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their heads out at 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 flight 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 over. The young of this species do not quit their abodes altogether; 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 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. . . ."generis lapsi sarcire ruinas.” Thus is instinct a most wonderful 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 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 3rd and 6th, 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 shortlived indeed, or unless they do not return to the districts 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. During the time of breeding they are often greatly molested with fleas.
RINGMER, near LEWES, Dec. 9th, 1773.
I RECEIVED your last favour just as was setting out for this place; and am pleased to find that my monography met with your approbation. My remarks are the result of many years' observation; and are, I trust, true in the whole, though I do not pretend to say that they are perfectly void of mistake, or that a more nice observer might not nake many additions, since subjects of this kind are inexhaustible.
If you think my letter worthy the notice of your respectable society, you are at liberty to lay it before them; and they will consider it, I hope, as it was intended, as a humble attempt to promote a more minute inquiry into natural history ; into the life and conversation of animals. Perhaps, hereafter, I may be induced to take the houseswallow under consideration; and from that proceed to the rest of the British hirundines.
Though I have now travelled the Sussex Downs upwards of thirty years, yet I still investigate that chain of majestic mountains with fresh admiration year by year; and I think I see new beauties every time I traverse it. This range, which runs from Chichester eastward as far as Eastbourne, is about sixty miles in length, and is called the South Downs, properly speaking, only round Lewes. pass along you command a noble view of the wild, or weald, on one hand, and the broad downs and sea on the other. Mr. Ray used to visit a family just at the foot of these hills, and was so ravished with the prospect from Plumpton Plain, near Lewes, that he mentions those scapes in his Wisdom of God in the Works of Creation with the utmost satisfaction, and thinks them equal to anything he had seen in the finest parts of Europe.
For my own part, I think there is somewhat peculiarly sweet and amusing in the shapely-figured aspect of chalkhills in preference to those of stone, which are rugged, broken, abrupt, and shapeless.
Perhaps I may be singular in my opinion, and not so happy as to convey to you the same idea ; but I never contemplate these mountains without thinking I perceive somewhat analogous to growth in their gentle swellings and smooth fungus-like protuberances, their fluted sides, and regular hollows and slopes, that carry at once the air of vegetative dilation and expansion.
Or was there ever a time when these immense masses of calcareous matter were thrown into fermentation by some adventitious moisture ; were raised and leavened into such shapes by some plastic power; and so made to swell and heave their broad backs into the sky so much above the less animated clay of the wild below ?
By what I can guess from the admeasurements of the hills that have been taken round my house, I should suppose that these hills surmount the wild at an average at about the rate of five hundred feet.
One thing is very remarkable as to the sheep: from the westward till you get to the river Adur all the flocks have horns, and smooth white faces, and white legs, and a hornless sheep is rarely to be seen ; but as soon as you pass that river eastward, and mount Beeding Hill, all the flocks at once become hornless, or as they call them, poll-sheep; and have, moreover, black faces with a white tuft of wool on their foreheads, and speckled and spotted legs, so that you would think that the flocks of Laban were pasturing on one side of the stream, and the variegated breed of his son-in-law Jacob were cantoned along on the other. And this diversity holds good respectively on each side from the valley of Brambler and Beeding to the eastward, and westward all the whole length of the downs. If you
talk with the shepherds on this subject, they tell you that the case has been so from time immemorial ; and smile at your