Birds - Feathered Gems
( Originally Published 1910 )
TALKING about a day in June being "rare" always makes me feel like standing up for May. Really I should like to know whether any day in June can surpass a real "warbler day" in May-when the fruit trees are white and pink with their canopies of blossoms, when the tints of the young foliage are so exquisite, when the air is soft but not hot, and when trees and shrubbery in woods, swamp, garden, orchard and village streets are fairly alive with variegated warblers, flashing about in their greens, blues, reds and yellows. Yesterday we noticed none, but to-day, this thirteenth of May—lucky day it is indeed—we can hardly look at an apple tree without having our eyes arrested by movements which are not those of blossoms swayed by the wind. As though the wedding garb of this bridal tree were not rich enough to express the springtime joy, she must be further decked with feathered gems, the crowning jewelry of Nature. It is indeed a joy to live and move and have one's being at such a time—outdoors, of course, for it were a sin to stay under a roof and behind glass on one of these rare May warbler days.
No sooner had I set foot even upon the piazza than my eye caught the flash as of rubies, and there, in the larch tree on the front lawn were a little company of half a dozen Baybreasts, the first I had seen in several years. In the clump of honeysuckle bushes was a flashy Magnolia Warbler busily looking for his breakfast. From the Norway spruces bordering the street I heard a snatch of unfamiliar song, and there was the first and only Cape May Warbler I had ever met, a beautiful adult male, whose distinguishing mark was the tan—I almost said sunburn—of his cheeks. The shade trees rang with the joyous notes of the Redstart, that flame of a bird—and for that matter with a perfect babel of other bird-notes and songs, of Robins, Orioles, Vireos, Purple Finches, Grosbeaks, Wrens, Grackles, and others. The orchard was a place of delight. Parula Warblers, with their bright hues of blue and yellows were fluttering before the blossoms; Myrtle Warblers were making sallies for flies from the bower of petals; Black-throated Greens, more leisurely in motions, were droning out their soporific little ditty. To make more brilliant the occasion, the common but conspicuous Yellow Warbler had loaned us his charms, as had also the spectacular and rarer Blackburnian.
It was fortunate for Ned that he did not have to attend school that day, so we started off to see how many kinds of warblers we could note for the day's list. Most of the morning we spent in the woods well up the slope of a range of hills on the west side of the river. Warblers of one sort or another were within sight or hearing all the time. Of course the Oven-birds were calling for "teacher" as volubly as usual. The familiar Black and White Creeper was perambulating the tree trunks and larger branches, singing his simple little trill. One of them stopped for a moment on a branch close beside us to see what we were up to, and I just had time to snap him with my "Reflex" before he started off on his travels. Blackburnians and Bay-breasts were unusually common. In one spot several of both of these were searching for food, in some low undergrowth. I sat down upon a rock near by, keeping perfectly quiet, and presently the pretty little things were close around me, occasionally even within arm's reach, and I secured some snapshots of both species, though the May sun was rather fickle, dodging in and out behind the broken cloud masses that had begun to rise. There was considerable mountain laurel undergrowth, and the male Black-throated Blues were there in full song, and thus conspicuous, whereas it took careful searching to find )their silent and somber-hued little brides, some of whom were already, doubtless, choosing nesting-sites, for they build rather early and are common here with us. Redstarts, Myrtles, and Black-throated Greens were also numerous in the woods.
