« VorigeDoorgaan »
timid, shrinking creature, but cats which bristling, and their backs set up, have been kittened in the woods, scratched him, sprang toward his face as especially if they have descended from far as the edge of the nest, striking out several generations of wild ancestors, with their paws with great ferocity. are bold and ferocious, though generally They were of a grayish dun color, and distinct from the genuine wild animal. apparently about five weeks old. TerThe Border land, once conspicuous for rified lest the mother cat should spring its wild men, had its wild cats of both on him, the cowherd descended the tree species. In Scotland, at one period, with all haste, but fortunately for him they must have been common, for, in the creature did not appear. In the the reign of David I., more than 700 evening the men of the farm, attended years ago, an act was passed, imposing a by dogs and armed with guns, proceeded tax on the exportation of certain furs, to the place. From the top of the rock including those of the cat, the beaver, several shots were fired through the nest, and the sable. In Jed Forest they must and the mother and her young ones were have been plentiful, even not far from all killed. That was before the era of human habitations ; for, on the estate of naturalists' clubs, and so one of the men Lord Cainpbell, and within a mile of made a cap of the old cat's skin instead Jedburgh, is a gate called “the wild-cat of sending it to a museum. The nest gate." In 1855 Lord Ravensworth shot, had been that of a hooded crow, but had in Northumberland, a cat which in color been appropriated by the cat, which and almost in size resembled the genuine reached the branches of the tree from the wild animal, but it had a tapering tail, projecting ledge of rocks. and not the long tail all of one thickness The other case was in Northumberand tipped with black, which always dis- land, near Keilder Castle, a hunting seat tinguishes the real cat of the woods. of the Duke of Northumberland, and the
Two cases occur to us in which the story is told by James Telfer, formerly real wild cat was seen, one on either side schoolmaster at Taughtree, in Liddesof the Border. About sixty years since dale. The district between Taughtree a boy was herding cows among the skirts and Keilder, as also for miles on every of the Lammermuirs, and part of the side, is a wild pastoral country, and was pasture ground was a rocky ravine, much more sparsely inhabited about the which had the reputation of harboring a middle of last century than it now is, becolony of wild cats. In the glen were sides being overgrown with natural wood. some tall trees, and near the top of one In the forests of Keilder wild cats were he observed a large nest, which looked believed to have an asylum, and one day like that of a hooded crow. He resolved James Telfer's grandfather, a stalwart to climb the tree and explore the nest. shepherd, encountered one. Ilaving The tree grew from a deep hollow near occasion to be in the Keilder district, a the bottom of a precipice, and had a wild cat suddenly, and apparently withtrunk of about fifty feet without out provocation, sprang on him, aiming branches ; after which, the branches at his throat, biting and scratching most spread out, and on one side almost viciously. Though an athletic man he touched a point of rock that protruded would have succumbed but for the help six or seven feet in front of the preci- of his dog. After several ineffectual pice. The nest was about twenty feet efforts to strangle the creature or fling it higher than this point. The adventur- from him, Telfer contrived at length to ous cowherd doffed his corduroy jacket, pin it to the ground with one knee, and climbed the bare trunk till he reached then, with the help of the collie, he the branches, where he rested for a little, managed to kill the animal. When then resumed his climbing, but won- stretched on the ground, after life was dered there was neither sound nor sign extinct, it was found to measure rather of crows. Still he never thought of wild more than the dog from the nose to the cats. In due time he reached the nest, tip of the tail. The shepherd bore put his hand into it as schoolboys do, marks of the encounter to his dying day, and looked over the edge at the same particularly in the disfiguration of a time. In a moment three young cats, thumb-nail, which had been split. their eyes like lightning, their little tails
mere coincidence, or there may possibly
be a certain family of canaries settled in Parrots, starlings, and jackdaws are the west country, whose peculiar gift it not the only birds that talk." Birds
is to imitate, with a fair amount of accunot possessed of native powers of mel- racy, the various intonations of the huody are usually gifted with very varied man voice.
