Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/186

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last find a lodgment, and so form a foundation upon which the nest may be built. Some such trees, mere shells many of them but still making a show of youthful verdure, contain many wheel-barrow loads of sticks. The Stock Dove is always ready to take to an unoccupied hole, and certain trees are known as the ancestral patrimony of owls. The presence of a family of young Barn Owls is indicated by those snorings and snappings of the bill which have often caused a belated countryman to quicken his steps as he passes the churchyard elms. Their spotless white down is so thick about the head as to suggest a comparison with the wigs of legal luminaries. Some of these trees contain bushels of castings, the lower stratum reduced to dust or rather finely pulverised fur and bones, while the more recent ones if examined give an exact inventory of the owl's food,—skulls of the field-mouse and field-vole, of shrews, sparrows and an occasional bat. If its character for utility be impugned, the owl has only to adduce its castings as sufficient evidence for the defence. The Brown Owl is a bolder bird and sometimes brings young rabbits to the nest. It resents too close an inspection of its property. In one case known to the writer, a brown owl, whose two nestlings were being investigated, came noiselessly behind the intruder and gave him a blow in the back as if a cricket-ball had struck him. Formerly amongst well-grown timber it was no uncom-