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Title: Gray Lady and the Birds - Stories of the Bird Year for Home and School
Author: Wright, Mabel Osgood
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                        GRAY LADY AND THE BIRDS
[Illustration]

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                      NEW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO
                        ATLANTA • SAN FRANCISCO

                        MACMILLAN & CO., Limited
                       LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA
                               MELBOURNE

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd.
                                TORONTO



[Illustration: BALTIMORE ORIOLE

(Upper Figure, Male; Lower Figure, Female)]

                   Genus—Icterus      Species—Galbula



                        GRAY LADY AND THE BIRDS

                        STORIES OF THE BIRD YEAR
                          FOR HOME AND SCHOOL



                                   BY
                          MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT

            PRESIDENT AUDUBON SOCIETY, STATE OF CONNECTICUT
              AUTHOR OF “CITIZEN BIRD,” “TOMMY ANNE,” ETC.


           _TWELVE COLOURED PLATES AND THIRTY-SIX FULL-PAGE_
                      _ILLUSTRATIONS IN HALF-TONE_


                                New York
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                  1914

                         _All rights reserved_



                            Copyright, 1907,
                       By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

      Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1907. Reprinted
                 March, 1909; April, 1910; April, 1914.


                             Norwood Press
                 J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
                         Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



                                   To

                            WILLIAM DUTCHER

                 PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

                          OF AUDUBON SOCIETIES

                IN RECOGNITION OF HIS UNSELFISH DEVOTION

                            TO THE CAUSE OF

                        AMERICAN BIRD PROTECTION



[Illustration: FEEDING THE ORPHANS]



                            TO THE CHILDREN

                               Greeting!

    Oh, sweet is the whitethroat’s lay,
      As the banners of dawn unfold!
    The lovable, quarrelsome wrens all day
      Peep and prattle and scold:
    Skulks a blue jay hiding his grain;
    Blinks an owl with the crows in train—
    Courtship merry and combat vain
      The eyes of the wise behold.

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    And Nature spreads wide her book,
      In a temple fair and free,—
    To all who may listen she cries, “Come, look!
      Come and learn at my knee.
    Watch the change of the finch’s vest,
    Note how the highhole carves his nest,—
    Come with light foot and loving breast,
      And bury your ills with me!”

    —Dora Read Goodale.



                      BE SURE THAT YOU SEE ARIGHT!


The preservation of the useful and beautiful animal and bird-life of the
country depends largely upon creating in the young an interest in the
life of the woods and fields.

If the child mind is fed with stories that are false to nature, the
children will go to the haunts of the animal only to meet
disappointment. The result will be disbelief, and the death of interest.
The men who misinterpret nature and replace fact with fiction, undo the
work of those who in the love of nature interpret it aright.

                                                  —Theodore Roosevelt.



                              RECOGNITION


The author desires to thank Mr. William Dutcher for permission to
reproduce the Drawings of Birds prepared under his supervision for the
Educational Leaflets of the National Association of Audubon Societies;
Mr. Frank M. Chapman for the quotation of material that has appeared in
_Bird-Lore_, also for photographs from his negatives; the American
Museum of Natural History of New York City for photographs of its groups
representing Bird-Life at Cobbs Island, Virginia, and Birds of the St.
Joaquin Valley; to Dr. T. S. Roberts, Dr. C. F. Hodge, R. H. Beebe, and
E. van Alterna, for use of valuable photographs; Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
for their courtesy in allowing quotations from the poems of Celia
Thaxter, Maurice Thompson, Frank Bolles, Lowell, and others; Charles
Scribner’s Sons for like permission to use the poems of G. P. Lathrop
and Henry van Dyke.

Also to Dr. Henry van Dyke, Edmund C. Stedman, Edith M. Thomas, Oliver
Herford, Dora Reed Goodale, George Parsons Lathrop, Dr. Garrett Newkirk,
Faith C. Lee, Ella Gilbert Ives, Florence A. Van Zant, Lynn Tew Sprague,
Richard Burton, W. B. Blake, and others for the use of their poems, etc.



                      TO THE GROWN-UP—LEND A HAND!


The training of the eye to correct seeing is one of the great advantages
of bird study to the average child, quite aside from the value of the
information gained, for this accurate gauge of the eye will always be a
benefit in whatever calling may be followed, adding alike to the
pleasure and profit of life.

In every town or country village there is some one who takes more than
passing interest in the life outdoors, who has a keener eye and more
responsive ear than his neighbour, coupled with a heart that has a bit
of Eden still lodged in it, so that it keeps tender and yearning toward
the simple, direct affections of life, as expressed in childhood and the
lives of the timid wild brotherhood, whether of foot or wing. Are you
one of these? If so, do you not realize that from your very make-up you
draw more freely from nature’s bounty than do your neighbours, and are
you not bound to share your pleasure with them? Not alone because it is
pleasure, but that through the knowledge that comes with all real joy,
the wild bird or beast may be more fully understood, and therefore
protected. All the more is this just and right, because we ourselves in
our advancement are the main cause of their need of this protection, for
as man increases, possesses, builds, and overflows the earth, so do
these “kindred of the wild” dwindle and silently disappear.

The lesser beasts keep more aloof than do the birds. These still gather
freely in our gardens, fields, and woods if we permit, and if we offer
food and shelter, many quickly become responsive.

Will not you who enjoy this friendship share it with others to whom it
is perhaps entirely unknown and unguessed, and to whom even the names of
birds, beyond a familiar few such as Hawk, Owl, Robin, and Sparrow, are
an unknown language?

The bird lectures are many, but there are those who cannot reach them.
The bird protective societies are tireless, but the ground must be
prepared for the message they send forth, and there is no better way for
doing this than by the influence of a personality working quietly and
unconsciously that infects all with whom it comes in contact with its
wholesome enthusiasm.

If you are a parent or teacher, well and good; your field is ready at
hand. If not, you may still become the equivalent of both in your
community even though you lack some of Gray Lady’s attributes and
resources.

If you have the right faculty and books at hand, you do not need my aid;
but if the work of holding youth is as yet an untried experiment, tuck
this little volume into the corner of your school desk, the magazine
rack, or your work-basket at home, for rainy days or the between times
when lack of occupation breeds mischief.

Much that is told in the following pages was thought out, in another
form, especially for the use of teachers of the rural schools of
Connecticut, but it is applicable to the needs of children in any of the
eastern states, and whether the knowledge passes from the school to the
home or the home to the school, the process is the same. The walk
between the rural school and home along bushy lanes and tree-bordered
highways, however, is an important link in the chain.

For children so placed the birds and every possible motive for wanting
to know them lie at hand, but for this very reason the public library
wherein the books to answer questions may be found is perhaps many miles
away and it is not possible for every school or home to own the
necessary bird books or charts.

It must not for a moment be thought that any attempt is made to say
anything new or add to the information given in the many excellent and
complete books now in circulation, but merely to condense in a simple
form things that have been said. Not detailed descriptions and tabulated
facts—for these repel the beginner and seem but the spelling-book or
multiplication table in a new form—but to record the doings of some
children who were eager to know; together with a few hints upon the
migrations, winter feeding, and protection of some of our common birds,
and the stories of their lives, that may lead both teacher and pupil to
more detailed study when opportunity offers.

When a strange child comes to school, the first desire of his mates is
to know his name and nationality, from whence he came, where he lives,
whether he is merely a visitor or to be a permanent resident in the
community. All this must be weighed and well considered before the
newcomer is admitted to the friendship of his mates, and it may be that
there will be some prejudices against him that the teacher must either
remove by explanation or overcome by reason and example.

It is very much the same with a bird. After being attracted to him and
fixing upon his name as an individual his identity should be still
further established by finding to what family he belongs and then later
on placing this family in one of the great orders of the bird world.
These two last should not be dwelt upon, however, until the identity as
an individual is established, but in the end it will help to keep the
name in the memory to know the kinship of families as well.

There are many little points of comparison, of scientific but not
general value that cannot be seen unless the dead bird is held in the
hand, and then only a wise man, perhaps, would be able to point them
out. It is with the living bird, on the wing or in its nest in the
bushes, that we are concerned; not with the poor little dead thing with
its limp neck and bloody, rumpled feathers.

We should not learn enough from such a bird to in any way make up for
taking its life; it would be both wasteful and against the law. So we
must be content to believe what the Wise Men say, who must study the
dead birds in order to preserve the scientific knowledge of their
structure and keep them in public museums, that they may teach the world
how wonderful a thing bird-life is, and show us that we must do all we
can to protect it. For the Wise Men know very well that—

    You cannot with a scalpel find the poet’s soul,
    Nor yet the wild bird’s song!

                                                              M. O. W.



                           TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                    I
            Gray Lady Appears                                1

                                    II
            A Rainy Day—The school at Foxes Corners at       9
              the beginning of the fall term.

                                   III
            Gray Lady at School—The bird. What is it? To    18
              whom does it belong? The bird year—The
              migrations, the moulting, etc.

                                    IV
            The Orchard Party—The children’s luncheon and   38
              the bird’s lunch-counter. Gray Lady makes a
              plan.

                                    V
            Reasons Why—Why birds need protection. The      51
              uses of birds. What they do for us and what
              we should do for them—housing, feeding,
              etc.

                                    VI
            Feathers and Hats—Egrets and Ostrich            67
              plumes—The wrong and the right of it.

                                   VII
            The Kind Hearts’ Club—The work that kept the    81
              Fingers busy so that the Ears might listen.

                                   VIII
            The Procession Passes—The fall journey—Five     89
              Swallows and a changeling.

                                    IX
            Two Birds that came Back—The Tame Crow and     102
              the English Starling.

                                    X
            Some Mischief-Makers—The American Crow, Blue   114
              Jay, and Purple Grackle.

                                    XI
            The Flight of the Bird—The wonders of flight.  136
              Some new facts about the migrations of
              birds.

                                   XII
            Some Suspicious Characters—Hawks and Owls—Two  154
              sides of the question.

                                   XIII
            Tree-trunk Birds—The Woodpeckers—Sapsucker,    175
              Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, etc.

                                   XIV
            Four Notables—Game-birds at home—The Ruffed    197
              Grouse, Bob-white, Woodcock, and the Wood
              Duck.

                                    XV
            Game-Birds?—The plea of the Meadowlark,        217
              Mourning Dove, Sandpiper, Plovers, and
              Bobolink, the Masquerader. “Spare us,
              please! We are too small for food.”

                                   XVI
            Treasure-trove at the Shore—The Herring or     229
              Harbour Gull.

                                   XVII
            The Birds’ Christmas Tree—The preparation and  242
              a surprise. The Winter Wren, Tree-sparrow,
              Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Crossbills.

                                  XVIII
            How they spent their Money—The result of the   254
              Xmas sale and the Letter Carrier’s horse.

                                   XIX
            Behind the Bars—American birds that have been  270
              prisoners.—The Mockingbird, Cardinal,
              Nonpareil, and Indigo-bird.

                                    XX
            Midwinter Birds—Cedar-Bird, Redpoll, Junco,    293
              Shrike, Whitethroat, Chickadee, etc.

                                   XXI
            Jacob Hughes’ Opinion of Cats—The trail in     303
              the snow and the bandits that lived in the
              barn.

                                   XXII
            February, “The Long-Short Month”—Stories and   310
              poems of the Bluebird, Song Sparrow, and
              Robin.

                                  XXIII
            March—Red-wing, Kingfisher, and Phœbe.         333

                                   XXIV
            The Tide has Turned—Wild Geese,                355
              Nest-Building, Vesper-Sparrow, Purple
              Finch, Chippy, Whip-poor-will, Towhee,
              Ovenbird, House Wren, Thrasher, Catbird,
              Wood Thrush, Veery, Nighthawk, Chimney
              Swift, etc.

                                   XXV
            Bird and Arbour Day at Foxes Corners—In doors  385
              and out—Working and talking.

                                   XXVI
            Some Birds that come in May—In apple-blossom   403
              time look for the brightly coloured
              birds—Oriole, Tanager, Rose-breasted
              Grosbeak, Indigo-bird, Yellowthroat, Chat,
              Humming-bird, Redstart, etc.

                                  XXVII
            Flag Day—Gray Lady receives and gives a        431
              surprise.



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                             COLOURED PLATES

           Baltimore Oriole                      _Frontispiece_
                                                    FACING PAGE
           Scarlet Tanager                                   34
           Blue Jay                                         129
           Wood Duck                                        214
           Killdeer                                         224
           Indigo Bunting                                   280
           Cardinal                                         286
           Bluebird                                         314
           Red-winged Blackbird                             334
           Belted Kingfisher                                340
           American Goldfinch                               422
           Rose-breasted Grosbeak                           426

                           FULL-PAGE HALF-TONES

           Feeding the Orphans                               vi
           Chickadee                                         26
           Snowy Heron                                       66
           Clipping Ostrich Plumes                           74
           Purple Martin                                     96
           Bird-houses and Nesting-boxes                    106
           Terns and Skimmers on the Wing                   142
           Golden Plover                                    148
           The Wings in Flight                              152
           Red-shouldered Hawk                              154
           Screech Owl                                      158
           Barn Owl                                         166
           Short-eared Owl                                  168
           Marsh Hawk                                       170
           Sparrow Hawk                                     174
           White-breasted Nuthatch                          178
           Flicker                                          190
           Downy Woodpecker                                 194
           Ruffed Grouse                                    198
           Just Out                                         200
           Domesticated Bob-white Calling                   202
           Grouse showing Ruff and Tail                     206
           Woodcock on Nest                                 212
           Meadowlark                                       218
           Mourning Doves                                   220
           Spotted Sandpiper                                222
           Least Sandpiper                                  224
           Herring Gulls                                    232
           Tree-Sparrow                                     248
           Shelter for Bird Food                            250
           Robin                                            326
           Nighthawks                                       370
           Chimney Swift Resting                            374
           Wood Thrush and Nest                             378
           Catbird on Nest                                  384
           Yellow-billed Cuckoo                             404
           Red-eyed Vireo on Nest                           406



                        GRAY LADY AND THE BIRDS



                                   I
                           GRAY LADY APPEARS


Sarah Barnes hurried up the hill road so fast that by the time she
reached the short bit of lane that turned in at her own gate she was
quite out of breath, and oh, so warm! Fanning vigorously with her
sun-hat did not help her much, for its wide rim had a rent in it, made
by Jack, the family puppy, so that when she reached the steps of the
porch, she sank down in a heap, only having breath enough to exclaim,
“Oh, grandma, what _do_ you think?”

Old lady Barnes with a sigh dropped the checked shirt that she was
patching into the big work-basket that rested on the bench beside her.
This basket was already overflowing with other garments for both boys
and girls, that needed everything in the way of repair from a button to
a knee patch, or even to a whole sleeve, for with a slim purse and six
children to keep covered neither Grandma Barnes’ work-basket nor her
fingers knew many empty moments.

Taking off her spectacles and rubbing her eyes, as if to see the news as
well as to hear it, she said: “Don’t tell me Tommy has got hurt in that
reaping-machine, down at Weatherby’s. I told your pa he was too young to
handle such a job!”

“No, Tommy’s all right—they were gathering in the last stack as I came
by.”

“Lammy _hasn’t_ gone in swimming again down to the crick with the Connor
boys?”

“Nope, he’s stopped behind at the Centre to tend store for Mr. Sims,
’cause his horse got loose in Deacon Mason’s orchard and ate himself
into the colic!”

“Billy hasn’t fell off the fish-market roof, has he? Your pa took him
there this mornin’ to help hand up shingles, though ’twas against my
wishes.”

“No, grandma, Billy’s all right, too,” said Sarah, who had recovered her
breath by this time and was beginning to laugh. “What makes you always
think worry? Pa is all right, and Mary and Ruth are helping the
minister’s wife get the hall ready for the cake sale, and I’m here, so
you see there’s nothing the matter with _us_.”

“Think worry!” exclaimed grandma, now settling her glasses again and
preparing to hear the news comfortably so long as neither her son nor
his children, to whom she was both grandmother and mother, were in
danger, “wait until your only son’s wife dies and leaves you to keep
track of six children, with as mixed tempers and complexions as ducks,
chickens, and turkeys all in one brood, and I guess you’ll think worry
too. But why don’t you fetch out your news?—Not but what you are all
good and promising enough in your way,” she added hastily, lest she
should be found belittling her own flesh and blood, which she considered
next to breaking the whole ten commandments.

“Well, granny,” began Sarah, bringing out her words slowly, and
satisfied that the old lady’s expectations were sufficiently raised and
that she would have an attentive listener, “the General Wentworth place
is open and they’re putting new fences all around the back of it, and a
lovely Gray Lady and a little girl with golden hair have come to live
there. They have been there since spring too, and I didn’t know it. The
girl is as old as me, but she’s smaller, for she isn’t strong and sits
in a wheel-chair, and they’ve asked me to come in again.”

Off came the glasses, and the old hands that folded them away in their
case trembled with excitement. “The General Wentworth place open after
all these years, since his only daughter Elizabeth married her cousin
John, whom we all expected to die a bachelor, and then he fell into poor
health! You don’t remember him, Sarah Barnes, ’cause you wasn’t born,
but he was a mighty strange fellow, handsome and likely; he wouldn’t be
a soldier as his uncle wished, but he was great for readin’ books, and
he used to wander all over the country here watching birds and things
and drawin’ pictures of them. I heard John died a couple of years ago
away in foreign parts,—it can’t be Elizabeth that’s come back,—she
wouldn’t be a gray-haired old woman, as you say. I knew her when she was
a girl. She was full of life and rode a pony everywhere; her father used
to bring her over to our mill, and many a ginger cooky of my baking has
she ate. No, it can’t be little Miss Elizabeth,—it’s more likely some
one that has hired or bought the place and goin’ to upset and change it
all.”

“I didn’t say the lady was old, grandma; she has lots of soft, silvery,
wavy hair with big gray eyes to match, and such a pretty colour in her
cheeks, and her dress was soft and fluffy too and the colour as if
purple and white violets and silver popple leaves were all mixed
together,” said Sarah, moving her hands before her, a little way she had
when talking, as if in describing what she had seen she was touching the
real object, for Sarah, though only a little girl from a bare hillside
farm and taught at the school below at Foxes Corners, had a keen eye for
colour and loved beautiful things, so that ugliness or unkindness of any
sort really hurt her if she could have explained her feelings.

“My Gray Lady’s first name is Elizabeth, though, and she knows you and
your molasses cakes,” continued Sarah, after a moment’s pause, “for she
said, ‘When you go home say to your grandmother that Elizabeth who rode
the black pony sends her love, and that she will go to see her soon, and
that she hopes that she will give the little Elizabeth some of the
cookies of which she has often heard.’ Elizabeth is the little girl, but
I’m going to call her Goldilocks, because the name matches her hair and
she looks as if she was meant to—

    “‘Sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam
    And feast upon strawberries, sugar, and cream.’”

“Elizabeth Wentworth and her daughter back here and I never knew it!”
cried Grandma Barnes, rising as if to take immediate action. “Your Aunt
Jane might well say, as she did on her last visit, that this hill farm
is as far out o’ the world as livin’ in a lighthouse that had no stairs
or boat to it, and the only way to get anywhere was to take a dive and
swim. But see here, Sarah Barnes, how did you come to meet the General’s
folks? It’s near a mile from the road up from the Centre to their front
gate; mebbe you ran across them in the village, and if so, how came you
to speak?”

Sarah opened her lips to answer and then stammered and grew red under
her grandmother’s keen gaze. “I didn’t pass their gate and I didn’t meet
them in the village. I was—I was just taking a bunch of field flowers,
that I got along the road, up to the cemetery to mother, and then when I
go there, I usually take some to the General’s mound too, ’cause nobody
took anything, except a little flag Memorial Day, and it’s usually all
faded by now. This year, though, the lot was planted with flowers, and I
was wondering why. I was sittin’ there watching a gray squirrel that
lives in one of the old cannons that stand at the plot corners. You see
the squirrel knows me because I’ve taken him nuts two winters whenever
we’ve gone to Pine Hill coasting, and he comes up real close. To-day
when he came up, I only had some cracker crumbs in my pocket, but he
acted real pleased to see me, and I was so busy talking to him that I
didn’t hear anybody coming up until somebody said, ‘Who is this little
girl that brings flowers to an old soldier’s grave, and has a squirrel
for a friend?’”

“A nice way of wasting your time, I must say, of a week-day afternoon,
and so much to be done at home,” broke in Mrs. Barnes, rather crossly.

But Sarah, not minding the interruption, continued: “Then I jumped up,
and there was Gray Lady and Goldilocks sitting in a nice big straw
chair, like those on Judge Jones’ porch, only it had wheels and a handle
behind like a baby wagon, and a fattish woman with a pleasant face was
pushing it.”

“Well, what happened next?” asked grandma. “I wonder she didn’t tell you
not to trespass and feed animals in a cemetery!”

“Oh, no, she liked it, and we got acquainted right away. She asked me
what put it in my head to bring the flowers, and told her that it was
because nobody else did and that I loved the General because my mother
told me that though he lived through a lot of battles, he got the wound
that made him die long after, in trying to get back a little black child
that had been sold away from its mother, for it’s an awful thing to take
children away from their mothers, and only God should do it, and I know
He must be always sorry when He has to. And I said I knew how it hurt
because He took my mother away from me.

“Goldilocks said she wished that she had a tame squirrel down in her
garden, and I said there were plenty of squirrels there, and she could
begin to tame ’em as soon as food gets scarce. Then she asked how I
knew, and then it all came out that Dave and Tommy Todd, Mary, and I
often take a cross-cut through the General’s orchard, when we go over to
Aunt Jane’s. Then they asked me to walk down home with them.

“There was a new high fence all round the orchard, with a gate by the
old house in the corner that has the big stone chimney, where the
Swallows live, so we can’t cut across any more, and before I thought, I
said so; but Gray Lady said, ‘I think, Sarah, it will be quite as
pleasant for you to come in at the front gate, and go out at the back,
as to crawl through a hole in the brush like a fox or a woodchuck,’ and
I guess it will, for she doesn’t want us to stop coming.

“Then I asked her if the house had lovely pictures in it and birds with
real eyes sitting on perches, and more books than the Sunday-school
library, and she laughed and asked who told me that, and I said it was
Jake Gorham that went up there to set new glass in the roof light after
the hail-storm last summer.”

“Sarah Barnes! such gall as to make free and talk to General Wentworth’s
daughter like that! I just wonder what she thinks of you!”

“She didn’t tell me, grandma; but, oh, what do you suppose, she said
that if I came down some afternoon, she’d show me all the pictures and
then I could tell Goldilocks how to begin to make friends with the
squirrels, and that she would show me their tree with a lunch-counter on
it for birds, where there is something for every kind to eat. Do you
suppose she will ask me for this Saturday, grandma, and may I wear my
pink lawn, if it stays warm? My Sunday dress for fall shows where the
hem was let down.”

“She may and then again mayhap ’twill be the last you’ll ever hear of
it. Come to think of it, in those days my ginger cookies were mixed with
butter instead of lard, and they had currants in them. I guess I’ll risk
it to make a batch to-morrow, lest Mrs. John should come up—that is if
I finish all this mending, for there is only one more Saturday and Labor
Day, and then school opens, and all you girls and boys will be making
excuses for shirking your chores. Five o’clock already! Sarah Barnes, do
you go straight out and feed the chickens and then rinse those
milk-pans,—that comes first before all the fine talk of seein’ pictures
and making pies and cakes for birds.”

Sarah went slowly toward the barnyard and fed the greedy fowls in an
absent-minded sort of way, all the while looking across the field where
the birds were beginning to gather in flocks, wishing she knew them all
by name and thinking of Gray Lady and Goldilocks. Would they remember
the invitation or would she never perhaps see them again? School would
soon begin, and that meant no spare time until after four, and it is so
often rainy on Saturday.

Rain did not wait for Saturday this time, for a heavy drizzle set in
that night, and Sarah went to sleep wondering exactly what a bird
lunch-counter was and what became of it when it rained.

Then school began, and her new friend made no sign, and Sarah began to
wonder if her meeting with Gray Lady had been one of the dreams she so
often had when she sat on the orchard fence in June watching the
bobolinks fly over the clover and waiting for things to happen.



                                   II
                              A RAINY DAY


It was the first Friday of the fall term and there were only fifteen
scholars at the weather-beaten shingled schoolhouse at Foxes Corners.
The usual number in winter was twenty-five, but some of the older pupils
did not return until late in October, for these boys and girls helped
their fathers and mothers either about the farm work or in the house,
and as this school district was located in pretty rolling hill country,
with woods and a river close by, city people came to board at the
farm-houses and often did not go away until they had seen the leaves
redden and fall.

Miss Wilde, the teacher, was very glad to begin with only fifteen
scholars. She was not very strong; the children were always restless
during the first month after their vacation. Then, too, it is more
difficult for a teacher to interest scholars that range from five to
fifteen than where she has children all of an age.

Miss Wilde was very patient, for she loved outdoors and liberty herself,
and she knew just how hard it was in these first shut-in days for the
children to look out the open windows and see the broad fields
stretching out to the woods, and hear the water rushing over the dam at
Hull’s Mill, and then take any interest in bounding the Philippine
Islands and remembering why they are of special value to the United
States.

Tommy Todd was what is usually called the “bad boy” of the school. He
was thirteen, keen-witted and restless. He learned his lessons quickly,
and then when Miss Wilde was hearing the little ones drone out their
“twice one is two,” “twice two is four,” he often sat idle in his seat
devising mischief that he sometimes put in motion before school was
over.

Then there were some days when it seemed as if Tommy would leave his
desk and fly out of the window in spite of himself. Poor Miss Wilde had
been obliged to make him change desks twice already. From his first
place he could look at a pasture, where a family of woodchucks had their
burrows, and he had caused several stampedes, not only among the boys,
but girls also, by calling out: “Hi! there goes a buster! I bet its
hide’s worth more’n a quarter! Now Jones’ yaller dog is after him! Hi!
there! good work! he’s headin’ of it off! Gee, Hog’s reared and give him
a bite! There they go round the hill! If the hole back t’other side I
stuffed Saturday’s got loosed out, I bet on the hog!” (Ground-hog being
the familiar name for the woodchuck in this region.)

Order being restored, Tommy was moved to the east side of the room. Here
the view was downhill over the lowlands, ending at a great corn-field
that belonged to Tommy’s grandfather. The corn was yellow in the ear,
but still standing. A flock of crows that had a roost in the swampy
millwoods knew all about this corn-field and considered it as their own
property, for had they not superintended its planting, helped thin out
the seed lest it should grow too thick, and croaked and quavered
directions to old man Todd and his horses every time they ploughed and
hoed? Now, guided by a careful old leader who sat on a dead sycamore top
and gave warning (for all crow flocks have such a chief), they were
beginning to attack the ripened ears, the scarecrows placed at intervals
that had been of some use in the early season having now lost the little
influence they possessed and fallen into limp heaps, like unfortunate
tramps asleep by the wayside.

So every time the crows came over, Tommy would stretch up in his seat
and finally slip out of it entirely and, hanging half out of the window,
shake his fist at them, all the time uttering dire threats of what he
would do if he only had his father’s shot-gun.

For these reasons, Friday morning saw him seated in the middle of the
room with the older girls and sharing the double desk with Sarah Barnes.
Now Sarah thought that Tommy was the cleverest boy she had ever seen,
and Sarah had visited in Centre Village in Hattertown, and Bridgeton,
been twice to the Oldtown County Fair, and would have gone to New York
once with her Aunt Jane if measles had not prevented; so that her
friends thought, for thirteen, she was quite a travelled lady.

Tommy also considered her favourably and had been heard to say that she
was not bad for a girl; yet, to be put in the middle seats with the
girls he considered an insult to his years, and he was sulky and brooded
mischief all the morning.

In reality Tommy was not a bad boy in any way. What he wanted was plenty
of occupation for his mind and body to work at. Miss Wilde knew this and
tried to give him as many little things to do as possible. It was Tommy
who had charge of the new cage rat-trap of shiny copper wire, in which
it was hoped the field rats might be caught, that, as soon as cool
weather came, gnawed their way in through the loose floor boards and
sometimes destroyed the books, and, as Sarah Barnes declared (whose duty
it was to keep the wells filled), drank the ink. Tommy also kept the
water-pail full and tended the big wood-stove in winter; but none of
these tasks seemed to touch the restless spot and he could think out
more puzzling questions in a day than the whole school board could have
answered in a week, and then, as Sarah Barnes once said, “Tommy Todd’s
questions never seem to stay answered.”

Miss Wilde had taught, at first, in the school of a large town where
there were plenty of pictures and maps on the walls, and charts of
different kinds and reference books for the children to use, and where
people who loved children would often drop in and tell them about birds
and flowers or their journeys to interesting places. She had taken the
country school because the doctor thought it would be better for her
health, and oh, how she wished that she could have brought some of the
pictures and books with her, or that some of the summer boarders who
stayed until almost winter would come in and talk to her pupils. She
told the children stories or read to them on Friday afternoons. She also
knew that there were some travelling libraries of books that she might
borrow that the children could have themselves, but reading is a habit;
the children needed to be interested first. So it came about that, when
the second year of her school life on the hillside began, Miss Wilde
felt rather discouraged.

On this particular rainy Friday she was feeling worried about her
mother, who boarded at the Centre Village and with whom she spent every
week-end, going down with the mail-carrier on his return trip Friday
evening and usually walking back on Sunday afternoon if no one chanced
to be driving that way. Mrs. Wilde had been ill the Sunday before and
Miss Wilde had not heard a word all the week. Everything had gone awry
that morning, and when the last child had filed out for the dinner-hour
and gone splish-splashing up the muddy road, before straightening out
the room as usual, Miss Wilde sat down at the desk, her head in her
hands, and two big tears splashed down on the inky blotting-paper before
her. Presently she wiped her eyes, opened all the windows that the rain
did not enter, took her box of luncheon from her desk, and walked slowly
down the side aisle to the little porch, which also acted as the
cloak-room, the place where she usually ate her luncheon when it was too
cool or wet to go outdoors.

As she passed Tommy Todd’s desk she thought she heard a noise, and
glanced sideways, half expecting to see him crouching under it, bent
upon some prank. No one was there, and still there was a scratching
sound in that vicinity. Opening the desk lid, Miss Wilde gave a scream,
for inside was the new trap and inside the trap two wicked-looking old
rats whose whiskers had evidently grown gray with experience.

“I wonder what he would have done with them if I had not found him out?”
she said to herself, as she lifted the cage, by hooking the crook of her
umbrella into the handle on the top, and carrying it with the greatest
care, put it into the empty wood-box in the porch. Then she seated
herself on the bench by the outer door and unstrapped her box. But it
evidently was not intended that the poor teacher should lunch that day,
for suddenly the door flew open and the weather-beaten face of Joel
Hanks, the carrier who had the forenoon mail-route, peered anxiously in.

“You here, Miss Wilde?” he called anxiously. “I’m glad yer hain’t gone
up to the house for your nooning, cause I clean fergot when I come by
up, but yer Ma’s feelin’ extra poorly and uneasy, and she thought mebbe
you could come back along with me instead of waiting till night. I’m
goin’ to eat over to Todd’s and I can stop back for you close to one if
you can arrange to go.”

