A U T HO R 0? Evenin g s at the Birdso f J am aic a, The Canadian Naturalist, c tc. Q ' Q ' Q Q

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6 A U T HO R 0? Evenin g s at the Birdso f J am aic a The Canadian Naturalist c tc. Q ' Q ' Q Q


8 BY A U T H O R O F Evening s at th e Micro ac o Pe Birds o f J a maica Th e Canadian Naturalist etc. NEW AMSTERDAM BO O K CO MPANY P U B LI S H E R S : N E W Y O R K


10 Preface. There are ' more ways than o ne o f studying natural history. There is Dr. Dryasdust s wa y ; which consists of mere a cc ura c y of definition and differentiation ; statistics as h a rsh and dry as the skins and bones in the m u seum where it is studied. Th ere is the field - observer s way ; the c a reful and conscientious accumulation and record of facts bearing on the life - history of the creatures ; statistics as fresh and bright as the forest or meadow where th e y are gathered in the dewy morning. And there is the poet s way ; who looks at nature through a glass peculiarly his own ; the aesthetic aspect which deals not with statistics but with the emotions of the human mi nd surprise wonder terror revulsion admira tion love desire and so forth which are made energetic by the contemplation of the creatures around him. In my many years wanderin g s through the wide field of natural history I have always felt towards it something of a poet s heart though destitute of a poet s g enius. As Wordsworth so b e a utiq y says To m e th e mean est flower that blows can g ive Tho ughts that do o ften li e to o deep fo r tears. Now this book is an attempt to present natural history in its aesthetic fashion. Not that I have te presumed constantly to indica like the stage directions in a play or the hear hear! in a speech the actual emotion to be elicited this ; would have been obtrusive and impe rtinent but ; I have sought to paint a series of pictures the 111

11 PREFA C E. reflections of scenes and aspects in nature which in my own mind awaken poetic interest leaving them to do their proper work. If I may venture to point out one subject on which I have bestowed more than usual pains and which I myself regard wi th more than com mon interest it is that of the last chapter in this volume. An amount of evidence is adduced for the existence of the sub-mythi c monster popularly known as the sea - serpent been brought together before almost to set doubt at rest. such as has never and such as ought But the cloudy u n certainty which has invested the very being of this creature its home on the lone ocean the ; ; fitful way in which it is seen and lost in its vast solitudes its dimensions vaguely igantic its ; g ; dragon like form and the possibility of its asso - ; cia tio n with beings considered to be lost in an obsolete antiqui ty ; all these are attributes which render it peculiarly precious to a romantic natu ralist. I hope the statisticians will forgive me if they cannot see it with my spectacles. P. H. G. Torquay 1860.

12 Co nte nts. I. TIMES AND SEASONS. Winter in the Polar Re g ions Aurora Snowstor m Snow on Trees Beauty of Snow-drifts Silver Thaw Opening o f Sprin g B utterfli e s Beetles Fishes Bees Flowers Spring in Canada Le a fin g of Forest Summer Autumn Autum nal Colours in American Forests Indian Sum mer Autumn in the Alps Mornin g in New fo undla n d Beaver -pond Water - insects Morn ing in Ja m a ica Awakening Birds Daybreak in Venezuela Sunrise in the Oural Winter-Noon in England Noon in a Brazilian Forest Sunset in the Oural Sunset in the Altaian Mo th in g in a Summer Evenin g in England Night on the Niesen Ni g ht on the Jamaican Mountains Ni g ht in Tropical Forests N i g h t so un ds in Ja maica ih Brazil o n the Amazon in Toba g o i n Burmah Beast - voices in Guiana Night on the Amazon Ni g ht in Central Africa Night - lamps En g lish Glow - worms Fire - flies in Canada in Alab a m ar in Ja m a ica Lum inous Elater 11 II. HARMONIES. Distribution o f Animals and Plants Harmony of a Na tura l - history Picture Gazelle in Desert Hyena in a ruined City Siberian Stag in Altaian Gorge Lammergeyer in the Al a to u Sperm whales in Beagle Channel Guanaco on - the Andes Reindeer on a Snow Fjeld Burrell at V

13 CONTENTS. the source of the Ganges Elephant in South African Forest Lions at an African Pool at Midnight B utterflies in Brazilian Forest 44: III. DISCREPANCIES. Life at great Depths of Ocean Life in Snow Trees g rowin g in Ice Life in the Sandy Desert Life in a Volcano Life in Dust at Sea Li fe in Brine Life in boiling Springs Blind Fauna of C a verns Oceanic Bird Stations Land Birds at S ea Insects at S e a Insects at lofty Elevations Flying - fish in Bed Shoal of Fish in a Par lour 6 7 IV. MULTUM E PARVO. Coral Structures Polypes Lagoons Beauty of C oral Island Rate of Increase Proposed Em ployment of C oral-builders Di a to m a ceae I m mense Accumulations of Diatoms Presence in Guano Ocean Streaks Food of Salpae o f Whales Ori g in of Chalk - fli nts Vermilion S ea Green Water Forests planted by Finches De structive Insects Locusts Timber - beetles White - ants Forest Scavengers in Brazil Zimb Tsets e Go lub a cser Fly Mus q u it o 9 0 V. THE VAS T. Whales Elephants India Africa i n in C ondor Exa gerations of Travellers ~ g Grea t Serpents Ancient Celebrities Daniell s Picture Guiana B o a Oriental Pythons African Python Tabu lar Summary C olossal Sea - weeds ; Cane! Cacti Echinocactus Candelabra C acti Giant Cactus D ragon - tree of Orotava Banyan ' of India Baobab of Senegal Mexican Cypress VI

