Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/29

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



hammers, and one picks out by their red crowns and white cheeks a little party of Tree Sparrows amongst the vulgar crowd. Nor must we omit, if within reach of the coast, to visit the piles of seaweed carted by the farmers to the top of the foreshore after the autumn gales and left there until sufficiently decayed to furnish a top-dressing for their fields. These seaweed-heaps, full of small flies and their larvæ, attract all the insectivorous birds of the neighbourhood. Jackdaws and starlings have trodden them free of snow and broken up the surface, laying them open to the inspection of Meadow and Rock Pipits which trip nimbly about, picking up grubs and pupæ. Here, too, will be found the few Pied Wagtails which have remained to winter with us, now probably wishing that they had gone with the rest, for in cold weather they seem to lose all their sprightly, light-hearted activity. Near them a cock Stonechat, with his black head now very rusty, flips his tail with all the spirit that he can muster.

By early afternoon full thaw prevails. Starlings race along a sunny bank from which the snow has gone, quarrelling noisily. Next day the last long streak of snow fades under the persuasive influence of drizzling rain. Birds betake themselves again to their usual haunts and resume their ordinary avocations. But the case is different when the snow, reinforced by fresh falls or hardened by night frosts, lasts for more than three days. The Redwings, smallest and most delicate