Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/407

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393
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

Prjevalski says, "hastily drink and rise again, and, in cases where the flocks are large, the birds in front get up before those at the back have time to alight. They know their drinking places very well, and very often go to them from distances of tens of miles, especially in the mornings, between nine and ten o'clock, but after twelve at noon they seldom visit these spots." In the Kalahari country, at the scant desert waters, the Saturday Review writer says, three kinds of sand grouse "are to be seen flocking in from all parts of the country from eight to ten o'clock a.m. for their day's drink. Circling swiftly round the pool with sharp cries, they suddenly stoop together toward the water. The noisy rustle of their wings as they alight and ascend is most remarkable. We noticed that the birds nearest the water drank quickly and moved off, allowing those in the rear to take their places and slake their thirst, the whole process being accomplished with unfailing order and regularity.… The spectacle of these punctual creatures, streaming in from all points of the compass with unfailing regularity between eight and ten o'clock was always most fascinating. After drinking they circled once or twice round the water pool, and then flew off with amazing swiftness for their day of feeding in the dry, sun-scorched desert. The seeds of grass and other desert plants seem to constitute their principal food. The sand grouse has some characteristics of the pigeon and some of the grouse, which suggest a 'singular blending' of the two orders."

 

Plantations for Rural School Grounds.—A paper on the Laying out and Adornment of Rural School Grounds, by Prof. L. H. Bailey, published as a Bulletin of Cornell University Experiment Station, lays down as a general principle in plantation that it should be in the main for foliage effects. "Select those trees and shrubs which are the commonest, because they are the cheapest, hardiest, and likeliest to grow. There is no district so poor and bare that enough plants can not be secured without money for the school yard. You will find them in the woods, in old yards, along the fences.… Scatter in a few trees along the fences and about the buildings. Maples, basswood, elms, ashes, buttonwood, pepperidge, oaks, beeches, birches, hickories, poplars, a few trees of pine or spruce or hemlock—any of these are excellent. If the country is bleak, a rather heavy planting of evergreens about the border, in the place of so much shrubbery, is very good. For shrubs, use the common things to be found in the woods and swales, together with the roots which can be found in every old yard. Willows, osiers, witch-hazel, dogwood, wild roses, thorn apples, haws, elders, sumac, wild honeysuckles—these and others can be found in every school district. From the farmyards can be secured snowballs, spireas, lilacs, forsythias, mock-oranges, roses, snowberries, barberries, flowering currants, honeysuckles, and the like. Vines can be used to excellent purpose on the outbuildings or on the schoolhouse itself. The common wild Virginia creeper is the most serviceable on brick or stone schoolhouses. The Boston ivy or the Japanese ampelopsis may be used, unless the location is very bleak. Honeysuckle, clematis, and bittersweet are also attractive." Flowers may be used for decorations.

 

Destruction of the Birds.—A circular sent us by the New York Zoölogical Society opens with the declaration which is only a moderate expression of the truth, that "the annihilation of the finest birds and quadrupeds of the United States is a crime against civiliation which should call forth the disapproval of every intelligent American." The second annual report of the society (for 1897) contains an article on this subject by Mr. William T. Hornaday, which sets forth some remarkable facta concerning the rate at which the destruction of Nature's fair creatures is proceeding. It is not creditable to American science or American manhood that most of the measures that have been adopted for the protection of animal life in this country have been taken in the interest and at the urgency of sportsmen; or, to prevent killing the poor creatures in an irregular way, in order that they may be more conveniently killed in the regular way. Mr. Hornaday has a fairly satisfactory number of reports in answer to his inquiries concerning the rate at which birds are disappearing from thirty-six States.