BIRDS : ; Although, being without the seaboard, Surrey naturally lacks the repeated occurrences of many of the rarer and the permanent presence of several interesting maritime and littoral birds, the fact that it contains a number of lakes of big size and is connected more or less directly with the sea by the river Thames renders it capable of affording occasionally a haven for storm-driven stragglers from the coast and a resting-place for migrants which would not otherwise visit the county. With all these natural advantages it is not surprising to find that Surrey compares very favourably with other counties in its actual numerical list, and that quite apart from mere number of varieties, presents to the ornithologist a very choice field for what may be termed inland observation. Within the last thirty or forty years the growth of the metropolis has had a very marked and curious effect upon the avifauna of the county. The extremely rapid increase in building in the immediate neighbourhood of London has caused all those parts which are within the circuit of easy daily travel to assume a suburban character, and within this radius the distribution of birds now presents all those characteristics which are to be met with in the suburbs of most large towns. It is in this connection worthy of notice that certain species seem capable of assuming a quasi-feral state and of fearlessly adapting themselves to locali- ties where they meet with protection. Examples of this quite modern trait are to be found in the presence of the pigeon, moorhen, dabchick and gulls in the South London parks and the recent establishment of a heronry at Richmond. Apart, however, from these few instances, the Surrey suburbs present no features of peculiar interest. Out in the country the tide of building has spread almost throughout Surrey : the wild and high hills are thronged with houses, and the rail- way and bicycle render few places free from invasion. This increase of population has almost driven away several naturally shy species, such as the great plover and the black grouse, the ring-ousel and the nesting woodcock, all of which, once common enough, are now quite rare. Then, too, with the many country houses have come the many sports- men and close, rigid game preservation, with the inevitable result that almost all the predatory birds have quite disappeared, and many harmless species which are ignorantly supposed to be dangerous to game are in fear of extinction. The raven, the harriers and the buzzards have gone ; the owls, the magpie and the sparrow-hawk are decreasing ; whilst the woodpeckers and the nightjar suffer sadly from misplaced zeal. On the other hand, a general and laudable growth in the public 202
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/244
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