Coming down and out, we ate our lunch upon the beautiful river bank, and then followed the "river road," with its variety of over-arching trees and fringe of swampy thickets. It is usually a fine place for birds, and today it fairly outdid itself. We had gone but a little way when there was a flash of yellow in the roadside thicket and here was the Canadian Warbler, with the necklace of black beady spots hung across his yellow breast, the brilliancy of which was enhanced by the more somber grayish back. This one was but the first of many, for we kept meeting them every few minutes. And now came an even yellower, though smaller, apparition, a Wilson's Warbler, or Wilson's Black-cap, skipping blithely about in a clump of bushes, quaint in his shiny black little feather cap. In the thickets along the river bank were any number of Northern Yellow-throats, and their "witchery-witchery" songs stood out above the general chorus. In the same haunts we spied out an occasional Water "Thrush," or- Wagtail, near relative of the Oven-bird, but darker of back and even more heavily streaked on the breast. They were walking sedately through the debris of the swamp, teetering their bodies from time to time. Of course the familiar Chestnut-sided Warblers, they that disport the brown side-stripes, were abundant all along the road, as were Redstarts, Parulas, Yellow Warblers, Black-throated Greens and Myrtles. Up from the road, in a patch of chestnut scrub part way up the hillside, we heard the versatile Yellow-breasted Chat pouring forth his medley, and presently saw him perched on a sun-bathed limb, warbling away. Further along, a mountain brook, which flowed through a dark, rocky hemlock-shaded ravine, crossed the road, and here, by the little bridge, we saw a Louisiana Water Thrush, distinguishable from the other species by the throat being pure white, instead of streaked. It is a bird of very similar habit, though southern New England is about its northern breeding-range, whereas the other goes further north. Out more in the open, in a willow, I detected the rather inconspicuous Nashville Warbler, a tiny fellow who has some reddish hair-or feathers—on the top of his head.
This made twenty kinds of warblers seen in one day, and we thought we had done pretty well. I wanted to follow up this fine flight on the morrow and perhaps find some more of the varieties. In good season, therefore, I was out and at it, but, strange to say, I could find but very few warblers, save the resident kinds. The host, having fed bountifully that nice day, under the impulse of that strange, restless longing for the spruce and balsam forests of the North, had started on during the night, and by this time were very many miles away. But it was a good season for warblers, and before it closed we both had seen more kinds than we had ever met before in a season, including some which, like the Cape May, were entire strangers. What a delight it is, after one has studied birds for decades and thinks he has met about every species around home which he is likely ever to meet, and that he knows them all, suddenly to encounter one which he has never in his life seen alive,
Such an event occurred this same season one day toward evening. It was about twenty minutes before supper time. I had already been afield that day, and my first impulse was to play on the piano. But something moved me to stroll out back of the village street and look for bird-migrants. On the edge of a cemetery is a narrow strip of woodland bordering a meadow, growing on a rather steep bank. Hardly had I looked over the edge when I saw a warbler in some low shrubbery, half way down the slope. Just as I raised my field-glass it flew, but in that instant I thought I saw bold stripes on the head. Instantly Audubon's picture of the Worm-eating Warbler flashed into my mind. I am fortunate enough to own a set of Audubon and it was probably that which started me out as a child with a passion for birds. Though confident that I had just seen my first "Worm-eater," I must have a better view to be sure. So I followed after it along the strip of trees and shrubbery, hoping that I might start it again. About a hundred yards further on a bird flew from the ground which I thought was the one. It kept flitting on and on, after brief stops among the patches of fern, until I was about in despair of getting a good look at it. Finally it seemed to stay in one spot and I stole up with caution. Peering through the bushes, I was thrilled and delighted to see it sitting motionless on a log, within a very few feet of me, an undoubted Worm-eating Warbler, with the bold stripes on its head. With my powerful glasses I could see it as well as though it were in my hands. There it sat for fully five minutes, perhaps about ready for bed. Then I startled it and it darted off. As I returned home I also saw its mate. I hoped they would breed there, as it was an ideal situation for them, but I never could find them afterward. This was the very last of May.
Another rarity to me that I had met a few days before was a male Golden-winged Warbler, splendid with his conspicuous yellow wing-bars, feeding in an apple tree near my home. Still another was a Tennessee Warbler which I encountered during a furious cold rainstorm in a pasture. The poor little fellow flew out from where he had been sheltering himself under a rock. He was bedraggled and shivering, but he flitted to an apple tree and set to work hunting for supper among the blossoms. In the same pasture I saw a Canadian Warbler so benumbed that it could hardly fly, and I almost caught it. Other birds were about in the same condition, so I was thankful that immediately after this the weather cleared. The storm had been on for three days, and such bad weather in the migration or breeding period is very destructive of bird life.
