Page:Bird Life Throughout the Year (Salter, 1913).djvu/67

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thick-set reeds, giving place here and there to tumps of sedge between which are unknown depths of mire. A black-capped Reed Bunting chirps from a bending osier twig. A pike goes out from the shallows with a swirl, and here floats a dead roach with a wound in its shoulder, where it has been stabbed by the Heron's bayonet. Our boatman tells how the bill of a fine old male heron turned orange and crimson with sudden flushes of rage as it fought with a dog when wounded. On either hand one hears Coots, quarrelsome as always, scuffling in the reeds. A Water Rail, surprised amongst the sedge, takes wing, showing its red bill as it flies. As our lane of water opens out upon a quiet expanse, coots scatter hastily for cover, dabchicks bob beneath the surface and moorhens splash away, leaving silvery tracks, or oar their way more quietly to the shelter of the reeds. They show some sagacity in the choice of sites for their nests, sometimes building them up to a height of eighteen inches to be prepared for a sudden rise of the water, or even, after repeated losses on account of floods, nesting in the bushes overhanging the stream. After dark the air is full of quackings and of the calls of various wading birds then upon the move.

The "broad" in question is rapidly becoming filled up by a tangled mass of the stiff-leaved floating plant known as the water-soldier. Its further end, where it branches into three or four secluded arms, is the site of a duck