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says, that the less spotted woodpecker does the same. This noise may
be heard a furlong or more.* Now is the only time to ascertain the short-winged summer birds : for, when the leaf is out, there is no making
and I imagine that as the cherries ripen they migrate from garden to garden in pursuit of them. I am told that near London they remain late enough to attack the elder-berries, of which the fruit-eating warblers are very fond, but in Yorkshire they do not even wait for the later cherries. The uumber of these visitants depends upon the crop of early cherries. This year the crop having nearly failed, I saw but two of them, which appeared on the 15th of July, and were not seen after the 17th. The blackcap remains eating the currants and hıneysuckle berries; they are both very fond in confinement of ripe pears, and I believe, in the south of England, they peck some of them before their departure.-W. H.
* The nuthatch, sitta europea, Linn. is the only species of the genus inhabiting Europe ; in this country it appears confined to England, never having been traced further north tban Northumberland. The following animated sketch, a good deal in the style of our author, I have extracted from Loudon's Journal of Natural History, as giving a correct idea of the manners of this curious species :—“I had never seen the little bird called the nuthatch, when one day, whilst I was expecting the transit of some wood-pigeons under a birch-tree, with my gun in my hand, I observed a little ash-coloured bird squat himself on one of the large lateral trunks over my head, and after some observation, begin to tap loudly, or rather solidly, upon the wood, and then proceed round and round the branch, it being clearly the same thing to him whether his nadir or zenith were uppermost. I shot, and the bird fell; there was a lofty hedge between us, and when I got over, he had removed himself. It was some time before I secured him; and I mention this, because the manner in which he eluded me was characteristic of his cunning. He concealed himself in holes at the bottom of a ditch, so long as he heard the noise of motion; and when all was still, he would scud out and attempt to escape. A wing was broken, and I at length got hold of him. He proved small, but very fierce, and his bite would have made a child cry out. The elbow joint of his wing being thoroughly shattered, and finding that he had no other wound, I cut off the dangling limb, and put him into a large cage with a common lark. The wound did not in the least diminish his activity,
wr yet his pugnacity, for he instantly began to investigate all means of escape; he tried the bores, then tapped the woodwork of the cage, and produced a knocking sound which made the room re-echo; but after finding his efforts vain, he then turned upon the lark, ran under him with his gaping beak to bite, and effectually alarmed his far more gentle and clegant antagonist. Compelled to separate them, the nuthatch—for this bird I discovered him to be, by turning over the leaves of an Ornithologia—was put into a smaller cage of plain oak wood and wire. Here he remained all night, and the next morning his knocking, or tapping with his beak, was the first sound I heard, though sleeping in an apartment divided from the other by a landing-place. He bad food given to him, minced chicken and bread crumbs, and water. He ate and drank with a mos perfect impudence, and the momeli bo kad satisfied bimself,
any remarks on such a restless tribe; and, when once the young begin to appear, it is all confusion; there is no distinction of genus, species, or sex.
In breeding time, snipes play over the moors, piping and humming; they always hum as they are descending. Is not their hum ventriloquous, like that of the turkey ? Some suspect that it is made by their wings.
