Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/16

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large amount of amateur interest in natural history is afloat, as may be gleaned from casual notes in every newspaper. The early arrival of the cuckoo is noted by some more eagerly than the latest news from the East. Smith, who has found a robins' nest, with eggs, in his summer arbour, as he goes up by the early train triumphs openly over Jones, who can only report a blackbird building in his garden-hedge. Nor is our resentment over-deep when a smoky chimney is accounted for by the jackdaw's playful habit of filling it with sticks, or when the flooding of an attic is traced to a sparrow's penchant for nesting in the receiver of the rain-water pipe. For our familiar birds we have the feeling which springs from the inherited association of many generations. To take an instance—for how many centuries has the beauty of the hedge-sparrow's eggs appealed to the careless heart of boyhood? Happily in Britain none of our favourites are in the least danger of extinction; a state of equilibrium has been reached or nearly so, whereas in newly-settled countries many species disappear or retreat before the spread of cultivation. There is no corner of England in which one need be wholly out of touch with the birds, for, if food and shelter are to be found, they have not the least objection to the close neighbourhood of bricks and mortar. We do not refer to such notable bird sanctuaries as college lawns and "backs," numerous and varied as are the feathered tenants of these haunts of ancient peace. But close to the din and tumult of cities, the hum and clang of machinery, Nature still has her outposts and birds find a home. With what tenacity they cling to their time-honoured haunts the case of the Gray's Inn rooks serves to show. From the dusty and smoke-grimed trees of the city square, the Chaffinch rattles out