appearance the bird is very often shot on account of its
brilliant plumage and because it is rare. Then in our country it is
of wandering, unsettled habits, and seems reluctant to undertake
the duties .,t !.... i-.. i.li,., ij i. When discovered the nest will generally
be found woven to the twigs of an outspread tree branch. The
eggs are four or five in number, and are white in ground colour,
with purple spots and specks.
These are the most important of the large birds 11, t .. i .il 11t
in the branches. It should not be forgotten that some of the more
masterful instead of constructing a home for themselves will at
times attack the owner of one that appears suitable, and enter into
possession. In this way it has been seen that tlhe starling will oust
80 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
the woodpecker from the hole it has carefully excavated; and the
herons will go to war with the rooks and seize their homes. The
kestrel and the sparrow-hawk are also very bold marauders, and
will at times drive away the magpie and the crow from the nests
they have built.
FIG. 19.--GOLDEN ORIOLE (FEMALE) AND NEST
A great number of small birds love to build among the tree
branches, and it is very difficult to find their nests amid the thick
green foliage of early summer. When the leaves wither and fall off
in winter, one is often surprised to find in the fruit and ornamental
trees near a house many nests sought in vain during the building
season. The missel-thrush often surprises us in this way. It likes
to nest in a garden or orchard, and when trees are bare the large
circular cup-shaped structure is very prominent-all the more so
because the bird is at little pains to conceal its nest, which would
be very visible at any time but for the green leaves.
Among fir plantations, and in yew or cedar trees, a nest worth
searching for is that of the gold-crested wren. It is nicely made,
and the ingenious bird usually hangs it on two or three little
boughs, in such a position that a spray above will serve for a
roof. The materials used are very similar to those adopted by the
chaffinch, viz., fine moss wool and spiders' webs, with a lining of
The goldfinch, although it generally prefers a tall hedgerow, often
constructs its handsome little nest in the branches of a pear or an
apple tree, but does not confine itself to these trees, taking with
almost equal readiness to a pine or a horse-chestnut.
"-a'---- -7- .-.
Fie. 20.-NEST O GODrFIcI
Other species, in addition to those mentioned, will be found
inhabiting the trees by the vigilant seeker, but these are the most
common and familiar. Should you meet with one that you fail to
recognize, be sure to notice the following points, viz., its position,
whether in a hole or on the branches, on the bark or the twigs,
its size and shape, and the materials of which it is composed, then
the number, shape, and colour of the eggs. Individuals of the same
species differ so much in these respects, however, that it finally
becomes necessary for you to conceal yourself till the parent birds
come and observe then closely what are their colours and general
appearance-that is supposing you fo-nd the nest in their absence.
It is likely they will hover and fly close to you as long as you are
near the nest, so that there will be no d !h..,lIt, in obtaining the
particulars necessary to identify the species.
32 COUNTRY P l.TI.VL 8 FOR BOYS
BUSH AND HEDGEROW
In the fine cold weather of early spring, when skates have been
laid aside for the year, although heaps of drifted snow still lie in
sheltered corners of the field, it is very pleasant to get out again on
the meadows and hillsides. How clearly flows the brook down a
channel cleansed by innumerable floods, but how bare are its banks !
The landscape is yet very wintry, for the grass has hardly begun
to sprout, the hawthorns do not show a patch of green, and the
earth is all bare and black. Yet, listen I The lark is carolling as if
summer were come, a missel-thrush pours his strong sweet song
from the topmost bough of a tree, and the first lambs are raising a
feeble bleat. They all feel sure that winter is over and gone-the
time of the singing of birds has come.
Among the birds of the wayside none acts more 2!...mli;' on
this knowledge than the dingy-coloured hedge-sparrow. Some
ornithologists call it the hedge accentor, but the old name is too
familiar to discard. Boys in the North nickname it smoky,' and
elsewhere it is called the 'dunnock.' Folk of long ago loved wild
creatures very much, or they would not have had so many terms
of endearment for them. They called the hedge-sparrow Billy, just
as the house-sparrow was Philip. You know many of the other
names. The redbreast, for instance, is Robin, the wren Jenny or
Kitty, the pie Mag, the daw Jack, the raven Ralph. Of quadrupeds,
the fox was Reynard, the hare Wat, the cat Tibbie-quite as if they
were all members of the same family. Now, Billy starts very soon
with his housekeeping operations. His nest is artlessly built in the
middle of the bare hedgerow by the road, and anybody can find it.
But the blue eggs are so welcome, as well as so pretty, that the birds'-
nester always looks upon their discovery with great pleasure, viewing
them perhaps as an augury that others are on the way. We will
return to it when in search of the cuckoo.
r S_ -sOK 14
FIG. 22.-THRUSH'S NEST
When a hedge-sparrow's home has been found, it is seldom
that the search is vain for that of our famous native singer, the
song-thrush, throstle, or mavis. Its compact nest, lined inside with
cow-dung kneaded into a water-tight cement, is a marvel of work-
manship, and the eggs are also blue in colour. You are not so
likely to find it in thick close-clipped fences, such as run along the
hedgerow, as in larger bushes or hawthorns between the fields;
but the thrush seems to exercise great independence of judgment,
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
for its nest is placed in a wide variety of positions. For instance,
several are to be found any year in the hollow of a certain dene
familiar to the writer. A stream that is big in winter but in spring
soaks invisibly through the rotten leaves divides the plantation in
two, and has worn out a deep furrow with steep banks on either
hand, where tree roots are very much exposed. The song-thrush,
attracted probably by the snails and slugs frequenting the damp
soil, builds very freely in the bank. So does the redbreast, and
once or twice a pair of dippers have come, too. The larger missel-
thrush prefers, as we have seen, a loftier site for its home.
One of the most interesting nests of the hedgerow is that of the
butcher-bird, or the red-backed shrike. Owing to the curious habits
Fia. 23.--NEST O TmH RED-BACKED SHRIKE
of the bird it is not difficult to find, for of all birds that play at hot-
boiled beans with the birds'-nester, this is the simplest. It shrieks
desperately when one gets near its home, and only gives a sparrow-
like chirp when the searcher is 'cold.' Then, even when it is sitting
on the eggs, the birds'-nester may judge that the nest is not far away
when he comes upon its larder. It lives to a great extent upon
large insects, and has a habit of impaling them on thorns. When
you see humble bees and beetles in considerable numbers treated in
this fashion, you may look out for the shrike's nest with good hope
of success. It is large for the size of the bird, and generally high up
in the bush. The red-backed shrike is not an early nester, and is
FmI. 24.- TuE RRED-B1NTINGs NEST
only a summer visitor with us, coming here about the end of April
or beginning of May. About a fortnight after its arrival nests begin
to be numerous. The bird likes the South of England better than
the North, where it is somewhat rare to find a nest.
The discovery of nests in a hedge presents no great difficulty,
especially in the early part of the season, when foliage is still too
light to conceal them effectually. Probably, as houses are mostly
built close to fertile land, those nearest home will surround orchards,
parks, gardens, and highly cultivated fields. Such places are usually
haunted by many birds, which obtain abundant food among the
crops, and are protected from disturbance by gamekeepers, gar-
deners, and farmers, each of whom has reasons of his own for keeping
away trespassers. A boy birds'-nesting in the fields is not likely to be
interfered with, provided attention is paid to one or two simple rules.