turned again to his work of battering the frame of his cage, the sound from which, both in londness and prolongation of noise, is only to be compared to the efforts of a fashionable footman, upon a fashionable door, in a fashionable square. He had a particular fancy for the extremities of the corner pillars of the cage ; on these he spent his most elaborate taps, and, at this moment, though he only occupied the cage a day, the wood is pierced and worn like a piece of old worm-eaten timber. He probably had an idea, that if those mainbeams could once be penetrated, the rest of the superstructure would fall, and free him. Against the doorway he had also a particular spite, and once succeeded in opening it; and when, to interpose a further obstacle, it was tied in a double knot with a string, the perpetual application of his beak quickly unloosed it. In ordinary cages, a circular hole is left in the wire for the bird to insert his head to drink from a glass; to this hole the nuthatch constantly repaired, not for the purpose of drinking, but to try to push out more than his head; but in vain, for he is a thick bird and rather heavily built; but the instant he found the hole too small, he would withdraw his bead, and begin to dig and hammer at the circle, where it is rooted in the word, with his pick-axe of a beak, evidently with a design to enlarge the orifice. His labour was incessant, and he ate as largely as he worked ; and, I fear, it w2g the united efforts of both that killed him. His hammering was peculiariy laborious ; for he did not peck as other birds do, but, grasping his hold with his immense feet, he turned upon them as upon a pivot, and struck with the whole weight of his body ; thus assuming the appearance, with his entire form, of the head of a hammer; or, as I have sometimes seen birds in mechanical clocks, made to strike the hour by swinging on a wheel. We were in hopes that when the sun went down, he would cease from his labours and rest; but no. At the interval of every ten minutes, up to nine or ten in the night, he resumed his knocking, and strongly reminded us of the coffin-maker's nightly and dreary occupation. It was said by one of us,' he is nailing his own coffin ;' and so it proved. An awful fluttering in the cage, now covered with a bandkerchief, announced that something was wrong: and we found him at the bottom of his prison, with his feathers ruffled and nearly all turned back. He was taken out, and for some time he lingered away in convulsions, and occasional brightenings up. At length he drew his last gasp : and will it be believed, that tears were shed on his demise ? The fact is, that the apparent intelligence of his character, the speculation in his eye, the assiduity of his labour, and his most extraordinary fearlessness and familiarity, though coupled with fierceness, gave us a consideration for him that may appear ridiculous to those who have never so nearly observed the ways of an animal as to feel interested in its fate. With us is was differeut." _W.J.
This morning I saw the golden-crowned wren, * whose crown glitters like burnished gold. It often hangs like a titmouse, with its back downwards.
TO THE SAME.
SELBORNE, June 18, 1768. DEAR SIR, -On Wednesday last arrived your agreeable letter of June the 10th. It gives me great satisfaction to find that you pursue these studies still with such vigour, and are in such forwardness with regard to reptiles and fishes.
The reptiles, few as they are, I am not acquainted with so well as I could wish, with regard to their natural history. There is a degree of dubiousness and obscurity attending the propagation of this class of animals something analagous to that of the cryptogamia in the sexual system of plants ; and the case is the same with regard to some of the fishes, as the eel, &c.
The method in which toads procreate and bring forth, seems to be very much in the dark. Some authors
that they are viviparous; and yet Ray classes them among his oviparous animals, and is silent with regard to the manner of their bringing forth. Perhaps they may be čow pèr worósne, čew de Swotókot, as is known to be the case with the viper.
The copulation of frogs (or at least the appearance of itfor Swammerdam proves that the male has no penis intrans)
* It is surprising that this feeble diminutive bird should brave our severest Winters.-- ED.
+ Toads are oviparous. Mr. Bell of London, a zealous ophiologist, has lately confirmed the fact recorded by Schneider, that toads devour the skin which they shed. In one instance, he witnessed the whole process of tho shedding of the cuticle: it became divided longitudinally along the back and the abdomen; by the action of the hinder leg on one side, the skin was detached as far as the fore-leg; the same operation was next effected on the other side. The loosened exuvice were then drawn forward, by the combined action of the mouth and of the anterior legs, and were immediately swallowed.--Zool.« Jour. Mr. Bell adds, that in others of the batrachian reptiles, the rance and salamandrce, no swallowing of the exuvia took place.-W. J.
is notorious to everybody; because we see them sticking upon each other's backs for a month together in the spring; and yet I never saw or read of toads being observed in the same situation.* It is strange that the matter with regard to the venom of toads has not been yet settled.t. That they are not noxious to some animals is plain ; for ducks, buzzards, owls, stone curlews, and snakes eat them, to my knowledge, with impunity. And I well remember the time, but was not an eye-witness to the fact (though numbers of persons were), when a quack at this village ate a toad, to make the country people stare; afterwards he drank oil. I
* The copulation of frogs and toads is performed in the same manner. The spermatic fluid is passed upon the ova at the time they are expelled from the female. The ova of the frog are laid in conglutinated masses; those of the toad, in long chain-like strings. The ova of the latter are also much smaller.—W.J.
+ Blumenbach, whose authority may generally be depended on, asserts that there is no truth in the supposition that the urine of toads is poisonous. I recollect, however, the case of a gardener who, while cutting gooseberry bushes, scratched his hand. Afterwards, in taking up a toad which he found under the bush, the animal discharged some of its urine on his hand, which became much inflamed and prevented his working for some time afterwards.-ED.
