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SHORT NOTICES OF BOOKS.
Verbascum Thapsus * The names marked thus are not included in the Dictionary of English Plant
† Sprigs of Bog Myrtle are frequently placed amongst bed-clothes by the Northumbrian house-wise as a cure for fleas.
SHORT NOTICES OF BOOKS. The Paradise of Birds, by J. W. Courthope. A new edition of this book appeared some months ago, and should be welcome to Selbornians. It tells, in light and pleasant verses, of the adventures of two Arctic explorers, whose aim is not to gain glory by reaching the Pole, but to penetrate the snowy region surrounding it, and enter the Paradise of Birds, a warm and sunny region, where dwell unmolested the souls of all kinds of feathered fowl. After the destruction of the whole race through the wantonness of mankind, the world is becoming uninhabitable for want of them, and the mission of the two travellers is by humble entreaty to obtain from the happy birds' souls, eggs which they may carry back and hatch for the benefit of the bird-forsaken world. They obtain their request, and promise that in future birds shall not be ill-used, but that great respect shall be paid to them and their requirements. Outside this paradise is a purgatory, where the souls of those who have offended against bird-life are punished; and here, as is meet, are found the souls of bird-catchers, cooks and --ladies. The birds' songs are delightfully translated into words, and their tributes to Aristophanes
"Dearest and best of beakless singers,
Friend of the linnet, glory of Greece.--" to Chaucer and to Gilbert White are quaintly and gracefully written.
British Fossils and where to Seek Them, by Joseph W. Williams. Young Collector Series. Swan Sonnenschein, London: 1890. British Fossils is a work of some ninety-six pages, which purports to give a summary of the leading features of distribution and succession of the fossiliferous rocks of Great Britain. It enuinerates the fossils characteristic of each formation, mentions localities where they may be found, and gives hints to the young collector. As a rule, the author keeps too closely to some well-known text books to go seriously astray, but as soon as he strikes out for himself he comes sadly to grief. Thus in the glossary he calls chert a limestone, while mica and garnet are both “rocks.” Etymology is apparently the author's strong point, and here he is often strikingly original, as when he derives the “horn" of hornblende from its toughness, instead of from the German for metal. There are a good number of illustrations, but though these well served their purpose in the German text book from which they have been copied, they are quite out of place in a work on British fossils, as so many of them are of foreign species. Thus not one of the twelve species figured on page 46 has been found in the British Isles. Misprints abound in the scientific names, and these sometimes make the words quite unrecognisable. The work contains none of that infectious enthusiasm which makes Taylor's 'Common British Fussils so valuable a book to place in the hands of the young collector, while for accuracy and usefulness the older book is greatly superior.
SELBORNIANA. A Sea-Bird's Rock and its Brutal Visitors.-Several communications have been received on this subject, which was fully dealt with in the last number of Nature Notes, all expressing the greatest indignation at the disgrace, ful outrage, and most of them demanding that some punishment should be inflicted on the perpetrators. The attempts that are apparently made to screen the offenders have caused several of our correspondents to say very hard things of the authorities for their culpable remissness in this matter. We should be very loth to “speak evil of dignities,” but it must be consessed there seems to be some reason for the wrath of those who draw comparisons between the merciless rigour with which the poor ignorant peasant poacher is prosecuted and the complete immunity which apparently awaits the infinitely more culpable criminal who is supposed to
« officer and a gentleman”! Justitia” says :--“If some poor fellow were to knock over a rabbit to give food to a sick wife or hungry children, a gen; tleman of this 'chick smashing 'type, sitting on a bench of county justices, would be the first to send the 'low poaching fellow' to the tread-mill. If some Irish Pat were to look crooked' at a constable's cow, the chick-smasher' sitting in judgment as a resident magistrate, would hale him off to gaol for four months on the plank bed. Here is a case of aggravated cowardly cruelty, of theft from the national property, and beyond a formal reprimand, at which the offender would probably laugh, not the slightest notice has been taken of the ossence. Surely it is an absolute farce to say that in England we have the same law for the rich and for the poor."