First accustom yourself to see that every gate is properly fastened
behind you. Even a very good-natured shepherd or farmer is
likely to lose his temper, if through the carelessness of some ram-
bling boy cattle are permitted to stray, or a flock of sheep effects an
entrance into a field of young wheat, where they will hurt both
themselves aind the crop.
For the same reason no gaps should be wilfully made in the
fences. If you must get over, and there is no climbable opening,
do not grudge the trouble of making a considerable detour.
Again, great care should be taken not to damage crops. It is
best to avoid not only the rising corn and newly-sown land but all
that is ploughed. The furrow is never carried quite up to the
fence, and there is generally a little border of grass large enough to
walk on. You should keep to that.
Finally, pains should be taken not to disturb feeding stock.
Very little indeed is required to send a flock of sheep all scampering
together. Even if you are not seen it is very likely that you will
get innocent servants into trouble by carelessness in any of these
respects. Besides, the pastime of birds'-nesting is much more en-
joyable to one who steals very quietly along the headlands or by
the grass meadows. A great deal less is seen by a rollicking lad,
whose noisy approach is the signal for all living things to scurry as
fast as they can to their various hiding-holes. About April or May,
when cereal crops are in the ground, and keepers, aware that it
is not the season for poachers, give nearly the whole of their time
to the pheasants, the birds'-nester may spend entire days moving
about in fields without seeing a human being.
88 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
In a large hedge near human dwellings the house-sparrow, if
room under the eaves of the barn be scant, will oft-times build his
great ugly nest of straw by hundreds. When he does this one
sometimes hears him called the tree-sparrow. This is wrong, how-
ever, as the tree-sparrow is a different and less common bird. The
house-sparrow builds in the top boughs of the hawthorns ; the tree-
sparrow usually in a hole of a tree. The eggs of the two species
are very similar, but the tree-sparrow may be known by his brown
crown, the two black patches on his neck, and two bars on his wing.
Not much danger exists of confusing either of these with the hedge-
i \ .- II ,I
Fro. 25.--CIHArFFNH IN NEST
sparrow, which is quite a different bird. There is a fourth so-called
sparrow, the reed-sparrow or reed-bunting, which north-country boys
call the 'black pow,' and which some naturalists term the black-
headed bunting.' This name is now applied, however, to a very
rare British bird that does not nest here at all. The reed-bunting's
nest has been found in a low bush, but the bird loves marshy places
and you should look for it among rushes and long grass or on the
side of a bank. Very seldom is it placed more than a few inches
from the ground.
Many finches ,nest in the hedge. The greenfinch likes a low
FIG. 26.-TnI NEST OF THE BULLFINCH
bush or young tree best, but its home is often found in low haw-
thorns. So it need hardly be said is that of the chaffinch. If you
approach the nest of the latter during the hatching time the brave
and faithful mother will often sit till you nearly touch her, though
watching your approach with bright fearful eyes. And when that
is so I hope you will look and pass on without driving her from the
nest. The goldfinch too builds in the hedge occasionally, but that
is usually where the fence is rugged and bad, and the land poorly
FrI. 27.-NTsT Or HfAXVVTN(l.T
cultivated. Nests of blackbirds and thrushes are to be found in
The bullfinch does not so often go to a hedgerow, but prefers
a bush in some copse or spinney. I have found the nest amid
the -1..1...!...- i. of one of those small circular plantations that
often crown a little eminence in well-cultivated districts, and are
kept very quiet for the sake of the game. The bullfinch is a very
retiring bird during the breeding season, and the nest often requires
42 COUNTY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
a great deal of searching. It does not present quite such a neat
appearance as that of some other finches, but is very ingeniously
formed with a sort of platform of birch or hornbeam twigs, with a
lining made of very fine roots.
The hawfinch is even more wary and shy than the bullfinch. It
is really a very numerous species, and a great many nests are to be
found every year in and close to Epping Forest. The wood is noted
for hornbeams, the seeds of which form its favourite food. Yet
when taken in hard weather it has several times been brought to
me as a strange bird by persons tolerably familiar with the ordinary
birds of the neighbourhood. The nest is. often built quite regardless
of conceahnent in a half-rotten thorn, or in a fir-tree. More often
in Epping Forest it may be found, at the top of one of the many
pollard hornbeams. It is rather loosely constructed of dry twigs
and moss lined with softer substances, such' as hair, feathers, or
vegetable fibre. The eggs vary greatly in their markings, so that
the bird should if possible be identified by the collector.
When searching among woodlands or the undergrowth of shrub-
beries there is an interesting bird to be looked for, which although it
does not actually build in hedge or bush may be fittingly mentioned
here. I refer of course to the nightingale. Listening to it at night
one can easily tell that it loves to haunt the underwood at moist
places, where the grubs on which it mostly feeds are plentiful.
Nightingales are, however, very capricious in the choice of localities,
and there is no bird about the identification of which you should be
more particular. At the same time it is a mere act of folly to be
incredulous about the bird's presence merely because you have read
in a book that it does not visit a certain district. For example,
some authorities say that it is not found in the eastern counties
more than five miles north of the city of York. This.is not true.
The bird nests, and that not very rarely, in Northumberland. A
friend of mine, well known as a most accurate observer, has heard
the nightingale singing, seen the birds, and found the nest with
eggs in his shrubbery, not more than fourteen miles south of
Berwick-on-Tweed. And that was not an isolated appearance.
Many naturalists are sceptical, however, because people are con-
stantly mistaking the song of other birds, notably the song-thrush's,
for that of the nightingale. Hence if you fancy you recognize it in
a district to which it is said not to come spare no pains to find the
nest, and so afford convincing proof of being right. Quite close
to London, in Epping Forest for example, there is no difficulty
FIG. 28.-NEST Or TiE NXGIITIEGALn
about the matter, for birds have arrived in vastly increased numbers
during recent years.
The nest is not a marvel of construction, and yet is not very easily
found-it being generally placed close to the ground, and well con-
cealed with growing herbage. You may approach it very closely
without its catching your attention, for it is built of rubbish ford
in a wood, and may be taken for a mere accumulation of last year's
.-1iri, ;,. .The nightingale collects for her purpose rotten oak
leaves, dry rushes, withered grass, and allied substances, working
them into a deep but rather careless nest.
From four to six eggs of a reddish-brown colour are laid, and
the time to seek for them is in May, as cock birds arrive in this
country about the middle of April, and the hens follow about a
fortnight afterwards. When song, nest, and eggs all accord with
this description there need be no doubt about the species. It is very
common to see young birds in places where nightingales abound,
and the old birds are very loving and vigilant parents.
You may have read stories of a thorn being always placed in
nightingales' nests, and of the singer leaning his breast on one when
giving forth his most musical, most melancholy' song; but these
and a hundred other traditions have no basis in actual fact, as the
birds'-nester will soon discover for himself.
