in Spring, Summer, or Autumn. After travelling
and sojourning nearly ten years in the country, I
have never seen a boy throw a stone at a sparrow,
or climb a tree for a bird’s-nest. The
only birds that are not expected to die a natural death
are the pheasant, partridge, grouse, and woodcock;
and these are to be killed according to the strictest
laws and customs, at a certain season of the year,
and then only by titled or wealthy men who hold their
vested interest in the sport among the most rigid and
sacred rights of property. Thus law, custom,
public sentiment, climate, soil, and production, all
combine to give bird-life a development in England
that it attains in no other country. In no other
land is it so multitudinous and musical; in none is
there such ample and varied provision for housing
and homing it. Every field is a great bird’s-nest.
The thick, green hedge that surrounds it, and the
hedge-trees arising at one or two rods’ interval,
afford nesting and refuge for myriads of these meadow
singers. The groves and thickets are full of
them and their music; so full, indeed, that sometimes
every leaf seems to pulsate with a little piping voice
in the general concert. Nor are they confined
to the fields, groves, and hedges of the quiet country.
If the census of the sparrows alone in London could
be taken, they would count up to a larger figure than
all the birds of a New England county would reach.
Then there is another interesting feature of this
companionship. A great deal of it lasts through
the entire year. There are ten times as many
birds in England as in America in the winter.
Here the fields are green through the coldest months.
No deep and drifting snows cover a frozen earth for
ten or twelve weeks, as with us. There is plenty
of shelter and seeds for birds that can stand an occasional
frost or wintry storm, and a great number of them
remain the whole year around the English homesteads.
If such a difference were a full compensation, our
North American birds make up in dress what they fall
short of English birds in voice and musical talent.
The robin redbreast and the goldfinch come out in
brighter colors than any other beaux and belles of
the season here; but the latter is only a slender-waisted
brunette, and the former a plump, strutting, little
coxcomb, in a mahogany-colored waistcoat. There
is nothing here approaching in vivid colors the New
England yellow-bird, hang-bird, red-bird, indigo-bird,
or even the bluebird. In this, as well as other
differences, Nature adjusts the system of compensation
which is designed to equalise the conditions of different
Talk with an old man on the way—old houses
in England—their American relationships—English
hedges and hedge-row trees—their
probable fate—change of
rural scenery without them.