Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. If attended to, it becomes an excellent weather-glass; for as sure as it walks elate, and as it were on tiptoe, feeding with great earnestness in a morning, so sure will it rain before night.
It is totally a diurnal animal, and never pretends to stir after it be comes dark. The tortoise, like other reptiles, has an arbitrary stomach as well as lungs; and can refrain from eating as well as breathing for a great part of the year. When first awakened it eats nothing; nor again in the autumn before it retires: through the height of the summer it feeds voraciously, devouring all the food that comes in it's way. I was much taken with it's sagacity in dis cerning those that do it kind offices: for, as soon as the good old lady comes in sight who has waited on it for more than thirty years, it hobbles towards it's benefactress with aukward alacrity; but re mains inattentive to strangers.
Thus not only " the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib b ," but the most abject reptile and torpid of beings distinguishes the hand that feeds it, and is touched with the feelings of gratitude! In about three days after I left Sussex the tortoise retired into the ground under the hepatica. Nor is the violence of this affection more wonderful than the shortness of it's duration.
Thus every hen is in her turn the virago of the yard, in proportion to the helplessness of her brood; and will fly in the face of a dog or a sow in defence of those chickens, which in a few weeks she will drive before her with relentless cruelty.
This affection sublimes the passions, quickens the invention, and sharpens the sagacity of the brute creation. Thus an hen, just be come a mother, is no longer that placid bird she used to be, but with feathers standing an end, wings hovering, and clocking note, she runs about like one possessed.
Dams will throw themselves in the way of the greatest danger in order to avert it from their pro geny. Thus a partridge will tumble along before a sportsman in order to draw away the dogs from her helpless covey. In the time of nidification the most feeble birds will assault the most rapacious. All the hirundines of a village are up in arms at the sight of an hawk, whom they will persecute till he leaves that district.
If you stand near the nest of a bird that has young, she will not be induced to betray them by an inadvertent fondness, but will wait about at a distance with meat in her mouth for an hour together. Should I farther corroborate what I have advanced above by some anecdotes which I probably may have mentioned before in conversation, yet you will, I trust, pardon the repetition for the sake of the illustration.
The flycatcher of the Zoology the stoparola of Ray , builds every year in the vines that grow on the walls of my house. A pair of these little birds had one year inadvertently placed their nest on a naked bough, perhaps in a shady time, not being aware of the inconvenience that followed. But an hot sunny season coming on before the brood was half fledged, the reflection of the wall became insupportable, and must inevitably have destroyed the tender young, had not affection suggested an expedient, and prompted the parent-birds to hover over the nest all the hotter hours, while with wings expanded, and mouths gaping for breath, they screened off the heat from their suffering offspring.
A farther instance I once saw of notable sagacity in a willow-wren, which had built in a bank in my fields. This bird a friend and myself had observed as she sat in her nest; but were particularly careful not to disturb her, though we saw she eyed us with some degree of jealousy. Some days after as we passed that way we were desirous of remarking how this brood went on; but no nest could be found, till I happened to take up a large bundle of long green moss, as it were, carelessly thrown over the nest in order to dodge the eye of any impertinent intruder.
From out of the side of this bed leaped an animal with great agility that made a most grotesque figure; nor was it without great difficulty that it could be taken; when it proved to be a large white-bellied field-mouse with three or four young clinging to her teats by their mouths and feet. It was amazing that the desultory and rapid motions of this dam should not oblige her litter to quit their hold, especially when it appeared that they were so young as to be both naked and blind! Swine, and sometimes the more gentle race of dogs and cats, are guilty of this horrid and preposterous murder.
When I hear now and then of an abandoned mother that destroys her offspring, I am not so much amazed; since reason per verted, and the bad passions let loose, are capable of any enormity: but why the parental feelings of brutes, that usually flow in one most uniform tenor, should sometimes be so extravagantly diverted, I leave to abler philosophers than myself to determine.