On wild moorland, on wastes and commons, and sometimes
quite close at hand in the shape of a fox cover, there are gorse
bushes that about birds'-nesting time look like masses of gold. It is
pleasant to ramble among them for their own sake, but they are
also chosen by several birds as favourite nesting places. The best
known of these is the linnet, so familiar in Scotland and in Scotch
poetry as the lintie. You will hear country people talk of the red
linnet,' the grey linnet,' and the brown linnet as if fi. were
three different birds, and some rather foolishly say the grey linnet
is ti .. 1 .. t -I.. -.:,. But the names refer to the same bird. Usually
the nest is placed in the middle of a thick bush-I have found one
close to a fox's den while '. ..i -... for the cubs to come out, in the
heart of a gorse cover. It is somewhat uncomfortable to march
through whins however, and the easiest way is to search the
detached clumps. The cock bird is so fond of perching and whist-
ling on a bush there is no difficulty about knowing where to seek.
Very similar to the linnet in colour, shape, and habits, is the
twite, whose nest may generally be found in the same locality,
though it nests in hedges or trees more freely than the linnet. I
46 COUNTY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
have not troubled you with the scientific names of birds so far, but
there is a special reason for doing so here. The term twite is often
inaccurately given to several -very different birds. It i: I. i.- .-.
to what some call the mountain linnet, the Linota Flavirostris of
That pretty lively little bird, the Dartford warbler, generally
chooses a site among the gorse, and its nest is rather difficult
to find. In the midland and northern counties it occurs very
rarely or not at all. In very much the same sort of place you
have a good chance of finding the nest of a much more widely dis-
seminated species, the greater whitethroat. It is usually called
merely the whitethroat, the word 'greater' being added to dis-
tinguish it from the lesser whitethroat, but the nest of this latter
must be searched for along the brambly hedgerows of the wayside.
Little birds I think vary much more than those of larger size in the
choice of spots whereon to build, and it would be unwise to seek
for them only in the places indicated. Search among the nettles,
ri, l..:, and other tall plants, and above all keep a sharp look-out on
the birds. You will soon discover from its nervous agitation and
its reluctance to leave the spot, whether a bird that has flown up
from the ground has or has not risen from the nest.
Two little birds may be mentioned here, because their nestlings
have long been prized-the siskin and the red-poll. Properly
speaking they are migrants who come here in autumn to escape
from the bitter cold farther north, and a vast majority fly back to
their old quarters as soon as the weather grows mild again. Some,
however, remain to breed in Scotland, and in most of the northern
counties of England. There are two common kinds of red-poll, the
mealy red-poll and the lesser red-poll. In habit they are almost
il,. I d'. and during winter flocks of siskins and red-polls are very
frequently seen r..._.Til,. r During the breeding season, when they
breed here at all, the red-polls are fond of such trees as the .. i!!... ,
birch, and alder, and their nests, generally built low down in a bush,
are to be sought for in coppices, underwoods, and bushes growing
near a stream. The siskin, I...o- 1ii it has been known to breed in
this country, has done so very rarely, and probably you will seek its
nest in vain.
If you find a nest of one of these species, or of any other
which is either very rare, or whose I i.-....1i.. in this country is
regarded as doubtful, a very good plan is to carry home an egg or
two, and place it under a brooding canary. In that way the species
may be ascertained beyond the admission of a doubt, and if the
experiment be successful the result will be a welcome addition to
the number of your pets.
It will be understood that no attempt is here made to give an
exhaustive list of the birds that nest in bush and hedgerow. To do
so would really be almost impossible, and would certainly be mis-
leading, as birds do not follow any uniform law, but choose their
homes according to the nature of the surroundings. All that can
be done is to indicate the kinds that may be searched for with a fair
prospect of success, and let the birds'-nester amplify the catalogue
THE CUCKOO'S EGGS
When you want to find the egg of the cuckoo, it will be far more
amusing to work out a systematic plan than to depend on luck or
chance. Begin by choosing a place to which this bird resorts. It
likes grassy meadows with plenty of trees round them, or a fox
FiG. 29.-Tim CUCKoo
cover half surrounded as it often is with quiet plantations, or a
sheltered sunny valley among low hills. The last mentioned is
most suitable for your purpose. To take a few examples, cuckoos
are very abundant during the season in many green declivities of
the Cotswolds, the Wiltshire Downs, the Malverns, the Yorkshire
48 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
Wolds, and the Cheviots. It is not difficult to find an egg where
there are comparatively few sites for birds' nests. A stream runs
down the middle, a dry stone wall divides the moor, there are a few
banks and bushes, perhaps a bit of scrubby hawthorn hedge.
You know of course that the egg of the cuckoo is placed in that
of another bird. Now in such a position as I have roughly
indicated, there are not so very many nests but that by diligent
search you may find out all or nearly all. Special care ought to be
taken to note those which there is any likelihood of the cuckoo
choosing for her purpose. That means nearly every nest in the
dale. There are no fewer than seventy-eight species on which
Madam Cuckoo has conferred the privilege of rearing her offspring.
But her first preference is for the hedge-sparrow, and her second
for the pied wagtail or the titlark, and then come a number of small
birds, selected ..... .I -, to the nature of the locality. Now, where
every possible site for a nest may be searched, you may beforehand
iro. 30.-CUCKOO's EGG FG. 31.-HEDGE-SPARROW's
find out exactly where each pair of birds is building, which nests
contain an egg or more, and on which incubation has begun. Care-
fully, once at least every day, you should slip quietly round in a
manner to cause as little disturbance as possible, and note what
progress has been made.
If cuckoos are plentiful it is quite certain that an egg will have
been deposited in one of the nests. The great difficulty lies in dis-
tinguishing it. Very few hen birds lay more than one egg in a
day, and in many cases there are blank days before the clutch is
completed, so if one afternoon you find four eggs in a nest which on
the previous day contained only two, you may suspect that the
cuckoo has been there.
How will the cuckoo's eggs be identified? This is a very
important question. First the size should be taken into account.
The cuckoo lays a very small egg, but still it is generally a little
larger than those beside which it is placed. Of the species
mentioned, the eggs of the hedge-sparrow and titlark are very
nearly of a size, those of the pied wagtail slightly bigger. But tho
average egg of the cuckoo is quite perceptibly larger than any
of them. So that this in itself will afford a clue, only it has to be
remembered that the cuckoo sometimes lays an egg smaller than
the largest specimens taken from the nests of the wagtail, pipit, or
dunnock. The markings next must be taken into account. But
in this respect the eggs of birds greatly vary. In the case of the
hedge-sparrow, however, this objection does not apply. Naturalists
do indeed assert that the cuckoo can lay a blue egg, but this occurs
so seldom that in practical birds'-nesting the possibility may be left
out of account. If in a hedge-sparrow's nest you find four blue
eggs without spot or marking, and another of a grey white colour
with darker markings and a little larger than the others, it has
certainly been laid by the cuckoo. After discovering one in a hedge-
sparrow's nest, you will not find it difficult to identify the cuckoo's
No doubt you would like to see the cuckoo actually place the
egg there, and with great patience you may succeed in doing so.
The first point is to keep the hens well under observation. Cock
birds are very easily seen, since they are showy, restless, noisy
creatures, ever flying from one tree to another, and giving out their
clear familiar cry. But the females are shy and quiet. There is
no difficulty in recognizing them, however, as they are exactly like
the males, except that they are '.i.l1, so big. Much of their time
is spent lurking by the roots of trees, the sides of plantations and
covers, and similar places. By keeping an eye on any one you
chance to meet, it is just possible that she may be seen laying
her egg on the ground and taking it up in her bill to deposit it in
some nest chosen for the purpose. Yet she is so wary that you need
not feel greatly disappointed if after much patient watching you
fail at last to witness this interesting process.
