There is a story told which gives the reason why the Martin builds only half a nest. A long time ago, the Martin came to the Thrush for a lesson in nest building. While the Thrush was trying to tell her the correct way of setting about it the Martin continually interrupted by saying, " I know, I know." The Thrush at last became tired of this, and said, " Well, if you know I need not tell you any more," and flew away. The nest was then only half finished, and after the Thrush had gone the poor Martin found she did not know after all, and therefore she had to be content to stick the half of the nest which had been completed against the wall and which she has had to do ever since. I fancy there are many young people who act like the foolish Martin when their elders are trying to give them advice, and who have to suffer later on in consequence.
As there is a good light on the front of the house you might obtain a view of it and show the position chosen for the Martins' nests and what a number there are being built. I will take the ladders back while you are doing this. Stop a minute though! I have just remembered there is a Spotted Flycatcher's nest in the cherry tree on the wall of the back of the house, so you might photograph this before you remove the tripod from the ladder. The nest is not so high as the Martin's, but still it is some distance above your head. There are only two eggs in the nest, which is an early one for this bird. The nest and eggs are somewhat like those of the Robin, but the Flycatcher's have, as a rule, a rather greener tinge in their ground colour. There is the cock bird sitting on the fence. See! he darts up when an insect appears, and after capturing it returns again to the same position, and this takes place time after time. As you have taken the Flycatcher's nest you can now take the view of the house, and then we must go in to tea.
As you are ready to make another start we will stroll round the kitchen garden. There is a hedge on one side of it in which I have on several occasions found two or three nests. We have soon discovered one: I am not certain, though, whether it belongs to the Blackcap or Garden Warbler. The nests and eggs of these two birds are very similar, and we must try and obtain a view of the owners of the nest, if we can, which will enable us to identify it for certain. As the hen bird flew off just now, she and her mate will probably be hopping about near the nest before long. There they are, I can see the pair of them on the tree just above us; I will look through my glasses at them. There is no black cap on either of them, so we may be quite certain it is a Garden Warbler's nest. Both the Blackcap and Garden Warbler have a very sweet song, but that of the former is undoubtedly the finest, in fact it is considered by some to be equal to the song of the Nightingale. It is without doubt very rich and melodious, but I think myself the song of the Nightingale easily ranks first.
There are some Swallows' nests in the cart shed, but they are difficult to get at and there is not sufficient light to photograph them without making use of a flash lamp. We may be able to obtain a photograph of them by this means later on when we have more time to spare.
I forgot to mention when we were at the keeper's cottage that the Swift breeds under its thatched roof, and we should probably see the birds wheeling about in the air near their nesting site if we were to go down there now. The nests are built a long way in, and would be very difficult to get at to photograph unless some of the thatch were removed.
One of the boys on the farm has just told me of a Yellow Hammer's nest by the edge of the field in front of the house: let us go and see it. I always like to see any nest found for us for two reasons. First, if we do not go our would-be helpers are inclined, perhaps, to think it is no use looking for nests that are not wanted, and another reason is, I find sometimes that nests discovered in this way by the farm hands occasionally turn out to be something better than we expect. The average country boy employed on a farm knows very little about any but quite the commoner kinds of nests, so let us go over and examine this one. He has described the place to me so I think I shall be able to find it. According to his description this is about the place, " Just before you come to the gate," said he, " and by the edge of the path".
Hallo! there goes the bird from the nest, and it was certainly not a Yellow Hammer. It looked to me more like a Corn Bunting. Yes, it was; there is no mistaking the handsome eggs of this bird. The nest is also larger than the Yellow Hammer's, and so are the eggs. They often have something of the rich colouring of the eggs of the Reed Bunting, but they are, of course, considerably larger. The Corn Bunting is also called the Common Bunting, but in some parts of the country it is far from common. It is a late breeder, fresh eggs being often found at the end of July. Its song always reminds me of a cart wheel which requires greasing, a comparison which I am afraid is hardly a compliment to the bird. I like to hear the song, however, and often do so, as the bird is fairly common on the South Downs.
Look at these bees and other insects impaled on the thorns of this bush in the hedge. You may perhaps wonder how they came there. It is one of the " shambles " of the Red-backed Shrike or Butcher-bird, which feeds on insects and often young birds half-fledged. These it fastens on the thorns of a bush not far from its nest. It has received the name of Butcher-bird from this habit. You can expose a plate on this subject if you like. You have now only one unexposed plate left, and I think you will have to carry it back with you in that condition. We are both somewhat tired after our long tramp, and as it is such a delightful evening let us go to the top of the hill yonder and see the sun set. The wind has quite dropped now, as it often does towards sundown.