Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/80

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56
The Passenger Pigeon

When squabs of a nesting became fit for market, these experts, prepared with climbers, would get into some convenient place in a tree-top loaded with nests, and with a long pole punch out the young, which would fall with a thud like lead on the ground.

In May, 1880, I visited the last known nesting place east of the Great Lakes. It was on Platt River in Benzie County, Mich. There were on these grounds many large white birch trees filled with nests. These trees have manifold bark, which, when old, hangs in shreds like rags or flowing moss, along their trunks and limbs. This bark will burn like paper soaked in oil. Here, for the first time, I saw with shame and pity a new mode for robbing these birds' nests, which I look upon as being devilish. These outlaws to all moral sense would touch a lighted match to the bark of the trees at the base, when with a flash — more like an explosion — the blast would reach every limb of the tree, and while the affrighted young birds would leap simultaneously to the ground, the parent birds, with plumage scorched, would rise high in air amid flame and smoke. I noticed that many of these squabs were so fat and clumsy they would burst open on striking the ground. Several thousand were obtained during the day by this cruel process.

That night I stayed with an old man on the highlands just north of the nesting. In the course of the evening I explained to him the cruelty that was being shown to