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that there is an advantage, gained by flying at a great height may be would entail far greater length of writing than these pages will allow. The explanation will be afforded in due course by the solution of the problem of mechanical human flight. When this problem is solved we shall find that we can fly with greater, probably much greater, speed through the higher strata of the air than through the lower.
What the greatest height attained by migrating birds may be no one can pretend to say. we see coming over our coast line on the very
borderland of the range of human vision when applied to an object as small as a goose with outstretched wings are probably at lower, more likely than not a much lower, altitude than that at which they made the major part of their passage. I have made out fieldfares off the coast so high that they were mere specks when viewed through a powerful glass. And these birds were almost certainly descending at the time.
Deductions from all we know at present seem to point to the conclusion that all migrating birds, on leaving the shore, mount steadily upwards for the first so many miles till they reach an altitude which gives them the most favourable conditions for sustained flight at their highest speed, and that they continue at this altitude till within a certain distance of the shore for
which they are bound. This, of course, in normal weather. If they meet a contrary wind at their adopted altitude they no doubt quickly seek a lower, or perhaps a higher, one. When the weather is against them, and their journey has been consequently prolonged till their strength fails, many of them sink lower and lower till they find themselves struggling feebly onwards only just above the water long before their destination is reached ; and when they reach it at last they arrive in a state of utter exhaustion. Enormous numbers of birds drop into the sea and are drowned when boisterous weather prevails at the seasons of migration.
In normal weather, migrant woodcock land upon the east coast of England and Scotland, and after a brief rest at once begin to spread themselves over the whole of our islands, favouring certain districts as suited to their winter residence, and visiting other districts merely occasionally and in very small numbers.
Those 'cock which reach the Norfolk and Suffolk coast generally show that their journey has had but little effect upon them, though sometimes they are found to be weak and in poor condition. That their comparatively short flight has, however, made some considerable tax upon their strength seems certain, on account of their disinclination to continue the
journey beyond the coast line till they have had a lengthy rest. Local shore shooters, always on the look-out for woodcock at the time of the autumn migration, often punish the birds severely. I have known ten couple of 'cock to be killed at dawn from a single strip of marram only about two hundred and fifty yards by about twenty yards. When there has been a large fall of woodcock during the night, birds may be found at times in the strangest places, places where one would least expect to find a 'cock at any other time of the year. Not so very long ago a walled-in garden in a populous village on the east coast yielded its owner one or more 'cock every morning for a week, all the birds he shot being plump and fat. Unless disturbed, where woodcock pitch on the night of their arrival, there they rest till dusk sets in the following day : though one day the country near the coast may abound with them, the next day you may seek in vain for a single bird.
It is rarely that the birds are seen actually arriving, but an instance is quoted by a sportsman and naturalist, who signs himself Moorman.' Accompanied by one of his men he went round one evening, carrying a shaded lantern, to seek evidence of poachers' work. His attention was called to the sound of an occasional bird flying, and between the
tops of the firs he and his man distinctly saw one or two birds pitch. He had just brought his lantern to bear on the ground when his man suddenly cried, * There he goes !' made a dash down the hedgeside, and the next instant was sprawling at full length with a woodcock beneath him. “I've got ’im, Master !' he cried, breathlessly, and sure enough he had, the bird being more frightened than hurt.
The woodcock which reach the north-east coast of England are almost certainly birds which have started from the Dutch or German coast : those which reach the shores of Norfolk and Suffolk are almost certainly birds which have left the shore of Holland. Many years ago there was a large fall of starving 'cock in the streets of a Suffolk coast town, birds so weak that numbers of them were caught by the inhabitants. These birds probably started from Norway or Sweden, and were driven by gales far down the North Sea before they could effect a landing. No doubt the birds which sometimes now reach the Norfolk and Suffolk coast in the skeleton stage have passed through the same experience. It seems unlikely that the instinct of birds leaving the Scandinavian coast would ever prompt them to take so southward a line as one leading to the coast of Suffolk. Nothing, of course, can be said with certainty on the subject, but