One thing may quite easily be done nevertheless. This is to
watch the development of the egg thus placed in a stranger's nest.
The chick does not conduct itself with the modesty of a guest, but
on the contrary, almost as soon as it is out of the egg begins trying
to hoist its foster brothers and sisters out of the nest by getting its
shoulders under them. When it has succeeded in doing so it settles
down to enjoy the unshared attention of the old birds, whose true
offspring have been so cruelly treated.
Altogether one cannot admire the moral character of the cuckoo.
50 COUNTY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
The parent birds never pair, and have not the slightest notion of
love or constancy. When the hen has popped her egg into any
convenient nest, she gives herself no further trouble about it, and
makes no attempt to feed or train her own child. As to this monster
it begins life by a desperate murder, and makes the bereaved
dunnocks feed it long after it should be working for itself.
FIe. 32. -THE CUCKOO AND ITS FOSTER BROTHERS
You doubtless have noticed how like a cuckoo is to a hawk both
in flight and feathers. Whether the small birds take it for one or
are intent on taking revenge for the injury it does to their homes,
.one may often see them mobbing and snubbing it. And really when
one thinks of the cuckoo's many iniquities, the only possible verdict
is It serves him right.'
NESTS IN RABBIT-HOLES
One might imagine that nests built in or on the ground would
be the easiest of any to discover, since they must lie within reach,
and have not the protection of height. The task is not quite so
FIG. 33.-A SMALL FOSTER MOTHER
easy as it appears, however, but as it necessitates plenty of walking
and exercise is full of amusement. Some birds that you would
hardly expect to do so in certain localities choose a very lowly site
for their home. For instance, in wild hilly ground, where there are
no trees or old ruins, the jackdaw, which usually prefers a very lofty
home, does not disdain to make its nest in a rabbit burrow. I
know a place among the Cheviots where a colony has done so for
many years. They are rather stupid too, for they convey a great
deal of useless lumber to these holes where it is not needed. Did
you ever see a jackdaw carrying a stick to its nest ? It holds it
by the middle and sometimes gets into a state of comical perturba-
tion because the twig so held bars its entrance to the hole. This
may often be seen where the nests are in rabbit-holes.
Still more frequently the stock-dove chooses an old rabbit burrow
for its nest, and seems to do so out of preference, because such nests
are to be met with in places where there are trees in abundance.
Generally the nests are so far in as to be just out of reach of a boy's
arm. On warrens where the furze bushes are close and thick the
stock-dove occasionally nests on the bare ground where it is sheltered
by whin. The bird, indeed, chooses a great variety of positions. The
starling, too, which owing to its vast increase of numbers is often
in great straits to find a nesting-place, is compelled sometimes to
do the best it can with a rabbit burrow. In searching old rabbit-
holes you may also now and then come upon the nest of an eccentric
owl, this bird, in default of a better situation, sometimes building
But it is at the sea-side that one finds the old rabbit-holes most
systematically chosen for nesting purposes. Rabbits like the sea-side.
On the rocky coast of Anglesey, and in the Orkneys, indeed almost
anywhere if the burrows are close to the shore, rabbits may be seen
when the tide is back, far out among the rocks. It is rather good
fun to chase them back with a terrier or spaniel. In Orkney Ihave
often found the storm petrel in possession of an old burrow. It
builds a careful nest and the hen lays only one white egg. The
nests are not very difficult to find if you happen to be in the right
district, but the storm petrel is capricious in its choice of locality, and
there are many apparently suitable parts of the coast where you
might seek for them in vain. Like many other sea birds it sits very
close, so close it may be lifted out of its nest, and on being touched
discharges an oil that is highly prized. The ear and the nostril soon
54 COUNTY P..STIE -1 FOR BOYS
warn you of the vicinity of a storm petrel's nest, for the bird is ever
chattering, and its home has a rank odour.
In Orkney, too, the sheldrake is fairly common. As it breeds
in most of the counties on the east coast no great i!i..i -is ex-
IJll 1,. 11
-FIG 34.-TE STOM PET-EL'S NEST
grass and bent twigs, but H---u;u' 1 lined with soft down. The
bird is very cunning, and tries many tricks to wile the searcher away
from its home.
from its home.
The ash-coloured solitary egg of the puffin is another that in
various parts of the coast may be found within a rabbit-hole. One
can hardly say the nest is there, for the puffin does not take the
trouble to make one, but is content to sit on the bare ground. Some-
times the puffins wage war on the rabbits of a warren, and by
means of their strong beaks are generally successful in expelling the
rightful owners from their homes. Where there are no rabbit
the puffins dig a hole for themselves.
K_ m a,.::.,..,.
.1 ,11 ;I.',- I
FIG. 35.-PUFrINs AND RABBITS
On the dry level heaths of Sliffolk, which are mostly utilised as
extensive rabbit warrens, and in similar positions elsewhere in the
kingdom, you will often find the shy and handsome whoat-ear in
possession of an old burrow. Remember, however, that it has no
special prepossession for the. rabbits' hole, but will take advantage
of any opening or even a cavity under a stone or large clod. It
..I,..I, a great lot of dry vegetation, but does not weave it i.!,ldi,
56 COUNTY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
and the nest is easily found either by noticing the refuse at the
hole mouth or watching the movements of the hen bird. It lays
generally five, but sometimes as many as eight, eggs of a light-blue
These are the chief of the birds that breed in rabbit-holes. In
searching for them bear in mind that no great preference is given to
the hole of a rabbit. Any other cavity or opening in the rocks that
is suitable is taken advantage of, and so in searching for nests it is
necessary to look wherever you think it possible that one might
be placed. In searching rabbit-holes it will happen that the nests
of birds not mentioned here will be found, for not uncommonly
individuals of various species depart from the general custom and
take advantage of these convenient openings.
NESTS ON THE GROUND
On going out to look for plovers' eggs it will be discovered that a
nest placed on the bare ground is by no means so easily observed
as might be expected. Pewits are still very numerous, though the
quantity of eggs taken every spring, and the number of birds shot
for the table every autumn and winter, must sooner or later make
the species scarce. At present, however, when you walk over moor-
land or fallow in early spring, the noise made by the birds and their
swooping flight almost close to your face tell at once where the
nests are. To find them, nevertheless, is no simple matter to one un-
accustomed to it. A few pieces of withered grass or dry bents are
not easily noticed, and the eggs with their dark blotches are far
from being conspicuous. By either of two methods, however, they
may be found with certainty. The more laborious is to quarter the
ground very patiently. You walk up and down, as you go, in your
mind mapping out the field in small sections, each of which is
searched by the eye as you pass through it. The great object is not
to let your attention rove, but to concentrate it on a very small
space at a time. I like the other plan better, because it depends
less on patient work than on accurate observation. On entering a
field you watch the exact spot from which a lapwing rises, and mark-
ing it as a beater marks a shot pheasant, walk up to it. When the
pewit is sitting close, she cowers to escape your notice, or then with
trailing wing makes a pretence of lameness to entice you into a
chase, and thus distract attention from her brood. The long-legged
grey-coloured chicks are also very cunning and clever. They are
wonderfully quick to take advantage of the slightest concealment,
and when they can do nothing better cower among the stones com-
mon on upland fields, and at a little distance the keenest eye cannot
tell a bird from a stone, so much do the two resemble one another.