I I have had a toad so tame that, when it was held in one hand, it would take its food from the other held near it. The manner in which this animal takes its prey is very interesting. The tongue, when at rest, is doubled back upon itself in the mouth, and the apex, which is broad, is imbued with a most tenacious mucus. On seeing an insect, the animal fixes its beautiful eyes upon it, leans or creeps forward, and when within reach, the tongue is projected upon the insect, and again returned into the mouth with the captive prey, by a motion so rapid, that without the most careful observation the action cannot be followed. An insect is never taken unless when in motion; and I have often seen a toad remain motionless for some minutes, with its eyes fixed upon an insect, and the instant it moved it disappeared with the quickness of lightning. The insect is swallowed whole, and alive ; and I have often seen the reptile much incommoded by the struggles of its imprisoned prey, particularly if it consist of large and hard insects, as full grown cockroaches, for instance, when the twitching of its sides, from the irritation produced by the movements of the insects in the stomach, is sufficiently ludicrous.—T. B.
My ingenious friend, the late George Newenham, Esq. of Summer Hill, Cork, carried a live toad w.th him from Edinburgh, which he kept at his country seat of Summer Hill for several years, where it became quite tame, in the same way as that mentioned by White. The most amusing feat which it performed was the swallowing of a worm, which it seemed to relish highly, and was eager to master in proportion to the difficulty presented by the writhings of the creature. The spring before I was at Summer Hill, this singular pes
: I have been informed also, from undoubted authority, that Bome ladies (ladies, you will say, of peculiar taste) took a fancy to a toad, which they nourished, summer after summer, for many years, till he grew to a monstrous size, with the
had not made its appearance from its unknown winter retreat, and consequently was supposed to have died, as it was not likely to wander from a spot with which it had became so familiar.
Mr. Husenbeth has given a very interesting account of a tame toad which he placed " in a large glass jar, with moss at the bottom, and sometimes water enough to saturate the moss, but oftener with only a piece of green sod, which I changed,” he says, “ when the grass began to wither. Sometimes I contrived to let him have a little well of water in the sod ; but I never saw him go into water freely; only when he was frightened, he would plunge in and bury his head at the bottom under the sod. Whether be ever knew me I much doubt; but certainly he was always perfectly tame, and would sit on my hand, let me stroke him, and walk about my table or carpet with apparent familiarity and contentment. I usually let him out on the table every day; and he would jump down upon the carpet, and hop and crawl about, always making for the skirting board, which he climbed very ludicrously, and seemed fond of sitting in a corner on the top of it. He ate freely, from the first day I had him; but would never take any thing unless he saw it move. In the whole time, I gave him all the following varieties : flies of all kinds ; wasps and bees, first removing their stings; gnats, which he would snap up at the window, while I held him on my hand up to the pane of glass, with an eagerness that appeared insatiable, and was very amusing ; clap-baits, lady-birds, caddices, ants : of these last I used occasionally to give him a treat, by bringing home part of a hillock, and putting him down in the midst of it. He would raise himself on all fours, and with his eyes glistening with something like civic ecstasy, would dart out his tongue right and left, as rapidly as lightning, and lap up the ants in quick succession, with the most laudable gulosity. I also gave him earwigs, glow-worms, woodlice, grasshoppers, spiders, dragon-flies, ticks, horse-lceches, grubs, moths, and any insect I could weet with. All seemed equally welcome, either by night or by day ; but it was most diverting to see him contend with
He would dart upon it, secure one end, and swallow with all his might; but the worm would annoy him by creeping out of his mouth before he could swallow it entirely; and I have known him persevere for nearly half an hour, attempting to secure his prize, while the worm kept constantly escaping. He would take a snail, when he once saw it extended and in motion, though he always dashed at the shell, and took all down together in a moment, but could not manage one of large size. It was to me a great source of amusement to feed him and watch his singular movements. He was often frightened, but seldom provoked. I once or twice, however, provoked him, I think, to as much wrath as his cold nature was susceptible of; but I feel quite assured that the toad is at all times perfectly harmless and inoffensive : the idea of its spitting, or otherwise discharging venom is, I am convinced, wholly unfounded. In the winter months my toad always refused food, though he did not become torpid, but grew thin and moved much less than at other times