Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/18

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The home of these birds is principally among the common reed (Arundo phragmites), which grows in such profusion on large pools and lakes, along the banks and in the backwaters of many rivers, in canals, and in all marshy ground where there is a sufficient depth of water. And owing to the fact that reeds grow in such dense masses, the habits of this species are at all times very difficult to study. Even at the commencement of the season, before the young reeds have attained to any height, it is by no means easy to keep one individual continually in view, and if this is not done some small incident, unimportant perhaps in itself, may escape observation, without which, however, an accurate interpretation of, its actions may be impossible. When the nest is built and the parents are incubating or tending their young, their habits are the more easily studied, for they are not shy nor retiring like so many species, but rapidly overcome any diffidence they may at first show when a human being is near the nest. It is even possible to cut away the reeds immediately surrounding the nest so that an uninterrupted view of their actions may be obtained, without in any way exciting their suspicions or hindering in the least a proper carrying out of their parental duties.

In the Midland counties their arrival may be expected during the first week in May; this remark refers to the forerunners of the band of migrants, which appear to be always males. The migratory movement as a whole is peculiarly erratic and somewhat difficult to understand; not that the time of advent of the first males varies very much, but that males and females intermingled continue to arrive, and to pair so long as there is sufficient territory, for some weeks after the arrival of the first male. It is sometimes suggested that the advent of the first individuals depends upon the state of growth of the reeds. Perhaps this may be true when a comparison is made between the dates of arrival in countries some distance apart, but the difference in the