Imágenes de páginas

their young;

The Magpie frequently rears his brood within a few yards of a dwelling house, unseen and unsuspected by the inmates, taking advantage of a thick thorn bush, in the centre of which the nest is formed, but not till after a full cloathing of leaves has rendered it impervious to sight. Every fowler krows how carefully Magpies avoid a person in whose hands is a gun, though they boldly approach any one withont it. The English game-keepers are obliged to be very assiduous in destroying this enemy of young game, and it is owing to their skill and perseverance in the extermination of Weasels, and Magpies especially, that game abounds to so great a degree in all the manors or sporting preserves of those English landed proprietors, who turn their attention to such recreations. Magpies, though not actually migrants, like the Starling, are, it is well known, capable of imitating the human voice in a state of domestication. I have heard them speak a few words very distinctly, but without the powerful variety of the Parrot. They should however be kept in cages, otherwise they will steal and hide every small article within their reach; and in the work of mischief, they are never idle. In short, they seem to be the Monkey of the feathered creation.

Smith, in his history of Cork, to the ennmeration of its native birds, has added soine which he certainly did not find, and others which were never found by any one,

The Pheasant may, in antient times, have inhabited some of our woods, but I know of no tradition that remembers them. Of the Bustard which he also gives us, I may pretty safely venture to say, that a bird so singular in its habits, and so unsuited to our climate and country, never was an inhabitant of Ireland.

The number of our winter visitants is regulated by the nature of the season, which varies extremely in its temperature. In very severe weather, either of frost or snow, but particularly when the latter has fallen with more than usual abundance, in the northern parts of these Islands, Wild Geese and Swans make their appearance here; the former sometimes in very considerable numbers. In mild winters they rarely come so far to the south. I once observed a flock of Widgeon, differing in colour, from any I had ever seen or heard of, nor can I find the description of any such bird in my books of Ornithology. They were indeed too far off' to unable me to do more, than catch a general idea of their colour, which appeared to be that of the small Seagull, a blueish white. One of this kind, was afterwards shot on Cloghnikilty strand, but as I did not see it, and received but an imperfect description, I am unable to improve my account, by any satisfactory addition to my former knowledge.

I take this opportunity of remarking a strange error committed by the writer of the article Ornithology' in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. Speaking of Geese-he says “ they inhabit marshy places, swim little, and never dive.” It needs but little acquaintance with this well known, and valuable bird, (most unjustly made an emblem of folly, as he is in fact the most sensible of all our domestic fowl,) to know that Geese are fond of swimming, and he must be little acquainted with their habits, who has not often seen them amusing themselves by diving. To hunt Ducks with water spaniels is a common sport, and one well trained to it, will baffle a good dog by her skill in diving away from him, and her various stratagems to conceal her head when she rises. I remember to have seen Geese hunted in the same manner, and with equal success. The piece of water was pretty large, and the Goose's power of swimming and diving, such as to tire two or three brace of pretty good dogs.

'I he Loon or great diver, is a regular winter visitant, and frequents all parts of this coast, in greater or less abundance, from November to March; not however in flocks but straggling and scattered. In the length of their dives, and the time of remaining under water, they exceeds all other kinds of water-fowl. They are so particularly formed for living in the water, which I believe they never quit, except for the purpose of incubation, that if able to stand or walk, it can only be in upright position like the Penguin. I doubt, though I have written authority against me, if they are able to fly, and am inclined to think, that their wings only serve for diving, as those of the Ostrich do for running. Certain it is, that they are never known to fly while with us, though they will sometimes flap along the surface of the water for a short distance. The quills of the wing, are much too short, either to enable them to rise, or to support them in the air when risen. It may be said that the time of their being with us, is the moultering season, but I am inclined to think otherwise, all the quills I ever examined appearing sound and full formed. Wherever they breed, their eggs are probably laid on some flat and sandy shore, and not very far above high water mark. There is a smaller bird called by the sailors Quarter Loons, which flies well, and often in large flocks.

