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and can grope
between the eyes into the upper mandible, have a more delicate feeling in their beaks than other round-billed birds,
for their meat when out of sight. Perhaps, then, their associates attend them on the motive of interest, as greyhounds wait on the motions of their finders, and as lions are said to do on the yelpings of jackals. Lapwings and starlings sometimes associate.
TO THE SAME.
March 9, 1772. DEAR SIR, -As a gentleman and myself were walking, on the 4th of last November, round the sea-banks at Newhaven, near the mouth of the Lewes river, in pursuit of natural knowledge, we were surprised to see three house swallows gliding very swiftly by us. That morning was rather chilly, with the wind at north-west; but the tenor of the weather for some time before had been delicate, and the noons remarkably warm. From this incident, and from repeated accounts which I meet with, I am more and more induced to believe that many of the swallow kind do not depart from this island, but lay themselves up in holes and caverns, and do, insect-like and bat-like, come forth at mild times, and then retire again to their latebre, or lurking-places. Nor make I the least doubt but that, if I lived at Newhaven, Seaford, Brighthelmstone, * or any of those towns near the chalk cliffs of the Sussex coast, by proper observations, I should see swallows stirring at periods of the winter, when the noons were soft and inviting, and the sun warm and invigorating. And I am the more of this opinion, from what I have remarked during some of our late springs, and though some swallows did make their appearance about the usual
* Muck as I have resided in Brighton, and many as my inquiries have been, I have nerer heard of or seen swallows at any unusual periods in that neigh. bourhood.---ED,
time, viz., the 13th or 14th of April, yet, meeting with an harsh reception, and blustering cold north-east winds, they immediately withdrew, absconding for several days till the weather
them better encouragement.
TO THE SAME.
April 12, 1772. DEAR SIR,—While I was in Sussex last autumn, my residence was at the village near Lewes, from whence I had formerly the leasure of writing to you.
On the 1st of November, I remarked that the old tortoise, formerly mentioned, began first to dig the ground, in order to the forming of its hybernaculum, which it had fixed on just beside a great turf of hepaticas. It scrapes out the ground with its forefeet, and throws it up over its back with its hind; but the motion of its legs is ridiculously slow,* little exceeding the hour-hand of a clock, and suitable to the composure of an animal said to be a whole month in performing one feat of copulation. Nothing can be more assiduous than this creature, night and day, in scooping the earth, and forcing its great body into the cavity ; but, as the noons of that season proved unusually warm and sunny, it was continually interrupted, and called forth by the heat, in the middle of the day; and though I continued there till the 13th of November, yet the work remained unfinished. Harsher weather and frosty mornings would have quickened its operations. No part of its behaviour ever struck me more than the extreme timidity it always expresses with regard to rain; for though it has a shell that would secure it against the wheel of a loaded cart, yet does it discover as much solicitude about
* The motion of the tortoise's legs being, as Mr. White remarks, “ ridiculously flow," is taken notice of in Homer's Hymn to Hermes
“Feeding far from man, the flowery herb,
Slow moving with his feet.”—Rev. J. MITFORD.
rain as a lady dressed in all her best attire, shuffling away on the first sprinklings, and running its head up in a corner. 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 becomes 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 its way. I was much taken with its sagacity in discerning 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 its benefactress with awkward alacrity, but remains inattentive to strangers. Thus not only “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib,"'* but the most abject reptile and torpid of beings distinguishes the hand that feeds it, and is touched with the feelings of gratitude.
P.S.—In about three days after I left Sussex, the tortoise retired into the ground under the hepatica.t
* Isaiah i. 3. + Tortoises are often kept in gardens as a curiosity, where they continue perfectly healthy, and arrive at an almost incredible age. When kept in the stove or green-house, their torpidity does not take place, although at the annual period for its occurrence, they are generally noticed for a short time to be more restless and irritable. The following are some remarkable instances of longevity recorded by Mr. Murray, in his Experimental Researches :-In the library of Lambeth Palace is the shell of a land tortoise, brought there adcut the year 1623; it lived to 1730, a period of 107 years. Another was placed in the garden of the episcopal palace of Fulham, by Bishop Laud, in 3625, and died in 1753—128 years : the age at which these were placed in the gardens was, of course, unknown. Another is mentioned 220 years, and one in Exeter 'Change, 800 : the latter, however does not seem well authenticated, though there can be no doubt of the period of their existence being very extensive. Mr. Murray has added some very interesting information regarding the habits of a tortoise kept at Peterborough :
“From a document belonging to the archives of the cathedral, called the Bishop's Barn, it is well ascertained that the tortoise at Peterborough must have been about 220 years old. Bishop Marsh's predecessor in the see of Peterborough had remembered it above sixty years, and could recognise no visible change. He was the seventh bishop who had worn the mitre during
TO THOMAS PENNANT, ESQ.