There are a few of the warblers which we are liable to meet which I have not mentioned. Such is the Yellow Palm Warbler, a common and early species, quite flycatcher-like in habits, which comes to us about mid-April. On the warbler day described above we did not see any, and probably they had mostly migrated beyond us. The last of all the tribe to appear is the Black-poll Warbler. It looks a little like the Black and White Warbler, but is different enough, and has none of the "creeper" habits, keeping in the foliage pretty well up and droning out a lisping little ditty. We usually have it lingering till the last of May or the first of June, and in the tardy season of 1907 it remained at least till June 12th. Both the Mourning and Connecticut Warblers are rare; they are found, like their nearest "Swamp-Warbler" relatives-as certain scientists have classed them—mostly on or near the ground, and they are easily confused, as both are much alike, with dark ashy throat-patch. A careful reading of the descriptions in the Manuals is advisable to fix in mind their points of difference. Then there is the Pine Warbler, the bird with dull, plain yellow breast which runs creeper-like over the trunks and branches of pines, especially the yellow or pitch pine, in regions of poor and sandy soil. With it we may think of the Prairie Warbler, which is likewise locally distributed, in scrubby and bushy tracts, an inconspicuous little fellow, and, in my experience, rather hard to find, unless one is in a region that they have chosen as a center of abundance. Even less conspicuous is the Blue-winged Warbler, which somewhat resembles the Yellow Warbler, but has grayish or ashy wings. It is fond of the edge of woods, and usually is far from common. Where I live they are more apt to be seen in August, after the breeding season. The Hooded and Kentucky Warblers are rather common in parts of the Middle States, and there are several rare or accidental species which one might possibly meet, such as the Prothonotary, Brewster's (probably a hybrid), Caerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers.
This makes about thirty-five species of this remark-able family which we may meet in the Eastern and Middle States. About twice that number are known to occur in the entire United States, and there are some thirty more tropical species, making about one hundred known species of Wood Warblers, a group which is peculiar to the Western Hemisphere. Thus the group is second with us in number of species to the puzzling finch family, and it has almost as many puzzles for the beginner in bird-study. The task is easiest in spring, when all of them are in their bright and distinctive nuptial dress. But by autumn they have become more or less dull-colored and nondescript, especially the young, some of which latter can hardly be identified without shooting—such as young Black-polls and young Bay-breasts.
Most of the warblers are slender, active little birds, living mostly in dry or swampy woodland, where from the foliage they glean their living of insects, grubs and larvae. They cannot endure much cold, so most of them migrate in autumn to the tropics. A few kinds winter in our Southern States, but only one, the Myrtle Warbler, recognizable by its yellow rump-patch, ever stays to brave the snow and cold of our Northern winters. They are mostly among the last of our migrants to return to us in spring, May being the great flight time, though we begin to have a few in April, such as the Myrtle, Yellow Palm, Pine, and Black-throated Green.
One nice thing in studying warblers is that in migration they come to our very doors, fairly forcing them-selves upon our attention. At such times, careless of their accustomed haunts, they pour, as it were, across the country like a tidal wave. Wherever there is a tree with young leaves or blossoms, we are liable to find warblers at such times, even on city streets. They pour into city parks, and such a place as Central Park, New York City, is one of the very best warbler grounds, for they are fairly congested in such green spots amid weary miles of pavement, which are, for them, truly oases in the desert. So everyone who will may study the beautiful warblers right at home, and, with opera glass to see them and text-book to identify them, learn and enjoy much.
A disadvantage and disappointment, to the contrary, is that the abundance of the migration, as we see it, varies very much from year to year. Some years, as we have been showing, warblers are everywhere. But then again we shall hardly find them at all. In these years, for some reason, the hosts either take another route in their travels or else pass over us at night, and we look in vain for their welcome presence on the blossom-laden fruit trees. Investigations to learn the reason for this are on foot, but as yet it is largely a mystery.