A canary which was owned abilities of articulation. A hooded crow, by a lady in Weston-super-Mare was acfor instance, can produce an astonishing customed to hear its mistress, an invalid, variety of complex noises from his throat, say, on conclusion of its song, “Oh and his talents only lack cultivation to beauty, beauty ! Sing that again !” enable him to give utterance to. words ; These words the bird picked up, and but his natural language is the very re- was soon able to repeat, but its educaverse of melodious, and cannot in any tion made no further progress, and no sense be considered as a song." I additional words were acquired. The have known a hooded crow to say short sentence, as in the case of the Salt“ Papa !”' with great correctness, and, ford bird, was never uttered save after what is more remarkable, he invariably a brilliant burst of song. applied the name to its proper owner- It is wholly incorrect to suppose that not the hoodie's papa, but his master's. no meaning is ever attached by talking The starling talks very roughly, indeed, birds to such words or short sentences to his fellows, but he is one of the best as they may be able to pronounce. The mimics we have, imitating the notes of well-known case of the Edinburgh parother birds, and even the human voice, rot, whose singular accomplishments with great accuracy. Magpies also can have been already noticed in more than be taught to articulate with a tolerable one periodical, has settled this question degree of accuracy. The mocking-bird, once and for ever. So far was this too, so well known in some parts of the clever bird above mere parrot-talk" United States, has no natural melody of that he rarely spoke a word which had his own,
but he contrives to copy in a not direct relation to surrounding obmost faithful manner the songs of nearly jects or events. A strange dog introall his feathered neighbors.
duced into the room was greeted with But it is a little surprising to find that loud cries of “ Put him out! Put him the canary, so superbly endowed by na- out! I'm so frightened !” Clergymen ture with musical taste and skill, will attending his numerous levees were condescend on occasion to imitate the politely requested to “ Gie oot the unmelodious tones of the human voice, Psalm !" and, as this by itself would although the fact that he does so is savor somewhat of habitual irreverence beyond dispute. A correspondent' of on Poll's part, it is only fair to add that Land and Water mentions a canary he was very particular at meal-times in owned by an old lady residing in Salt- telling the assembled family to “Say ford, near Bath, which was able to pro- grace first !"
T. E. nounce several words with remarkable distinctness. At the conclusion of its
AUSTRALIAN LOVE BIRDS. song the bird nearly always said, “ Kiss, kiss, Miss Lizzie, kiss, kiss!" - Miss As these pretty little Parrakeets have Lizzie being the daughter of its owner ; become very popular and are now placed and, after repeating the words more than within common reach by the low price once, a new song was begun. It seems consequent upon the importation of vast that these words were acquired several numbers from Australia, a little inyears ago, when the bird was quite formation respecting their history and young, and during the moulting season, habits will perhaps be interesting to those when its natural song would be discon- who keep them or intend doing so. tinued.
At first sight the now common name Curiously enough, the only cases I Budgerigar, strikes one as rather peculiar have known of talking canaries have oc- and ugly, and it is a puzzle to find its curred in the West of England, but I am derivation. It appears, however, to be not able to draw any conclusion of value a corruption of the word “ Beauregard,” from that circumstance. It may be a and is in its distorted spelling perhaps of easier pronunciation to our colonial could be purchased retail at 8s. per friends than the correct and more re pair. fined one.
On the continent the fancy for foreign The scientific name is Melopsittacus aviary birds has always been much more undulatus, Undulated Grass Parrakeet. spread than here. in Belgium it was The birds are, however, also known as found that Budgerigars not only stood Shell Parrots, Australian Love Birds, the climate of the cold winter months Zebra Parrakeets, and Beauregards. very well, but also that they bred in conThey live in immense flocks all over finement in a surprising manner; many Australia, and in ordinary seasons people therefore made it a pecuniary especially in the neighborhood of the speculation to keep large numbers of River Murray. Here they can be met them for breeding purposes, and at with during breeding time by tens of times, when the produce could be sold thousands, enlivening the tall grass and at high prices, very handsome incomes the immense eucalypti with their con- were made by their sale. Indeed the tinued fluttering and chirruping; the great peculiarity of Budgerigars is their young birds are easily picked up from prolificness, for when once mated a pair the ground and taken from the trees by will go on reproducing at so rapid a rate the hand ; and it is here where the Aus- that the young of one brood, while still tralian birdcatchers get all the Budgeri- unfledged in the nest, will find themgars that come to us from the Antipodes. selves in company with the eggs of the They fill their bags of an evening with following brood, and thus, unwittingly, birds, and on reaching home put them through the warmth of their bodies, up in boxes, holding one to two hundred contribute toward the hatching of the each ; these are taken to Adelaide and younger family. are sold to captains of vessels on the The plumage of the male and female point of leaving for London, or they are Budgerigar is exactly alike, and now too sent to Melbourne and Sydney, and well known to need further description ; reach us via these ports.
