BIRDS interest in birds and the recent development in the machinery of the Wild Birds Protection Acts have undoubtedly checked, to some slight extent, the insane desire to slaughter all and every species which present the slightest peculiarity ; and this effect is quite noticeable in the case of such charming residents as the kingfisher and great crested grebe ; whilst there is little doubt that the numbers of many both resident and migrant natives, chiefly amongst the smaller classes, which find a sanctum in the carefully-guarded pheasant woods and there live unnoticed by the keeper, sharing elsewhere as well the benefit of the two former advan- tages, have largely multiplied. Surrey may be said to be a small-birds' paradise. The wheatear on the downs, the cirl bunting on the high chalk hills, the grasshopper and even the Dartford warbler on the furze commons find a home : the nightingale abounds, and so, too, many other warblers the reed, the sedge, the blackcap, the garden, the willow, the chiffchaff, the wood, and both the whitethroats. The finches are nearly all found ; the hawfinch frequents all rural Surrey, and the goldfinch in winter is quite common, though now a local breeding species. The crossbill visits the fir-tree districts every winter, and no doubt sometimes stays to nest ; so, too, the siskin, lesser redpoll and tree-sparrow. Sometimes the oriole and hoopoe visit the woods, and if not molested, would breed regularly. The three woodpeckers all are resident, and the wagtails the pied, the yellow and the grey are often, the first always, seen. Even the snipe and teal, the water-rail and quail, the wild duck and woodcock still sometimes nest the wild duck often, but the others more rarely ; while in winter all kinds of wildfowl flock to the big lakes. The pochard, the wigeon, the tufted duck, the goldeneye, and even the pintail, then may at times be seen. From a purely ornithological point of view the still wilder dis- tricts of the west and south-west portions of the county are by far the most interesting. Here, round the big meres of Frensham and on the margins of these and neighbouring lakes drop many migrant waders. The common sandpiper and the green are not uncommon in many local places ; but on these sheets of water the redshank, the greenshank, the dunlin, the ringed plover, the curlew, and even the black-winged stilt have been recorded, and many other species of rarity and local value. Here, too, in hard weather flock gulls and terns, and even an occasional cormorant, and many of the rarest county records have been obtained from this neighbourhood, and the zoological journals show from the earliest years of the century a long local death-roll. The black grouse is perhaps on the whole the most interesting county bird. From time immemorial it inhabited the two districts sur- rounding Leith Hill and Hindhead, and was until some time twenty years ago regularly pursued for sport. It was frequently assisted by im- portation, and for many years by this aid well held its own. It is at the present day almost, if not absolutely, extinct a sad loss. Surrey has never, until this year (1900), had a complete history of its birds written. 1 1 The Birds of Surrey, by John A. Bucknill, M.A. London (1900) : R. H. Porter. 203
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/245
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.