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People with some pretension, it must be supposed, to serving science, will actually pay far more for specimens of certain birds killed in Britain than for those obtained in countries where they are more plentiful. For this there is not a shadow of excuse. The skin of a hoopoe is the skin of a hoopoe, whether the bird be certified to have been shot in Kent, where it is an exceedingly rare visitant, or in France, where it is of frequent occurrence. What reason, therefore, can there be in offering for the first four times the price that is given for the second? But such are the ways of amateur collectors, and until they become more intelligent there will always be found folk industrious to serve them.
Long ago John Ruskin sounded the coronach over the last small white egret killed in England in 1840. He compared its feathers to the "frostwork of dead silver"; it resembled a "living cloud rather than a bird." A labouring man bludgeoned it to death, rolled it up with blood and black mud in his handkerchief, and sold it to the local bird-stuffer. What penal enactment could have saved it? Not less shameful was the treatment dealt out to another beautiful summer resident, the black tern, which Pennant described in 1769 as frequenting parts of Lincolnshire in great flocks, and almost deafening him with their clamour. As late as 1818, Richard Lubbock recorded that it bred in myriads near Acle, in Norfolk. There is silence now where the joyful clamour once was the terns have been massacred. The last pair bred at Sutton, in Norfolk, in 1858; their eggs were taken, and the parent birds were shot.
Colonel Coulson told another sorrowful story at the meeting of
the Society for the Protection of Birds :
"A few months ago we visited by a flock of twenty-four wild and beautiful Northumberland wild swans. They descended on our lakes, but barely had they got there when the cry went forth announcing their arrival, and everybody who could get a gun went out, even on day was spent in worrying and deSunday morning, and every available
stroying these poor swans until there was no longer any trace left of them." The murder of these four-andtwenty peerless birds may have afforded a spasm of triumph to four-and-twenty gunners; but if people were trained to see in a flight of wild swans one of the noblest spectacles in animated nature, enjoyment of a far purer and more lasting kind might have been shared by four-and-twenty thousand Northumbrians.
How is such knowledge to be imparted? Not by the action of Parliament, but, if in any way, by the missionary enterprise of such a Society as that for the Protection of Birds. It exists for the purpose of persuading people that there is a better way of receiving winged visitants than with powder and lead; that it were greatly more to the credit of our people that swans should come and go with never a bloodstain on their spotless plumes. Let every one who sighs over the destruction of harmless animals become a member of this excellent Society, which he may do by forwarding half-a-crown to the secretary, Mrs F. E. Lemon, Hillcrest, Redhill, Surrey.
Besides the actual slayers and purchasers of the slain, there remains a very numerous class of amateurs who contribute in some measure to the molestation of British wild birds, though not in
the same degree to the extermination of rare species as the collectors of eggs and skins. This is the class comprising all who keep birds in cages, from the owner of the well-tended, scientifically ordered aviary, down to the humble householder in a back slum who takes pleasure in the song of a caged lark. It is an ungrateful task to speak harshly of any member of this class, for so keen is the delight afforded by the care of winged captives to many of those whose delights are few, that to secure this enjoyment it may seem a light matter to deprive even these, the freest of living creatures, of their liberty. Nevertheless, it must be owned that in order to keep up the enormous supply of cage - birds called for in this country, a vast amount of suffering is brought upon the fowls of the air. It may be admitted at once that this traffic has very little effect upon the numbers of really rare birds in this island.
The ranks of larks and finches are replenished by each annual migration; and although one may feel justly indignant when the pretty goldfinches disappear from a favourite common, to reappear in very cramped quarters in the dealer's shop, still there is consolation in the thought that the effect on the general stock in the country is hardly appreciable. The instinct of the collector when he comes upon a really rare bird is not to catch and cage it, but to shoot and skin it.
