Зображення сторінки

seasons through the autumn and spring months, when the thermometer is at 50°, because then moths, Phalænæ, are stirring.

These swallows looked like young ones.'

WAGTAILS. WHILE the cows are fecding in moist low pastures, broods of wagtails, white and gray,' -un round them close up to their noses, and under their very bellies, availing themselves of the flies that settle on their legs, and probably finding worms and larve that are roused by the trampling of their feet. Nature is such an economist, that the most incongruous animals can avail themselves of each other! Interest makes strange friendships.

WRYNECK. These birds appear on the grassplots and walks: they walk a little as well as hop, and thrust their bills into the turf, in

1 Of their migration the proofs are such as will scarcely admit of a doubt. Sir Charles Wager and Captain Wright saw vast flocks of them at sea, when on their passage from one country to another. Our author, Mr. White, saw what he deemed the actual migration of these birds, and which he has described in his History of Selborne, (see Letter XXIII. to Pennant, p. 78.—Ed.] and of their congregating together on the roofs of churches and other buildings, and on trees, previous to their departure, many instances occur; particularly I once observed a large flock of house martins on the roof of the church here at Catsfield, which acted exactly in the manner here described by Mr. White, sometimes preening their feathers and spreading their wings to the sun, and then flying off all together, but soon returning to their former situation. The greatest part of these birds seemed to be young ones.—MARKWICK.

2 This is the bird previously called the yellow wagtail in Letter XIII. to Pennant. See page 47, note 4.--Ed.

3 Birds continually avail themselves of particilar and unusual circumstances to procure their food; thus wagtails keep playing about the noses and legs of cattle as they feed, in quest of flies and other insects which abound near those animals, anıl great numbers of them will follow close to the plough to devour the worms, &c., that are turned up by tbat instrument. The redbreast attends the gardener when digging bis borders, and will, with great familiarity and tameness, pick out the worms almost close to his spade, as I have frequently seen. Starlings and magpies very often sit on the backs of sheep and deer to pick out their ticks.-MARKWICK.

quest, I conclude, of ants, which are their food. While they hold their bills in the grass, they draw out their prey with their tongues, which are so long as to be coiled round their heads.

HAWFINCH OR GROSBEAK. MR. B. shot a cock grosbeak, which he had observed to haunt his garden for more than a fortnight. I began to accuse this bird of making sad havoc among the buds of the cherries, gooseberries, and wall-fruit of all the neighbouring orchards. Upon opening its crop or craw, no buds were to be seen, but a mass of kernels of the stones of fruits. Mr. B. observed that this bird frequented the spot where plum trees grow, and that he had seen it with somewhat hard in its mouth, which it broke with difficulty: these were the stones of damsons. The Latin ornithologists call this bird Coccothraustes, i.e. berry-breaker, because with its large horny beak it cracks and breaks the shells of stone fruits for the sake of the seed or kernel. Birds of this sort are rarely seen in England, and only in winter.'



INSECTS IN GENERAL. Kong many HE day and night insects occupy the annuals

alternately: the Papilios, Muscce, and Apes are succeeded at the close of the day by Phalænæ, earwigs, woodlice, &c. In the

dusk of the evening, when beetles begin to buz, partridges begin to call; these two circumstances are exactly coincident.

' I have never seen this rare bird but during the severest cold of the hardest winters, at which season of the year I have had in my possession two or three that were killed in this ncighbourhood in different years.MARKWICK

Of late years this species has become much commoner in England,


Ivy is the last flower that supports the hymenopterous and dipterous insects. On sunny days, quite on to November, they swarm on trecs covered with this plant; and when they disappear, probably retire under the shelter of its leaves, concealing themselves between its fibres and the trees which it entwines."

Spiders, woodlice, Lepismo in cupboards and among sugar, some Empides, gnats, flies of several species, some Phalance in hedges, earthworms, &c., are stirring at all times, when winters are mild; and are of great service to those soft-billed birds that never leave us.

On every sunny day the winter through, clouds of iusects, usually called gnats (I suppose Tipulæ and Empides) appear sporting and dancing over the tops of the evergreen trees in the shrubbery, and frisking about as if the business of generation was still going on. Hence it appears that these Diptera (which by their sizes appear to be of different species) are not subject to a torpid state in the winter as most winged insects are. At night, and in frosty weather, and when it rains and blows, they seem to retire into those trees. They often are out in a fog. ?

