The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Nature Notes

by M. L. A.
Volume 10, 1899, pgs. 395-399

volume 10, p.396

visits in the day; and though they possibly have a slack hour or two during the day, the birds every time I passed seemed just as busy. And this day of observation, too, was not the last day of their toil; for though the young were big and squealing (a most dangerous stage for birds) several days elapsed before the wall was found broken into, and the nest dispersed. Another pair, that worked quite as hard, led their brood out on June 1st, from the nest placed at safer height, and fed them in contingent trees by two detachments.

By this time old and young Chaffinches were touching bills on oak boughs for the transference of food; and by the 11th Great Tits were piloting their full-sized young about the world; while two days after the Bullfinch family was abroad, and baby Greenfinches were clamouring their hard "Give, give, give," from the laurels. By the 13th, too, there were even to be seen strapping young Wheaters on a wall, ducking courteously.

But migrants were not usually so far. On the 11th one Wood-warbler's nest was still wanting its contents and even unfinished; though another on the 6th, built a fortnight before, had its full complement of six eggs, on which the hen was sitting. How differently, when startled from it, does the hen Wood-warbler act from the Willow-warbler! This last bird, when she flits from her nest (which looks like a blown heap of withered leaves on the floor of the wood, caught about a bracken stem) makes no sound. The door ajar, in the form of a brown oak-leaf, shows within a roomy little bird-apartment, feather-lined, with its two rows of three eggs disposed neatly across the bottom. The mother-tenant who has gone, though close at hand, is as silent as if no imperiled treasures pulled her tiny heart-strings; and when at last she drops to them again, it is with the utmost caution of gradual approach, with rearing of silent watchful head, with halts in adjacent hazel bush (where she flits awhile) and steps to a low raspberry spray, and then along a recumbent twig, and so at last in again to them, in perfect silence. Whinchats, too, the pair of them, will, when the hen has fluttered from the five green eggs in the deep, herb-shadowed cup, watch in steadfast silence from the next tree; and though vociferous when the young are hatched, and eager and noisy in their efforts to draw the intruder off, they now only move to another watch-


post, if noticed, with but a faint, low "yut." But the Wood-warbler, once she has fled phantom-like along the low shadows of the ground, returns almost directly to the boughs above her nest, there to cry incessantly. And until she determines to take the risk and to get into it again--and this requires almost a quarter of an hour's time--she is never silent, hopping indecisively about the twigs of the low hazel that forms her stage, and giving vent to her anxiety in constant plaintive calls.

Redstarts, silent before, are fussy as soon as ever their young are hatched; and as the early June days go by we hear less and less frequently the male bird's song, and more and more frequently we catch his nervous "hui, tit-tit" that marks the feeding stage. By the 19th the five lusty fledglings are raspily clamouring for food, almost ready (short as their red-rooted tails are) for flight. This is the day on which the Tree-creepers, bred in a crack of larch twigs, can (at a push) amble round the bark of it. Then, too, of the broods with which Willow-warblers have long been busy (some alas! to be deserted in the egg, through chilling rains or loss of mother) are the first fliers observed, flopping about the bushes, and squealing, till cautioned by a quiet "hu-id" from the parent. And little Russet Whitethroats, too, are led and guarded by grey-capped elders. The Blackcap-warbler is not so far. Whether from inattention to domestic detail
or from accident to first attempt--and this at a station where two fruitless attempts were made last season--his nest was not ready before the early days of June. However, by the 11th, he was sufficiently interested to be sitting on the three eggs his wife had laid, himself, and merely trolled a merry strain when flushed from them. He is, we fear, a sad, heedless bird; and no doubt his mate, as she sits hard on the tiny cup, suffers many a pang of needless anxiety, through him singing his fleeting snatches so carelessly close by. But though he sings, the first excitement of his courtship is over, and his bursts grow short and random. He is overtaken in his nesting course by odd Thrushes, Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Greenfinches, who for their second nests in mid-June sing with almost pristine vigour, though their numbers are few. The Gold-crest then begins to sing zealously again. The Wren, too, uxorious little body, has no sooner got his little

Volume 10, p.398-399

folk in marching order about the garden (where it is funny to see them shoot--one, two, three, four, five--level as rockets from bush to bed, intent upon a spider-hunt) before he thinks of matrimony again. By the 15th a beautiful new nest is ready, this time in the verandah roof; 'tis built up against rafter and creeper-stem like a long purse, with opening near the top, and most firmly compacted of curled brown leaves and fern-frondlets set tightly in its mossy walls. The merry song is often heard when songs get to be scarce.