We believe that the remarks of “ Justitia” are considerably too severe, when applied to whole classes, but in this particular instance it must be confessed that the action, or rather inaction, of the authorities, gives ample ground for such criticism. Letters have been written in pursuance of the resolutions passed at the last meeting of the Selborne Society. "The answers have not yet been laid before the Council ; but we think that we are not betraying any official secrets by saying that these answers are eminently unsatisfactory. There is no vindictive feeling on the part of Selbornians, but it is strongly felt that the least punishment which would satisfy public indignation, would be the publication of names of the culprits.
The Earliest Cuckoo.-I thank Mr. Rawson for his kind note. I have questioned the lads carefully and they are sure that it was a cuckoo, and not a human voice they heard on ihe date in question. It is quite clear that for some unaccountable reason the cuckoo was earlier this year in the vale than has been generally the case. I heard one in the same neighbourhood, the sunny sheltered side of the valley under Skiddaw, on the roth of April, and generally we do not look for the cuckoo before the 15th. A cuckoo was, so I was informed, also heard near Carlisle this year on the 10th ; but I am not willing to do more in the matter than assert that the boys who heard the bird believe they heard a bird and not a human being or a cuckoo-clock on April 3rd, and that they obtained 3d. each for what I believe was not a false report. Crosthwaite Vicarage, Keswick.
H. D. RAWNSLEY. Will some of your readers tell us something of the voice mechanism of the corncrake. I have been astonished at the tirelessness of the constant call of the bird. When does it find time for food necessary to support the strain, and how does it escape the weasel and the stoat ?
Porriwiggles.-I notice in your “Selborniana” of June 14th, an extract from a letter of Lord Tennyson's mentioning “ porriwiggles” as a provincial
of tad poles. In Book iii., chap. 13, of the Vulgar Errors, Sir Thomas Browne has—“ that which the ancients called Gyrinus, we a Porwigle (sic), or Tadpole.” (I quote from the second edition.) Any member of the Selborne Society who cares for tadpoles, or for style, will, I am sure, be glad to be reminded of this chapter, and will divide his admiration between “ the high curiosity of nature and the not much lower curiosity of art with which it is described. Clifton College, Bristol.
SIDNEY T. IRWIN. Sparrows and Mice.—Mrs. Musgrave, of Furze Bank, Torquay, sends the following note she has received in answer to her paragraph in NATURE
Notes, p. 79: “ I have not seen one sparrow in my place Dol-llan, Llandepid, since I have lived there, over a year. The crocuses are eaten voraciously by mice, to my disgust. I have great numbers of owls (barn and wood), this may account for absence of sparrows, but they cannot exterminate the mice, they breed so fast.”
G. W. L'ESTRANGE. Birds Singing as they Fly.—The meadow lark, Anthus pratensis, sings always on the wing, and in the early spring may be seen rising at short intervals to a considerable height and returning again with an arrow-like rapidity of descent to the same spot, singing both in its ascending and descending flight. I have never heard its song on the ground. In his British Months, Bishop Mant, an accurate observer of Nature, writes :
“ The sweetest woodlark round and round
Wide wheeling in his circling flight,
Pours forth his morning, evening song.” and again :
“High in mid air the woodlark sings.” I have often watched the whitethroat, Curruca cinerea, making short zigzag excursions from the willows, and returning always to the same spot, singing loudly while on the wing with the throat distended and the feathers of the crest and head standing erect. The willow wren, Sylvia trochilus, also sings on the wing ; and probably, though I have not seen them, some older members of the Sylviadæ. The Rectory, Clyst St. Mary, Exeter.
J. A. KERR. In addition to the birds that sing flying, mentioned by F. W. B. in last number of NATURE Notes, the following may be named, viz., the woodlark, tree pipit and marsh pipit, all of which do most of their singing on the wing, and are all nearly related to the skylark. That merry little bird the sedge warbler also frequently sings flying, and so does the green linnet. I have seen the blackbird do so, but only from one tree to another close by. I cannot remember ever hearing the song or missel thrushes, but think it is very likely both may do
I scarcely think that the cuckoo can be termed a singing bird, its song being a call of the same nature as that of the landrail and quail. The sweet twitterings of the house martin and chimney swallow on the wing may fairly entitle them to the name of song birds. Dundee.
GEORGE URE. The paragraph in this month's Nature Notes referring to birds singing as they fly seems to invite further remarks. The following birds have been observed by me performing their lovesong on the wing : the whinchat, nightingale, tree pipit, whitethroat, wren, swallow, hedge accentor or dunnock, in addition to the lark and cuckoo mentioned by F. W. B.
