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who can walk over his own hills and valleys, traverse his old orchards and shady plantations, is happier and possesses more delightful wealth than the jewelled sultan, groaning under a weight of “barbaric pearl and gold,” and waving his sceptre over a thousand miles of burning desert. The man whose life is spent among woods and fields has a book of entertainment and instruction constantly before him, whose pictures are ever varied by an unseen magic hand ; he hears,
“ The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass." The reason why some birds quit the north of Europe in winter is evidently to escape the severity of the frost : but why at the approach of spring they should return to their former haunts is not so easily accounted for ;-- it cannot be for want of food—for if during the winter in this country they are able to subsist, they may fare plentifully through the rest of the year; neither can their migration be caused by an impatience of warmth, for the season when they quit this country is by no means so hot as the Lapland sumo
From the fact of a few stragglers or wounded birds building here, it is evident that there is nothing in our climate or soil which should hinder them from making this country their permanent residence, as the thrush, blackbird, and other congeners actually do. The crane, the stork, and other birds, which used formerly to be natives of our island, have quitted it as cultivation and population have extended : it is probable, also, that the same reason forbids the fieldfare and red-wing thrush, which are of a timorous, retired disposition, to make choice of England as a place of sufficient security to breed in.”
It is no easy matter to account for the migration of birds : many things take place under the providence of Him who allows not a sparrow to fall to the ground unnoticed which
man has not yet been able to account for. Their object may be another climate, a scarcity of food, or a love of more solitary places during incubation. There are some whose food is principally insects, of which, we imagine, they could not fail of procuring a sufficiency during the summer months, when every bank, and field, and forest teems with them. Yet they stay not; and if any by chance or accident remain behind, they seek to hide themselves, and appear not so much at ease as they were during the severer months: they seem conscious of being in a strange land, far from their companions.
The highly-talented author of “ The Journal of a Naturalist” thus reasons upon the subject : .“ The passage to our shores is a long and dangerous one, and some imperative motive for it must exist ; and until facts manifest the reason, we may perhaps without injury to the cause of research conjecture for what object these perilous transits are made. We know that all young creatures require particularly compounded nutriment during their infant state; and Nature, as far as we are acquainted with it, has made in every instance provision for a supply of fitting aliment. In many cases, where the removal of station could not be conveniently accomplished, instinct has been given the parent to provide the fitting aliment for its newborn young. Thus, some insects store their cells with food ready for the animation of their progeny ; others place their eggs in such situations as will afford it when they are hatched. The mammalia-at least the quadrupeds belonging to this class, which could least conveniently move their station, have supplies given them of a milky secretion for this purpose. Birds have nothing of this nature, and make no provision for their young ; but they, of all creatures except fishes, can seek what may be required in distant stations with most facility. A sufficiency of food for the adult parent may be found in every climate, yet the aliment necessary for its offspring may not. Countries, and even counties, produce insects that differ, if not in species, at least in numbers ; and many yoụng birds we
cannot succeed in rearing, or do it very partially, by reason of our ignorance of the requisite food. Every one who has made the attempt well knows the various expedients he has resorted to, of boiled meats, bruised seeds, hard eggs, boiled rice, and twenty other substances that Nature never presents, in order to find a diet that will nourish them ; but Mr. Montagu's failure in being able to raise the young of the cirl-bunting until he discovered that they required grasshoppers, is a sufficient instance of the manifest necessity there is for a peculiar food in one period of the life of birds. This renders it probable that the willow-wren, and others of the insect and fruit-feeding birds, direct their flight to distant regions, and is the principal cause of their migrations. “It is some stimulus like this which
that little creature, the golden-crested wren, that usually only flits from tree to tree, and never attempts upon common occasions a longer flight, to traverse the vast distance from the Orkneys to the Shetland Isles, over stormy seas that admit no possible rest during its long passage of above fifty miles ! There it breeds its young; but, this one object accomplished, it leaves those isles, dares again this tedious flight, and seeks a milder clime. With us it never migrates-lives much in our fir-groves during the winter, and breeds in our shrubberies in summer.
Peculiar necessities, such as these, may incite the migration of many birds ; but, that certain species, which lead solitary lives, or associate only in very small parties, should at stated periods congregate from all parts to one spot, and there hold council on a removal, in which the very sexes occasionally separate, is one of the most extraordinary proceedings that we meet with among animals.”
- It is a curious fact,” says Mr. Jesse, " that the males of migrating birds, or at least some species, arrive several weeks before the females. An experienced and intelligent birdcatcher assures me that the male nightingale generally makes its appearance in this country about the first of April, and the female about a month afterwards; and that his song increases
in power, and is longer continued when the period for the arrival of the female is near at hand. A favourite bush having been selected, the nightingale awaits the appearance of his mate in or near it, singing his song of love, and greeting her arrival with all the little blandishments of affection. When she begins to sit, his song is less frequent and less powerful, and ceases soon after the young are hatched. The black-cap, whose song is scarcely less pleasing than that of the nightingale, arrives also some time before the female, and calls her to him in the same manner. I have one of these birds in my possession ; his song is wild and sweet; and, as Mr. White says, when he sings in earnest, he pours forth very sweet but inward melody, and expresses great variety of soft and gentle modulations, superior perhaps to those of any of our warblers, the nightingale excepted.”
I have often thought that some beautiful contrasts might be drawn from the different situations of those animals whose lives are passed in a state of torpor, and others that are compelled to wing their way for weary leagues over dangerous seas, or probably stay behind and perish.
“When autumn scatters his departing gleams,
Warn’d of approaching winter, gather’d, play
Or rather into warmer climes convey'd,
And many a circle, many a short essay,
The aërial billows, mixes with the clouds.”—THOmson. According to Verstegan, the Saxons called this month Lenctmonat, or Length-month, because the days begin in length to exceed the nights. They also called it Hlyd-monat, or the Stormy month. Ovid says it was called March from Mars, the god of war; and Leigh Hunt thus humorously follows up the name: “ As to the deity's nature, March has certainly nothing in common with it; for though it affects to be very rough, it is one of the best-natured months in the year, drying up the superabundant moisture of winter with its fierce winds, and thus restoring us our paths through the fields, and piping before the flowers like a bacchanal. He sometimes, it must be confessed, as if in a fit of the spleen, hinders the buds which he has dried from blowing; and it is allowable in the less robust part of his friends out of doors to object to the fancy he has for coming in such a cutting manner from the east. But it
be truly said, that the oftener you meet him firmly, the less he will shake you, and the more smiles you will have from the fair months that follow him,”.
As the daisies are now putting out, I shall extract Burns's beautiful poem
TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY.
“ Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thou'st met me in an evil hour;
Thy slender stem :
Thou bonnie gem.
The bonnie lark, companion meet,
Wi' speckled breast,
The purpling east.