ページの画像
PDF
ePub

· Ar the heginning of this month, or about the end of September, some summer birds of passage, of which the swallow is the first, take their departure for warmer regions. At the time when swallows are congregated, in the autumn, for the purpose of migrating, a part of them have been observed to ascend in the air, in a spiral direction, beyond the reach of human vision, and, after continuing out of sight a short time, to descend again. Sometimes they would continue to do this, at intervals, for two or three days together; and then all would disappear. Query: Do they ascend in this manner to ascertain whether there is an upper current of air favourable to their migration ? and do they prefer migrating high in the air, in order to have a greater scope of vision ? A young swallow, which was kept alive by a lady, was observed to become uneasy as the time of migrating approached; and when its cage was hung in the air, the wild swallows came about it, and appeared to invite it to go with them. After they had all disappeared, it became tolerably easy. The following extraordinary circumstance in the natural history of the swallow, which occurred at Christ Church, Ipswich (the residence of the Rev. Mr. Fonnereau), very forcibly illustrates the unusual coldness and backwardness of the season, in the year 1816. On the mornings of the 5th and 6th of June, the gardeners could have taken up hundreds of swallows in their hands : they were collected in knots, and sat on the grass, in parcels of thirty and forty. This, there is reason to believe, was owing both to cold and hunger. The same summer many house-martins were found dead on the ground in Norfolk, and others were so weak that the cats sprang upon them, and caught them as they flew near the ground. A pair of these birds, which had completed a nest under the eaves of a house, were both found dead in it before any eggs were laid. From the above circumstances, birds of

this kind were unusually scarce throughout the summer.-Linn. Trans. vol. xv, part i, pp. 32, 33..

The Acherontia Atropos, or death's-head hawk., moth.-The common occurrence of the caterpillars of the death's-head moth, during the last two or three years, has been universally noticed; and various accounts have appeared in the journals, describing their size and beauty; but so many of them perish in the chrysalis, that the moth was less abundant. The caterpillars feed upon the flowers and leaves of the potatoe, and upon the jasmine, and, it is also said, upon the hemp, elder, and woody nightshade; concealing themselves, during the day, beneath the leaves, and under the ground, and coming out only in the evening to feed; by which means they are protected from the piercing rays of the sun, and from the at:. tacks of the ichneumonidæ. Towards the end of summer, especially in September, they are full fed, when they bury themselves, and become pupæ. The moths are found in September, but more generally in October : they are not easily injured, and from the peculiar sound they emit (faintly resembling the squeaking of a mouse), as well as from the death's head upon the thorax, they were formerly considered the messengers of pestilence and of death. They are sometimes found in houses, and upon the trunks of trees; and in MR. HATCHET's fine collection are several specimens that were captured in a very singular way:-a vessel was lying at anchor off the coast of Devon, when a number of these sphinges came to a lanthorn on board, and about a dozen of them were knocked down by the sailors. A beautiful male moth, and the caterpillar, are figured in Plate 147 of MR. Curtis's British Entomology.

Manufacture produced by Caterpillars. M. Habenstreet, of Munich, an old officer, by patiently directing the labour of caterpillars within a

limited space, has succeeded in producing an entirely new and very extraordinary kind of fabric. These caterpillars are the larva of a butterfly known by the name of Tinea punctata, or, according to other naturalists, Tinea padilla. Their instinct leads them to construct above themselves a covering (tente) of extreme fineness, but nevertheless, firm enough to be impenetrable by air; which covering can be easily detached from them. The inventor has made these insects work on a suspended paper model, to which he gives exactly the form and size which he re. quires. He has thus obtained at pleasure, among other articles, square shawls of the dimensions of an ell; shawls two ells in length and one in width; an aerostatic balloon, four feet high, by two in horizontal diameter; a lady's entire dress, with sleeves, but without seam. When he wishes to give to the fabric any prescribed shape, he touches the limits with oil. Two caterpillars, at most, are enough to produce an inch square of this fabric. The fabric, although perfectly consistent, surpasses the finest cambric in lightness. The balloon mentioned weighs less than five grains. The warmth of the hand is sufficient instantly to inflate it; and the flame of a single match, held under it for a few seconds, is enough to raise it to a very considerable height, whence it will not descend for half an hour. When a shawl of the size of a square ell has been well stretched, it has been blown into the air by means of a small pair of bellows, and then resembles a light smoke, subject to the slightest agitation of the atmosphere. The dress with sleeves, and without a seam, M. Habenstreet presented to the Queen of Bavaria, who had it mounted on another dress, and has worn it on several great occasions, The threads of which the new manufacture is composed, are placed one above the other, and glued together as they quit the caterpillar. To increase the thickness, when desired, the caterpillars are made to pass repeatedly over the same plain. A shawl of a square ell in size costs only eight francs.

