Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

departure of the young ones, we embarked and sailed about, the old birds keeping a look-out upon our motions, and frequently alighting upon the gunwale. Finally the brood was reared and flew away with the old ones.

“ The redstart, one of the prettiest summer birds of passage, though in its general habits very shy, is frequently in the choice of position for its nest, the very reverse.

We remember one which built on the narrow space between the gudgeons or upright iron on which a garden door was hung; the bottom of the nest, of course, resting on the iron hinge, which must have shaken it every time the door was opened. Nevertheless, there she sat, in spite of all this inconvenience and publicity, exposed as she was to all who were constantly passing to and fro.

“Among robin redbreasts, many instances of strange selection have come to our knowledge quite as singular as those hitherto mentioned. Thus, we know of one which attempted to build in the library of a gentleman's house, at least so it was suspected, from a few suspicious materials, such as dried leaves, &c., having been occasionally found amongst the shelves, without anybody having been able to ascertain whence they came. Probably disappointed by perceiving that they were swept away as soon as deposited, the domestic bird determined to try another equally sheltered situation, and, accordingly, selected the dining-room, which as the family never entered it till luncheon-time, she had all to herself from the moment the house-maid had done her duty in the morning, and retired leaving, as she was accustomed to do, the window open. How long the bird had carried on her operations unnoticed, we know not; but a servant accidentally moving the drapery of one of the window-curtains, discovered in the folds of a festoon the robin's nest.

“In this instance the bird availed itself of a situation, in which, during the greater portion of the day she was in solitude and silence; but solitude and silence do not seem to be essential to all robin redbreasts, for we lately heard of a pair which took possession of a pigeon-hole book-shelf in a school, which was constantly frequented by seventy children. The hole selected was at the farthest extremity of the room, immediately above the heads of a junior class

STRANGE SITUATIONS OF BIRDS' NESTS.

159

success.

of little girls from four to five years of age, who, much to their credit, never disturbed the bird. There she laid and hatched five eggs. One of the young ones died in a few days, and the body was carried off by the parent-birds. The remaining four were regularly fed in the presence of the children, and in due time reared. Soon after their departure the old bird repaired the nest and laid three more eggs, which she attended to with the same perseverance and

We have often alluded to the frequent return of birds to the same nests, and perhaps the most singular feature of this anecdote is, that about twelve years ago a robin built in that identical pigeon-hole. Why the visits were not renewed every year, it is impossible to conjecture; but that the pair of the present year were either the same old birds, or young ones of the brood then reared in it, is more than probable, from the circumstance of the pigeonhole being again selected; when others, forming the schoollibrary within the same frame-work, would equally have suited the purpose.

“ Another nest was constructed, and for two successive years in a still more extraordinary situation, which we give not on our own authority, but fully believing it. years ago, a pair of robins took up their abode in the parish church of Hampton, in Warwickshire, and affixed their nest to the church bible as it lay on the reading-desk. The vicar would not allow the birds to be disturbed, and therefore supplied himself with another bible, from which he read the lessons of the service. A similar instance occurred at Collingbourne, Kingston Church, in Wiltshire, on the 13th of April, 1834: the clerk, on looking out for the lessons of the day, perceived something under the bible in the readingdesk, and in a hollow place occasioned by the bible's resting on a raised ledge, found a robin's nest containing two eggs. The birds not having been disturbed, laid four more, which were hatched on the 4th of May. The still more extraordinary part of the story is, that the cock-bird actually brought food in its bill, and fed the young brood during divine service, which is performed twice every Sunday; and it is further highly creditable to the parishioners, particularly the junior portion of them, that the birds were never molested, and not an attempt ever suspected to have been made on the nest and eggs deposited in so hallowed a spot. We can remember a robin, indeed, hopping more than once familiarly, as if aware how safe from peril it was at such a moment, upon our own bible as it lay open before us, whilst we were reading the lessons on a Christmas-day.

We will close our anecdotes of singular situations chosen for building nests in, with the instance of a sparrow, who, like the preceding robin, attached herself to a church, but instead of the parish bible, selected the middle of a carved thistle, which decorated the top of the pulpit in a chapel at Kennaway, in Scotland. It found free ingress and egress by means of the windows which were left open for airing the chapel upon week-days. This bird migħt literally be said to have verified the words of the Psalmist, The sparrow hath found a home, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord !'”-Stanley on Birds.

