« AnteriorContinuar »
of another already excavated, he leaves it and begins a new one in some other place. After having completed their burrow they deposit at its farther extremity a small quantity of soft dried grass, so adjusted that the largest part of the material is placed towards the passage-way, and then line it with a few large white downy feathers. I say white feathers, because I have always observed they prefer the whitest they can get for the purpose ; it shows a proper taste in the birds, a fit symbol of their innocence, and I should be surprised to find a swallow's nest of this species lined with black or even dark-colored feathers. In the nest thus formed the female deposits from four to six eggs, which are pure white, with a very thin transparent shell; they are six-eighths of an inch in length, and one-half of an inch in breadth. Nature has not bestowed on this bird that graceful motion when on the wing that the Barn Swallow exhibits, but she has given it the most amiable disposition of all our swallows.
I have noticed an instance of the sense and reflection of these birds, for if reason did not influence them in their operations, it seems as if there never was evidence of its existence in animals. There is in the town of Beverly a bank, formed by the removal of clay for the purpose of making bricks, which is every season occupied by twenty or thirty pairs of these birds. Above the clay there is a stratum of sandy loam, from two to three feet in depth ; in this they burrow from two to three feet. There is likewise in the town of Danvers a bank which swallows occupy, in which the layer of loam is mixed with gravel or small stones. They excavate this bank to the length of five, seven and even nine feet. For two or three seasons it was undermined.
Why should there be such a difference in the length of the burrows made by the same species of birds, in situations not more than a mile distant from each other? In one bank, after examining a number of their holes where the earth was of a fine sandy loam, easily perforated, it was noticed that from the entrance to the extremity, the burrows did not exceed three feet in length, while in the other bank, with harder loam to work in, one burrow was found which was nine feet in length; and after examining six different holes, of nearly the same length, it appeared that these little birds had sufficient reason for extending their labors so far in the earth; in every instance where they met with a spot of loam, free from stones, they finished their burrows; if they met a stony soil they showed great care for the welfare of their eggs or young in avoiding a catastrophe so great as would befall their treasures if by accident a stone should fall upon them; for this reason they excavate to the great depth above referred to. As with man so it seems with them ; reason appears to teach them what effects certain causes will produce; hence the care they exhibit in depositing their eggs in a place free from danger of harm.
After they arrive at their breeding-places, they seem to spend a few days in consultation with regard to the organization of their little colony; at such times numbers of them will be seen clinging to the bank, keeping up a low twitter, ing, while others may be seen circling and wheeling around with much apparent joy, passing each other with that gracefulness and ease that are characteristic of no other birds except those belonging to the swallow family, not however without a friendly greeting in a low chatter, with a little variance of cadence. No party of beavers are more regular, or swarm of bees more formal, than are the colonies of these birds.
In watching their operations, while some were perforating the bank and others leaving it, in search for or returning with materials to construct their nests, it is noticeable that at a given signal, a short time before sunset, they quit their labors simultaneously, and in a few moments not an individual is seen near the bank, but over some pond, or field, or high in the air hunting their food. And when the colony returned it was in the same manner, all in company; they would then hover awhile about the bank, and one after another dive into their burrows and disappear for the night.
Another interesting period in the life of this bird is when their young begin to fly. No mother looks upon the first steps of her child with more interest and pleasure than do these birds seemingly upon the first flight of their offspring. For a few days the young appear at the entrance of their burrow, watching the old birds in their flight as they pass and repass, and stopping now and then to leave them food, and are at last induced to leave the bank and try their wings, when they are followed by their parents until they are safely perched upon some object, to receive in a chattering way, their praise and congratulation for the success in their first attempt in flying. The young are fed for a few days upon the wing, and when abandoned to seek their own food may be seen in pairs or small parties, two or three miles from the place of their nativity, skimming over the fields and pastures. Their food consists entirely of insects.
Among the festal days observed by the Greeks, there was one called "the Welcome of the Swallows," when the children would march through the streets with garlands of roses and with music to receive presents, and as this swallow is one of those interesting "guests of summer” which always visits us, and as there is not even à suspicion that he is harmful to man, let us welcome him.
THE WHITE-FOOTED, OR DEER MOUSE.
BY J. D. CATON.
This species of the Mus family has been noted for two characteristics, not confined to it alone but still rare. One is that it is an active tree-climber, and very frequently makes its nest upon or in trees, sometimes at a considerable distance from the ground; and the other is its mode of transporting its young, which, as usually observed, is by the latter adhering to the teat of the mother, who drags them along in her flight from danger.
In October last I observed a bunch of sticks and twigs in a thorn bush, about thirty inches from the ground, about the size of one's head and rounded on top, with no appearance of ever having been occupied by a bird. When the axe-man struck the root of the tree, a White-footed Mouse (Mus leucopus) rushed from the nest with two of her young family, fully half-grown, attached to her. She coursed up and down the limbs, and from one limb to another, dragging her heavy load after her. Occasionally both would drop down on either side of the limb along which she was dragging them. Sometimes when she would reach a lateral branch, the young hanging its whole length below it, she would yank the infant with a force truly surprising, which must have been a severe test upon the hold of the little one.
Two observations interested me particularly: First, the young were not adhering to the teat, which has been supposed to be the universal habit of this mouse, but were adhering to the outside of the thighs. In this observation I do not think I could have been mistaken, as I was struck with this peculiarity, and stood within a yard of them, and she stopped in plain view several times in apparent doubt as to which
and once on a limb about an inch in diameter, and with one of the young hanging down on either side, which gave me the best possible chance for an accurate observation. The young, though large enough to have fled much faster than the mother could drag them, made no effort to assist in the flight, but contented themselves with passively hanging on. Second, the young were of a dull blue or lead color, darker than the common house-mouse, and showing no white on the feet, belly or sides, which is always observable in the adult.
My desire to secure them as specimens was overcome by my sympathy for the afflicted mother, and I allowed them to escape. This was done after having once retreated to the nest, and left it again upon a new alarm, when she run out upon a limb as far as she could, and jumped to the ground, a distance of full four feet, the young still adhering to her.
I did not, as I should have done, examine the internal arrangement of the nest. If she had taken possession of an abandoned bird's nest, she had completed the structure by adding to it till the top presented a full convex form.
THE FLORA OF PALESTINE AND SYRIA.
BY REV. GEORGE E. POST.
PALESTINE and Syria embrace four distinct botanical regions :
I. The sea-coast plain and lower slopes of the hills, with the deeper valleys, which run far into the heart of Lebanon and the hill country of Galilee. The climate of this region is subtropical, and fosters the development of the banana, the palm, the sugar-cane and the orange. In this region frost is almost unknown, snow is quite rare, being seen only once in ten or fifteen years, and the hot sun of summer pouring on a soil made humid by irrigations, develops a luxuriant vegetable life.
II. The mountain sides, from 1000 to 4000 feet above the sea, with the valley of Cæle Syria, and the plain of the Orontes. Here the flora changes. The palm will no longer flourish. The banana refuses to fruit. The orange and the lemon cease to be productive, and their place is taken by the oak and the willow, and the pine and the maple. The olive and the mulberry are equally productive in this and the foregoing region, but in this form almost the only orchards, while on the plain they share the attention of the farmer with the before mentioned trees. In this region wheat and AMER. NATURALIST, VOL. III.