- The throstle, the red-wing, and the field-fare, which migrated in March, now return; and the ring ouzel arrives from the Welsh and Scottish Alps to winter in more sheltered situations. About the middle of the month, the common martin disappears; and, shortly afterwards, the smallest kind of swallow, the sand martin, and the stone-curlew, migrate. The Royston or hooded crow arrives from Scotland and the nor, thern parts of England, being driven thence by the severity of the season. The woodcock returns, and is found on our eastern coasts. On the migration of birds, see T. T. for 1823, pp. 303-307, and for 1824, p. 271. .

Various kinds of water-fowl now make their appearance. . While one part of the creation' (observes M. Chateaubriand) daily publishes, in the same places, the praise of the Creator, apother portion travels to relate his wonders to the whole earth. Cou. riers traverse the air, glide in the waters, and speed their course across mountains and valleys. These, arriving on the wings of the Spring, enliven its nights with their songs, build their nests among its flowers, and, disappearing with the zephyrs, follow their moveable country from climate to climate; those repair to the habitation of man; as travellers from distant climes, they claim the rights of ancient hospitality. Each follows his inclination in the choice of a host; the red-breast applies at the cottage; the swallow knocks at the palace: this daughter of a king still seems attached to grandeur, but to grandeur, melancholy like her fate; she passes the summer amid the ruins of Versailles, and the winter among those of Thebes. Scarcely has she disappeared, when we behold a colony advancing upon the winds of the north, to supply the place of the travellers to the south, that

no vacancy may be left in our fields. In a boary day of autumn, when the north-east wind blows over the plains, and the woods are losing the last remains of their foliage, a numerous troop of wild ducks, all ranged in a line, traverse in silence a melancholy sky. If they perceive, while aloft in the air, some Gothic castle surrounded by marshes and by forests, it is there they prepare to descend: they wait till night, making long evolutions over the woods. Soon as the vapours of the eve enshroud the valley, with outstretched neck and whirring wing, they suddenly alight on the waters which resound with their noise. A general cry, succeeded by profound silence, rises from all the marshes. Guided by a faint light, which, perhaps, gleams through the narrow window of a tower, the travellers approach its walls, favoured by the reeds and by the darkness. There, clapping their wings, and screaming, at intervals, amid the murmur of the winds and of the rain, they salute the babitation of man.

One of the handsomest of the inhabitants of these solitudes, wbo likewise changes her country, but whose peregrinations are less distant, is the water. hen. She appears on the border of the sedges, buries herself in their labyrinths, appears, and vanishes again, uttering a low, savage cry: she passes from simplicity to grandeur, from the hut of some indigent Pelagus to the ditch of the neighbouring palace. She is fond of perching on the coats of arms, sculptured ou the walls. When she remains motionless on them, you would take her, with her sable plumage and the white patch on her head, for an emblazoned bird, fallen from the escutcheon of an ancient knight. At the approach of spring, she retires to unfrequented streams; she seeks the trunk of some willow, which, like a flower-pot, shoots forth the golden-rod and the larkspur, sprung from seed wafted thither by the winds. A root, undermined by the waters, affords an asylum to the wanderer; she there conceals herself

Bb

« 前へ次へ »