« AnteriorContinuar »
calm amusements, almost every thing that our present state makes us capable of enjoying. The variegated verdure of the fields and woods, the succession of grateful odours, the voice of pleasure pouring out its notes on every side, with the gladness apparently conceived by every animal, from the growth of his food and the clemency of the weather, throw over the whole earth an air of gaiety, significantly expressed by the smile of nature.
Sweet Spring ! thy young and soft love-beaming eye
In April the weather is mild, with gentle showers, affording to vegetables an abundant supply of water, which is so indispensably necessary to their existence. This is the general character of April; yet we have sometimes very sharp frosts in this month, as well as in its successor, MAY:
I grati zephiri di primavera of Metastasio translated.
And when returning night involves the plain,
Keeu frost and vapour from his hoary wings. The arrival of the swallow about the middle of the month, foretels the approach of summer. Of the migration of this sagacious bird, and its regular annual return to Great Britain, we have spoken at large in our former volumes; and shall také occasion to renew the pleasing subject in our Naturalist's Diary for September. We now lay before our readers some curious anecdotes of the swallow tribe, gleaned from Mr. Gavin Douglas's Communications to the Editor of the Philosophical Magazine. This diligent observer of nature and acute ornithologist having paid particular attention to the habits of the swallows, among many interesting facts respecting this bird, records the following.
When a situation has been once fixed upon for a new nest, before a particle of building material is' laid, every bearing of the intended site is minutely examined by a few of the sages, during which a great deal of conversation and reasoning goes on; plans are proposed, and one ultimately fixed upon before proceeding to the work. Matters being thus far adjusted, a number collect sometimes above a dozen
-and form themselves into divisions, for the distribution of labour, before commencing operations; the number assembled is always in proportion to the extent of work and number of nests to be carried on at the same time. There are often from two to five nests in a progressive state of forwardness, all carrying forward at the same time by the same associated band of operators.
* There are four species of the hirundines that visit England; they arrive in the following order :-(1.) The chimney swallow (hirundo rustica.) (2.) The house martin (hirundo urbica.) (3.) The sand martin (hirundo riparia.) (4.) The swift (hirundo apus.)
When a place for mortar-making has been selected, the whole band commence operations by gathering a beakfull of chopped straw or hay, generally taken from dry horse-droppings either about the field or from the high road; with this they repair to the place appointed, and commence mortar-making by mixing this with clayey soil, rendered additionally unctuous by their working it with their beaks; and all, as ready, fly off with their load and begin building. When the foundation has attained the size of a small walnut, one experienced builder remains stationary, a proportionate number at the mortar hole, and a division of straw-gatherers and carriers carry on the work till the weight and softness of the new made materials endanger the falling of the whole. Then, this nest is left off, and time in proportion to the state of the weather given for it to harden firm and dry, and the whole band goes to the next; and after carrying it a similar length, leaves it in the same manner, for the samo purpose, and goes to the third, the fourth, a fifth, and again returns in rotation to the first, and so going repeatedly over the whole till the labour is completely accomplished. During the whole of these operations, the grand master builder, who is sometimes relieved by turns, shows his skill and experience in the art of building, by proportioning the radius of the nest, the acuteness or obliquity of the angles, in strict proportion to the distance and bearing of the abutments, and thickens the wall proportionately to the tenacity of the materials, every morsel of which he carefully examines before it is laid
A nest built in the west corner of a back room window facing the north was so much softened by rain beating in that direction, from the severity of a violent storm from the north-east, as to render it unfit to support the weight of a superincumbent load of five well grown young swallows: during the storm the nest fell into the corner below, leaving the young
brood exposed to all the inclemency of the blast. To save the poor things from untimely death, a covering was thrown over them till the severity of the storm abated. This had no sooner subsided than the sages assembled, flattering round the window and hovering over the temporary covering of the fallen nest, which was removed as soon as this careful anxiety was discovered, and the utmost joy evinced by the groupe on finding the young ones alive and unhurt. After
feeding them, the members of this assembled community arranged themselves in working order; each division, taking its appropriate station, fell to instant labour, and before nightfall had jointly completed an arched canopy over the young, and securely covered them against a succeeding blast.
The same writer records the following extraordinary instance of revenge. A sparrow had taken early possession of a swałow's nest, and had laid some eggs previously to the swallow's appearing to claim her castle. The sparrow firmly seated, and thus attached to the sheltering shade of its approaching brood, resisted the claim of the swallow: a sharp skirmish ensued, in which the swallow was joined by its mate, and during the conflict by several of their comrades. The sparrow, however, determinedly resisted, and successfully defended herself against the joint and repeated efforts of the assembled swallows to dislodge ber. Finding themselves completely foiled in their endeavours to regain possession, they, after some consultation, had recourse to an expedient of a most extraordinary nature and singularly revengeful, and one which showed that it proceeded from a deliberate determination of the whole groupe that nothing short of the death of the intruder oould satisfy them, or atone for this usurpation of a propenty unquestionably the legitimate right of its original constructor. The swallows for a time departed, leaving the sparrow apparently in the full enjoyment of her conquest. This prospect of repose, however, was only delu
sive; for the swallows returned with accumulated numbers, each bearing a beak full of building materials; and without any further attempt to disturb or beat out the sparrow, they instantly set to work and built up the entrance into the nest, inclosing the sparrow within the clay tenement, and leaving her to perish in the garrison she had so bravely defended. Philosophical Magazine, vol. lii, p. 271, et seq.
Young moles are now to be found in the nests, and, therefore, this is a good time for destroying them. There are commonly four or five in a nest, and they are naked when first born. Weasels and stoats are great enemies to moles, and frequently get into their holes, kill the inhabitants, and take up their own abode there. Thus do the several sorts of vermin help to keep up a kind of balance of power among them.
The next bird which appears, after the swallow, is that sweet warbler, the motacilla luscinia, or nightingale. For many interesting particulars of this bird, as well as numerous poetical illustrations, see T.T. for 1817, p. 110; for 1816, p. 117; for 1815, p. 139; and for 1814, p. 99.