« ZurückWeiter »
I observed in my garden, that several magpies came determined to storm the nest of a missel-thrush : the dams defended their mansion with great vigour, and fought resolutely for “their faith and for their homes:” pro aris et focis; but numbers at last prevailed, they tore the nest to pieces, and swallowed the young alive.
[Thrushes during long droughts are of great service in hunting out shell-snails,* which they pull in pieces for their young, and are thereby very serviceable in gardens. Missel-thrushes do not destroy the fruit in gardens like the other species of turdi, but feed on the berries and mistletoe, and in the spring on ivy-berries, which then begin to ripen.t In the summer, when their young become fledged, they leave neighbourhoods, and retire to sheep-walks and wild commons. This species of thrush, though wild at other times, delights to build near houses, and in frequented walks and gardens.]
* Of the truth of this I have been an eye-witness, having seen the common thrush feeding on the shell-snail.—MARKWICK.
# In the very early part of this spring (1797) a bird of this species used to sit every morning on the top of some very high elms close by my windows, and delight me with its charming song, attracted thither, probably, by some ripe ivy-berries that grew near the place.
I have remarked something like the latter fact, for I remember many years ago, seeing a pair of these birds fly up repeatedly and attack some larger bird, which I supposed disturbed their nest in my orchard, uttering at the same time violent shrieks. Since writing the above, I have seen more than once a pair of these birds attack some magpies that had disturbed their nest, with great violence and loud shrieks.-MARKWICK.
In the season of nidification the wildest birds are comparatively tame. Thus the ring-dove breeds in my fields, though they are continually frequented; and the missel-thrush, though most shy and wild in the autumn and winter, builds in my garden close to a walk where people are passing all day long.
Wall-fruit abounds with me this year; but my grapes, that used to be forward and good, are at present backward beyond all precedent: and this is not the worst of the story; for the same ungenial weather, the same black cold solstice, has injured the more necessary fruits of the earth, and discoloured and blighted our wheat. The
The crop of hops promises to be very large.
Frequent returns of deafness incommode me sadly, and half disqualify me as a naturalist; for, when those fits are upon me, I lose all the pleasing notices and little intimations arising from rural sounds; and May is to me as silent and mute with respect to the notes of birds, etc., as August. My eyesight is, thank God, quick and good; but with respect to the other sense. I am, at times, disabled:
“And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.”
SELBORNE, Sept. 13, 1774.
To THOMAS PENNANT, Esq.
SOME future faunist, a man of fortune, will, I hope, extend his visits to the kingdom of Ireland; a new field, and a country little known to the naturalist. He will not, it is to be wished, undertake that tour unaccompanied by a botanist, because the mountains have scarcely been sufficiently examined ; and the southerly counties of so mild an island may possibly afford some plants little to be expected within the British dominions. A person of a thinking turn of mind will draw many just remarks from the modern improvements of that country, both in arts and agriculture, where premiums obtained, long before they were heard of with us. The manners of the wild natives, their superstitions, their prejudices, their sordid way of life, will extort from him many useful reflections. He should also take with him an able draughtsman; for he must by no means pass over the noble castles and seats, the extensive and picturesque lakes and waterfalls, and the lofty stu. pendous mountains, so little known, and so engaging to the imagination when described and exhibited in a lively manner: such a work would be well received.
As I have seen no modern map of Scotland, I cannot pretend to say how accurate or particular any such may be; but this I know, that the best old maps of that kingdom are very defective. The great obvious defect that I have remarked in all maps of Scotland that have fallen in my way is the want of a coloured line or stroke that shall exactly define the just limits of that district called the Highlands. Moreover, all the great avenues to that mountainous and romantic country want to be well distinguished. The military roads formed by General Wade are so great and Roman-like an undertaking that they will merit attention. My old map, Moll's map, takes notice of Fort William ; but could not mention the other forts that have been erected long since: therefore a good representation of the chain of forts should not be omitted.
The celebrated zigzag up the Coryarich must not be passed over. Moll takes notice of Hamilton and Drumlanrig, and such capital houses; but the new survey, no doubt, should represent every seat and castle remarkable for any great event, or cele. brated for its paintings, &c. Lord Breadalbane's seat and beautiful policy are too curious and extraordinary to be omitted.
The seat of the Earl of Eglintoun, near Glasgow, is worthy of notice.
The pine-plantations of that nobleman are very grand and extensive indeed.
SELBORNE, March 9, 1775.
TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES BARRINGTON.
On September the 21st, 1741, being then on a visit, and intent on field-diversions, I rose before daybreak: when I came into the inclosures, I found the stubbles and clover-grounds matted all over with a thick coat of cobweb, in the meshes of which a copious and heavy dew hung so plentifully that the whole face of the country seemed, as it were, covered with two or three setting-nets drawn one over another. When the dogs attempted to hunt, their eyes were so blinded and hoodwinked that they could not proceed, but were obliged to lie down and scrape the incumbrances from their faces with their fore-feet, so that, finding my sport interrupted, I returned home, musing in my mind on the oddness of the occurrence.
As the morning advanced the sun became bright and warm, and the day turned out one of those most lovely ones which no season but the autumn produces, cloudless, calm, serene, and worthy of the South of France itself.
About nine an appearance very unusual began to demand our attention, a shower of cobwebs falling from very elevated regions, and continuing, without any interruption, till the close of the day. These webs were not single filmy threads, floating in the