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SOME young men went down lately to a pond on the verge of Wolmer-forest to hunt flappers, or young wild-ducks, many of which they caught, and, among the rest, some very minute yet well-fledged wild-fowls alive, which upon examination I found to be teals. I did not know till then that teals ever bred in the south of England, and was much pleased with the discovery: this I look upon as a great stroke in natural history. We have had, ever since I can remember, a pair of white owls that constantly breed under the eaves of this church. As I have paid good attention to the manner of life of these birds during their season of breeding, which lasts the summer through, the following remarks may not perhaps be unacceptable:—About an hour before sunset for then the mice begin to run they sally forth in quest of prey, and hunt all round the hedges of meadows and small enclosures for them, which seem to be their only food.
In this irregular country we can stand on an eminence and see them beat the fields over like a setting-dog, and often drop down in the grass or corn. I have minuted these birds with my watch for an hour together, and have found that they return to their nest, the one or the other of them, about once in five minutes; reflecting at the same time on the adroitness that every animal is possessed of as far as regards the well being of itself and off spring.
White owls seem not but in this I am not positive to hoot at all: all that clamorous hooting appears to me to come from the wood kinds. The white owl does indeed snore and hiss in a tre mendous manner; and these menaces well answer the intention of intimidating: for I have known a whole village up in arms on such an occasion, imagining the church-yard to be full of goblins and spectres. White owls also often scream horribly as they fly along; from this screaming probably arose the common people's imaginary species of screech-owl, which they superstitiously think attends the windows of dying persons.
The plumage of the remiges of the wings of every species of owl that I have yet examined is remarkably soft and pliant. Perhaps it may be necessary that the wings of these birds should not make much resistance or rushing, that they may be enabled to steal through the air unheard upon a nimble and watchful quarry. While I am talking of owls, it may not be improper to mention what I was told by a gentleman of the county of Wilts.
As they were grubbing a vast hollow pollard-ash that had been the mansion of owls for centuries, he discovered at the bottom a mass of matter that at first he could not account for. For owls cast up the bones, fur, and feathers, of what they devour, after the manner of hawks. He believes, he told me, that there were bushels of this kind of substance. When brown owls hoot their throats swell as big as an hen's egg.
The Natural History of Selborne – Gilbert White
I have known an owl of this species live a full year without any water. Perhaps the case may be the same with all birds of prey. When owls fly they stretch out their legs behind them as a balance to their large heavy heads, for as most nocturnal birds have large eyes and ears they must have large heads to contain them. Large eyes I presume are necessary to collect every ray of light, and large concave ears to command the smallest degree of sound or noise.
It will be proper to premise here that the sixteenth, eighteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first letters have been published already in the Philosophical Transac tions: but as nicer observation has furnished several corrections and additions, it is hoped that the republication of them will not give offence; especially as these sheets would be very imperfect without them, and as they will be new to many readers who had no opportunity of seeing them when they made their first appearance.
The hirundines are a most inoffensive, harmless, entertaining, social, and useful tribe of birds: they touch no fruit in our gar dens; delight, all except one species, in attaching themselves to our houses; amuse us with their migrations, songs, and marvellous agility; and clear our outlets from the annoyances of gnats and other troublesome insects. It would be worth inquiring whether any species of hirundines is found in those regions.
Whoever contemplates the myriads of insects that sport in the sun-beams of a summer evening in this country, will soon be convinced to what a degree our atmosphere would be choaked with them was it not for the friendly interposition of the swallow tribe. Many species of birds have their peculiar lice; but the hirundines alone seem to be annoyed with dipterous insects, which infest every species, and are so large, in proportion to themselves, that they must be extremely irksome and injurious to them. These are the hippoboscae hirundinis, with narrow subulated wings, abounding in every nest; and are hatched by the warmth of the bird's own body during incubation, and crawl about under it's feathers.
A species of them is familiar to horsemen in the south of England under the name of forest-fly; and to some of side-fly, from it's run ing sideways like a crab. It creeps under the tails, and about the groins, of horses, which, at their first coming out of the north, are rendered half frantic by the tickling sensation; while our own breed little regards them. The curious Reaumur discovered the large eggs, or rather pupae, of these flies as big as the flies themselves, which he hatched in his own bosom.