“Oh, I wish I had known it before the children went to dinner,” she
cried, clasping her hands together nervously and dropping the box, out
of which her lunch rolled to the floor, amid the damp that had been made
by wet coats, overshoes, and dripping umbrellas. “As it is, when the
children come back, I cannot send them right home again, for some have a
long walk. If it wasn’t for Tommy Todd, I could leave Sarah Barnes for
monitor; but there are those rats, and the school board does not like me
to shorten hours so soon after vacation. It’s too late for me to go over
for Mrs. Bradford, or I know that she would help me by coming as she did
several times last spring.”

“Sorry I couldn’t stop this morning, but I come by the lower road. Wall,
mebbe you’ll think out some way and I’ll stop back a bit a’ter one,”
Joel said cheerfully, going back to his covered cart and chirping to his
wise old horse, who, though he was gaunt and had only one good eye, knew
every letter-box on the route and solemnly zig-zagged across the road
from one to the other on his way up to Foxes Corners, but as surely
passed them by without notice on the return trip.

Miss Wilde had barely swept away the scattered lunch through the open
door when again she heard wheels, and looking up saw that which made her
stand stock-still in surprise, broom in hand,—a trim, glass-windowed
depot wagon, such as she had seldom seen out of Bridgeton, drawn by a
handsome pair of gray horses, whose long, flowing tails were neatly
braided and fastened up from the mud with leather bands, instead of
being cruelly docked short as sometimes happens. The driver, a
pleasant-looking, rosy-cheeked man, was well protected by coat and boot
of rubber; but before Miss Wilde could more than glance at the outfit
the door opened and a lady stepped lightly out, reaching the school
porch so quickly that she had no need of an umbrella.

Spying Miss Wilde, she said in a voice clear as a bell, and yet so well
modulated and sweet that no one who heard her speak ever forgot its
sound—“Are you the teacher here?”

“Yes.”

“And your name?”

“Rosamond Wilde,” replied the astonished girl, hastily hanging up the
broom, unconsciously leading the way into the stuffy schoolroom and
placing the best chair by the side of her desk, as she did when the
minister, Dr. Gibbs, from Centre Village, who was president of the
school board, came to hold a spelling-match.

“Thank you,” said the silvery voice, as its owner took the proffered
seat, turning so that she could look out of the window.

“I have heard from Dr. Gibbs that you sometimes use part of Friday
afternoon for telling the children stories, or reading something that
may amuse as well as teach them, and I thought that perhaps, as the
board does not object, you might sometimes be willing to have me come in
and talk to them. I am very fond of children, and have one little girl
of my own, so that I know very well what they enjoy. I’ve travelled for
several years, and I have a great many interesting pictures I could show
them. Then, too, I have always loved birds and flowers, and with my
father I used to tramp about and learned to know all those of this
neighbourhood. I well remember that when I was a child and studied at
home, rainy Friday afternoons were always pleasant, because mother, my
cousins, and I had fancy-work or some other sewing and stories; so I
thought to-day perhaps would be a good time for a beginning.”

If the sky had opened and an angel come directly to her aid, Miss Wilde
could not have been more overcome. She pulled herself together and began
to frame a polite answer, when looking at the guest, who had thrown off
her light raincoat, she caught the sympathetic glance that shot from a
lovely pair of gray eyes with black lashes, and saw that the fluffy gray
hair belonged to a really young woman, but a little older than herself.
Forgetting that a teacher is supposed never to lose control of herself,
before she realized that she had said a word she had told this friend in
need about her school, Tommy Todd, her mother’s sickness, and all.

In less time than it takes to tell of it, the coachman had been told to
go down to the blacksmith’s shop and wait under cover until three
o’clock, and Miss Wilde was helped to make her preparation for leaving.

When the children came trooping back, they found the door between
cloak-room and schoolroom closed, and teacher waiting for them in the
outer room with very rosy cheeks and a happier expression than her face
usually wore.

Tommy Todd looked relieved, for, he reasoned, if teacher knew there were
two rats in his desk, she would not have looked pleased. In a few words
Miss Wilde explained the happenings, cautioned them to be very good, and
saying, “Right, left, right, left,” was about to open the door for the
children to march in, when Sarah Barnes asked, “Teacher, what is her
name, so we can call her by it?” Then teacher realized that she didn’t
know. But as the door opened Sarah said, in a very loud whisper, as
whispers are apt to sound louder than the natural voice, “Why, it’s my
Gray Lady!” and so in truth it was.

Teacher watched them until they took their seats, and then gently closed
the door behind her. For a moment no one spoke. Tommy Todd peeped
cautiously into his desk to be sure the rats were safe, and found to his
dismay that they were gone. Inwardly he hoped they wouldn’t get loose,
for Gray Lady didn’t look as if she would like rats, which showed that
after only one glance he wished to please her, while at the same time
the name by which they first knew her became fixed in the mind of every
child.



                                  III
                          GRAY LADY AT SCHOOL


The silence inside the school continued a full minute, that seemed like
an hour, and the dripping of the rain from the gutter was so plain that
Sarah found herself counting the drops—“One—two—three—four—splash!”

Fifteen pairs of eyes were fastened upon the newcomer, and, as she
caught the various questions in them, the colour in her cheeks deepened.
Suddenly she recognized her little friend whom she had met on the
hillside the week before. “Sarah Barnes,” said Gray Lady, “will you not
tell me the names of your schoolmates and introduce me to them? It is
always so much more pleasant when we are looking at people, places, or
things to know what they are called.”

Then Sarah, delighted at being remembered when she had begun to be quite
sure that all her hopes were in vain, guided by an inborn instinct of
politeness that told her it would not be civil to stand at her desk and
call out the various names, marched solemnly up to the teacher’s desk
and, beginning in the front row with her own little sister Mary,
repeated the fifteen names in full, with the greatest care and
distinctness, and each child, not knowing what else to do, bobbed up and
answered, “Present,” the same as if teacher had been calling the roll.
When Sarah had finished, she was quite out of breath, for some of the
names were very long; the last, that of the one little Slav in the
school, Zella Francesca Mowralski, being also hard to pronounce.

“Thank you,” said Gray Lady; “I think that I can remember the first
names at least. But now that you have presented your friends to me,
won’t you kindly present me to them? You know who I am and where I live,
do you not?”

“Of course I do!” cried Sarah, glad to be in smooth water again. “You
are Goldilocks’ mother, Gray Lady, and you are our General’s daughter
and you live in his house!” Then, realizing that she had given play to
her own fancy rather than stated the facts expected, she fled to her
desk and hid her face behind its lid.

No reproof followed her as she expected, but instead the pleasant voice
again said: “Thank you, Sarah; I like the name you have given me better
than my very own, and if you all know where to find the General’s house,
you know where to find me,” and when Sarah, gaining courage, looked up
again, she saw, what the others did not notice, that the gray eyes were
brimming, though there was a smile on her lips.

“Now, children, what would you like to hear about this afternoon? Miss
Wilde told me that she had intended giving you a spelling review and
writing exercise of some kind, but that we might finish the day as we
choose. Shall I read you a story, or would you like to ask questions and
talk best?—one at a time, of course!”

“Talk—you talk,” shouted a vigorous chorus.

“By the way, Tommy Todd,” said Gray Lady, “why do you sit in the middle
with the girls instead of on the outer row with the boys, where there is
more room?”

Tommy, placed between Sarah Barnes and his own sister, started half up
in his seat and looked all round the room as if seeking a way of escape,
and finding none, dropped his gaze to his desk and sat mute with a very
red face.

The question was repeated—still no answer. A hand flew up. “I know,”
piped the voice of one of the little ones in front; “it’s ’cause Tommy
can’t keep his eyes inside the winder if he’s by it; he’s always spying
out at ground-hogs and crows and askin’ teacher questions about the
birds setting on the wires, so he don’t mind his books and teacher don’t
know the answers to all he asks, an’ it gives her the headache!”

“Well, Tommy,” said Gray Lady, who had learned that at least one of the
children before her cared for out-of-doors, which was precisely what she
wanted to know, “as long as this is a sort of holiday, suppose you take
that empty seat by the east window and tell us what you see. You may
open the window and the others on that side also, for I think the rain
is over; yes, the clouds are breaking away.”

How fresh and sweet the air was that rushed into the close room! Tommy
stuck his head out and took a great breath as he looked down over the
corn-fields,—his enemies the crows were not there.

“There isn’t much to see now, it’s too wet yet,” he said; “but pretty
soon there will be, for most birds and things get hungry right after a
rain!”

“Olit—olit—olit—che-wiss-ch-wiss-war,” sang a little bird in a low
bush by the roadside.

“What bird is that,” asked Gray Lady; “do any of you know?”

“It’s just the usually little brown bird that stays around here most all
the time, but I love the tune it sings,” said Sarah Barnes. “Teacher
says it’s some kind of a sparrow.”

“It is a Song Sparrow,” said Gray Lady, “and you are right in saying it
stays with us almost all the year.”

“Now,” called Tommy, “the birds are beginning to come out; some Barn
Swallows are flying over the low meadow and there’s a lot of ’em, and
another kind strung along the wires on the turnpike. They always sit
close and act that way all this month and some fly away, and ’long the
first part of next month, when the corn’s all husked, they’ll be gone!
Please, ma’am, why do some birds never go away, and some do, and what
makes ’em come back?” Then Tommy began one of the volley of questions
that Miss Wilde so dreaded.

“Yes, an’ please, ma’am,” asked Dave, “why are some birds that mate
together such different colours?” “An’ what becomes of Bobolinks after
Fourth of July?” asked another. “An’ what makes birds have so many kind
of feet?” queried a third.

Then questions flew so thick and fast that Gray Lady could not even hear
herself think, and presently, when every one had laughed at the
confusion, order was restored.

“I asked you a moment ago what you would like to hear about. I think I
know. You would like to hear about birds! Are there any other boys here
besides Tommy and Dave who care about birds?” asked Gray Lady, who
wished to have each child feel that he or she had a part in what was
going on.

“I know about birds’ eggs!” cried Bobby Bates, a boy who, from being
undersized, looked much younger than he really was; “I’ve got a pint
fruit-jar of robins’ eggs.”

“But I’ve got a quart jar of mixed eggs,” said Dave, “and they’re mostly
little ones, Wrens and Chippy birds and such like, so’s I’ve really got
more’n Bobby!” he added boastfully.

Gray Lady opened her lips to speak sharply and her eyes flashed, for
nest-robbing was one of the things she most detested. Then she
remembered that perhaps these children had not only never even dreamed
that there was any harm in it, but had never heard of the laws that wise
people had made to protect the eggs of wild birds, as well as the birds
themselves, from harm. So she hesitated a moment while she thought how
she might best make the matter understood.

“Why do you like to collect eggs?” she asked. “Because they are pretty?”

“Yes’m, partly,” drawled Dave, “and then to see how many I can get in a
spring.”

“But do you never think how you worry the mother birds by stealing their
eggs, and how many more birds there would be if you let the eggs hatch
out? What the rhyme says is true,—

    “‘The blue eggs in the Robin’s nest
    Will soon have beak and wings and breast,
        And flutter and fly away!’

Only think, if all those robins’ eggs of yours, Bobby, and all your
little eggs, Dave, should suddenly turn into birds and fly about the
room, how many there would be! But now they will never have wings and
swell their throats to sing to us and use their beaks to eat up insects
that make the apples wormy and curl up the leaves of the great shade
trees.”

“Robins don’t do any good; they just spoil our berries and grapes; dad
says so, and he shoots ’em whenever he can, and he likes me to take the
eggs,” said Dave, stubbornly, while Sarah Barnes exclaimed, “Yes, an’
_my_ father says he ought to be ashamed of himself!” almost out loud.

“I know that Robins sometimes eat fruit,” said Gray Lady, firmly, “but
they do so much more good by destroying bugs that the Wise Men say that
neither they nor their eggs shall be taken or destroyed, and what they
say is now a law. So that it is not for any one to do as he pleases in
the matter. To kill song-birds or destroy their eggs is as much breaking
the law as if you stole a man’s horse or cow, for these birds are not
yours; they belong to the state in which you live.”

Bobby and Dave looked surprised, but Tommy and Sarah nodded to one
another, as much as to say, “We knew that, didn’t we?”

“Some day, if you are clever with your lessons so that Miss Wilde can
spare the time for it, I will tell you all about the reasons for these
laws, and what the wild birds do for us, and what we should do for them.
But first you must learn to know the names of some of the birds that
live and visit hereabout, as I am now learning yours, and make friends
of some of them as I hope to make friends of you.”

“Yes, yes, oh, yes!”

“You can’t make friends of birds; they won’t let you,” said Dave Drake,
who was a sickly, lanky boy of fourteen with a whining voice; “they
always fly away. That is, I mean tree birds, not chickens nor pigeons.”

“Chickens aren’t birds, they’re only young hens,” put in Eliza Clausen,
with an expression of withering contempt. She was one of the big
fourteen-year-old girls, and not being a good scholar was apt to use
opposition in the place of information.

“We can make friends of at least some birds,” said Gray Lady, “if we are
kind to them. When we have human visitors come to stay with us, what do
we do for them?”

“We let them sleep in the best bedroom, and we get out the best china
and have awful good things to eat, and give ’em a good time,” said Ruth
Barnes, all in one breath.

“Yes, and we should do much the same with our bird friends. They do not
need to have a bedroom prepared; they can generally find that for
themselves, though even this is sometimes necessary in bad weather; but
they often need food, and in order that they should have what Ruth calls
‘a good time,’ we must let them alone and not interfere with their
comings and goings.

“Go softly to the west window and look out,” continued Gray Lady,
raising a finger to caution silence, for from her seat on the little
platform she could see over the children’s heads and out both door and
windows, “and see the hungry visitors that a little food has brought to
the very door.”

The children tiptoed to one side of the room, and there, lo and behold,
was a great Blue Jay, a Robin, a Downy Woodpecker with his clean
black-and-white-striped coat and red neck bow, and a saucy Chickadee,
with his jaunty black cap and white tie, all feasting on the broken bits
of Miss Wilde’s ham sandwich, while a pair of Robins were industriously
picking the fruit from a remnant of huckleberry pie. Unfortunately,
before the children had taken more than a good look, the door banged to
and the birds flew away, the Woodpecker giving his wild sort of laugh,
the Robins crying, “Quick! quick!” in great alarm, while the Jay and
Chickadee told their own names plainly as they flew.

“As we have agreed to talk and ask questions, I will ask the first one,”
said Gray Lady, as they all settled down, feeling very good-natured and
eager to listen.

“Eliza said a few minutes ago that a chicken isn’t a bird. Now a chicken
is a bird, though of course all birds are not chickens.


                               _The Bird_

“Who can tell me exactly what a bird is? You all may think you know, but
can you put it in words?”

“A bird isn’t a plant; it is an animal,” said Tommy Todd.

“Yes, but a cat is an animal, and a snake, and a horse; and we are
animals ourselves.”

“A bird is a flying animal,” returned Sarah.

“Very true, but so is a bat, and, as you know, a bat has fur and looks
very like a mouse, and a bird does not.

“Ah, you give it up. Very well, listen and remember. _A bird is the only
animal which has feathers!_ With his hollow bones filled with buoyant,
warm air, and covered with these strong pinions, he rows through the
air, as we row a boat through the water with the oars, balancing himself
with these wings, also steering himself with them and with his tail made
of stiff feathers and shaped to his particular need, while with small
feathers laid close, overlapping each other like shingles, and bedded on
an under-coat of down, he is clothed and protected from heat, cold, and
wet.

“The eye of the bird is different from ours, for it magnifies and makes
objects appear much larger to it than they do to us. Also, while with
other animals each group has practically the same kind of feet or beaks,
birds have these two features built on widely different plans, so that
when you have learned to know the common birds by name and are really
studying bird-life, you will find that you must be guided to the orders
in which they belong often by their beaks and feet.

“Barnyard Ducks, as you know, have webbed toes for swimming, and flat
bills to aid them in shovelling their natural food from the mud.

“Birds of prey, like the Hawks and Owls, have strong hooked beaks and
powerful talons or claws, for seizing and tearing the small animals upon
which they feed.

“The Woodpeckers (all but one) have two front and two hind toes; these
help them grasp the tree bark firmly as they rest, while they have
strong-cutting, chisel-like beaks, which they also use for tapping or
drumming their rolling love-songs.

[Illustration: CHICKADEE]

“While the insect-eating song-birds have more or less slender bills and
four toes, three in front and one behind, for perching crosswise on
small branches, the seed-eating songsters, such as Sparrows, have
similar feet, but short, stout, cone-shaped bills for cracking seeds and
small nuts.

“By this you can see that in spite of the fact that all birds wear
feathers, and have wings, a tail, beak, and a pair of legs, they may
still be very different from each other.

“A Turkey Gobbler doesn’t look much like a Robin, nor a Goose like a
Swallow, yet they are all four birds! They all four bring forth their
young from eggs; but the little Turkeys and Goslings are covered with
feathers when they peep out of the shell and are able to walk, while the
young Robins and Swallows are at first blind, naked, and helpless; so
here again you can see that there is something special to be learned
about every bird that flies or swims.”

“Chickadee-dee-dee! Can’t you tell them something about me?” said this
dear little bird, flitting about one of the open windows and clinging
upside down to the blind slats that were bare of paint, like either a
Woodpecker, or, as Tommy Todd remarked, “the man in the circus.”

“The little bird peeping in the window and calling his name reminds me
of a pretty poem about him,” said Gray Lady. “I will repeat it to you
and write it on the board so that you can copy it in your books, and
then some of you may like to learn it to surprise Miss Wilde on another
rainy Friday.”


                           A LITTLE MINISTER

    I know a little minister who has a big degree;
    Just like a long-tailed kite he flies his D.D.D.D.D.
    His pulpit is old-fashioned, though made out of growing pine;
    His great-grandfather preached in it, in days of Auld lang syne.

    Sometimes this little minister forgets his parson’s airs:
    I saw him turn a somersault right on the pulpit stairs;
    And once, in his old meeting-house, he flew into the steeple,
    And rang a merry chime of bells, to call the feathered people.

    He has a tiny helpmeet, too, who wears a gown and cap,
    And is so very wide-awake, she seldom takes a nap.
    She preaches, also, sermonettes, with headlets one, two, three,
    In singing monosyllables beginning each with D.

    But O her little minister, she does almost adore:
    I’ve heard her call her sweet D.D. full twenty times or more.
    And his pet polysyllable—why, did you hear it never?
    He calls her Phe-be B, so dear, I’d listen on forever.

    Now if there is a Bright Eyes small who’d like to go with me,
    And on his cautious tiptoes ten, creep softly to a tree,
    I’ll coax this little minister to quit his leafy perch,
    And show this little boy or girl the way to go to church;

    And where his cosy parsonage is hidden in the trees,
    And how in summer it is full of little D.D.D.’s.
    And if Bright Eyes will prick his ears, he’ll hear the titmice say,
    “Good morning,” which, in Chickadese is always “Day, day, day.”

    —Ella Gilbert Ives.

“Now that I have answered my own question, there was another that one of
you asked, or rather a pair of questions. Why do some birds go away in
autumn, and why do they come back? It is very important to know the
answers to these, if we want to really understand about the lives of
birds and the trials and dangers they undergo.


                   _The Bird Year and the Migration_

“People who think of birds at all know that they are not equally
plentiful at all times of the year, but that they have their seasons of
coming and disappearing, as the flowers have, though not for exactly the
same reason.

“We are accustomed to see the plants send up shoots through the bare
ground every spring, unfold their leaves and blossoms, and, finally,
after perfecting seed, wither away again at the touch of frost.

“Of these plants, as well as some large trees, a few are more hardy than
others, like the ground-pine, laurel, and wintergreen, and are able to
hold their leaves through very cold weather, and we call them
evergreens.

“You notice that the birds appear in spring even before the
pussy-willows bud out, and that every morning when you wake, the music
outside the window and down among the alders on the meadow border is
growing louder, until by the time the apple trees are in bloom there
seems to be a bird for every tree, bush, and tuft of sedgegrass.

“By the time the timothy is cut and rye harvested, you do not hear so
great a variety of song. The Robin, Song Sparrow, House Wren, and
Meadowlark are still in good voice, and an occasional Catbird, but the
Bobolink has dropped out, and the Brown Thrasher no longer tells the
farmer how to plant his corn: ‘Drop it, drop it, cover it up, hoe it,
hoe it;’ and very wise he is, too, for the corn is all planted.

“Later still, when the stacked cornstalks fill the fields with their
wigwams, like Indian encampments, the pumpkins are gathered in golden
heaps, and the smoke of burning leaves and brush pervades the air, you
hear very few bird songs, for many birds have either dropped silently
out of sight or collected in huge flocks, like the Swallow, swept by,
and disappeared in the clouds, while others, like the Purple Grackle or
Common Crow-Blackbird,—walk over the stubble and cover the trees,
making such a creaking, crackling noise that one would surely think that
their wings as well as voices were rusty and needed oiling.

“What has become of the birds? Where do they go when they disappear?

“Being warm-blooded animals they cannot dive into the mud and hide, like
fishes, or crawl into cracks of tree bark and wrap themselves up in
cocoons, like insects. Neither do they drop their feathers and die away
as tender plants drop their leaves and disappear.

“People once believed that Swallows dived through the water into the
mud, where they rolled themselves into balls and slept all winter. They
thought this because Swallows are seen in early autumn in flocks about
ponds and marshes, where they feed upon the insects that abound in such
places. People thought that as Swallows were last seen in these places
before they disappeared they must have gone under the water; but this
was merely guessing, which is a very dangerous thing to do when trying
to find out the plans that Nature makes for her great family.

“Later yet, when the snow begins to fall, there is little or no bird
music, only the hoot of an Owl, the shrill cry of the Hawks, the ‘quank,
quank’ of the Nuthatch, that runs up and down the tree-trunks like a
mouse in gray-and-white feathers, the jeer of the Jay, and the soft
voice of the Chickadee that, as you have just heard, tells you his name
so prettily as he peers at you from beneath his little black cap.

“But the Catbird, Wren, Bobolink, Oriole, the Cuckoo that helped clear
the tent caterpillars from the orchard, the Chat that puzzled the dogs
by whistling like their master, the beautiful Barn Swallow, with the
swift wings, that had his plaster nest in the hayloft, the Phœbe that
built in the cowshed, and the dainty Humming-bird that haunted the
honeysuckle on the porch and hummed an ancient spinning-song to us with
his wings,—where are they all?

“And why is it that while those have disappeared, some few birds still
remain with us in spite of cold and snow?”

            THE FLIGHT OF THE BIRDS

            Whither away, Robin,
            Whither away?
    Is it through envy of the maple leaf,
        Whose blushes mock the crimson of thy breast,
            Thou wilt not stay?
    The summer days were long, yet all too brief
        The happy season thou hast been our guest.
            Whither away?

            Wither away, Bluebird,
            Whither away?
    The blast is chill, yet in the upper sky
        Thou still canst find the colour of thy wing,
            The hue of May.
    Warbler, why speed thy southern flight? Ah, why,
        Thou, too, whose song first told us of the spring,
            Whither away?

            Whither away, Swallow,
            Whither away?
    Canst thou no longer tarry in the North,
        Here where our roof so well hath screened thy nest?
            Not one short day?
    Wilt thou—as if thou human wert—go forth
        And wander far from them who love thee best?
            Whither away?

    —Edmund Clarence Stedman.


                          _The Fall Migration_

“If you watch the birds, you will soon notice that some eat only animal
food, in the shape of various bugs, worms, and lice, while others eat
seeds of various weeds, and grasses, and also berries. There are many
birds that, like ourselves, eat a little of everything, both animal and
vegetable.

“For instance, the Swallows live on insects of the air, except sometimes
in the autumn flocking they feed for a short time on bayberries. The
Phœbe is an insect eater; also the Catbird, though he is fond of
strawberries and cherries for dessert. You saw just now that the
Chickadee, Woodpecker, and Jay preferred the meat from the sandwich and
the Robins the berries from the pie, though the Jay also likes nuts and
seeds.

“You know that when frost comes, the air-flying insects are killed, and
the gnats, mosquitoes, and flies that have worried the horses and cattle
disappear. For this reason the birds that depend upon these bugs must
follow their food supply, and move off farther southward where frost has
not yet come.

“This is the reason why so many birds who feed on winged insects leave
us in early autumn, before it is cold enough to make them uncomfortable;
they must follow their food.

“There are other birds that, when they no longer have nestlings to feed,
can pick up a living from berries and seeds, like the Robin, or live the
greater part of the season upon seeds, like the Sparrows. These birds
are not driven away by the first frost, but many stay about until the
weather is uncomfortably cold, and some few remain all winter, like the
Meadowlarks, Nuthatches, Jays, and Woodpeckers, who, having stout beaks,
can dig out grubs and insects from among the roots of grass and from
tough tree bark; but these too must move on if ice coats the trees or
snow buries their ground feeding-places.

“As a great many birds spend the nesting season north of New England,
they pass by on their way southward, and, if the feeding is good, stay
with us sometimes several weeks, so that the flocks of Robins seen here
in October are likely to be those that nested in the north, while our
own birds are gradually drifting down to the extreme south, where they
winter.

“This great southward journey of the birds, that begins as early as
August and lasts at some seasons, if the winter is open, almost until
Christmas, is called the fall migration, and when it is over, the birds
remaining with us are classed as Winter Residents.

“There is another thing to be seen at this time of year, and if you have
not already noticed it, watch and you will see that many of the birds
that wore bright feathers in May and June have changed their gay coats
for duller feathers.


                             _The Moulting_

“After the nesting season is over, and a pair of birds have raised one,
two, and, as with the Wrens, sometimes three broods, the feathers of the
parents become worn and broken, and not fit for winter covering, nor are
the wing quills strong enough for the fall flight.

“At this time, when the young birds are able to care for themselves, the
pairs no longer keep alone together, but, leaving their nesting-haunts,
travel about either in a family party or in larger friendly flocks, and,
although some birds, like the Song Sparrow and Meadowlark, sing
throughout the season, the general morning chorus and the nesting season
end together, in early or middle July.

“It is quite difficult to name the birds when young and old travel in
flocks, for when a male is bright-coloured and the female dull, the
first coat of the young is often such a mixture of both that it is
easily mistaken for a wholly different and strange bird.

“In August or September almost all of our birds change their spring
feathers. This is called moulting. And the brightly coloured birds often
drop their wedding finery for dull-coloured travelling cloaks, so that
they may not be seen when they fly southward through the falling leaves.

“After this season Father Tanager, of the scarlet wedding coat with
black sleeves, appears in yellowish-green, like his wife, and the little
Tanagers sometimes have mixed green, yellow, and red garments, for all
the world like patchwork bedquilts pieced without regard to pattern.

[Illustration: SCARLET TANAGER
1. Adult Male., 2. Adult Male, Changing to Winter Plumage., 3. Adult
  Female.]

                  Order—Passeres      Family—Tanagridæ
                Genus—Firanga      Species—Erythromelas

“The jolly Bobolink, also, who in May was the prize singer of the
meadows, and disported in a coat of black, white, and buff, now wears
dull brown stripes, and, having forgotten his song, he mixes with the
young of the year and becomes merely the Reed Bird of the gunners. But
in early spring he will change again, and, before the nesting time,
reappear among us with every black feather polished free from rusty
edges and glistening as of old.

“When Father Tanager comes back, he is brave and red again, though it
takes little Tommy Tanager two moultings to grow an equally red coat.

“Even with the more quietly marked birds their colours are less distinct
after the summer moult, so that what is known as the bird’s perfect or
typical plumage is in many species that of the nesting season alone.”

“I didn’t think that there was so much to know about birds; they seem to
have ways of doing things just like people. I’d love to know all about
them every Friday, but I suppose that’s too nice to happen,” said Sarah
Barnes, as Gray Lady paused and moved her chair back from the bright
light that was now shining through the door directly in her face, for
the clouds had rolled away down behind the hills, leaving one of the
clear, bright, early September afternoons when the sun lends its colour
to the field of early goldenrod, until sunset seems to reach to one’s
very feet.

“No, it isn’t _too_ nice to happen,” said Gray Lady, laughing; “but it
would certainly be very pleasant for me, also, if Miss Wilde could give
you to me for an hour or so every other Friday, then perhaps some other
day you could come to the General’s house and return my call, and see
all the birds and pictures and books that belonged to my Goldilocks’
father. How would you like that?”

“Bully!” cried Tommy Todd, “and there’s more kinds of birds in the
General’s old orchard than anywhere else hereabout. I haven’t ever taken
any eggs from there,” he added hastily, “only jest peeked and watched,
an’ once I got a three-story nest from there, along late in the fall
when the birds were done with it. If I brought it along, ma’am, could
you tell me what sort of a bird it belongs to? I can’t find out!” he
added eagerly.

“Yes, I think I can tell you,” Gray Lady answered, “and I’m very glad if
you know about my orchard and its tenants, because very likely you may
be able to introduce me to some that I do not know.

“Now, children, before next week is over I will see Miss Wilde and tell
her my plans, but one thing I will tell you now—I have a little
daughter Elizabeth, whom Sarah Barnes calls Goldilocks. She is twelve
years old, but because of an accident her back is not strong, and
instead of running about as you do she has had to be wheeled about in a
chair. I have taken her to the best doctors, and they say that she is
getting well slowly, and that now all that she needs is to live
out-of-doors and be with children of her own age, who will be kind and
gentle to her, yet treat her as one of themselves. She cannot bear to
hear of anything being killed or hurt, and she has been loved so well
all her life that she loves everything in return.

“Will you come to the General’s house and help Goldilocks to grow strong
and forget all the pain she has suffered?”

“Yes, _ma’am_,” came the reply as with one voice.

Sarah Barnes had the honour of taking Gray Lady’s hand as she went to
the carriage, and Tommy Todd closed the door without any one giving him
a hint.

Then, before closing the schoolhouse for the night, his special duty, he
began a hunt for the rat-trap, which he soon found in the wood-box, but
instead of taking the rats home as usual for Mike, his father’s terrier,
to “have fun” with, he drowned them as quickly as possible in the brook
that ran below the hill, for he thought to himself as they were things
that must be killed Goldilocks would think this the kindest way.



                                   IV
                           THE ORCHARD PARTY


Not only did Miss Wilde hear every detail of Gray Lady’s visit from her
scholars, but the middle of the following week she received a letter
from Gray Lady herself as well as one from the president of the school
board.

Gray Lady wrote that if she could succeed in interesting the children of
the school at Foxes Corners in the birds and little animals about, then
she meant to arrange another season so that the other four schools in
the scattered district might have the same opportunity. For this reason
she had asked and obtained leave of the school committee to have two
Friday afternoons of each month given to the purpose. She also promised
to send some bird books and pictures to the school and a large wall map
of North America, so that after the children had learned to know a bird
by sight and name they might trace its journeys the year through, and
thus realize to what perils it is exposed.

Then followed the most interesting part of the letter to Miss Wilde and
her children, and this is what it said:—

    “It is all very well to show children pictures and read them
    stories about the birds and tell them that it is their duty to
    be kind to them, but I wish them also to see and judge for
    themselves and learn to love their bird neighbours because they
    can’t help themselves. This is best done outdoors and under the
    trees, and there is no such charming place to meet the birds and
    be introduced to them as in an old apple orchard such as ours.