14 CONTENTS. Zamang del Gua y re Elm in Wales Limes in Lithuania Oak in France Locust -trees in Bra zil G um - trees in Australia Mammoth tree of California A tall Fa mil y Felling the Big ~ Tree Speculation 113 VI. THE MINUTE. Wonder at Minuteness C omplexity Melicerta Its Building Powers Mental Faculties The In visible World Diatoms Their Form and Strue ture Mode of Increase Mode of Aggregation Various Points of Interest Life in a Drop of Water Infizs Stentor Animalcule o ria - tree Flo scula ria R o tifera No to m m a t a Salpina Layin and Hatching of an Egg Sculptured g Shells Maximus An ura ea in Minimis 144: VII. THE MEMORABLE. Chuck - Will s Widow A Ni g ht Scene Heliconia Singular Habit of a B utterfl y Swarming of Urania A Jamaican Fore st Tree -ferns A Bra z ilia n Forest Glories of Tropical Scenery Strange Scene in a Churchyard The Bird of Paradise at Home Washington s Eagle A Ni ht with Fern-owls The King of the Butter g flies captured First Sight of the Royal Water lily Scene in the Life of Mungo Park S cientific Enthusiasm Humboldt s Experience 16 6 VIII. THE RE C LUS E. Strange Tameness of Animals Vigilance and Je a l o us Caution and C onfidence combined Shy y ness and C oyness Eagles D ucks Stanzas to a Water fowl Ostrich Rhea Scottish Urus - European Bison Mode in which it is hunted V11

15 CONTENTS. Suspiciousness of Moose Reputed Power o f re maining submerged Strange Story Crusti ng Moose - yard Solitary Habits Chamoi s Diffi culties of approaching it The Gemze Fawn Recluse Life in a Forest - pool Grebes in e arly Morning Snak e - bird Water -shrew Its Playful Manners 187 I!. THE WILD. Capture of a Shark Nautical Eagerness for the Sport Hook and Line Harpoon An expres sive Co unten a n ce h Atte nda n t Sharks at Night Scene in the Pa cific Sperm - whales at Night Element of U'nearthliness Wh etsa w White Owl Bittern Q ua - bird Prophetic Imagery of Des o la tio n Devil - bird Eagle owl Guacharo Rise of Water - fowl from River Assault of a C uttle Shriek of Jaokal American Howling Monkeys Prairie Wolves A frican Wild Dogs 208!. THE TERRIBLE. Man s Do mmro n over the Creatures Sometimes contested Bestial cts Wolf Co nfii A Mother s fice _ S a cfi Night -attack of Wolves in Mongolia Bears Syrian Bear G rizzly Bear Encounter with o n e Wild Beasts in Africa Terrors of Elephant hunting M r. Oswell s Adventure Horrible death of Th a ckwra y Hottentot s Ad venture with a Rhinoceros Simi lar Adventure of Mr. Oswell T h unb e r g s Encounter with a Cape Buffalo T errific Peril of Captain Methuen -Nearly fatal C ombat with a Kangaroo A n old Carthagini an Voya g e of Discovery Wil d Men Iden tifica tio n of these with Apes The Gorilla His Prowess C omic Scenes with the Elephant Tragic Encounters with Man Perils vm

16 C ONTENTS. of Whale - fishin g Ah Involuntary Dive Horrid Voracity of Sharks The Crocodile Fatal Ad venture with an Alligator Potency of Poison ous Serpents Detail of Symptoms of poisoning Case of Mr. Buckland Death of Curling C oolness of an Indian Officer Ugliness of Vipers Shocking Adventure in Guiana Another in Venezuela Fatal Encounter with Bees in In dia 228! I. THE UNKNOWN. Charm of the Unknown Expectation of an ex p lo ri n g Naturalist His daily Experiences Ex p erie n ce of Mr. Bates Animals in Brazil A Natural - history Da y on the Amazon Anticipa tio ns of Mr. Wallace The Far East What may be expected in Z oology I n South America A great A p e I n the Oriental Archipela g o I n Pa pua I n Chin a I h Japan I n the Farther Pen insula I n Madagascar I n Africa Hope points to Central Africa The Unicorn Native Reports and Descriptions of it Dr. A. Smith s Opinion Drawings by Sava g es Our Ignorance of the Depth of Ocean The Aquarium Fancy Sketch by Schleiden Clearness of Arctic Seas 256! II. THE GREAT UNKNOWN. Wonders of Foreign Parts Scepticism Moot Points in Zoology Necessity of Caution Lia b ilit y to Error Q uestion of the Existence of a Sea - serpent Norwegian Testimony New England Testimony M r. Perkin s s Report Mr. In ce s Na rra tive Captain M Q u h a e s Re port Lieut. Drummond s Object seen by Cap tain Beech e y Mr. Stirling s Suggestion and Personal Testimony Suggesti o n o f th e Plesi o i x

17 CONTENTS. s a urus Professor Owen s Strictures and Opinion Sug g ests a great Seal Captain M Q u h a e s Reply M r. Davidson s confirmatory Testimony Ani mal seen from the B a rb am Captain Her riman examines a supposed Sea - serpent Finds it a Sea weed Captain Harringt on s Testimony Captain Smith s Sea - weed Experience More Testimony from the Daeda l us Examination of the accumulated Evidence Recapitulation Dismission of Sea - weed Hypothesis Tests Mammalia Professor Owen s Hypothesis Reasons against it Va g ueness of the Drawings No Seal tenable Cetacea Fishes Shark H y p o t h esis Ribbon- Fishes Eels Reptiles Small Sea - snakes Occurrence of a true Serpent in the Atlantic Serpent Hypothesis rejected C on sideration of Enaliosaurian Hypothesis Resem blam es D ifficult y of Mane Objections examined Improbability of Perpetuation of the Form Examples adduced Evidence o f present E n a li o s a uria Absence of recent Remains This Obj ec tion shewn to b e groundless Examples of re cent Whales The Whale of Havre S o werb y s Di High o do n - fin n ed Cachalot Rhinoceros Whale D el p b in o rb y n eb us of the Atlantic C o u elusion 280