If the singing of birds on the wing consists in the mere production of musical sounds from the throat while flying, many other species than the above possess the same power ; there are the laughing cry of the gull, the quack of the heron, the call of the peewit, the scape, scape of the snipe, the caw of the rook and jackdaw, the harsh screech of the jay, the scream of the swift, the chirp of the kingfisher and water ouzel, the chatter of the magpie and others, all of which I have heard singing to the best of their ability, the dipper, however, having in addition to the chirp a pretty little song which he sings when perched on a stone or tree stump. Richmond.
J. LYDDON PRING. Tame Birds and Beasts.-The Rev. F. O. Morris sends us the following letter received by him from Mrs. Cole, of Conclover Hall, Shrewsbury :--“I am so glad to see a letter from you in to-day's Morning Post, and venture to think you may be interested to hear about a few tame birds and beasts we have here now, notably of a kestrel. I see in your book on British Birds, you state that the kestrel is easily tamed. Our bird was taken from a nest last year, and put into a cage out of doors for a few days only, until fledged; he was then turned out and flew across the park into the woods, and was seen no more for some days, when he returned, found his way into the house, and has never voluntarily left it since. We often turn him out, and see him a mile or more from the house, but soon after
find him searching for an open window by which he may reach the dining-room, where he lives by preference, perching on a picture frame, but always coming on to my husband's arm when called, even though with thirty people at dinner, and through the glare of lamps and candles. He invariably twitters a sort of soft song when we speak to him. He is a grand bird in perfect plumage.
“ Age of birds.—A small half-bred game bantam we have here is hatching her usual sitting of eggs in a hat in the entrance hall, where for the last nine years she has always done so. We bought her in 1881 to sit on pheasants' eggs, being then no more than a pullet.
“ Rook.-I have an old bird whom I found on the roadside, three years ago, with a gunshot wound in his side, and one wing quite blown off
. He seemed very old and wild, but I brought him home, and though left completely at liberty in a tree in the garden, he has never failed to eat out of my hand there at once, and ever since, and shows the most extraordinary devotion and great intelligence.
“Rat.- I have a white rat, who lives, as all our pets do, entirely loose in the house or garden, perfectly free to leave us if they choose. The rat was given to me, as old and worthless, two years ago, then quite wild. He gradually became extremely tame, and during a severe illness I had last year he took it into his head to sit on iny pillow to guard rne. Ever since then he has continued to sleep there'; he runs upstairs with me, and follows me to bed, sleeping always on the bolster or pillow by my head. He is very plucky, and defended himself during one whole night when he was shut up accidentally in the same room with a large and savage cat. He was found sitting up with teeth and claws ready, and was perfectly overjoyed when his human friends took him up. Though six months have elapsed, nothing will induce him to enter that room again. Our dogs are perfeci friends with him. He uses his left paw always when drinking, ‘ladling' the water up to his mouth, even from the bottom of a tumbler, and is quite 'lefthanded.
Continental Selborniana. We have received several enquiries as to the Swiss Selborne Society, mentioned by the Rev. H. D. Rawnsley in the last number of NATURE Notes. The following communication (received a good while ago) from Lieut.-Colonel Linley Blathwayt, of Batheaston, fully answers the queries of our correspondents : Probably many members of the Selborne Society may not be aware that one somewhat similar, the “ Association pour la protection des Plantes,' exists in Switzerland. It was founded at Geneva in 1883 (England, France, Italy and Belgium being well represented among its members), and it is now striving hard to check the wholesale destruction of Alpine plants. Our own countrymen are, I fear, not quite free from blame, for one of its members writes that the worst offenders are those who are 'séduits par les guinées de John Bull, pour les expedier en masse à l'adresse de l'un ou de l'autre horticulteur Anglais.' The Swiss themselves are thoroughly alive to the danger, for the Conseil d'Etat of Fribourg has placed one Alpine plant--the Edelweiss—under the protection of the police ; and at Pontresina, in the Engadine, there was a notice that anyone destroying any of these plants would be fined. The President of the Association is, however, of opinion that there are other plants, such as ladies' slipper (Cypripedium Calceolus), which need protection far more than the Edelweiss."
