« AnteriorContinuar »
in the eaves, and especially on hear of the day on the sands of the desert, ing him chatter, they shrewdly sus- the sea-beach, or isolated rocks. Acpect him to be a sparrow, though it commodate them with shelter, and does not by any means follow that in a couple of days the shore will be their suspicions are always verified, stinking—nor will a single sea-fowl as our friend not unfrequently turns —all addled in the yellow-ever out altogether another animal-fur- chip the shell. Of what“ little openther the deponent sayeth not; and ing of the nest” does the perverse though, when sitting with her white and purblind old Monops prate ? breast so lovely, out of the “auld The wren's ? or the eagle's? But the clay-bigging," in the window-corner, wren (Miss Kitty) most frequently he cannot mistake Mistress Swallow, builds her domicile out of the flutter yet when flitting in fly-search over of leaves; on old mossy stumps, on the lake, and ever and anon dipping house-walls, or the living rock; and her wing-tips in the lucid coolness, when in bedges, she would laugh at 'tis an equal chance that he misnames the idea of this dotard providing the her Miss Martin.
little opening of her nest that lies We could give a hundred_a thou. concealed below, with a double row sand—ten thousand instances of the of leaves; for hang the globe in the most astonishing ignorance shewn sunshine or the storm, and St Caeven by naturalists of considerable therine will sit within, unscared and reputation-book and cabinet na- unscathed, counting ber beads-perturalists—with regard to facts fall. haps a score-counting them with ing under the most obvious, and, as her fine-feeling breast that broods one might think, the most universal in bliss over the priceless pearls. observation of men, whether natu- As for the Eagle, the little opening ralists or not, who have seen the of his nest doth verily not lie conprudence and propriety of walking cealed below a covering of a double with their eyes open. But Profes- row of leaves; but, eighteen feet in sor Rennie quotes, and remarks on circumference, (we have measured one in itself quite sufficient for our one,) it lies unconcealed, except by purpose, from the “highly lauded its height from your ogles, mayhap article” Ornithology, in Rees's Cy- a mile or a league, on a cliff-platform, clopædia.—“Birds of the same spe- occasionally no doubt bidden in cies,” says the author, “collect all clouds; and men, who speak what the same materials, arrange them in is now called the English tongue, call the same manner, and make choice it an Eyrie. of similar situations for fixing the If the old gentleman be not yet places of their temporary abodes. quite dead-and if he be, then we Wherever they dispose them, they appeal to the most scientific of his always take care to be accommodated surviving descendants-he is hereby with a shelter; and if a natural one humbly requested to have the gooddoes not offer itself, they very in- ness to inform us of the name of this geniously make a covering of a dou- ingenious bird; and to tell us, in a ble row of leaves, down the slope postscript, if ever, in all his born of which the rain trickles, without days, he saw a bird's nest of any kind entering into the little opening of whatever, on cliff or castle, ground the nest that lies concealed below." or grove, in bush, tree, hedge, or old What precious nonsense! What a man's beard. pack of confusion! Does the Cyclo. But what constant caution is perpædist, or rather the Cyclops, for he petually necessary during the natucould have “bad but one eye, and ralist's perusal even of the very best that was no piercer,” here speak of books ! From the very best we can all birds, or but of some particular only obtain knowledge at second species?
hand, and this, like a story circulated In either case alike is he a dolt. among village gossips, is more apt to If of all birds, then he forgets, when gain in falsehood than in truth, as it speaking of the care they always passes from one to another; but in take to be accommodated with shel- field study, we go at once to the ter, the numerous families which lay fountain-head, and obtain our facts their eggs on the bare ground, lea- pure and unalloyed by the theories ving them exposed the greater part and opinions of previous observers. Hence it is that the utility of books the reeds and flags penetrated by water.' becomes obvious. You witness with Belon, who is followed by Gesner, Alyour own eyes some puzzling, per- drovand, Jonston, and M. Drapiez, says, plexing, strange, and unaccountable it nestles near the ground upon some -fact; twenty different statements turfy clump in a marsh, difficult of acof it have been given by twenty dif- cess.' 'On our large pools,' says Buf. ferent ornithologists: you consult fon,' they build with reeds and rushes them all, and getting a hint from one, interwoven, and the nest is half dipped and a bint from another, here a glim
in the water, though not entirely afloat, mer of light to be followed, and
as Linnæus asserts, but shut and attachthere a gloom of darkness to be
ed to the reeds.' Wood subsequently avoided why, who knows but that
adds, in a note, they construct a floatin the end you do yourself solve the
ing nest of reeds' · They build their
nests,' says Hill, “ floating and loose mystery, and absolutely become not
among the flags'; and, being altogether only happy but illustrious ? We can
unconnected with the reeds among which not deny ourselves and friends the
it floats, it sometimes happens that it is pleasure of perusing, in proof of this,
blown from among them into the open the following passage, which exhi- lake. In this situation the owner, like a bits a characteristic specimen of skilful pilot, it is said, steers the nest Professor Rennie's happy style of into a safe harbour, by passing her feet treating whatever subject comes through it.' within the range either of his reading “ In all these various notices of the or his observation.
