Abbildungen der Seite

these thirty years past, in that part of the world. A mean quantity in that county for one year is twenty inches and a half.




FYFIELD, near ANDOVER, Feb. 12, 1771, DEAR SIR, You are, I know, no great friend to migra

and the well-attested accounts from various parts of the kingdom, seem to justify you in your suspicions, that at least many of the swallow kind do not leave us in the winter,* but lay themselves up like insects and bats, in a torpid state, and slumber away the more uncomfortable months, till the return of the sun and fine weather awakens them.

But then we must not, I think, deny migration in general; because migration certainly does subsist in some places, as my brother in Andalusia has fully informed me. Of the motions of these birds he has ocular demonstration, for many weeks together, both spring and fall; during which periods, myriads of the swallow kind traverse the Straits from north to south, and from south to north, according to the season. And these vast migrations consist not only of hirundines, but of bee-birds, hoopoes, oro pendolos, or golden thrushes, &c., &c., and also of many of our soft-billed summer birds of passage; and moreover, of birds which never leave us, such as all the various sorts of hawks and kites. Old Belon, two hundred years ago, gives a curious account of the incredible armies of hawks and kites which he saw in the spring time traversing the Thracian Bosphorus, from Asia to Europe. Besides the above mentioned, he remarks that the procession is swelled by whole troops of eagles and vultures.

* See preceding note on this subject, page 39 of this edition. -Ed.'

Now, it is no wonder that birds residing in Africa should retreat before the sun as it advances, and retire to milder regions, and especially birds of prey, whose blood being heated with hot animal food, are more impatient of a sultry climate; bnt then I cannot help wondering why kites and hawks, and such hardy birds as are known to defy all the severity of England, and even of Sweden and all north Europe, should want to migrate from the south of Europe, and be dissatisfied with the winters of Andalusia.

It does not appear to me that much stress may be laid on the difficulty and hazard that birds must run in their migrations, by reason of vast oceans, cross winds, &c.; because, if we reflect, a bird may travel from England to the Equator without launching out and exposing itself to boundless seas, and that by crossing the water at Dover, and again at Gibraltar. And I with the more confidence advance this obvious remark, because my brother has always found that some of his birds, and particularly the swallow kind, are very sparing of their pains in crossing the Mediterranean for when arrived at Gibraltar, they do not,

Ranged in figure, wedge their way

and set forth
Their airy caravan, high over seas
Flying, and over lands with mutual wing
Easing their flight;


but scout and hurry along in little detached parties of six or seven in a company; and, sweeping low, just over the surface of the land and water, direct their course to the opposite continent at the narrowest passage they can find. They usually slope across the bay to the south-west, and so pass over opposite to Tangier, which, it seems, is the narrowest space.

In former letters, we have considered, whether it was probable that woodcocks, in moonshiny nights, cross the German Ocean from Scandinavia. As a proof that birds of less speed may pass that sea, considerable as it is, I shall relate the following incident, which, though mentioned to have happened so many years ago, was strictly matter of fact :-As some people were shooting in the parish of

One thing

Trotten, in the county of Sussex, they killed a duck in that dreadful winter, 1708-9, with a silver collar about its neck,* . on which were engraven the arms of the King of Denmark. This anecdote the rector of Trntten at that time has often told to a near relation of mine, and to the best of my remembrance, the collar was in the possession of the rector.

At present, I do not know any body near the sea-side that will take the trouble to remark at what time of the moon woodcocks first come: if I lived near the sea myself, I would soon tell you more of the matter. I used to observe when I was a sportsman, that there were times in which woodcocks were so sluggish and sleepy, that they would drop again when flushed just before the spaniels, nay, just at the muzzle of a gun that had been fired at them: whether this strange laziness was the effect of a recent fatiguing journey, I shall not presume to say.

Nightingales not only never reach Northumberland and Scotland, but also, as I have been always told, Devonshire and Cornwall.t In those two last counties, we cannot attribute the failure of them to the want of warmth: the defect in the west is rather a presumptive argument that these birds come over to us from the continent at the narrowest passage, and do not stroll so far westward.

