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surface, as they play over pools and streams. They love to frequent waters, not only for the sake of drinking, bnt on account of insects, which are found over them in the greatest plenty. As I was going some years ago, pretty late, in a boat from Richmond to Sunbury, on a warm summer's evening, I think I saw myriads of bats between the two places ; the air swarmed with them all along the Thames, so that hundreds were in sight at a time.
TO THE SAME.
November 4, 1767. SIR, -It gave me no small satisfaction to hear that the falco* turned out an uncommon one. I must confess I should have been better pleased to have heard that I sent you you had never seen before; but that I find would be a difficult task. I have procured some of the mice mentioned in
former letters,—a young one, and a female with young, both of which I have preserved in brandy. From the colour, shape, size and manner of nesting, I make no doubt but that the species is nondescript. They are much smaller, and more slender, than mus domesticus medius of Ray, and have more of the squirrel or dormouse colour. Their belly is white; a straight line along their sides divides the shades of their back and belly. They never enter into houses ; are carried into ricks and barns with the sheaves ; abound in harvest; and build their nests amidst the straws of the corn above the ground, and sometimes in thistles. They breed as many as eight in a litter, in a little round nest composed of the blades of grass or wheat. One of these nests I procured this autumn, most artifi
* This hawk proved to be the falco peregrinus—a variety. + We are indebted to Pallas for much information respecting these curious little animals, which he calls the mus minutus. He found them in the woods in many parts of Russia, and they have since been discovered in Germany. The nest is most elaborately constructed of the common reed, formed into a
cially platted, and composed of blades of wheat; perfectly round, and about the size of a cricket-ball; with the aperture so ingeniously closed, that there was no discovering to what part it belonged. It was so compact and well filled that it would roll across the table without being discomposed, though it contained eight little mice that were naked and blind. As this nest was perfectly full, how could the dam come at her litter respectively, so as to administer a teat to each ? Perhaps she opens different places for that purpose, adjusting them again when the business is over; but she could not possibly be contained herself in the ball with her young, which, moreover, would be daily increasing
This wonderful procreant cradle, an elegant instance of the efforts of instinct, was found in a wheat-field suspended in the head of a thistle. ball about the size of a cricket-ball, and suspended on a plant about five inches from the ground: nine young mice have been found in one nest.
The Rev. W. Bingley also devoted much time and attention to them; he kept one in a cage for some time, and saw it lap water freely; it preferred insects to every other kind of food : it was very fond of bread; its appear. ance and movements were very elegant; its tail was prehensile, and generally coiled round a wire of the cage ; its toes were very long and flexible, and it could grasp the wires with any one of them.
Mr. Bell, in his pleasing and instructive history of British Quadrupeds, says that the Harvest Mouse is not only one of the prettiest, but, without exception, the smallest of all the British mammalia ; and that its habits are at least as interesting as those of many more conspicuous and important species. Although not easily rendered familiar, it may be kept in confinement for a long time in good health, by allowing it the optional use of a sort of little tread-wheel, in which it will often exercise itself, apparently to its amusement and satisfaction, und it was probably from the absence of this healthful exercise that persons have failed to keep it in confinement. This mouse, Mr. Bell adds, is found in various parts of England ; in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Devonshire, and Cambridgeshire. It has also been found in Germany, and in Russia and Siberia.-Bell's Quadrupeds.
See also the seventh volume of the Linnæan Transactions, in which Colonel Montagu records his having seen this mouse in Wiltshire, before the discovery of it in Hampshire, by Mr. White.
In a review of Gilbert White's Selborne, in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1789, is the following paragraph with reference to his discovery of the Harvest Mouse :
“ Many would be surprised if they were told that a new quadruped had, within these few years, been found in this Island, yet Mr. White's researches have been rewarded with such a discovery. It is indeed the smallest four. footed animal we have, but its manner of life shows it to be endowed with oqual sagacity with the larger kinds." The author's description of this moung is there given in his own words.—ED,
A gentleman, curious in birds, wrote me word that his servant had shot one last January, in that severe weather, which he believed would puzzle me. I called to see it this summer, not knowing what to expect: but the moment I took it in hand, I pronounced it the male garrulus bohemicus, or German silk-tail, from the five peculiar crimson tags, or points which it carries at the ends of five of the short remiges. It cannot, I suppose, with any propriety, be called an English bird ; and yet I see by Ray's Philosophical Letters that great flocks of them, feeding on haws, appeared in this kingdom in the winter of 1685.*
The mention of haws puts me in mind that there is a total failure of that wild fruit, so conducive to the support of many of the winged nation. For the same severe weather, late in the spring, which cut off all the produce of the more tender and curious trees, destroyed also that of the more hardy and common.
Some birds, haunting with the missel-thrushes, and feeding on the berries of the yew-tree, which answered to the description of the merula torquata, or ring-ousel, were lately seen in this neighbourhood. I employed some people to procure me a specimen, but without success. (See Letter VIII.)
