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April, it is thy band that doth unlock,
From plain and rock,
So richly blest,
'Tis thou that dost, with summons blythe and soft,
High up aloft,
Scud swift and bear
Where thou art treading,
On leafy spray
With voice that ranges
Sweet month, thou seest at this jocund prime
Of the spring-tiine,
With laden thigh,
May shall with
wavy wealth unfold,
And, like a gem,
Sweet month, for thee;
Swell and divide,
The arrival of the swallow, about the middle of this month, foretels the approach of summer, whose coming, however, is too often retarded by the return of Winter in angry mood, hurling his last hailstorms at the 'proud-pied' and flower-wreathed head of April.
By Spring's first sunbeam from her wintry rest,
Lo! waked to toil th' industrious swallow hies
And for her curious masonry, supplies:
Gathers her insect prey, still journeying on,
Prattles to passers by, but halts with none.
With duty still untired her young she rears;
Then ends her destined task, and disappears.
MRS. G, G. RICHARDSON. There are but few persons in the United States (observes Mr. Wilson, in his American Ornithology) unacquainted with this gay, innocent, and active little bird. Indeed, the whole tribe are so distinguished from the rest of small birds by their sweeping rapidity of flight, their peculiar aërial evolutions of wing over our fields and rivers, and through our very streets,
from morning to night, that the light of heaven itself, the sky, the trees, or any other common objects of nature, are not better known than the swallows. We welcome their first appearance with delight, as the faithful harbingers and companions of flowery spring, and ruddy summer; and when, after a long frost-bound and boisterous winter, we hear it announced, that "The swallows are come,' what delightful ideas are associated with the simple tidings !
The wonderful activity displayed by these birds forms a striking contrast to the slow habits of most other animals. It may be fairly questioned, whether among the whole feathered tribes which heaven has formed to adorn this part of the creation, there 'be any that, in the same space of time, pass over an equal extent of surface with the swallow. Let a person take his stand, on a fine summer evening, by a new mown field, meadow, or river shore for a short time, and among the numerous individuals of this tribe that flit before him, fix his eye on a particular one, and follow, for awhile, all its circuitous labyrinths—its extensive sweeps—its sudden, rapidly. reiterated zig-zag excursions, little inferior to the lightning itself, and then attempt, by the powers of mathematics, to calculate the length of the various lines it describes. Alas! even his omnipotent fluxions would avail him little here, and he would soon abandon the task in despair. Yet, that some definite conception may be formed of this extent, let us suppose that this little bird flies, in his usual way, at the rate of one mile in a minute, and that he is so engaged for ten hours every day; and further, that this active life is extended to ten years (many of oar small birds being known to live much longer, even in a state of domestication), the amount of all these, allowing 365 days to a year, would give us 2,190,000 miles; upwards of 87 times the circumference of the globe!
After the swallow, the next bird that appears is the nightingale :
it seldom sings above six weeks, generally commencing the last week in April.
That beautiful bird the wryneck next makes its appearance, preceding the cuckoo by a few days: see p. 158. The other summer birds of passage which arrive this month, make their appearance in the following order: the ring-ouzel; the redstart, the yellow wren, the swift, the white-throat, the grasshopper lark, and the willow-wren, which, as well as the house-wren, destroys many pernicious insects.
The feathered tribe are now busily engaged in
forming their temporary habitations, and in rearing and maintaining their offspring. Some beautiful reflections on the nests of birds, by M. Chateaubriand, will be found in our last volume, pp. 97-99.
The Baltimore Oriole.-So solicitous is this bird to procure proper materials for his nest, that, in the season of building, the women in the country are under the necessity of narrowly watching their thread that may chance to be out bleaching, and the farmer to secure his young grafts, as the Baltimore finding the former, and the strings which tie the latter, so well adapted for his parpose, frequently carries off both; or should the one be too heavy, or the other too firmly tied, be will tag at them a considerable time before he gives up the attempt. Skeins of silk and hanks of thread have been often found, after the leaves were fallen, hanging round the Baltimore's nest; but so woven up and entangled, as to be entirely irreclaimable. Before the introduc tion of Europeans no such material could have been obtained here; but with the sagacity of a good architect, he has improved this circumstance to bis advantage; and the strongest and best materials are uniformly found in those parts by which the whole is supported. Their principal food consists of caterpillars, beetles, and other insects.
The song of the Baltimore is a clear, mellow whistle, repeated at short intervals, as he gleans among the branches. There is in it a certain wild plaintiveness and naiveté extremely interesting; it is not uttered with rapidity, but with the pleasing tranquillity of a careless ploughboy, whistling merely for his own amusement. When alarmed by an approach to his nest, or any such circumstance, he makes a kind of rapid chirruping, very different from his usual note. This, however, is always succeeded by those mellow tones which seem so congenial to his nature.
High on yon poplar, clad in glossiest green,