The na­ture of things


Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

HEAR­ING re­cently a lovely melodic trilling, which sounded more than any­thing else like a wood­lark, I was re­minded that these rare birds are now among the for­tu­nate species en­joy­ing some­thing of a re­vival, per­haps ow­ing to care­ful man­age­ment of their favourite haunts. I was also re­minded of Ger­ard Man­ley Hop­kins’s de­light­ful poem, which surely sums up, bet­ter than any­one else has done, the sin­gu­lar song, char­ac­ter and habi­tat of these diminu­tive birds: Teevo cheevo chee­vio chee:

O where, what can there thaat again!be? Wee­dio-wee­dio: So tiny a trickle of song-strain; And all around not to be found For brier, bough, fur­row, or green ground Be­fore or be­hind or far or at hand Ei­ther left ei­ther right Any­where in the sun­light Well, af­ter all! Ah but hark—

I am the lit­tle wood­lark. Like so many charm­ing song­sters, wood­larks are in­con­spic­u­ously feath­ered, mostly a lovely mix of dark and warm browns above and creamy­white on the un­der­car­riage, with thin, dark streaks around the throat area. With­out the song for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, it could be con­fused with the sky­lark, or even a pipit, as the lark’s crest isn’t of­ten raised. Wood­larks do, how­ever, have short, stumpy tails and broad wings and their white eye stripes run right round the head to the nape of the neck.

A lover of heath­land, where its ground-nest­ing habit is pre­car­i­ous, Lul­lula ar­borea is chiefly a bird of south­ern coun­ties, from Corn­wall to Sus­sex and East Anglia. KBH

Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

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