The mother pewit and the father are very brave and plucky. When
one of those black marauders, an old rook or a carrion crow, sneaks
into the field on the prowl for eggs or birds, you may see a delightful
exhibition of natural falconry. The lapwings are splendid fliers,
Fio. 36.-THE LAPWING's NEST
and rising above the intruder they 'stoop' at him in magnificent
style. He, knowing himself to be outmatched, when escape by direct
flight is impossible, dodges their blows as well as he can till it is
possible to get among the branches of the nearest tree or bush.
It shows how ridiculous a thing fashion is when plovers' eggs are
sold at an average price of about fifteen shillings a dozen, and
pheasants' eggs may be had for threepence a piece. Any competent
judge will admit that the eggs of game birds are the more delicious,
and those who produce them for rearing would very willingly sell
them for the table.
58 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
The ringed plover or stonehatch does not stray very often or very
far from the sea-side. It scoops out a hollow in the sand for its nest,
and sometimes lines it with tiny stones not bigger than gray peas,
and that is its only preparation for breeding. The eggs are cream-
coloured with blue and black spots and streaks, and usually about
four in number.
-. -- C';, 4 '*- t :1 "
4 r '0A4 I
7 .. .* I ,- .
.*'heath in a slight indentation.
FIG. 37- EGGS or RINGED PLOYE b
Among the mossy uplands of the northern counties of England
and in Scotland there will be no difficulty in obtaining the eggs of
the golden plover-a species very much thinned further south. It
hardly makes any nest at all, but the hen lays her eggs on the bare
heath in a slight indentation.
You are likely to quarrel with the keeper if you go bflds'-nesting
when there is a certainty of finding the eggs of game birds, so it will
be prudent to avoid preserves during the breeding season. But the
pheasant is of such a roving disposition that no one can wander
much in the fields without coming across a nest. The pheasant is
by no means very particular in its choice, and if a river flows past
the plantation reserved for breeding will often fly across, and build
in a wayside bed of nettles or the growth ini a fiekl corner. When
a nest is discovered in such a position it is generally best to tell the
keeper that he may recover the eggs and have them hatched out by
barn-door fowls. Otherwise they are merely a temptation to the
FW 1R-T im P EF'AANZT Nr.ST
The country proverb says 'partridges follow corn,' meaning that
the bird increases as land is brought under the plough, and wherever
the land is well cultivated no difficulty will be experienced in i, i,.i I
the nest of this bird. It is a very slight construction formed of dead
oak leaves or similar material. Partridges love the highway, where
-I' may often be seen dusting themselves in summer, and a few
nest among the rank herbage of the wayside. This is the most
convenient place to seek for them. No birds are more faithful and
60 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
brave. The hen will sit almost till you trample on her, and some-
times will allow herself to be lifted and patted t i... t 'I ;II i -_ away.
Than.the grey little nestlings, I know of no more charming birds in
England. Lie concealed to watch them running and feeding with
their parents, and I am sure you will fully agree with the opinion.
The red-legged partridge or 'Frenchman' does not differ very
much in its nesting habits from the ordinary English breed, though
it is more given to frequenting high upland country and woodland.
The eggs vary a good deal, but generally have mor6 of a reddish tint
than the others.
Among the birds which involve an interesting search before the
eggs are found is the landrail or corn crake. Its harsh cry is one of
3 ff/ r. -
,- ; .. '
-" .*g.' "
Fic. 39.-THE CORN CRAKE's NEST
the most familiar announcements of spring, and on that account
very welcome. When heard in mid-April it often seems to come
from places where the grass is hardly long enough for cover, and
many a race I dare say you have had to find the hidden minstrel.
But though the corn crake has excellent wings, it trusts mostly to
its clever cunning method of dodging and its long legs, so that when
there is little cover one cannot always obtain a view of it. The
favourite place for its nest is in the middle of a clover field, where
you cannot go to seek it. When the grass is being cut it is not
4~- r; -=.V-E
FIG. 40.-YOUNG PAITRIDGES
S i -j.T i1*- U
]71G~sL~r-. 40A APi-nWAGAZ'SI'ES
.-; I -
FIQc. 4Oa.--A WILLoW-XDE I~~lrIII' IBS
unusual for the nest to be laid bare, and more than once I have seen
a bird with its legs cut clean off by a scythe, or killed by a grass-
cutting machine, for it sits very close, and will not rise till compelled
to. If you wish to hunt for its nest without damaging the crop,
choose one of those small plantations standing out among the
fields, where there is an undergrowth of grass or nettles. The
crake likes such a position, and its voice may often be heard from
it, especially in the early part of the season. It makes a very
simple nest of dry grass and twigs. The eggs are pale with a tinge
of red, and grey and reddish speckles--usually about seven in
There are several other crakes the eggs of which are more
valuable than those of the landrail, because the birds are somewhat
scarce. The least so is the spotted crake. It frequents marshy
places, and its nest is often found close to wet ground near a tuft of
rushes, or a grass tussock. It is built of sedges and other water
plants, and has a soft lining. The eggs are tinged as if with ochre,
and are speckled with a reddish brown.
Baillon's crake has been known to nest in Norfolk, but is so
great a rarity it hardly demands more than passing notice in a
chapter about common English birds and their nests.
Some years ago it was considered a wonderful thing to obtain
the eggs of the woodcock, for it is one of our winter visitors, and
comes hither only to escape the hardships of the far north. But
since covers and plantations came to be so general, the numbers
that remain here to breed have greatly increased. You know, per-
haps, that the bird seeks its food by night, and all day sits concealed
in a thick evergreen. In searching for an old bird keep thinking of
its dark shining eye; but for that it would many a time be un-
noticed. The nest is a mere hollow scraped out among dead leaves,
not necessarily near a bush, and the eggs, usually four in number,
are.rather white, with red and brown specks and blotches. When
you find a nest, look out for the table of moss on which worms for
the young are laid. The woodcock, when alarmed, has an interest-
ing habit of carrying off a poult in her claws, and you will find it
amusing to try and discover exactly how this is done.
It is scarcely necessary to say that the woodcock, as its name
implies, is a bird of the woodlands. You might almost take it for
an owl as it dodges away among the trees on being disturbed in
daytime. The common snipe, an equal or even a greater favourite
with the sportsman, comes down to the ditches and low marshes in
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS.
hard weather, but during the breeding season it retires to the up-
land moors of Scotland and the level fens of Lincolnshire and Nor-
folk. It builds sometimes in a slight depression on open ground,
sometimes close to a tussock or plot of rushes. Usually the eggs
are four in number, and rather white, with brown spots. You may
.-i .I I know that a nest is near if the cock bird, while it is soar-
ing high up in the air, makes that curious sound which, in some
localities, has earned for it the name of heather-bleater. The great
majority of even the common snipe go away at the breeding season,
and the jacksnipe is a winter visitor only.
in such exposed situations, oes the bird e its home, tht it is
FIe. 41.--THE WOODCOCK
When fishing in mountain streams, it will be pleasant sometimes
to end the day or begin it with birds' '. -I; ... On such occasions,
the eggs of the snipe will be found without difficulty, and naturally
you will also desire to find the home of the grouse. So early, and
in such exposed situations, does the bird make its home, that it is
not uncommon for many nests and some young broods to be caught
in the drift of a late mountain snowstorm and destroyed. There
are two species-black grouse and red grouse. The latter is the
more common, and is the bird sportsmen go out to shoot on
u I, I
.r -I N&"J
' ,9 ..
