The thought dogged him, wandering through fields bright with buttercups, where the little red calves were feeding, and the swallows flying high. Yes, the oaks were before the ashes, brown-gold already; every tree in different stage and hue. The cuckoos and a thousand birds were singing; the little streams were very bright.
The Cuckoos have been accused of stealing the eggs of us other birds, but I've never known them to do it and I've lived neighbor to them for a long time, I guess they get their bad name because of their habit of slipping about silently and keeping out of sight as much as possible, as if they were guilty of doing something wrong and trying to keep from being seen.
The Cuckoos have been given a bad name because of some good-for-nothing cousins of theirs who live across the ocean where Bully the English Sparrow belongs, and who, if all reports are true, really are no better than Sally Sly the Cowbird. It's funny how a bad name sticks.
The chewink, the indigo bird, the glad goldfinches, the plaintive pewees are the sopranos; the blue-bird, the quail, with her long, sweet call, and the grosbeak, with his mellow tones, are the altos; the nuthatch and the tanager take up the tenor, while the red-headed woodpeckers, the crows and the cuckoos bear down heavy on the bass. Growing with the light, the fugue swells into crescendo.
When fresh killed, the contrast of the vivid blue with the rich colours of the plumage is remarkably striking and beautiful. Handsome woodpeckers and gay kingfishers, green and brown cuckoos with velvety red faces and green beaks, red-breasted doves and metallic honeysuckers, were brought in day after day, and kept me in a continual state of pleasurable excitement.
Richmond Park possessed itself, even on that bright day of June, with arrowy cuckoos shifting the tree-points of their calls, and the wood doves announcing high summer.
Complainers are Screech-Owls; and Story-Tellers, always repeating the same dull note, are Cuckoos. Poets that prick up their ears at their own hideous braying are no better than Asses. Critics in general are venomous Serpents that delight in hissing, and some of them who have got by heart a few technical terms without knowing their meaning are no other than Magpies.
Dresser has given a very full resumé of the various arguments in his 'Birds of Europe'; and whilst fully admitting the great variation in the colour of the Cuckoos' eggs, he does not seem to think that any particular care is taken by the parent Cuckoo to select foster-parents whose eggs are similar in colour to its own; and the instances cited seem to bear out this opinion, with which, as far as my small experience goes, I quite agree.
Thrushes sang, and chaffinches, and, sweetest of all, if simplest in notes, the greenfinches talked and courted in the trees. Two cuckoos called in different directions, wood-pigeons raised their voices in Selworthy Wood, and rooks went over cawing in their deliberate way.
He is locally supposed to begin his song with the words "Chiswick Eyot! Chiswick Eyot!" which indeed he does pretty exactly. Early on summer mornings I always see cuckoos hunting for a place to drop an egg. In the summer of 1900 a young cuckoo was hatched from a sedge-warbler's nest, and spent the rest of the summer in the gardens opposite this and the next houses.