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its stay is short, the old cuckoos being said to quit this country the latter end of June. Some interesting particulars respecting the cuckoo we select from a communication to the New Universal Magazine for August 1815 (vol. iii, p. 87).
The first appearance of cuckoos in Gloucestershire (the part of England where these observations were made) is about the 17th of April. The song of the male, which is well known, soon proclaims its arrival. The song of the female (if the peculiar notes of which it is composed may be so called) is widely different; the cry of the dab-chick bears the nearest resemblance to it.
From the time of the appearance of the female, till after the middle of summer, the nests of the birds selected to receive her eggs are to be found in great abundance; but, like the other migrating birds, she does not begin to lay till some weeks after her arrival. I never could procure an egg till after the middle of May, though, probably, an early-coming cuckoo may produce one sooner.
The cuckoo makes choice of the nests of a vari
ety of small birds. I have known its egg entrusted to the care of the hedge-sparrow, the water-wagtail, the titlark, the yellow-hammer, the green-linnet, and the winchat. Among these it generally selects the three former; but shows a much greater partiality to the hedge-sparrow than to any of the rest.
The hedge-sparrow commonly takes up four or five days in laying her eggs. During this time (generally after she has laid one or two), the cuckoo contrives to deposit her egg among the rest, leaving the future care of it entirely to the hedge-sparrow. This intrusion often occasions some discomposure; for the old hedge-sparrow at intervals, while she is sitting, not unfrequently throws out some of her own eggs, and sometimes injures them in such a way that they become addle; so that it more frequently happens, that only two or three hedge
sparrow's eggs are hatched with the cuckoo's than otherwise but whether this be the case or not, she sits the same length of time as if no foreign egg had been introduced, the cuckoo's egg requiring no longer incubation than her own. However, I have never seen an instance where the hedge-sparrow has either thrown out or injured the egg of the cuckoo.
'When the hedge-sparrow has sat her usual time, and disengaged the young cuckoo and some of her own offspring from the shell, her own young ones, and any of her eggs that remain unhatched, are soon turned out, the young cuckoo remaining possessor of the nest, and sole object of her future care. The young birds are not previously killed, nor are the eggs demolished, but all are left to perish together, either entangled about the bush which contains the nest, or lying on the ground under it."
The other summer-birds of passage which arrive this month, make their appearance in the following order the ring-ousel (turdus torquatus), the redstart (motacilla phoenicurus), frequenting old walls and ruinous edifices; the yellow wren (motacilla trochilus); the swift, already noticed; the whitethroat (motacilla sylva); the grasshopper lark (alauda trivialis), the smallest of the lark kind; and, lastly, the willow-wren, which frequents hedges and shrubberies, and feeds on insects, in search of which it is continually running up and down small branches of trees. The house-wren destroys many pernicious insects. Plovers' eggs now come into season, and are exhibited in small baskets, laid in moss, in the shops of fishmongers and poulterers. A plover lays four eggs of a dark olive colour, spotted, in irregular spots, of very dark brown or black. The eggs of rooks and jackdaws have been sometimes substituted for them; but the white of the plover's eggs, when boiled, is nearly transparent; that of the rook and jackdaw is opaque.
The tenants of the air, are, in this month, busily
employed in forming their temporary habitations, and in rearing and maintaining their offspring.
L'un au chêne orgueilleux, l'autre à l'humble arbrisseau,
About the middle of this month, the bittern (ardea stellaris) makes a hollow booming noise during the night in the breeding season, from its swampy retreats. Towards the end of the month, the blackcap (motacilla atricapilla), called, in Norfolk, the mock-nightingale, begins its song.
The progress of vegetation is general and rapid, in this month. The blossoms of trees present to the eye a most agreeable spectacle, particularly in those counties which abound with orchards. The blackthorn (prunus spinosa) is the first that puts forth its flowers; a host of others follow, among which may be named the ash (fraxinus excelsior), ground-ivy (glecoma hederacea), the box-tree (buxus sempervirens), the pear-tree (pyrus communis), the apricot, the peach, nectarine, the wild and garden cherry, and the plum; gooseberry and currant-trees; the hawthorn (crataegus oxycantha), the apple-tree (pyrus malus sativus), and the sycamore (acer pseudoplatanus). The elm (ulmus campestris), the beech fagus sylvatica), and the larch (pinus-larix rubra), are now in full leaf.
Loosed from the bands of frost, the verdant ground
Behold! the trees new-deck their withered boughs;
The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene.
The lily of the vale, of flow'rs the queen,
Puts on the robe she neither sewed nor spun:
Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers,
From her low nest the tufted lark upsprings ;
Still high she mounts, still loud and sweet she sings.
While o'er the wild his broken notes resound.
Many and lovely are the flowers which are showered, in profusion, from the lap of April: among them may be named, the jonquil, anemoné, ranunculus, polyanthus, and the crown-imperial.
Óther flowers which adorn our fields, at this time, are the checquered daffodil (fritillaria meleagris); the primrose; the cowslip (primula veris); the cuckoo flower (cardamine pratensis); and the harebell (hyacinthus non scriptus). The yellow star of Bethlehem (ornithogalum luteum) in woods; the vernal squill (scilla verna) among maritime rocks; and the wood sorrel (oxalis acetosella), are now in full flower'.
Various kinds of insects are now seen sporting in the sun-beams,' and living their little hour.' The jumping spider (aranea scenica) is seen on garden
But too often we are led to exclaim, in this month, with the poet, in his beautiful sonnet to the SUN:
No longer let these mists thy radiance shroud,
The languid flowers
Earth asks thy presence, saturate with showers;
For damp and cheerless are the gloomy hours.
walls; and the webs of other species of spiders are found on the bushes, palings, and outsides of houses.
To the SPIDer.
Ingenious insect, but of ruthless mould,
Whose savage craft, as Nature taught, designs
Whom, heedless of the fraud, thy toils trepan;
While man against his fellows spreads his snares,
The iulus terrestris appears, and the death-watch (termes pulsatorius) beats early in the month.
The wether's bell
Before the drooping flock tolled forth her knell;
The wood-ant (formica herculanea) now begins to construct its large conical nest. The shell-snail comes out in troops; the stinging-fly (conops calcitrans) and the red-ant (formica rubra) appear. The mole cricket (gryllus gryllotalpa) is the most remarkable of the insect-tribe seen about this time. The black slug (limax ater) abounds at this season. The blue flesh-fly (musca vomitoria), the cabbage butterfly (papilio brassica 1), and the dragon-fly
In again naming the butterfly, we cannot refuse to enrich our pages with a few lines from that elegant little poem, the Butterfly's Ball. It deserves a less perishable repository than that in which it first appeared
Come, take up your hats, and away let us haste