Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/653

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633
MISCELLANY.

sheets of blotting-paper, which are impregnated with the hyposulphite, from having served the same purpose before, the white points will inevitably make their appearance.

 

Ancient Ferns.—At a late meeting of the Torrey Botanical Club of this city, Dr. J. Newberry exhibited a fossil fern which he had obtained from the Miocene formation in the western part of the continent. It was an Onoclea, and was not distinguishable from the recent Linnæan species, Onoclea sensibilis. This certainly carries back the lineage of our common sensitive fern to a very ancient period.

At the same meeting of the club, there was also exhibited a fine specimen of that singular plant which grows parasitic on the roots of the pine-tree, and is hence called, in the Eastern States, pine-drops. The plant is rare at the East, and seldom attains the height of two feet. The specimen exhibited was four feet high.

 

Our Native Birds acquiring New Habits.—In a late number of the American Naturalist, Prof. Samuel Lockwood gives an interesting account of that beautiful bird known as the golden robin, or Baltimore oriole, in connection with one of our carpenter-bees. He states that last June large numbers of these bumble-bees were found under the horse-chestnut trees, then in full bloom, in the campus of Rutgers College. The strange fact was, that every one of these insects was decapitated, and the heads were lying around with the bodies; further, it appears that every one of the headless bees was a stingless male. The professor worked out the case with much patient perseverance, and found to his surprise that this wholesale slaughter was the work of four orioles. Another fact which astonished him was, that the bodies of all these insects were empty, the viscera having been drawn out at the ring-like opening where the head had been neatly snipped by the birds. The process was to catch the bees while hovering at the ball-like opening of the flowers. After severing the head, they extracted the viscera for the sake of the honey-sac. Several very interesting considerations are brought out in the course of the article—such as the acquired taste; the birds had found out that honey was nice. Was it not singular, too, that they had learned that it could be got in such a manner? And there was also the curious fact that the bird confined its marauding to the white-headed bees, the stingless males—thus carrying on his terrible work with impunity, and almost wantonness, as it contented itself with simply the honey-bearing sac.

Prof. Lockwood also notes a curious change of habit in the kingbird. Speaking of the wonderfully plucky manner of this courageous little bird in attacking crows and other large birds, as securing the general admiration, he says that for himself that admiration has gone down to zero, as he has noticed that the bird has not any true knightly qualities, but can do some very mean things. The professor then instances a case in which a pair of robins had built a nest in a tree so near by that the process could be watched from the house. A pair of kingbirds kept all the time near, and watched progress with genuine royal indolence, and, when all was finished, with kingly impudence took possession. The rightful owners made but a feeble effort to resist this invasion. The kingbirds retained possession until their young were raised.

More than a year ago, Prof. Lockwood likewise called attention to the fact that the great butcher-bird, or Northern shrike, contrary to all precedent, had begun to visit in winter the cities where the European sparrows have become naturalized. The bird in summer collects grasshoppers, small lizards, etc., and impales them on the spines of the locust or other trees, eating them at its leisure. He notices the case in which a shrike in its winter visit gibbeted a sparrow in, the city by putting its neck in the crotch of a small branch of a larch, and then, having knocked in the top of its head, the bird extracted its victim's brains.

 

Paper as a Building-Material.—An English company prepare a water-proof material out of paper-pulp, or any fibrous substance, by saturating it with ammoniated copper solution—a digest of copper scraps in concentrated ammonia. This treatment dissolves the fibres and renders the paper impervious to water. A number of sheets