nest in question, by the well known na“ You pay a visit, for example, to the turalists thus consulted, there occurs no nest of a dabchick or grebe, (Podiceps,) mention of any covering of the eggs, which you had discovered some days be- though the enquiry has brought under fore among reeds at the edge of a pond, notice some other curious particulars, and are surprised to find that the eggs which, no doubt, a young and ardent obhave disappeared; but much more so on server will be anxious to verify on the taking up some of the rade materials of nest itself, from which his book-research the nest, to see the eggs snugly concealed originated. Some of the authors, it bas beneath. The question immediately ari. been seen, assert that the nest floats on ses, Did the mother bird thus cover the water, nay, that it is purposely built to eggs herself, and if so, for what purpose float by the mother bird ; while others was it done? If you be not too impatient, make no mention of its floating, and (a state of mind exceedingly adverse to some expressly deny it. In a supposed accuracy and originality,) you will endea. case like this, it may, perhaps, be deemvour to ascertain whether the covering of ed premature for me to decide ; but the the eggs was peculiar to this individual, or nests which have fallen under my obsercommon to the species, by repeated ob- vation, agree with those originally descriservation, as frequently as opportunity bed by Belon, in being built on raised offers ; or, if patience fail you for this, clumps in marshes, or at least so supsuch books as you have access to may be ported by water plants as not to be inconsulted. Look into Linnæus, and all tended to float. That in consequence of you find is, that this bird • builds a float. foods these nests may, by accident, have ing nest of grass and reeds.' Latham been found floating, it would be wrong to says,' the nest is made of water-plants deny, though there can be little doubt among the reeds, and close to the surface that Linnæus, who was much too creduof the water, floating independent.' Willous of wonders, magnified a chance oclughby, Ray, and Brisson, say not a word currence into a general rule. The story about the nest. Fleming says, the nest of the mother bird navigating her nest is in marshes of aquatic plants, and made when it has been carried away by a flood, so as to float.' They breed,' says Gold. is altogether incredible ; for the nest is smith,' among reeds and flags, in a float not only constructed of a bedding of ing nest, kept steady by the weeds and reeds, rushes, and other water plants, marsin.' They " construct their nest,' more than a foot in thickness, but the says Griffith, evidently copying Tem. feet of the bird are so broad and clumsy, minck, with rushes, &c., interlaced, that they could not be thrust through it which they attach to the stems of reeds, without entirely destroying its texture. resting it on their broken tops, or suffer. “Pennant, however, seems to believe ing it to float.' • Nest large,' according this nonsense, for he adds to the account to Jennings, made of aquatic plants not - In these circumstances the halcyon's attached to any thing, but floats among nest, its floating house, Auctivaga domus, as Statius expresses it, may in some mea. the same, or similar devices. The carrion. sure be vindicated.' The same author crow, (Corvus corone,) for example, who also is more particular about the floating lines her nest with wool and rabbits' fur, of the nest, which he says is built near always covers her eggs with a quantity of 6 banks in the water, but without any this before leaving her nest, no doubt, for fastening, so that it rises and falls as that the same reason that the dabchick emdoes. To make its nest, it collects an ploys hay. Again, several birds of very amazing quantity of grass, water-plants, different habits, such as the wood-wren, &c. : and he adds, it should seem won. (Sylvia sibilatrix,) and the hay-bird, (Sylvia derful how they are hatched, as the water trochilus,) construct a permanent arch of rises through the nest and keeps them moss and dried grass over their nests. wet: but the natural warmth of the bird leaving a narrow entrance in the side. bringing on a fermentation in the vege- Having recently had occasion to investitables, which are full a foot thick, makes gate the structure of various nests with a hot-bed fit for the purpose. If our some minuteness, I have been led to young student, upon reading this very adopt the opinion, that the arched coping, questionable doctrine, turn to this Dic- or dome, so remarkable in several small tionary, page 127, he will learn that co. birds for ingenious and beautiful worklone) Montagu uniformly found the nests manship, is designed to preserve their cold, and that, taking into account the animal heat from being dissipated during chemical principles of fermentation, it the process of incubation; an opinion was impossible they could be warm. wbich appears to be corroborated by the
