The Starling's nest is in the thatched roof of this shed, but is concealed as much as, or perhaps even more than the last example. Perhaps we might leave that to-day, and when you have more time to spare you might arrange your camera near the hole and try to obtain a picture of the Starling itself either entering or leaving the nest. To do this you will require a longer pneumatic release. The one you are using, known as the " Antinous," is a very good one for general purposes, because it is unaffected by the changes of temperature, but it is well to carry another on special occasions, composed of the usual rubber tube in several lengths, so that it can be joined together to make one long one, the connections being made by a small metal tube or piece of quill. You will require a larger ball than that usually supplied to work the extra length, but it will enable you to make the exposure when hidden some distance from the nest, and so obtain results impossible if you were close to the camera.
As you agree to leave the Starling's nest to-day—there are always plenty about—we will go to the next one, that of the Yellow Hammer or Yellow Bunting. This is situated in a hole amongst a bundle of rubbish just by the corner of the yard, and when I saw it contained three eggs. The bird has just flown out from the nest and there are five eggs to-day. You will easily be able to photograph this, as it is low down and you can see the eggs distinctly. The cock bird is very handsome in his coat of brilliant yellow, and if he were a rare bird would probably be thought a great deal more of than he is. Fortunately, he is common and therefore ought to be known by sight to most persons. His peculiar song has been likened to the words, " A-very-leetle-bit-of-bread-and-no-o-cheese." Certainly to me it always suggests these words, and I should like you to notice it next time you hear the bird, and let me know if it suggests the same to you. The nest is not unlike that of the Pied Wagtail, but the eggs are quite different and would serve to distinguish it at once. They are beautiful eggs, the ground colour being a very pale purplish-white, bearing streaks and veins of dark reddish-purple, or purplish-black, which appear very similar to lines scribbled with a pen. There has been a good deal of discussion on the proper way of spelling the name, whether it should be Yellow Hammer or Yellow Ammer, the latter word Ammer being German for Bunting. If you are doubtful which name to adopt, perhaps the best way out of the difficulty would be to call the bird the Yellow Bunting.
Our next subject is in the orchard. It is a Willow Warbler's nest, and I want to remind you of the Chiffchaff's nest we discovered some time ago. There are three birds, namely, the Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, and Wood Warbler, which even to a trained eye are difficult to distinguish, unless their song is heard or they can be approached near enough for a good view through a pair of glasses. The Wood Warbler is a local bird and not so common as the other two, and you are not likely to come across it, at any rate just in this district. It is more partial to large woods, particularly those of beech trees. It was Gilbert White of Selborne who first distinguished this species, which was, and still is, I believe, fairly common amongst the beech trees in Selborne Hanger, on the side of the hill just behind Gilbert White's old house, " The Wakes." Gilbert White also wrote a description of the three different species named above with their distinguishing points, which may be found in his book The Natural History of Selborne. The nests of all three species are somewhat similar, but the eggs are different and will at once identify the nest to a trained eye. The nest of the Wood Warbler, also, is not lined with feathers, whereas those of the other two species usually contain a number of feathers inside. Going back to the Chiffchaff's nest, you will remember it was about a foot off the ground. This one of the Willow Warbler's, which is down here amongst the long grass by the side of the hedge, is quite on the ground, and at times may be found even in a slight depression in the ground. The nest is a domed one like the Chiffchaff's, but is smaller and perhaps more difficult to find. It is discovered more frequently by the bird flying out when one is passing too close than in any other way. The eggs are about the same size as the Chiffchaff's, but the spots are, as a rule, much lighter and of a faded or washed out looking red. The eggs of the Wood Warbler are much more thickly covered than those of either of the other two species with very dark red spots, and this will serve to identify the nest, in addition to the absence of feathers inside, should you be fortunate enough to discover one. I have found the nest of the Chiff-chaff as high as three feet above the ground in a holly bush in a hedge, but all the Willow Warblers I have discovered have been quite on the ground.
We must now go to the edge of the wood where there are some spruce fir trees, and we must take the pair of steps with us. I have found a nest of the Golden-crested Wren or the Gold-crest as it is called for short. The bird is not only our smallest British bird, but is also the smallest European bird, and is so tiny that it often escapes observation. Although so small, it is very hardy and remains with us during the winter, when it is often seen hunting amongst the trees for insects in company with the smaller Tits. Large numbers cross the North Sea from Scandinavia and alight on our shores at migration times, and it is wonderful how such a small bird can brave the cold winds. Many, no doubt, do perish during the journey, but still a considerable number arrive here safely. The nest is a most beautiful one and is quite worthy of the charming little bird. It is almost spherical in shape, with the entrance at the top, and is generally suspended from a spreading horizontal branch of a fir or yew, sometimes being placed in other trees. It is like a round ball of moss, and is very neatly and compactly fitted together, being generally covered with lichen; and spiders' webs are used in the construction of it. It is thickly lined with feathers, and may contain from six to a dozen tiny eggs of a dull yellowish ground colour, with sometimes the addition of a few light red or yellowish-brown spots. There is a story that, many years ago, the birds held a council to elect a King, and it was decided that the bird which could soar the highest should receive the crown. The Eagle out-distanced all competitors, and just as he was about to be proclaimed King a little Gold-crest popped up his head. He had been seated on the back of the Eagle during his soaring flight and had therefore been the highest. So while the Eagle received the title of King, the Gold-crest was called " Kinglet," and his golden crown was given him, which he now wears as a crest on his head. The story is, at least, a very pretty one, and I cannot help remembering it whenever I see the diminutive little bird, which is a great favourite of mine.