-1 .. ,
I'/ r5 '-
August 12. The grouse likes a sunny knowe,' and usually makes
its nest of dry grass and heather-stems close to a healthy clump.
From eight or nine to nearly double that number of eggs are laid,
and the kok, kok, kok of the male bird is a seldom-failing indica-
tion that his mate is sitting at no great distance. The nest of the
black grouse must be sought for in closer proximity to plantations.
The eggs are a size larger, and the ground colour has more of a
yellow tint than is the case with those of the red grouse. But
to make quite sure of their identity it is best to wait for a
view of the parent bird, in regard to which there need be no
Considering their usual habits, it is somewhat strange that birds
of prey should in several cases make a lowly nest on the ground.
When in moorland districts it will be worth your while to look out
for the eggs of the merlin. It hardly makes any nest at all, but
deposits its eggs sometimes on the bare heath, and sometimes on a
cliff or a cleft in some half-blasted mountain tree. They are pretty
eggs, but variable in their marking, the ground colour being light,
and with blotches of bright and vivid tint.
There are two harriers,' whose eggs are nowadays rare, though
once common enough in England. Partly, no doubt, this is due to
the reclamation of waste land, but still more so to the greed of
collectors and bird-stuffers. The hen-harrier used to nest in Har-
row Bog and a gully called the Henhole in the Cheviots. No
plough ever has come or is ever likely to come near these places.
It has disappeared, because the birds have been shot and the eggs
taken for specimens. The marsh-harrier used to abound in the
Fen country, so that possibly its virtual extinction may be due to
drainage. Should you find the nest of either, I hope you will
either wholly forego the pleasure of increasing your collection, or
then rigidly confine yourself to the abstraction of a single egg,
keeping the secret of where you found it to yourself. If you ramble
across the moorlands, and surely you will never find a healthier or
pleasanter amusement, it is not at all impossible that you will find
one or other of the nests, for to any place where a hawk has been
another pair may come any season from another county.
There are many small birds which nest on the ground, and
whose eggs it is pleasant to seek. Chief of these is our national
songster, the familiar lark. A poet has, in the following often-
quoted words, most accurately described the skylark's nest:
68. COUNTRY PA STiME; FOC 0OYS
The daisied lea he loves, where tufts of grass
Luxuriant crown the ridge; there, with his mate,
He founds their-lowly house, of withered bents
And coarsest speargrass: next, the inner work
With finer and still finer fibres lays,
Rounding it curious with his speckled breast.
Four or five eggs, white in ground colour, but greatly speckled
and blotched with brown, are laid in this nest, which is an easy one
0-194 F /A-r1,,I
FIG. 43-A SHYLARR a NEST
to find. The woodlark is rather smaller than the skylark, which it
otherwise resembles. It is said to mount and sing, but those I have
seen did not do so. From a perch on the trees, however, you may
hear it whistling. Very often the nest may be found in the grass
or other herbage near a tree or bush in a plantation, but the bird
also builds in the open, in a clump of heather or tall bent. The
eggs show a clearer white and a brighter brown than those of the
first-mentioned species. Several other larks are included in the
catalogue of British birds, but they are not known to nest in this
The word titlark is variously applied to several birds, according
to the usage of the district, but it usuary refers to the meadow-
pipit, and is so employed in this book. It makes a pretty hair-
lined nest, if possible in a hole in a bank or the steep side of a ditch,
and, when such a position is not available, in the open ground.
The eggs vary considerably, but, in most cases, show a ground
colour of white, almost concealed by brown markings.
Fie. 44.-THE MEADOW-PIPIT'S NEST
Two other pipits there are whose eggs the young collector may
desire to have, viz. the tree-pipit and the rock-pipit. As its name
implies, the former haunts plantations, but it nests on the ground,
usually under the shelter of a tall plant or bush, and lays four or
five eggs, remarkable for :,..1( In' more than the extent to which
they vary in appearance ; a ground of white with brown markings
70 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
is very frequent, however. The rock-pipit frequents the seaside.
Out of dry grass and seaweed, with a lining of hair, it makes a nest
in some cosy nook beside a stone or under a tuft of grass, sometimes
even on a cliff, and lays four or five eggs, nearly as variable
as those of the tree-pipit, the prevalent colours being grey or
Among the buntings, the most familiar is the yellowhammer, in
Scotland called the yellow yity, or yellow yorline. If you have
read one of the pleasantest fairy tales ever written, you know that
when Kilmeny went up the glen, it was only to hear the yorline
syng.' The yorline nests in a great variety of places, but its favourite
position is a hole, in some grassy bank, where it builds its not very
elaborate nest. It is difficult and hardly needful to describe the
eggs, as the parent birds are so conspicuous and easily identified.
The ground colour is pale, with sometimes a pink suffusion, and
the markings inclining almost to black. The reed-bunting is only
the proper name for the reed-sparrow, of which something has already
been said. Late in May or June you may find the nest of the com-
mon or corn bunting amid the rank herbage of the wayside, or at the
foot of a briar or bramble bush, but it builds more frequently among
peas or clover. It lays four or five eggs, grey, with very dark mark-
ings. The snow-bunting has been known to nest in Scotland, high
up among the Grampians, and in other wild situations, but is so
rare in this country that only by chance can you hope to obtain a
One of the earliest birds of spring is the chiffehaff, with whose
monotonous but welcome cry every dweller in the country is fami-
liar. As may readily be observed, it haunts copses and plantations,
and is particularly fond of old elm-trees. It usually builds on the
ground a pretty domed nest, with an opening at the side, and one
may easily watch it carrying grass and moss and feathers for the
purpose. The place chosen is generally where the ground is over-
grown with grass or fern, and under the shelter of a tree. Some-
times, however,.you may.find. it in a hedgebank or the ivy of an
old wall. Six eggs are laid. They are in colour very white, with
brown or grey speckles.
On returning from a ramble among the hills, when crossing a
wide moor or common at dusk, just when the bright golden flowers
of the broom and gorse are, in departing light, fading into a darker
bronze, you have often, I dare say, watched the hawklike flight of
the nightjar or goatsucker, as it hunts its insect prey, and listened
FiG. 45.-TTr-, CommoNoh BUNTING's NrST
COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
to the churr-rr-ing cry with which its lovemaking is conducted. It
loves a waste place round which plantations run, and where wide
stretches of fern and bracken alternate with whin and heather.
The bird makes no nest at all, but drops its two eggs on a hollow
n .I r"- -" '
I N .. .. .
