Page:Audubon and His Journals.djvu/410

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358
AUDUBON

eastern extremity of these islands, we go off there to-morrow in boats. Saw Bank Swallows and House Swallows. The woods altogether small evergreens, extremely scrubby, almost impenetrable, and swampy beneath. At seven this evening the thermometer is at 52°. This morning it was 44°. After our return to the "Ripley," our captain, John, Tom Lincoln, and Coolidge went off to the cliffs opposite our anchorage, in search of Black Guillemots' eggs. This was found to be quite an undertaking; these birds, instead of having to jump or hop from one place to another on the rocks, to find a spot suitable to deposit their spotted egg, as has been stated, are on the contrary excellent walkers, at least upon the rocks, and they can fly from the water to the very entrance of the holes in the fissures, where the egg is laid. Sometimes this egg is deposited not more than eight or ten feet above high-water mark, at other times the fissure in the rock which has been chosen stands at an elevation of a hundred feet or more. The egg is laid on the bare rock without any preparation, but when the formation is sandy, a certain scoop is indicated on the surface. In one instance, I found two feathers with the egg; this egg is about the size of a hen's, and looks extravagantly large, splashed with black or deep umber, apparently at random, the markings larger and more frequent towards the great end. At the barking of a dog from any place where these birds breed, they immediately fly towards the animal, and will pass within a few feet of the observer, as if in defiance. At other times they leave the nest and fall in the water, diving to an extraordinary distance before they rise again. John shot a Gannet on the wing; the flesh was black and unpleasant. The Piping Plover, when missed by the shot, rises almost perpendicularly, and passes sometimes out of sight; this is, I am convinced by the many opportunities I have had to witness the occurrence, a habit of the species. These islands are well watered by large springs, and rivulets