HUMMING IN THE AIR. THERE is a natural occurrence to be met with upon tho highest part of our down in hot summer days, which always amuses me much, without giving me any satisfaction with respect to the cause of it; and that is a loud audible humming of bees in the air, though not one insect is to be seen. This sound is to be heard distinctly the whole common through, from the Money-dells, to Mr. White's avenue gate. Any person would supposo that a large swarm of bees was

vesting now in many counties where formerly it was chiefly observed as a winter visitant. Cf. Handbook of British Birds," p. 29.—ED.

1 This I have often observed, having seen bees and other winged insects swarming about the flowers of the ivy very late in the autumn. -MARKWICK.

2 This I have also seen, and have frequently observed swarms of little winged insects playing up and down in the air in the middle of winter, even when the ground has been covered with snow.-MARKWICK.

in motion, and playing about over his head. This noise was heard last weck, on June 28th.

“Resounds the living surface of the ground,
Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum
To him who muses-

-at noon."
“ Thick in yon stream of light a thousand ways,
Upward and downward, thwarting and convolved,
The quivering nations sport." Thomson's Seasons.

CHAFERS. COCKCITAFERS seldom abound oftener than once in three or four years; when they swarm they deface the trees and hedges. Whole woods of oaks are stripped bare by them.

Chafers are eaten by the turkey, the rook, and the house sparrow

The Scarabeus solstitialis first appears about June 26; they are very punctual in their coming out every year. They are a small species, about half the size of the May chafer, and are known in some parts by the name of the fern chafer.

PTINUS PECTINICORNIS. Those maggots that make worm holes in tables, chairs, bed posts, &c., and destroy wooden furniture, especially where there is any sap, are the larvæ of the Ptinus pectinicornis. This insect, it is probable, deposits its eggs on the surface, and the worms eat their


in. In their holes they turn into their pupa state, and so come forth winged in July; eating their way through the valances or curtains of a bed, or any other furniture that happens to obstruct their


A singular circumstance relative to the cockchafer, or, as it is called here, the May-bug, Scarabeus melolontha, happened this year (1800):--My gardener in diyging some ground found, about six inches under the surface, two of these insects alive and perfectly formed so early a: the 24th of March. When he brought them to me, they appeared to be as perfect and as much alive as in the midst of summer, crawling about as briskly as ever : yet I saw no more of this insect till the 22nd of May, when it began to make its appearance. How comes it, that though it was perfectly formed so early as the 24th of March, it did not show itself above ground till nearly two months afterwards ?- MARKWICKThey seem to be most inclined to breed in beech; henco beech will not make lasting utensils, or furniture. If their eggs are deposited on the surface, frequent rubbings will preserve wooden furniture,


BLATTA ORIENTALIS-COCKROACH. A NEIGHBOUR complained to me that her house was overrun with a kind of black beetle, or, as she expressed herself, with a kind of black bob, which swarmed in her kitchen when they get up in a morning before daybreak.

Soon after this account, I observed an unusual insect in one of my dark chimney closets, and find since, that in the night they swarm also in my kitchen. On examination, I soon ascertained the species to be the Blatta orientalis of Linnæus, and the Blatta molendinaria of Mouffet. The male is winged; the female is not, but shows somewhat like the rudiments of wings, as if in the pupa state.

These insects belonged originally to the warmer parts of America, and were conveyed from thence by shipping to the East Indies; and by means of commerce begin to prevail in the more northern parts of Europe, as Russia, Sweden, &c. How long they have abounded in England I cannot say; but have never observed them in my house till lately.

They love warmth, and haunt chimney closets, and the backs of ovens. Poda says that these and house crickets will not associate together; but he is mistaken in that assertion, as Linnæus suspected he was. They are altogether night insects (lucifugæ), never coming forth till the rooms are dark and still, and escaping away nimbly at the approach of a candle. Their antennæ are remarkably long, slender, and flexile.

October, 1790. After the servants are gone to bed, the kitchen hearth swarms with young crickets, and young

| The Plinus pectinicornis is not the only insect that is destructive to furniture. Various species of Anobium also perforate it in all directions. Linnæus's chairs were bored through and destroyed by A. pertinar; and the Rev. Mr. Kirby had his chairs, his pictureframes, and the floor of his chamber eateo in every direction by A. striutum. - ED.

« НазадПродовжити »