1 '. ,' .',,.'' .- .' ,'.. -I
b .- '. ,'* "
Fia. 46.--THE NIGHTAR
place in the ground, usually near the shadow of a tree. They
are pretty eggs, with a ground colour of white, and brown and
grey markings. In southern counties the nightjar is more common
than further north, yet it is by no means a stranger on Northum'
Another bird of 'the moorlands is the dotterel, but it has become
so very scarce in England as hardly to come within the birds'-
nester's sphere. A nest is said to be occasionally found on the
Cheviots and on the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland,
but I fear you would findit in vain to search for one. The dotterel
builds a mossy nest in a very high situation, and lays three eggs,
grey with brown markings.
More easily obtained is the brown spotted olive green egg of the
curlew, so familiar on our shores during the breeding season. In
Scotland it is called a whaup, and of all the cries heard about the
mountains towards evening, I think its is the dreariest. The nest is
not difficult to find. On the very wet Derby Day of 1890 I came
ion one amid the hills just over against Loch Ard. It consisted of
some dry vegetable fibre carelessly put together in a tuft of grass.
This was rather late in the season, as the female usually begins to
sit in April. Those who are fond of angling in hill-streams are
very likely in their walks to and fro to meet with a nest.
The interesting nest of the eider duck is not found in the south
or west of England, but may be seen without much difficulty by
any boy in Northumberland or the counties on the Firth of Forth.
It is generally found near the sea-the Fame Islands are a favourite
resort-but occasionally it has been obtained some distance inland,
where the bird chooses a situation among strong heather or under
the shelter of a bush. At first the nest is composed only of fine sea-
weed, but after the hen has sat for a time she begins to pluck the
-. "^ .
Fic. 47.-THE EIDE DUcK's NEST
down from her breast, and form a warm inside lining that covers the
eggs up altogether. This is very valuable, and in Iceland and other
northern countries, where the birds are numerous, they are strictly
preserved for the sake of it. The egg is pale green in colour, and is
In the same way pairs of teal, the smallest of our ducks, remain
Sbed in the counties of Deon an Somerset, Hampshire Suss
FIG. 47.--THE ELDEn DUCE'S NEST
down from her breast, and form a warm inside lining that covers the
eggs up altogether. This is very valuable, and in Iceland and other
northern countries, where the birds are numerous, they are strictly
preserved for the sake of it. The egg is pale green in colour, and is
prized for the table.
The tufted duck is another species the eggs of which may be
obtained in certain localities. It is a winter visitor, but a few
remain to breed in certain localities, particularly in Nottingham-
shire, where eggs may be obtained.
In the same way pairs of teal, the smallest of our ducks, remain
t, breed in the counties of Devon and Somerset, Hampshire, Susses
74 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
and Kent, Norfolk and the northern counties. The nest should be
sought in bogs and marshes, or where rushes grow. Sometimes it
has been nmown to contain as many as fifteen white eggs, occasion-
ally inclining towards a brown colour.
The shoveller, or spoon-bill duck, at one time bred freely in various
parts of East Anglia and other districts, but has now become rare.
The nest is made of fine grass, often on an island and seldom far
from the coast. Like the eider duck the female shoveller plucks
off her down to wrap the eggs, sometimes as many as fourteen in
number, and of a greenish dun shade. You may notice in the
illustration how the white markings on the male bird resemble the
gleam of the white stones amongst which he sits, and how the colour
of the female seems to merge into that of her surroundings. They
provide a fine example of protective colouration.
On commons and heaths where the gorse blooms at birds'-nesting
time there are two birds whose homes it is delightful to seek. The
stonechat and the whinchat are not at all lurking or hiding birds,
and are to be seen quite easily by anyone ,,, ii1.1i over their
.. I _- .. ,,.
FIG. 48.-THE STONECHAT
haunts. The stonechat is the smaller of the two, and as it flies
appears an obviously darker bird than the other. It nests rather
early, and usually chooses a sheltered place at the roots of a bush.
It makes a pretty home lined with hair and feathers, and an outside
of the dried vegetable refuse found on heaths. The whinchat often
FIG. 49.-A PAIR OF SHOVELLERS
chooses an exactly similar locality, though it will sometimes build
not under, but in the bush, or in the middle of a cornfield. The
eggs are very much like those of the stonechat, being of a pale pure
blue, while those of the latter are blue with a greenish tinge. Both
are at times dotted with brown.
The most dangerous part of bird's-nesting is undoubtedly the
collection of the eggs of sea-birds, the great majority of which lay
their eggs on the ground or on steep cliffs. It would be easy to
describe some of the operations by which they are reached, but the
result of doing so would probably be to tempt some inexperienced
beginner into peril. You may see boys who have been born near a
rocky shore doing with ease and confidence feats of climbing with
or without a rope, that make you think the work rather easy. But
probably they have tried such things from infancy. The only safe
plan for a beginner is to look out for an experienced companion,
and abstain from any solitary collection. It requires some nerve
even to let oneself be dangled at the end of a rope to rob the nests
of pigeons that haunt the rocky banks or 'scaurs of the Jed and
some other Border streams, but much more to go over the side of a
Caithness cliff, with a wild sea boiling down below. Some eggs are
to be obtained quite easily, however. In mentioning a few of the
more common, it should be distinctly understood that I recommend
young inland bred boys not to climb, or if they will do so, to have
Should you happen to be near any of the islands that fringe
the coast of Great Britain very interesting birds'-nesting may be
obtained. In my own experience, there are none richer than the
Fame Isles. If you have read the history of Grace Darling, you
know they lie off the coast of Northumberland, between Belford and
Bamborough. The birds are, very properly, protected but you may
see the nests and eggs, though you may not take them. The Orkney
and Shetland Islands and the Hebrides are rich in bird life. So,
indeed, is every other group of islands, and when luck sends you on a
visit to any of these, you may with safety prepare for this amuse-
Let us start with some of the birds grown familiar to you in all
likelihood during summer holidays spent at the seaside. There is-
78 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOR BOYS
the gannet or Solan goose, so often watched when he is fishing. He
comes sailing along on his broad white pinions, far above the
waves of a tranquil summer sea, then suddenly stops, and begins
to fall like a stone down to the blue water, into which he falls with
a splash, emerging victoriously a moment after with a fish in his
mouth. Many a long afternoon I have watched them doing so
from the little eminence above Brodick Bay in Arran, and never
did I see the bird miss his mark.
Our early ancestors must have watched the same operation
with pleasure, for in the Saxon Chronicle,' the sea, in allusion to
this habit, is called the 'Ganet bath.' The only place in England
where eggs are to be found is on Lundy Island. In Scotland
gannets resort for breeding purposes to the famous Bass Rock, near
North Berwick, to Ailsa Craig, and two or three places in the
Orkneys. Where they are not disturbed, they build fearlessly within
easy reach on the bare rock, but as young Solan goose has long been
reckoned a tit-bit for a Scotch dinner, many are taken for this
purpose, and when this is done, the parents move their habitation
to the unclimbable rocks. They make a large nest out of seaweed
and any miscellaneous rubbish that comes handy, and lay one egg,
white, with a bluish tinge. It is interesting to note the gradual
transformation of the nestling, which, when hatched, is the ugliest
and most shapeless little creature conceivable.
