Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/64

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wild-fowl which formerly made them their home. True, the tide of disaster has sometimes turned when the dykes have burst and the waters have for a time reclaimed their own, but otherwise the remnants of the marsh land have, in the opinion of the birds, become year by year more unsuited to their requirements, and they have been driven to seek in Holland or Jutland the congenial solitudes which our own land now fails to provide. The times are indeed changed since Sir Thomas Browne could sally out of Norwich and return in a few hours with his pockets filled with eggs of the crane and great-bustard; when Fulham, on the Thames was, as its name implies, the fowls'-home where, amongst other wild-fowl, the spoonbills bred, and when the fenman could count upon a bittern for his Sunday's dinner. The booming of the Bittern—one of the most weird sounds in nature—is no longer heard, though with every spell of keen frost bitterns from the Continent revisit the Welsh bogs, and show such a tendency to linger till spring in favourite spots in other parts of the country that it seems probable that, if unmolested, an occasional pair would breed with us even at the present day. But a century has elapsed since the Grey Geese ceased to linger to nest in the Lincolnshire fens, and nearly as long since the last colony of noisy Avocets gave way before persecution, though a stray specimen still crosses, not unfrequently, from Holland, to scoop its food with flexible, upturned