The autumnal migration is by no means a repetition of the delightful experiences of the spring. Silently and almost stealthily the warblers slip past us and are gone ere we realize that they have been with us at all, unless we look carefully for them. No longer do their exuberant spirits reveal themselves in snatches of characteristic song. The pretty nuptial garb is exchanged for the traveler's costume, as though they were expecting to rough it on the long journey amid increasing cold. Nor do they come so much at this season into the gardens and orchards, but keep more to woods and thickets. They are shier, too, and in every way harder to identify, Yet we love them for what they were, and what they will be next spring again. Small bands of them begin to appear in August, and during September the bulk of them pass. By early October most of them have gone.
We should expect from the name "warbler" that these birds were great singers, whereas they are not. Each species in spring has some characteristic, short, simple phrase, or phrases, of song, more or less varied, consisting of several rather weak notes, seldom as many as a dozen. Some of these songs resemble those of other species, while others are quite distinctive. But it is possible for any person of quick ear who will carefully observe these songs to become able to recognize the warblers by their notes. This is a great advantage in field work, and, for that matter, to know all bird-notes as far as possible. It will save one a great deal of needless searching and instantly call one's attention to the presence of rare species which otherwise would probably be overlooked.
To a great many people there is a special fascination connected with the nesting of the warblers, just as there is in finding the various species on their spring migration. Their little houses are so dainty, and ordinarily so well concealed and hard to find, that the discovery of a warbler's nest is a distinctly interesting and en-livening event. Most of them nest well to the north. Only about seven kinds breed at all commonly in most Middle-Eastern districts—namely, the Yellow, Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Green Warblers, Oven-bird, the Northern Yellow-throat, Redstart, and Black and White Creeper or Warbler. A few more breed sparingly or locally—such as the Chat, Kentucky, Hooded, Blue-winged Yellow and Worm-eating Warblers, especially in the Middle States; and casually there or in the latitude of southern New England the Nashville, Golden-winged, Parula, Black-throated Blue, Pine and Canadian Warblers and the Louisiana Water Thrush. Out of about sixteen kinds which at all normally breed in the regions where I have lived—Massachusetts and northern Connecticut—I have found the nests of twelve. The number grows very slowly, and only by persistent and assiduous searching. But it is one of the beauties of this delightful "Sport of Bird Study" that the unexpected is always liable to happen.
It was thus unexpectedly that I happened upon my only nest of the Nashville Warbler. Ned and I were going up into some woods where a pair each of Broad winged and Cooper's Hawks nested, on the fifteenth of May. We were following an old cart-road bordering a field and the woods on a sidehill. On the side toward the field was a low grassy bank, about three feet high. Just as I passed close to a certain spot, out darted a small warbler from the grass of the bank, within arm's reach of me, and fluttered over the road, quivering its wings. Now, when a warbler quivers its wings one may be very sure that there are either nest or young near by, so I was on the alert. The bird then flew up into a low tree and began a scolding "chip, chip." After identifying it positively as a Nashville, we went eagerly to work to look for the nest. But, though we examined carefully every inch of the ground, there was absolutely no sign of it, except a little hollow amid some dry grass, I told Ned that I believed the bird had just scratched it out preparatory to beginning to build and that we would look again later.
On the 29th of May we were there once more. No bird flew out and no nest could we discover. Just as I was wondering if we could not have mistaken the spot, Ned's sharp eyes detected a little opening in the dry grass, and in underneath was a dainty little cup of moss lined with grass, and five tiny white eggs with reddish spots. They were cold, so I thought the bird would lay another egg, for some warblers occasionally lay six. However, I took a photograph of the nest and eggs and came back several days later, in a downpour of rain—a genuine lover of birds doesn't mind such a trifling inconvenience, if one is dressed for it. There the same five eggs were, cold and wet. I took them and the nest home and found that incubation had proceeded three or four days before the mother disappeared. I suspected the Cooper's Hawks of the murder of the female, so Ned and I went and robbed them of their eggs that there might not be four more of them there to eat warblers. It was fortunate that I identified the Nashville the first time, or I should never have known to what bird the nest belonged and the experience would have been without scientific value.