but what may not be known so well is In seasons of drought the birds migrate the means of distinguishing the one to the far north of Australia, and none from the other. The only external are then to be met with at all in the difference of the male from the female south ; and as we have no trading ports bird is in the color of the cere at the in Northern Australia to speak of, no root of the upper mandible, which is Budgerigars will then be brought to the dark blue in the former and brown or English market. The dealers here will grayish in the latter. Imported birds then take advantage of the cessation of begin to pair in October and November, arrivals, and rapidly advance the prices which period corresponds with early for those remaining in their hands ; it summer in their native home. When is this continually varying supply and breeding they should be fed with ants' scarcity which causes the large fluctua- eggs mixed with bread crumbs and tions in the prices of Budgerigars. hard-boiled eggs, in addition to their Many a small fortune has been made in staple food of canary seed. Let their former years by enterprising skippers, nesting-box be an empty cocoanut shell, who brought large numbers over to Eng. with a hole in the upper half sufficiently land, which they sold here in the docks large to admit one bird at a time. In at il. or il. 1os. a pair, and which cost this cocoanut the hen bird will her them out in Adelaide about is. 6d, each.
eggs. As no nest is made, it is not One ship would often bring from five to necessary to place any nest-building mafifteen hundred pairs, for which in the terials into the cage, but it is advisable early days of the fancy there were al- to sprinkle the bottom of the nestingways eager buyers. The first pair of box with a little silver sand, so that the Budgerigars ever brought alive to Eng- eggs rest on a firm layer, and do not land was purchased by my father for roll against one another and so get in221.-about twenty-six years ago ; since jured. When the young ones make their then the importations have yearly in- appearance, the busy time of the pacreased, and the prices been propor- rents fairly sets in, for these youngsters tionally reduced until recently they are continually crying for food, and are New SERIES. – VOL. XXXIII., No. 5
BLIND MICE AND BLIND RATS.
as assiduously waited upon by both the old birds.
On account of their hardy nature Mr. Edward Whymper, in his fascithese birds could be easily acclimatized dating volume on the Ascent of the to our native fields and forests. Indeed, Matterhorn,” mentions a curious inciseveral attempts have been made by turn- dent. In 1874 he went to photograph ing out a number into private dernesnes, the summit of the mountain which he where, however, they have been usually had been the first to ascend nine years caught away or shot by strangers. They before. In order to get the morning ought, therefore, to be specially pro- light, he passed the night in the Cabane tected by Act of Parliament to thrive or hut on the Zermatt side, the altitude here. If so, there is no doubt Budgeri- of which is about 12,250 feet. “ While gars would soon become indigenous, and quietly reposing inside, I was startled to be a pretty addition to the fauna of our hear a rustling and crackling sound, and woods and parks. A. E. JAMRACH. jumped up, expecting that the building
was about to take itself off to lower POLAR BEARS.
quarters ; and presently I perceived that The late Mr. Frank Buckland, in re- the hut had a tenant to whom I certainly ferring to the two young Polar bears did not expect to be introduced.” A brought to the Zoological Gardens in little plump mouse caine creeping over Regent's Park this winter, wrote : Not the floor, being apparently of opinion much is known of the habits of Polar that there ought not to be any one there bears. They are said to hibernate about at that time. It wandered about, pickChristmas time, and to come out in ing up stray fragments of food, occasionApril. They get under the snow, and ally crunching a bit of egg-shell
, totally make a kind of nest deep down in the unaware of my presence, for I made out snow heap, and they go to sleep till the that the little animal was both blind and weather softens. The short summer in deaf. It would have been easy to capthe Arctic regions is very hot, and at ture it, but I would not do so, and left this time the Polar bears live upon the it there to keep company with other solfruits and vegetable food. At other itary tourists.' times their food consists principally of How this little blind wanderer made its seals, walrus, and the smaller whales way to such a place, at such a height, is and fish. They are excellent swimmers, a mystery, as is the cause of its blindand very artful divers, and often get a It may have been from the snowseal dinner by diving long distances, glare in its case ; but the infirmity apand so surprising the sleeping seal. pears to be common in the species. They are generally attracted to whaling- remember the refrain of the old nursery ships froin great distances by smell of song, " Three blind mice." Why blind the boiling blubber. These expeditions as an epithet, and not plump, or brown, generally end by the Polar bear losing or white, or any other sort of mice, if his great-coat. The Esquimaux state blindness is not often observed in them ? that in the fur of the Polar bear there is Blind rats are also often met with. The a peculiar repellent power of snow, and story of one of these being conducted by that when they come in covered with others to its feeding-place, by means of snow it is a custom to brush off their fur a straw held in its mouth, is well known. dresses with a piece of Polar bear fur. Nor is this a solitary instance. One A Polar bear having to walk nearly all evening a gentleman was out walking in his life upon snow and ice, wears natural the meadows, when he met a company snow-shoes which prevent him slipping. of rats all going in one direction. Now The visitor to the gardens should there- as he knew a great deal about rats, he fore observe that the soles of the Polar soon guessed what they were doingbear's foot are not naked pads like those leaving their old home, and going to of the lion who has to deal with sand in seek another somewhere else—and so he his hunting expeditions, but that the watched them. In the middle of the soles of the bear's feet are well padded crowd of rats he saw one poor old one with hair, which assists him to climb that seemed quite blind, and walked very about the slippery icebergs.
