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on a visit, happening to be mowing, on the 6th of that month, by the side of a canal, his scythe struck too deep, pared off a large piece of turf, and laid open to view a curious scene of domestic economy :
-Ingentem lato dedit ore fenestram :
There were many caverns and winding passages leading to a kind of chamber, neatly smoothed and rounded, and about the size of a moderate snuff-box. Within this secret nursery were deposited near a hundred eggs of a dirty yellow colour, and enveloped in a tough skin, but too lately excluded to contain any rudiments of young, being full of a viscous substance. The eggs lay but shallow, and within the influence of the sun, just under a little heap of freshmowed mould, like that which is raised by ants.
When mole-crickets fly they move cursu undoso," rising and falling in curves, like the other species mentioned before. In different parts of this kingdom people call them fen-crickets, churr-worms, and eve-churrs, all very apposite
Anatomists, who have examined the intestines of these insects, astonish me with their accounts; for they say that, from the structure, position, and number of their stomachs, or maws, there seems to be good reason to suppose that this and the two former species ruminate or chew the cud like many quadrupeds !
It is now more than forty years that I have paid some attention to the ornithology of this district, without being able to exhaust the subject : new occurrences still arise as long as any inquiries are kept alive.
In the last week of last month five of those most rare birds, too uncommon to have obtained an English name, but known to naturalists by the terms of himantopus, or loripes, and Charadrius himantopus, were shot upon the verge of Frinsham-pond, a large lake belonging to the Bishop of Winchester, and lying between Wolmer-forest and the town of Farnham, in the county of Surrey. The pond keeper says there were three brace in the flock; but, that after he had satisfied his curiosity, he suffered the sixth to remain unmolested. One of these specimens I procured, and found the length of the legs to be so extraordinary, that, at first sight, one might have supposed the shanks had been fastened on to impose on the credulity of the beholder : they were legs in caricatura ; and had we seen such proportions on a Chinese or Japan screen we should have made large allowances for the fancy of the draughtsman. These birds are of the plover family, and might with propriety be called the stilt plovers. Brisson, under that idea, gives them the apposite name of l'echasse. My specimen, when drawn and stuffed with pepper, weighed only four ounces and a quarter, though the naked part of the thigh measured three inches and a-half, and the legs four inches and a half. Hence we may safely assert that these birds exhibit, weight for inches, incomparably the
greatest length of legs of any known bird. The flamingo, for instance, is one of the most long-legged birds, and yet it bears no manner of proportion to the himantopus ; for a cock flamingo weighs, at an average, about four pounds avoirdupois; and his legs and thighs measure usually about twenty inches. But four pounds are fifteen times and a fraction more that four ounces and one quarter ; and if four ounces and a quarter have eight inches of legs, four pounds must have one hundred and twenty inches and a fraction of legs—viz., somewhat more than ten feet; such a monstrous proportion as the world never saw ! should try the experiment in still larger birds the disparity would still increase. It must be matter of great curiosity to see the stilt plover move; to observe how it can wield such a length of lever with such feeble muscles as the thighs seem to be furnished with. At best one should expect it to be but a bad walker : but what adds to the wonder is, that it has no back toe. Now without that steady prop to support its steps it must be liable, in speculation, to perpetual vacillations, and seldom able to preserve the true centre of gravity.
The old name of himantopus is taken from Pliny; and, by an awkward metaphor, implies that the legs are as slender and pliant as if cut out of a thong of leather. Neither Willughby nor Ray, in all their curious researches, either at home nor abroad, ever saw this bird. Mr. Pennant never met with it in all Great Britain, but observed it often in the cabinets of the curious at Paris. Hasselquist says that it migrates to Egypt in the autumn; and a most accurate observer of Nature has assured me that he has found it on the banks of the streams in Andalusia.
Our writers record it to have been found only twice in Great Britain. From all these relations it plainly appears
that these long-legged plovers are birds of South Europe, and rarely visit our island; and when they do, are wanderers and stragglers, and impelled to make so distant and northern an excursion from motives or accidents for which
are not able to account. One thing may fairly be deduced, that these birds come over to us from the Continent, since nobody can suppose that a species not noticed once in an age, and of such a remarkable make, can constantly breed unobserved in this kingdom.
SELBORNE, April 21st, 1780. The old Sussex tortoise, that I have mentioned to you so often, is become my property. I dug it out of its winter dorniitory in March last, when it was enough awakened to express its resentments by hissing; and, packing it in a box with earth, carried it eighty miles in post-chaises. The rattle and hurry of the journey so perfectly roused it that, when I turned it out on a border, it walked twice down to the bottom of my garden; however, in the evening, the weather being cold, it buried itself in the loose mould, and contiņues still concealed.
As it will be under my eye, I shall now have an opportunity of enlarging my observations on its mode of life, and propensities; and perceive already that, towards the time of coming forth, it opens a breathing place in the ground near its head, requiring, I conclude, a freer respiration as it becomes more alive. This creature not only goes under the earth from the middle of November to the middle of April, but sleeps great part of the summer; for it goes to bed in the longest days at four in the afternoon, and often does not stir in the morning till late. Besides, it retires to rest for every shower; and does not move at all in wet days.
When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little as to squander more than two-thirds of its existence in a joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months together in the profoundest of slumbers.
While I was writing this letter, a moist and warm afternoon, with the thermometer at 50°, brought forth troops of shell-snails; and, at the same juncture, the tortoise heaved
up the mould and put out its head; and the next morning came forth, as it were, raised from the dead ; and walked about till four in the afternoon. This was a curious coincidence ! a very amusing occurrence ! to see such a similarity of feelings between the two pepeoLKOL! for so the Greeks called both the shell-snail and the tortoise. Summer birds
this cold and backward spring, unusually late : I have seen but one swallow yet. This conformity with the weather convinces me more and more that they sleep in the winter.
MORE PARTICULARS RESPECTING THE OLD FAMILY TORTOISE. BECAUSE we call this creature an abject reptile, we are too apt to undervalue his abilities, and depreciate his powers of instinct. Yet he is, as Mr. Pope says of his lord,
-Much too wise to walk into a well: and has so much discernment as not to fall down a haha, but to stop and withdraw from the brink with the readiest precaution.