Another good warbler find I shall have to lay to the credit of my wife. Ned and I conducted a party, consisting of, a bird-club of ladies, up a steep road back into the hill country where the Black-throated Blue Warblers nested quite abundantly in the woods where there was an undergrowth of mountain laurel. As two of the ladies were following an old wood road, up flitted a little olive-colored bird from close beside them, and my wife discovered the nest in the fork of a low sassafras sprout, about a foot from the ground. , It was a neat, compactly woven little cup and contained four eggs. They called to me and I examined the nest and then hid, to try to see the owner. Presently she began to hop about chirping, and I saw at once that she was of the above species from the rather conspicuous white wing bar, which is very characteristic. The male with his dark blue back and black throat is a very distinguished citizen, with a lovely little song, but his little wife is very plain indeed. This was the tenth of June, and the eggs were nearly ready to hatch;
Another season, on the twelfth of June, after climbing to examine the young "robbers of the falls," mentioned in the third chapter, Ned and I sat on the rocks below the great fall, eating our lunch. Presently I noticed a female Louisiana Water Thrush pattering about among and over the rocks, teetering as usual. At first I did not pay much attention to her, but after she had gone off and returned several times, it began to dawn upon me that we might be near her nest and that she was anxious. So we withdrew, hid behind a bowlder and watched. After climbing about for perhaps five minutes longer, the bird flew up into a recess of the steep side of the ravine, just behind where we had been eating, and disappeared. Waiting to make sure that she had settled down, we stole up cautiously, and out she popped from a hole in the mossy declivity, close beside us. There was the nest with five white, finely speckled eggs, built into the recess in the green moss and dry leaves which had lodged there. Some of these latter stuck up and partly concealed the entrance, which was five feet up from the bottom of the ravine. The owner was now running about near by, chirping excitedly.
After photographing the nest with the camera on the tripod, I thought I would try for a picture of the old bird on the nest. It was rather a hard problem to hide the camera properly. The only way seemed to be to tie it on the projecting rock on the side of the gully, a little above and in front of the nest. At first there seemed to be no place to stand to focus, but Ned generously offered to let me stand on his head with one foot, having the other over a rock, grasping a sapling with one hand while I adjusted the camera with the other. It was hard work and took quite a while, but at last the camera was rigged, connected by a thread, and covered with dead leaves. From over the brook we watched, till, in a quarter of an hour, the bird stole back to the nest, when I went around and pulled the thread for timed exposure, once to open the shutter, and in ten seconds to close it. In this way I exposed four plates successively, securing one picture only, as in the other cases the shutter did not work properly, closing too quickly to get an image there in the deep shadow. When we came again later to photograph the young, we were sorry to find all but one thrown out of the nest, with wounds on their bodies, and the other wounded so badly that it soon died—crows or jays this time, I suspect.
In the tall dark hemlocks around the falls, the Black-throated Green Warblers are abundant, as they are in nearly every grove of evergreens. One can hardly listen a minute without hearing their dreamy little song which well fits in with the murmuring voices of the grove. I do not doubt but that I have walked under literally thousands of their nests, yet I never have found but one, and that was built in a pine grove near a Sharp-shinned Hawks' nest, and was deserted before the eggs were laid, the warblers, probably, being killed by the hawks. The nests are built out on the branches, usually high up, where they cannot be seen from the ground, and hence they are very hard to find, among so many thick trees. Speaking of, the destruction of these various birds or their nests, according to my experience a considerable portion of the birds fail to rear their young owing to predatory vermin or cold storms. Indeed, it seems almost remarkable that any of the birds survive the many dangers to which they are exposed, and the very least we can do, in order that they may not be exterminated,; is not to injure or needlessly disturb them ourselves, and, better still, to do all that we can for their protection.
Another warbler that conceals its nest in a different way is the Chat. It builds a rather bulky structure amid the densest tangle of briers, entirely hidden from sight. It was only by struggling through acres and miles of brambles, with plenty of Scratches and rents in clothing, that I have found nests of this retiring bird. To hear it sing, imitating other birds and pouring forth the loud, striking medley that it does, one would expect to find it of a bold, audacious disposition, whereas it is just the opposite. So shy is it that I have never been able to surprise or photograph one on the nest.
