Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/26

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But few Januarys fail to interrupt these early romances by sudden recurrence to weather of a more seasonable type. The wind shifts to the north, and the evening sky is thick with coming snow. But the fall ceases by day-break and a bright sun lights up the untrodden whiteness, while all the bareness of winter is hidden by glorious frost-work. As we wander abroad, we are at once aware that birds in unusual numbers are everywhere upon the move. The first feeling inspired by the new conditions in the breasts of ground-feeding birds—larks, starlings, thrushes—is evidently one of consternation. They hurry to-and-fro, unable at first to make any plans, intent only on finding some spot where the white mantle is thinner than elsewhere, or where the first indications of an early thaw are already apparent. Thus the Song Thrushes seek a southern slope where the kindly face of mother-earth is already visible in places. Others are searching the hedge-bottoms, from which, in weather such as this, they turn out great numbers of banded-snails; hammering the shells into fragments upon favourite stones which serve as "altars." Meanwhile the Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings make a sudden descent upon the berries, of which, this being the first snowfall of the winter, the main reserve is as yet untouched. In these hungry times haws, holly or yew-berries none come amiss; all-comers are tugging eagerly, for beggars cannot be choosers.