    “Of course at this season birds are growing fewer every day, but
    this makes it all the easier to name those that remain, with
    less chance of confusion than in spring.

    “I propose to have an Orchard Party next Saturday, and I should
    be happy to have you bring as many of your pupils as possible to
    spend the day here. We will have luncheon in the orchard and the
    children will find there many bird-homes that the tenants have
    left, that will show them that man is not the only housebuilder
    and thoughtful parent.

    “If there are any children who do not care to come, pray do not
    force them in any way, but if possible let me know by Friday
    morning how many I may expect.”

It was Wednesday when Miss Wilde told the children of the invitation,
just before she rang the bell for noon recess. Then she asked all those
who wished to go to the Orchard Party to stand up, and instantly
thirteen of the fifteen present were on their feet, the two exceptions
being Eliza and Dave.

Miss Wilde of course noticed this. However, she said nothing about it,
knowing that with these two discontented ones the reason would be told
before long and that very plainly. But when they returned from dinner
she gave each one a sheet of clean paper and told them to write answers
either of acceptance or regret, as they felt inclined, to Gray Lady,
first writing a short note upon the blackboard herself so that they
might see how to begin and end, and where to put the date, because some
children who can spell separate words do not know how to put them
together so as to express clearly and concisely what they wish to say in
a note.

Soon thirteen pens were scratching away industriously, while Eliza and
Dave fingered theirs, fidgeted with the paper, and wriggled in their
seats as if uncertain what to say or whether they would write at all.

Finally the teacher said, “If any one of you is needed at home on
Saturday or cannot for any other reason go to the party, you may write
that, but each child must send a reply; and be very careful, for I shall
send the notes as they are written without corrections.”

Sarah Barnes was deputed to collect the papers, and after school was
dismissed Miss Wilde glanced over the notes before enclosing them in one
large envelope. Eliza’s read:—

    “I would like to go to the party but my ma says to look at birds
    is silly and that when folks looks much at birds they get afraid
    to trim their hats with them, and my ma and me has birds on our
    Sunday hats and they look tastie, and we don’t want to get
    afraid so there’s no use in my going to the party ’xcept to eat
    the lunch, which wouldn’t be fare.”

Miss Wilde’s first impulse was to leave out this curiously worded and
badly spelled letter; then, as she read it a second time she smiled and
said to herself, “Who knows but what this note will give Gray Lady a
good idea of the other side of the question and of the objections she
will meet?”

Dave’s note was no more agreeable, though expressed rather more
clearly:—

    “I’d like to go up to your house, but when I told father bout
    the other day and you wanting us not to get birds’ eggs, he says
    he knows what some people want, and next thing will be to get me
    to sign that I won’t go trappin or shootin nothin, and spoiling
    my fun, and birds are only knuisances, except the kinds we can
    eat.”

This note also went with the others, but by Friday morning the two
children, who had heard nothing talked of for two days but the party,
began to wish that they were going, Eliza especially, for her mother
said that morning, “You weren’t smart to refuse; you could have had a
peep inside the General’s house, maybe, and I don’t believe she’d dassed
said a word about birds on hats, with one of the company wearing ’em!”

On Friday afternoon, when Miss Wilde asked the children to meet her at
the hedge half a mile above the schoolhouse at ten o’clock the following
morning, so that they might take a short cut across the fields, she
noticed that Eliza and Dave hung behind the others, who as usual raced
off in different directions toward home, and then Eliza, who was walking
beside her, mumbled something about “wishing she hadn’t refused and
supposing that it was too late now,” etc.

“Of course, it is not very polite to change one’s mind about an
invitation,” said the teacher, “but Gray Lady wrote me last night that
if you and Dave should feel differently about wishing to come, I might
bring you, but that after to-morrow it would be too late.”

At ten o’clock this bright September morning Gray Lady came out on the
porch of the big white house, with the row of columns in front, that was
known the country-side over as “the General’s.” There was a wide lawn in
front of the house and on either side, arched by old elms, the leaves of
which were now turning yellow, but there had been no frost and the
flowers in the buds were still bright.

Back of the house was a flower garden, with grape and rose arbours on
either side, under which chairs and little tables were placed
invitingly. Beyond this garden was a maze of fruit bushes and the young
orchard, and beyond this the old orchard, now running half wild,
stretched downhill toward the river woods.

A lovelier place could not have been planned for either children or
birds, or the people who love both, nor a more perfect place for all
three to live together in peace and comfort.

Goldilocks was already out, and her faithful Ann Hughes was pushing her
chair to and fro, for when one is eager and impatient it is very hard to
have to sit still. Goldilocks was growing stronger every day and could
walk a few yards all alone, but it tired her, and her mother thought the
excitement of seeing so many children would be enough for one day.

Presently a head, with a cap on it, bobbed up over the last hump in the
road below the house, and then another with a ribbon-trimmed hat upon
it, the pair belonging to Tommy Todd and Sarah Barnes, who led the
procession; and in a few minutes more the entire group had reached the
porch and Sarah Barnes was repeating their names to Goldilocks. The five
boys rather hung back, but that was to be expected of them.

As a little later Gray Lady led the way down to the garden, she turned
to Ann and gave her some directions for the house and was going to push
the chair herself when Tommy Todd came forward and seized the handle,
saying earnestly, “I can do that first-rate. When dad fell out of the
haymow and broke his leg, I used to tote him all round the farm, and
never bumped him a bit,—only in ploughed land and off roads you’ve got
to go jest so easy.” And to illustrate he raised the front wheels of the
chair and bearing on the handles lowered them again as they left the
garden path for the rough grass-grown track that led to the orchard.
Goldilocks looked up and smiled at him, and then at Sarah and Miss
Wilde, who walked one on each side, neither of the four dreaming at that
moment how much happier their lives would be because they had met.

“Why, the bars are gone and there is a brand new gate!” exclaimed Sarah
Barnes, as they reached the opening in the stone fence that had been
spanned by rough-hewn bars ever since she could remember. There, between
strong cedar posts, hung a rustic gate, and above it was a double arch
of the same material, into which the word BIRDLAND was interwoven in
small sticks of the same wood.

“That is a surprise that Jacob Hughes made for to-day, for this is my
birthday party, you see, and some day mother is going to have a flagpole
for Birdland with an eagle on top. Jacob is Ann’s brother,” she
continued by way of explanation. “He used to be a sailor once, but now
he’s come to live with us always. He is a carpenter, too, and he can
whittle almost anything with his knife, and he makes the most beautiful
bird-houses. I should really like to live in one myself—that is, of
course, if I were a bird!”

“If you were a bird you’d be a bluebird, I guess,” said Sarah Barnes, as
she glanced at the deep blue sailor suit, with the crimson shield in
front, that Goldilocks wore.

“I’d rather be a big owl,” said Tommy Todd, “and sit up in a tree in the
woods and call out ‘Woo-oo-oo’ when people go by in the dark and scare
’em.” And he gave such a good imitation of an owl’s hoot that Bruce, the
Collie dog, who always either walked or sat beside Goldilocks’ chair,
began to bark and circle wildly about, nose in air.

“I’m very sure I shouldn’t care to be an owl, for then I should have to
eat meadow-mice and moles, and swallow them, fur and all, and that would
taste so mussy,” said Goldilocks.

So it came about that all the children were in very good humour when
they entered Birdland on Goldilocks’ birthday, and Gray Lady smiled
happily as she looked at the group with her precious daughter in the
midst and thought that her experiment had begun with a happy omen.

Though many of the apples that grew on the trees of the old orchard
would not have taken prizes at the country fair, they looked very
tempting to the youngsters,—Baldwins, Spitzenburghs, and russets of two
sorts, the green and the golden, were still on the trees, but there were
great heaps of earlier varieties on the ground, and Jacob and another
man were busy sorting them over.

Reading in the children’s eager faces what they would like to do, Gray
Lady said, “You may run off now and have all the apples you want, and an
hour for playing ‘hide-and-seek,’ ‘red lion,’ or ‘Indians,’ in all the
orchard and meadows and woodland yonder, and then when you hear a horn
blow come back and you will find us over in the corner where the table
and seats are placed.” Then, seeing that some of the girls had brought
wraps or jackets with them, and also that the Sunday-best hats that they
wore would be in the way of romping, Gray Lady told them to hang them on
the tree nearest where she and Miss Wilde were seated.

At first Sarah and Tommy were not going with the others, but Goldilocks
insisted that they should leave her in a gap where the rows of trees
formed a long lane through which she could see across the meadows to the
woods.

These two children were quite at home in this neighbourhood, for had
there not been a particular gap in the old fence through which they had
taken a “short cut” down to the village ever since they could remember?

“I wonder if Goldilocks knows that Quail nest in this brush and scratch
around here like chickens,” said Tommy, as they left the orchard for the
meadow.

“Yes, and you got that three-story nest of yours last fall in the
bough-apple tree,” said Sarah.

Eliza and Dave soon forgot all about their reasons for having at first
refused to go to the party, and when they heard the horn tooting it
seemed so soon that they could hardly believe that it was noon and
luncheon time. And such a luncheon as it was! Around the trunk of the
largest tree in the orchard, four tables were so placed that when
covered they looked like one big table, with the tree growing through
the centre.

The white cloth was bordered with russet and gold beech leaves, bleached
ferns, and the deep red leaves of maples and oaks; grapes and oranges
were piled high in baskets made of hollowed-out watermelons. Hard-boiled
eggs were arranged in nests built of narrow, dainty sandwiches, little
iced cakes rested upon plates of braided corn-husks, and Goldilocks’
birthday cake, with its twelve candles, was ornamented with little doves
made of white sugar. When, last and best of all, the ice-cream appeared,
without which no party is complete, it was in the form of a large white
hen with a very red comb, while from beneath her peeped ice-cream eggs
of many colours, chocolate-brown, pistachio-green, lemon-yellow, and
strawberry-red, the nest being woven of spun sugar that so closely
resembled fine straw that it was not until the children had tasted it
that they were convinced that it really was candy.

Country children are usually very silent when on their good behaviour,
but such ice-cream had never been heard of either at Foxes Corners, the
Centre, or the near-by manufacturing town, and muffled “ohs” and “ahs”
of satisfaction would break out until, Miss Wilde having given no
rebuking glance, a perfect babble of enthusiasm arose that lasted until
the meal was ended.

“Why, what _is_ that?” asked Ruth Banks, glancing as she spoke toward a
very old tree that, having partly blown over, was resting on four of its
branches that served as legs and made it appear like some strange goblin
animal. On the upper side of this fallen tree, built around an upright
branch, was a platform made of old wood with the bark on, and on the
different sections of this were peanuts, shelled corn, pounded up dog
crackers and buckwheat, while on a series of blunt spikes driven into
the branch, were some lumps of suet and bits of bacon rind. As Ruth
spoke a little black-and-white bird, with short tail and legs, was
picking vigorously at the suet, using his stout bill with the quick
sharp blows of a hammer.

“That? Oh—” said Goldilocks, “that is another birthday surprise that
mother and Jake made for me. That is, mother planned it, and Jake did
the work. It is a birds’ lunch-counter, and this winter we are going to
keep all the different kinds of food on it that the birds like, so that
they need never leave us because they are hungry.”

“There’s lots of things all around now that they can eat,” said Tommy
Todd.

“Yes, of course, but we want them to become accustomed to the table, to
know where the food is before they need it and think about going away,
and wild birds are always suspicious of new things,” said Gray Lady.

There was one more feature of the luncheon, but, as it was something
that could not be put upon the table, it was hung in the tree overhead.
This thing looked like a great bunch of gayly coloured autumn leaves
tied tight together, and from it hung a number of red strings, as many
in fact as there were people at the party.

Gray Lady explained that each child in turn was to pull a string and, as
they held back as if in doubt as to the result, she herself pulled the
first cord and out dropped from the ball a long motto in yellow-fringed
paper that, on being unrolled, contained beside the snapper a little
paper roll on which was printed, “I am Mazulm, the Night Owl,” and when
Gray Lady carefully unfolded the paper it proved to be a cap with
strings, shaped like an owl’s head, which seemed to the children to wink
its yellow tinsel eyes as Gray Lady placed it upon her fluffy hair.

Then everybody pulled a string, and soon there hopped about a startling
array of birds with human legs and arms, for every one entered fully
into the fun of the thing, even quiet Miss Wilde wearing her Blue Jay
cap and calling the bird’s note with good effect.

“Now run about and see all that you can before playtime is over, and we
go into the study for our first bird lesson,” said Gray Lady.

“I wish we could have a lunch-counter for birds at our school,” said
Sarah, “but we haven’t any near-by tree.”

“Perhaps you may be able to have one—a tree is not always necessary. I
have several ideas for lunch-counters in my scrap-book,” said Gray Lady.

As the children walked along, some swung their hats by the elastics in
rhythm with their steps. The elastic of Eliza Clausen’s hat was new and
strong and all of a sudden it gave a snap, and the hat flew into
Goldilocks’ lap. She had stretched out her hand to return it to its
owner when she glanced at the hat, and her whole face changed and the
smile faded from her lips. “Oh, Eliza!” she exclaimed appealingly, “you
don’t know that those feathers on your hat are wings of dear, lovely
Barn Swallows, or you wouldn’t wear it, would you?”

“’Course I do,” said Eliza, taken off her guard and at heart now
provoked and ashamed at having her hat seen, “and I’ve got lots more
kinds at home. Ma’s got feathers on her hat, too—tasty feathers. Miss
Barker from New York that boarded with us gave ’em to her; they cost a
lot and stick right up in a nice stiff long bunch. They’re called
regrets, and they don’t grow round here, but they’re ever so stylish.”
And Eliza held her nose in the air with a sniff of scorn, a vulgar
travesty that the pounding of her heart belied.

“I don’t think those stiff regret feathers in your mother’s hat are
stylish,” said Sarah Barnes, quickly taking up the cudgels; “I think
they look like fish bones!” Then Eliza began to cry, and both Goldilocks
and Sarah looked distressed.

Gray Lady hesitated a moment and then said, “Eliza, dear, I’m sorry that
this has happened just now. It is not generally a good plan for us to
criticise one another’s clothing or habits, but there are times when it
is necessary. Sooner or later I should have told you the reasons why
people who stop to think and have kind hearts are no longer willing to
wear the feathers of wild birds, and I’m sure that presently, when you
stop and think, you will see that it is so.”

Then they all walked very quietly up to the library that had belonged to
Goldilocks’ father, and when they were seated and had time to look about
they saw that the walls above the book-cases were covered by pictures of
birds in their natural colours.

On the table at one end of the room were piled some books, and by this
Gray Lady seated herself, her scrap-book by her elbow,—a book, by the
way, with which, before another season, they were to become as well
acquainted as with their friend herself.

Tommy Todd could not take his eyes from a picture of a tall white bird,
with long neck and legs and a graceful sweep of slender feathers that
drooped from its back over the tail. Holding up his hand, which at
school always means that you wish to ask a question, Tommy said,
“Please, what is that bird’s name? There’s a big, dark, gray one, shaped
something like it, that I’ve seen by the mill-pond, but it’s not half so
pretty. I’ve never seen one like this, here.”

“That bird,” said Gray Lady, “is the Snowy Heron, Egret, or _Re_gret
Bird, as Eliza called it a few minutes ago, and I think that you will
agree that the name is a very suitable one when I tell you the bird’s
story.”



                                   V
                              REASONS WHY


When the children had satisfied their curiosity by looking about the
room at the pictures and stuffed birds in cases as much as they wished
and were comfortably seated, Gray Lady drew a chair into the midst of
the group and began to talk, not a bit like a teacher in school, but as
if she had dropped in among them to have a little chat.

“When one has looked at something from one side all one’s life it is
hard to realize that there is another,” she said, smiling brightly at
Eliza and Dave, who chanced to be sitting together and who looked not
only unhappy but very sullen.

“I have always happened to be with people who love everything that lives
and grows. They have always been kind to birds because it never occurred
to them to be otherwise. In watching them and learning their ways, they
also learned that these winged beings had another value beside that of
beauty of colour and song, that by fulfilling their destiny and eating
many destructive bugs and animals they not only earn their own
livelihood but help keep us all alive by protecting the farmers’ crops.

“Thus, when I went down to the school at Foxes Corners, I took it too
much for granted that you all cared for birds and would naturally wish
to protect them. I thought that all I had to do was to try to tell you
interesting stories that would help you to remember the names and habits
of the various birds. But Eliza’s hat, and a little note that I received
from one of the boys which showed that he and his family considered all
birds that are not good to eat as worse than useless, show me that some
of you look at birds from another side. Those that do certainly have a
right to, as a lawyer would say, have the case argued before them so
that they may see for themselves why they are on the wrong side of the
tree.

“The birds were on the earth before man came, and in those far-back
times they were able to look after and protect themselves, because the
warfare they waged was only with animals often less intelligent than
themselves. Do you remember the beautiful allegory of the creation of
this earth written in Genesis which is also written and proven in the
records the geologists find buried in the earth, and quarry from the
rocks themselves?

“When man came, in order that he might live comfortably and safely, many
of his improvements brought death to his feathered friends. Take, for
example, two objects that you all know,—the lighthouse at the end of
the bar by the harbour head, and the telegraph and telephone wires that
follow the highway near your schoolhouse. Men have need of both these
things, and yet, in their travels on dark nights, thousands of birds, by
flying toward the bright tower light that seems to promise them safety,
or coming against the innumerable wires, are dashed to death.

“Of all the mounted birds that you see in the cases there, not one was
deliberately killed by my husband, but they were picked up and sent to
him by various lighthouse keepers along the coast who knew his interest
and that he would gladly pay them for their trouble. By and by, when we
come to the stories of the flight of some of those birds, you will be
amazed to see what frail little things have ventured miles away in their
travels; even tiny Humming-birds came to my husband in this way. This
danger grows greater every day because of the many tall buildings in the
cities that are almost always located by rivers, for to follow these
waterways seems to be the birds’ favourite way of travelling.


                           THE USES OF BIRDS

                       _What the Birds do for us_

“Perhaps even those of you who love birds have never thought very much
about their ways of life. You are so accustomed to seeing them fly
about, and to hearing them sing, that you do not realize what a strange,
unnatural, silent thing springtime would be if the birds should all
suddenly disappear.

“Yes, indeed, the world would be sad and lonely without these beautiful
winged voices. But something even more dreadful would happen should they
leave us: the people of the world would be in danger of starving,
because the birds would not be here to feed on the myriad worms and
insects that eat the wheat and corn and fruits upon which we, together
with other animals, depend for food.

“The insects gnawing at the roots of the pasture grasses would destroy
both the summer grazing for the cattle and the hay for winter fodder; if
worms destroyed the forests, there would be no trees for firewood, and
also the lack of shade would make the sources of our rivers dry up and
we should soon suffer for water.

“Girls and boys might never think of this, but the Wise Men who live in
Washington, and form the association known as the Biological Survey, as
well as those of the Departments of Agriculture in each state, thought
of this long ago.

“They have worked hard and proved the truth of this whole matter, and
now know exactly upon what each kind of bird feeds; and laws are
everywhere being made to protect the useful birds from people who are
either so stupid or so vicious that they think a bird is something to be
shot or stoned, and that the robbing of nests of eggs is a clever thing
to do.

“Any child who stops to think must realize one thing: As almost all
birds live on animal food during the nesting season, and feed their
young with it, and many kinds eat it all the year, it follows that the
more birds we have the fewer bugs there will be.

“Also those birds who feed on seeds and wild fruits destroy in the
winter season quantities of weed seeds that would spring up and choke
the crops, while they sow the seeds of wild fruits and berries, because
the pits in these seeds, being hard, are dropped undigested.

“‘But,’ says some one, ‘the Robins and Catbirds came in our garden and
bit the ripe side of the strawberries and cherries that father was
growing for market, and we had to shoot them to make them stay away.’

“This is all true: some birds will steal a few berries, but for this
mischief they do good all the rest of the long season; so pray ask your
father to put only powder, a ‘blank cartridge,’ as it is called, in the
gun, that it may give the birds warning to keep off, but not kill them;
and let him save all the bullets and shot for the Coward Crow, himself a
nest robber, the Great Horned Owl, the Hen and Chicken Hawks, and the
English Sparrow.

“In the short stories that I am going to read or tell you of the birds,
I will try to speak of the chief food of each, so that you may put a
good mark beside its name in your memory, and try to realize that these
birds, beautiful as many are, still have a deeper claim upon you. I wish
you to see that they, as well as you, are citizens of this great
Republic and do their part for the public good, which, next to the care
and love of home, should be the chief ambition of us all, men or women.

“The wise men know this and they have made laws to protect the birds and
other animals from cruelty and destruction, just as they have made laws
to protect all other citizens. Listen to what your state forbids you to
do,—to the laws that if you break you must and should be punished:—


       WARNING! WHAT THE LAW OF YOUR STATE SAYS ABOUT SONG-BIRDS

“_No person shall kill_, catch, or have in possession, living or dead,
at any time, any wild bird other than a game-bird, nor any part thereof,
except the English Sparrow, Crow, Great Horned Owl, or the Hawks, other
than the Osprey or Fish Hawk. No person shall take, destroy, or disturb,
or have in possession the nest or eggs of any wild bird, and the sale of
these birds or shipment out of the state is forbidden.

_Hunting or shooting on Sunday is forbidden._

“It is _unlawful_ to kill Fish Hawks, Eagles, Gulls, Terns, Loons,
Divers, Grebes, Doves, Wild Pigeons, Yellowhammers, Meadowlarks, or
Herons at any time. (These are not game-birds in the reading of the
law.)

“We are living in the state of Connecticut, but this is the substance of
the law concerning the taking of eggs or birds other than game-birds
(except when the Wise Men need them for Museums and have special
permission) in the greater number of states.

“Tommy Todd, will you kindly go to the coloured map hanging on the door
yonder and point out as I read, those few states that allow the killing
of song-birds. This will be much easier than for you to learn the names
of those wise states that, like our own, give citizen birds full
protection.

“The east and middle west stand solid for protection, so you must begin
on the Canadian boundary with North Dakota, then follow Nebraska,
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory, a bad blot in the centre of the
map, but perhaps some day soon, if all the school children there learn
about the birds, they will beg their fathers and uncles who go to the
legislature to make laws to protect their birds also. For if they wait
until they themselves grow up, some kinds of birds may have gone forever
and it will be too late.

“Fortunately, you see, there are states next that form a sort of bird
bridge of refuge; and then comes New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada,
Idaho, and Montana, without good laws; but fortunately for the coast
birds, Washington, Oregon, and California are on our side, and it is the
duty of every boy and girl as well as every man and woman to learn the
laws of the state where they live, and keep them.


                        CRUELTY TO WILD ANIMALS

“There are many children of foreign birth who perhaps would not break
the laws of this country if they knew of them, but do so innocently
because they either do not know, or do not speak English well enough to
understand them fully, and think that in this country, where they have
so much liberty, they are free to do as they like about everything.

“There are also Americans, I am sorry to say, as well as foreign-born,
who have a heartless streak in them, and first show it by cruelty to
helpless, harmless animals. This should be stopped, as much for their
good as future citizens as for the welfare of the wild animals
themselves, for the child who will kill or torture a dumb beast has the
germs of murder in him that may later, in a fit of passion, break out
toward a fellow-being.

“What do you think of boys—yes, and girls, for I saw one last
spring—who would spend an afternoon in stoning the hanging nest of an
Oriole until the nestlings, dying, stopped their pitiful cries and fell
to the ground in the rags of their wonderful home, while their parents
circled about in agony? Sad to say, these were American-born children,
too, who live not far from Foxes Corners, who very well knew right from
wrong.

“When children have this evil mind, the laws of the state must be used
to cleanse,—just as the law may enter the house and do away with
contagious disease. Cruelty is often as infectious as sickness; and it
is, in fact, a sickness of the mind. It is quite as necessary sometimes
that the heart should go to school and be taught kindness as that we
should learn to read.


                        HOW WE CAN PROTECT BIRDS

“We can help birds simply by not hurting them and leaving them as free
as possible to live out their joyous lives; but we can do much more if
we will leave some little bushy nooks about the farm or garden, where
they may nest in private, place food in convenient places during the
long, cold winter months for those birds that remain with us, and _make
it a rule never to raise more kittens than we need_ to keep barn and
house free of rats or than we can feed and care for.

“Silly people, who shirk responsibility, often say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t
think of drowning a kitten,’ and yet they will let dozens of them grow
up unfed and uncared for, or leave a litter by the roadside, until in
many places a breed of gaunt, half-wild cats roam about destroying the
eggs and young of song-birds, game-birds, and domestic fowls alike.

“A nice, comfortable house or barn cat is one thing, but the savage
outcast is quite another, and should no more be let live than a weasel
or a skunk.


                          HOUSING AND FEEDING

“When places become thickly settled, and villages grow into towns and
towns into cities, one of the first things that troubles the father and
mother of a family is to find house-room, a suitable place to live, that
shall be healthful for the children, and yet not be too far from the
father’s work, and many and many a family have had to move to
inconvenient places because such a home could not be found near by.

“Strange as it may at first seem, our little fellow-citizens, the birds,
have this same trouble.

“In an open, half-wooded farming country there are plenty of nesting
haunts, and running brooks and ponds for the birds who need water by
their homestead. But presently perhaps a railway comes by; the land is
bought up and the woods cut down for railway ties, the brush is cleared
from old pastures and they are turned into house-lots. Old orchards,
like ours here, are done away with, and everything is ‘cleaned up.’

“This is as it should be, and a sign of progress; but where are the
birds that Nature has told to nest in tree hollows, like the Bluebird,
Chickadee, the Tree Swallow, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, and the jolly
Yellowhammer, to find homes?

“You will often hear people say, ‘It is too bad the Bluebirds are dying
out;’ but if somewhere about the place you will fasten a hollow log or a
square bird-box with a single round opening in it to a high fence-post
or to a pole set up on purpose, you will soon see that the Bluebirds
have not died out, but that they have been discouraged in their
house-hunting.

“It is a mistake to make bird-houses too large, or to have many rooms in
them, unless you are hoping to attract Purple Martins, who like to live
in colonies. Birds like a whole building to themselves quite as well as
people, and they do not like people to come too close and peep in at
their windows and doors, either.

“Autumn and winter are the best seasons for making and placing
bird-boxes; it gives time for them to become ‘weathered’ before nesting
time, and birds are apt to be suspicious of anything that looks too new
and fine, and I have a plan that I think you will like by which you boys
can not only make bird-houses for your own yards and farms, but make
them to sell to others as well.

“It is also a kind act for those who live on farms to leave a few stacks
of cornstalks or a sheaf of rye standing in a fence corner as a shelter
for the game-birds, who are often driven by cold to burrow in the snow
for cover, and, frequently, when the crust freezes above them, die of
starvation.

“Doing this is wise as well as kind, for it helps to keep alive and
increase these valuable food-birds, and makes better sport for the
farmers in the time when the law says they may go a-hunting.

“Of course, in every country school even, there are children who do not
live on farms, but these can club together and do what they can to feed
and shelter the birds that come about the schoolhouse. You have all seen
Goldilocks’ lunch-table for feeding the winter birds, and though Sarah
Barnes would like to have such a one down at the school, others perhaps
may think it foolish.

“As you already know, some birds eat insects and others seed foods, or,
to put it another way, some birds prefer meat and some bread; so if you
wish to suit all kinds you must feed them with sandwiches, made of both
bread and meat.

“‘Sandwiches for birds!—how foolish!’ I hear some one say. Stop and
think a moment, and you will see that it is merely a way of expression,
a figure of speech, as it is called.

“Give the birds the material, crumbs, cracked corn, hayloft sweepings,
bits of fat bacon, suet, or bones that have some rags of meat attached,
and they will make their own sandwiches, each one to its taste.

“If this food is merely scattered upon the ground, it will attract mice,
rats, and other rodents, but if a regular lunch-counter is prepared for
the food you will find that the birds will appreciate the courtesy,
become liberal customers, and run up a long bill; this, however, they
will pay with music when spring comes.


                   A SUGGESTION FOR THE LUNCH-COUNTER

“Almost every school has a flagpole, and, while some are fastened to the
building itself, like the one at Foxes Corners, many stand free and are
planted in the yard. However, there is one old tree at your school and I
will ask Jacob to build you a lunch-counter, if you will promise to see
that it is kept well filled with provisions.

“This is the way it should be made: Around the pole a square or circular
shelf about eight inches wide can be fastened, four feet from the
ground, and edged with a strip of beading, barrel hoops, or the like. A
dozen tenpenny nails should be driven on the outside edge at intervals,
like the spokes to a wheel, and the whole neatly painted to match the
pole.

“Then each week we will ask Miss Wilde to appoint a child as _Bird
Steward_, his or her duties being to collect the scraps after the noon
dinner-hour and place them neatly on the counter, the crusts and crumbs
on the shelf and the meat to be hung on the spikes.

“Nothing will come amiss—pine cones, beechnuts, the shells of
hard-boiled eggs broken fine, apple cores, half-cleaned nuts; and if the
children will tell their parents of the counter, they will often put an
extra scrap or so in the dinner pail to help the feast. Or the fortunate
children whose fathers keep the market, the grocery store, or the mill,
may be able to obtain enough of the wastage to leave an extra supply on
Friday, so that the pensioners need not go hungry over Sunday.

“All the while the flag will wave gayly above little Citizen Bird, as
under its protection he feeds upon his human brothers’ bounty.

“Here is the story of one of these lunch-counters that proved a success.
It was written to encourage others, and I will read it so that you may
know that bird lunch-counters belong to real and not to fairy-tales.”


                      AN ADIRONDACK LUNCH-COUNTER

In the Adirondacks in March, 1900, the snow fell over four feet deep,
and wild birds were driven from the deep woods to seek for food near the
habitation of man. It occurred to me that a lunch-counter with “meals at
all hours” might suit the convenience of some of the visitors to my
orchard, so I fixed a plank out in front of the house, nailed pieces of
raw and cooked meat to it, sprinkled bread-crumbs and seeds around, and
awaited results.

The first caller was a Chickadee. He tasted the meat, seemed to enjoy
it, and went off for his mate. They did not seem in the least afraid
when I stood on the veranda and watched them, and after a time paid but
little attention to the noises in the house; but only one would eat at a
time. The other one seemed to keep watch. I set my camera and secured a
picture of one alone. While focussing for the meat one Chickadee came
and commenced eating in front of the camera, and a second later its mate
perched on my hand as I turned the focussing screw.

I saw the Chickadees tear off pieces of meat and suet and hide them in
the woodpile. This they did repeatedly, and later in the day would come
back and eat them if the lunch-counter was empty.

My observation in this respect is confirmed by a lumber-man, who noticed
that when eating his lunch, back in the woods, the Chickadees were very
friendly and would carry off scraps of meat and hide them, coming back
for more, time and time again.

The next day another pair of Chickadees and a pair of White-breasted
Nuthatches came. The Nuthatches had a presumptuous way of taking
possession, and came first one and then both together. The Chickadees
flew back and forth in an impatient manner, but every time they went
near the meat the Nuthatches would fly or hop toward them, uttering what
sounded to me like a nasal, French _no, no, no_, and the Chickadees
would retire to await their turn when the Nuthatches were away.