“ But Pennant also mentions a circum- fact of our native birds that thus cover in stance of much more interest in reference their nests at the top, being all very small. to the original enquiry, when he says that “ Among these, besides the wood-wren this bird lays five or six white eggs, and and the hay-bird, are the common wren, always covers them when it quits the nest,'-- the chiff.chaff, (Sylvia hipolais,) the gold. the very point to ascertain which the re crested wren, the bottle-tit, (Purus causearch was begun. With this authority, datus, Ray,) and the dipper, (Cinclus supported as it is by Montagu, most stu. aquaticus, BECHSTEIN.) There are other dents might rest satisfied, but the ardent birds, no doubt, little larger than these, naturalist never arrives at any conclusion such as the blackcap and the babillard, like this, without bringing all the facts (Curruca garrula, BRISSON,) which do not within his knowledge to bear upon it, in build domed nests; but it is worthy of reorder to elucidate connecting causes and mark, that the latter usually lay much fewconsequences; for the fact being ascer- er eggs; the babillard seldom more than tained of the mother bird covering her four, and the blackcap four or five; while eggs, it becomes interesting to enquire the gold-crested wren lays from seven to why she does this,
ten, the bottle-tit from nine to twelve, " It is admitted by all the naturalists and the common wren from eight to (some already quoted, that the nest in question say) fourteen, and even twenty. It will is built on moist ground, if not actually follow of course, that in order to hatch touching the water, and that part at least so large a number, these little birds reof the materials consist of moist water- quire all their animal heat to be concen. plants. Now, it is indispensable to hatch trated and preserved from being dissipaing, that the eggs be kept at a high tem ted. The dipper, indeed, lays but five or perature, and not be suffered for a mo- six eggs, and weighs from six to eight ment to cool. The natural heat of the times more than any of our other dome bird itself is sufficient for this purpose, builders; but it is to be recollected, that, without the heat of fermentation, erro. from its being a water bird, and building neously supposed by Pennant; but if she near water, it may have more occasion to quits them for a moment to go in pursuit use all appliances' to concentrate its of food, or to withdraw the attention of heat. In tropical countries, where the an intruding water-spaniel, or a prying heat is great, such domed nests are very naturalist, their near vicinity to moist common, and are probably intended to plants or to water, .would certainly prove protect the mother birds, while hatching, fatal to the embryo chicks. In order then from the intense heat of a perpendicular to prevent her brood from being destroy. sun; though most naturalists think they ed by cold, the carelul bird covers the are designed to avert the intrusion of eggs with a quantity of dry hay, to keep snakes, - forgetting that snakes would them warm till her return.
more naturally run their heads into a nest “ By keeping this interesting fact in with a small side entrance, than if it were his mind, our young naturalist may sub- open above. A circumstance which fell sequently find that other birds employ under my observation, corroborative of this remark, I have recorded under the gous pursuits of collectors of old article Hay Bird. Other birds, in warm coins and medals, not for their uticountries, leave their eggs during the day lity, but solely on account of their exposed to the heat of the sun, and only rarity, or to perfect a series; yet it sit upon them during the night, or in would be as preposterous to rank eloudy weather, when the temperature of such mere collectors with a man like the air is not sufficiently high,-a fact Niebuhr, who investigated medallion which has given origin to the error, that inscriptions, in order to elucidate the ostrich (Struthio camelus,) lays her
the history of Rome, as it would be eggs in the sand and abandons them to
to rank a mere systematist with chance.'
Aristotle, Ray, or John Hunter. What, then, in the opinion of this A loud outcry will doubtless be acute observer and enquirer, is the raised against Professor Repnie on use of what in Natural History is account of these opinions, by the called a system? A methodical clas. self-appointed cabinet-ministers of sification is useful in as far only as it nature, who are assuredly neither may serve as a framework or a cabi- her secretaries nor her interpreters. net, into the partitions of which He need not care for the abuse of many little facts may be stored and such persons-he writes for those dove-tailed, that would otherwise be who aim at philosophical and extendscattered through the memory ated views of nature. With all his adrandom, at the great hazard of being miration of the enthusiasm, devotion, lost. The advantage of a system of and even genius of Linnæus, be canthis kind, then, consists in its pre- not consider that extraordinary man serving such collections of facts, as a philosophic naturalist. Linnæus a cabinet preserves a collection of thought that the superiority of a naspecimens; and, provided the seve- turalist depended upon his knowing ral facts be not too far separated from the greatest number of species, and their usual associations, it matters that the study of Natural History conlittle what other qualities the sys- sisted in the collection, arrangement, tems possess. Simplicity, indeed, and exhibition of the various promust always be valuable, and a sim- ductions of the earth. Unquestionple system may be likened to a plain ably, by storing the memory with unornamented cabinet, where the specific names and technical distincspecimens hold a prominent place, tions, “a good gossiping naturalist” and the cabinet itself is almost over- might be made; but good gossiping looked; while a complex system inay, naturalists are of all old women the in the same way, be likened to a most wearifu' and superfluous, and cabinet bedizened with grotesque the breed should be subjected to all carving and fretwork, the compart possible discouragements. A study, ments of which are “ curiously cut," again, narrowed down as Linnæus and fantastically