The summer migrant birds

There are five migrant species of birds whose calls announce the arrival of spring. When summer is advanced and the fields are short with the hay harvested and the tourists arrive a sense of sadness is nevertheless felt, because the song of some of these birds is no longer heard. They have already left and are on their flight back to Africa. The cuckoo we all know. In May we frequently hear several together calling from different directions. The hoopoe is another bird whose 'hupp-hupp-oo' is heard at a distance of several fields. It is so exotic in appearance that you feel it should live in a tropical forest. Then there are the nightingales. These sing from so many bushes along the wayside. They sing by day and by night. And then there are the turtle doves whose soft cooing haunts the woods. And lastly we have the golden orioles. They have a song which is a memorable deep whistle. The bird is hardly ever seen. The cuckoo and the nightingale are not heard beyond June, but the turtle doves and the orioles are still here towards the end of July, and the hoopoe may more rarely be heard.

The male of the oriole is is exceptionally brightly coloured with a large area of yellow on its back and underside. On July 17th at eight o'clock in the morning two males (apparently) were calling in the walnut tree close to the house. I cautiously approached the open window. The calling whistles turned into a minor jay-like scrap. The squawking was not as raucous as a jay can be, but it was fairly noisy.

Up to this time I was not able to see the birds, hidden as they were by the foliage. Indeed in the past four years I have never been able to see one. They are surprisingly secretive. But then the two birds flew over to sit on the telephone cable. I could see them side by side. The heads are strangely a little large in proportion for the body and the beaks are also quite large. In fact the proportions are not unlike a jay, although the bird is overall a little smaller than a jay. These males had a duller back than than is illustrated in the books, and I suppose that they were first year males from this year's brood.

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