The news of the free lunch must have travelled as rapidly in the bird
world as gossip in a country town usually does, for before long a
beautiful male Hairy Woodpecker made his appearance, and came regularly
night and morning for a number of days. Hunger made him bold, and he
would allow me to walk to within a few feet of him when changing plates
in the camera. It was interesting to note his position on the plank.
When he was eating, his tail was braced to steady his body. He did not
stand on his feet, except when I attracted his attention by tapping on
the window, but when eating put his feet out in front of him in a most
peculiar manner. This position enabled him to draw his head far back and
gave more power to the stroke of his bill, and shows that Woodpeckers
are not adapted for board-walking.

Of course, the smaller Downy Woodpeckers were around; they always are in
the orchard toward spring. I also had a flock of Redpolls come a number
of times after a little bare spot of ground began to show, but, although
they ate seeds I put on the ground, they would not come up on the
lunch-counter and did not stay very long. Beautiful Pine Grosbeaks came,
too, but they preferred picking up the seeds they found under the maple
trees. The American Goldfinches, in their Quaker winter dresses, called,
but the seeds on some weeds in the garden just peeping above the snow
pleased them better than a more elaborate lunch, and saying
“per-chic-o-ree” they would leave.—F. A. Van Sant, Jay, N.Y., in _Bird
Lore_.

“Now, while you move about and rest yourselves a few moments, I will ask
Dave and Tommy to bring that picture of the great white bird from the
easel and place it by the table here, while I look in this portfolio for
another to put with it. See—here is a bird that is much taller than the
men beside it and wears bunches of plumes on tail and wings. These two
birds represent the wrong and right side of feather wearing!

“What are their real names? The Snowy Heron and the Ostrich, both birds
of warm climate. I’m always glad when children wish to know the _real_
names of birds and try to remember them. No one can become actually a
friend of a person or an animal whose name is merely general. Has Miss
Wilde ever read you a little poem there is about the pleasure of
learning _real_ names? No? I will repeat it and perhaps she will let you
learn it next Friday.”


                              MATILDA ANN

    I knew a charming little girl,
    Who’d say, “Oh, see that flower!”
    Whenever in the garden
    Or woods she spent an hour.
    And sometimes she would listen,
    And say, “Oh, hear that bird!”
    Whenever in the forest
    Its clear, sweet note was heard.

    But then I knew another—
    Much wiser, don’t you think?
    Who never called a bird a “bird”;
    But said “the bobolink”
    Or “oriole” or “robin”
    Or “wren,” as it might be;
    She called them all by their first names,
    So intimate was she.

    And in the woods or garden
    She never picked a “flower”;
    But “anemones,” “hepaticas,”
    Or “pansies,” by the hour.
    Both little girls loved birds and flowers,
    But one love was the best:
    I need not point the moral;
    I’m sure you see the rest.

    For would it not be very queer,
    If when, perhaps, you came,
    Your parents had not thought worth while
    To give you any name?
    I think you would be quite upset,
    And feel your brain a-whirl,
    If you were not “Matilda Ann,”
    But just “a little girl”!

    —Alice W. Rollins, in the _Independent_.

[Illustration: SNOWY HERON]



                                   VI
                           FEATHERS AND HATS


                           _The White Heron_

“Perhaps the boys may not be interested in hearing about feathers and
hats,” said Gray Lady, “but the two birds whose pictures you see here
are very interesting in themselves; and it is well that both boys and
girls should realize all the different reasons why some kinds of birds
have been growing fewer and fewer, until it is necessary to take active
measures for their protection.

“Boys have robbed nests and thoughtless men have shot and caged
song-birds, and have often killed many more food-birds than they could
eat, merely for what they call the ‘sport’ of killing.

“Girls who seldom rob nests, unless they are following the examples of
their brothers, and women who would shrink from touching firearms or
killing a bird, will still, as far as the law allows and sometimes
further, wear birds’ feathers on their hats.

“Not many years ago we often saw whole birds, such as Humming-birds,
Swallows,—like those on Eliza’s hat,—Bluebirds, and many of the pretty
little warblers used as hat trimming. To-day, this is against the law in
all of the really civilized of the United States, and any one offering
the feathers of these birds for sale may be arrested and fined.”

“Please, is it any harm to wear roosters’ feathers or Guinea hens’ and
ducks’ wings?” asked Ruth Banks. “’Cause I’ve got two real nice duck
wings and a lovely spangled rooster tail—home-made ducks, you know,
that we hatch under hens,” she added.

“No, it is no harm to use the feathers of domestic fowls, or other
food-birds,” said Gray Lady; “only, unless we have raised the fowls from
which they come ourselves, it is not easy to be sure about the matter,
unless the feathers are left in their natural colours. They may tell you
in a shop that the wing or breast you see is made of dyed chicken or
pigeon feathers. You must take their word that this is so, and many
times they may have been misled in the matter themselves.

“Birds’ feathers, it cannot be denied, are very beautiful and
ornamental, but to my mind it is very bad taste to wear anything dead
merely for ornament,—furs, of course, keep the wearer warm as
well,—but I myself do not care for any hat trimming that can only be
had by taking life.

“There is one kind of feather,—the Heron or Egret plume,—that I am not
only sorry, but ashamed, to say is still in use, because it comes from
birds that live in other countries, and these birds we cannot yet
protect. Not only must these birds be killed to obtain the coveted
plumes, but the killing is done in a brutal way, and at a time of
year—the nesting season—when, according to the wise law of nature,
every bird should be cherished and its privacy respected.

“Look at this great White Heron in the picture beside me here. He
measures two feet from the tip of his bill up over his head to his tail,
though you cannot really see the tail as he is pictured on account of
the beautiful sweeping cloak of fine feathers that cover it. This bird
has yellow eyes and feet, beak and legs partly yellow and partly black,
but is everywhere else white of an almost dazzling brilliancy.

“Many birds wear more beautiful and highly coloured feathers in the
nesting season than at any other. These Herons, both male and female,
are pure white all the year through, but as the nesting season
approaches a change comes,—a number of slender plumes grow out from
between the shoulders and curve gracefully over the tail, forming a
complete mantle, and it is these feathers that are sought by the
professional plume hunters to be made into the feathery tufts sold as
egrets, though the word Eliza used by a slip of the tongue, _re_grets, I
think much more suitable, for surely any one with a warm woman’s heart
would _regret_ ever having worn them if she realized how they are
obtained.”

“Miss Barker gave my mother hers,” put in Eliza, “’cause she’d just
found out where they came from and dassn’t wear it to church ’cause her
minister belongs to a society that wouldn’t like it. She didn’t tell us
why, though; she only said regrets was counted stylish in N’ York.”

“Yes,” said Gray Lady, “that is all the idea some people, who think
themselves very clever, have of honour. To give away a feather that one
cannot wear, for fear of what some one will say, is like giving stolen
goods to some one who does not know that they are stolen.

“Not many years ago this Snowy Heron and his cousin, the American Egret,
almost twice his size, might be found everywhere in the swampy groves of
temperate and tropical America, from New Jersey across to Minnesota and
Oregon, and as far south as Patagonia in South America. Within a few
years I have seen one or two in autumn in the marshes back of our bay
below, for like many birds they wander about after the nesting season.
Their food consists of small fish,—shrimps, water-beetles, etc.,—so
that they never make their homes far from moist places. Now, in this
country at least, the race is nearly gone, and it will be only by the
strictest laws and most complete protection that it will be possible for
the tribe to increase. To regain its old footing cannot be hoped for.

“The beginning of the tragedy came by woman’s love of finery, and only
by her resolutely giving it up can the trouble be ended.

“Through some happening it was discovered that this mantle of feathers
could be made into ornaments for hats and hair that were not only widely
sought, but brought a high price. This was enough; bands of hunters were
organized to search the swamps for the Herons and obtain the plumes
_when they were in the best condition_. How it was to be done did not
matter, and indeed it has taken the world many years to realize the
horror of it all.

“These Herons breed in colonies. The nest, a stoutly built, slightly
hollowed platform of small sticks, reeds, etc., is placed either in a
tree or tall bush, care being always taken to keep it safely above the
water-line. As the birds are very sociable, a single bush or tree would
often contain many nests.

“When the nesting season was well under way and the feather cloaks in
their first perfection, through the lagoons and sluggish waterways came
noiseless flat-bottomed boats, low on the water, and poled by the
guiding Indian or half-breed. Astern sat the plume hunters, guns at rest
and eyes eagerly scanning the foliage above their heads. ‘Ah! here is a
rookery at last!’ (rookery being the name given to colonies of many
birds beside the Rook). The parent birds are sailing gracefully to and
fro, their long legs trailing behind, while they feed the newly hatched
nestlings. For with the most crafty calculation the plume hunters wait
for the time when the birds are hatched because they know that the
parents are then less likely to take alarm and fly beyond reach.

“The boat is stopped by the guide, who grasps an overhanging branch
close to where an opening in the under-brush gives a good view of the
colony.

“Bang! bang! Bodies crashing through the branches and pitiful cries of
alarm mingle for several minutes, as the confused birds rise, remember
their young, and return to die! When the smoke has lifted, the hunters
clear the ground of the dead and dying and piling them in the boat begin
to tear off that portion of the back, the ‘scalp,’ that holds the
precious plumes. If all the birds were dead, the horror would be less,
but time is precious; there are other rookeries to be visited that day,
and so the still breathing and fluttering birds are also torn and
mutilated.

“Then the boat glides on, leaving death behind. Yes, but not the silence
that usually goes with death, for there in a hundred nests are the
clamouring hungry broods that will die slowly of hunger, or be victims
of snakes or birds of prey,—the happier ending of the two.

“After a day’s work the plume hunters find ground dry enough for a camp,
where they pass the night, and at dawn they again glide forth on their
ghastly errand.

“Sometimes storm, pestilence, and famine may nearly exterminate a
species of bird or beast, but Nature in some way, if she still needs the
type, always manages to restore and undo her own mischief; but, as a
lover of these birds has said, ‘When man comes, slaughters, and
exterminates, Nature does not restore!’ It is only the men and women who
have done the evil that may be allowed to undo it, and sometimes it is
too late.

“Now you see why no one should wear egret plumes, the feathers of the
bird that has been called ‘The Bonnet Martyr.’ Girls and boys, whoever
you may be, who hear or read this story of the vanishing Snowy Heron, be
courageous, and wherever or whenever you see one of these regret plumes
ask the wearer if she knows how it was obtained and tell her its story,
for whether the bird who bore it lived in this or another country the
manner of taking is the same.

“There have been foolish stories told of raising these birds in
captivity and gathering the plumes after they are shed. This is not
true. They would, when shed naturally, be worn and useless, and the
egret will always be what one of the Wise Men has called it, the ‘White
Badge of Cruelty.’”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Now, Tommy Todd,” said Gray Lady, “you may take down the Heron and put
the other picture in its place. The bird in it is not graceful and
beautiful like the Heron; in fact, it looks more like some sort of a
camel than a bird, but its story is much more cheerful. Its feathers may
be worn by every one, for it is not necessary to kill or hurt the bird
in order to get them. Some of you have guessed its name already, I am
sure.


                             _The Ostrich_

“Ostriches live in warm countries as well as Herons, but here the
comparison begins and ends, for the Ostrich loves the open sandy desert
and was originally found wild in Africa, Arabia, and also in Persia. The
Ostrich, the largest bird now alive, is most peculiar both in appearance
and habits. Standing sometimes eight feet in height, it has a long,
almost bare neck, and small stupid-looking head; its wings are so small
that it cannot fly, but its strong legs, ending in two-toed feet, give
it the power of running as fast as a horse, and it can kick like a horse
also, with this difference,—an Ostrich kicks forward so if you wish to
be perfectly safe you must stand _behind_ it! At the base of the wings
and tail grow tufts of long and substantial feathers, the wing tufts
being the longer and best. In truth, but for the fact of the feathers
that cover its body, no one would guess that it was a bird, and even
with these it looks like some strange beast that has put on a borrowed
coat to go, perhaps, to the great Elephant Dance that little Toomai saw
once upon a time in the Jungle, about which Rudyard Kipling tells so
well that sometimes we wake up in the morning and really believe that we
ourselves have ridden to the dance upon the great Elephant instead of
Toomai.

“In wild life birds have always been hunted for their plumage as well as
for food. It is thought that the savage at first killed solely for food,
and then used the hides of beasts and feathers of birds for clothing and
decoration as an afterthought, some of the royal garments of kings and
chiefs of tribes being woven of countless rare feathers.

“When man as we know him, white or civilized man as he is called,
explored wild countries, he introduced two things that wrought great
harm to wild creatures and savages alike,—the money-trading instinct
and strong drink. In order to buy this drink, which always proved his
ruin, the savage looked about for something to offer in exchange, and
what was there for him but to kill beast or bird and offer some part of
it in trade?

“In this way the elephants’ tusks, of which ivory is made, rare furs,
alligator hides, and Ostrich eggs and plumes, as well as rough uncut
gems, became known to the people of Europe.

“The savages hunted the wild Ostrich with bow and arrows that were
sometimes poisoned, and the bird being killed, of course, yielded but
one crop of feathers.

“As the Ostrich cannot fly and is a very stupid bird, living in open
deserts where there were few places to hide, it was very easily
destroyed—its only means of escape being to outrun its pursuers, who
were on foot. But presently when firearms were used to hunt him, the
Ostrich seemed as utterly doomed as the White Heron.

[Illustration: CLIPPING OSTRICH PLUMES]

“But the day came when men who realized the great demand there was for
these feathers and the profit to be made by selling them, tried the
experiment of raising the birds in captivity, just as we do our barnyard
fowl, treating them kindly, and feeding them well, so that they might
yield not only one but many crops of plumes, because they knew that the
Ostrich is not only long-lived but, like the smaller birds, changes its
feathers every year.

“The Ostrich was a difficult bird to catch and tame when full grown, for
at that time they weigh several hundred pounds and their habit of
kicking has to be remembered, the same as with a wild horse. So the plan
was tried of collecting the eggs and hatching them out, and even this
was not as easy as it seems.

“Though Ostriches are so foolish that, when chased, they will often
stand still and hide their heads in the sand, evidently thinking that if
they cannot see their pursuers, they themselves cannot be seen, they
make devoted parents. And this plan was so successful that Ostriches are
now raised like domestic fowls, not only in Africa but in this country,
where the birds were introduced in 1882, and there are now many
successful Ostrich farms in Arizona, California, and Florida, where
alfalfa can be raised all the year, for this is the best food for them.

“The breeding habits of the Ostrich in captivity are different from
those of the wild birds of the desert who live half a dozen hens to a
family like our barnyard fowls. The nest is merely a hollow in the sand
a foot or so deep, and several broad, made by the pressure of the great
breast-bone and sides. Eggs are laid, one every other day, until a
‘clutch’ of a dozen or more has accumulated, and these must be kept warm
for nearly a month and a half before the chicks will be hatched.

“When you realize that one of these eggs would make an omelet as large
as two dozen and a half hens’ eggs, and weighs three or four pounds, so
that the omelet would feed an entire family, you will understand that it
takes both patience on the part of the parents and a great deal of heat
to hatch these eggs. Sometimes the owners prefer to hatch the eggs in an
incubator.

“You have some of you seen a Robin stand up in the nest and shuffle her
feet; when she does this she is turning her eggs, and the great Ostrich
eggs are also turned every day. When domesticated, the mother Ostrich
tends the eggs during the daylight hours, but the father takes her place
in the later afternoon and remains until morning. This is evidently the
result of the instinct for colour protection. The gray female shows the
least plainly in daylight on the sand, while the black-and-white male
can scarcely be seen at night. In fact, the domesticated bird is a
creature of such regular habits that, according to reliable accounts,
the male takes his place on the nest promptly at 5 P.M. and does not
move until 9 A.M. This account does not say whether Mrs. O. lets her
husband have an evening out once in a while to go to his club or lodge,
but perhaps, as he has the rest of the year to himself, he does not
expect a vacation in the important nesting season. But one thing is
known to be true, that Ostriches are very devoted to each other and that
the pairs when once mated remain together for life, an attribute of many
birds, especially the very long-lived species. It is said that the wild
Ostrich lives to be 100 years old. This may be true, for Ostriches who
have been captives 40 years are still alive and healthy. In the deserts
Ostriches are supposed to be able to go without water for days at a
time, but in captivity they drink freely every day. This either proves
that the habits alter very much, or else, that those who reported their
wild life did not see correctly.

“When the young Ostriches are hatched, they are about the size of a
Plymouth Rock hen and are mottled and fuzzy. They grow very rapidly, so
that at nine months old the bird will be nearly six feet tall, and after
this the plumes are plucked at intervals of nine months; the feathers do
not reach perfection, however, until the third year, and the birds do
not reach maturity and mate until they are four years old,—and a fine
male Ostrich of six or seven years of age is worth $1000 and will yield
from $50 to $80 worth of feathers yearly.

“When a little over a year old, the mottled plumage that the young birds
wear slowly changes, the female becomes a dusky gray, and the male
glossy black, though they both grow long white wing-plumes. By this you
may learn that all the gayly coloured plumes that you see are dyed, and
even those that remain black or white go through many processes of
cleansing and curling before they are sold in the shops.”

“How do they get the feathers off?” asked Sarah Barnes; “do they wait
until they moult or pull ’em like they do geese?—only that hurts some
’cause the geese squawk something dreadful.”

“I’m glad that you asked that question,” said Gray Lady, “because it is
one of the special points about Ostrich feathers that should be made
known to every one. If they waited for the feathers to be shed, they
would be worn and broken. You all know how very shabby the long
tail-feathers of a rooster become before the summer moulting time. When
Ostriches were first raised in confinement, their owners used to pluck
out the plumes. But they soon found that not only was this troublesome,
for the pain of it made the birds struggle, but the next crop of
feathers suffered in consequence. Nature has reasons for everything she
plans and there is evidently some substance in the butt of the old quill
that, by keeping the skin soft and open, prepares the way for the new
one that is to follow and causes it to be of better quality.

“Now the plumes are clipped off, and later on the stubs, which are then
dry, come out easily. The feathers of these birds are much fuller and
finer than those that came from the wild Ostriches.

“The picture shows an Ostrich in the little three-cornered pen with the
men holding up the tufts and preparing to snip off the feathers. The pen
is made in this shape so that there will be standing-room for the men,
but not room enough for the Ostrich to turn round and kick forward. A
hood shaped like a stocking is drawn over his head, and he is perfectly
quiet, for he feels no pain and no blood is drawn.

“Now you can judge for yourselves that Ostrich feathers may be safely
worn by every one who likes beautiful things, for certainly there are no
feathers so graceful as a sweeping Ostrich plume with the ends slightly
curled.

“In addition to the fact that the growing and taking of these feathers
is perfectly humane, their use encourages a large industry which gives
employment to many people here in _our own country_.”

“I wish my ma had an Ostrich plume in her Sunday hat instead of that
mean egret,” sighed Eliza Clausen, half to herself. “I can take the
smaller wings out of mine and leave the ribbon, but the feather’s the
whole topknot of ma’s.”

Softly as Eliza had spoken, her words could be heard in the silence that
came when the reader closed her scrap-book.

“Bravo! bravo! little girl,” said Gray Lady, smiling so brightly that
Eliza forgot to be embarrassed. “You see that your mother was right when
she said, ‘When people get to hearing about birds they stop caring to
wear them in their hats,’ even though she did not mean it quite in this
way. Very few people would wear the cruel kind of feathers if they only
understood. I will give you a pretty little Ostrich tuft to take to your
mother in exchange for the egret, when you explain to her about it, and
I’m sure Anne can find something among Goldilocks’ boxes to replace your
Swallow’s wings.”

Eliza’s eyes sparkled, and all signs of resentment left her face.

“But,” asked Gray Lady, “what will you do with the poor little wings and
the egret? You surely will not give them to any one else.”

“No, ma’am, I’ll have a funeral, and bury them down in the meadow, where
my kitten is that fell in the water barrel and sister’s canary!”

Then all the children laughed, including Eliza herself, and Gray Lady
joined.

“School is over for this afternoon,” said Gray Lady, “but before you go
we must arrange for our next meeting. I, myself, belong to the Humane
Society. How would you like to organize a little school society of your
own to help one another remember to be kind to everything that lives,
and also to see and learn all you can about our little brothers of the
air, whose life and happiness depends as much upon our mercy as our food
and shade, beautiful flowers, and luscious fruit depend upon their
industry?

“Let us call it ‘The Kind Hearts’ Club.’ Who will join it? Goldilocks
and Jacob Hughes are the first two members—how many more are there
here? Oh! Tommy Todd! one hand is enough to raise, unless you expect to
work for two people!”



                                  VII
                         THE KIND HEARTS’ CLUB


“While you were playing hide-and-seek in the orchard this morning, Miss
Wilde and I had a long talk about the Friday afternoons at school,” said
Gray Lady, “and what do you suppose? She has given every other Friday
afternoon to us, to you and to me, not only that we may all learn about
birds and animals and how to be kind to them, but other things as well.”

“That will be lovely!” exclaimed Sarah Barnes, but suddenly her face
clouded and she added; “that will only be twice a month, though, and if,
when it comes winter, it’s such bad weather that school has to be closed
up of a Friday, then it would be once a month, and that would be _very_
long to wait!”

“Ah! but you have not heard all of the plan yet,” said Gray Lady. “Two
Fridays of each month I will go to your school, and two Saturday
mornings in every month you are to come to my house, that is, if you
wish to,—of course you are not _obliged_ to come. And it will only be a
very bad snow-storm, deeper than horses’ legs are long, that will keep
me away from Foxes Corners, for did not you and I become friends on a
very dreary, rainy afternoon?

“On the Friday afternoon at school I will either tell or read you
stories of the birds of the particular season, and I shall give you
every chance to ask questions and tell anything that you have noticed
about birds or such little wild beasts as we have hereabouts, for you
know it is a very one-sided sort of meeting where one person does all
the talking.

“I may be a sober-minded Gray Lady, but I very well know how tiresome it
is to sit still for a couple of hours, even if one is listening to
something interesting. I think that one can hear so very much better if
the fingers are busy. So, with Ann Hughes’ help, I am going to give the
girls some plain, useful sewing to do, patchwork, gingham
cooking-aprons, and the like. This plain sewing will be Friday work. On
the Saturday mornings that you come to me you shall have something more
interesting to work upon,—that is, as many of you as prove that they
know a little about handling a needle. You shall learn to dress dolls
and make any number of pretty things besides.”

“I haven’t got any thimble,” said little Clara Hinks, called “Clary” for
short, in a quavering voice. “Grandma is going to give me a real silver
one when I’m eight, but that won’t be until next spring, and now I have
to borrow my big sister Livvie’s when I sew my patchwork, and it’s too
big, and it wiggles, and the needle often goes sideways into my finger.
Besides, she wouldn’t let me bring it to school, ’cause it’s got her
’nitials inside a heart on one side of it, and George Parsons gave it to
her, an’ anyways she’s using it all the time, ’cause she’s sewing her
weddin’ things terrible fast.”

Gray Lady had great difficulty to keep from laughing outright at this
burst of confidence, but she never hurt any one’s feelings, and her lips
merely curved into a quizzical smile, as she said, “What Clara says
about her thimble reminds me to tell you that Ann has a large work-box
with plain thimbles of all sizes, scissors, needles, and thread. This I
used last winter in the city in teaching some little girls to sew, who
were about your ages. I will lend you these things, and then later on,
if you do well, you will have a chance to earn work-boxes of your own.”

“Have we boys got to sew, too?” asked Tommy Todd, with a very
mischievous expression on his freckled face; “’cause I know how to sew
buttons on my overalls, and I can do it tighter’n ma can, so’s they
don’t yank off for ever so long!”

“No, I had thought of something quite different for you boys, though it
would not be amiss for you all to know how to take a few stitches for
yourselves, for you are all liable at some time in your lives to travel
in far-away places, and even when you go down to the shore and camp out
in summer, buttons will come off and stitches rip.

“It seemed to me that hammers and saws and chisels and nails and
jack-knives would be more interesting to you boys than dolls and
patchwork!” As Gray Lady pronounced the names of the tools slowly, so
that she might watch the effect of her words, she saw five pairs of eyes
sparkle, and when the magic word “jack-knives” was reached, they were
leaning forward so eagerly that Dave slipped quite off his chair and for
a moment knelt on the floor at Gray Lady’s feet.

“But what could we do with all those carpenters’ tools down at school?”
asked Dave, when he had regained his chair and the laugh at his downfall
had subsided. “Dad says it’s a wonder Foxes Corners’ schoolhouse don’t
fall down every time teacher bangs on the desk to call ’tention,—we
couldn’t hammer things up there.”

“No, that is very true,” said Gray Lady, “but the tools are to be used
at the ‘General’s house’ on Saturdays, and the jack-knives at school on
Fridays! I see that you cannot guess this part of the plan, so I will
not tease you by making you wait as I had first intended.

“As you may remember, Goldilocks told you this morning that Jacob
Hughes, who now lives with us since he has left the sea, and keeps
everything in repair about the place, besides being a good carpenter can
whittle almost anything that can be made from wood with a knife.

“In the attic of this house are two large rooms. One of these Jacob is
fitting up for a playroom for my little daughter, now that she will soon
be able to enjoy it. The other room was the workroom where her father
had his tools and workbench when he was a lad like you, for the General
had him taught the use of all the tools and he used to make bird-houses
and boats and garden seats and even chairs and such things for the
house. He grew to be so skilful that he learned to carve them
beautifully.

“Since he went away to his father and mother in heaven no one has used
the room; but it is not right to let things be useless when others need
them, and now Jacob is putting that room in order also. Then for half of
the time on Saturday morning he will take you up there, teach you the
use of the tools, and show you how to make bird-houses and many other
things, while on the Friday afternoons, when the girls are sewing, he
will bring some pieces of soft wood to school, and something that he has
carved as a model, and each boy must strive to make the best copy that
he can!”

“That’ll be bully!” cried Tommy Todd, adding, “and I think it is just
fine of you to let us use those tools that belonged to—to—” And here
Tommy faltered for the right word.

“To my husband,” said Gray Lady, very gently, and the children saw the
little mist that veiled her eyes, and understood better than words could
tell them why gray hair framed the face that was still young and why
there were no gay colours in her dress,—in short, it came to them why
their Gray Lady earned her name, and yet was never sad nor wished to
sadden others.

“S’pose we haven’t all got jack-knives—that is, ones that’ll cut?”
piped little Jared Hill, blushing red at having dared to speak. He was
the smallest boy in the school and lived with his grandparents, who,
though well-to-do, evidently believed it sinful to spend money for
anything but food and clothing, for the only Christmas presents Jared
ever had were those from the Sunday-school tree, and though he was seven
years old he had never owned a knife.

“If I lend the girls thimbles and scissors, I must, of course, lend the
boys jack-knives, and give them an equal chance of earning them for
their very own!” And from that moment Jared Hill firmly believed that
angels and good fairies had fluffy gray hair and wore shimmering gray
garments that smelled of fresh violets, like Gray Lady.

“Let me see,” said she, glancing at a little calendar in a silver frame
that stood upon her desk, “two weeks from to-day will be the 27th; then
you come here again. I should like every boy who can, to bring some bits
of old weathered wood with him. Either a few mossy shingles, the hollow
branch of a tree, a bundle of bark,—anything, in short, that will make
the bird-houses that you build look natural to the birds, who dislike
new boards and fresh paint so much that they will not use such houses
until they are old and weathered.”

Again Gray Lady consulted her calendar. “There will be eight Saturday
meetings before the Christmas holidays, and we must all be very
industrious so as to be ready for our fair.”

“Where? what?” cried Sarah Barnes and three or four other girls
together, for to these children on this remote hillside the word “fair”
meant visions of the County Agricultural Fair, and this stood for the
very gayest of times that they knew.

“A little fair of our own to be held in Goldilocks’ playroom and the
workroom where the ‘Kind Hearts’ Club’ will offer its friends
bird-houses, dolls, button-bags, cooking-aprons, and home-made cake and
candy. Then, with the money thus earned, the Club will have a little
fund for its winter work, and each member will, of course, have a vote
as to how the money is to be spent.”

Gray Lady opened a small drawer in her desk, and took from it two
packages of picture cards. The picture on the cards of the first pack
was of a little boy releasing a rabbit that had been caught in a trap.
The picture of the other cards was of a little girl standing in a
doorway, and scattering grain sweepings to the hungry birds on the
snow-covered ground.

“Now, who wishes to join the ‘Kind Hearts’ Club’? We must have some
members before we can elect our officers and begin. The promise you make
is very simple.” On the cards they read only these words: “I promise to
be kind to every living thing.” Under this was a place to write the name
of the member.

“How can we always tell what it is kind to do? Some folks think
different ways,” asked Eliza Clausen, the hat feathers still fresh in
her mind.

“Our hearts must tell us that, Eliza,” said Gray Lady, very gently. “We
cannot carry rules about with us, but, if we have kind hearts always in
our breasts, we shall not make mistakes. And even if our hearts do not
feel for others in the beginning, they may be taught by example, just as
our heads may learn from books. That is what I wish our Kind Hearts’
Club to stand for—to be a reminder that there is nothing better to work
for in this world than that our hearts may be kind and true to
ourselves, each other, and to God’s dumb animals that he has given for
our service and has trusted to our mercy, for this is true worship and
doing His will.”

Each one of the children present signed silently and Gray Lady copied
the names in a book, but let the children keep the cards, both as a
reminder and to show their parents.

Miss Wilde came forward at this moment and she and their hostess
explained the manner of electing officers. Before they trooped out on to
the lawn, even then reluctant to go, Goldilocks had been made president,
Miss Wilde, vice-president, Sarah Barnes, treasurer, and Tommy Todd, who
wrote a very clear, round hand, secretary, Dave, Jared Hill, and the two
Shelton boys, a committee to collect old wood, and Eliza Clausen, Ruth
Banks, and Mary Barnes, a committee to collect odd patterns for
patchwork, something in which the older country folks showed great
ingenuity and took no little pride.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Oh my, do look at the Swallows—there’s hundreds of them on the wires,”
said Tommy, as Goldilocks was wheeled out on to the front walk to tell
the party “Good-by,” her mother following.

“I wish I knew what really truly becomes of them,” said Sarah Barnes;
“father says nobody knows, though some people say that they go down in
pond mud and bury themselves all winter like frogs, and though you see
them last right by water, I don’t believe it’s likely, do you, Gray
Lady? Though at the end they disappear all of a sudden.”

“It is not only unlikely, but impossible. I think next Friday we will
begin our real lessons with these fleet-winged birds of passage that are
passing now every day and night.”

After the good-bys were said again and again, the children scattered
down the road, talking all together, very much like a twittering flock
of Swallows themselves, and like the birds they were neither still nor
silent until darkness fell. Miss Wilde followed, smiling and happy, for
she had found a friend who not only did not belittle her work in the
hillside school, but showed her undreamed-of possibilities in it.



                                  VIII
                         THE PROCESSION PASSES


Time—September 20th. Place—The School at Foxes Corners.

These are the stories that Gray Lady told or read from her scrap-book
between September and Flag Day. She allowed them to be copied at Miss
Wilde’s request for the pleasure of the other children in the township.


