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the study of reptiles) that my people, every now and then
trouble and care in the examination of a buck's head. As far as your discoveries reach at present, they seem much to corroborate my suspicions; and I hope Mr. may find reason to give his decision in my favour; and then, I think, we may advance this extraordinary provision of nature as a new instance of the wisdom of God in the creation.
As yet I have not quite done with my history of the wedicnemus, or stone curlew ; for I shall desire a gentleman in Sussex (near whose house these birds congregate in vast flocks in the autumn) to observe nicely when they leave him (if they do leave him), and when they return again in the spring: I was with this gentleman lately, and saw several single birds.
TO THE SAME.
SELBORNE, Nov. 28, 1768. DEAR SIB,—With regard to the medicnemus, or stone curlew, I intend to write very soon to my friend near Chichester, in whose neighbourhood these birds seem most to abound; and shall urge him to take particular notice when they begin to congregate, and afterwards to watch them most narrowly whether they do not withdraw themselves during the dead of the winter. When I have obtained information with respect to this circumstance, I shall have finished
my history of the stone curlew, which, I hope, will prove to your satisfaction, as it will be, I trust, very near the truth. This gentleman, as he occupies a large farm of his own, and is abroad early and late, will be a very proper spy upon the
motions of these birds; and besides, as I have prevailed on him to buy the Naturalist's Journal (with which he is much delighted), I shall expect that he will be very exact in his dates. It is very extraordinary, as you obseve, that a bird so common with us should never straggle to you.*
And here will be the properest place to mention, while I think of it, an anecdote which the above mentioned gentleman told me when I was last at his house ; which
was, that in a warren joining to his outlet, many daws (corvi monedule) build every year in the rabbit-burrows under ground. The way he and his brothers used to take their nests, while they were boys, was by listening at the mouths of the holes, and it they heard the young ones cry, they twisted the nest out with a forked stick. Some water-fowls (viz. the puffins) breed, I know, in this manner; but I should never have suspected the daws of building in holes on the flat ground.
Another very unlikely spot is made use of by daws as a place to breed in, and that is Stonehenge. These birds deposit their nests in the interstices between the upright and the impost stones of that amazing work of antiquity; which circumstance alone speaks the prodigious height of the upright stones, that they should be tall enough to secure those nests from the annoyance of shepherd boys, who are always idling round that place.
One of my neighbours last Saturday (November the 26th)
* This species is extremely local, being scarcely found out of Hampshire, Norfolk, and one or two of the eastern counties of England.-W.J.
Mr. Herbert says that “he has only found it on chalk. It never strayed on the sand or gravel, and consequently was not on the heaths, but in the chalky turnip fields." This species is, no doubt, extremely local and only finds the food it requires, chiefly small green beetles, on chalk soils.—ED.
+ Daws build in a great variety of odd places, and use curious materials for their rests. Clothes-pegs and lucifer match-boxes have been found in them. They have been known to carry away the wooden labels from a botanic garden. In one instance, no less than eighteen dozen of these labels are said to be found in one chimney where the daws built. In my
“ Scenes and Tales of Country Life,” I have given an engraving of a daw's nest built in the bell tower of Eton chapel, perhaps one of the most curious structures og record.—ED.
# Mr. Yarrell informs me that a series of interesting experiments might be made with the view to ascertain by artificial means how low a degree of temperature swallows could sustain for a time without destroying life.--Ev.
saw a martin in a sheltered bottom; the sun shone warm, and the bird was hawking briskly after flies. I am now perfectly satisfied that they do not all leave this island in the winter.
You judge very right, I think, in speaking with reserve and caution concerning the cures done by toads; for, let people advance what they will on such subjects, yet there is such a propensity in mankind towards deceiving and being deceived, that one cannot safely relate anything from common report, especially in print, without expressing some degree of doubt and suspicion.
Your approbation with regard to my new discovery of the migration of the ring-ousel, gives me satisfaction; and I find you concur with me in suspecting that they are foreign birds which visit us. You will be sure, I hope, not to omit to make inquiry whether your ring-ousels leave your
rocks in the autumn. What puzzles me most, is the very short stay they make with us, for in about three weeks they are all gone. I shall be very curious to remark whether they will call on us at their return in the spring, as they did last year.
I want to be better informed with regard to ichthyology. If fortune had settled me near the sea-side, or near some great river, my natural propensity would soon have urged me to have made myself acquainted with their productions ; but as I have lived mostly in inland parts, and in an upland district, my knowledge of fishes extends little farther than to those common sorts which our brooks and lakes produce.
TO THE SAME.
SELBORNE, Jan. 2, 1769. DEAR SIR, -As to the peculiarity of jack-daws building with us under ground, in rabbit-burrows, you have, in part, hit upon the reason; for, in reality, there are hardly ary towers or steeples in all this country. And perhaps, Nor