Query-Might not Canary birds be naturalised to this climate, provided their eggs were put in the spring into the nests of their congeners, as goldfinches, greenfinches, &c. ? Before winter, perhaps, iley might be hardened, and able to shift for themselves.
About ten years ago, I used to spend some weeks yearly at Sunbury, which is one of those pleasant villages lying on the Thames, near Hampton Court. In the autumn I could not help being much amused with those myriads of the swallow kind which assemble in those parts. But what struck me most was, that from the time they began to congregate, forsaking the chimneys and houses, they roosted every night in the osier beds of the aits of that river.t
. The Bohemian Chatterer. In 1810, large flocks of this species were dispersed through various parts of the kingdom ; and from that period, few appear to have visited the island, until February, 1822, when several occurred, and one was killed on the Calton Hill, Edinburgh. They appeared also during the severe storm of 1823, and several were killed in East Lothian last winter, (1828.)—W.J.
+ Swallows, in countless numbers still assemble every autumn on the
Now, this resorting towards that element, at that season of the
year, seems to give some countenance to the northern opinion (strange as it is) of their retiring under water. A Swedish naturalist is so much persuaded of that fact, that he talks, in his Calendar of Flora, as familiarly of the swallow's going under water in the beginning of September, as he would of his poultry going to roost a little before sunset.
An observing gentleman in London writes me word, that he saw a house-martin,* on the 23rd of last October, flying in and out of its nest in the Borough ; and I myself, on the 29th of last October, as I was travelling through Oxford, saw four or five swallows hovering round and settling on the roof of the County Hospital.t
willows growing on the aits of ti'o river Thames. I have not only witnessed their departure, but also their arrival in this country. On the latter occasion they alighted on the ground and appeared much exhausted.-ED.
* In a mild winter I have seen solitary swallows as late as the beginning of December. -Ed.
+ In Mr. Bennett's edition of White's Selborne, there is a very interesting note of the late Dean of Manchester's (Mr. Herbert) on the instinct of birds. He says that young swifts, the moment they leave the nest, have often occasion to make the great migration, and that the various species of hirundines remain in their nests till they are more completely feathered than other birds. Thus when they come forth, they are matured for flight. He thinks that the troublesome insects which infest their nests (hippobosca hirundinis), are a resource in the scheme of Providence to force the young birds to enture upon the wing from the perilous height at which their nest is placed, by making the abode insupportable.
Each bird, Mr. Herbert says, builds its nest in the same form and of the same materials as its parent, and for the most part in a similar situation ; but he thinks that, if the eggs were transposed into the nest of some nearly -related species, and the produce kept separate from all others of their own kind, they would doubtless make their nests like those of the birds which had reared them, and would also adopt their notes. I have observed, he adds, young blackcaps raised from the nest in a large cage in which the perches were very low, as soon as they fed themselves show a sudden anxiety at roosting-time to find a higher perch, and flutter about so intent upon this as to notice nothing else, and at last settle to roost clinging to the wires near the top of the
appears like a marvellous instinctive impulse; but I apprehend that, while in their native bush, they had noticed the parents every evening, at roosting-time, fly upwards to a loftier situation in which to pass the night. I therefore refer this to observation.
Amongst other notices of peculiar instincts, Mr. Herbert refers to that o. young birds brought up in cages, selecting their proper food from amongst a variety placed before them, and also that of migratory birds washing, and
Now, is it likely that these poor little birds, which perhape had not been hatched but a few weeks, should, at that late season of the year, and from so midlard a county, attempt a voyage to Goree or Senegal, almost as far as the equator 2*
I acquiesce entirely in your opinion that, though most of the swallow kind may migrate, yet some do stay behind and hide with us during the winter.
As to the short-winged, soft-billed birds which come trooping in such numbers in the spring, I am at a loss even what to suspect about them. I watched them narrowly this year, and saw them abound till about Michaelmas, when they appeared no longer. Subsist they cannot openly among us and yet elude the eyes of the inquisitive; and as to their hiding, no man pretends to have found any of them in a torpid state in the winter. But with regard to their migration, what difficulties attend that supposition ! that such feeble bad fliers, who the summer long never flit but from hedge to hedge, should be able to traverse vast seas and continents, in order to enjoy milder seasons amidst the regions of Africa.t
TO THE SAME.
SELBORNE, Jan. 22, 1768. SIR, -As in one of your former letters you expressed the more satisfaction from my correspondence on account of my living in the most southerly county; so now I may return
those which remain with us, dusting themselves. He thinks that this is a wise dispensation of the Great Creator; for if the little wren in winter were to wash in cold water instead of dusting, it would perish from the chill.
The result of these observations is that there are certain impulses given to birds, independent of their early imitative propensities, which seem to procced directly from the Almighty Power that governs the universe. The more this subject is investigated, the more clearly will the direct agency of God be discovered.
* See Adanson's Voyage to Senegal. They not only traverse vast seas and continents, but they take their departure at night ; for they have been found dead in lighthouses, having Eown against the strong light.—ED.