Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/334

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320
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

spicuous white spot on the breast. We witnessed the ascension and retreat of this pack from the same key on our return a few days later.

This little island is nearly bare except for the carpet of vines and low bushes. A few specimens of the Conocarpus called here "button-tree," are growing along the water's edge. It is ten or fifteen feet high, and may be easily told at a glance by its silvery foliage. Its flowers are inconspicuous, in small globular heads, but they are quite fragrant. This and the Rhacichallis rupestris, called "seaweed" by our boatmen, are characteristic of all these islands. The latter is semi-prostrate, and has fine, spray-like foliage, resembling an evergreen. Its light-gray bark is noticeable and also its small saffron flowers. This shrub is very common on the exposed rocks just above high-tide mark, where various mollusks are found in great numbers. One univalve {Tectarius), nearly an inch long, is especially abundant. The rocks are peppered with them, and clumps of several hundred together are sometimes seen. It climbs up the stems of the Rhacichallis, on which it probably feeds, and seems to derive a double protection, from the colors of both the coral-rock and bark of this shrub, which it perfectly simulates.

Before landing at this key we had seen a large, black bird emerge from a mass of twigs in a bush overhanging the water, and, with its long neck outstretched, fly to an adjacent part of the island. This proved to be the Florida cormorant (Phalacrocorax) and its nest. I soon saw a number of these birds standing in line on a sand-spit with heads erect, like a squad of soldiers at drill. The nest was a shallow, rudely-built platform of twigs and grass, and contained three long,

PSM V32 D334 Head of the yellow billed tropic bird phaeton flavirostis.jpg
Fig. 4.—Head or the Yellow-Billed Tropic Bird (Phaeton flavirostris). (Three fourths natural size. From a sketch made by Mr. A. H. Jennings.)

bluish-white eggs, of a coarse, chalky texture. We found several nests on the island, most of which had been just completed. The long neck and thick stub of a body gives the cormorant a comical appearance, whether it is on the wing or walking erect on the beach. This species has sooty-black plumage, a yellow throat, and a blue rim round the