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are the open fields. Looking closely, a narrow passage can be descried through the thick of the wood; this leads to Kettlemere, much smaller than its neighbour. Around both meres the Osmunda regalis, or royal fern, lifts its seed-bearing tops and spreads its large fronds. This fern grows here in great profusion, and attains a large size. When we push out from the boat-house on Blackmere we come upon a bed of the very rare small yellow or Highland waterlily (Nuphar pumila). This plant is not mentioned in Leighton's “Flora of Shropshire,” and most probably did not exist here when that work was written. It has hitherto been supposed to grow only on mountain lakes. In fact, all these meres are the habitats of numerous rare plants, a catalogue of which would be tedious. As we row along the margin we brush against the fringing sweetgale and catch its fragrant odour.
That upright, stick-like object moving along the surface is the neck and head of a great crested grebe, swimming low in the water, to escape observation. There ! it dives suddenly; by-and-by it will reappear at some distance, and, if it thinks you are not looking, will rise out of the water until it swims as lightly and buoyantly as other water-birds. We have it on our meres all the year round, but, in the daytime at least, it keeps scrupulously far from land and in the deeper water. It is much oftener seen on this mere than its common relative, the dabchick. The movements of the latter are so quick, it is so small, and such a remarkably expert diver, that you do not often catch a glimpse of it. The grebes are seldom seen upon the wing except in the breeding season, when they seem particularly awkward in their flight. That floating lump of black, wet weed is a grebe's nest. Lift the weeds from the top and you will find four or five eggs-one, perhaps, the last laid, tolerably white, the others stained to different degrees of dirtiness. The interior of the nest is hot and steaming, and not cold, as you would at first imagine. That yellow stump projecting above the water-lily leaves is the beak of a water-hen, who is holding on to the stalks with her feet, all her body being concealed under water. The water of Blackmere is very clear, and of a great depth and coldness.
Crossing the canal, and bearing to the right, we come to Whitemere, a very pretty sheet of water, with a Swiss cottage on its marge peculiarly suited to picnic parties. This is a famous place for widgeon and other wildfowl, and a capital pike pool.
Turning sharply to the left, we cross the country to Colemere. Passing beneath an avenue of firs, the feet fall softly on a thick, brown carpet of fir needles. We reach the boat-house, and push off. Along the oppo
site side is a dense belt of tall reeds, which in the summer is alive with the low songs of the reed wrens. These birds breed in great abundance here, and their nests are worthy of description. Three or four tall reeds are chosen, and supported by these, at some distance from the water, the nest is made. It is singularly deep in structure, with the top contracted so as to form a purse-like receptacle for the eggs, which are thus prevented from rolling out when the reeds bend before the wind. It is slightly but strongly made, chiefly of coarse grasses, and the eggs are of a mottled, greenish brown. In seeking the nests the wader must beware of the decayed reeds, which have left a pavement of sharp-fanged stumps.
Peculiar to this mere, and I think to no other sheet of water in England, are the green moss balls (Conferva ægagropila) and brown balls composed of fir leaves. It is supposed that the bottom of the mere is troubled with conflicting eddies and currents, caused no doubt by springs, and that these currents catch up the fir leaves that fall from the trees on the south side of the mere and roll them up, together with particles of confervæ, into balls of different sizes, even up to two feet in diameter. The moss balls are composed entirely of confervæ. The currents convey these balls to the opposite side of the mere (where the reeds are), and there
they may be found in thousands at a depth of three or four feet. The cohesion of each ball is perfect. The other meres present nothing more noticeable in their appearance or denizens than those already described. This mere district is often visited by rare birds. In a keeper's house I have seen a splendid specimen of a peregrine falcon, which he had shot some time ago. He also informed me that he had killed an osprey here, and that another had been seen haunting one of the meres. Altogether the district of the Shropshire meres presents a rich field, both to the observer of natural history and to the lover of quiet woodland and lake scenery.
They told me Pan was dead, and I was fain