Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/133

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MAY

99

catch a glimpse of the neat red-capped hen for whom his minstrelsy is tuned. This is the typical song, but at other times he improvises, singing quietly to himself in a strain so different that we may fail to recognise its authorship. Many other birds interweave at times unfamiliar variations into their songs. The stonechat and whinchat may be quoted as examples.

The next arrival is more likely to be identified by its movements than by its voice. The Spotted Flycatcher is said to have a song, but it is so faint and low that few can claim to have heard it. However, the flycatcher's rapid dash after an insect and return to its perch are so characteristic that an added voice would be superfluous. Various other birds, even the starling, sparrow and chaffinch, attempt this manœuvre on calm days when insects are flying high, but the flycatcher is the only one which performs it gracefully and with certainty.

If, when the hawthorns are white, we chance to catch a glimpse of a very shy bird which, as it goes down the hedge-side, looks something like a large edition of the redstart, we may know the Red-backed Shrike or Butcher Bird, and may look for the nearest blackthorn bush with the expectation of finding a number of insect victims impaled upon its spines.

On the first warm evening after the month has half run its course, the Nightjar may be looked for, as it skims in the gloaming with noiseless flight round the