The Gannet or Solan Goose, is sure to be seen along the coast, when herrings and inackarel make their appearance. It is very amusing to see this large and beautiful bird, of snowy whiteness, except the tips of the wings which are black, darting into the water with closed wings, and when he falls from a height, with a rapidity of descent, occasioning a shock that no other bird could sustain, without mortal injury. This, their peculiar strength of breast and neck enables them to bear without the least apparent inconvenience, and the impetus of descent, or rather the elevation from which they dart on their prey, is proportioned to the depth of the shoal they pursue. That they occasionally descend to great depths is very obvious, but it is not true that they never dip in vain, for I have often seen them re-mount to the surface without bringing up a fish. It is therefore very probable that when the shoals of fish swim very far below the surface, the Gannet dives on a speculation which is not always successful They possess great power of fight, and like the Swallow remain for a long time on the wing, seldom if ever resting for any time on the water, except when gorged with an overmeal. It is not true, therefore, that they frequent high rocks because they find any difficulty of getting on wing, for they rise from the water after a dive with the greatest facility, but because they make choice of a breeding place not easily accessible.

The habits of this bird are in some respects very singular. There is but one rock on the south west coast of Ireland, on which they are ever known to breed, or even casually to light. This rock, one of two high insulated rocks, called the Skelligs, off the coast of Kerry, and at some distance from the main-land, is the smaller and less lofty of the two, and as I have been informed, calcareus. On this they breed in great numbers, and afford some profit to the neighbouring peasants or watermen, who are in the habit of resorting to the rock, in the latter end of the breeding season, to take the young Gannets, or as many of them as they can safely reach. This is often a service of danger, from the tempestuous nature of the western occan, and the frequent difficulty of return. In Scotland, it scems the young birds are considered to be great delicacies, though one would incline to think, that none but Esquimaux stomachs, could relish a food so extremely rancid and oily. They are here. I believe, valued only for their fat and their feathers, though after the oil is extracted, the flesh is salted and cured for the use of those who like such food.

I have seen Puffins which also contain much oil, cured in that way at Dingle. They were packed in barrels, and salted like scad or mackarel, and in taste not very different.

The preference of Gannets to this particular rock is very remarkable. The larger Skellig is at no great distance, is more lofty, and more inaccessible, yet they crowd upon the one, and sedulously avoid ever setting foot upon the other. That limestone possesses any peculiar charm, it seems hard to believe, but supposing it preferable, what can there be in the nature of the other rock, (or of any of the other rocks on the coast) so abhorrent to their feelings, as to prevent them from ever, even by accident, making it a resting place. Yet such is the case,-be their distance from hoine what it may, they have never yet been known to rest or sojourn, on any rock upon this coast, but the smaller Skellig. The first plumage of the young Gannet, and which continues for a considerable time, after he is able to leave the nest, and provide for himself, is, dark grey.


I have heard doubts expressed whether the black game (Tetrao Tetrix) or Large Grouse, still so abundant in some of the Scotch highlands, was ever a native inhabitant of our mountains or forests, in some of which, had that been the case, he would still be found, or at least his existence remembered. I believe however it is more safe to conclude, that he has for a long time been a stranger, than that he never inhabited a country so apparently suited to his habits, and so similar and favourite to those in which he is still found to reside. What lends some colour to the supposition is, that while the black game has been lost even to tradition, the famous Cock of the wood or (mountain) (Tetras Urdgallus) still lives fresh in the mcmory of the Irish. This beautiful and valuable bird, the Cock of which nearly equalled the weight of a good Turkey, had little choice of prolonging its existence in an Island increasing rapidly in population, and never destitute of indefatigable sportsmen. It has long disappeared from Scotland also, where mountain game is much more careiully preserved by man, as wel! as protected by nature, than in this Island. As far as I am acquainted with the mountaineous tracts of Ireland, very few of thein are difficult of access and none inaccesible; a circumstance to which we owe the comparative scarcity of mountain game, Grouse, Deer, Stays, &c.