SELBORNE, March 15, 1773 DEAR SIR,-By my journal for last autumn, it appears that the house-martins bred very late, and staid very late in these parts ; for on the 1st of October I saw young martins in
its sojourn there. If I mistake not, its sustenance and abode were provided for in this document. Its shell was perforated, in order to attach it to a tree, &c., to limit its ravages among the strawberry borders.
“ The animal had its antipathies and predilections. It would eat endive, green peas, and even the leek; while it positively rejected asparagus, parsley, and spinage. In the early part of the season, its favourite pabulum was the flowers of the dandelion (leontodon taraxacum), of which it would devour twenty at a meal ; and lettuce (lactuca sativa); of the latter a good sized one at a time; but, if placed between lettuce and the flowers of the dandelion, it would forsake the former for the latter. It was also partial to the pulp of an orange, which it sucked greedily.
“ About the latter end of June (discerning the times and the seasons), it looked out for fruit, when its former choice was forsaken. It ate currants, raspberries, pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, &c., the riper the better ; but would not taste cherries. Of fruits, however, the strawberry and gooseberry were the most esteemed; it made great havoc among the strawberry borders, and would take a pint of gooseberries at intervals. The gardener told me it knew him well, the hand that generally fed it, and would watch him atten. tively at the gooseberry bush, where it was sure to take its station while he plucked the fruit.
“I could not get it to take the root of the dandelion, nor indeed any root I offered it, as that of the carrot, turnip, &c. All animal food was discarded, nor would it take any liquid, at least, neither milk nor water; and when a leaf was moist, it would shake it, to expel the adhering wet.
“ This animal moved with apparent ease, though pressed by a weight of 18 stones; itself weighed 13} lbs. In cloudy weather, it would scoop out a cavity, generally in a southern exposure, where it reposed, torpid and inactive, until the genial influence of the sun roused it from its slumber. When in this state, the eyes were closed and the head and neck a little contracted, though not drawn within the shell. Its sense of smelling was so acute, that it was roused from its lethargy if any person approached even at a distance of twelve feet.
“ About the beginning of October, or the latter end of September, it begau to immure itself, and had, for that purpose, for many years selected an angle
their nests, nearly fledged; and again, on the 21st of October, we had at the next house a nest full of young martins, just ready to fly, and the old ones were hawking for insects with great alertness. The next morning the brood forsook their nest, and were flying round the village. From this day I never saw one of the swallow kind till November the 3rd ; when twenty, or perhaps thirty, house-martins were playing all day long by the side of the Hanging-wood, and over my fields. Did these small weak birds, some of which were nesto lings twelve days ago, shift their quarters at this late season of the year to the other side of the northern tropic ? Or rather, is it not more probable that the next church, ruin, chalk-cliff, steep covert, or perhaps sand-bank, lake, or pool, (as a more northern naturalist would say,) may become their hybernaculum, and afford them a ready and obvious retreat ?
We now begin to expect our vernal migration of ringousels every week. Persons worthy of credit assure me that ring-ousels were seen at Christmas, 1770, in the forest of Bere, on the southern verge of this county. Hence we may conclude that their migrations are only internal, and not extended to the continent southward, if they do at first come at all from the northern parts of this island only, and not from the north of Europe. Come from whence they will, it is plain, from the fearless disregard that they show for men or guns, that they have been little accustomed to places of much resort. Navigators mention that in the Isle of Ascension, and other desolate districts, birds are so little acquainted with the human form, that they settle on men's shoulders, and have no more dread of a sailor than they would have of a goat that was grazing. A young man at Lewes, in Sussex, assured me that about seven years ago ring-ousels abounded
of the garden: it entered in an inclined plane, excavating the earth in the manner of the mole; the depth to which it penetrated varied with tho character of the approaching season, being from one to two feet, according as the winter was mild or severe. It may be added, that, for nearly a month prior to this entry into its dormitory, it refused all sustenance whatever. The animal emerged about the end of April, and remained for at least a fortnight before it ventured on taking any species of food. Its skin was not perceptibly cold : its respiration, entirely effected through the nostrils, was languid. I visited the animal, for the last time, on the 9th of June, 1813, during a thunder storm : it then lay under the shelter of a cauliflower, and apparently torpid."--MURRAY's Experimental Researches.-W.J.