[graphic]

Of the mole-cricket, which Aikin mentions as first making its appearance this month, we give the following account drawn from Kirby and Spence, and other naturalists :

“ The most remarkable burrower amongst perfect insects is that singular animal the mole-cricket (Gryllotalpa vulgaris, Latr.) This creature is endowed with wonderful strength,

THE MOLE-CRICKET.

161

particularly in its thorax and fore-legs. The former is a very hard and solid shell or crust, covering like a shield the trunk of the animal; and the latter are uncommonly fitted for burrowing, both by their strength and construction, The shanks are very broad, and terminate obliquely in four enormous sharp teeth, like so many fingers ; the foot consists of three joints, the two first being broad and tooth-shaped, and pointing in an opposite direction to the teeth of the shank; and the last small, and armed at the extremity with two short claws. This foot is placed inside the shank, so as to resemble a thumb, and perform the office of one. The direction and motion of these hands, as in moles, is outwards; thus enabling the animal most effectually to remove the earth when it burrows. By the help of these powerful instruments, it is astonishing how instantaneously it buries itself. This creature works underground, like a field-mouse, raising a ridge as it goes; but it does not throw up heaps like its namesake the mole. They will in this manner undermine whole gardens; and thus in wet and swampy situations, in which they delight, they excavate their curious apartments."

The Rev. Gilbert White also thus describes this insect : As mole-crickets often infest gardens by the sides of canals, they are unwelcome guests to the gardener, raising up ridges in their subterraneous progress, and rendering the walks unsightly. If they take to the kitchen quarters, they occasion great damage among the plants and roots, by destroying whole beds of cabbages, young legumes, and flowers. When dug out they seem very slow and helpless, and make no use of their wings by day; but at night they come abroad and make long excursions, as I have been convinced by finding stragglers in a morning in improbable places. 'In fine weather, about the middle of April, and just at the close of day, they begin to solace themselves with a low, dull jarring note, continued for a long time without interruption, and not unlike the chattering of the fern-owl, or goat-sucker, but more inward,

About the beginning of May they lay their eggs, as I was once an eye-witness; for a gardener, at a house where I was on a visit, happening to be mowing on the sixth of that month by the side of a canal, his scythe struck too

[ocr errors]

M

deep, pared off a large piece of turf, and laid open to view a curious scene of domestic economy.

“ There were many caverns and winding passages leading to a kind of chamber, neatly smoothed and rounded, and about the size of a modern snuff-box. Within this secret nursery were deposited nearly a hundred eggs of a dirty yellow colour, and enveloped in a tough skin, but too lately exuded to contain any rudiments of young, being full of a viscous substance. The eggs lay but shallow, and within the influence of the sun, just under a little heap of freshly moved mould, like that which is raised by ants.

“ When mole-crickets fly, they move cursu undoso, rising and falling in curves, like the other species mentioned before. In different parts of this kingdom people call them fen-crickets, churr-worms, and eve-churrs, all very apposite

Anatomists, who have examined the intestines of these insects, say, that, from the structure, position, and number of their stomachs, or maws, there seems to be good reason to

suppose that this and the two former species ruminate or chew the cud like many quadrupeds."

names.

THE WOOD, IN APRIL.

Let us accompany Miss Mitford, the best guide we can have in such an excursion, into a spring wood. “Spring," she says, “is actually come, with the fulness and almost the suddenness of a northern summer. To-day is completely April ; clouds and sunshine, wind and showers ; blossoms on the trees, grass in the fields, swallows by the ponds, snakes in the hedgerows, nightingales in the thickets, and cuckoos everywhere.” We are on our way to a wood called the Penge; we proceed on our way through winding lanes, between hedgerows tenderly green, till we reach the hatchgate, with the white cottage beside it embosomed in fruit trees, which form the entrance to the Penge, and in a moment the whole scene is before our eyes.

“ Is it not beautiful ?" demands our cheerful guide. “A

« ZurückWeiter »