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LINES

WKITTEN WHEN PASSING THE CAPE VEBD ISLES.

When weary, weary winter

Had melted from the air,
And April leaf and blossom

Had clothed the branches bare,
Came round our English dwelling

A voice of summer cheer,
'Twas thine, returning swallow!

The welcome and the dear.

Wo heard amid the day-break

Thy twitter blithe and sweet:
For life's auspicious morning

The precious and the fleet;
We saw thee lightly skimming

O'er fields of summer flowers,
And heard thy song of inward bliss

Through evening's golden hours.

Far on the billowy ocean

A thousand leagues are we,
Yet here, sad hovering o'er our bark,

What is it that we see?
Dear old familiar swallow!

What gladness dost thou bring!
Here rest upon our flying sail

Thy weary wandering wing.

What glimpses of our native homes

And homesteads dost thou bring!
Here rest upon our flying sail

Thy welcome, weary wing.
To see thee, and to hear thee,

Amid the ocean's foam.
Again we see the loved, the left—

We feel at home, at home!

Richard Howitt.

In addition to our quotation from Bishop Stanley, we will give the following from the new edition of Bechstein's "Birds."

Nests.

Much curious matter might be added respecting the situations in which the nests of jackdaws are sometimes built, and the substances of which they are composed, wool and other soft materials being used for the linings, and sticks loosely put together forming the exterior. Mr. J. Denson relates, in the "Magazine of Natural History," "that at Cambridge, where the jackdaws are very numerous, they appropriated the wooden labels attached to the plants in the Botanic Gardens to the purposes of building to such an extent as to cause great perplexity and serious inconvenience; as many as eighteen dozen of these labels, which were principally of fir, and about nine inches long and one broad, were taken out of a single chimney shaft, in which the birds were in the habit of forming their nests." Of the extraordinary mass of materials sometimes collected by this bird, we have an instance quoted by Yarrell, from a letter addressed to him by C. Anderson, Esq., of Lea, near Gainsborough, who states, that a jackdaw began its nest in the steep and narrow steps of a spiral stone staircase in Saunby Church, Lea, and finding that it could not get a base sufficiently flat and broad for its purpose, continued to pile up sticks to the height of five or six steps, until a landing was reached, where the structure was finished off securely, if not very neatly. An instance, giving evidence of still greater perseverance and sagacity, not to say intelligence, on the part of the bird, is recorded by Jesse, in his " Scenes and Tales of Country Life;" this was in the bell tower or turret of the chapel of Eton College; and the

Birds' Nests.

143

most remarkable circumstance connected with it was, that the feathered architects having to bring the timber which they employed through a narrow aperture in the wall, broke, or cracked, each of them exactly in the middle, so that they could be doubled up, and thus drawn through more easily. In "The Dumfries Courier," a few years back, it was related that a clump of trees in Cully Park, in which a flock of daws had long built, having been completely wrecked by a fearful storm, the birds betook themselves, for the purposes of breeding, to some rabbit burrows close by, which henceforth had both furred and feathered inhabitants, who lived amicably together, and formed one "happy family."

We will conclude our observations upon birds' nests by some remarks of Chateaubriand, which, although more fanciful than scientific, may not be out of place here.

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"Who," says Chateaubriand, "can contemplate, without emotion, this divine beneficence, which bestows ingenuity on the weak, and foresight on the careless! No sooner have the trees expanded their first blossoms than a thousand diminutive artisans begin their labours on every side. These convey long straws into the hole of an ancient wall; those construct habitations in the windows of a church; others rob the horse of a few hairs, or make use of the wool torn by the jagged thorn from the back of the sheep. This bird interweaves small twigs on the waving summit of a tree; and that collects the silky down of the last year's thistle.

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"A thousand palaces are reared, and every palace is a nest; each nest witnesses charming metamorphoses ; first a brilliant egg, then a young one covered with down. This tender nursling becomes fledged; his mother instructs him by degrees to rise up on his bed. He soon acquires strength to perch on the edge of his cradle, from which he takes his first survey of nature. With mingled terror and transport, he drops down among his brothers and sisters, who have not yet beheld this magnificent spectacle; but, summoned by the voice of his parents, he rises a second time from his couch; and this youthful monarch of the air, whose head is still encircled by the crown of infancy, already ventures to contemplate the undulating summits of the pines, and the abysses of verdure beneath the paternal oak. Encouraged by his mother, he trusts himself upon the branch, and, after this first step, all nature is his own. And even now, while the forests rejoice to see their new guest attempt his first flight through the atmosphere, an aged bird, who feels his strength forsake him, alights beside the stream which gurgles through the forest and patiently awaits the great change of death.

"The bullfinch builds in the hawthorn, and occasionally in garden-trees: the eggs are blue slate-coloured, like the plumage of his back. We recollect having once found one

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of these nests in a rose-tree; it resembled a rounded shell, and contained four blue gems; a rose, bathed in the

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dews of morning, drooped above it; the male bullfinch sate motionless in a neighbouring bush, like a purple flower animated with love. These sweet objects were reflected in the waters of a little stream, together with the shade of an aged walnut which served as a background to the scene, and beyond all were the crimson tints of the ascending day. In this little picture the Almighty conveyed to us an idea of the graces with which he has decked all nature.

"Among the larger birds, the law respecting the colour of the egg is guided probably by important harmonies. We suspect that, in general, the egg is white among those birds, the males of which have more than one female; or among those whose plumage has no fixed colour for the species. In the classes which frequent the waters and the forests, and build their nests, the one amid the sea, the other on the summits of lofty trees, the egg is generally of a blueish green, and if we may be allowed the expression, of the same tint as the elements by which it is surrounded. Certain birds which build on the tops of ancient towers and in deserted steeples, have eggs green, like ivy, or reddish, like the old buildings they inhabit. It may, therefore, be considered as an invariable law, that the colour of the egg emblems the manners and the destinies of the bird.

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