arranged, consist narrowed it, and without reference ing indeed chiefly of empty frame- to causes, effects, or the wise conwork, without a useful fact, or an trivances of the Creator, would never interesting specimen on which the lead to the Natural History which mind can rest; and afterwards Mr Lord Bacon declares to be the basis Rennie says, with equal truth and of all science, and “ fundamental to boldness, of these same system, the erecting and building of a true mongers, that the alphabet of their philosopby.” Nor is Professor Rensystem is all they study, yet they nie singular in his just severities on scruple not to call themselves na. Linnæus and his followers—for he turalists, aud the alphabet of their backs them with the opinions of Dr system, Natural History, though they Aikin, Professor Lindley, Mr White might, with equal propriety, call the of Selborne, Mr Vigors, Mr MacLeay, twenty-four letters in a hornbook Dr Fleming, and Dr Heineken; and the History of England, and rank sums up all by asserting the truth to the village schoolmaster who teaches be, that the Linnæan system mainly it with Hume or Lingard. That contributed to extinguish the genuine some minds may be so constituted study of nature, and rendered it unas to take pleasure in such nick- popular for many years, since every nack study, is proved by the analo- writer surrendered himself uncon
ditionally to its shackles, and, of with collections of stuffed specimens course, repelled every student im- than with living birds, except such bued with a particle of philosophy aquatic ones as frequent the shores or of taste, or alive to the glorious of Holland, and in that point of view, beauties of the Creation.
it contrasts strongly with the DicWhat, in good truth, can be more tionary of Montagu-especially now puerile than to limit, as Linnæus did, that that book has been so greatly his descriptions of specific character enriched from many sources by its to twelve words--or than his division editor. On turning from Montagu of one of his works into twelve to Temminck, we indeed are made parts, because there are twelve to feel the truth of the observation, months in the year—and into three that a lexicon or explanatory catahundred and sixty-five paragraphs, logue is of unquestionable and into correspond to the number of days dispensable use, for the purpose of in the year! Thus, all that Linnæus identifying the species which may tells us of the Bank Swallow (Hirun come under observation, or chance do riparia–Ray,) is contained in the to be connected with interesting following twelve words :-" H. discussion and detail; but that noriparia, cinerea, gula abdomineque body beyond the barriers of Linalbis-Habitat in Europæ collibus næanism could cver dream of dearenosis abruptis, foramine serpen- signating any of these, useful though tino.” This is all we are taught to they be, a natural history, any more believe-“ that the industry of man than of calling a book like Blair's has been able to discover concerning Chronology the History of the it!” Pennant and Latham are nearly World. as brief and just as meagre, and Cuc Mr Rennie concludes his sixty vier himself does not improve on it, page preface to Montagu with three " by gravely adding this absurdity :" lists containing almost all the names -"Elle pond dans des trous le long of the writers of any note on ornides eaux. Il parait constant qu'elle thology-rudimental, literary, and s'engourdit pendant l'hiver, et même philosophic naturalists. Under the qu'elle passe cette saison au fond first he includes all works consistde l'eau des marais !” Compare this ing of descriptive catalogues, chiefly useless stuff with all the interesting of museum specimens, arranged sysfacts “ that the industry of man” has tematically; including either whole really accumulated concerning the classes, or particular groups of anisame bird, and you will acknowledge mals; the latter termed Monographs, that Linnæus, wonderful being as he and only useful to aid the student was, may, without offence to any in identifying specimens by form, rational mind, be safely pronounced colour, and structure, commonly an ignoramus. The late Dr Heineken, omitting historical and philosophispeaking of Gmelin, a disciple of cal details, and rarely like the beauthe Linnæan school, characterises tiful account of the British swallows, him as having “an instinctive pro- which White of Selborne called by pensity towards the erroneous ;" the now abused title of Monograph and of that gifted person's “thirteenth -such works, particularly the Moedition of Linnæus, as it is called," nograph, often dealing in critical quoth the Doctor, “I have had the good disquisitions about names, divisifortune never to be burdened with ons, and the particular place a it-but in an evil hour, a kind friend species, genus, or group, ought to bestowed on me the seven ponderous occupy in the system adopted, extomes of that kindred spirit, Turton.” bibiting, in many instances, passages Temminck calls Gmelin's edition of of worthless trifling, undeserving of Linnæus “the most undigested book perusal. The second comprehends in existence.” Of Temminck's' all works consisting of notices and “ Manuel d'Ornithologie,” Rennie of details, sometimes, though less frecourse speaks highly, which, though quently, derived from the observaessentially Lipnæan, is much more tion of living Nature than from circumstantial and accurate than is closet reading, but often highly inusual with the disciples of that teresting and valuable, though very school. It proves, however, that cammonly sprinkled with inaccuraTemminckis much better acquainted cies. The third contains works