Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/32

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abbey, now the seat of a titled family, where at all hours of the day moorhens may be seen stalking about the well-kept lawns, we are told that as many as sixty come to be fed in winter. They are pugnacious birds, for as we watch them we note that every now and then one rushes at another to offer battle. The second party, however, always declines the combat, so that only a violent chase results. In this respect they resemble their neighbours the Coots, upon the lake, which spend much of their time in quarrelling, splashing through the water, half flying, half swimming. Such are some of the small comedies of these January days, with tragedies enough not far in the background, for winter has not seldom a sterner side of which it remains to tell.


At wholly uncertain intervals come these unwonted frosts, bringing what we cheerfully term "a good old-fashioned winter," but causing to the birds wide-spread disaster, so that, had they their annals, the years when such occur would rank with those of the Black Death and of the retreat from Moscow. For memories of ice-bound ponds which "bore" for ten weeks at a stretch and of mornings when the screened thermometer showed thirty-one degrees of frost, we must go back to the late seventies or early eighties, but the frost of the early part of 1895, though it did not tighten its grip