A very singular structure is that of the Parula Warbler. All the nests that I have found or known were built in the pendent streamers of the gray usnea moss which hangs in beards from trees. In the northern States this moss is not plentiful, and where it does occur the Parula is quite apt to colonize. I have found such colonies of a few pairs, or a dozen in some moss-grown swamp, especially in larch or spruce trees. In one place there was an old apple orchard with trees all overgrown with streamers of this moss, and those streamers held a number of sets of eggs. The warbler does not appear to build a nest, but rather to scrape out a hollow in a swaying beard of moss and lay the eggs in this hanging basket.
I must now tell of the nesting of our common summer resident warblers, those whose nests we are most liable to come across. The one whose nest is most often found is the familiar Yellow Warbler, the kind which is practically all yellow, and which is emphatically not a wild Canary, though many people call it so. It builds a rather bulky, soft nest of plant down and fibers on a bush in a swamp, especially, in my experience, a willow bush, or near the end of a low branch of some small maple or bushy clump in the garden. A friend of mine showed me the nest of a pair in a lilac bush, right under his bedroom window. A wet bushy pasture is also a good- place to search, and in such an one I recently found two nests with young. I set up my camera by one, which was built only four feet from the ground, and, after decking the instrument and tripod with bushes and lying in wait a few rods off with a thread, I was able to make exposures when one or other of the parents came with food for the nestlings. One of these pictures shows the male tucking a fly into a widely opened mouth.
Another bush-nester is the familiar and interesting Chestnut-sided Warbler. This one prefers dry scrub land, brier patches, and the like. The nest is less ornate than that of the Yellow Warbler and is placed habitually lower down, seldom more than waist high, whereas the other often builds above one's head. I usually find the nest by plunging through the bushes, thrashing about at random with a switch. If I happen to pass near, the little bird flies out and there is the nest concealed from above in the foliage. Chestnut-side is a tame, confiding little fellow, an easy bird to photo-graph. I have set up the camera close to a nest, concealing it by drawing bushes around it and trimming it with leaves and boughs. After no more than reasonable hesitation, the pretty warbler hopped back into the nest, and, after standing there a moment to take in the situation, settled down to incubate. Then I pulled the thread and "got" my unhurt quarry. It would fly off, and when it returned I took it before it settled down. After a few such incidents, it would pay no further attention to the click of the shutter, and would even let me photograph it by hand and change plates without stirring.
One day, as I was driving, a boy stopped me and showed me a nest in a strip of hazel bushes by the road-side of a pair of Chestnut-sided 'Warblers. It contained the odd combination of a rotten egg, a young warbler and a larger young Cowbird. After some trouble I photographed the uneasy things, and, having thrown out the egg in the hope of making enough room for the ill-matched pair, returned two days later to see how affairs progressed. It was the old story. The parasite had thrown out the rightful offspring, which had disappeared, leaving the fat, ugly intruder filling the nest and clamoring for all the food that both the deluded warblers could bring. Probably this is what happens in nearly every case in which the Cowbird's egg, laid in the nest of another and smaller species, hatches.
The Redstart is surely one of the most charming of our birds. Its song is simple, but how incessantly it sings, fairly bubbling over with the joy of life—this flame of a brilliant male, whose little flame of a wife burns yellow instead of red, and who can make some music as well as he. Their home is as pretty and trim in its way as are they. It is very firmly woven into and around the fork of a sapling or of some up-sloping limb, usually from five to twenty feet from the ground, so firmly as to seem a part of the tree, and often coming through the winter storms perfectly intact, though made of rather soft material. While it is not always hidden by foliage, it is usually quite hard to discover, so well does it harmonize with its surroundings. There was a spot in a grove where a pair of Redstarts were in evidence all the time, and I was sure there must be a nest close by. One evening I watched the female hopping uneasily about, and I peered and peeped, scanning every limb, without result. The next morning I went to the same spot, and the very first thing I spied her sitting on her nest five feet up a sapling in a crotch, within a few feet of where she had been the night before. I set up the camera near the nest, and she went right on again with hardly any hesitation. The shade was dense, so I got a mirror, threw light on her and the nest, and by the thread made a number of exposures, both as she sat on her four eggs and as she was coming to them.