19 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. and in still sterner Canada. There too I have oft en witnessed the Co ng eni al horro rs I Kindre d g loo ms that the poet apostrophises when Th e snows arise a nd ul fo and fierce All winter drives alo ng th e darken d air. A snow - storm when the air is filled with th e thick flakes driven impetuously before a blinding gale rapidly obliterating every landmark from the benighted and bewildered traveller s search on a wild mountain - side in Canada ; or on the banks of Newfoundland when a heavy sea is running and fl o es of ice sharp as needles and hard as rocks are floating all around is something terrible to witness and solemn to remember. Yet there are gentler features and more lovable attributes of winter even in those regions where he reigns autocratically. The appearance of the forest after a night s heavy snow in calm weather is very beautiful. On the horizontal boughs of the spruces and hemlock - pines it rests in heavy fl eec y masses which take the form of han g ing drapery while the contrast between the brilliant whiteness of the clothing and the blackness of the sombre folia g e is fine and striking. Nor are the forms which the drift ed snow assumes less attractive. Here it lies in gentle undulations swelling and sinking ; there in little ripples like the sand of a sea - beach ; here it stands up like a perpendicular wall ; there like a conical hill ; here it is a long deep trench ; there a flat overhan g ing table ; but one of the most charming o f its man y -visaged a p p ea ra n ce s is that presented by a shed or out - house well hung with cobwebs. After a drift the snow is seen in greater or less masses to have attached 12

20 the symmetrical six-rayed stars of falling snow TIMES AND S EAS ONS. itself to the cobwebs and hangs from the rafters and walls and from corner to corner in graceful drapery of the purest white and of the most fantastic shapes. The elegant arabesques that the frost forms on our window - panes and the thin blades and ser rated swords o f which b oar - frost is composed are beautiful ; and still more exquisitely charming are when caught on a dark surface. But Ithink noth ing produced by the magic touch of winter can excel a phenomenon I have often seen in the woods of the transatlantic countries named above where it is familiarly called silver It - thaw. is caused by rain descending when the stratum of air nearest the earth is below 32 deg. and con sequently freezing the instant it touches any o b j ect ; the ice accumulates with every drop of rain until a transparent glassy coating is formed. On the shrubs and trees the effect is magical and reminds one of fairy scenes described in oriental fables. Every little twig every branch every leaf every blade of grass is enshrined in crystal ; the whole forest is composed of sparkli ng trans parent glass even to the minute leaves of the pines and firs. The sun shines out. What a g lit ter of light! How the beams broken as it were into ten thousand fra g ments sparkle and dance as they are reflected from the trees! Yet it is as fragile as beautiful. A slight shock from a rude hand is sufficient to destroy it. The air is filled with a descending shower of the glittering frag ments and the spell is broken at once ; the crystal pageant has vanished and nothing remains but a brown leafless tree. But all this is the beauty of death ; and the naturalist though he may and does admire its 13

21 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. pec u liar loveliness yet longs for the opening of spring. To hi s impatience it has se emed as if it would never come ; but at last on some morni ng toward the end of April the sun rises without a cloud the south - west wind blows softly and he walks forth wrapt in Elysium. Life ' is now abroad larks by scores are pouring forth sweet : carols as they hang and soar in the dazzling brightness of the sky ; the blackbird is warbling fl ute - like in the coppice ; swallows newly come across the sea are sweeping and twittering j o y o u sl y ; the little olive - clad warblers and white throats are creeping about like mice among the twigs of the hedges and ha l sweetest of all ; sounds of spring l there are those two simple note s that thrill through the very heart the voice of the cuckoo! Here too are the The homely butterflies. whites of the garden are flitting about the cabbages and the tawny browns are dancing along the h ed g a ro ws that divide the meadows ; the delicate brimstone comes bounding over the fence and alights on a bed of primroses itself scarcely distinguishable from o ne of them. On the commons and open downs the lovely little blues are frisking in animated play ; and here a n d there a still more minute copper tiniest of the butter flyrace rubs together its little wings or spreads them to the sun glowing with scarlet lustre like a coal of fire. The beetles are active too in their way. The tiger - beetle with its sparkling green wing - cases flies before our footsteps with watchful agili ty and numerous atoms are circling round the blos s o mi n g elms which on catching o ne or two we find to belong to the same class ; the dark-blue fi m a rcb a the bloody -nose is depositing its drop 14

22 TIMES AND SEASONS. of clear red liquid on the blades o f grass ; and if we look into the ponds we see multitudes of little black brown and yellow forms come up to the surface hang there for a moment and then hurry down again into the depths. And then come up the newts from their castle in the mud willing to see and to be seen ; for they have donned their vernal attire and appear veritable holiday beaux arrayed in the pomp of ruffled shi rt and scarlet waistcoat. The frogs moreover are busy depo e iting their strings of bead - like spawn and a h n o un cin g the fact to the world in loud if not cheerful strains. The streams freed from the turbidity of the win ter rains roll in transparent clearness now glid ing along smooth and deep in th eir weedy course through th indented mea ds where the roach and the dace play in sight and the pike lies but half - hidden under the projecting bank ; and now brawling and sparkling in fragmentary crystal over a rocky bed where the trout displays his speckled side as he leaps from pool to pool. The willows on the river margin are gay with their pendant catkins to whose attractions hun dreds of humming bees resort in preference to the lovely flowers which are already makin g the banks and slopes to smile. The homeliest o f these even the dandelions and daisies the butter cups and celandines are most welcome after the dreariness and death of winter. Earth fills her lap with treasures o f her own ; and even the meanest flower that blows has to the opened eye a beauty that is like a halo of glory around it. Yet there are some which from the peculiarities of their form colour or habits charm us more than others. The germander speedwell with its laughing blue eyes spangling 15