                              THE SWALLOWS

                    _Five Swallows and a Changeling_

“I wonder if there is a child living in the real country who does not
know a Swallow by sight the moment its eyes rest upon the bird? I think
not, and a great many people who are only in the country at midsummer
and in early autumn also know the Swallows, even though they cannot tell
the different kinds apart, for during the nesting time, as well as the
flocking period that follows, Swallows are conspicuous birds of the air
and leaders of the birds that might be grouped as “The Fleetwings.” For
not only do Swallows get their food while on the wing, now pursuing it
through the upper air if the day is fair, now sweeping low over meadow,
pond, and river if the clouds hang heavy and insect life keeps near to
the ground, but during the flocking season, when the separate families
join in the community life that they live through the winter, the
Swallows are constantly on the wing.

“The day that we had the orchard party you all noticed the Swallows
flying over the pond between the orchard and river woods, sometimes
alighting so close together on the bushes as to be as thick as the
leaves, and then again stringing along the telegraph wires, above the
highway, some heading one way and some another until, evidently at a
signal, they flew off again and disappeared in the distance, until they
seemed but a cloud of smoke.

“We agreed, I think, some time ago, that it is much better to learn the
real names of people, animals, and flowers than to simply give general
names. It is more definite to say, “I saw a Swallow” flying over the
moor or meadow, than to say, “I saw a bird” flying over the meadow; but
it would be more interesting still if we tell the name of the particular
kind of Swallow that was seen, for among the many kinds that exist at
least five are quite common, according to the part of the United States
in which one lives.

“Can any of you tell me the names of these Swallows, how they differ in
plumage, and where they live? I can see by Dave’s face that he knows
something about them and I think Sarah Barnes does also, while as for
Tommy Todd, both hands are up in spite of jack-knife and the windmill he
is making and he can hardly wait for me to stop.

“Now, Tommy, how many kinds of Swallows do you know?”

“Three!” he replied promptly. “Barn Swallows, and Chimney Swallows, and
Dirt Swallows!”

“I have heard of Barn and Chimney Swallows, but never of a Dirt Swallow.
Please describe it to me,” said Gray Lady, looking interested.

Tommy hesitated for a minute, for it is one thing to know a bird by
sight, but quite another to carry a correct picture of it in your mind’s
eye and then put it into words.

“A Dirt Swallow is pretty small and a kind of a dirty colour on top and
a stripe across his chest, the rest white, and his tail hasn’t sharp
points, and he isn’t blue and shiny like a Barn Swallow. He doesn’t
build a nice nest like the others, but bores a hole right into a dirt
bank, ever so far in, like a Kingfisher does, just like he was a
ground-hog, and puts feathers in at the end for a nest. That’s why we
call ’em Dirt Swallows. There’s a bank above Uncle Hill’s gravel-pit
that’s full of the holes, and another bank full right at Farm’s End
above the sand beach where we camped a week last summer. The way I found
out about the holes was by diggin’ down a piece back of the edge of the
bank, for sometimes they bore as much as four feet. The eggs are real
white, not spotted like Barn Swallows’, ’cause we found a couple of bad
ones, that hadn’t hatched, among the feathers.” Here Tommy paused for
breath, his face all aglow with eagerness.

“That,” said Gray Lady, “is a very good and clear description of the
Bank Swallow, which is the English name that the Wise Men have given the
little bird that you call the Dirt Swallow. As the bird always burrows
its nesting-hole in a bank and never in field earth or the flat ground
as a woodchuck does, Bank Swallow is decidedly the better name.”

Meanwhile Tommy had glanced hastily out of the window to where birds
were constantly leaving and settling on the long-distance telephone
wires that strung together the long poles that walked by the door, and
up the hillside, striding across lots where they chose, regardless of
the road. Slipping from his seat to the window, he took a second look
and then said in a harsh whisper, as if afraid that the birds would hear
him and take fright, “Gray Lady, there’s Bank Swallows mixed in with the
Barn Swallows on the wires, and I’m sure there’s another kind besides,
with a shiny back and all white in the breast. Wouldn’t you please come
out and look? If we go around the schoolhouse, they won’t notice us from
the other side, but we can see them.”

Gray Lady gave a signal and the girls and boys dropped the sewing and
whittling quickly on their desks and, following her lead, stole out on
tiptoe, one after the other, like the little pickaninnies when they
sing, “The bogey man’ll ketch yer if yer doant watch out!”

There, to be sure, were the Swallows, hundreds of them, all twittering
cheerfully and none of them sitting still even though they were
perching, but pluming themselves, and stretching their wings, the
feathers of which they seemed to comb with a peculiar backward movement
of one claw.

As Gray Lady scanned the rows she saw brilliant Barn Swallows in little
groups alternating with the sober-cloaked Bank Swallows, and then half a
dozen each of two other species that were not so familiar.

“Bring me the opera-glasses from the little bag that is with my hat and
gloves,” she said softly to Sarah Barnes. Then, motioning the children
to keep still, she crossed the road to a point where, the sunlight
falling behind her, she could look up at the wires without becoming
dazzled, but as she did so the entire flock left the wires, and wheeling
went down over the corn-field toward the reeds and low woods that
bordered the mill-pond.

“You were quite right, Tommy,” said Gray Lady, as they still stood
looking at the wires in the hope that the birds might return; “there
were not only three but four kinds of Swallows in that flock. The birds
with the slightly forked tails, beautiful shining steel-blue and green
cloaks, and satiny white underparts are Tree Swallows that do not nest
near here, but stop with us on their spring and fall journeys, and the
others that you did not notice, because in the distance they look
somewhat like Barn Swallows, except that they lack the forked tail, are
Cliff or Eaves Swallows, as they are called in this part of the country,
where they are rather uncommon.

“Now we will go in and I will ask Tommy Todd, who writes very clearly,
to put on the board the names of these four Swallows, and the particular
thing about them that will help you to tell them apart.

“No, I am afraid that they are not coming back,” said Gray Lady, after
they had waited a couple of minutes more, “and they may all leave us
suddenly any day now, though the Barn Swallow often stays into October
and the White-Breasted almost to November.”

A wagon loaded with rye straw and drawn by a yoke of oxen came creaking
up the hill and paused on the level place in front of the school. The
teamster was Jared Hill’s grandfather,—the man who did not believe in
play or playthings. As his far-sight was rather poor, he did not notice
that the lady with the children was not Miss Wilde.

“Wal, teacher,” he called, as he leaned against his load, and tried in
vain to discover the object at which the group was gazing, “what’s up
thet there pole, a possum or a runaway hand-orgin monkey, or mebbe it’s
the balloon got loose from Newbury Fair grounds?”

“No, nothing so unusual as that; we have been watching the flocking of
the Swallows,” said Gray Lady, her silvery voice sounding clearly even
in these deaf ears.

“Swallers!—out er school watchin’ Swallers?” exclaimed old Mr. Hill,
taking the long straw that he was chewing from between his teeth in
questioning amazement. “Shucks! what’s Swallers good fer, anyhow?
Gee—haw, Cain! Shish, Abel! We’d best move on; I reckon this isn’t any
place fer folks with something to do!” And thus addressing his oxen, the
load went slowly on.

With the mischievous twinkle still lingering in her eyes, Gray Lady
asked Tommy Todd to go to the blackboard as soon as the children settled
down to their work again, and this is what he wrote at Gray Lady’s
dictation:—

    Barn Swallow. You will know it by its glistening steel-blue and
    chestnut feathers and _forked tail_. Builds mud nests in barns
    and outbuildings. Comes in middle April; leaves in September and
    early October. Nests all through North America up to Arctic
    regions. Winters in tropics as far south as Brazil.

    Tree Swallow. Glistening cloak—_pure white breast_. Nests in
    hollow trees or, lacking these, in bird-boxes. Comes in April;
    leaves in October. Nests in places up to Alaska and Labrador and
    winters in our southern states south to the tropics.

    Bank Swallow. _Dull brown cloak with band across chest._ Nests
    in deep horizontal holes in banks. Comes in April; leaves in
    September and October. Nests like White Breast up to Alaska and
    Labrador. Winters in the tropics. The smallest Swallow.

    Cliff or Eaves Swallow. _Pure white band on forehead._ Otherwise
    brightly coloured with steel-blue, chestnut, gray, rusty, and
    white. Where there are no rocky cliffs for its nesting colonies,
    they build under the eaves of barns, etc. Nests in North America
    to Arctic regions. Winters in the tropics.

“Here you have a short description of four Swallows we have seen this
afternoon,” said Gray Lady, as Tommy came to the end of the board and
only finished by squeezing up the letters. “There is another Swallow,
the big cousin of these, called the Purple Martin, with shiny bluish
black cloak and light underparts. This beautiful Martin has a soft,
musical voice, and is very sociable and affectionate, and even in
spring, when the birds have mated, they still like to live in colonies
and are very good neighbours among themselves. They were once plentiful
and nested in tree holes or houses made purposely for them, but, since
the English Sparrow has come, it has pushed its way into their homes and
turned them out, so now they are rare, and perhaps you children may
never have seen one.

“There was always a high post with a Martin box holding a couple of
dozen families up at ‘the General’s’ as far back as I first remember,
but during our absence no one watched to keep the Sparrows out, the
Martins left, and the house went to decay. Jacob has made a new house,
and we will not set it up until next Saturday, so that you can see how
it is divided—a room for each family and too high from the ground for
cats to reach. We shall keep the house covered with a cloth all winter,
so that the Sparrows cannot move in before the Martins return, and in
this way we may coax them to come back again and live with us. Then, who
knows, perhaps some one of the Kind Hearts’ Club may have patience and
take the trouble to build a house and then Purple Martins may become
plentiful in Fair Meadow township.

“You heard what Farmer Hill asked a few minutes ago,—‘What’s Swallers
good fer, anyhow?’ I want you all to be able to answer this question
whenever you hear it asked.

“In the first place Swallows do no manner of harm; they neither eat
fruits nor useful berries, nor do they disturb the nests and eggs of
other birds. They are beautiful objects in the air, and their laughing
twitter when on the wing is a sound that we should miss as much as many
real bird songs.

“‘These are pleasant qualities,’ some may say, ‘but not exactly useful.’
Listen! As these Swallows are Fleetwings and always birds of the air, so
they are sky sweepers, living upon flying insects that few other birds
may take, and the large amount of these that they consume is almost
beyond belief; so watch when they come back next spring on their return
as they fly over the cattle in the pasture, or over the pond surface
teeming with insect life. If they do nothing else, they earn their
living one and all by _mosquito-killing_, and the Wise Men of to-day
know that the sting of one sort of mosquito is not merely an annoyance,
but that it pushes the germ of malaria and other bad diseases straight
into the blood.

[Illustration: THE PURPLE MARTIN]

“Not only are Swallows harmless and useful in the places where they
nest, but are equally useful in all their journeyings through the south.
Some birds, like the Bobolink, are both useful and harmless where they
nest, but do harm as they travel, for when the Bobolink leaves for the
south he goes into the rice-fields, eating the rice grains in late
summer and plucking up the young rice in the spring. This, of course,
gives him a bad name in the rice-growing regions through which he
passes.

“But the Swallow only destroys the evil insects as it journeys through
the south, and yet in spite of this, cruel, or at best thoughtless,
people kill them for the mere sport of killing, for no white man could
pretend to eat Swallow pie, and the great flocks are tempting marks for
‘sportsmen’ of this class. Then, too, the noise made at the places where
these birds roost, especially the Martins, has served as an excuse for
shooting them in numbers.

“If the people in the southern states would only fully understand that
Swallows destroy the boll-weevil that damages the cotton in the pod,
they surely would not allow a feather of these little workers to be
injured.

“How I wish we could have a Kind Hearts’ Club in every district school
in the south, so that the children there might help us to protect the
birds during the time that they are beyond our reach.”

Gray Lady paused and turned the leaves of her scrap-book, as if she was
searching for something. “Ah! here it is!” she said at last, half to
herself. “The Wise Men at Washington who find out for us all the facts
about the useful birds have been writing about these Swallows, and say
that everything should be done not only to protect them but in every way
to aid their increase by providing homes for them. Let us hear what more
they say about these five that I have just described to you.”

    Tree Swallow. The Tree Swallow, as is well known, has been
    persecuted by the English Sparrow until it has entirely
    abandoned many districts where formerly it abounded. An
    energetic war on the English Sparrow, and the careful protection
    of the Swallow domiciles, in a few years would result in a
    complete change of the situation, so far as this, one of the
    most beneficial of the Swallow tribe, is concerned.

    Barn Swallow. The Barn Swallow formerly was abundant throughout
    the northern states, especially in New England. The tightly
    built modern barn, however, no longer invites the presence of
    the Barn Swallow by affording it friendly shelter, and the birds
    are becoming scarcer and scarcer. To provide openings in modern
    barns, and to encourage the presence in them of colonies by
    providing convenient nesting sites are easy and effective
    methods by which this beautiful species may be greatly increased
    in numbers. This bird also requires protection from the English
    Sparrow, which in one foray has been known to kill the young and
    destroy the eggs of a large colony.

    Bank Swallow. The well known Bank Swallow, as its name implies,
    nests in sand-banks in holes of its own digging. Some farmers in
    the northern states take special pains to protect their colonies
    of Bank Swallows from the marauding of the prowling cat. Some
    even take pains to excavate suitable banks on their farms and
    devote them to the exclusive use of the Swallows. Gravel and
    sand-banks are so numerous throughout the north, especially in
    New England, that at trifling expense the number of colonies of
    Bank Swallows may be vastly increased, to the advantage of every
    farmer north and south, and to that of every nature lover as
    well.

    Cliff Swallow. The curious pouch-shaped mud structures of the
    Cliff Swallow, attached under eaves or to the face of cliffs,
    are a sight familiar enough in the northern and western states,
    but in the cotton states, save Texas alone, they are wanting,
    the bird that makes them being exclusively a migrant. The
    English Sparrow persecutes also the Cliff Swallow; hence, in the
    north, the bird is much less common than formerly. In Germany
    the presence of Swallows around houses is so much desired that
    artificial nests made of clay or other material are put up in
    order to attract birds by saving them the labour of constructing
    their own domiciles. No doubt our own Cliff Swallows would be
    quick to respond to a similar offer of ready-made dwellings,
    rent free, and in this way the range of this extremely useful
    species might be materially increased. The Cliff Swallow is one
    of the most indefatigable insect destroyers extant, and every
    motive of patriotism and humanity should prompt communities
    among which they live to protect and foster them in every
    possible way.

    Purple Martin. This, the largest and in many respects the most
    beautiful of all our Swallow tribe, is the most local and the
    least numerous. In New England and, perhaps, in most of the
    northern states generally, this fine bird is steadily
    diminishing in numbers. The English Sparrow often takes
    possession of its boxes, ruthlessly kills the young Martins or
    throws out the eggs, and usually succeeds in routing the colony
    and appropriating the boxes. When measures are not taken to
    abate the Sparrow nuisance in the immediate vicinity of Martin
    colonies, the usual result is that the Martins are forced to
    abandon their houses. The habit of putting up houses for the
    accommodation of Martin colonies is not as common in the north
    as it formerly was, and to this indifference to the Martins’
    presence, to persecution by the Sparrow, and to losses due to
    the prevalence of cold storms during the nesting season, no
    doubt, is due the present scarcity of the bird.

    From the standpoint of the farmer and the fruit grower, perhaps,
    no birds more useful than the Swallows exist. They have been
    described as the light cavalry of the avian army. Specially
    adapted for flight and unexcelled in aërial evolutions, they
    have few rivals in the art of capturing insects in mid-air. They
    eat nothing of value to man except a few predaceous wasps and
    bugs, and, in return for their services in destroying vast
    numbers of noxious insects, ask only for harbourage and
    protection. It is to the fact that they capture their prey on
    the wing that their peculiar value to the cotton grower is due.
    Orioles do royal service in catching weevils on the bolls; and
    Blackbirds, Wrens, Flycatchers, and others contribute to the
    good work; but when Swallows are migrating over the
    cotton-fields they find the weevils flying in the open and wage
    active war against them.

    —H. W. Henshaw, B.B.S., in _Value of Swallows as Insect
    Destroyers_.

“That Wise Man didn’t say anything about Chimney Swallows, and, please,
Gray Lady, you left them out, too,” said Sarah Barnes, the moment the
scrap-book closed, “and I know they catch lots of flying bugs.”

“Ah, Sarah!” exclaimed Gray Lady, laughing, “I did not precisely forget,
but I was waiting for some one of you to ask the question. The bird that
is called the Chimney Swallow even exceeds the others in being forever
on the wing and never perching or ‘sitting down,’ as Sarah calls it, and
it is a brave insect destroyer. In fact, it never perches even for one
moment, but when it does rest makes a sort of bracket of its sharply
pointed tail-feathers and rests against a tree or inside the chimney,
somewhat as a Woodpecker does when resting on an upright tree-trunk. The
Woodpeckers, however, have very strong feet, and the feet of the Chimney
Swallow are very weak. But here comes the funny part—this chimney bird
isn’t a Swallow, and the Swallows would call him a changeling. He is a
Swift, first cousin to the tiny Humming-bird and the mysterious Night
Hawk and Whip-poor-Will, so we must leave his story until we come to
that of the family where he belongs, for after we have learned the names
of individual birds, it is well to know their family and kin. You cannot
always tell by the plumage of birds if they are related. Louise Stone,
Fannie White, and Esther Gray here are cousins, and all live in one
house, but as their last names are different, and they do not look
alike, a stranger would have to be told, for he could not guess that
they belong to one household.

“It is three o’clock already, and I see that Tommy and Dave have quite
finished their windmills and Ruth’s apron is waiting for the pocket, so
in spite of Farmer Hill’s remarks about ‘not working,’ every one has
something to show for this Friday afternoon.

“Before we go, let me see if you can tell the ‘_Things to remember_’
about the five swallows.

“Sarah—the Barn Swallow?”

“Shiny, steel-blue back and forked tail.”

“Dave—the Bank Swallow?”

“Dusty cloak fastened across the front.”

“Ruth—the Tree Swallow?”

“White satin breast.”

“Roger—the Eaves Swallow?”

“White on its forehead and all over mixed colours.”

“And the Purple Martin? Who knows it?”

“It’s the biggest of all and doesn’t fly quite so sudden. I’ve seen ’em
up at Grandpa Miles’s in New York State,” said little Clary Hinks, and
then blushing because she had dared to speak.

“Next week in the playroom!” said Gray Lady, smiling over her shoulder
at them as they filed out the door to the time beaten by Tommy’s drum.



                                   IX
                        TWO BIRDS THAT CAME BACK


                                           (Birdland, September 27th.)

The rain had poured steadily all Thursday and Friday, until Friday
evening, and the wind blew so hard that many a little window-pane in the
older farm-houses fell in with a crash and the owner, jumping up quickly
to snatch the lamp out of the draught, would exclaim, “I do declare, we
haven’t hed sech a genuine old-fashioned line-storm for years!”

The “line” being the short for equinox, the imaginary line crossing the
sun’s path over which, on March 21st, old Sol is supposed to step from
winter into spring. Again, on September 21st, he steps from summer into
autumn, takes off his summer hat, with its crown of burning rays, and
tells his wife to ask North Star for the key to the iceberg, where his
winter flannels are kept in cold storage, so that they may be ready for
any emergency. The fact that these storms seldom come upon the days when
they are due, simply proves that the solar system prefers to measure
time to suit itself.

A little before dawn, on Saturday morning, the rain stopped; the heavy
clouds in the east broke up into bars of blue steel, through which the
sun peered cautiously, as if uncertain whether or not to break them
away. Then, suddenly deciding that it would, it signalled to the clear,
cool, northwest wind to blow and chase away the vapours that made the
clouds too heavy.

By the time Tommy Todd’s father came in, carrying two milk-pails, Tommy
following with a third, there was promise of a fine crisp autumn day,
and Grandpa Todd, who had decided a week before, on his eightieth
birthday, that he would give up milking, at least for the winter, came
into the well-porch, and scanning the sky carefully, with an air of
authority, said: “To-night we’ll have hard frost if the wind drops. We’d
better get in those cheese pumpkins jest as soon’s they’re dried off.
Robins and Blackbirds flockin’ powerful strong, and old Chief Crow has
brung his flock clear down to the ten-acre lot already.”

Old Chief was the name that Grandpa Todd had given to a particularly
wise bird, whom he insisted was twenty-five years old at the least, who
was master of the roost in the cedar woods and, by his wise guidance,
kept his flock the largest in the township, in spite of all the efforts
of the farmers, hired men, and boys in the vicinity to drive them out.

There, also, on the slope south of the house, were fully half a hundred
Robins pluming themselves, shaking their feathers out to dry, and acting
in every way like travellers pausing on a journey, rather than residents
going out for a stroll.

Tommy had paused to look at them, balancing the pail carefully as he did
so, and then the sight of the birds reminded him that it was the day to
go up to “the General’s,” and he hurried in to eat his breakfast and
finish the Saturday morning “chores” that he always did for his mother.
Then he went to the shed to look over the collection of bits of old wood
that he had both begged and gathered far and near for the making of
bird-houses.

A neighbour, who was re-covering his cowshed roof with galvanized iron,
had let Tommy pick up as many mossy shingles as he could carry, and some
of these were really beautiful with tufts of gray lichens, some with
bright red tips, blending with mosses of many soft shades of green.

Tommy selected from the assortment as large a bundle as he could carry,
and, after cording it securely, went to the house to tidy up, for Gray
Lady had asked the children of the Kind Hearts’ Club to come at nine
o’clock this first Saturday, for it would take them some time to look at
the play and work rooms before settling down to doll-dressing and
bird-house making. As he crossed the kitchen, his mother, who was
kneading bread, pointed a floury finger toward a garment that hung over
the back of a chair. Tommy picked it up, and then his usual boyish
indifference, which he kept up at home even when he was pleased, broke
down and he gave an exclamation of delight, for there was a new
carpenter’s apron with a pocket for nails in front, the whole being made
of substantial blue jean, precisely like the one worn by Jacob Hughes
himself.

Gray Lady had asked as many of the boys as owned overalls to bring them.
Tommy’s were very old and had many patches, besides being smeared with
paint, and he hated to have dainty Goldilocks see them, so it seemed to
the boy that his mother must have seen straight into his mind (as
mothers have a way of doing) and read what he most needed.

Slipping his head through the yoke and fastening the waist-band in
place, Tommy suddenly grabbed his mother, flour, bread, and all, in a
rough embrace, and then clattered up the backstairs, laughing at the two
white hand-marks that she had printed on his shoulder in her surprise.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Up at “the General’s” house Gray Lady, Goldilocks, Ann, and Jacob Hughes
were as busy as possible making preparations for the first regular
meeting of the Club. To the children, the whole performance in
anticipation seemed like the most delightful sort of play, but every one
who thinks will realize how much pains Gray Lady was taking to have
everything in order for the children’s first view of the place. After
this, like the wise friend that she was, she had planned that the
children themselves would in turn take out the work, put it away, and
clear up threads or shavings as the case might be.

The playroom was on the southeast corner of the attic, and had three
dormer-windows with wide seats underneath. Being an attic, the windows
were set rather high in the slanting room, but, if one stood on the
wooden seats, there was a beautiful view toward the river valley on the
south, while the east window looked down over the orchard, and it seemed
as if one might almost step out and walk upon the tree-tops.

On the chimney side was a small-sized cooking-stove, and between this
and the chimney-corner ran shelves with a cupboard beneath, whereon and
in a set of blue-and-white dishes and various pots and pans were ranged.
At either end of the room was a stout table surrounded by chairs, one
being a kitchen table with a drawer, and the other a plain dining table
with a polished top, suitable for playing games, or holding books or
work. It was upon this table that the work-boxes and dolls were ranged,
twelve in all, and by each a little pile of clothes, all cut and
ready-basted, the whole being covered by a cloth. Gray Lady and Ann had
agreed between themselves that lessons in sewing had better come first
and garment-cutting follow later on.

All the garments were to be made to put on and take off like real
clothes, and though they were very simple, each doll when dressed would
personate a different character, for there was clothing for a baby doll,
a schoolgirl, a young lady, a trained nurse, little Red Riding-Hood, and
so on.

The workshop faced north and east, and was on the opposite side of the
stairs. This was of the same shape as the playroom, but a small
wood-stove, that could be used for heating glue-pots, and to keep the
room from freezing in winter, took the place of the cooking-stove, and
there was a long workbench, with vise, lathe, and mitre-box attachment
under two of the windows where the best light fell. Across one side of
the room, various tools were hung in racks, while at the end opposite
the windows was tacked a great sheet of paper upon which many styles of
bird homes were pictured. Below this was a space painted black like a
school blackboard, and upon this Jacob had redrawn in rough chalk
several of the pictures to a working-scale.

Gray Lady and Goldilocks were already upstairs when the party arrived,
for though Goldilocks could walk very nicely when on a level, going up
and down stairs was a matter that took time.

[Illustration]

    BIRD-HOUSES AND NESTING-BOXES. Fig. 1. hollow-limb
    nesting-box; Fig. 2, birch-bark bird-house; Fig. 3, slab
    bird-box; Fig. 4, cat-proof box; Fig. 5, old-shingle box; Fig.
    6, chestnut-bark nesting-box; Figs. 7 and 9, boxes with slide
    fronts; Fig. 8, house for Tree Swallow.

        From _Useful Birds and their Protection_ by G. H. Forbush.

Tramp, tramp, came the feet up the stairs to the second hall, with the
rhythm of a marching regiment. Then there was a pause and evidently some
discussion, for, as Gray Lady went forward and opened the door at the
head of the attic stairs, she heard Sarah Barnes’ voice say, “Why, it’s
a big Crow and a little one; but how did they come in here? Don’t touch
him, Tommy, he’ll bite you. Crows bite like everything when they get
mad.”

Then Tommy’s voice said, “The big one’s a Crow, sure enough, but the
little one couldn’t be any more’n mice’s little rats. It’s one of those
queer new birds that had nests down in the Methodist Church steeple last
spring; I went up with Eb Holcomb one day when he was fixing the
bell-rope and I saw them, but nobody ’round here knows what they’re
called—unless Gray Lady may.”

Looking down, Gray Lady saw the odd pair in question and said to
Goldilocks, “Your two pets have managed to get in and are trapped
between the top and bottom of the stairs. Whistle for them, dearie, for
the children are waiting to come up.”

Goldilocks gave two very good imitations of the quavering call of a
Crow, and then, using a little oddly shaped silver whistle that hung
about her neck on a ribbon, gave a series of melodious whistles, when,
to the surprise and delight of the children below, Crow and Starling
(for this was the name of the smaller bird) immediately turned about and
went upstairs, the Crow hopping and flopping, for one of its wings was
deformed, and the Starling, as soon as it had room enough for a start,
flying straight and true. When the children followed, they found the
Crow perched on the back of Goldilocks’ chair and the Starling flitting
about the open rafters until he found a perch that suited him upon a
hook that had once held a hammock, where he seemed quite at home. The
Crow, however, was anxious and uneasy when he saw the children trooping
up, and flopping from the chair-bar with a sidewise motion, he scuttled
across to the stove, under which he disappeared, occasionally peering
out with his head on one side like a very inquisitive human being.

“I don’t wonder that you look astonished,” said Gray Lady, “at seeing
birds in this house that are apparently captive, but the truth is that
they will not go away, and come back through every open window. So, as
we have not the heart to drive them away, we let them live here in the
playroom and about the barns, where they find plenty to eat, and at any
moment they wish to go, freedom is close at hand for the taking.”

“But what made them come to begin with?” asked Dave. “Crows are mostly
the scariest things going.”

“Jacob found the Crow up in the cedar woods in May,” said Goldilocks.
“All the others were able to fly and take care of themselves, but this
one stayed in the low bushes and its parents were feeding it. One
morning, when Jacob was up there cutting cedar posts for the gate he
made to Birdland, he heard a great commotion; the old Crows and the
young ones were cawing and screaming and flying about in distress, while
crouching in the bushes, and just ready to spring upon the Crow, was a
big half-wild cat. It used to belong to the people up at the lumber
camp, but when they went away they left it, and all last winter and
spring it has lived by hunting.”

“I know about that cat,” said Tommy. “The Selectmen have offered five
dollars’ reward for it, and it kills more chickens, even big roosters,
than all the Hawks this side of Bald Hill.”

“After Jacob had driven the cat away,” continued Goldilocks, “he picked
up the young Crow to try to find out why it had not flown away like its
brothers. At first it was afraid and fought and pecked his fingers, but
by and by it let him handle it, and he found that one wing was twisted,
so that it was of no use. The point where the long quill feathers grow
was turned under, Jake said, just the way it is in a roast chicken, and
it must have happened when the bird was little and had no feathers,
because those on that point of the wing were stunted and twisted where
they had tried to grow after it was hurt. Jake straightened the wing as
well as he could, and clipped the feathers on the other one so that he
shouldn’t be so lopsided. The wing is stiff and doesn’t work rightly
yet, but Jake thinks that after next summer’s moult the feathers may
come in better; meanwhile I’ve called him Jim, because that is the usual
name for tame crows.

“Jim likes to live about here and he does such a lot of funny things.
Why, the other day, out in the arbour, he dropped the little
afternoon-tea sugar-tongs into the cream jug and took all the lumps of
sugar in the bowl and hid them in the empty robin’s nest overhead, and
we should never have dreamed that he had done it if Anne hadn’t come in
with fresh cakes and startled him so that he dropped the last lump. He
moves very quickly, for he can fly a little and he uses his wings and
beak to help him climb, something like a parrot. Jacob has put him over
in the woods by the Crow’s roost, time and time again, but he always
comes hopping back.”

Sarah Barnes was going to ask what else the Crow had done, when the
Starling flew across the room and out through one of the windows that
was opened from the top.

“He’s gone!” she cried; “I’m dreadfully sorry, ’cause I wanted to look
at him so’s I’d know Starlings if I see them again. Please, how did you
get him? His wings seem very strong, and he flew as straight as
anything.”

“Larry has only gone out for a little fly,” laughed Goldilocks; “he will
be back before long, and if the window should happen to be closed, he
will rap on the glass with his beak. No, his wings are well and strong,
and he is perfectly able to go away to his friends in the church tower,
for it was from one of those nests, that Tommy saw up between the slats,
that he fell.

“Eben brought him up for mother to see, because a good many people down
at the Centre Village had been watching these strange birds, and wanted
to know their name and where they came from. He was too little to be
turned out all alone, and Eben said that the nest had been upset and the
others that fell out were dead, so, as he ate soaked dog-biscuit
(because you know that there’s meat in it that makes up for bugs to
young birds), I thought I would bring him up and then let him go; but
you see the joke is that he won’t go, and he acts as much afraid of
being out-of-doors after dark as a usual wild bird would if you put him
in a cage.”

“Who brought Starlings here, and do they belong to the same family as
Blackbirds? They look a lot like them, only they’ve got shorter tails,”
said Tommy Todd.

“I think I have a description of the bird, as well as the date of his
coming, in the scrap-book,” said Gray Lady, “for he is an English bird
and the only one of its family in this country, so you can see why they
may be lonely, and like to flock in company with the Blackbirds.

                 The Common Starling: _Sturnus magnus_.

