Page:Audubon and His Journals.djvu/414

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362
AUDUBON

thus murdered in one hour by six men. The birds are skinned with little care, and the flesh cut off in chunks; it will keep fresh about a fortnight. The nests are made by scratching down a few inches, and the edges surrounded with sea-weeds. The eggs are pure white, and as large as those of a Goose. By the 20th of May the rock is already covered with birds and eggs; about the 20th of June they begin to hatch. So great is the destruction of these birds annually that their flesh supplies the bait for upwards of forty fishing-boats, which lie close to the Byron Island each season. When the young are hatched they are black, and for a fortnight or more the skin looks like that of the dog-fish. They become gradually downy and white, and when two months old look much like young lambs. Even while shooting at these birds, hundreds passed us carrying great masses of weeds to their nests. The birds were thick above our heads, and I shot at one to judge of the effect of the report of the gun; it had none. A great number of Kittiwake Gulls breed on this rock, with thousands of Foolish Guillemots. The Kittiwake makes its nest of eel-weeds, several inches in thickness, and in places too small for a Gannet or a Guillemot to place itself; in some instances these nests projected some inches over the edge of the rock. We could not see any of their eggs. The breeze was now so stiff that the waves ran high; so much so that the boat was perched on the comb of the wave one minute, the next in the trough. John steered, and he told me afterwards he was nearly exhausted. The boat was very cleverly hauled on deck by a single effort. The stench from the rock is insufferable, as it is covered with the remains of putrid fish, rotten eggs, and dead birds, old and young. No man who has not seen what we have this day can form the least idea of the impression the sight made on our minds. By dark it blew a gale and we are now most of us rather shaky; rain is falling in torrents, and