Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/198

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



birds, for whose benefit their parents have just spiked upon a thorn a freshly-killed nestling whitethroat. The young Woodpeckers have left the nest-hole and creep about the bole of the tree in which they were hatched.

Family parties of Goldfinches, amongst which the newly-fledged "grey pates" are conspicuous, sport amongst the ragwort and knapweed and all the gay-flowered tangle of weedy field-corners. No bird has had more cause to rejoice over the depressed state of the farming industry, for uncleared fallows quickly revert to the condition of a goldfinches' paradise.

On all sides we meet with this family life, and see the education of the young birds proceeding. There is the weird outcry of Brown Owls in the plantation on moonlight nights when the rising generation is being initiated into the mysteries of mousing. Less commendable is the careful foresight of Blackbirds in leading their spotted-breasted young to the currant bushes. The Hawfinch will sometimes join in a raid on the garden, and has been known to destroy row after row of peas, biting across every pod.

As we cross the heath, a Nightjar rises before us, tumbling and fluttering, finally alighting in a cart-rut with wings outspread and quivering. This behaviour is explained as we find her two downy young, wide-mouthed as frogs, crouching close to the turf.