23 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. every hedge - bank who can look upon it and not love it? Who can mark the wild hyacinths grow ing in battalions of pale stalks each crowned with its clusters of drooping bells ; and inter spersed with the tall and luxuriant cows l ips so like and yet so difl erent fillin g the air with their golden beauty and sugary fragrance without rapture? Who can discover the perfumed violet amidst the rampant moss beneath the rank herbage or the lily of the valley without acknowledging how greatly both beauty and worth are enhanced by humility? If in this favoured land we are conscious o f emotions of peculiar delight when we see the face of nature renewing its loveliness after wi nter where yet the influence of the dreary season is never so absolute as quite to quench the activities of either ve g etable or animal life and where that face may be said to put on a somewhat gradual smile ere it breaks out into full joyous laughter much more impressive is the coming in of sprin g with all its charms in such a country as C anada where the transition is abrupt and a few days change the scene from a waste of snow to uni versal warmth verdure and I have o b beauty. served with admiration how suddenly the brown poplar woods put on a flush of tender yellow g reen from the rapidly - opening leaves how quickly the maple trees are covered with crimson blos soms ; how brilliant flowers a fast springing up re through the dead leaves in the forests how gay ; butterflies and beetles are playing on every bank where the snow lay a week before and how the ; bushes are ringin g with melod y from hundreds of birds which have been for months silent. The first song of spring comes on the heart wi th peculiar power after the mute desolation of win 16

24 TIMES AND SEASONS. te r and more especially when as in the country I speak of it suddenly bursts forth in a whole orchestra at once. The song - sparrow is the chief performer in this early concert ; a very melodious little creature though of unpretendin g plumage. Much of all this charm lies in the circum sta n tia ls the associations. It may be that there is something in the psychical perhaps even in the physical condition of the observer su p erinduced by the season itself that makes him in sprin g more open to pleasurable emotions from the si g hts and sounds of nature. But much depends o n association and contrast : novelty has much to do with it. Everything tells of happiness ; and we cannot help sympathising with it. We contrast the C an? with the d dva ro g and our minds revert to cid a va o ia. Here is where before there wa s n o t at least for us ; and this is novelty. The hundreds o f rich and fragrant violets that we find in April are not less rich in hue or less fra g rant in odour than the first ; yet the first violet of spring had a charm that all these combined possess not. We can never hear the cuckoo s voice we can never mark the swallow s fli g ht without pleasure ; but the firs t cuckoo the firs t swallow sent a thrill through o ur hea rts which is not repeated. * * Dar win writing o f th e Australian fo re st observes Th e leaves are no t shed peri odi cal ly this character appears co mmo n to th e entire so uthern hemisphere n S uth o America amely. Aus tralia a nd th e Cape o f od Go How. Th e inhabitants o f this hemisphere and o f th e inte r - tropical reg i o ns thus lo se perhap s o ne of th e mo st glo rio us tho u gh to o ur eyes co mm o n Spectacles i n th e wo rld t h e first bursting i nto full foliag e o f th e le afless tree. They may however say that we p a y dearly fo r this by having th e land co vered with mere naked skeleto ns fo r so many mo nths. This is to o true : b ut o ur sen ses acq uire a k een relish fo r th e e xq ui site g r een o f th e spring whi ch th e eyes o f tho se liv ing withi n th e tropics sated during th e lo ng year wi th th e g o r g eo ns producti o ns o f tho se g lowi ng clim ates can ne ver e rpe ti ence. Nat. Vo y. ( ed. p

25 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. A k in to this is the rose - coloured atmosphere through which every thing in nature is seen by c h ildhood and youth ; to whom the robin s breast appears of the brightest scarlet blackberry are delicious fruits. and the sloe and Love nature as we ma y and one wh o has ever wooed c a n never cease to love her - we cannot help being conscious as years bring the inevitable yoke of such a sadness as Wordsworth h as described in that Ode which rejecting of course as anything but a poetic dream the theory on which he founds it is one of the m ost nobly beautiful poems in our langua g e There was a time when meadow g rove and stream. Th e earth and every commo n sig ht To me did seem A p p ar ell d in celestial lig ht The glory an d th e fre shness o f a dream. It is no t now as i t hath been o f yo re Turn wh e re so e r I ma y By ni g ht o r day Th e thing s whi c h I have see n I n ow ca n se e n o mo re. Th e rainbow comes and g oes An d lovely is th e ro se ; Th e mo o n do th with delight Lo ok ro und h er when th e heavens are bare Waters o n a starry night Are beautiful an d fair Th e sunshine is a glorio us birth ; But yet I know where er I That there hath pass a away a g lory fro m th e earth. The summer with all its gorgeous opulence of life possesses charms of its own ; nor is autumn destitute of an idiosyncrasy which takes strong hold of our sympathies. We cannot indeed divest ourselves of a certain feeling of sadness because we know that the season is in the decrepitude of age and is ver g ing towards death. In spring hope is prominent ; in autumn regret : in spring we are anticipatin g life ; in autumn death. 18


