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the severest cold-feeding equally on the produce of the sea and of the land-possessing powers of flight capable of outstripping even the tempests themselvesunawed by any thing but man-and, from the ethereal heights to which he soars, looking abroad, at one glance, over an immeasurable expanse of forests, lakes, fields, and ocean, deep below him, he appears indifferent to the little localities of change of seasons; as, in a few minutes, he can pass from summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmosphere, the abode of eternal cold, and from thence descend at will to the torrid or the arctic regions of the earth. He is, therefore, found at all seasons in the countries he inhabits, but prefers such places as have been mentioned above, from the great partiality he has for fish.
In procuring these, he displays, in a very singular manner, the genius and energy of his character, which is fierce, contemplative, daring, and tyrannical; attributes not exerted but on particular occasions, but when put forth, overpowering all opposition. Elevated on the high dead limb of some gigantic tree that commands a wide view of the neighbouring shore and ocean, he seems calmly to contemplate the motions of the various feathered tribes that
their avocations below; the snow-white gulls slowly winnowing the air ; the busy tringæ coursing along the sands; trains of ducks streaming over the surface; silent and watchful cranes intent and wading; clamorous crows; and all the winged multitudes that subsist by the bounty of this vast liquid magazine of Nature. High over all these hovers one, whose action instantly arrests his whole attention. By his wide curvature of wing, and sudden suspension in air, he knows him to be the fish hawk, settling over some devoted victim of the deep. His eye kindles at the sight, and, balancing himself, with half-open wings, on the branch, he watches the result. Down, rapid as an arrow from heaven, descends the distant object of his attention, the roar of its wings reaching the ear as it disappears in the deep, making the surges foam around it! At this moment the eager looks of the eagle are all ardour; and levelling his neck
for flight he sees the fish hawk once more emerge, struggling with his prey, and mounting in the air with screams of exultation. These are the signal for the eagle, who, launching into the air, instantly gives chace, and soon gains on the fish hawk; each exerts his utmost to mount above the other, displaying in these rencounters the most elegant and sublime aerial evolutions. The unencumbered eagle rapidly advances, and is just on the point of reaching his opponent, when, with a sudden scream, probably of despair and honest execration, the latter drops the fish; the eagle, poising himself for a moment, as if to take a more certain aim, descends like a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches the water, and bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods.
XX.--THE BLUE JAY.
This elegant bird, peculiar to North America, is distinguished as a kind of beau among the feathered tenants of the woods, by the brilliancy of his dress; and, like most other coxcombs, makes himself still more conspicuous by his loquacity, and the oddness of his tones and gestures. Of all birds he is the most bitter enemy to the owl. No sooner has he discovered the retreat of one of these, than he summons the whole feathered fraternity to his assistance, who surround the glimmering recluse, and attack him from all sides, raising such a shout as may be heard in a still day more than half a mile off. When in my hunting excursions, I bave passed near this scene of tumult, I have imagined to myself that I heard the insulting party, venting their respective charges with all the virulence of a mob; the owl, meanwhile, returning every compliment with a broad goggling stare. The war becomes hotter and louder, and the owl at length, forced to betake himself to flight, is followed by his whole train of persecutors, until driven beyond the boundaries of their jurisdiction.
But the blue jay himself is not guiltless of similar depredations with the owl, and becomes in his turn the very tyrant he detested, when he sneaks through the woods, as he frequently does, and among the thickets and hedgerows, plundering every nest he can find of its eggs, tearing up the callow young piecemeal, and spreading alarm and sorrow around him. The cries of the distressed parent soon bring together a number of interested spectators, for birds in such circumstances seem truly to sympathize with each other; and he is sometimes attacked with such spirit as to be under the necessity of making a speedy retreat. He will sometimes also assault small birds with the intention of killing and devouring them; but there are individual exceptions to this general character for plunder and outrage, a proneness for which is probably often occasioned by the wants and irritations of necessity. A blue jay, which I have kept for some time, and with whom I am on terms of familiarity, is in reality a very notable example of mildness of disposition and sociability of
An accident in the woods first put me in possession of this bird, while in full plumage, and in high health and spirits. I carried him home with me, and put him into a cage already occupied by a golden winged wood-pecker, where he was saluted with such rudeness, and received such a drubbing from the lord of the manor for entering his premises, that to save his life I was obliged to take him out again. I then put him into another cage, where the only tenant was a female oriolus. She also put on airs of alarm, as if she considered herself endangered and insulted by the intrusion; the jay meanwhile sat mute and motionless on the bottom of the cage, either dubious of his own situation, or willing to allow time for the fears of his neighbour to subside. Accordingly, in a few minutes after displaying various threatening gestures, she began to make her approaches, but with great circumspection and readiness for retreat. Seeing, however, the jay begin to pick up some crumbs of broken chestnuts in an humble and peaceable way, she also descended and began to do the same ; but at the slightest motion of her new guest, wheeled round and put herself on the defensive. All this ceremonious jealousy vanished before evening; and they now roost together, feed and play together, in perfect harmony and good-humour. When the jay goes to drink, his messmate very impudently jumps into the saucer to wash herself, throwing the water in showers over her companion, who bears it all patiently; venturing now and then to take a sip between every splash, without betraying the smallest to en of irritation.
The jay is not only bold and vociferous, but possesses a considerable talent for mimicry, and seems to enjoy great satisfaction in mocking and teasing other birds, particularly the little hawk, imitating his cry whenever he sees him, and squeaking out as if caught; this soon brings a number of his own tribe around him, who all join in the frolic, darting about the hawk, and feigning the cries of a bird sorely wounded, and already in the clutches of its devourer; while others lie concealed in bushes, ready to second their associates in the attack. But this ludicrous farce often terminates tragically. The hawk, singling out one of the most insolent and provoking, swoops upon him in an unguarded moment, and offers him up a sacrifice to his hunger and resentment. In an instant the tune is changed, all their buffoonery vanishes, and loud and incessant screams proclaim their disaster. Whenever the jay has had the advantage of education from man, he has not only shown himself an apt scholar, but his suavity of manners seems equalled only by his art and contrivances, though it must be confessed that his itch for thieving keeps pace with all his other acquirements.
GEOGRAPHY AND TOPOGRAPHY
EUROPE is inconsiderable in comparison of Asia, America, or the compact surface of Africa. A mere adjunct of the immense Asiatic continent, the whole peninsula could hardly contain a basin large enough for the Nile, the Kiang, or the Amazons. Its loftiest mountains cannot be compared in height or in extent to the Andes or Himmalahs. The productions of the animal, the vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, confined to the same continent, are few and insignificant. The most valuable natural productions have been imported from other quarters of the world. The silk worm was brought from India, fine wool from Mauritania, the peach from Persia, the orange from China, and the potato from America. If we are rich, our wealth has been derived from the produce of other countries.
Such is the power of the human mind, that our barren, rugged, and wild region, which nature had only covered with forests, or enriched with iron, has, after a lapse of four thousand years, been completely changed by its inhabitants. Climate is modified by cultivation, whilst navigation has put within our reach the produce of
every zone. Europe, in which the beaver built in security its habitations on the banks of solitary rivers, has become the seat of powerful empires; its fields yield rich harvests ; its cities are adorned with palaces; its inhabitants are spread over every country; our small peninsula extends its sway over the rest of the earth, and may be almost said to be the lawgiver of the world. America has been peopled by its colonies, and a great part of Asia subdued by its armies. The ocean is the exclusive patrimony of Europeans or their colonists.