Any person that will take the trouble to examine the old nests of either species of swallows may find in them the black shining cases or skins of the pupae of these insects: but for other particulars, too long for this place, we refer the reader to l' Histoire d' Insectes of that admirable entomologist. IN obedience to your injunctions I sit down to give you some ac count of the house-martin, or martlet; and, if my monography of this little domestic and familiar bird should happen to meet with your approbation, I may probably soon extend my inquiries to the rest of the British hirundines —the swallow, the swift, and the bank martin.
Lawrence, Blair Hughes-Stanton, and the Cresset Press Birds, Beasts and Flowers
A few house-martins begin to appear about the sixteenth of April; usually some few days later than the swallow. For some time after they appear the hirundines in general pay no attention to the business of nidification, but play and sport about, either to recruit from the fatigue of their journey, if they do migrate at all, or else that their blood may recover it's true tone and texture after it has been so long benumbed by the severities of winter.
About the middle of May, if the weather be fine, the martin begins to think in earnest of providing a mansion for it's family. The crust or shell of this nest seems to be formed of such dirt or loam as comes most readily to hand, and is tempered and wrought together with little bits of broken straws to render it tough and tenacious. As this bird often builds against a perpendicular wall without any pro jecting ledge under, it requires it's utmost efforts to get the first foundation firmly fixed, so that it may safely carry the superstruc ture. But then, that this work may not, while it is soft and green, pull itself down by it's own weight, the provident architect has prudence and for bearance enough not to advance her work too fast; but by building only in the morning, and by dedicating the rest of the day to food and amusement, gives it sufficient time to dry and harden.
About half an inch seems to be a sufficient layer for a day. Thus careful workmen when they build mud-walls informed at first perhaps by this little bird raise but a moderate layer at a time, and then desist; lest the work should become top-heavy, and so be ruined by it's own weight.
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By this method in about ten or twelve days is formed an hemispheric nest with a small aperture towards the top, strong, compact, and warm; and perfectly fitted for all the purposes for which it was intended. But then nothing is more common than for the house-sparrow, as soon as the shell is finished, to seize on it as it's own, to eject the owner, and to line it after it's own manner. After so much labour is bestowed in erecting a mansion, as Nature seldom works in vain, martins will breed on for several years together in the same nest, where it happens to be well shelter ed and secure from the injuries of weather.
The shell or crust of the nest is a sort of rustic-work full of knobs and protuberances on the outside: nor is the inside of those that I have examined smoothed with any exactness at all; but is rendered soft and warm, and fit for incubation, by a lining of small straws, grasses, and fea thers; and sometimes by a bed of moss interwoven with wool. In this nest they tread, or engender, frequently during the time of building; and the hen lays from three to five white eggs.
Was it not for this affec tionate cleanliness the nestlings would soon be burnt up, and de stroyed in so deep and hollow a nest, by their own caustic excrement. In the quadruped creation the same neat precaution is made use of; particularly among dogs and cats, where the dams lick away what proceeds from their young. But in birds there seems to be a particular provision, that the dung of nestlings is enveloped in a tough kind of jelly, and therefore is the easier conveyed off without soiling or daubing. Yet, as nature is cleanly in all her ways, the young perform this office for themselves in a little time by thrust ing their tails out at the aperture of their nest.
For a time the young are fed on the wing by their parents; but the feat is done by so quick and almost imperceptible a slight, that a person must have attended very exactly to their motions before he would be able to perceive it. As soon as the young are able to shift for themselves, the dams immediately turn their thoughts to the business of a second brood: while the first flight, shaken off and rejected by their nurses, congregate in great flocks, and are the birds that are seen clustering and hovering on sunny mornings and evenings round towers and steeples, and on the roofs of churches and houses.
These congregatings usually begin to take place about the first week in August; and therefore we may conclude that by that time the first flight is pretty well over.