27 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. It is observable that after all this short - lived splendour has passed away and the trees have become leafless in Canada and the Northern S tates there always occur a few days of most lovely and balmy weather which is called the Indian summer. It is characterised by a peculiar haziness in the atmosphere like a light smoke by a brilliant sun only slightly dimmed by this haze and by a general absence of wind. It follows a short season of wintry weather so as to be iso lated in its character. One circumstance I have remarked with interest - the resuscitation of in sect life in abundance. Bea utiful b utterflie s swarm around the leafless trees ; and moths in multitudes flit among the weeds and bushes while minuter forms hop merrily about the heaps o f decaying leaves at the edges of the woods. It is a charm ing relaxation of the icy chains of winter. Latrobe has depicted the aspect of the same season in the Alps which may be compared with the American On m y arrival! at Neufchatel at the be g innin g of November ] the vinta g e was over and the vineyards lately the scene of so much life and gaiety now lay brown and unsightly upon the flanks of the mountain and border of the lake. h as passed away befo re th e o ther two have Scarcely beg im to fade. Indeed th e g lo ssy g reen o f th e beech is perh aps mo re ci fective than if it parto ok of th e g e neral chang e : and even th e glo omy blackness o f th e re sin o us trees by relieving and t hrow i ng forward th e g ayer ti nts is no t witho ut effect. This beauty is no t shewn to eq ual adv antag e ev ery year ; in so me seas o n s th e trees fade withvery little splendo ur th e colo urs all partaki ng dusky rdid early more o r less o f so brown ; fro sts seem to b e nu favo urable fo r its development : and even at its best it i s a mel anch ol y glo ry a precurso r o f appro achin g dissolutio n somethi ng like th e ribbo ns and g arlands wi h which th e an ci ent pag an priests were accustomed to adorn th e animals they desti ned fo r sacrifice. 20

28 TIMES AND SEASONS. The forest trees in the neighbourhood of the town and the brushwood on the wide and steep a o clivit y of the Chaumont were still decked in that splendid but transient livery which one frosty night s keen and motionless breath or a few hours tempest must strew on the earth. There is something strangely movin g in the few last short and tranquil days of autumn as they often intervene between a period of tempes ~ t uo us weather and the commencement of the frosts. The face of nature is still sunny and bright and beautiful the forest still ields its ; y Shade and the sun glistens warm and clear upon the flower and stained leaf. Then there is the gorgeous autumnal sunset closing the short day ; and in this land of the lake and mountain it is indeed a scene of enchantment. There is the rich tinge of the broad red sun steal ing over and blending the thousand hues of the hill and forest and the flood of glory upon the sky above and lake beneath while the snows of the Alps are glowing like molten ore. I see it still and it warms my heart s blood. A few more days and then rises the blast howling throu g h the pine forest and over the mountain - side shaking from the tree its fair foli age roughening the surface of the lake and draw ing over the sky a curtain of thick vapours that narrows the horizon by day and shuts out the stars by night. 9 day The different divisions of the early morn ing noon evening night have each their peculiar phase of nature each An ea rly riser I admirable. have always been in the ha bit of enjoying with keen relish the opening of day and the awakening o f life. In m y young days of natural history Alpensto ck p

29 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. when pursuing with much ardour an acquaint ance with the insects of Newfoundland I used frs quently in June and July to rise at daybreak and seek a wild but lovely spot a mile or two from the town. It was a small tarn or lake among the hills known as Little Beaver Pond. Here I would arrive before the winds were up for it is at that season generally calm till after sun rise. The scene with all its quiet beauty rises up to my memory now. There is the black calm glassy pond sleeping below me reflecting from its un rufli ed surface every tree and bush of the dark towering hills above as in a perfect mirror. Stretching away to the east are seen other ponds embosomed in the frowning mountains connected with this one and with each other in th at chain fashion which is so characteristic of Newfound land ; while further on in the same direction b e tween two conical peaks the ocean is perceived reposing under the mantle of the long dark clouds of morning. There is little wood except of the pine and fir tribe sombre and still ; a few birches grow on the hill - sides and a wild cherry or two ; but willows hang over the water and many shrubs combine to constitute a tangled thicket redolent with perfume. Towards the margin of th e lake the ground is covered with spongy swamp - moss and several species of s edum and ka lm i a with the fragrant gale give out aromatic odours. The low unvarying and somewhat m ournful bleat of the snipes on th e opposite hill and the short impatient flapping of wings as one occasionally flies across the water seem rather to increase tha n to diminish the general tone of re pose which is aided too by yonder bittern that stands in the dark shadow of an overhangin g bush a s motionless as if he were carved in stone 22

30 TIMES AND SEASONS. reflected perfectly in the shallow water in which he is standing. But presently the spell is broken ; the almost oppressive silence and stillness are interrupted the eastern clouds have been waxing more and more ruddy and the sky has been bathed in golden light ever becoming more lustrous. Now the sea reflects in dazzling splendour the risen sun nature ; awakes lines of ; ruflflin ripple run across the lake g from the airs which are beginning to breathe down the glen the solemn stillness which weighed ; upon the woods is dissipated the lowing of cattle ; comes faintly from the distant settlements crows ; fly cawing overhead and scores of tiny ; throats combine each in its measure to make a sweet harmony each warbling its song of unconscious praise to its b en efice nt Crea tor. Then with what delight would I haste to the lake - side where the margin was fringed with a broad belt of the yel low water - lily whose oval leaves floating on the surface almost concealed the water while here and there the golden globe itself protruded. Having pulled out my insect - net from a rocky crevice in which I was accustomed to hide it I would then stretch myself on the mossy bank and peer in b e tween the lily lea ves under whose shadow I could with ease discover the busy inhabitants of the pool and watch their various movements in th e crystalline water. The merry little b o a tflies are frisking about backs down wards using their oar - like hind feet as paddles ; the triple - tailed larvae of da y fli es creep in and out of holes in the bank the fin n y appendages at their sides maintaining a constant waving motion now and then a little water ; - beetle peeps out cautiously from the cresses and scuttles across to a neighbouring weed the unwieldy ; 23

