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many weeks before its congeners; and that not only with us, but also in Andalusia, where they also begin to retire about the beginning of August.
The great large bat (which by-the-bye is at present a nondescript in England, and what I have never been able yet to procure) retires or migrates very early in the summer; it also ranges very high for its food, feeding in a different region of the air; and that is the reason I never could procure one. Now this is exactly the case with the swifts; for they take their food in a more exalted region than the other species, and are very seldom seen hawking for flies near the ground, or over the surface of the water. From hence I would conclude that these hirundines and the larger bats are supported by some sorts of high-flying gnats, scarabs, or phalonce, that are of short continuance; and that the short stay of these strangers is regulated by the defect of their food.
By my journal it appears that curlews clamoured on to October 31st; since which I have not seen nor heard any. Swallows were observed on to November 3rd.
SELBORNE, Feb. 22nd, 1770. HEDGEHOGS abound in my gardens and fields. The manner in which they eat the roots of the plantain in my grasswalks is very curious; with their upper mandible, which is much longer than their lower, they bore under the plant, and so eat the root of upwards, leaving the tuft of leaves untouched. In this respect they are serviceable, as they destroy a very troublesome weed; but they deface the walks in some measure by digging little round holes. It appears, by the dung that they drop upon the turf, that beetles are no inconsiderable part of their food. In June last I procured a litter of four or five young hedgehogs, which appeared to be about five or six days old: they, I find, like puppies, are born blind, and could not see when they came to my hands. No doubt their spines are soft and flexible at the time of their birth, or else the poor dam would have but a bad time of it in the critical moment of parturition, but it is plain they soon harden; for these little pigs had such stiff prickles on their backs and sides as would easily have fetched blood, had they not been handled with caution. Their spines are quite white at this age; and they have little hanging ears, which I do not remember to be discernible in the old ones. They can, in part, at this age draw their skin down over their faces; but are not able to contract themselves into a ball, as they do, for the sake of defence, when full grown. The reason, I suppose, is, because the curious muscle that enables the creature to roll
in a ball was not then arrived at its full tone and firmness. Hedgehogs make a deep and warm hybernaculum with leaves and moss, in which they conceal themselves for the winter : but I never could find that they stored in any winter provision, as some quadrupeds certainly do.
I have discovered an anecdote with respect to the fieldfare (l'urdus pilaris), which I think is particular enough; this bird, though it sits on trees in the day-time, and procures the greatest part of its food from white-thorn hedges ; yea, moreover, builds on very high trees, as may be seen by the Fauna Suecica ; yet always appears with us to roost on the ground. They are seen to come in flocks
just before it is.dark, and to settle and nestle among the heath on our forest. And besides, the larkers, in dragging their nets by night, frequently catch them in the wheat stubbles; while the bat-fowlers, who take many red-wings in the hedges, never entangle any of this species. Why these birds, in the matter of roosting, should differ from all their congeners, and from themselves also with respect to their proceedings by day, is a fact for which I am by no means able to account.
I have somewhat to inform you of concerning the moosedeer ; but in general foreign animals fall seldom in my way; my little intelligence is confined to the narrow sphere of my own observations at home.
SELBORNE, March 1770. On Michaelmas-day 1768 I managed to get a sight of the female moose belonging to the Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood; but was greatly disappointed, when I arrived at the spot, to find that it died, after having appeared in a languishing way for some time, on the morning before. However, understanding that it was not stripped, I proceeded to examine this rare quadruped; I found it in an old greenhouse, slung under the belly and chin by ropes, and in a standing posture; but, though it had been dead for so short a time, it was in so putrid a state that the stench was hardly supportable. The grand distinction between this deer, and any other species that I have ever met with,
consisted in the strange length of its legs; on which it was tilted much in the manner of the birds of the grallo order. I measured it as they do a horse, and found that, from the ground to the wither, it was just five feet four inches; which height answers exactly to sixteen hands, a growth that few horses arrive at: but then, with this length of legs, its neck was remarkably short, no more than twelve inches; so that, by straddling with one foot forward and the other backward, it grazed on the plain ground, with the greatest difficulty, between its legs; the ears were vast and lopping, and as long as the neck; the head was about twenty inches long, and ass-like; and had such a redundancy of upper lip as I never saw before, with huge nostrils. This lip, travellers say, is esteemed a dainty dish in North America. It is very reasonable to suppose that this creature supports itself chiefly by browsing of trees, and by wading after water plants; towards which way of livelihood the length of legs and great lip must contribute much. I have read somewhere that it delights in eating the nymphæa, or water-lily. From the fore-feet to the belly behind the shoulder it measured three feet and eight inches : the length of the legs before and behind consisted a great deal in the tibia, which was strangely long; but, in my haste to get out of the stench, I forgot to measure that joint exactly. Its scut seemed to be about an inch long ; the colour was a grizzly black; the mane about four inches long; the fore-hoofs were upright and shapely, the hind flat and splayed. The spring before, it was only two years old, so that most probably it was not then come to its growth. What a vast tall beast must a full grown stag be! I have been told some arrive at ten feet and a half ! This poor creature had at first a female companion of the same species, which died the spring before. In the same garden
was a young stag, or red deer, between whom and this
it was hoped that there might have been a breed; but their inequality of height must have always been a bar to any commerce of the amorous kind. I should have been glad to have examined the teeth, tongue, lips, hoofs, etc., minutely; but the putrefaction precluded all farther curiosity. This animal, the keeper told me, seemed to enjoy itself best in the extreme frost of the former winter. In the house they showed me the horn of a male moose, which had no front antlers, but only a broad palm with some snags on the edge. The noble owner of the dead moose proposed to make a skeleton of her bones.
Please to let me hear if my female moose corresponds with that you saw; and whether you think still that the American moose and European elk are the same creature.
SELBORNE, May 12th, 1770. Last month we had such a series of cold, turbulent weather, such a constant succession of frost, and snow, and hail, and tempest, that the regular migration or appearance of the summer birds was much interrupted. Some did not show themselves (at least were not heard) till weeks after their usual time; as the blackcap and whitethroat; and some have not been heard yet, as the grasshopper-lark and largest willow-wren. As to the fly-catcher, I have not seen it ; it is indeed one of the latest, but should appear about this time: and yet, amidst all this meteorous strife and war of the elements, two swallows discovered themselves