Let me hear from your own observation whether skylarks


* I have read a like anecdote of a swan. t In a western direction the nightingale visits Dorsetshire and the eastern part only of Devonshire ; is never heard in Cornwall; visits Somersetshire, and goes northward on the western side of England as high as Carlisle. On the eastern side it is never heard beyond the city of York, yet visits much higher latitudes on the European continent. Linnæus includes it in his Fauna Succica. Great pains were taken by (I think) Sir John Sinclair to establish the nightingale in Scotland, but without success. An old notion referred to by Montagu, that the nightingale possibly might not be found in any part but where cowslips grow plentifully, seems incorrect : cowslips grow in great luxuriance in Glamorganshire, and also north of Carlisle.

A gentle man of Gower, which is the peninsula beyond Swansea, procured from Norfolk and Surrey, a few years back, some scores of young nightingales, hoping that an acquaintance with his beautiful woods and their mild climate would induce a second visit; but the law of Nature was too strong for him, and not a single bird returned. Dyer, in his Grongar Hill, makes the nightingale the companion of his muse in the vale of Towey or Carmarthen, but this is a poetical licence, as this bird is not heard there.-W. Y.


do not dust. I think they do; and if they do, whether they wash also.*

The alauda pratensis of Ray was the poor dupe that was educating the booby of a cuckoo mentioned in my letter ? October last.+

Your letter came too late for me to procure a ring-ousel for Mr. Tunstal during their autumnal visit; but I will endeavour to get him one when they call on us again in April. I am glad that you and that gentleman saw my Andalusian birds; I hope they answered your expectation. Royston, or grey crows, are winter birds that come much about the same time with the woodcock: they, like the fieldfare and redwing, have no apparent reason for migration; for, as they fare in the winter like their congeners, sc might they, in all appearance, in the summer. I Was not Tenant, when a boy, mistaken? Did he not find a misselthrush's nest, and take it for the nest of a fieldfare ?

The stock-dove or wood-pigeon, cenas Raii, is the last winter bird of passage which appears with us, § and is not seen till towards the end of November. About twenty years ago, they abounded in the district of Selborne, and strings of them were seen morning and evening that reached a mile or more; but since the beechen woods have been greatly thinned, they have much decreased in number. The ring-dove, palumbus Raii, stays with us the whole year, and breeds several times through the summer.

Before I received your letter of October last, I had just remarked in my journal that the trees were unusually green. This uncommon verdure lasted on late into November, and may be accounted for from a late spring, a cool and moist

* Larks certainly dust, and, in a cage, wash themselves, but I am not aware that they do the latter when in a wild state.-Ed.

+ Letter xxxviii. to the Hon. Daines Barrington.

I The Royston crow breeds, and is stationary, on all the west coast of Scotland ; and it is probable that most of those which visit England during winter, arrive from Sweden and Norway, or the countries adjacent,-few, if any, of the Scotch individuals leaving their regular abodes.—W.J.

Ŝ Here, as in a previous passage, Mr. White has spoken of the wood-pigeon as synonimous with the stock-dore. It is more usual to apply that name to the ring-dove. Perhaps, with the view of avoiding confusion, it would be better that the use of the name wood-pigeon should be altogether abandoned.


summer, but more particularly from vast armies of chafers, or tree-beetles, which, in many places, reduced whole woods to a leafless naked state. These trees shot again at midsummer, and then retained their foliage till very late in

the year.

My musical friend, at whose house I am now visiting, has tried all the owls that are his near neighbours, with a pitchpipe set at concert pitch, and finds they all hoot in B flat. He will examine the nightingales next spring.



SELBORNE, March 30, 1771. DEAR SIR,- There is an insect with us, especially on chalky districts, which is very troublesome and teasing all the latter end of the summer, getting into people's skins, especially those of women and children, and raising tumours which itch intolerably. This animal (which we call an harvest bug) is very minute, scarce discernible to the naked eye, of a bright scarlet colour, and of the genus of acarus. * They are to be met with in gardens, on kidney beans, or any legumens, but prevail only in the hot months of summer. Warreners, as some have assured me, are much infested by them on chalky downs, where these insects swarm sometimes to so infinite a degree as to discolour their nets, and to give them a reddish cast; while the men are so bitten as to be thrown into fevers.

There is a small, long, shining fly in these parts, very troublesome to the housewife, by getting into the chimneys, and laying its eggs in the bacon while it is drying. These eggs produce maggots, called jumpers, which, harbouring in

* Most probably acarus autumnalis. It buries itself at the roots of the hairs on the extremities, producing intolerable itching, attended by inflammation and considerable tumours, and sometimes e ren occasioning fevers.-W.,

« ZurückWeiter »