Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/72

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It may be remembered that some of the young are stronger than others, and that one will often make a short excursion into the reed bed a day or so before the nest is finally deserted, eventually returning. Upon a young wanderer thus returning I have seen the remaining birds in the nest just as excited and expectant as if it were a parent arriving with food, stretching out their necks and not realising the position even when the wanderer was elbowing its way amongst them. Whether the young after having deserted the nest return in the evening to roost I cannot say. For a while they keep close to one another in the reeds, but they soon become scattered, and when a reed bed is inhabited by a number of pairs one can hear the plaintive call-note of the young proceeding from every direction. At this age they are difficult to find and difficult to catch, for, though unable to fly, they travel quickly by hopping from one reed-stem to another. In wet weather, or when the dew has been exceptionally heavy, which in July is often the case, their appearance is most pitiable, as their feathers are bedraggled with the water which collects on the reeds in such a quantity, especially at the junction of the leaf to the stem. I once, after some delay owing to the difficulty in locating the sound, found a young one which could only haye left the nest very recently, perched upon a large branch of an alder in such a position that it was impossible to see it when standing directly underneath. The weather at the time was wet and the condition of the little creature was most miserable. It had but few feathers on its body and they were so bedraggled as to be of little use. How, in such a plight, it climbed so high from the ground it is difficult to understand. It is probable that the young are more hardy than those of many other species, for they may be found in a similar condition more or less every morning, and although the feathers dry very rapidly in the sun, yet it must require an exceptionally robust constitution to withstand so constant a drenching; possibly many do succumb to cold and exposure. How the parents feed their offspring when thus scattered, and