    _Length_: 8.5 inches.

    _Male and Female_: Black plumage shot with metallic green and
    blue lights. In full plumage upper feathers edged with buff,
    giving a speckled appearance, which disappears as the feathers
    are worn down, leaving the winter plumage plain and dull. Yellow
    bill in summer; in winter, brown.

    _Note_: A sharp flock-call and a clear, rather musical,
    two-syllable, falling whistle.

    _Nest_: Behind blinds in unoccupied buildings, in vine-covered
    nooks in church towers; also in bushes.

    _Eggs_: 4-7, greenish blue.

    This bird is a foreigner, imported to New York City some
    fourteen years ago, some people are beginning to fear not too
    wisely, for the birds are rather quarrelsome, and, being larger
    than the English Sparrow, though not so hardy, are able to wage
    war upon birds like Robins, and seize the nesting-places of
    natives.

    The first birds, less than a hundred in number, were set free in
    Central Park, New York City. Now these have increased to
    numerous flocks that in Connecticut have gone as far east as New
    Haven, and here in Fairfield and several villages near by are
    acclimated and quite at home, though the bitter and lasting cold
    of the winter of 1903-1904 thinned them out considerably.

    Whether they prove a nuisance or not, they are very noticeable
    birds, looking to the first sight, as they walk sedately across
    a field, like Grackles with rumpled plumage. A second glance
    will show that this is but the effect of the buff specks that
    tip all the upper feathers, while the distinct yellow bill at
    once spells Starling!

    In England they may be seen on the great open plains following
    the sheep as they feed, very much as the Cowbird follows our
    cattle, and in that country are very beneficial as insect
    destroyers.

“They are birds that will feed at the lunch-counter in winter, for their
food supply is cut off by snow, and, as strangers, they have not yet the
resources of the Crows and Jays, neither are they as hardy.

“Boys, Jacob is ready for you in the workroom, and he may keep you till
quarter-past ten. I do not think that you will really accomplish much
to-day, except to choose the kind of house you wish to make, and plan
out your work. Then you may all take a fifteen-minutes’ recess in the
orchard before you come up for the bird lesson.”

“What birds are you going to tell about to-day? I hope that they won’t
be hat birds and Martyrs,” said Eliza Clausen, with a sigh.

“No, not ‘hat birds’ this morning, although there are plenty more of
them, and always will be so long as people insist upon wearing the
feathers in their hats. I had not quite decided what birds to take up
next, but the recess in the orchard gives me a new idea. Instead of
taking the birds in any set order, when you come in you shall tell me
what birds you have noticed this morning. By this means we shall be able
to take the birds as they come with the seasons, and they will never
grow tiresome. Then, too, if, between times, you see any birds that you
cannot name, or about which you wish to know, remember to tell me, and
we will try to learn something about the bird while it is fresh in your
memory.

“Now,” as the boys went to the workroom, “the girl members of the Kind
Hearts’ Club will please thread needles and begin. If any one of you has
sticky fingers, Ann will show you where to wash them, because the very
beginning of good sewing lies in clean hands, for they mean nice white
thread and bright, shining needles.”

When the cover was lifted from the table, and the girls saw the dolls,
and the little stack of clothes, they exclaimed in delight,—even those
like Katie Lee, who really did not belong at school, for she had stopped
playing with dolls and was ready for the eighth grade. Only,
unfortunately, there was no eighth grade class at Foxes Corners, and as
it was too far for them to walk to the Centre every day, they stayed on
at school, and Miss Wilde helped them as far as her time allowed so that
they might make up the required lessons at home.


                            ENGLISH STARLING

    Here’s to the stranger, so lately a ranger,
        Who came from far over seas;—
    Whatever the weather, still in high feather,
        At top of the windy trees!

    Here’s to the darling,—brave English Starling,
        Stays the long winter through;
    He would not leave us, would not bereave us,—
        Not he, though our own birds do!

    Cold weather pinches—flown are the finches,
        Thrushes and warblers too!
    Here’s to the darling, here’s to the Starling,—
        English Starling true!

    —Edith M. Thomas, in _Bird-Lore_.



                                   X
                          SOME MISCHIEF-MAKERS


                _Crows and Jays, Starlings and Grackles_

The children came back very promptly after the mid-morning recess,
considering the attraction offered outside. Though cheeks and all
available pockets fairly bulged with apples, they had sufficient
appetite to enjoy the crisp cookies, plates of which were set at
intervals on the plain-topped table in the playroom, together with
pitchers of milk or a delicious drink of Ann’s invention compounded of
oranges and lemons and sweetened with honey.

Gray Lady breakfasted at eight, but she knew very well that most of the
folk of the Hill Country had their first meal at six, except perhaps in
the dead of winter, so that a bit of luncheon between that time and noon
was what Goldilocks called “a comfy necessity.”

“Now tell me what birds you saw this morning, and what they were doing,”
said Gray Lady, as soon as the children had settled down. “Sarah Barnes,
you may begin.”

“We didn’t see anything new, that is nothing much; but, oh, such a lot
of common birds in flocks, Crows and Blue Jays and Blackbirds; why,
there were enough Blackbirds to make it dark for a minute when they
picked up and flew over the tumble-down old house over there in the
corner. Of course, those birds aren’t very interesting, ’cause we all
know about them, and I guess even Zella, who hasn’t lived here long, can
tell a Crow or a Jay and Blackbird when she sees one.”

“Yes, ma’am, Lady, I know him Crow,” cried Zella, in delight at having
some information to impart, “for my papa he plant corn seed in the lot.
Crows they come push it out vit de nose and eat him. Then my papa and my
brudder shoot bang! bang! but they not get him, ’cause him too wise. My
Grossmutter say von time Crows was people, bad thief people, and they
was made in birds to shame dem, but dey made bad thief birds, too, and
dey kept wise like dey was people yet, so dey is hard catching. Den papa
he made of ole clothes a man, and sat him the fence on, and the Crows
dey comes on trees near away, and dey looks so at the mans and dey
laughs together, but dey not come no more very near yet.”

“Yes; I see that Zella knows and sees the Crow as almost every one who
owns a bit of land sees and knows him, but there are sides to these
birds that are so common hereabouts that perhaps you do not know, for I
did not at your age, and it is only of late years that the wise men have
been trying to find good points in some birds that have been always
called bad. What they have discovered goes to prove what an unfortunate
thing it is for any one, bird or person, to get a bad name.”

“My Grandma says a bad name sticks just like fly-paper,” said Ruth
Barnes, eagerly, “’cause even if you can peel it off you, it always
somehow feels as if it was there.”

At this every one laughed, because almost every child at one time or
another had been through some sort of an experience with sticky
fly-paper, and little Bobbie chuckled so long that Gray Lady asked him
what he knew about fly-paper, and thus drew forth the explanation that
his father had sat on a sheet of fly-paper in the dark best parlor one
Sunday morning when he was waiting for the family to get ready to drive
to church, and nobody noticed until he, being a deacon, got up _to pass
the plate_!

“What were the Crows and Jays and Blackbirds in the orchard doing,
Tommy; did you notice?” asked Gray Lady, as she arranged some papers
between the leaves of her scrap-book.

“The Jays were hanging around your lunch-counter in the old apple tree,
that is, most of them; some seemed to be bringing acorns or some sort of
big seeds from the river-woods way, and taking them into the attic of
the old Swallow Chimney house. I never saw so many Jays at once; I
counted sixteen of them,” said Tommy.

“The Crows and Grackles were walking on the ground, some in the grass
meadow, and some in the open ploughed field, and they were all searching
about as if they had lost something, and they kept picking and eating
all the time.”

“Were they eating corn that had dropped, or rye?” asked Gray Lady.

“Oh, no, there wasn’t any corn there, and the rye isn’t sown yet. They
were eating bugs and things like that, I guess,” said Tommy, to whom a
new idea had come as he spoke.

“That is precisely what I hoped that one of you would see for
yourself—the fact that both of these birds eat many things besides corn
and grain.

“By the way, what kind of Blackbirds were they?—for we have three sorts
that are very common here. The Red-winged, those with red shoulders that
come in such numbers about the swampy meadows early in spring. The
Cowbird of the pastures who is smaller than the Red-wing, with a brown
head, neck, and breast, the rest of him being gloomy black, with what
Goldilocks calls all the ‘soap-bubble colours’ glistening over it,
though the Wise Men call this ‘iridescence.’

“Then there is the Crow-Blackbird or Purple Grackle, the largest of the
three, who is quite a foot in length from tail-tip to point of beak.
This Blackbird has glistening jet feathers, with all the beautiful
rainbow colours on his back and wings, that almost form bars of metallic
hue, and he is a really beautiful bird that we should certainly
appreciate better if it were not so common. Now, of course, it is one
step on the way to bird knowledge if you can say surely this is a
Blackbird, but it is necessary to go on then and say _which_ Blackbird.”

“They were the Purple Grackle kind,” said Tommy, immediately, “for they
were bigger than Cowbirds, and they had handsome shiny feathers, and
they did just creak and grackle like everything while they walked
around.”

“Very good,” said Gray Lady; “now I think that there are several things
that you do not know about these birds, whom it is perfectly safe to
call ‘mischief-makers’ and undesirable garden friends, though our best
knowledge will not allow us to condemn them altogether as criminals, as
was once the custom.”

At this moment Jim Crow, who had been on an excursion first to the room,
then, by way of the branches of an overhanging sugar-maple, quite down
to the orchard lunch-counter and back, had crept in at the window
unobserved, walked across the floor to the work-table, about which the
girls sat, and, going under it, was concealed by the cloth. At this
moment Eliza Clausen dropped her thimble. It rolled under the table, and
as she stooped to get it she was just in time to see Jim seize it in his
beak and half fly, half scramble to the back of Goldilocks’ chair, with
his prize held fast.

“Oh, my thimble! Jim’ll swallow it!” she wailed, and the boys, with one
impulse, started in pursuit. They could not have done a worse thing,
for, seeing himself cornered, Jim’s hiding instinct came to his aid, and
sidling along to the unceiled side of the attic, he quickly dropped the
thimble between the studs, and you could hear it rattle down to the next
story. Then he took refuge behind his mistress’ chair, from which he
peeped inquisitively, with the sidewise look peculiar to Crows, so that
it was impossible not to laugh at his quizzical expression.

“Do not worry about the thimble, Eliza,” said Gray Lady, “for those you
are wearing for the sewing lessons are not prize thimbles, but merely
penny affairs. This gives you a chance to see some of the little bits of
mischief that a tame young Crow can do in his first season, so that you
can imagine what a wild, old, wise, leader Crow can plot and plan in
other ways. You all know the Crow, or rather, to be exact, the American
Crow, for there is the Fish Crow and a southern relation, the Florida
Crow, and in all there are twenty-five different kinds in North America
alone. This Common Crow is very plentiful here, as he is in almost all
parts of the United States, where he makes his home from the Mexican
border up to the fur countries.

“But do you know that this Crow is cousin to the Blue Jay?”

“How funny! What makes them cousins?—for they don’t look a bit alike,
and they’re not the same colour or anything,” said Sarah, Tommy, and
Dave, almost together.

“Yes, that is true, but colour and feathers have nothing to do with bird
relationship any more than coloured hair has to do with human families,
and you can see that here among yourselves. The Baltimore Oriole,
Meadowlark, Bobolink, and Purple Grackle all belong in one family, and
yet how unlike they seem. It is the construction of the bird’s body and
its habits and traits that serve the Wise Men as guides to their
grouping, and in these traits the two are much alike, for Mr. Chapman,
who knows all about these birds, whether as museum specimens, where he
can study their bones, or as wild birds in the trees, where he watches
them day in and day out, says, ‘Our Crows and Jays inhabit wooded
regions, and, although they shift about to a limited extent, they are
resident throughout the year, except at the northern limits of their
range. They are omnivorous feeders, taking fruits, seeds, insects, eggs,
nestlings, etc. Crows and Jays exhibit marked traits of character and
are possessed of unusual intelligence. Some scientists place them at the
top of the tree of bird-life, and if their mental development be taken
into consideration they have undoubted claim to high rank.’

“You see, also, that here is a Wise Man who believes that birds have
intelligence that implies thinking, and this is different from the mere
inherited instinct that teaches animals how to obtain food,
self-protection, etc. There are people who believe that they are the
only wise animals, and deny that birds and beasts can think; while there
are others who try to make these birds and beasts think on the same
lines as ourselves rather than in their own way. Both these are wrong;
both are like blind men that lead others into a ditch and leave them
there. The only way for you and me to do is to watch out for ourselves,
look carefully, and be very sure that we see what is, and not merely
what we would like to see.

“Now I will tell you what I, myself, have seen and know, and what
others, whose word is guaranteed by the Wise Men, have seen concerning
Crows and Jays. When I was a child, twenty-five years ago, riding my
pony, I wandered all over the country-side with my father, and I knew
every Crow roost and Hawk’s nest for miles, and for many years after I
watched their comings and goings. Late last winter, when I came back to
the dear home to live, I went out to the nearest of the old Crow roosts
in the cedar woods yonder across the river (you can see the tree-tops
plainly from this window), and, in spite of time and changes, a flock of
Crows was still there.

“To be sure, the flock was smaller, and there were fewer Cedars, many
having been turned into fence and gate posts. But the Crows, big, black,
solemn things as they are, seemed to give me a welcome.

“The life of the Crow is dull if judged, perhaps, from the standpoint of
the birds that make long journeys, such as the Swallows, Humming-birds,
and the Night Hawk (that isn’t a Hawk at all), who nest in the far North
and go back to spend the winter in Central or South America.

“Yet all we stay-at-home people know how much can happen even here in
Fair Meadows township, and, if we extend our territory from salt water,
or the southeast, to the hickory woods beyond the Grist-Mill on the
northwest, there is room enough for happenings that would make an
exciting life for any pair of Crows. For in considering Crows, we must
take the life of a pair, one of their good traits being their personal
and race fidelity, and when they mate, it is usually for life.

“It is middle autumn now; what are the Crows doing? All through August
and early fall they have been feeding good on grasshoppers,
caterpillars, locusts, and cutworms. This flock that roost in the cedar
woods are doing that which occupies most of a bird’s time in season and
out, working for a living, and in doing this they are searching the
grass meadows and ploughed fields for insects of every sort and
description.

“Their time of mischief is over for the year. The corn is cut and
stacked; they may if they please tear the husks from the cobs and then
reach the corn, but they are not fond of tough, dry corn, though, of
course, they eat it when really hungry. But just now there is plenty to
be gleaned from the field, and when the winter hungry time comes, the
good corn will be stored safe in the granaries.

“Every night, before sunset, the Crows of the flock leave the various
feeding-places in twos and threes, and flap across country in a
leisurely fashion toward the roost, where they spend their nights all
the year except during the nesting season. They return thus in little
parties, if there is no cause for fear, but should a man with a gun, a
large Owl, or other suspicious object appear, either the Crow on the
watch, for there is always one of these who guards the destiny of the
flock, gives a signal by a sharp quavering Ca-ca-w or, if this seems too
rash, the leader will simply take to wing and slip away silently, and,
no matter how quietly the leader slips away, the rest of the flock know
it and rise at once. How do they know this?”

“Maybe they smell, just as our rabbit hounds do when they start out
after things that no one else sees or knows about,” said Tommy Todd.

“No, birds are not guided by scent as animals are,” said Gray Lady;
“scent is held to the ground by moisture; it would be difficult to
follow when it is blown about by air. Birds are led by their sight,
which is many times keener than that of man or the lower animals. Then,
too, they have another sense more fully developed than other animals,
and that is what is called the ‘sense of direction.’ Knowing the spot to
which they would go, they are able to reach it in the quickest, most
direct manner, so that ‘as the Crow flies’ has come to mean the most
direct way of reaching a place.

“When morning comes they leave the roost, and, breaking up into parties,
begin the search for food again. As the supply near home gives out, they
go farther and farther afield, sometimes going down to the shore, where
they pick up clams, mussels, and any scraps of sea-food that they can
find.

“After the corn has been taken in, they find scattered kernels of that
and other grain left in the field, but at the first snowfall hard times
set in for the Crow. He cannot search the bark crevices for insects like
the small tree-trunk birds with slender bills; people do not welcome him
to their farm-yards and scatter grain for him, or leave him free to
glean, as they do the other winter birds. It is at this time, when the
hand of man is turned against him, that the Crow really works in man’s
interest by catching meadow-mice and many other small destructive
animals.

“At this time, the Crow eats frozen apples, poison-ivy berries, acorns,
beech and chestnuts, and the like. But now he grows poor and thin and
his voice is querulous, and from November to March the Crow is put to it
for a living. ‘Poor as a Crow’ is an apt saying.


                                THE CROW

    Then it is a distant cawing,
    Growing louder—coming nearer,
    Tells of crows returning inland
    From their winter on the marshes.

    Iridescent is their plumage,
    Loud their voices, bold their clamour.
    In the pools and shallows wading,
    Or in overflowing meadows
    Searching for the waste of winter—
    Scraps and berries freed by thawing.
    Weird their notes and hoarse their croaking
    Silent only when the night comes.

    —Frank Bolles.

“With the thawing out of the ground in spring, the Crow begins to view
the world differently. The search for insects still continues, and the
corn now gleaned is more palatable, for it has been well soaked, and
though a corn-eater by nature, the Crow does not like his too hard and
dry.

“The flock life of the roost now ends. Every Jack chooses his Jill, and
mingled with the harsh warning cries of the older birds are sounds that
sometimes have a suggestion that their makers are trying to sing. The
funniest thing in birdland is to see a Crow or a Purple Grackle making
love, standing on tiptoe on a branch, raising their wings by jerks, like
pump-handles that are stiff, while the sounds they make stick in the
throat in a manner that suggests Crow croup.

“Once in a long time, however, I have heard a Crow begin with a high
Caw, and then followed a series of soft, almost musical, notes, though
without tune or finish, but this is the exception. But what, in his
courting days, a Crow lacks in song, he makes up by wonderful feats of
flight. For his size, the Crow is always a graceful bird on the wing.
When he flaps slowly up against the wind, there is nothing laboured in
his motions, but in the spring, in company with a desired mate, his
swift dives into the air, wheels to right and left, circlings often
finished by a series of somersaults across the sky, are really
marvellous.

“Now the pair of Crows that we will call Jack and Jill, to save time,
leave the cedar woods and begin hunting for a nesting-site. At first
they looked through the hickory woods for an old Hawk’s nest for a
foundation upon which to build, but this year there were two Red-tailed
Hawks already in possession, and so they hurried away as quickly as
possible, for Hawks do not like Crows, and tell them so very plainly.

“Next day they spied the great white pine back of Farmer Boardman’s
barn. They liked the looks of the tree, for it had a bunch of closely
knit branches near the top, and the neighbourhood in all respects
promised good feeding, but before they had carried more than a few
coarse sticks and put them in place, the farmer’s man saw them, and not
only fired his gun at them to drive them away, but climbed the tree and
threw the sticks away in order to be sure that they should not rest
there.

“What did Jack and Jill do next? They came flying over here. The place
was attractive, and it was easy to slip from the pine woods to the
hickories, then across to the orchard, and up to the spruce trees
outside the window here. Goldilocks was too ill to come up into the
playroom then, and so the windows on this side of the attic were shut.

“The nest-building began in earnest, both birds working at it. First, a
foundation of stout sticks, some of them being half-dead twigs from
these same spruces; then, old weed stalks and vine tendrils, mixed with
corn husks, until a heap was collected that would fill a half-bushel
basket.

“This was the outside of the house; the nursery itself was hollowed in
the centre of the moss and was about a foot across and quite deep. This
hollow was well lined and soft; it had in it moss, soft grasses, and
some horsehair. In due time the nest was finished and held six very
handsome eggs, dull green with purplish brown markings, two being more
thickly spattered with them than the other four. At this time I began to
take an interest in the household affairs of Jack and Jill Crow.”

“How could you?—can you climb trees?” asked Eliza Clausen, evidently
much surprised.

“No, I couldn’t climb as far as this Crow’s nest, Eliza, though I could
have once,” laughed Gray Lady. “Stand up on that seat by the corner
window and look straight down into the spruce with a crooked top and
tell me what you see.”

Eliza jumped up on the seat, and, after gazing a minute, cried, “Why,
it’s a big ’normous nest, and I can see every stick as plain as print.”

“Take this opera-glass, hold it to your eyes and move the screw to and
fro until everything is very clear, and then tell me what you see,” said
Gray Lady.

It took Eliza some time to manage the glass, but when she at last
succeeded she cried, “Oh, I can see the moss and the grass and the hair;
it comes as near as if I could touch it.” And one after another the
children learned to adjust the focus and look, and it was the first, but
not the last, time that glasses would open a new world to them.

“It was a little less than three weeks that the birds sat upon the eggs,
sharing the work between them, before the little birds were hatched.
Such ugly, queer little things as they were, both blind and featherless.
In three weeks more they were well grown and able to fly, but their
tails were still shorter than their parents’, and they were inclined to
return to the nest on the slightest alarm.

“About this time Jacob Hughes told me that either Crows or Hawks were
taking little chickens early every morning, for they could not get them
during the daytime without being seen.

“I looked at the runs for the little chicks and saw that they stood in
the open, not close to woods where Crows and Hawks could spy them out
and sneak up or dash down according to their habits.

“I well knew the bad name that Crows and Hawks have among
poultry-raisers, so Jacob roofed the chicken-runs with wire, for, even
if he had seen Crows there, I would not allow shooting on the place
during the nesting season.

“Still the chickens disappeared, and for several nights Jacob sat up and
watched, and what do you suppose—cats and weasels were the guilty ones,
not the Hawks and Crows!

“But late in May the Crows prepared to raise their second brood, mending
their old nest, and Jacob said, ‘Something is robbing the nests in the
orchard; I think surely it is the Crows and Jays, for when they come
around all the song-birds chase them and say right out as plain as
possible, “They’re thieves—they’re thieves!”’ So I watched from behind
the blinds yonder, and in every spot where I could see into the
tree-tops and be unobserved—and then I knew it was true that the Crows
and Jays were detestable cannibals.

“One single morning I saw the Crow take three robin’s eggs and bring a
tiny little robin squab to his mate on the nest, and one day, as a Crow
flew high over my head, I thought I saw something strange in its beak,
and clapped my hands sharply, when—what do you think? A poor little
half-dead Wood Thrush, big enough to have its eyes open and some
feathers, dropped almost on my upturned face, and thus the Crow was
caught in the very act of killing. So, then, I said to myself, we can
put tar on the seed-corn and protect our young chickens with wire, but
we cannot make up for the death of young nestlings and the loss of eggs.
I will not have the Crows shot, because they do good in the far meadows
and hayfields, but the lonely woods, where few small birds nest, is the
place for them. I shall see that they never again build in my garden
orchard or woods, and if every one will do this, the danger to
song-birds will be less, and in the winter, when they come about, there
are no nestlings to be eaten.

“It was not long after that, owing to the evidence of my own eyes, I was
obliged to say the same thing to the Blue Jay.

“The Wise Men say that, take it all in all, the Crow should have a
chance, and that part of his faults come from our own shiftlessness.
This is true, but if he feeds upon song-birds the Crow must go.


                             _The Blue Jay_

“That the Blue Jay is a handsome fellow goes without saying, as well as
that he has plenty of assurance and is somewhat of a bully. We may
imagine that he knows that his uniform of blue, gray, and white, with
black bands and markings, is very becoming, and if any one of you should
tell me that he had seen a Jay admiring his reflection in a pond or
little pool, I should be ready to believe him. Certain it is that not
one of our birds, not even the glowing Scarlet Tanager, presents a more
neat and military appearance.

[Illustration: BLUE JAY]

                   Order—Passeres      Family—Corvidæ
                 Genus—Cyanocitta      Species—Cristata

“The only awkward thing about the Blue Jay is his flight. Although alert
and agile in slipping through the trees, when he takes to wing his
progress seems laboured, as if either his body was too heavy for his
wings, or that the wings were stiff.

“Like the Crow, his cousin, this Jay belongs to all north-eastern
America, making its home from Florida to Newfoundland, and, like the
Crow, we have some members of its family with us in New England all the
winter, when it is certainly a pleasure to see them flying through the
bare trees or gathering food on the pure white snow.

“The Jay does not annoy the farmer by pulling corn, nor trouble the
chicken yard; for eight or nine months he earns an honest living,
largely of vegetable food and harmful insects, snails, tree frogs, mice,
small fish, and lizards, but in the breeding season, alas! he is a nest
robber, and here in my own garden and orchard I have seen him this
summer dodging and trying to avoid the angry birds that were pursuing
him.

“Twice I heard nestling Robins twittering as they do when their parents
come with food, but, like the wolf disguised as Red Riding-Hood’s
Grandmother, it was a Jay who came to the nest and seized a squab, as my
eyes saw and the cries of the parent birds told.

“Then I said to Jacob, ‘We will not let the Jays build in Birdland; they
must be outcasts and go out and live in the far-away woods with the
Crows, where there are few small birds.’

“How can we keep them out, you ask? It does take a little time and
patience, to be sure, but if we watch when they begin to build and take
away the sticks, you may be very sure that they will take the hint and
go elsewhere, for they are quick-witted birds. So, perhaps, in time they
would learn, at least in some regions, to inhabit places where mice and
other harmful rodents and bugs are more plentiful than song-birds.

“Then in the winter we of the Kind Hearts’ Club can make up for this
seeming unkindness, and pay them for the real good they do by feeding
them through the hungry time, when nuts, berries, and even frozen apples
are not to be found.”

“What is a Blue Jay’s nest like? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one,”
asked Tommy Todd.

“It is not very easy to find, for they usually build rather high up, in
a place where the limb is crotched and has many small branches. The nest
itself is well made of fibres and roots, and is usually quite cleverly
hidden, and the eggs are dull green, very thickly spotted.

“Aside from the Jay’s unaccountable cannibal habit of egg and squab
hunting, he has many good qualities, both as a parent and a friend to
those of his own kind, and though his call is harsh, and, like the
creaking of the Grackles, a reminder of coming frosts and bare trees, in
spring he has some pretty melodious notes and another call totally
different from the harsh jay, jay. This cry is like the resonant
striking of two bits of metal, a clink without exactly the ring that a
bell has,—yet I call it the ‘bell note,’ though perhaps the double
sound produced by hammer and anvil is a better comparison.

“In the fall, however, the Jay’s voice is certainly harsh, and not only
lacks anything like musical quality, but is so harsh that when there are
many about the noise is really annoying. The poet Lathrop describes the
change so well that I will read it to you.


                                 O JAY!

    O Jay!
    Blue Jay!
    What are you trying to say?
    I remember, in the spring
    You pretended you could sing;
    But your voice is now still queerer,
    And as yet you’ve come no nearer
    To a song.
    In fact, to sum the matter,
    I never heard a flatter
    Failure than your doleful clatter.
    Don’t you think it’s wrong?
    It was sweet to hear your note,
    I’ll not deny,
    When April set pale clouds afloat
    O’er the blue tides of sky.
    And ’mid the wind’s triumphant drums
    You in your white and azure coat,
    A herald proud, came forth to cry,
    “The royal summer comes!”

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    Sometimes your piping is delicious,
    And then again it’s simply vicious;
    Though on the whole the varying jangle
    Weaves round me an entrancing tangle
    Of memories grave or joyous:
    Things to weep or laugh at;
    Love that lived at a hint, or
    Days so sweet they’d cloy us.
    Nights I have spent with friends:—
    Glistening groves of winter,
    And the sound of vanished feet
    That walked by the ripening wheat:

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    Such mixed-up things your voice recalls,
    With its peculiar quirks and falls.
          Well, I’ll admit
    There’s merit in a voice that’s truthful;
    Yours is not honey sweet nor youthful,
    But querulously fit.
    And if we cannot sing, we’ll say
    Something to the purpose, Jay!

    —George Parsons Lathrop.

“The Blue Jay makes as good a forest watchman as the Crow. Steal along
ever so quietly, and if he chances to spy you, good-by to seclusion; his
cry of alarm rouses every bird within ear-shot. But it is in their
family life the Jays show to the best advantage, for they will stay by
the nest and fight to the death, if necessary, while big cousin Crow,
though he makes a precious racket, takes good care to keep himself well
out of harm’s way.

“One trait belongs to this bird that I have never seen recorded of any
other, though, of course, it may be common to all, and that is the care
of the aged.

“To care for the young, even among people, is an instinct as strong as
self-protection. To care for the aged implies a good heart and a certain
amount of unselfishness. This story is written down by Major Bendire, in
his book on the _Life Histories of American Birds_. He lived much with
the birds, and saw so truly that the Wise Men believe what he records.

    _Mr. Firth to Major Bendire_,—

    I made some observations last summer on the habits of the Blue
    Jay, which certainly show a degree of sympathy and kindness
    worthy of imitation of animals of a higher order. Last August
    (1887), on an old farm in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, my
    attention was attracted by the notes of a Blue Jay, not the
    ordinary cry, but a series of regular calls, followed by answers
    from a neighbouring tree. There was something so peculiarly like
    a communication of thought about the sound that I went to the
    place, and saw an old Blue Jay perched on a fence some distance
    from the tree where there were others.

    On my nearing the bird, the calls from the others became more
    frequent and loud, changing from a low, pleasant communicative
    tone to shrill alarm. Thinking that he was injured in some way,
    I went up to him and found that at least he was partially blind.
    The eyes were blurred and dim, the beautiful blue feathers were
    faded; in fact, the general appearance of the bird was so
    different as to be seen at a glance; the claws were worn, the
    bill dulled, and the wings and tail ragged. Every feature
    suggested old age and feebleness. Yet he was watched and cared
    for as tenderly as ever a growing bird in the nest.

    No sooner had I caught him than there were at least a dozen Jays
    close at hand whose sympathy and interest were manifest as
    clearly as could be with words.

    After a thorough examination I let him go, when he flew in the
    direction of the sound of the others, but did not succeed in
    alighting among the smaller branches of the tree, and finally
    settled on a large limb near the ground. I saw him, after that,
    every day for a week, and never did his companions desert him,
    some one of them being always near and warning him of danger,
    when he would fly toward the sound of their voices.

    They guided him regularly to a spring near by, where I saw him
    bathe daily, always, however, with some of his companions close
    by.

    They not only watched and guided him, but they fed him. I had
    noticed, some days before, Jays carrying food and thought it
    strange at that season, as there were no young to feed, but
    found afterwards, to my surprise and pleasure, that the poor,
    blind bird was being fed by those he could no longer see.

“So you see the Jay, with all his bad tricks and nest-robbing, has his
good points, and we will not shoot him, but hint very strongly, if
necessary, that he had better nest away from the temptation that garden
and orchards offer in the shape of eggs and fresh meat.”

As Gray Lady ended, a great commotion arose in the neighbourhood of the
orchard. Jays screamed and Crows cawed, as if, Goldilocks said, they
knew that they were being talked about, and didn’t like it.

Gray Lady opened one of the windows and looked out. Below stood Jacob,
waving his hat to attract attention, saying through his hands, “There
are some Screech Owls on a branch of the old willow back of the orchard,
and the other birds have found it out. The Crows are mixing in and
there’s a great how-de-do. I thought maybe you would all like to see
them, only I couldn’t go up for fear they might shift away.”