For, during the month the singing slackens. The great spring songsters will warble awhile at dawn, but through the day few but the odd late and second nesters are heard; and in their meandering, weaker tones, the season is told. By the last week, when almost all broods, except Swallows, are on the wing, and Starlings have begun to ramble in packs, the silence, the flat melancholy silence of full summer has made itself felt. The loves and marriages and young-rearing of the birds, with all their incidental happiness and woe, joy and tragedy, are over for the year. The roses bloom in silent hedgerows.

The course of insect-life is even faster. The egg of Gall-fly, for instance, hatched upon the oak-blossom of May, went through the stages of larva and pupa within the nursery that swelled so quick about it, almost while the flower bloomed. Now, if we pick up these currant-like objects off the ground, where they lie with withered flower-stem still attached, we shall find that from many the perfect fly has escaped by a drill-like hole; though in others the tiny grub (not hairy like the autumnal developed leaf gall-grub) is still at home.



The Lakeland flowers of June, like the flowers of June everywhere, are beautiful exceedingly, the waters even are strewn with them; it is the time of the yellow and the white Water-lilies in the shallow bays, and of the lavender-blue Lobelia in the shallower shore reaches; the great Bulrushes (Scirpus lacustris, Linn.), strong and hallow-stemmed, leafless and of the deepest green, bear aloft handsome and irregular bunches of russet-brown flowers, tightly tied up in bundles of almost innumerable florets. They make a feature of the water-scape in June, but it is not till July that they are ready


to answer questions anent their own floral structure by presenting their blossoms for inspection completely mature. The Reed-maces (Typha latifolia, Linn., and T. angustifolia, Linn.) are preparing to bloom; the leaf-like spathe which wraps up the double spike and entirely conceals it as it rises from the water, turns yellow, breaks away, and falling, leaves the rich velvet cushions standing alone and firm without hint or sign of the nature of their protected up-bringing. The preparations for flowering are often as interesting as the flowers themselves. The Bur-reeds (Sparganium ramosum, Huds., S. simplex, Huds.) have their bur-like flower flower balls ready in June, and it is worth while to compare their structure with that of their nearest relatives here in Britain, the Typhas. One must gather the Bur-reeds early in their floral life, or the male heads will have fallen, and the female ones already passed over from the flower stage to the fruit, in this
genus scarcely different in form. The Reed-maces, later on, need the same early examinations for the same reason. The smallest of the Bur-reeds, with the leaves floating, not upright, comes last, and scarcely till July. One can often get two or three of these species in one day, and they help one another out in the matter of identification surprisingly. Ragged Robin makes gay the wet grass margins, with Meadow Sweet (the Queen of the Meadows) which scents them. In dry pastures one may come across the sister species, Dropwort (Spiraea filipendula, L.), and try to understand, by the aid of a pocket lens, how these two plants justify themselves as members of the great Rose family. The fruit of the Meadow Sweet (Spiraea ulmaria, L.) is a complicated and pretty object. Flat cymes of Guelder Roses (Viburnum opulus, L.) make the shrubs that bear them visible from afar; every one must note the difference in shape, in colour, in structure, between the inner and
the outer flowers of those flat masses, and account for it somehow! Wild Roses deck the June hedges, and the Giant Bell-flower is sometimes as early in rearing its stately spikes. Every one may make a flower list, and many of the lists may be entirely different, for it is easier in the month of June to say what is not flowering than what is.