Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/329

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Wintry "alarms and excursions" of this kind keep many birds upon the move, but do not drive them far afield, or cause them real inconvenience. Groundfeeding birds have seldom in December to contend with the iron-bound crust or long-lying snow which may come later. When the frost begins to "give," the thrushes tunefully hail the return of easier times, and the robins warble snatches of song, low and soft, as if the thaw had brought with it some suggestion of spring.

Fresh-turned earth means a plentiful food-supply, not only to rook and jackdaw but to a host of others. This is well seen in the neighbourhood of the coast, where the gulls at this time of year keep up a constant sailing over the land to find out where ploughing is going on. Fieldfares are scattered over one of the low-lying meadows where fresh-made hillocks show that the soil is still sufficiently friable for the mole to be at work. Suddenly a wheeling squadron of Starlings deploys into foraging formation and drops down to join them. Then may be seen a curious difference in manner of feeding. The fieldfare is the embodiment of vigilance,—a hop, a cautious look round, a hurried peck, then again on the qui vive. Meanwhile the starlings race hither and thither, run together into little knots upon the least suspicion that a neighbour has made a find, and dispute noisily, while those in the rear continually fly over the heads of the others