Of course they wished to see, and it was quite remarkable how fifteen
usually noisy children managed to tiptoe through the orchard and avoid
sticks and dry leaves.


                           THE WISE OLD CROW

    Not all the people know
    The wisdom of the Crow:
    As they see him come and go,
        With verdict brief,
        They say, “You thief!”
    And wish him only woe.

    That he’s selfish we admit,
    But he has a lot of grit,
    And on favour not a bit
        Does he depend;
        Without a friend,
    He must live by mother-wit.

    The Crow is rather shy,
    With a very watchful eye
    For danger coming nigh,
        And any one
        Who bears a gun
    He’s pretty sure to spy.

    The clever farmer’s plan
    Is to make a sort of ban,
    By stuffing clothes with bran,
        Topped with a tile
        Of ancient style,
    —A funny old scarecrow man.

    The Crow looks on with scorn,
    And early in the morn
    Pulls up the farmer’s corn:
        He laughs at that,
        The queer old hat,
    Of the scarecrow man forlorn.

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.



                                   XI
                         THE FLIGHT OF THE BIRD


                   _How do Birds find their Way?_[1]

                     (Told at Foxes Corners School)

“I was telling Grand’ther about how far away the birds go in the winter,
and how they fly against the lighthouses and get killed,” said Tommy
Todd, “and he said I couldn’t tell him anything about their going away
and coming back, ’cause he’d seen that going on, boy and man, these
seventy years. Grand’ther knows how the same kind of birds come back to
the place every spring, ’cause he says there were Phœbe Birds had a nest
on the end beam of the cowshed over where the last cow stands,—way back
when he was learning to milk. Then when that old shed blew down, and
they built a new one like it, back the birds came, and they are coming
yet; first nest over Black Bess, and second nest way out over the
box-pen where the little calves live.

“What Grand’ther wants to know is how they find the way to go so far,
and how they know where to stop and find something to eat, and if they
get hungry, ’cause he says nobody seems to know just what they do
between times, and what people do tell seems like Jack-and-the-Beanstalk
fairy-stories, and he said maybe you had some book that told about it
so’s you could explain.”

Gray Lady smiled in a half-puzzled way, as Tommy spoke, for the
questions that the children asked often gave her as much cause for study
and wonder as the stories that she told them. She was finding out that
there were three or four members of the Kind Hearts’ Club who had been
seeing correctly and trying to think out things for themselves before
they had a chance to ask questions, or had any books to consult.

“Your grandfather’s question cannot be answered in a few words,” she
said, “neither is there any one book that tells everything about these
wonderful journeys, because, as yet, not the very wisest of the Wise Men
know it all, though they wait and watch, and every spring and fall many
of them are scattered through the country upon the course of the flying
birds to watch them as they pass.

“All the information that they collect is printed and kept as evidence
of what is known, a little here and a little there, until we hope some
day that the history will be complete, when it will be one of the most
wonderful stories in the world, for even the little we know sounds like
a fairy-tale.

“Of course,” continued Gray Lady, “I know very little from my own sight,
but I will tell you what I have learned of the Wise Men, who believe it
to be the truth. I had intended telling you about Owls and Hawks to-day,
as I promised you last week, when we saw the Screech Owl up in the
orchard, but that story can wait until the next time you visit Birdland,
for the Owls are still about; there are pictures of them in the library,
and others that are stuffed and mounted in the glass case in the hall.

“All that we need, or that can help us with the story of the bird on its
travels, is that large map of North and South America, for this will be
a geography, as well as a bird, lesson.

(A fine map of the western hemisphere having been the first thing that
Gray Lady had given Miss Wilde for the use of the school at Foxes
Corners, the little old one being out of date and indistinct.)

“Clary, you may take charge of the pointer to-day and sit here by me,
for this will be a rather long lesson, and you will need help with the
binding of your iron-holder, for I’m afraid if you draw the stitches so
very tight it will pucker and not lie flat and smooth like the model
that Ann Hughes made.

“And what work has Jacob given you boys for your penknives to do?”

“Wooden spoons out of white wood,” answered Dave, “big strong ones such
as’ll beat up cake and apple-sauce, and, when they’re shaped, we are to
smooth them down fine with sandpaper. I’m going to give mine to my
mother; she broke hers yesterday, the handle snapped right in two. She
says the bought spoons are sawn out crossgrain, any which way. There was
an old man who used to come down from the charcoal camp with wooden
spoons and butter-scoops and hickory baskets, and he sold lots of ’em
all through the town, but he died last winter.”

“Then surely wooden spoons and butter-scoops will be very good things
for the Kind Hearts’ Club to make for its Christmas sale, and we shall
be interfering with nobody, for that is one of the things that we must
remember when we are working for charity, not to make articles for sale
that shall interfere with others who make them to get an honest living,
for that sort of thing is a species of robbery in disguise.

                 *        *        *        *        *


                         _The Travels of Birds_

“What becomes of the birds that are with us in summer? Where and how do
they spend the winter? By what roadways do they travel to their winter
haunts? Do they prefer to journey by land or by water, and how do they
find the way?

“We need not think that we, or anybody else of our day, are the first to
ask these questions, for it is many hundreds of years since they first
began to puzzle thinking people. At first, lacking any real knowledge of
the simplest facts of nature, and not having as yet trained the eye to
correct seeing, the people did as the ignorant do to this day,—they
imagined fabulous reasons. The more impossible and wonderful or
unnatural, the better, for it takes a trained mind oftentimes to realize
that the most natural way is the best, and that the simplest way is the
most natural.

“It was in these far-back times that the foolish idea was started that
the Swallows dived into the mud and there spent the winter, like the
frogs.

“Another stranger idea was that small birds crossed large bodies of
water as passengers on the backs of large birds, such as Cranes, Ducks,
and Geese, for people did not know enough of the structure of birds to
realize that the machinery of the tiny Humming-bird is as fit for flying
long distances as that of the biggest birds that grow. Ideas like this
have been believed until a comparatively short time ago, and it is only
within the last fifty years that there has been much real progress
toward the truth of it all. And this is the way it has been brought
about. In our country the band of Wise Men at Washington, forming the
United States Biological Survey, have for twenty years been gathering
facts about the migration of birds. This body has sent out naturalists
to travel through the North American continent from Guatemala to the
Arctic Circle, to meet with other scientific men on their way, and keep
careful notes of what they see, so that reports are had in the spring
and fall each year from hundreds of observers.

“These reports give the date upon which each particular kind (or
species, as they call it) of bird is seen, when it becomes plenty, and
when it moves on again. The lighthouse keepers also give much
information by noting the times at which they find the birds that are
dashed to death against the lanterns in the tower. In short, the Wise
Men have more material at hand than ever before from which to shape the
story that day by day increases in wonder.


                       _Causes of the Migrations_

“It is more than two thousand years since the wonders of bird travel
have been noted; and while the distances and routes of travel are better
known, we cannot yet give a positive answer to the question, ‘Why do
birds migrate?’”

“Please, Gray Lady,” said Sarah Barnes, “I thought you said it was
because in fall the insect food begins to freeze and give out, and they
go south after it and in spring they want to go back home.”

“Yes, Sarah, that is one of the reasons, and yet birds start off
oftentimes when food is still plenty, and every naturalist knows of the
rush of the water-fowl northward so early every spring that they are
often turned back by storms and have to retrace their flight, and they
have all seen that Robins, Bluebirds, and Swallows, following too
closely in the wake of the water-fowl, sometimes lose hundreds out of
their flocks by cold and starvation.

“If the fall journey is caused by lack of food, why does it begin when
food is most plenty? At some of the Florida lighthouses the Wise Men
have seen that the southward trip with some birds begins between the
first and middle of July, at the time when the crop of insects and ripe
seeds and berries is at its height. So the best answer that can be made
is that ages ago, when the migrations began, they were connected with a
food supply that changed more suddenly than at the present time, and
that, even when the direct motive is lost, the habit remains fixed.”

“That’s it; that’s a bully reason!” cried Tommy Todd, excitedly.
“They’ve got the notion that they’re going travelling just so often and
they can’t calculate the time right and so they get ready too soon;
likely they haven’t got very good heads for planning. That’s the reason,
Pop says, that every fall, when Ma and Aunt Hannah go up to Kent to
visit Grandma Tuck, they are all ready on the stoop by half-past seven,
when there’s never been a train from here to there before ’leven. If
they were birds, they’d probably fly off as soon as it was light, and
get to Grandma’s for breakfast, when they’d written on a picture postal,
with tea-cups and a cat on it, that she might expect them for supper.”

When the laugh at Tommy’s comparison had subsided, Gray Lady said, “Your
idea is by no means a foolish one, and it may be that a boy like you,
who watches and thinks, will some day piece the facts together that will
finally settle the question.”


                     _How do Birds find their Way?_

“How do the birds find their way over the hundreds or thousands of miles
between the winter and summer homes? Sight is probably the chief guide
of those who fly by day, and it is known that these day travellers
seldom make the long single flights that are so common with the birds
that journey at night. Sight, undoubtedly, also guides them, to a large
extent, in the night journeys, when the moon is bright. Migrating birds
fly high, so that one can hardly hear their faint twittering. But if the
sky is obscured and the clouds hang low, the flocks keep nearer to the
earth, and their calls are more distinctly heard; while on very dark
nights, the vibration of their wings can be heard close overhead.

[Illustration: TERNS AND SKIMMERS ON THE WING
(Summer Bird-Life, Cobbs Island, Va. Am. Museum Nat. Hist., N.Y.)]

“Notwithstanding this, something besides sight guides these travellers
in the upper air. (Here is a route for you to trace on the map.) In
Alaska, a few years ago, members of the Biological Survey on the
Harriman expedition went by steamer from the island of Unalaska to
Bogoslof Island, a distance of about sixty miles. A dense fog had shut
out every object beyond a hundred yards. When the steamer was halfway
across, flocks of Murres, returning to Bogoslof after long quests for
food, began to break through the fog wall astern, fly side by side with
the vessels, and disappear in the mists ahead. By chart and compass, the
ship was heading straight for the island; but its course was no more
exact than that taken by the birds. The power which carried them
unerringly home over the ocean wastes, whatever its nature, may be
called ‘a sense of direction.’ We recognize in ourselves the possession
of some such sense, though imperfect and easily at fault. Doubtless a
similar, but vastly more acute, sense enabled the Murres, flying from
home and circling wide over the water, to keep in mind the direction of
their nests and return to them without the aid of sight. It is probable
that this faculty is exercised during migration.

“Reports from lighthouses in southern Florida show that birds leave Cuba
on cloudy nights when they cannot possibly see the Florida shores, and
safely reach their destination, provided no change occurs in the
weather. But if meantime the wind changes or a storm arises to throw
them out of their reckoning, they become bewildered, lose their way, and
fly toward the lighthouse beacon. Unless killed by striking the lantern,
they hover near or alight on the balcony, to continue their flight when
morning breaks, or, the storm ceasing, a clear sky allows them once more
to determine the proper course.

“Birds flying over the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana, even if they
ascended to the height of five miles, would still be unable to see a
third of the way across. Nevertheless this trip is successfully made
twice each year by countless thousands of the warblers of the
Mississippi Valley.

“Probably there are many short zigzags from one favoured feeding-spot to
another, but the general course between the summer and winter homes is
as straight as the birds can find without missing the usual
stopping-places.


                      _Accidents during Migration_

“Migration is a season full of peril for myriads of winged travellers,
especially for those that cross large bodies of water. Some of the
shore-birds, such as Plover and Curlew, which take long ocean voyages,
can rest on the waves if overtaken by storms, but woe to the luckless
warbler whose feathers once became water-soaked,—a grave in the ocean
or a burial in the sand of the beach is the inevitable result. Nor are
such accidents infrequent. A few years ago on Lake Michigan a storm
during spring migration piled many birds along the shore.

“If such a disaster could occur on a lake less than a hundred miles
wide, how much greater might it not be during a flight across the Gulf
of Mexico. Such a catastrophe was once witnessed from the deck of a
vessel, thirty miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River. Large
numbers of migrating birds, mostly warblers, had accomplished
nine-tenths of their long flight, and were nearing land, when they were
caught by a ‘norther’ with which most of them were unable to contend,
and, falling into the Gulf, were drowned by hundreds.

“Then, as I have told you before, birds are peculiarly liable to
destruction by striking high objects. A new tower in a city kills many
before the survivors learn to avoid it. The Washington Monument has
caused the death of many little migrants; and though the number of its
victims has decreased of late years, yet on a single morning in the
spring of 1902 nearly 150 lifeless bodies were strewn around its base.

“Bright lights attract birds from great distances. While the torch in
the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor was kept lighted, the
sacrifice of life it caused was enormous, even reaching a maximum of 700
birds in a month. A flashing light frightens birds away, and a red light
is avoided by them as if it were a danger signal, but a steady white
light looming out of mist or darkness seems to act like a magnet and
draws the wanderers to destruction. Coming from any direction, they veer
around to the leeward side, and then, flying against the wind, dash
themselves against the pitiless glass.


                        _Distance of Migration_

“The length of the migration journey varies enormously. Some birds do
not migrate at all. Many a Cardinal, Carolina Wren, and Bob-white rounds
out its whole contented life within ten miles of its birthplace. Other
birds, for instance, the Pine Warbler and the Black-headed Grosbeak, do
not venture in winter south of the breeding range, so that with them
fall migration is only a withdrawal from the northern and a
concentration in the southern part of the summer home—the Warbler in
about a fourth and the Grosbeak in less than an eighth of the summer
area.

“The next variation is illustrated by the Robin, which occurs as a
species in the middle districts of the United States throughout the
year, in Canada only in summer, and along the Gulf of Mexico only in
winter. Probably no individual Robin is a continuous resident in any
section; but the Robin that nests, let us say, in southern Missouri will
spend the winter near the Gulf, while his hardy Canada-bred cousin will
be the winter tenant of the abandoned summer home of the southern bird.

“Most migrants entirely change their abode twice a year, and some of
them travel immense distances. Of the land-birds, the common eastern
Night Hawk seems to deserve the first place among those whose winter
homes are widely distant from their breeding-grounds. Alaska and
Patagonia, separated by 115 degrees of latitude, are the extremes of the
summer and winter homes of the bird, and each spring many a Night Hawk
travels the 5000 miles that lie between. But some of the shore-birds are
still more inveterate voyagers. These cover from 6000 to 8000 miles each
way, and appear to make travelling their chief occupation.


                         _Routes of Migration_

“Birds often seem eccentric in choice of route, and many land-birds do
not take the shortest line. The fifty species from New England that
winter in South America, instead of making the direct trip over the
Atlantic, involving a flight of 2000 miles, take a slightly longer route
which follows the coast of Florida, and passes thence, by island or
mainland, to South America. What would seem, at first sight, to be a
natural and convenient migratory highway extends from Florida through
the Bahamas or Cuba to Haiti, Porto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles, and
thence to South America.


                          _The Bobolink Route_

“Chief among these dauntless voyagers is the Bobolink, fresh from
despoiling the Carolina rice-fields, waxed fat from his gormandizing,
and so surcharged with energy that the 500-mile flight to South America
on the way to the waving pampas of southern Brazil seems a small
hardship. Indeed, many Bobolinks appear to scorn the Jamaican
resting-point and to compass in a single flight the 700 miles from Cuba
to South America. With the Bobolink is an incongruous company of
travelling companions—a Vireo, a King Bird, and a Night Hawk that
summer in Florida; the queer Chuck-will’s-widow of the Gulf States; the
two New England Cuckoos; the trim Alice’s Thrush from Quebec; the
cosmopolitan Bank Swallow from frozen Labrador, and the Black-poll
Warbler from far-off Alaska. But the Bobolinks so far outnumber all the
rest of the motley crew that the passage across the Caribbean Sea from
Cuba to South America may with propriety be called the ‘Bobolink route.’
Occasionally a mellow-voiced Wood Thrush joins the assemblage, or a
green-gold Tanager, which will prepare in its winter home its next
summer livery of flaming scarlet. But the ‘Bobolink route,’ as a whole,
is not popular with other birds, and the many that traverse it are but a
fraction of the thousands of North American birds that spend the winter
holiday in South America.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Have you patience to follow the history of the flight of one bird? The
longest migration route is taken by some of the wading-birds, especially
the American Golden Plover, the Eskimo Curlew, and the Turnstone. The
journey of the Plover, in itself like a fable, is wonderful enough to be
told in detail.

“In the first week of June, they arrive at their breeding-grounds in the
bleak, wind-swept ‘barren grounds’ above the Arctic Circle, far beyond
the tree line. Some even venture 1000 miles farther north (Greely found
them at latitude 81 degrees). While the lakes are still ice-bound, they
hurriedly fashion shabby little nests in the moss only a few inches
above the frozen ground. By August, they have hastened to Labrador,
where, in company with Curlews and Turnstones, they enjoy a feast.
Growing over the rocks and treeless slopes of this inhospitable coast is
a kind of heather, the crowberry, bearing in profusion a juicy black
fruit. The extravagant fondness shown for the berry by the birds, among
which the Curlew, owing to its greater numbers, is most conspicuous,
causes it to be known to the natives as the ‘curlewberry.’ The whole
body of the Curlew becomes so saturated with the dark-purple juice that
birds whose flesh was still stained with the colour have been shot 1000
miles south of Labrador.

[Illustration: GOLDEN PLOVER]

“After a few weeks of such feasting, the Plovers become excessively fat,
and ready for their great flight. They have reared their young under the
midnight sun, and now they seek the southern hemisphere. After gaining
the coast of Nova Scotia, they strike straight out to sea, and take a
direct course for the easternmost islands of the West Indies. Eighteen
hundred miles of ocean waste lie between the last land of Nova Scotia
and the first of the Antilles, and yet 600 more to the eastern mainland
of South America, their objective point. The only land along the route
is the Bermuda Islands, 800 miles from Nova Scotia. In fair weather, the
birds fly past the Bermudas without stopping; indeed, they are often
seen by vessels 400 miles or more east of these islands.

“When they sight the first land of the Antilles, the flocks often do not
pause, but keep on to the larger islands and sometimes even to the
mainland of South America. Sometimes a storm drives them off the main
track, when they seek the nearest land, appearing not infrequently at
Cape Cod and Long Island.

“A few short stops may be made in the main flight, for the Plover swims
lightly, and easily, and has been seen resting on the surface of the
ocean; and shore-birds have been found busily feeding 500 miles south of
Bermuda and 1000 miles east of Florida, in the Atlantic, in that area
known as the Sargasso Sea, where thousands of square miles of seaweed
teem with marine life.

“Though feathered balls of fat when they leave Labrador and still plump
when they pass the Bermudas, the Plovers alight lean and hungry in the
Antilles. Only the first, though the hardest, half of the journey is
over. How many days it has occupied may never be known. Most migrants
either fly at night and rest in the day or vice versa, but the Plover
flies both night and day.

“After a short stop of three or four weeks in the Antilles and on the
north-eastern coast of South America, the flocks disappear, and later
their arrival is noted at the same time in southern Brazil and the whole
prairie region of Argentina and Patagonia. Here they remain from
September to March (the summer of the southern hemisphere), free from
the responsibilities of the northern summer they have left. The native
birds of Argentina are at the time engrossed in family cares; but,
_remember this well, no wayfarer from the north nests in the south; he
has a second summer free from care!_

“After a six months’ vacation the Plovers resume the serious affairs of
life and start back toward the Arctic zone, but not by the same course.
Their full northward route is a problem still unsolved. They disappear
from Argentina and shun the whole Atlantic coast from Brazil to
Labrador. In March they appear in Guatemala and Texas; April finds their
long lines trailing across the prairies of the Mississippi valleys; the
first of May sees them crossing our northern boundary; and by the first
week in June they reappear at their breeding-grounds in the frozen
North. What a journey! Eight thousand miles of latitude separates the
extremes of their course, and 3000 miles of longitude constitutes the
shorter diameter, and all for the sake of spending ten weeks on an
Arctic coast! Do you realize this endurance when you see birds passing
that window?

                 *        *        *        *        *

“As to the fatigue of the bird from travel, this is now thought to be
very slight, as bird flocks that have crossed great bodies of water do
not stop to rest, but usually continue many miles inland. It is,
undoubtedly, accident or illness that sometimes causes birds to stop for
rest on the rigging of vessels or offshore islands.


                             _The Unknown_

“Interest in bird migration goes back to a far distant period.
Marvellous tales of the spring and fall movements of birds were spun by
early observers, yet hardly less incredible are the ascertained facts.
Much remains to be learned, and it may be of interest to note a few of
the mysteries which still occupy attention. Even the daily flight of a
bird is a wonderful thing apart from the endurance required in the long
migrations. Though the wings of birds are built on very much the same
plan, few species use them in precisely the same manner; while on a
windy day the wings assume a dozen different positions in as many
seconds, and to watch the flight of a sea-bird, as it rises and trims
itself to the wind and then shapes its course, is to be awe-struck by
this mysterious power of flight.

“Snap shot pictures of birds on the wing will show you this better than
many words. Some birds, like the Hawks and Eagles, can sustain
themselves in the air for hours, sailing against the wind without any
visible motion of the wings. Others fly both by swift beating and
sailing, like the Terns in one of these pictures.

“In short, the differences are so great that the Wise Men can often
identify a bird by the sharp outline of its shadow in flight.

“This power of flight has been a subject of wonder for many thousand
years; we think and we speculate, but no one has yet learned the secret
in its fulness.

“‘The way of an eagle in the air! This is too wonderful for me!’ is an
expression of this feeling of mystery, recorded in the book of Proverbs.
One thing seems quite certain, however—if man ever succeeds in
conquering the air and sailing through it, it will not be by the power
of any invention of his own, but because he has at least in some degree
mastered the knowledge of the flight of the bird and adapted it to his
own use.

“The Chimney Swift, that you all know as the Chimney Swallow, is one of
the most abundant and best-known birds of the eastern part of the United
States. With troops of fledglings, catching their winged prey as they
go, and lodging by night in some tall chimney, the flocks drift slowly
south, joining with other bands until, on the northern coast of the Gulf
of Mexico, they become an innumerable host. Then they disappear. Did
they drop into the water and hibernate in the mud, as was believed of
old, their obliteration could not be more complete. In the last week in
March a joyful twittering far overhead announces their return to the
Gulf coast, but the intervening five months is still the Swifts’ secret.

[Illustration: THE WINGS IN FLIGHT
(Birds of the San Joaquin Valley, Cal. Am. Museum Nat. Hist., N.Y.)]

“The mouse-coloured Bank Swallows, that we saw here in flocks a few
weeks ago, are almost cosmopolitan, and enliven even the shores of the
Arctic Ocean with their graceful aerial evolutions. Those that nest in
Labrador allow a scant two months for building a nest and raising a
brood, and by the first of August are headed southward. Six weeks later
they are swarming in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay, and then they, too,
pass out of the range of our knowledge. In April they appear in northern
South America, moving north, but not a hint do they give of how they
came there. The rest of the species, those that nest to the south or
west, may be traced farther south, but they, too, fail to give any clew
as to where they spend the five winter months.

“Which one of the Wise Men can tell us? No one. Look out the window now;
there are two Night Hawks, first flying high and then dropping suddenly
through the air. Is it not hard to realize that, while you are going to
and fro every day between your homes and school, and by and by having to
dig paths through the snow in order to get there, those two slender
birds will have flown 5000 miles to find a new summer, and will be
having a vacation absolutely free from family cares?”

-----

[1] Condensed and adapted from _Some New Facts about the Migration of
Birds_, by Wells W. Cooke, United States Biological Survey.



                                  XII
                       SOME SUSPICIOUS CHARACTERS


                            _Owls and Hawks_

Frost had come. Real frost, with black, nipping fingers. White frost, at
its first appearance, is a decorator who casts a silver spell upon the
meadows, turning them into shimmering lakes and touching the ripe leaves
until each one becomes a banner of scarlet, gold, or russet.

Chrysanthemums and tufts of self-sown pansies, huddling in warm nooks,
were the only flowers left about the farm-houses or in Gray Lady’s
garden, and both of these would hold their own until Thanksgiving Day
gave praise for the year’s growth and bade growing things sleep the long
sleep of winter.

Birdland showed the change less than either the hickory or the river
woods, for the old orchard held its leaves as apple trees usually do,
and the belt of spruces and pines, that ran from the north side of it
quite up to the house, made a cheerful green barrier and wind-break as
well; but the Swallows and Night Hawks were no longer skimming the air,
and high above, a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were sailing
majestically, occasionally giving their cry Kee-o—Kee-o!

[Illustration: RED-SHOULDERED HAWK]

Jacob had finished the Martin house the week previous, and a stout
smooth pole like a flagstaff had been planted, not in Birdland itself
but on a slight rise in the ground that overlooked both the barns and
the orchard. The setting up of the house itself had been reserved for
this special Saturday, so that the children might take part in the
ceremony.

The top of the pole, on which there were fastened crosspieces to make a
foundation for the house, was thirty feet above the ground. In this pole
stout spikes were driven at intervals. This not only would prevent cats
from climbing up to the house, but made a sort of ladder by which a man
or boy could go up and pull out the nesting material of English sparrows
if they tried to take possession. For, if we are to keep the useful
insect-eating birds about our houses, we must try our best to keep this
Sparrow from living amongst us.

Hard as it seems, he must be classed with animals that the kindest heart
knows must be destroyed. But no one wishes to hurt nestlings, so the
best way to do is to prevent the old birds from building in the haunts
of the useful song-birds, and then in winter, when the old Sparrows
gather in flocks about the barnyard, have some grown man, with good
judgment and aim, shoot them. Children should never be let do this for
amusement, for it is not well to allow a painful necessity to become a
sport.

Tommy Todd was quite late on this Saturday morning, so that it was
thought that he was not coming, and when he did arrive he found the
others gathered about the pole,—Dave, who had a steady head for
climbing, having been allowed to go up with Jacob, after the house had
been raised with a block and falls, to hold hammer and nails while it
was securely fastened to the braces.

They were all so busy that it was not until Jacob and Dave had come
down, that Gray Lady noticed the box that Tommy had brought and which
stood beside him, the slats on top telling that it contained some live
thing.

As she turned to ask Tommy what he had brought, Goldilocks came down the
path in her chair, for though she could walk quite well by this time,
she was obliged to be very careful, and Ann would not allow her to be on
her feet for more than an hour or two each day.

“The little Owls are back again and all sitting in a row on a branch of
the old russet beyond the lunch-counter. There is a hollow in the trunk
of the tree that I never noticed before, and do you know, mother, I
shouldn’t be surprised if the nest had been in there, so, perhaps, if we
have something that they like on the lunch-counter, they’ll come back
next year.”

“Come back? Aren’t you going to shoot them before they get away?” asked
Dave. “Because they might not come back.”

“We don’t want them to come back to be shot, but to make more nests and
live here,” said Goldilocks.

“Live! why, folks _always_ shoot Owls and Hawks! They are very bad
things, though I guess Hawks are the worst; anyhow, there’s more of ’em.
Just look at those big Hen-hawks flying up yonder now; maybe you’d like
them to come and live in the orchard. If they did, they’d eat the lunch
off’n your counter, other birds and all.”

Gray Lady, seeing by the expression of Dave’s face that he could not
quite understand any other view of the matter, said: “Yes, Dave, you are
right; people usually shoot Hawks and Owls on sight—and have been doing
so for years. In fact, my own husband used to shoot them as a matter of
course, and he was one who never killed a song-bird and who greatly
preferred to hear the Grouse drumming in the forest, the Woodcock
singing and dancing in the spring woods (yes, they both dance and sing
and I will tell you of them some day), and Bob-white telling his name
from the fence-rail, than to have them come on the table ever so
deliciously cooked.

“But within the last ten or fifteen years the Wise Men have found out a
great deal more about these Owls and Hawks—or Birds of Prey, as they
are called, and they know exactly what the work of these birds is in the
great plan of nature. Many of the facts they tell us of we can see for
ourselves if we have the patience to watch. Before the country was
settled by white men, and became what we call ‘civilized,’ all of these
birds of prey had their place, but even now many of them are not only
not hurtful to us, but of distinct benefit. The difficulty is that we do
not stop to sift the facts and separate the good from the bad. To the
farmer, and particularly the poultry-raiser, the cry of Hawk brings him
out, quick as a flash, shot-gun in hand.

“But if he will only realize that for every chicken or pigeon one of
these Hawks destroys, it in all probability takes fifty rats,
field-mice, short-tailed meadow-mice, weasels, and red squirrels, he
will see that he owes the Hawk a debt of gratitude; for it is easier by
far to protect a poultry-yard from conspicuous things that fly
above—like Hawks and Owls—than to keep out the things that crawl and
creep.

“Now, before we go down to the orchard to see Goldilocks’ little Screech
Owls, let us see what Tommy Todd has in this box.”

“It’s only a Screech Owl that I found up in the pigeon-coop this
morning, but it’s such a different colour from the gray ones we have
here, that I brought it up for you to see if it was a rare kind. I
daren’t take it out because it claws and bites so.” And Tommy took away
the cloth that partly covered the box, and there sat the bird with open,
yellow-rimmed eyes, with which he seemed to see with difficulty.

The Owl was no taller than a Robin, but his large, round head and
thickset body made him appear to be a much larger bird. He had two ear
tufts (or horns) of feathers, a strong, curved beak, and powerful toes,
lightly feathered, ending in the hooked talons that mark the birds of
prey, that is, birds that prey, or feed, upon forms of animal life other
than defenceless insects, worms, etc. Its feathers were a bright rusty
red colour, streaked with black; its underparts being more or less
white, mixed with red and black.

“The Owls in the orchard are like this one, only they are all gray and
black,” said Goldilocks, after taking a long look.

“Perhaps this is the father bird; you told us that if one bird is a
gayer colour than the other, it is generally the father,” said Sarah
Barnes.

“Yes, that is often the case, as I am glad to find that you remember,
but not with the Screech Owl, the most common of American Owls, and one
that is known under many names—Mottled Owl, Gray Owl, and Red Owl.

[Illustration: SCREECH OWL]

“There may be some gray birds and some red ones in the same brood, but
this does not depend upon sex, season, or age. The strange difference is
called by a long name, ‘dichromatism’ or two-colour phase, and this is
one of the things for which the Wise Men can give no positive reason; so
it is another question like those about the flight and travels of the
birds for one of you to find out in future.

“Bring the box up to the orchard, Tommy, and, after we have seen the
gray Screech Owls, you can open the door and put the box in the tree and
see what will happen.”

Before they reached the gate of Birdland, they heard a commotion inside;
Jays were screaming in a great state of rage and alarm, and, as they
drew nearer, another sound blended with the screaming, a hissing sound
like “shay—shay—shay,” and the snapping of beaks.

“The Jays have found the Owls out, and they’re hopping mad,” said Jacob,
who was standing in the shelter of a tree-trunk, enjoying the scene.
“The Jays daren’t really touch the Owls, only jeer, and the Owls only
snap their beaks and hiss in return because they don’t like to fly out
in bright light; all you get back by the fence and watch out.”