Very hard to find are the nests of the ground-building Warblers. Indeed if it were not for flushing them by chance from their nests, the quest would be almost hopeless. The Black and White Warbler is one of these. Withal that it is so common in the woods, its nest is very hard to discover, and I have only found it twice, with eggs and with young. In the former case I flushed the female by the base of a tree in swampy woods. In the other, one June 14th, Ned and I heard the female chirping in some dry hemlock woods. We hid to watch, and presently saw her run down a trunk and disappear in the dry leaves. After a few minutes we stole up and surprised her on! the nest. She went out almost from under my feet, trembling her wings, as she ran stumbling over the ground. The nest was a frail affair, built partly under some dead leaves, and in it were five tiny, naked young. I withdrew for awhile, and, on returning, saw her on the nest. Proceeding to set up the camera on the shortened tripod, by working very slowly I was able* to bring the lens within about three feet and focus on the little mother. It was quite dark under the hemlocks, but fortunately I carried a small pocket mirror for such purpose, and by throwing rays of light upon her was able. to secure some good pictures, as she kept very still. To reward her I withdrew without flushing her from her babies.
The Oven-bird, which is so abundant in the woods, builds its nest on the ground under dead leaves which are arched over it so as to make the entrance in the side, as in an old-fashioned oven—whence the bird's name. I have been especially fortunate in stumbling across these nests, I suppose because I have been a good deal in the woods and kept industriously in motion. One day I found two nests by flushing the birds when I had almost stepped on them. It was mid June and the eggs looked fresh. This species, and most of the warblers in this latitude, have eggs, ordinarily, by the first of June, or the last week in May, but in 1907 most of them delayed till toward the middle of June, which is very unusual. As it was toward evening and I had a long drive home, I came again, a week later. One of the nests had been robbed by some varmint, but the other housekeeper was at home and allowed me to photograph her there, amid the low mountain laurel, as nice as you please. She left the nest when I moved the camera very near, but came back in a few minutes and then let me work and change plates without using the thread, except the first time.
The other ground-builder is the Northern Yellow-throat. It prefers a bushy swamp, with bunches of grass, in one of which latter the nest is usually placed. Not only by flushing the bird, but also by looking in tussocks when the bird began to scold, I have spied the nest. It also builds on the ground among thickets or in weeds, and on top of a skunk cabbage in a swamp it often finds a desirable location for its tenement. Such a home I once found with five eggs, and returned to it when the young were just ready to fly. Only two of them were alive, for the nest had partly tipped over and the other three had fallen out and starved or chilled within a foot of home, the parents not having had intelligence enough to help them back, feed or brood them, which they surely could have done. Just as I reached the nest the sky had become overcast. The two remaining young were determined to escape, but I tied them on a log, and, with the camera set close to them, the male came again and again and fed them. It was simply maddening that the sun would not shine out for even one instant. I secured portraits of the young by timed exposures, but the few feeding pictures that I attempted had hardly a trace of an image on the plates. Next day the sun was bright, but I could not find the young, though they were near, as the anxiety of the parents proclaimed.
A year later, on the edge of a thicket by a brook flowing through a field, a pair of these birds scolded at me, appearing now and then with a worm for the young. I hid and watched and made up my mind that there were young out in the grass. After a search I found one, a fledgling, and then I knew what to do. Making a perch, I set him on it before the camera, and retired with the end of my spool of thread into the bushes out of sight. The male would not venture in this case, but the female did, and in the course of two hours she gave me sixteen pictures of herself lugging some fat worm or depositing the tidbit in the open mouth of the little bird. In another case I snapped her—though only with head and shoulder on the plate—as she was trying to ram down the youngster's throat a big harvest-fly that was altogether too large for a fit. It stuck fast, and the old bird had to come back and ram and shove before the luscious mouthful was forced down. It was the best series of feeding pictures I had ever secured and I drove home delighted with the day's work.
The American Pipit, or Titlark, is closely related to the warblers. These birds appear in flocks as rather early spring and late fall migrants, frequenting open pastures or barren ground, where they walk about jerking their tails.