The black greedy cormorant, to be seen rocking lazily above the
water, or rising awkwardly and skimming it with heavy flapping
wings, in some places chooses to rest on the tree-tops, but in others
does not even trouble to go up the high cliffs, and constructs his
nest on some low rock in proximity to the sea. The female lays
from three to six eggs, white with a faint blue tinge. You will not
find it difficult to obtain one without climbing. The cormorant,
despite its appearance, is a very intelligent bird, and has frequently
been tamed, and taught to use its fishing powers for the benefit of
man. On rugged coasts its cousin, the shag, green cormorant,
scart, or scarth, is more numerous. Its eggs very much resemble
those of the other bird; you must look for its nest in the dark
recesses of caves and on the ledges of shelving rocks.
Very nearly all English gulls nest among the rocks or on bare
rocky islands. The most common are the kittiwake and herring
gulls, the so-called common gull, the great black-backed, and the
lesser black-backed gulls, the black-headed gull-of which some-
thing will be said hereafter-and the great black-headed gull. Most
of these lay a brownish egg with darker blotches or speckles. To
these may be added the terns, the common tern, the Arctic tern,
the sandwich tern, and the lesser tern. It is the' last mentioned
that occasionally breeds inland, and is by some country people
called the sea-swallow. The terns make no nest, and their eggs
are very seldom placed out of reach.
The skuas resemble the gulls in many respects, but are much
more interesting to watch, as they may truly be called ocean birds
of prey, as one may see from their crooked bill and strong claws.
F'IG. 50.-HERRING GULL ON NEST
They do not fish for themselves, but wait till a gull has taken a
prey, and then give chase. Nearly always the gull has to drop the
spoil, when the powerful robber seizes it as it falls. In Orkney,
particularly during hard cold weather, I have often watched the
process when out shooting, and the skuas are not rare on any part
of the northern coasts. But they do not breed freely in this
country, and probably it will cost you some trouble to obtain their
eggs. The great skua nests only in the Shetland Islands. It lays
two eggs of a brown colour with dark markings. In Orkney the
most common is the Arctic or Richardson's skua, and it breeds on
80 0OtNiPPY PA TIMES FO6 BOYS
the cliffs of Hoy, and in the island of Eday. The eggs are two in
number, and laid in a depression, no nest being made. As the
skuas have suffered so much from the ravages of collectors that
their numbers are greatly reduced, it is to be hoped that anyone
who has the luck to find a nest will either let the birds breed in
peace, or content himself with only one-to take both would be
ON" WALLS AND -RUINS.
A ruined building seldom fails to yield something of interest
to the birds'-nester. Careful investigation should therefore be made
of every one within walking distance. Attention must not be con-
fined to picturesque old towers and castles. There are in England
considerable numbers of solitary cottages and farmhouses that,
having for some reason become empty, are neglected by the owners
and allowed to decay. By shuttering down the windows and other
means, attempts may be made for a time to keep them habitable,
but eventually ti-l rot and crumble, the garden is choked with
weeds, and wild creatures take possession of the rooms.
One of the first of the newcomers is the swallow. It is always
glad of an inside nesting-place, whatever the situation of the house
may be. You will find nests in the one empty house of a populous
village, and where the cottage of a moorland shepherd, standing
solitary among miles of heather, has been vacated the swallow is
prompt to enter. The farm cart-shed and the distant field-shelter
for cattle suit its purpose equally well. The nest, carefully built of
wet earth and straw and leaves, with the white, speckled eggs, are
so easily obtained and so familiar it is unnecessary to describe them
minutely. One warning only need be given, which is not to con-
found the swallow with the martin-the temple-haunting martlett
of Shakespeare-whose nest is so often placed in the upper corner
of a window, and is a triumph of bird architecture. There is less
danger of confusing it with the swift, which generally nests under
the eaves of houses, and whose circling race at sundown, with its
whirring and whistling you are sure to have noticed, as well as the
fact that while swallows and martins alight on the ground and rise
from it without difficulty, the swift, when its feet once touch the
earth, experiences obvious trouble before it can get on the wing
again. It lays four white eggs, and it has been proved that a
pair of birds return faithfully for many years to the same nesting-
place. You may test the truth of the statement by catching one,
and encircling its leg with a band. In the following year it will
be most interesting to watch if it returns.
--' 'r -- -
FIG. 51.-THE HOUSE-IMArTIN' NEST
The sparrow is almost as prompt as the swallow to find out
when a house is to let, and to quarter itself there. During the
breeding season it differs from the swallow in this respect, that it
will hardly go away from human habitations. You will not find the
sparrow nesting in a solitary and deserted moorland cottage. Its
large, untidy, feather-lined home, with the white, speckled, and
blotched eggs, are familiar to everybody. One good word to be said
of the sparrow, however, is that it makes a most affectionate and
tender parent. The nest shows that this is combined with a con-
siderable love of its own comfort.
The robin, the thrush, and the blackbird have all been known
to nest within the four walls of a forsaken human dwelling, and
once or twice in woodland districts I have surprised a visitor not
very welcome to them in the shape of a squirrel, who would hide
behind a rafter till discovered, then leap nimbly out by a hole in
the ro6f, thence to the branches of an overhanging tree, and so
away to the woods again. When nuts are out of season the squirrel
82 COUNTRY PASTIMES FOB BOYS
will readily eat eggs or even callow nestlings, and doubtless was on
the prowl for something of the kind.
The larger the building the more likely are there to be nests in
it, and a ruined farmhouse standing by itself, or a water-mill long
disused, is a source of perpetual interest. Much more so is one of
the crumbling old feudal strongholds or ancient abbeys, of which
considerable numbers remain. Some from their historical or other
importance are carefully preserved, and the birds'-nester is strictly
excluded. It is very proper that this should be done, since monu-
ments of the past if once destroyed are irrecoverable. On no
account should advantage be taken of circumstances to make a raid
into forbidden ground of this kind. But there are many buildings
to which free access is afforded.
Climbing walls is in one respect more dangerous than climbing
a tree. Should you lose your grip or foothold on the latter and
come tumbling down, it is possible that after all the fall will not
hurt you much, since the twigs and branches will break its force.
Should the same mishap occur as you are climbing up a wall the
consequences are likely to be more serious.
Usually there are two methods of getting up a ruin. The ivy
during many generations has probably grown so thick and strong,
that one may climb up the outside by means of it. Often when you
get to the top the nests most coveted are still out of reach, being
placed in embrasures and chambers entered only from the other
side. Within the building there are likely to be ancient staircases,
with several steps missing and long jumps between, chinks in the
wall where the feet of previous climbers have rested, and other aids
to ascent, varying according to the position and nature of the ruin.
It is not possible to give you any but the most general directions for
getting up. Be sure in the first place not to venture where there is no
way back. I remember once dropping from the turret of a Border
keep into a room, of which the entrance was closed with wood. It
was easy to get down, but to mount again up a bare wall seven feet
high was impossible. So I had to remain in prison till a woodman,
luckily having to pass that way home to his supper, heard my cry
and extricated me with a rope. For the rest you can hardly be too
cautious. It is not only that rashness may result in broken bones,
but probably if an accident occurs they-you can interpret the
pronoun for yourself-will stop all further expeditions.
Certainly the prizes to be captured in an old castle repay a great
deal of trouble. There are often half-wild young pigeons by the
rr-* r-: 'i -'
X, I; r~c rr.4.- I.-
FIa. 52.-A SWALLOW'S NEST AND EGGS