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during their voyage up or down the Channel. What Hasselquist says on that subject is remarkable; there were little short-winged birds frequently coming on board his ship all the way from our channel quite up to the Levant, especially before squally weather.
What you suggest, with regard to Spain, is highly probable. The winters of Andalusia are so mild, that, in all likelihood, the soft-billed birds that leave us at that season may find insects sufficient to support them there.
Some young man, possessed of fortune, health, and leisure, should make an autumnal voyage into that kingdom ; and should spend a year there, investigating the natural history of that vast country. Mr. Willughby * passed through that kingdom on such an errand; but he seems to have skirted along in a superficial manner and an ill-humour, being much disgusted at the rude, dissolute manners of the people.
I have no friend left now at Sunbury to apply to about the swallows roosting on the aits of the Thames : nor can I hear any more about those birds which I suspected were Merula torquatce.
As to the small mice, I have farther to remark, that though they hang their nests for breeding up amidst the straws of the standing corn, above the ground; yet I find that, in the winter, they burrow deep in the earth, and make warm beds of grass : but their grand rendezvous seems to be in corn-ricks, into which they are carried at harvest. A neighbour housed an oat-rick lately, under the thatch of which were assembled nearly a hundred, most of which were taken, and some I saw. I measured them; and found that, from nose to tail, they were just two inches and
* See Ray's Travels, p. 466.
a quarter, and their tails just two inches long. Two of them, in a scale, weighed down just one copper halfpenny, which is about the third of an ounce avoirdupois : so that I suppose they are the smallest quadrupeds in this island. A full-grown Mus medius domesticus weighs, I find, one ounce lumping weight, which is more than six times as much as the mouse above; and measures from nose to rump four inches and a quarter, and the same in its tail. We have had a very severe frost and deep snow this month.
My thermometer was one day fourteen degrees and a half below the freezing-point, within doors.
The tender evergreens were injured pretty much. It was very providential that the air was still, and the ground well covered with snow, else vegetation in general must have suffered prodigiously. There is reason to believe that some days were more severe than any since the year 1739-40.
SELBORNE, March 12th, 1768. If some curious gentleman would procure the head of a fallow-deer, and have it dissected, he would find it furnished with two spiracula, or breathing places, besides the nostrils; probably analogous to the puncta lachrymalia in the human head. When deer are thirsty they plunge their noses, like some horses, very deep under water, while in the act of drinking, and continue them in that situation for a considerable time: but, to obviate any inconveniency, they can open two vents, one at the inner corner of each eye, having a communication with the nose. Here seems to be an extraordinary provision of nature worthy our attention; and which has not, that I know of, been noticed by any naturalist. For it looks as if these creatures would not be suffocated, though both their mouths and nostrils were stopped. This curious formation of the head may be of singular service to beasts of chase, by affording them free respiration : and no doubt these additional nostrils are thrown
when they are hard run. Mr. Ray observed that at Malta the owners slit up the nostrils of such asses as were hard worked : for they, being naturally straight or small, did not admit air sufficient to serve them when they travelled, or laboured, in that hot climate. And we know that grooms, and gentlemen of the turf, think large nostrils necessary, and a perfection, in hunters and running horses.
Oppian, the Greek poet, by the following line, seems to have had some notion that stags have four spiracula
“Τετραδυμοι ρίνες, πιoυρες ώνoιηοι διαυλοι.”
-OPP. Cyn. Lib. ii. 1. 181.
Writers, copying from one another, make Aristotle say that goats breathe at their ears; whereas he asserts just the contrary :-«Αλκμαιων γαρ ουκ αληθη λεγει, φαμενος αναπνειν τας αιγας κατα τα ωτα.»
“ Alemæon does not advance what is true, when he avers that goats breathe through their ears.”—History of Animals. Book I., chap. xi.
SELBORNE, March 30th, 1768.
Some intelligent country people have a notion that we have in these parts a species of the genus mustelinum, besides the weasel, stoat, ferret, and polecat; a little reddish beast, not much bigger than a field-mouse, but much longer, which they call a cane. This piece of intelligence can be little depended on ; but farther inquiry may be made.
A gentleman in this neighbourhood had two milk-white rooks in one nest. A booby of a carter, finding them before they were able to fly, threw them down and destroyed them, to the regret of the owner, who would have been glad to have preserved such a curiosity in his rookery. I saw the birds myself nailed against the end of a barn, and was surprised to find that their bills, legs, feet, and claws were milk-white.
A shepherd saw, as he thought, some white larks on a down above my house this winter: were not these the Emberiza nivalis, the snow-flake of the Brit. Zool. ? No doubt they were. A few years ago
I saw a cock bullfinch in a cage, which had been caught in the fields after it was come to its full colours. In about a year it began to look dingy ; and, blackening every succeeding year, it became coal-black at the end of four. Its chief food was hempseed. Such influence has food on the colour of animals! The pied and mottled colours of domesticated animals are supposed to be owing to high, various, and unusual food.
I had remarked, for years, that the root of the cuckoopint (arum) was frequently scratched out of the dry banks of hedges, and eaten in severe snowy weather. After observing, with some exactness, myself, and getting others to do the same, we found it was the thrush kind that searched it out. The root of the arum is remarkably warm and pungent.
Our flocks of female chaffinches have not yet forsaken us. The blackbirds and thrushes are very much thinned down by that fierce weather in January.
In the middle of February I discovered, in my tall hedges, a little bird that raised my curiosity : it was of that yellowgreen colour that belongs to the salicaria kind, and, I think, was soft billed. It was no parus ; and was too long and too big for the golden-crowned wren, appearing most like the largest willow-wren. It hung sometimes with its back downwards, but never continuing one moment in the same place. I shot at it, but it was so desultory that I missed
I wonder that the stone-curlew, Charadrius edicnemus, should be mentioned by the writers as a rare bird : it abounds in all the champaign parts of Hampshire and Sussex, and breeds, I think, all the summer, having young ones, I know, very late in the autumn. Already they begin clamouring in the evening. They cannot, I think, with any propriety, be called, as they are by Mr. Ray, “circa aquas versantes ;" for with us, by day at least, they haunt only the most dry, open, upland fields and sheepwalks, far removed from water : what they may do in the night I cannot say. Worms are their usual food, but they also eat toads and frogs.
I can show you some good specimens of my new mice. Linnæus perhaps would call the species Mus minimus.