It is from a humanitarian point of view that the matter is so sorrowful, and this is the view which, it is hoped, some of those who keep cage-birds may be induced to realise. These persons, of course, consist of two classes: first, those who may either be the masters of magnificent and well
managed aviaries, or possess no more than a few tame pets, which are assiduously and intelligently tended, with ceaseless regard to their comfort and habits; second, those who like never to be without cage-birds in their houses, but keep them, as goldfish are kept in crystal globes, merely as elegant ornaments or for the enjoyment of their song. Persons in the first class shall have little laid to their charge; indeed, experts, such as Lord Lilford, who maintain large collections of living birds at great expense, are performing a service to science which can hardly be overestimated. But it is incumbent on those who keep winged creatures in captivity merely for their own amusement to atone by sedulous kindness for this insuperable initial objection to the practice, that it involves depriving them of the use of the special faculty distinguishing birds from all other warm-blooded animals-the power of flight. If the enjoyment of life to all animals consists in, or depends on, the exercise of natural faculties, it is difficult to see how birds, forbidden to exercise their distinguishing gift, can be otherwise than unhappy. How would it be with a pair of human creatures who, having fallen into the power of a being of immeasurably greater strength and intelligence than themselves, should be lodged and fed, caressed and protected, by him with unceasing care, but should nevertheless be prisoners, prohibited from travel or visits to friends, and, in order the better to guard against their escape, be deprived of the power of articulate speech? Would not every reasonable man or woman prefer speedy death to long life under such conditions? Yet this would not be greater punishment in proportion than is inflicted on every wild bird committed to cap
tivity. The great majority of birds are more or less subject to the seasonable migratory impulse :— "Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming." Who shall gauge the amount of mute misery that racks the little hearts of such birds as the skylark or the nightingale, when obedience to this imperious and immemorial influence is denied them? What exile from his country has ever fretted more hopelessly than the pair of snow-buntings which Bechstein says he kept for six years in his room? "During the night," he says, "they seem very uneasy, hopping and running about continually." These pretty little birds generally languish and die in captivity from heat; all possible precautions that may be taken to keep them cool are but trivial palliatives to creatures which naturally spend the summer among the icy wastes and frozen seas of the Arctic circle. To keep them pent in the stuffy atmosphere of a town is an act as stupid and unfeeling in its degree as it would be to export children from Lochaber to be reared in Sierra Leone.
Such reflections as these seldom enter the heads of the possessors of caged pets; but it does not require a very elaborate mental effort to realise that abundant food, although it is the first, is not the only element in the happiness of bird-life. The merle and throstle, typical grove-haunters, delight in the cool green brake and lush woodland grass; the skylark and pipit love the free air of the moor and the sunny expanse of meadow: it is not possible to suppose that, hung on the brick wall of a London mews, or confined in the dreary, dusty atmosphere of a street, they do not pine to regain their native
scenes. Lord Lilford says he has not the heart to grudge to hardworked men and women the acquisition of a goldfinch or a linnet, because of the intense delight afforded by the possession of such a pet to people pent in crowded quarters. Well, I confess my sympathy is with the bird. The delight it affords its captors arises from association with the greenwood and the open field, dearer to the little prisoner than to its gaolers, but which it is doomed to see never more surely a selfish delight at best. The simple fact that the little cages in which skylarks are imprisoned are provided with linen tops, to prevent these birds injuring their heads by their irresistible tendency to soar, is full of painful suggestion. It is tyranny of the kind that would tether a child's legs to prevent him running and jumping.
But here is a still more mournful consideration. Of all wild warm-blooded animals, birds are least subject to disease while at liberty. Bechstein, the acknowledged authority on caged birds, is obliged to admit that
"all tame animals are much more subject to disease than wild ones; and birds so much the more, as they are often shut up in very small cages, where they can take no exercise.'
