Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/271

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THE MARMOT.

247

great, the odds against you so numerous, that nothing but the rarity of the bird induces you to try such thankless sport.

My companion and I often went in pursuit of these pheasants, repairing to the woods long before daybreak, but only succeeded in obtaining two specimens; and two of the Tangutan sportsmen, whom I hired for that purpose, climbed the mountains day after day, but only succeeded in bringing home a couple by surprising them on their nests.

The great difficulty lies in discovering the whereabouts of the bird, owing to the long, irregular intervals between its cries, whilst it is sometimes absolutely silent even on a fine bright morning. It is remarkable, too, how quietly, for so large a bird, it rises off the ground, and takes wing without your having heard it. It is slow in its flight like the capercailzie, and will not fly far.

Among the mammals we noticed the marmot (Arctomys robustus?), which awoke about the middle of April after lying dormant all winter. This little animal, called by the Mongols tarabagan, and by the Tangutans shoo, was never found by us in Mongolia,[1] and we first saw it in Kan-su, whence its range extends into Northern Tibet. It inhabits the lower valleys, as well as the alpine zone, of the Kan-su mountains, and we saw its burrows in Northern Tibet at an elevation of 15,000 feet above the sea.

  1. The Trans-Baikalian marmot (Arctomys Bobac), is only distributed as far south as seventy miles beyond Urga; where the fertile steppes terminate and this little animal disappears.