Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/28

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these facts before me I turned my attention again to some of those resident species whose battles had previously been a mystery. A small pool of water in front of my house afforded exceptional opportunities for studying the life of the Moorhen. This pool was inhabited by one pair, and not only was no other Moorhen allowed to approach without being attacked, but so jealous was the owner of any intrusion that he ruthlessly persecuted such harmless species as Blackbirds. Starlings, and the like, when they came to the water to drink. His method of attack was as follows: he walked quietly round the edge of the water, taking advantage of every clump of rushes to conceal his approach, and when within a few feet of the intruder, raised his wings, lowered his head, and, in a threatening attitude, darted rapidly out. In connection with this particular bird I once saw an amusing incident. A covey of about twenty Partridges approached the pool, but the Moorhen from his position was only able to see the cock bird, who was leading. He therefore approached in his usual cautious manner, and when finally on the point of attacking was suddenly confronted with the remaining birds, the majority of their heads being turned in his direction. The effect was instantaneous; he assumed his normal position and retired into the rushes. On large sheets of water, inhabited by a number of pairs, a similar law as to territory will be found to prevail, each pair possessing a certain area which they regard as their own property. The habits of this bird render its life an especially suitable one for comparative study and analysis, for, of necessity, a large number are often concentrated in a small area. Therefore if some pool is kept under daily observation early in the spring, it will be found that towards the end of February, that is to say, with the rise of the sexual instinct, quarrels, sometimes developing into serious struggles, will be of frequent occurrence between different individuals. And it will be noticed that these quarrels, as a rule, have their origin in one or two individuals, or pairs, which, keeping