Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/25

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or by more than a degree or two of frost, the Robin's quiet contribution of song and the Hedge-Sparrow's modest refrain will not fail us, while it takes a sharp snap of cold to still the Wren's loud but momentary outburst of minstrelsy, so often heard when the orange sunset sky tells of a coming night frost. In an open season Ring-Doves—not the migratory flocks upon the fields, but those familiar stay-at-home birds which spend the whole year about the shrubberies, lawn or paddock,—begin to coo. In mild districts, as in the south of Ireland, Herons resort to their nests and may even be building by the end of the month.

Other signs of the approach of the breeding season are not wanting. Some sunny morning towards the close of January there is unwonted stir amongst the Partridges, excited crowing, scuffling of rival suitors, racing and chasing over the fallows. The packs or coveys have broken up; henceforth we see pairs only. Meanwhile the Rooks resort to their nests, and in the meadows we may watch the bowings and shufflings characteristic of rook courtship, and may see the cock-bird, glossy in burnished blues and purples, step up to present a choice grub to the object of his affections, who receives it with gaping bill and quivering wings. Such are some of the characteristics of the month when the vane veers steadily between south and west, and no treacherous anti-cyclone invites the Continental cold to invade our islands.