slowly, but that was no reason why he.
should be left behind. · When he looked tions, and feared that these little animals a little closer, he found that one of its might be interrupted, our senior surgeon friends was leading the poor old rat along opened the door of my room. The two by a piece of wood, which they held be- rats uttered a cry, as if they wanted to tween them in their mouths, and his give warning of the danger to the blind guide took care of him, as a child would one ; and notwithstanding their fright of a father or mother if they were blind. they were unwilling to save themselves This anecdote is given in a pleasant until the old one was in safety. They book for the young, “Little Animals both returned into the hole after their described for Little People" (Seeleys). parent, serving, so to say, as a rearThe feeling shown by this creature re- guard. minds us of the filial affection of pious
SAGACITY OF RATS. Æneas” carrying off old Anchises, his father, in the flight from Troy !
The Rev. F. O, Morris sends the fol. The following incident is narrated by lowing note from a captain in the both a French writer on natural history, and Rifles, living in Devonshire, giving an has every appearance of being authentic. instance of the clever sagacity for which The circumstances were attested by an
rats are well known. The other day a eye-witness, a German officer of scrupulous and judicious observation, who and said that through a chink in the
son of mine, about eleven, came to me wrote to one of his friends concerning Hoor he could see a rat rolling somewhat had lately occurred before his eyes. thing that seemed like an egg. I got a “I was this morning in bed,” says
saw and cut away the board, and found he, “and was reading, when I was in
seven perfectly fresh eggs, not a crack in terrupted suddenly by a noise like that which rats make when they climb up the any except where I had unfortunately wainscot or party-wall. I watched very could see that they were quite freshly
cracked a couple with my saw, and we attentively, and I saw a rat make its ap
broken. The nursery (the room in quespearance under the side of a hole. It looked about on every side, and then tion) is up-stairs, and as none of the hens
ever lay within thirty or forty yards, and retired. "Soon after, it appeared a second time they (the rats) went to work, or
the eggs are collected every day, at what time, conducting by the ear a rat larger how they got them up the stairs, I canthan himself, and which appeared to be an old one.
not imagine. We had often missed by Having left it at the side the evening the eggs we had seen in the of the hole, another young rat joined the former one, and both together traversed morning, and thought that the hens had
eaten them ; they never took an addled my chamber, picking up small pieces of
nest-egg biscuit, which had fallen from the table at supper - time the previous evening.
A DOG'S ENDURANCE. They then carried these crumbs to the old one at the side of the hole.
A few summers ago a shepherd was This attention of the animals aston- employed at Benmore, Kilmun, in sheepished me.
I observed them with greater shearing. For this purpose the sheep care, and I came to the conclusion that
are gathered out of the hills into inthe old rat to which the other two rats closures surrounded by stone walls about brought something to eat was blind, be- four and a half feet high, out of which cause it did not find but by touch the they are drawn as required. On one of biscuit which they held out to it. these occasions his dog, my friend longer doubted that the two young ones “Gyle, camne to grief. Some one had were its children, and the assiduous pro- carelessly left a very sharp scythe in viders for a blind parent. I admired in such a position behind the wall that the my mind the wisdom of nature, which dog in jumping over completely severed has implanted in all animals an intuitive the muscle of the off hind leg, three tenderness, and a gratitude, I might al- quarters of an inch above the hock. most say a virtue, proportioned to their Being a very valuable dog, the shepherd faculties.
took him to the nearest surgeon, who “While I was making these reflec- gave it as his opinion that he might re