The Bittern, as far as this county is concerned, may I believe be numbered among the birds which only live in recollection. The draining of bogs and marshes, in which alone they find subsistence and security, has at least so diminished their numbers, that I am unable to point out a place where they still remain. Yet I remember a time, when they were far from being scarce, and know several bogs, since drained, in which, though not often seen, they were sure to be heard in the beginning of summer. The loud and bellowing noise, audible at a great distance, which this bird there frequently emitted, afforded a certain clue to his haunts; so that nothing but inaccessible situations, could save him from the pursuer. Their colour is nearly that of a Kite; their size and figure exactly those of a Heron.


O'er the calm sleep of youth

What dreams of joy arise,
With all the air of truth,

And ting'd like summer skies.
To our maturer years

No blissful visions come,
We sink to sleep in tears,

And only wake to gloom.

How cheering are the dreams

That bring the absent fair,
They come like moonlight gleams

To soothe the lover's care :-
But swift as rainbow hues

Those feelings feet away,
When Fancy doth refuse

To lend th' illusive ray,

When feeling's glow is chill,

And Fancy's pow'r is fled.
Al who would linger still,

Each genial impulse dead ?
When o'er the vivid mind

Shall roll oblivion's wave,
What refuge can we find ?

None, but the silent grave


It was on the last day of April that I paid a long intended visit to the ruined castle of Carrigadrohid, one of the ancient seats of the M.Carthys, Lords of Desmond. The castle is built on a low insulated rock in the river Lee, and is about thirteen miles distant from the city of Cork. It was one of those lovely days, which April, amidst her smiles and tears, sometimes vouchsafes. A thousand wild flowers were springing along the hedges to woo the balmy breeze of spring, and the incense of their fragrant lips rose odorously to Heaven. The scenery around was beautiful. The glen of Carrigadrobid lay before me; its vegetation yet silvered with the sparkling dews of night. The castle stood in the centre, attached to the bridge; and, although in the neighbourhood of some cottages, looked solitary and desolate. There now remains but a square tower of this once beautiful structure, and that appears to droop sorrowfully over the waters of the Lee, which have flowed by its basement in many a mood, in food and fall, for centuries.

It was May Eve too.- Traditionary custom had, for centuries untold, dedicated its annual return to the celebration of rites, whose origin is referred to the pagan era of Ireland, when the Druid, in his oaken temple, within the sacred circle of “the stones of Power,” lighted up on the brow of the hill the fire of Beal ; a particle of that holy element which dispensed life and animation through all nature. The worship of the Gheber deity had given way to the prevailing fortune and purer spirit of Christianity; but the Irish, devotedly retentive of the usages of their forefathers, though having rejected the creed, have preserved most of the rites of Druidism, retaining with them, some superstitious notions, respecting the existing ministry of a kind of dii minores, half gods, half mortals,-partaking of the powers of the first, and the affections and feelings of the latter; and, while the peasantry, with religious observance, light up their Beal tinne, or Beal fire on the Eve of May, they also believe that, at that season, these invisible powers are peculiarly active for good or for evil.

I had spent this observed day amongst the ruins of the castle, loitering through its gloomy and deserted apartments, and holding communion with times long past, or listening to the legendary annals of an old Nestor who detained me “nothing loth” with tales of the feudal magnificence and power of the M-Carthy's, its former owners and occupants; their chivalry and their loves; their successes and misfortunes. Amongst the various legends which this garulous old chronicler loved to recite, and of whose authenticity, incredulity's self could have nought to object to, was the tale of one of the last chieftains of the name, whose tragical catastrophe and immediate connection with the Eve of May, as well as with the ruinous pile wherein it was related, particularly fixed my attention. In truth, the castle (as what castle is not ?) was haunted by the injured shade of the lady of the last chieftain, and with each returning May Eve, her sad story is remembered, and heard wailing above the rock which bases the hoary pile, or echoing amongst the gloomy chambers. Numerous are those who bear testimony to her annual visits to the ancient scene of her love and her sufferings.

About the beginning of the spring of the year 1647, the young heir of the unfortunate Florence M.Carthy, returned to his native country, and to

« AnteriorContinuar »