Pip, rheum, atrophy, consumption, asthma, disease of the gland which supplies the cosmetic oil wherewith the bird anoints its feathers, epilepsy, diseases of the feet and pairing fever, are some of the ills to which birds in confinement are specially liable; and although owners generally exhibit plenty of anxiety to cure cure the maladies of their captives, not one in fifty possesses the requisite knowledge of their wants to avert them. Indeed, no amount of fore
tivity. It must be left to each one to decide for himself whether the lot of this bird is more to be desired, or more creditable to his captors, than if he had been done to death with the others. The eagle is not of a nature like the daw or the magpie or the parrot, which can humble themselves to become the companions of man. There is a long-standing vendetta, dating perhaps from the days of Ganymede, between the king of birds and the lord of creation. Men and eagles must always be enemies; but it is pleasant to think that, in some parts of the Highlands, means have been found to establish an honourable truce between them.
There is no writer more sympathetic with his subject than Bechstein: he was filled with intelligent affection for his favourites, yet even he could not disguise the suffering entailed upon animated nature by the traffic in birds. The most sorrowful chapter in his book is that which prescribes the methods of catching wild birds. The true lover of birds is he who is most diligent in acquiring a knowledge of their haunts and habits, and watching them, aided by a spy-glass, in the full enjoyment of liberty. It is by this means that knowledge of natural history may be added to and diffused, which is only hindered by the encouragement of indiscriminate collectors.
VOL. CLVI.-NO. DCCCCXLV.
THE RED BODICE AND THE BLACK FLY.
IT was in the Highlands. no matter where—that the following adventure occurred.
I had weathered my thirtieth birthday heart whole, which phenomenon was probably due to the constant pursuit of sport from year's end to year's end; but hints as to the desirability of matrimony had of late been frequently dropped by would-be well-wishers of both sexes, till at last my oldest male friend tackled me seriously on the subject. After listening patiently to all the usual arguments in favour of "settling down," to him I replied: "My dear man, I have no objection whatever to marriage, but there are the hounds to be hunted and looked after all winter; horse-shows, dog-shows, steeplechase-riding, and salmon-fishing in the spring; trout-fishing, racing, and polo in the summer; salmonfishing, shooting, and cub-hunting in the autumn: now, how on earth can a fellow find time to discover and make up to a girl who, after all, might refuse him? But look here," I added, after a short pause, "if you will select the young lady, do all the love-making, and arrange the preliminaries up to the church door, I'll marry her-there now!" For some reason or other he smiled, but I was left in peace ever afterwards to " gang my ain gate" as a hopeless bachelor.
This conversation took place at midsummer, while I was in the act of packing up my tackle preparatory to starting on a troutfishing expedition to the Highlands.
For three consecutive seasons a certain river had completely puzzled me, and though the creel was now and then well filled, its
contents on such rare occasions only acted as an incentive, and stimulated my piscatorial desires to the most acute pitch. For the fourth time, the previous summer, I had endeavoured to discover the feeding habits of the grand trout with which the river swarmed, and with sufficient success to encourage me to make a fifth attempt. In addition to the conviction that there were very heavy trout to be caught if one only knew how to circumvent them, the wild, weird nature of the river itself fascinated me. Its bottom is treacherous and shifting; and in some places the whole of the powerful current is contracted between high and perpendicular cliffs, so that deep rapid pools are formed between them; while in others the river is broken up by islands, the rootbound banks of which overhang mysterious and awful-looking eddies. Scotch fir and spruce fight their way from between the crevices in the cliffs; the banks of the broader streams and islands are bordered by alder, larch, and hazel; and when I arrived, the high and sharply rising mountains, which flank the valley on either side, had just received the first purple tinge of heather bloom. The beauties of nature and highclass angling are inseparable, and the wilder and the more romantic the scenery, the more exciting and absorbing is the sport in proportion; for who has ever caught either trout or salmon perfect in quality and beauty in an ugly country? As scenery deteriorates, so do fish, till at last we arrive at "miller's thumbs" in a muddy roadside duck-pond. But I am digressing.