31 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. caddis-worms are lazily dragging about their curi o usl y -built houses over the s o g g e d lea ves at the bottom watching for some unlucky gnat grub to swim within reach of their jaws ; but 10 1one of them has just fallen a victim to the formidable calliper - compasses wherewith that beetle - larva seizes his prey and is yielding his own life - blood to the ferocious slayer. There t o o is the awk ward sprawling spider - like grub of the dragonfly ; he crawls to and fro on the mud now and then shooting along by means of his curious valvular pump ; he approaches an unsuspecting blood worm and o h l I remember to this day the e n th usia sm with which I saw him suddenly throw out from his face that extraordinary mask that Kirby has so graphically described and seizing the worm with the serrated folding - doors close the whole apparatus up again in a moment. I could not stand that in goes the net the clear : ; ness is destroyed the vermin fly hither and ; thither and our sprawling ill favoured gentleman ; - is dragged to daylight and clapped into the pocket-phial to be fattened at home and reared for the benefit of science. Since then I have wooed fair nature la many lands and have always found a peculiar charm in the early morning. When dwelling in the gorgeous and sunny Jamaica it was delightful to rise long before day and ride up to a lonely mountain gorge overhung by the solemn tropical forest and there amidst the dewy ferns arching their feathery fronds by thousands from every rock and fallen tree and beneath the splendid wild - pines and orchids that droop from every fork await the first activity of some crepuscular bird or insect. There was a particular species of butterfly re markable for the extraordinary gem - like splen 24

32 TIMES AND SEASONS. dour o f its decoration and peculiarly interesting to the philosophic naturali st as being a connect ing link between the true butterflies and the moths. This lovely creature I discovered was in the habit of appearin g just as the sun broke from the sea and con g regating by scores around the summit of one tall forest - tree then in blossom fillin g the air wi th their lustrous and sparklin g beauty at a hei g ht most tantalising for the col ~ lector and after playing in giddy fli g ht fo r about an hour retiring as suddenly as they came. In these excursions I was interested in markin g the successive awakening of the early birds. Pass ing throu g h the wooded pastures and guinea g rass fields of the upland slopes while the stars were twinkling overhead while as yet no indica tion of day appeared over th e dark mountain peak no ruddy tin g e streamed along the east ; while Venus was blazing like a lamp and shed ding as much li g ht as a young moon as she climbed up the clear dark heaven among her fel low stars the nightjars were unusually - vo cifer o us uttering their sin ular note g witta witta wit with pertinacious iteration as they careered in reat numbers flying low as their voices g clearly indicated yet utterly indistin g uishable to the si g ht from the darkness of the sky across which they flitted in their triangular traverses. Presently the fl a t - bill uttered his plaintive wail occasionally relieved by a note somewhat less mournful. When the advancing li g ht began to break over ' the black and frowning peaks and Venus waned the p ea do ve from the neighbourin g woods commenced her fivefold coo hollow and moaning. Then the petchary from the top of a tall cocoa - palm cackled his three or four rapid notes op pp p q ; and from a distant 25

33 THE ROMANC E OF NATURAL HISTORY. wooded hill as yet shrouded in darkness pro ceeded the rich mellow but broken song of the hopping-dick thrush closely resembling that of our own Now the whole east was blackbird. ruddy and the rugged points and trees the o n summit of the mountain - ridge interrupting the flood of crimson light produced the singularly beautiful phenomenon of a series of rose - coloured beams diver in from the eastern quarter and g g spreading like an expanded fan across the whole arch of heaven each ray dilating as it advanced. The harsh screams of the cluckin g ~ h en came up from a g loomy gorge and from the summit of the mountain were faintly heard the len g thened fl ute like notes in measured cadence of the solitaire. Then mocking - birds all around broke into song pouring forth their rich gushes and powerful bursts o f melody with a p rofusion that filled the ear and overpowered all the other varied voices which were by this time too numerous to be sepa ra tel y distinguished but which all helped to swell the morning concert of woodland music. A traveller in the mountain - re g ions of Ven ez u ela has described in the following words his own experience of a similar scene That mornin s moonlight ride along the sum g mits of the Sierra of Las Co cu y z a s was certainly one of the most enjoyable I ever remember. It was almost like magic when as the sun began to approach the horizon the perfect stillness of the forests beneath was gradually broken by the o c c a sio n a l note of some early riser of the W inged tribe til] at length as the day itself began to break the whole forest seemed to be suddenly warmed into life sendin g forth choir after choir of gorgeous - plumaged songsters each after his own manner to swell the chorus of g reeting ( a disco r 26


