Almost the only thing about my first sea voyage that I remember with pleasure is the circumstance of the little birds that, during the first few days out, took refuge on the steamer. The first afternoon, just as we were losing sight of land, a delicate little wood-bird, the black and white creeping warbler, having lost its reckoning in making perhaps its first southern voyage, came aboard.
For many years I have in late April seen the red-poll warbler, perhaps for only a single day, flitting about as I walked or worked. It is usually my first warbler, and my associations with it are very pleasing.
It was pleasant to find here two comparatively rare warblers, of whom I had before had only casual glimpses, the mourning warbler and the bay-breasted. The mourning warbler's song, as I heard it, was like this: Whit whit whit, wit wit. The first three notes were deliberate and loud, on one key, and without accent.
The hen cannot keep out of the water the ducks she has hatched, nor can the duck coax into the water the chickens she has hatched. The cowbird hatched and reared by the sparrow, or the warbler, or the vireo does not sing the song of the foster-parent. Why? Did its parent not try to teach it?
Alas! all the nests were robbed, those of the Kentucky and hooded warblers of their young, and that of the creeping warbler of its eggs. I trust I am not naturally vindictive; but had I the brigands in my power who despoiled those nests, I certainly should wring their necks. Our small birds must ever be on the qui vive. Danger is always lurking near, as a few concrete cases will show.
The red of his breast was continued in a narrow streak down through the white, as if the color had been put on wet, and had dripped at the point. The third tramp with my Enthusiast was after a warbler. To my fellow bird-students that tells a story.
Travels south, and spends the winter everywhere from southern New England to Panama. A great Seed Sower and a Tree Trapper. "I will show you a 'skin' of the Ovenbird, because it may be some time before you will see this Ground Warbler at home in the deep woods." "'Skin! What is that?" asked Rap, as the Doctor took from his pocket what looked merely like a dead bird.
He continued to sing, and I continued to edge my way nearer and nearer, till finally I was near enough, and went down on my knees. Then I saw him, facing me, showing white under parts. A Tennessee warbler! Here was good luck indeed. What a precious frenzy we fall into at such moments! My knees were fairly upon nettles. He flew, and I followed. Once more he was under the glass, but still facing me.
Perhaps the Kinglet is called after new, clean gold, and this 'Thrush' after old dusty gold." All this time Rap had been looking intently at the Warbler without saying a word; then he said suddenly: "Why, it's the bird that builds the little house-nest on the ground in the river woods! The nest that is roofed all over and has a round hole in one side for a door!
And since such a radical departure from the normal routine of behaviour could scarcely appear generation after generation in so many widely divergent forms, and still be so uniform in occurrence each returning season, if it were not founded upon some congenital basis, it is probable that the journey, whether it be the extensive one of the Warbler or the short one of the Reed-Bunting, is undertaken in response to some inherited disposition, and probable also that the disposition bears some relation to the few acres in which the bird ultimately finds a resting place.