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The Naturalist's Diary.
Advancing Spring profusely spreads abroad
same mea It is, indeeded from f
. If there has been a medium proportion of easterly winds in the previous part of the winter, the month of April may be expected to be mild, with gentle showers; thus affording to vegetables an abundant supply of water, which is so indispensably necessary to their existence. The many thousand tribes of vegetables are not only all formed from a few simple substances, but enjoy the same sun, vegetate in thę same medium, and are supplied with the same nutriment. It is, indeed, wonderful that all orders of vegetables are produced from four or five natural substances, viz. caloric, light, water, air, and carbon, How, admirable, then, must the formation of those organs be, which, by their peculiar actions, shall produce such various modifications of these sube stances, so as to form the different colours, tints, odours, tastes, &c. of the vegetable kingdom ! How surprising must be the progress of vegetation! How rich the economy of nature !
The arrival of the swallow, early in this month,' announces the approach of summer, and now all nature asumes a more cheerful aspect. The swallow tribe is of all others the most inoffensive, harmless, entertaining and social; all, except one species, attach themselves to our houses, amuse us with their migrations, songs, and marvellous agility, and clear the air of gnats and other troublesome insects, which would, otherwise, much annoy and incommode us. Whoever contemplates the myriads of insects that
sport in the sun-beams in a summer's evening in this country, will soon be convinced to what a degree our atmosphere would be choked with them, were it not for the friendly interposition of the swallow. tribe! Swallows are found in every country of the known world, but seldom remain the whole year in the same climate :
Long, little wand'rer, be thy stay .
Within our séa-girt Isle! .
To pay thy pleasing toil!
Haply please the rural swain,
While.twitering o'er the straw-built shed' . . . Thou wak’st him from his lonely bed ! DR. SHAW. There are four species of the hirundines that visit England; they arrive in the following order:
1. The chimney swallow (hirundo rustica) builds its nest generally in chimnies, in the inside, within a few feet of the top, or under the caves of houses : it is curiously constructed, of a cylindrical shape, plastered with mud, mixed with straw 'and hair, and lined with feathers; it is attached to the sides or corners of the chimney, and is sometimes a foot in height, open at the top. Swallows soon become familiar after they have been caught'.
2. The house martin (hirundo urbica), known by its white breast and black back, glossed with blue, visits us in great numbers. It builds under the eaves of houses, or close by the sides of the windows; and constructs its nest of mud and straw, lining it with feathers. 3. The sand martin (hirundo riparia) is the smallest of our swallows, as well as the least numerous of them. It frequents the steep, sandy banks, in the neighbourhood of rivers, in the sides of which it makes deep holes, and places the nest at the end : this is carelessly constructed of straw, dry grass, and feathers. · 4. The swift (hirundo apus) is the largest species, measuring nearly eight inches in length. Swifts are almost continually on the wing; they fly higher, and wheel with bolder wing than the swallows, with which they never intermingle. The life of the swift seems to be divided into two extremes; the one of the most violent exertion, the other of perfect inaction; for they either shoot through the air, or remain close in their holes. These birds build their nests in lofty steeples and high towers, and sometimes under the arches of bridges. The swift has been noticed at the Cape of Good Hope, and it probably visits the more remote regions of Asia. to
i One that had been taken and slightly wounded in the wing, so as to prevent its flying away, sat for its portrait to Mr. Bewick : it remained on the bench while the wood-cut was engraved, and, from its having been fed by the hand with Aies, while sitting, watched every motion ; and at every look of the eye, when pointedly directed towards it, rau close up to the graver, in expectation of a fresh supply of food.(British Birds, vol. 1, p. 264, 5.)
The next bird which appears, is that sweet warbler, the motacilla luscinia, or nightingale.
is : . 'Within the grove's : Thick foliage perched, she pours ber echoing voice,? :) 5 Now deep, now clear, still varying the strain.: Although the nightingale is common in this country, it never visits the northern parts of our island, and is but seldom seen in the western counties 'of Devonshire and Cornwall. It leaves us sometime in the month of August, and makes its regulár return in the beginning of April. The nightingale is" supposed, during that interval, to visit the distant regions of Asia ; this is probable, as these birds do not winter in any part of France, Germany, Italy, Greece, &c. neither does it appear that they stay in Africa, but are seen at all times in India, Persia, China, and Japan. This delightful songster is a solitary bird, and never unites in flocks, like many of the smaller birds, but hides itself in the thickest part of the bushes, and sings, generally, in the night:
Far and pear,
They answer and provoke each other's songs
Stirring the air with such a barmony, n.
Forget it was not day! The manner in whicḥ young birds practise their songs as learners, is a circumstance not at all mentioned by any of our poets. This recording, which lasts for ten or twelve months, is well known to bird-catchers, and is accurately described by the Hon. Mr. Daines Barrington. This first essay does not seem to have the least rudiments of the future song; but, as the bird grows older and stronger, one may begin to perceive what the nestling is aiming at. Whilst the scholar is thus endeavouring to form his song, when he is once sure of a passage, he commonly raises his tone, which he drops again when he is not equal to what he is attempting; just as a singer raises his voice, when he not only recollects certain parts of the tune with precision, but knows that he can execute them. What the nestling is not thus thoroughly master of, he hurries over, lowering his tone, as if he did not wish to be beard, and could not yet satisfy himself,'-(Phil. Tr. vol. lxiij, part 1, pp. 250, 1.)
Pliny, in his account of the nightingale, minutely describes the state of a learner of that species.• The younger sort meditate and receive lessons for their imitation. The scholar listens with great attention, and repeats, and each is silent by turns, An attempt to mend in a corrected passage may be perceived, and a kind of reprehension in the teacher?,' .
i Meditantur aliæ juniores, versusque, quos imitentur, accipiunt. Audit discipula intentione magna, et reddit : vicibusque reticent. Intelligituremendatæ correptio, et in docente quædam reprehensio.
The tone of the nightingale (continues Mr. Barrington) is infinitely more mellow than that of any other bird, though at the same time, by a proper exertion of its musical powers, it can be excessively brilliant. When this bird' sang its song round, in its whole compass, I have observed sixteen different beginnings and closes, at the same time that the intermediate notes were commonly varied in their succession, with such judgment as to produce a most. pleasing variety. : The next point of superiority in a nightingale, is its continuance of song, without a pause, which I have observed sometimes, not to be less than twenty secondş. Whenever respiration, however, became necessary, it was taken with as much judgment as by an opera singer. But it is not only in tone and variety that the nightingale excels : the bird also sings (if I may so express myself) with superior judgment and taste. I have therefore commonly observed that my nightingale began softly, like the antient orators; reserving its breath to swell certain notes, which by this means had a most astonishing effect, and which eludes all verbal description.'(Phil. Tr. vol. Ixiii, pp. 285, 6.) ; ; ...,
Thomas Warton, in his delightful Ode, entitled • The First of April,' thus depicts some of the ap. pearances of nature at the beginning of the month:
Scarce a sickly straggling flower
O'er the field of waving broom,
And, but by fits, the furze-clad dale