(1186) Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni Richmond.
THE INDIAN TREE-PIPIT.
Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 281.
Our Indian Tree-Pipit breeds from the Afghan and Baluchistan frontiers and from Gilgit through Kashmir to Kuman and Garhwal. None of my many correspondents in Tibet have ever found nests, but Wollaston obtained fledglings at Kama in September, and Whistler found it breeding in Lahul, while Osmaston found nests still further East in Sikkim. It breeds at all heights between 8,000 and 13,000 feet or even higher and, perhaps, often also at lower elevations.
Anderson, who was the first to take authentic eggs of this species, thus describes the kind of country in which it breeds :—
“I next encountered the same species in great abundance at Furkia, on the banks of the Pindar, close under the glacier, at an elevation of 12,000 feet. My camp here was pitched on solid ice and it snowed heavily during the night.
“Here, with the enow lying deep on the ground, I found my second nest of Anthus maculatus (—hodgsoni).
“To sum up. Anthus maculatus affects by preference the more open grassy slopes in the immediate vicinity of woods, at elevations from 7,000 to 12,000 feet ; these open glades in Northern Kuman are thinly covered with trees and overgrown with beautiful thick, soft velvety grass, about a foot high, with occasional tussocks, especially in the vicinity of sheep pens, sufficiently dense and high to afford cover to a hare.”
In Sikkim Osmaston took nests in very similar country, “grassy hill-sides, thinly scattered with fir-trees and a few bushes.”
The nests are placed, in positions very similar to those chosen by other Pipits, but very often this species builds its nest under some overhanging boulder or rock, while at other times it hides it in hollows in banks, where it lies snugly screened by bushes, weeds or rank grass. In Garhwal, where Whymper found it very common, most nests were built in the grazing grounds, surrounded on all sides by forest. Here the nests were generally hidden in tufts of coarse grass left standing by the cattle, who fed on the softer, more luxuriant grass all round them.
Generally speaking the nest is the same grass-made cup built by other Pipits, the outer part of coarse grass, sometimes mixed with roots, a twig or two, and perhaps a few leaves at the base. Sometimes the nests are well made, stout and neatly lined with finer grass ; sometimes they are mere flimsy saucers, the grass ill put together and with lining and walls all of the same material.
The first nest found by Anderson was different to any other I can find any record of—“a large massive structure of green moss, lined with fine grass-stems.”
The breeding season is June, July and the latter half of May. The earliest and latest dates recorded are the 15th May and the 14th July.
The eggs number four almost invariably, but three only are occasionally laid and once Whymper found five in a nest.
They are quite typical in appearance but at once strike one as being exceptionally dark. Anderson speaks of finding “blackish eggs,” and Whymper also notes that they are exceptionally dark in colour.
The red type of egg is quite exceptional and in my own series there are only two such, one taken by Buchanan in Kashmir and the other by a Russian collector. Whymper, who probably has seen ten times the number of nests seen by any other collector, never obtained a red clutch. Again blotched or marbled eggs, so frequent among those of the common Tree-Pipit, both in the red and grey type, are never found among those of the present species.
At least three out of four clutches give one the impression of blackish-grey or blackish-grey-brown eggs. Occasional clutches have a pale grey ground definitely blotched with dark grey-brown instead of being finely stippled all over.
In shape the eggs vary from very broad blunt ovals to moderately long ovals, slightly compressed at the smaller end. The texture is dull and glossless.
One hundred and twenty eggs average 21.4 x 15.8 mm. : maxima 23.3 x 16.0 and 22.1 x 17.0 mm. ; minima 20.0 x 15.4 and 21.7 x 14.5 mm.
1186. Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni
(1186) Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni Richmond.