History Of Brighton And Environs - Online Book

From The Earliest Known Period To The Present Time.

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213
on record of its being formerly part of the agreement, on the letting of farms situated near the sea, for tenants to send to their respective owners, during the season, a crock or two of potted wheat-ears,—called by many the English ortolan. These birds annually visit our shores in Sussex; they were formerly much more numerous than at the present time, and may be seen on the hills near Brighton en route to Lewes via Newmarket Hill,—a most beautiful and diversified prospect. The season for them is the autumn, and in the old coaching times the heat of the weather would scarcely allow this delicate creature to be carried fresh to London, unless taken alive. They are about the size of larks, but lighter brown, and have more white in their feathers; the rump and the lower part of the tail are white, the upper half black, the under side of the body white, tinged with yellow, the neck inclining to red, the quill feathers black edged with brown. They arrive in England about the middle of July (the females a fortnight before the male), grow fat in August, and disappear in September. They frequent the Downs for a certain fly which breeds among the wild thyme and other herbs thereon. Being very timid birds the motion of a cloud will drive them for shelter into holes in the ground. The manner in which these birds are deprived of liberty and life is simply thus :—The shepherds, while they attend their flocks on the hills, cut sods of earth; each trench is as long as a middle-sized man's leg, and as wide at the top as the smaller part thereof, inclining towards the bottom nearly to an angle. These sods they lay carefully on the turf side across, and not far from the left corner of the lower part of the trench. Open to the top of the trench, and crossways, another turf not so long but wider, is cut out in like manner, and laid with the bottom upwards, across and over the near part of the trench (that is close up with the communication part), and underneath the latter turf, upon a small flat stick that lies
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