Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/104

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long absent friends who fill once more the accustomed niche after wintering in Egypt or on the Riviera.

But, before we welcome the coming, let us speed the parting guests, to wit, the feathered hosts which made a descent last autumn upon our English woods and waters to escape the rigours of a northern winter, and whose instinct now draws them homeward towards Highland loch or Norwegian fjeld. In April the number of wild-fowl upon lake, river and estuary grows daily less. The wild geese, the majority of our winter ducks, such as the Pintail, Wigeon, Pochard and Scoter, Mergansers and Divers, all seek their northern breeding haunts, though some will still be with us until the first or second week of May. The Woodcock is no longer to be flushed from the soft ground under the hollies by the spring-head, where his russet plumage harmonises so well with the carpet of dead leaves. The Jack Snipe has left the patch of swamp where any day since last October we have been able to find him amongst the tufts of tawny sedge. The little green Siskins no longer hang from the twigs of birch and alder as they extract the seed. Under the beeches we look in vain for the Bramblings which, with their near relatives, the chaffinches, have pecked all through the winter at the fallen "mast." With musical call-note and the glint of sunshine on white wings, the Snow Buntings leave our northern coasts. Who knows to what far arctic solitude their summer wanderings may