Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/149

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
139
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

different specimens in a most extraordinary manner." Nearly every shelf or projection cf the rock, both in the Pinnacles and in the rest of the islands, is occupied by the kittiwakes, whose well-built nests, with their spotted, brown eggs or speckled, downy young, can be easily seen from the tops of the cliffs. "Walking about," says a writer in the Saturday Review, "it is hard to avoid treading on the gulls' eggs, which are placed in rather loosely made nests among the coarse herbage or on the rocks themselves. As the center of the island is reached it is easy to see the nests of the cormorants, which are large, slovenly constructions, composed principally of sea-weed, mixed with pieces of drift-wood, corks off fishing-nets, and other such flotsam and jetsam, the whole covered and made filthy both to sight and smell by the droppings of the birds and remnants of fish. The eggs, which are bluish-green in ground color, are covered with a white, calcareous matter; but, except where freshly laid, look as dirty as the nests. . . . In a comfortable hollow between two rocks we find the nest of an eider duck, and then, within a very short distance, one or two more. These nests are most cozily lined with the brown down which the bird picks from her breast from time to time during the process of incubation, and in which the large, greenish-gray eggs, from five to eight in number, are almost covered." These birds are very tame and approachable. The light and peaty soil of the interior of the island is full of burrows, which are divided between numberless puffins and a few rabbits. "Many of the puffins, curious, pompous-looking little fellows, with large, brightly colored bills, may be seen sitting about on the rocks or flying and swimming round the island, while their partners are below the ground, sitting each on the solitary egg which she has laid at the end of the burrow. In the campion-covered centers of the islands the terns are numberless, and the beach down to high-water mark is covered with their eggs, so that very great care has to be used in walking to avoid treading on them. They are also to be found in large numbers among the sea campion; many are laid on the shingle with little if any pretense of a nest; while others have slight nests, made of bents and pieces of sea-weed. The list of birds breeding on the Fame Islands includes twelve species, and others may be occasionally seen there as visitors. The birds and eggs, which had been exposed to danger of destruction and extermination, have had their existence more and more secured under the wild birds' protection acts passed since 1869; and in 1888 an association of gentlemen interested in ornithology was formed, which has secured a lease of the islands, keeps intruders off, and takes care of the birds.

 

Wild Life in the Snow.—Snow, remarks in the London Spectator an observer of wild life, generally catches our animals unprepared, and they are put to all kinds of shifts to find food and escape their enemies. The more open and exposed the districts, the greater their difficulties. Where there are thick woods and hedgerows, and, above all, running water, birds and beasts alike can find dry earth in which to peck and scratch, or green things to nibble and water to drink. But on the great chalk downs a snow-storm seems to drive from the open country every living creature that dares to move at all. For the first day after a heavy fall, the hares, which allow the snow to cover them, all but a tiny hole made by their warm breath, do not stir; only toward noon, if the sun shines out, they make a small opening to face its beams, and perhaps another in the afternoon, at a different angle to the surface, to catch the last slanting rays. But soon hunger forces the hares to leave their snug snow-house, and they find their way to the cabbage or turnip gardens. Squirrels, which are often supposed to hibernate, retire to their nests only in very severe and prolonged frosts. A slight fall of snow only amuses them, and they will come down from their trees and scamper over the powdery heaps with immense enjoyment; what they do not like is the snow on the leaves and branches, which falls in showers as they jump from tree to tree, and betrays them to their enemies, the country boys. During a mild winter they even neglect to make a central store of nuts, and, instead of depositing them in big hoards near the nest, just drop them into any convenient hole they know of near. Rabbits also seem to enjoy the snow at first. They