35 THE ROMANC E OF NATURAL HISTORY. the beautifully changing scene for an hour until hill and valley were lighted C owper has selected The Winter Walk at Noon for one of the books of his charming Task and as 17i q uo d g tet r z sketched a beautiful picture t n o n o rn a vi t so he has Upo n th e so uthern side o f th e slant hills An d where th e wo o ds fen ce o n:th e northern blast Th e seaso n smiles resigni ng all its rag e And h as th e warmth o f May. Th e vault is blue Witho ut a clo ud. and whi te witho ut a Speck Th e dazz ling splendo ur o f th e scene below. =l< N0 n o ise is here o r no ne that hinders tho ught. b ut is co ntent Th e redbreast still warbles With slenderln o tes and half mo re than supp ress d Pleased with h is solitude and fli tting lig ht Fro m spray to spray where er h e re sts h e shakes From many a twig th e pendant drops o f ice That tinkle i n th e with er d le aves belo w. But how different from such a scene is a tropical noon a noon in Guiana or Brazil for exam p le! There too an almost death - like quietude reigns but it is a quietude induced by the furnace - like heat o f the vertical sun whose rays pour down with a direct fie rcene ss from which there is no shadow except actually beneath some thick tree such as the mango wh o se den se and dark foliage affords an absolutely impenetrable umbrella in the brightest g lare. Such too is the smooth-barked mangabeira a tree of vast bulk with a wide spreadin g head of dense foliage beneath which when the sun strikes mercilessly o n every other spot all is coolness and repose. The birds are all silent sittin g with pantin g beaks in the thickest foliage ; no tramp or voice o f beast is heard fo r these are sleepin g in their coverts. Ever and anon the see d ~ c a p s u le of some forest-tree bursts with a Atkinso n s S ibe ria p

36 TIMES AND SEASONS. report like that of a musket and the scattered seeds are heard pattering among the leaves and then all relapses into silence again. Great butter flies with wings o f refulgent azure almost too dazzling to look upon flap lazily athwart the glade or alight o n the g lorious flowers. Little bright - eyed lizard s clad in panoply that g litters in the sun creep about the parasites of the great trees or rustle the herbage and start at the sounds themselves have made. Hark! There is the toll of a distant bell. Two or three minutes pass -another t o ll l a like interval then another t o ll l Surely it is th e passing bell o f some convent announcin the departure of a No such g soul. thing it is the note of a It is the cam ; bird. panero or bell-bird o f the Amazon a gentle little creature much like a snow - wh ite pigeon with a sort of soft fleshy b o rn on its forehead three inches high. This appendage is black clothed with a few scattered white feathers and being hollow and communicating with the palate it can be inflated at will. The solemn clear bell-note uttered at re g ular intervals by the bird is believed to be connected with this structure. Be this as it may the silvery sound heard only in the depth of the forest and scarcely ever except at midday when other voices are mute the traveller with a thrillin g falls upon the ear o f and romantic effect. The jealously recluse habits o f the bird have thrown an air o f mystery over its economy which heightens the interest with which it is invested. Before I speak o f ni g ht the most romantic of all seasons to the naturalist I must quote two de scri p tio n s o f sunset in regions rarely visited by English travellers. The first scene was witnessed from that rugged mountain - chain which divides two quarters o f the globe. We have just looked 29

37 THE ROMANC E OF NATURAL HISTORY. a t the risin g sun from the same peaks gaz ing across the plains of Asia : we are now called to look over Europe. I now turned towards the west and walked to a high crag overlooking the valley here I seated ; myself to watch the great and fiery orb descend below the horizon and a glorious sight it was ; l Pavda with its snowy cap was lighted up and sparkled like a ruby the other mountains were ; tinged with red g loom and mist. while in the deep valleys all was For a few minutes the whole atmosphere appeared filled with powdered car mine giving a deep crimson tint to everything around. So splendid was this e ffect and so firm a hold had it taken of my imagination that I became insensible to the hundreds of mosquitoes that were feasting on my blood. Excepting their painfully disagreeable 1mm no sound not even the chirping of a bird was to be heard : it was truly solitude. Soon after the sun went down a white vapour began to rise in the valleys to a considerable hei g ht g iving to the scene an appearance of in numerable lakes studded with islands mountain - tops looked dark and black. as all the I was so riveted to the spot by the scene before me that I remained watching the changes until nearly eleven o clock re g ions when that peculiar twilight seen in these stole gently over mountain and forest. The effect I cannot well describe it appeared to partake largely of the The other sketch is by the same accomplished traveller drawn in a mountain re g ion still more majestically grand than the Oura1 the grea t Altaian chain of Central Asia. In the afternoon I rode to the westward ten o r * Atkinso n s Siberia. p

38 TIMES AND SEASONS. twelve versts which afforded me a fine view o f th e beautiful scenery on and beyond the Bo uchtaim a river. The effect o f this scene was magnificent ; as the sun was sinking immediately behind one o f the high conical mountains I beheld the grea t fiery orb descend nearly over the centre of this mighty cone presenting a singular appearance. Presently its long deep shadow crept over the lower hills and soon extended far into the plain till at length the place on which I stood received its cold gray tone. The mountains to the right and left were still shini ng in his golden light ; the snowy peak o f the Ch o ls o um appearin g like frosted silver cut out again st the clear blue sky. Gradually the shades of evening crept up the mountain - sides ; o ne bright spot after another vanished until at length all was in shadowy gray except the snowy peaks. As the sun sank lower a pale rose tint spread over their snowy mantles deepening to a light crimson and then a darker tone when the highest shone out as sparkling as a ruby ; and at la st for only a few minutes it appeared like a crimson star. w We come back from scenes so gorgeous to quiet homely England. How pleasant to the school boy just infected with the entomological mania is an evening hour in June devoted to m o thin g I An hour before sunset he had been seen m y ste ri o usl y to leave home carrying a cup filled with a mixture of beer and treacle. With this he had bent his steps to the edge o f a wood and With a painter s brush had bedaubed the trunks of several large trees much to the bewilderment of the woodman and his dog. Now the sun is going down like a glowing coal behind the hill and the youthful savant again seeks the scene o f his Atkinso n s Sibe ria 31 p. 221.

