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As the young of small birds presently arrive at their full growth, they soon become impatient of confinement, and sit all day with their heads out of the orifice, where the dams, by clinging to the nest, supply them with food from morning to night. For a time the young are fed on the wing by their parents ; but the feat is done by so quick and almost imperceptible a sleight, that a person must have attended very exactly to their motions before he would be able to perceive it. As soon as the young are able to shift for themselves, the dams immediately turn their thoughts to the business of a second brood, while the first flight, shaken off and rejected by their nurses, congregate in great flocks, and are the birds that are seen clustering and hovering on sunny mornings and evenings round towers and steeples, and on the roofs of churches and houses. These congregatings usually begin to take place about the first week in August; and therefore we may conclude that by that time the first flight is pretty well
The young of this species do not quit their abodes all together ; but the more forward birds get abroad some days before the rest. These, approaching the eaves of buildings, and playing about before them, make people think that several old ones attend one nest. They are often capricious in fixing on a nesting-place, beginning many edifices, and leaving them unfinished ; but when once a nest is completed in a sheltered place, it serves for several seasons. Those which breed in a ready-finished house get the start in hatching of those that build new by ten days or a fortnight. These industrious artificers are at their labours in the long days before four in the morning : when they fix their materials they plaster them on with their chins, moving their heads with a quick vibratory motion. They dip and wash as they fly sometimes in very hot weather, but not so frequently as swallows. It has been observed that martins usually build to a north-east or north-west aspect, that the heat of the sun may not crack and destroy their nests ; but instances are also remembered where they bred for many years in vast abundance in a hot stifled inn-yard, against a wall facing to the south.
Birds in general are wise in their choice of situation : but in this neighbourhood every summer is seen a strong proof to the contrary, at a house without eaves in an exposed district, where some martins build year by year in the corners of the windows. But as the corners of these windows (which face to the south-east and south-west) are too shallow, the nests are washed down every hard rain ; and yet these birds drudge on to no purpose from summer to summer, without changing their aspect or house. It is a piteous sight to see them labouring when half their nest is washed away, and bringing dirt 'to patch the ruins of a fallen race.' Thus is instinct a most wonderful but unequal faculty; in some instances so much above reason, in other respects so far below it ! Martins love to frequent towns, especially if there are great lakes and rivers at hand ; nay, they even affect the close air of London. And I have not only seen them nesting in the Borough, but even in the Strand and Fleet Street; but then it was obvious, from the dinginess of their aspect, that their feathers partook of the filth of that sooty atmosphere. Martins are by far the least agile of the four species ; their wings and tails are short, and therefore they are not capable of such surprising turns and quick and glancing evolutions as the swallow. Accordingly, they make use of a placid easy motion in a middle region of the air, seldom mounting to any great height, and never sweeping long together over the surface of the ground or water. They do not wander far for food, but affect sheltered districts, over some lake, or under some hanging wood, or in some hollow vale, especially in windy weather. They breed the latest of all the swallow kind : in 1772 they had nestlings on to October the 21st, and are never without unfledged young as late as Michaelmas.
As the summer declines, the congregating flocks increase in numbers daily by the constant accession of the second broods, till at last they swarm in myriads upon myriads round the villages on the Thames, darkening the face of the sky as they frequent the aits of that river, where they roost. They retire—the bulk of them, I mean—in vast flocks together about the beginning of October ; but have appeared of late years in a considerable flight in this neighbourhood, for one day or two, as late as November the third and sixth, after they were supposed to have been gone for more than a fortnight. They therefore withdraw with us the latest of any species. Unless these birds are very short-lived indeed, or unless they do not return to the district where they are bred, they must undergo vast devastations somehow and somewhere ; for the birds that return yearly bear no manner of proportion to the birds that retire.
House-martins are distinguished from their congeners by having their legs covered with soft, downy feathers down to their toes. They are no songsters ; but twitter in a pretty inward soft manner in their nests.
ODE TO AUTUMN.
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness !
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun ;
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run:
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core ;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease ;
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store ?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swathe and all its twinèd flowers :
Steady thy laden head across a brook ;
Or by a cider-press with patient look,
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they ?
Think not of them,—thou hast thy music too,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue ;
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies :
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The red breast whistles from a garden-croft,
THE VALLEY OF THE LOIRE.
In the beautiful month of October, I made an excursion on foot along the banks of the Loire, from Orleans to Tours. This luxuriant region is justly called the Garden of France. From Orleans to Blois, the whole valley of the Loire is one continued vineyard. The bright green foliage of the vine spreads, like the undulations of the sea, over all the landscape, with here and there a silver flash of the river, sequestered hamlet, or the towers of an old château, to enliven and variegate the scene.
The vintage had already commenced. The peasantry were busy in the fields,—the song that cheered their labour was on the breeze, and the heavy waggon tottered by, laden with the clusters of the vine. Everything around me wore that happy look which makes the heart glad. In the morning I arose with the lark; and at night I slept where sunset overtook me. The healthy exercise of foot travelling, the pure, bracing air of autumn, and the cheerful aspect of the whole landscape about me, gave fresh elasticity to a mind not overburdened with
care, and made me forget not only the fatigue of walking, but also the consciousness of being alone.
My first day's journey brought me at evening to a village, whose name I have forgotten, situated about eight leagues from Orleans. It is a small, obscure hamlet, not mentioned in the guide-book, and stands upon the precipitous banks of a deep ravine, through which a noisy brook leaps down to turn the ponderous wheel of a thatch-roofed mill. The village inn stands upon the highway ; but the village itself is not visible to the traveller as he passes.
It is completely hidden in the lap of a wooded valley, and so embowered in its trees that not a roof nor a chimney peeps out to betray its hiding-place. It is like the nest of a ground-swallow, which the passing footstep almost treads upon, and yet it is not seen. I passed by without suspecting that a village was near; and the little inn had a look so uninviting that I did not even enter it.
After proceeding a mile or two farther, I perceived, upon my left, a village spire rising over the vineyards. Towards this I directed my footsteps ; but it seemed to recede as I advanced, and at last quite disappeared. It was evidently many miles distant; and as the path I followed descended from the highway, it had gradually sunk beneath a swell of the vine-clad landscape. I now found myself in the midst of an extensive vineyard. It was just sunset; and the last golden rays lingered on the rich and mellow scenery around
The peasantry were still busy at their task; and the occasional bark of a dog, and the distant sound of an evening bell, gave fresh romance to the scene. The reality of many a