Musical Mice. — Mr. R. Goodwin Mumbray, of Richmond, writes as follows:-" That mice and several other animals are 'moved by the concord of sweet sounds’ is a well-known fact. I have known several instances in which mice have been lured from their crannies by a lovely female voice, or by the sound of a piano when played softly in a minor (which is said to be the natural) key, or the * tiny din' of a flute; but I only remember one instance of a veritable singing
My maternal grandfather, a very aged man, who attained his 96th year, was sitting by the fireside one evening, when a small mouse of a light fawn colour, made its appearance, and began playing with the tie of the old gentleman's shoe, frisking about apparently in high glee, and interspersing its gambols by a song resembling that of the linnet. It usually appeared about 7 p.m., and would remain for the space of an hour, when it quietly stole away. These visits were continued for the space of six or eight weeks, when they suddenly ceased; the presence of visitors did not seem to disturb the little creature, although he never look to any
one but his ancient friend, who used to reward the little musician with Savoy biscuit. Much interest was excited amongst our acquaintances, one old lady shook her head ominously, intimating that the wee beastie was sent as a 'warning that called away, but the ancient mariner (he was an old sea captain), regarded it as a 'friendly greeting and out-lived the prophecy five years. The doctor, however, volunteered an authoritative explanation of the phenomenon. The mouse had a diseased liver! but then he had no “music in his soul.' To the regret of all, the visits of Tommy suddenly ceased-whether he succumbed to liver complaint or fell a victim to the claws and jaws of Grimalkin was never known, but the memory of the singing mouse lingered for many years in the family.
Children as Collectors.--In the Co-operative News, some letters have lately appeared strongly protesting against classes being arranged and prizes offered for the best collection of birds' eggs and stuffed birds in connection with the forthcoming (Co-operative) Home Industries Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. The Rev. Oswald Birchall, Rector of Buscot, Lechlade- - an ever-active Selbornian-and Mr. E. A. Sanderson, founder of the “ Junior Co-operative Humane Society” denounce such exhibitions, as a direct inducernent to lads and others to engage in bird-slaughter and nest-robbing. On the other hand, in the Richmond and Twickenham Times of July 5th, we find the following enthusiastic plea for children's collections of wild flowers :-“ Among the many pleasing features of the flower-show's recently held in this neighbourhood, is the number of wild flower bouquets sent by children of the poorer class. When it was first proposed to offer prizes for these exhibits, there were many who pooh-poohed the idea as ridiculous and urged that the show would be vulgarised by the introduction of a crowd of ill-assorted blossoms, hastily culled and tied in bunches, regardless of form or colour. However, the children's friends had their way, the experiment was tried, proved a success, and now the children's corner is a familiar object in the cut flower tent at almost every horticultural show. True, there may be crude combinations of colour, and in some instances quantity may be superior to quality ; but Rome was not built in a day, and if the little ones are by this means learning to know the manifold beauties lying in field and hedgerow, awakening perception will teach them, later on, how to combine varied hues int) a harmonious and gracesul bouquet. It has been truly said that to know Nature is to love her and such a pure and wholesome affection cannot but have a beneficial effect upon the character. In the demoralising conditions under which so many poor children live, anything that brightens their joyless lives and influences then for good should be encouraged ; above all a pursuit which—who can tell ?—may lead them from Nature up to Nature's God.”
OFFICIAL NOTICES, WORK OF BRANCHES, &c.
The object of the Selborne Society is to unite lovers of Nature for common study and the defence of natural objects (birds, plants, beautiful landscapes, &c.) against the destruction by which they are constantly menaced. The minimum Annual Subscription (which entitles the subscriber to a monthly copy of the Society's Magazine) is 2s. 6d. All particulars as to membership may be obtained from the Secretary of the Selborne Society, 9, Adam Street, Adelphi, W.C.
We are still unable to give the promised information as to the statistics of branches and their officials, as some secretaries have not yet sent in replies to the circulars issued. Among the defaulters are the Bath, Lower Thames Valley, Midhurst and Neston Branches. Some interesting accounts of work done have, however, been forwarded from the branches in pursuance of a resolution at the last meeting of the Council that such accounts should be sent to the editors of NATURE Notes for insertion, when possible. The Birmingham and Midland Branch has had a very successful and largely attended meeting. The hon. sec., Mrs. W. Arthur Smith writes :-" The report stated what had been done during the year in the direction of posters about the destruction of plants and ferns, &c.,