39 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. labours armed with insect - net pill - boxes and a bull s - eye lantern. He pauses in the high - hedged lane fo r the bats are evidently playing a success ful game here and the tiny gray moths are fl ut tering in and out of the hed g e by scores. Watch fully now he holds the net ; there is one whose hue betokens a prize. Dash l y es l it is in the muslin bag ; and on holding it up against the western sky he sees he has got one of the most beautiful of the small moths - the butterfly emerald. Yonder is a whi te form dancing backward and forward with regular oscillation in the space of a yard close over the That must be the herbage. ghost - moth surely l the very same and this is ; secured. Presently there comes rushing down the lane with headlong speed one far larger than the common set and visible from afar by its white ness. Prepare! Now strike! This prize too is won the swallow - tail moth a cream - coloured species the noblest and most elegant of its tribe Britain can boast. But now the west is fading to a ruddy brown and the stars are twinklin g overhead. He for sakes the lane and with palpitatin g heart stands before one of the sugared trees. The l ig ht of his lantern is flashed full on the trunk ; there are at least a dozen fl utte re rs playing around the temp t a tio n and two or three are comfortably settled down and sucking away. Most of them are mean looking g ray a fl a irs ; but stay! what is this a p p ro a chi n g with its ten patches o f rosy white on its olive wi n g s? The lovely peach-blossom cer ta inl y : and now a pill - box is over it and it is safely incarcerated. He moves cautiously to a h other tree. That tiny little thing sitting so fear lessly is the beautiful yellow underwing a sweet little creature and somewhat of a rarity ; 32

40 TIMES AND SEASONS. this is secured. And now comes a dazzling thing the burnished brass its wings gleaming with metallic refulgence in the lamp - light ; but ( 0 ih fo rtuna te p uer! ) a nimble bat is beforehand with you eyes and snaps up the glittering prize before your dropping the brilliant wings on the ground for your especial tantalisation. Well never mind! the bat is an entomologist too and he is out m o th in g as well as you ; therefore allow him his chance. Here is the copper underwing that seems so unsuspicious that nothing appears easier than to box it ; but 10! just when the trap is over it it glides slily to one side and leaves you in the lurch. But what is this moth of commandin g size and splendid beauty its hind wings of the most glowing crimson like a fiery coal bordered with black? Ha l the lovely bride! If you can net her you have a A steady hand! a beauty. sure eye! Yes l fairly bagged! And now you may contentedly go home through the dewy lanes inhaling the perfume of the thorn and clem atis watching the twinkle of the lowly glow worms and listening to the melody of the wakeful nightingales. It is always interesting to compare with our own experience pictures of parallel scenes and sea sons other and diverse lands drawn by those in who had an open eye for the poetical and beauti ful in nature thou h not in all cases strictly g naturalists. Here is a night scene from the sum mit of the Niesen a peak of the Central Alps nearly 8000 feet above the sea level z I would gladly give my reader an idea of the solemn scenery of these elevated regions during the calm hours of a summer night. As to sounds they are but few ; at least when the air is still. The vicinity of ma n productive in g eneral of any 3 3 3

41 THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. thing but repose has caused almost profound s i lence to reign among these wilds where once the c a utious tread of the bear rustled nightly among the dry needles o f the pine forest and the howl of the wolf re - echoed from the waste. As.I stood upon an elevated knoll wide of the chalet through whose interstices gleamed the fire over which my companions were amusing themselves m y ea r was struck from time to time by an abrupt and indistinct sound from the upper parts ofthe moun tain ; probably caused by the crumbling rock or the fall of rubbish brought down by the cascades. An equally dubious and sudden sound would o c ca sio na ll rise from the deep valley beneath but y ; else nothing fell upon the ear b ut the monoto nous murmur o f the mountain torrent working its way over stock and rock in the depth of the The moon barely lighted up the wide ravine. pastures sufficiently to distinguish their extent or the objects sprinkled upon them. Here and there a tall barkless pine stood conspicuously forward on the verge of the dark belt of forest with its bleached trunk and fantastic branches glistening in the I have noticed the peculiar silence of a moun tain summit by night in the tropics and this fa r more absolute and striking than that alluded to by Latrobe. I was spending a night in a lonely house on one of the Liguanea mountains in Ja maica and was impressed with the very peculiar stillness ; such a total absence of sounds as I had never experienced before : no running water was nea r ; there was not a breath of wind ; no bird or reptile moved ; no insect b ummed ; it was an o p pressive stillness as if the silence could be felt. But a t lower levels in tropical countries ni g ht is Latrobe s Alpenstock p


43 Tobago. It is nearly the size of a man s hand THE ROMAN C E OF NATURAL HISTORY. nation ; and between their notes there was the difference of exactly a musical tone. Darwin speaks of the nocturnal sounds at Rio Ja neiro After the hotter days it was delicious to sit quietly in the garden and watch t h e even ing pass into night. Nature in these climes chooses her vocalists from more humble performers than in Europe. A small frog of the genus H y l a of the family H y la dée the tree - frogs already alluded to ] sits on a blade of grass about an inch above the surface of the water and sends forth a pleasing chirp ; when several are together they sing in harmony o n different notes Various cicadae and crickets at the same time keep up a ceaseless shrill cry but which softened by the distance is not unpleasant. Every even ing after dark this g reat concert commenced ; and often have I sat listening to it until my a t tention has been drawn away by some curious passin g Edwards in his very interesting voyage up the Amazon heard one night a bell - like note whi ch he ea g erly concluded to be the voice of the famed bell - bird. But on asking his Indian attendants what it was that was gritando he was told that it was a toad everything that sings by night is a toad! I doubt m u ch whether the voice first referred to in the following extract ought not to be referred to the same reptilian agency During our ride home! in Tobago ] I was startled by hearing what I fully imagined was the whistle of a steam - engine ; but I was informed it was a noise caused by a beetle that is peculiar to a nd fixing itself against a tree it commences a Naturalist s Voyag e ( ed. p