Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

spend their winters under the warm and sheltery shores of Gibraltar and Barbary.

Scopoli's characters of his ordines and genera are clear, just, and expressive, and much in the spirit of Linnæus. These few remarks are the result of my first perusal of Scopoli's Annus Primus.

The bane of our science is the comparing one animal to the other by memory: for want of caution in this particular Scopoli falls into errors : he is not so full with regard to the manners of his indigenous birds as might be wished, as you justly observe: his Latin is easy, elegant, and expressive, and very superior to Kramer's.*

I am pleased to see that my description of the moose corresponds so well with yours.

LETTER XXXIII.

SELBORNE, Nov. 26th, 1770. I was much pleased to see, among the collection of birds from Gibraltar, some of those short-winged English summer birds of passage concerning whose departure we have made so much inquiry. Now, if these birds are found in Andalusia to migrate to and from Barbary, it may easily be supposed that those that come to us may migrate back to the Continent, and spend their winters in some of the warmer parts of Europe. This is certain, that many soft-billed birds that come to Gibraltar appear there only in spring

* See his Elenchus Vegetabilium et Animalium per Austriam Inferiorem, etc.

and autumn, seeming to advance in pairs towards the northward, for the sake of breeding during the summer months, and retiring in parties and broods towards the south at the decline of the year : so that the rock of Gibraltar is the great rendezvous and place of observation from whence they take their departure each way towards Europe or Africa. It is therefore no mean discovery, I think, to find that our small short-winged summer birds of passage are to be seen spring and autumn on the very skirts of Europe ; it is presumptive proof of their emigrations.

Scopoli seems to me to have found the Hirundo melba, the great Gibraltar swift, in Tyrol, without knowing it. For what is his Hirundo alpina but the afore-mentioned bird in other words? Says he “Omnia prioris(meaning the swift); "sed pectus album; paulo major priore." I do not suppose this to be a new species. It is true also of the melba, that “nidificat in excelsis Alpium rupibus.Vide Annum Primum.

My Sussex friend, a man of observation and good sense, but no naturalist, to whom I applied on account of the stonecurlew, oedicnemus, sends me the following account :“In looking over my Naturalist's Journal for the month of April, I find the stone-curlews are first mentioned on the seventeenth and eighteenth, which date seems to me rather late. They live with us all the spring and summer, and at the beginning of autumn prepare to take leave by getting together in flocks. They seem to me a bird of passage

that may travel into some dry hilly country south of us, probably Spain, because of the abundance of sheep-walks in that country; for they spend their summers with us in such districts. This conjecture I hazard, as I have never met with any one that has seen them in England in the winter. I believe they are not fond of going near the water, but

feed on earthworms, that are common on sheep-walks and downs. They breed on fallows and lay-fields abounding with grey mossy flints, which much resemble their young in colour; among which they skulk and conceal themselves. They make no nest, but lay their eggs on the bare ground, producing in common but two at a time. There is reason to think their young run soon after they are hatched ; and that the old ones do not feed them, but only lead them about at the time of feeding, which, for the most part, is in the night.” Thus far

my

friend. In the manners of this bird you see there is something very analogous to the bustard, whom it also somewhat resembles in aspect and make, and in the structure of its feet.

For a long time I have desired my relation to look out for these birds in Andalusia ; and now he writes me word that, for the first time, he saw one dead in the market on the 3rd Septemher.

When the oedicnemus flies, it stretches out its legs straight behind, like a heron.

LETTER XXXIV.

SELBORNE, March 30th, 1771. THERE is an insect with us, especially on chalky districts, which is very troublesome and teasing all the latter end of the summer, getting into people's skins, especially those of women and children, and raising tumours which itch intolerably. This animal (which we call a hørvest bug) is

[ocr errors]

very minute, scarce discernible to the naked eye; of a bright scarlet colour, and of the genus of acarus. They are to be met with in gardens on kidney-beans, or any legumens, but prevail only in the hot months of summer. Warreners, as some have assured me, are much infested by them on chalky downs, where these insects swarm some times to so infinite a degree as to discolour their nets,

and to give them a reddish cast, while the men are so bitten as to be thrown into fevers.

There is a small long shining fly in these parts very troublesome to the housewife, by getting into the chimneys, and laying its eggs in the bacon while it is drying; these eggs produce maggots called jumpers, which, harbouring in the gammons and best parts of the hogs, eat down to the bone, and make great waste. This fly I suspect to be a variety of the Musca putris of Linnæus ; it is to be seen in the summer in farm-kitchens on the bacon-racks and about the mantel-pieces, and on the ceilings.

The insect that infests turnips and many crops in the garden (destroying often whole fields while in their seedling leaves) is an animal that wants to be better known. The country people here call it the turnip-fly and black-dolphin; but I know it to be one of the coleoptera; the "Chrysomela oleracea saltatoria, femoribus posticis crassissimis." In very hot summers they abound to an amazing degree, and, as you walk in a field or in a garden, make a pattering like rain, by jumping on the leaves of the turnips or cabbages.

There is an oestrus, known in these parts to every ploughboy ; which, because it is omitted by Linnæus, is also passed over by late writers; and that is the curvicauda of old Mofuet, mentioned by Derham in his PhysicoTheology, p. 250; an insect worthy of remark for depositing

its eggs as it flies in so dexterous a manner on the single hairs of the legs and flanks of grass-horses. But then Derham is mistaken when he advances that this oestrus is the parent of that wonderful star-tailed maggot which he mentions afterwards ; for more modern entomologists have discovered that singular production to be derived from the egg of the Musca chamæleon ; see Geoffroy, t. xvii. f. 4.

A full history of noxious insects hurtful in the field, garden, and house, suggesting all the known and likely means of destroying them, would be allowed by the public to be a most useful and important work. What knowledge there is of this sort lies scattered, and wants to be collected ; great improvements would soon follow of course. A knowledge of the properties, economy, propagation, and, in short, of the life and conversation of these animals, is a necessary step to lead us to some method of preventing their depredations.

As far as I am a judge, nothing would recommend entomology more than some neat plates that should well express the generic distinctions of insects according to Linnæus ; for I am well assured that many people would study insects, could they set out with a more adequate notion of those distinctions than can be conveyed at first by words alone.

LETTER XXXV.

SELBORNE, 1771. HAPPENING to make a visit to my neighbour's peacocks, I could not help observing that the trains of those magnificent birds appear by no means to be their tails; those long

« НазадПродовжити »