The children did as Jacob suggested and Tommy put his box on top of the
wall and, at a signal from Gray Lady, unfastened the slats. At first the
little Red Owl stretched his neck and snapped his beak; then, as he
heard the voices of the Jays, he backed into the corner of the box and
drew himself up thin and long, so that he did not look like the same
bird that had been so plump and fluffy a few seconds before.

“That’s just the way he did this morning when I found him in the
pigeon-house,” said Tommy; “in the dark he didn’t look a bit like a
bird, but more like a corn-cob on end.

“There! look there, Gray Lady.” And Tommy pointed at a tree behind that
in which the five Owls were roosting. “There is another Owl all by
itself that the Jays haven’t found out, and it’s all drawn up thin just
like my red one.” And, following the direction of his finger, the Owl
was plainly to be seen, but so rigid and motionless that it might have
been a moss-covered branch stump.

“We would better go in now,” said Gray Lady, after they had watched for
a few moments. “The Owls are beginning to notice us, and I do not wish
them to be driven away until I have had a chance to photograph them.
Leave the box there, Tommy; with all this noise your Owl cannot be
expected to come out before night.”

“But if they are good birds, what was the red one doing in Tommy’s
pigeon-house?” asked Dave.

“Probably looking for mice or other vermin, or perhaps shelter,” said
Gray Lady, “for though they sometimes eat large game, mice or smaller
animals are easier food for a tribe of Owls that sometimes grow only six
inches high and never to a foot in length. I will tell you a way to
convince yourselves and make sure of what Owls feed upon without killing
the Owls,” said Gray Lady, as, on their way up to the play and work
rooms, they went into the library to look at some of the mounted birds
in one of the cases.

“As Owls usually swallow their food whole, they take in bones, fur,
feathers, etc., that they cannot digest; these portions are made up into
little pellets called ‘Owl balls,’ and these are spit up before the real
process of digestion is begun, and if you search under the trees where
owls roost, you may often find these pellets for yourselves.”

“Maybe that is what these things are that I’ve found, for ever so many
days, below the porch of the pigeon-house,” said Tommy, pulling a bunch
of paper from his pocket; “I guess the Red Owl meant to live there this
winter.” He spread out the paper before Gray Lady, who was now sitting
at the table turning over the pages of a large book in red covers. It
was a reference book, in two volumes, that she often used to look up
stories of the birds about which the children asked. The name of the
book was _Life Histories of North American Birds_, and they were written
and collected by Major Bendire, who was both one of the Wise Men and an
officer in our army. Putting in a mark at the page where Screech Owl
began, she closed the book and looked at the contents of the paper.

“Yes, Tommy,” she said presently, “these are not only Owl balls, but
there is the fur and bones of a mouse in each.” And deftly separating
the wads with the point of a pair of scissors and taking out a tiny
skull, she motioned the children to look at it through a reading-glass,
each one in turn.

“Does the Screech Owl live everywhere in the United States?” asked Dave,
after he and Tommy had picked out enough of the tiny bones from the fur
to piece out the entire skeleton of a mouse.

“This same species of Screech Owl that we have here is found all through
the eastern part of North America, but there is a Screech Owl, of some
sort, to be found in the other parts of the country; thus, there is a
Florida Screech Owl; one for California; another for the Rocky
Mountains; one for Mexico, and one for Puget Sound, besides several
others, and, of them all, the Rocky Mountain Owl is said to be the
handsomest.

“We have several other owls that live hereabouts and do good work by
killing rats, mice, snakes, lizards, etc. Of course, they also eat some
birds, but they are so valuable to the farmer that he can ill spare
them, and if he cannot, neither can we. Do you realize that it is really
the farmer that holds the life of the country in his hand? What good
would money and houses and clothes do us if we had no food?—and it is
the farmer who, by carrying out the workings of nature, makes food
possible.

“These birds of prey divide time between them, the Hawk works by day and
the Owls at night and in the early dawn; thus, ‘Nature, in her wisdom,
puts a continuous check upon the four-footed vermin of the ground.’

“Our little Screech Owls love old orchards and the hollow trees to be
found there, and they are well suited to be guardians of the fruit
trees. In hard winters, mice and rabbits will often eat the bark of
young peach, pear, plum, and apple trees in such a way as to ruin them.
Who can keep a constant watch upon them by day and night so well as the
Hawks and Owls?—and if they do take an occasional chicken or pigeon,
these are more easily replaced than fruit trees.

“Then, too, our little Screech Owl is a destroyer of cutworms, those
dreadful worms that do their work by night. For this alone, should the
farmer call this Owl his friend, and let him nest in any little hollow
under the barn eaves, or in the old willow or sycamore, as he chooses.
That is, if the few sticks and feathers that line the hollow can be
called a nest.

“The courtship of the Owl begins late in March, for Owls, living, as
they do, permanently in their homes, nest early; the Great Horned Owl,
of deservedly savage reputation, beginning in February, and the
round-faced Barred Owl in March. I have only seen the young Owls on
their first coming from the nest—queer, fuzzy little balls, awkward in
flight and noisy, who perch on a branch like a row of clothes-pins all
day, and then spend their nights being fed, and in awkward attempts at
learning to fly. Once, in my girlhood, I kept an Owl with a sprained
wing in an outdoor cage for a couple of months, and he grew quite tame
and was very clever and clean apparently, from the evidence of spilled
water, taking a bath in his pan every night and keeping his feathers in
good condition.

“Major Bendire tells of the courtship of these songless birds in a way
that proves that where voice is lacking, gesture takes the place of
speech, as with Grackles and Crows. ‘The female was perched in a dark,
leafy tree, apparently oblivious of the presence of her mate, who made
frantic efforts to attract her attention through a series of bowings,
wing-raisings, and snapping of the beak. These antics were continued for
some time, varied by hops from branch to branch near her, accompanied by
that forlorn, almost despairing, wink peculiar to this bird. Once or
twice I thought that I detected sounds of inward groanings as he, beside
himself at lack of success, sat in utter dejection. At last the lady
lowered her haughty head, looked at and approached him.’

“The young Owls when first hatched are blind and featherless, and are so
ravenous that not only do their parents feed them at night but also put
away enough food in the nest to last through the day as well, so you can
easily see how useful a family of these Owls would be the neighbourhood
of any farm.


                      THE SCREECH OWL’S VALENTINE

    A Screech Owl once set out to find
          A comely mate of his own kind;
    Through wooded haunts and shadows dense
          He pressed his search with diligence;
                  As a reward
                  He soon espied
                  A feathered figure,
                  Golden-eyed.

    “Good-night! my lady owl,” said he;
          “Will you accept my company?”
    He bowed and snapped, and hopped about,
          He wildly screamed, then looked devout.
                  But no word came,
                  His heart to cheer,
                  From lady owl,
                  That perched so near.

    The suitor thought her hearing dull,
          And for her felt quite sorrowful.
    Again by frantic efforts he
          Did try to woo her from her tree;
                  “Pray, loveliest owl,
                  The forest’s pride,
                  Descend and be
                  My beauteous bride.

    “A wedding feast of mice we’ll keep,
          When cats and gunners are asleep;
    We’ll sail like shadows cast at noon,
          Each night will be a honeymoon.”
                  To this she answered
                  Not one breath;
                  But sat unmoved
                  And still as death.

    Said he, “I guess that she’s the kind
          That people in museums find;
    Some taxidermist by his skill
          Has stuffed the bird, she sits so still.
                  Ah me! that eyes
                  Once made to see
                  Should naught
                  But ghostly spectres be.”

    At this she dropped her haughty head
          And cried, “I’m neither stuffed nor dead.
    Oh! weird and melancholy owl,
          Thou rival of the wolf’s dread howl,
                  Since fate so planned,
                  I’ll not decline
                  To be for life
                  Your valentine.”

    —Florence A. Van Sant, in _Bird-Lore_.

“Are any of these other Owls here useful?” asked Sarah, who had been
looking at the birds in the glass case while Gray Lady talked. “This
great big one with feather horns looks as if he could eat a little lamb
or a big rooster if he tried.”

“That is the Great Horned Owl,” said Gray Lady, “and fortunately he is
very uncommon here in New England, for he is a cruel and wasteful bird,
unsociable and sulky, killing chickens, and even turkeys and geese, and
often merely eating the head of its victim and then killing again; it is
the worst of all the birds of prey, and no excuse can be found for its
behaviour.

“The Barred Owl on the shelf beside the Great Horned, though having a
smooth head, is sometimes mistaken for the fierce Owl and shot for its
sins. Aside from sometimes killing birds, it is a useful Owl, eating
mice, rabbits, red squirrels, etc. This is a remote, lonely sort of an
Owl, with a dismal hoot, as one man described it:
‘Hoo-ooo-ooo-ho-ho-ho-too-too-to-to!’ sometimes interspersed by a laugh
and then a wail. I disturbed a young bird once, causing one of its
parents great uneasiness. It is impossible to describe all the notes
uttered by it at this time; they were rendered in a subdued muttering
and complaining strain, parts of which sounded exactly like ‘old-fool,
old-fool, don’t do it, don’t do it!’

“There are two other owls that are very useful; one is found all through
the United States, and the other is a more southern species, found
usually south of New England. The first is the Short-eared or Marsh Owl,
and the other is the Barn Owl.

“All Owls, in a way, look very much alike, in spite of difference in
colour and size. They have round, feathered heads, which they are
obliged to turn around when they wish to look, as their eyes are so
fixed in their sockets that they cannot roll them as other birds and
animals do; some have feather horns and some do not. They all have
talons, either covered by scales or feathers, with which they seize
their food, which they swallow whole. But between the Barn Owl and his
kin, the Horned, Hoot, and Screech Owls, there is a striking contrast.

[Illustration: BARN OWL]

“Look at those two in the case; they have round faces and circles of
feathers about the eyes. The Barn Owl has a heart-shaped face-disk,
about which the head-feathers cluster, making the bird look like a funny
old lady in a cap. This is the Owl that is usually described in
poetry—the Church Tower Owl, the Monkey-faced Owl, etc.

“While you look at this bird listen to some of the things that the Wise
Men say of it.

“The Barn Owl, strictly speaking, makes no nest. If occupying a natural
cavity of a tree, the eggs are placed on the rubbish that may have
accumulated at the bottom; if in a bank, they are laid on the bare
ground and among the pellets of fur and small bones ejected by the
parents. Frequently, quite a lot of such material is found in their
burrows, the eggs lying on, and among, the refuse. Incubation usually
commences with the first egg laid, and lasts about three weeks. The eggs
are almost invariably found in different stages of development, and
downy young may be found in the same nest with fresh eggs. Both sexes
assist in incubation. One of the best methods of studying the food
habits of Owls is to gather the pellets which they disgorge. These
consist of the undigested refuse of their food, hair, bones, feathers,
etc. Sometimes enormous quantities of this refuse are found in the
nesting-place of the Barn Owl, one recorded instance being two or three
cubic feet. When the tired farmer is buried deep in slumber, and nature
is repairing the waste of wearied muscles, this night-flying bird
commences its beneficial work, which ceases only at the rising of the
sun. All that has been written regarding the food of the Barn Owl shows
it to be of inestimable value to agriculture. Major Bendire says:
‘Looked at from an economic standpoint, it would be difficult to point
out a more useful bird than this Owl, and it deserves the fullest
protection; but, as is too often the case, man, who should be its best
friend, is generally the worst enemy it has to contend with, and it is
ruthlessly destroyed by him, partly on account of its odd appearance and
finely coloured plumage, but oftener from the erroneous belief that it
destroys the farmer’s poultry.’

“In the West, the food of the Barn Owl consists very largely of pouched
gophers, a specially destructive mammal, also ground-squirrels, rabbits,
and insects. In the southern states large numbers of cotton rats are
destroyed, a fact which should be appreciated by every planter.

“So you see, children, that those farmers who live within the range of
the Barn Owl can not only safely let it nest under their roofs, but give
the barn mice into its keeping, for it will do more good and less harm
than the usual prowling cat.

“The Short-eared Owl is unlike his brethren in that his nest, lined with
a few feathers or grass, is in a hollow in the ground or in a bunch of
tall weeds or grasses. He is also what is called a cosmopolitan Owl,
which means that he is equally at home in all parts of the country, and,
during the migrations and in the winter, these Owls sometimes live in
flocks of one hundred or more, which, considering the usual solitary
habits of Owls, is something to remember particularly.

[Illustration: SHORT-EARED OWL]

“As its nest is in moist, grassy meadows, so also does it spend much of
its time in the open, shunning the deep woods beloved of other Owls,
while it flies freely by day, except in the brightest weather. On cloudy
days it flies low over the meadows, in which it searches carefully for
its food. On the wing, it is easy and graceful, its flight being more
like that of a Hawk than the heavy swoop of the Owl. Its wings are long
in proportion to its body, which makes it appear very large when in
flight.

“The Short-eared Owls delight in carrying their food to a hayrick or
some such object, where they eat it at leisure. This same food of the
Short-eared Owl, in itself, is a letter of recommendation,—for it
consists of meadow-mice, gophers, and shrews (that are such a nuisance
in the West), grasshoppers, insects, and occasionally a bird,—so that,
like the Barn Owl and the Long-eared or Cat Owl, his brother, this bird
deserves full protection.

“Another cause has done many an owl to death,—not his ‘fatal gift of
beauty,’ that has made so many birds become bonnet martyrs, but the fact
that the Owl looks so wise that he was supposed to be the favourite bird
of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. For this reason, people like to have
stuffed Owls in their libraries to sit and look wise on a bookcase top.

“Thus many of the birds that have escaped the farmers have been shot by
collectors for the taxidermists or bird-store folk. Now the Wise Men are
making laws which will, we hope, protect the useful birds of prey from
this fate as they do the beautiful songsters; but it is not enough to
make laws, it is the business of each one of us to see that they are
carried out.

“I have a very amusing poem about an Owl in my scrap-book. When you have
read it, you may guess, if you can, to which Owl the author refers.”


                             THE EARLY OWL

    An Owl once lived in a hollow tree,
    And he was as wise as wise could be.
    The branch of learning he didn’t know
    Could scarce on the tree of knowledge grow;
    He knew the tree from branch to root,
    And an Owl like that can afford to hoot.

    And he hooted until, alas! one day
    He chanced to hear in a casual way
    An insignificant little bird
    Make use of a term he had never heard.
    He was flying to bed in the dawning light,
    When he heard her singing with all her might:
    “Hurray! hurray! for the early worm!”
    “Dear me,” said the Owl, “what a singular term!
    I would look it up if it weren’t so late.
    I must rise at dusk to investigate.
    Early to bed and early to rise
    Makes an Owl healthy, and stealthy, and wise!”

    So he slept like an honest Owl all day,
    And rose in the early twilight gray,
    And went to work in the dusky light
    To look for the early worm at night.
    He searched the country for miles around,
    But the early worm was not to be found;
    So he went to bed in the dawning light
    And looked for the “worm” again next night.
    And again and again, and again and again,
    He sought and he sought, but all in vain,
    Till he must have looked for a year and a day
    For the early worm in the twilight gray.

    At last in despair he gave up the search,
    And was heard to remark as he sat on his perch,
    By the side of his nest in the hollow tree:
    “The thing is as plain as the night to me—
    Nothing can shake my conviction firm;
    There’s no such thing as the early worm.”

    —Oliver Herford.

[Illustration: MARSH HAWK]

“I can’t tell exactly which it was,” said Tommy Todd, when he was
through laughing; “but I know which it wasn’t—it wasn’t the Short-eared
Owl, for he doesn’t get up to breakfast at night, and so if he had
looked for the early worm he would have found him.”


                           THREE USEFUL HAWKS

                 _The Marsh Hawk, Harrier, Blue Hawk._

    _Length_: 17-19 inches; female averaging two inches longer.

    _Male_: Above, bluish gray; below, white mottled with brown;
    wings brownish, long, and pointed; tail long; upper tail-coverts
    white.

The Marsh Hawk is the most harmless and beneficial of its family; it
feeds upon reptiles, locusts, grasshoppers, and small mammals, and never
disturbs domestic poultry.

In this locality it is more plentiful in the bogs near fresh ponds, and
in the vicinity of rivers, than in the salt-marshes.

It is the summer-day Hawk, and the species most frequently seen in the
warmest months. It flies by night as well as day, however, and is often
a companion of the Screech Owl in its nocturnal rambles.

                       _The Red-shouldered Hawk_

    _Length_: 18-19 inches. Also miscalled “Hen-hawk.” The
    Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk are the real “Hen-hawks.”

    _Male_: Grayish brown above; feathers edged with rusty brown;
    wings barred black and white; “shoulder” rusty red; tail black,
    and barred and tipped with slate; black streaks on throat;
    underparts buff.

One of the large Hawks; to be distinguished by a rust-red shoulder
patch; is the most common of the long, broad-winged Buzzard Hawks that
are seen flying in circles in the days of autumn and early spring. It
kills field-mice and other gnawers.

                      _The American Sparrow Hawk_

    _Length_: 10 inches.

    _Male_: Reddish back barred with black; reddish tail, with black
    band and white tip; head with reddish spot on crown, slaty blue,
    as are also wings, the latter having white bars; a black mark
    back and front of ear; underparts varying from cream to buff.

A very handsome bird, though somewhat of a cannibal; the Wise Men wish
him protected for the following reasons:—

“When in doubt regarding the identity of a small Hawk, give the benefit
of the doubt to the Hawk, and refrain from killing it, for you may thus
spare a valuable bird, belonging to a species that during every twelve
months renders service to the agricultural industry of the country that
is far beyond computation, but if measured in dollars and cents would
reach to very high figures.

“This appeal for protection of the Sparrow Hawks, and the statements as
to their value, would be worthless if they could not be supported by
_facts_.

“Dr. Fisher summarizes as follows: ‘The subject of this Hawk is one of
great interest, and, considered in its economic bearings, is one that
should be carefully studied. The Sparrow Hawk is almost exclusively
insectivorous, except when insect food is difficult to obtain. In
localities where grasshoppers and crickets are abundant, these Hawks
congregate, often in moderate-sized flocks, and gorge themselves
continuously. Rarely do they touch any other form of food until, either
by advancing season or other natural causes, the grasshopper crop is so
lessened that their hunger cannot be appeased without undue exertion.
Then other kinds of insects and other forms of life contribute to their
fare, and beetles, spiders, mice, shrews, small snakes, lizards, or even
birds may be required to bring up the balance.

“‘In some places in the West and South, telegraph poles pass for miles
through treeless plains and savannas. For lack of better perches, the
Sparrow Hawks often use these poles for resting-places, from which they
make short trips to pick up a grasshopper or mouse, which they carry
back to their perch. At times, when grasshoppers are abundant, such a
line of poles is pretty well occupied by these Hawks. In the vicinity of
Washington, D.C., remarkable as it may appear to those who have not
interested themselves specially in the matter, it is the exception not
to find grasshoppers or crickets in the stomachs of the Sparrow hawks,
even when killed during the months of January and February, unless the
ground is covered with snow. It is wonderful how the birds can discover
the half-concealed, semi-dormant insects, which in colour so closely
resemble the ground or dry grass. Whether they are attracted by a slight
movement, or distinguish the form of their prey as it sits motionless,
is difficult to prove, but, in any case, the acuteness of their vision
is of a character which we are unable to appreciate.

“‘In the spring, when new ground or meadow is broken by the plough, they
often become very tame if not molested. They fly down, even alighting
under the very horses, for an instant, in their endeavour to capture an
unearthed mouse or insect.’”

“Aren’t there any _bad_ Hawks, then?” asked little Bobby, incredulously,
for to him the cry of “Hawk!” and the sight of the hired man with the
gun came together.

“Yes, Bobby, plenty of them, even hereabouts; the Sharp-shinned and the
Chicken or Cooper’s Hawk, both of them flash out of the sky and pounce
cruelly on both game- and song-birds. And, let me tell you all
something, though I do not wish to kill any birds needlessly, yet I
would not let any of these Hawks, useful or otherwise, nest or feed near
Birdland, and I should have Jacob frighten them away with blank
cartridges, because the very sight of them terrifies the beautiful
song-birds that we love, and that trust us and confide in our
protection.

“The little Screech Owls may play about if they will, but neither Crows,
Jays, Hawks, nor English Sparrows can ever be welcome garden guests.”

Something to remember about Hawks and Owls.—_The female is always
larger than the male!_

[Illustration: SPARROW HAWK]



                                  XIII
                            TREE-TRUNK BIRDS


_Woodpeckers—Nuthatches and the Brown Creepers_

By the time November came in but few birds were to be seen about the
schoolhouse at Foxes Corners. For until Gray Lady came, no one had taken
an interest either in the appearance of the schoolbuilding itself or the
ragged bit of ground upon which it stood. Now four sugar-maples had been
transplanted from the near-by woods, and set where they would shade the
windows in the warm days of early summer and fall and yet not interfere
with winter sunshine; and Gray Lady had promised that by spring there
should be some benches along the north fence, where there was shade from
the white birches in the wood-lot beyond. That is, she had promised the
wood for the benches and Jacob’s aid in their planning; for the rest,
the boys were to do the work themselves, for after Thanksgiving four or
five large boys would come to school,—Tommy Todd’s brother Everett, who
was sixteen, and the two Judds, his cousins,—Walter, also sixteen, and
Irving, fourteen,—being among them.

All of these boys knew something about the handling of tools, and, if
they chose to join the Kind Hearts’ Club, would be valuable allies.
Sometimes, however, big boys, even though they are not cruel, laugh at
such societies, and so Gray Lady had made up her mind to let them ask to
come to the class in the workroom as if it was a privilege they desired
rather than as a favour to herself.

One bit of carpentry she asked Jacob to undertake, that no time should
be lost, and that was the bird lunch-counter for the school grounds. As
the flagpole was fastened to the schoolhouse, Jacob had utilized the
gnarled stump of a half-dead wild-apple tree, the bark of which was
seamed and scarred by the initials cut on it by many generations of
scholars. Above the platform, to hold the crumbs and grain, he had
fastened, between the two remaining branches, a slanting roof made of
some old mossy shingles, and at the edge of this he had stuck half a
dozen crooked spikes to hold bacon rind or suet or anything, like
chicken bones, that might be left from the dinner-pails, as many of the
children, owing to distance from home, always brought their lunch to
school during the winter and spring terms.

This lunch-counter was in place when Gray Lady went to the school the
first Friday afternoon in November, and she brought an additional
surprise with her,—two pictures or charts that could be unrolled and
hung on the wall like the great map.[2] Each of these charts held the
pictures of some twenty-five birds done in colours and of natural size,
and with each there was a little book telling about the birds.

The charts were to be lent to the five other schools in the township in
turn, but the children at Foxes Corners were so delighted with them that
they resolved that the first money that the Kind Hearts’ Club earned
should go to buy other pairs of the charts, so that they could not only
have some for their very own, but that the other schools, who had no
Gray Lady for their fairy god-mother, could have them also.

After the first few weeks, Gray Lady found that it would be best, on the
Fridays when she visited the school, simply to read to the children
stories of the birds that they had either seen at Birdland or that they
already knew by sight, from various books and magazines; as she had at
her house so many books, pictures of birds, and the mounted birds
themselves, that it was much easier for them to name unknown birds there
than at school.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“The singing-birds have all gone,” said Sarah Barnes, the second
Saturday of November, as she went to work upon the last piece of her
doll’s outfit—the cloak for the Red Riding-Hood that she was dressing.

“We still have a Song Sparrow down in the meadow,” said Goldilocks, “and
there are plenty of Bluebirds and Robins about, and Grackles and
Cowbirds, but the Song Sparrow is the only one that pretends to sing a
nice little song.”

“I guess we’ll have to go ahead to the spring birds or there won’t be
anything to learn about until they come back,” chimed in Eliza Clausen,
who was at work on a doll baby, and as her fingers were long and
slender, she succeeded in hemming the fine lawn, of which the dress was
made, very nicely.

“No birds?” said Gray Lady, raising her eyebrows. “Open the window
nearest you, Sarah, and do both you and Eliza look out and listen.”

“I don’t see anything, and I only hear different kinds of squeaks,” said
Eliza.

“I hear the squeaks,” said Sarah, “but I see a gray bird out here on the
roof, with black on top of his head and white underneath, and he’s got a
long beak and a short tail. Why, he’s just stuffed something that he had
in his beak in between the shingles. Now he’s crying ‘quank-quank’ and
flying toward the orchard.”

“That,” said Gray Lady, “is the White-breasted Nuthatch, one of our best
winter friends, for though he summers with us, like the Chickadee and
the Woodpeckers, it is not until the other birds have gone, and the
trees are bare of leaves, that we really seem to see and appreciate him.

“This Nuthatch is one of the tree-trunk birds that you will learn to
know so well, before winter is over, that you will never forget them;
for, though they have no song to speak of, their cleverness and the good
they do when other birds have gone more than make up for lack of music.”

“What do you mean by tree-trunk birds?” asked Clary; “I thought that
birds liked leafy branches the best.”

“Most birds do prefer the leafy branches,” said Gray Lady; “that is why
I call this little group, who do not, ‘tree-trunk birds,’ for all their
little lives are spent so close to the heart of the wood that they seem
almost to be parts of the tree.

[Illustration: R. H. Beebe, Photo. WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH]

“These birds not only make their nests in the wood itself by hollowing
out partly decayed places in branch and trunk, but they gain the greater
part of their food by searching the cracks in the tree bark for insects
that live there, and which other birds, that spend their lives among the
leafy twigs, cannot find.

“This quarrying food from the bark makes it possible for them to stay
about the vicinity of their nesting-haunts all winter; for many forms of
insect life winter in the bark crevices of forest as well as fruit trees
where the eggs hatch out, and the larvae undergo transformation early in
the season and begin to do mischief before the migrant birds return.

“If it were not for sleet storms, that cover the tree with a coating of
ice for days at a time, these hardy, sociable little birds would be sure
of a good living in a neighbourhood like this, with many orchards and
strips of woodland. But when ice puts a lock on the pantry doors, what
can the poor birds do?

“Owing to their frail structure and warm blood, they require more
constant fuel to keep the life-fire alive than the four-footed animals,
so that when hunger and cold travel hand in hand, they have to make a
brave fight for life. For generations this freezing up has happened to
them, and so, by experience, they have learned when food is plenty to
try and save it up.

“The Nuthatch, that Sarah has just seen stowing something away under the
shingles, is living very well at present. In spite of hard frost, wild
food is plentiful; then, too, the lunch-counter is amply supplied with
suet. The birds do not really need help as yet, but we put the food
there so that they may know where to find it when hard times come.”

“I should think the lunch-counter, with lots of easy food, would make
the birds lazy so’s they wouldn’t work for a living,” said Dave. “Pop
says, feeding tramps everywhere only makes more folks turn tramp, so now
he can’t get anybody to work at haying or wood-cutting for food and fair
pay.”

“Ah, but that shows the difference between wild birds and what is called
‘civilized’ man,” said Gray Lady. “The Nuthatches do not sit still and
gorge themselves, but are busy providing for the future. Yesterday, I
saw one of these same birds packing away little bits of suet in a
crevice under the roof of the side porch, and another using the thatch
on the summer-house for a larder. So it would seem that they distribute
the food in different places. If one cupboard is frozen up, one of the
others may be in the sun.

“A pair of Nuthatches found that the cornice of the main roof, under the
tin gutter, was in poor shape, and kindly called my attention to it by
boring into the wood and nesting in the space within. Five little birds
were hatched, and I believe that the party of seven, that are so tame
and come about the house so freely, are the birds hatched in the cornice
and their parents.”

“I shouldn’t think that you would like them to make holes in the house,”
said Tommy, “for the water might get in and do lots of harm, just the
same as Woodpeckers that make holes in the trees and spoil them.”

“That is where people make a mistake about these tree-trunk birds that
bore holes, and think that they are mischievous and destructive, whereas
they never pierce bark unless an insect lurks beneath, and when they
bore a nest-hole in a tree, it is the same as saying to its owner, ‘See,
this wood is dead; I am making use of what is otherwise useless to you
and I will pay you rent by protecting your other trees from harm. If you
watch well, you will see how many hairy caterpillars, birch-lice, and
wood-boring beetles I will kill in the year.’”

“The gutter is all mended and painted now, so the Nuthatches can’t nest
there next season, and I guess they will be very sorry,” said Clary, who
had taken her turn at looking out the window.

“Yes, the cornice has been mended, but Jacob has hollowed out a bit of
hickory branch with the bark on it, and has fastened it firmly under the
cornice with screws, so that when the birds look up their home in
spring, they will find a new one so close to the old place that I hope
they will move into it. In fact, those pictures in the workroom, of
bird-homes made of hollowed-out logs, were designed especially to
attract these tree-trunk birds and their little companions, the
Chickadees, who, though they search the twigs for food, love the trunk
also, and nest in a wood hollow like the Woodpeckers, themselves.”

“He’s come back again, but he hasn’t brought suet this time; it’s some
kind of a big seed that won’t stay in the shingle crack, so he’s
pounding it in,” said Sarah, looking over Clary’s shoulder and dropping
her sewing, so interested was she in the movements of the bird. “There,
he’s going away and walking down the roof head first; I don’t see why he
doesn’t slip and fall, the same as I did once when I tried to walk down
the back stairs on my hands and knees head first, ’cause brother dared
me.”

Gray Lady hurried to the window in time to see the Nuthatch give a final
pound to the object that was wedged between the shingles. With her
opera-glasses, she discovered that it was the empty shell of a beechnut.

“This little bird has been kind enough to write the meaning of its
singular name here on the roof, evidently for the benefit of the Kind
Hearts’ Club, for I have been expecting that some of you would ask from
what the term ‘Nuthatch’ came.”

“I thought it was a funny name, but then lots of birds’ names seem
queer, until you hear about them,” said Eliza Clausen.

“This bird is very fond of nuts,” continued Gray Lady, “not the very
hard ones like butternuts, but the smaller acorns, chestnuts, and
especially the little three-cornered beechnuts, with the sweet meat.
Having no teeth to crack them like a squirrel, and not being able to use
his beak for a nutcracker, he wedges the nut fast and then uses his
sharp, strong bill for a hatchet and hatches the nut open; by this he
has earned his name, ‘Nuthatch.’

“There is another name that Goldilocks once gave him that is quite as
good, and that would remind you of him wherever you hear it,—the
‘Upside-down’ bird!—for what other bird that you know can climb about
as he does?”

“Woodpeckers do,” cried Tommy and Dave, together.

“Yes, and there’s another bird, little and brown and striped, that’s
only here in winter and goes up and down all over the tree-trunks. I saw
one this morning when I was coming up,” said Sarah, “and I guess
Chickadees can go upside down, too, for I saw one hanging on to a fir
cone yesterday, and it was head down.”

Gray Lady laughed. “You all doubtless _think_ that all these other birds
climb like the Nuthatch, but this is a case of wrong seeing, which is
simply another form of not really paying attention; for not one of them
walks upside down in the same way. Hear what one of our poets says of
this:—


                             TO A NUTHATCH

    Shrewd little hunter of woods all gray,
    Whom I meet on my walk of a winter day,
    You’re busy inspecting each cranny and hole
    In the ragged bark of yon hickory bole;
    You, intent on your task, and I, on the law
    Of your wonderful head and gymnastic claw!

    The Woodpecker well may despair of this feat—
    Only the fly with you can compete.
    So much is clear; but I fain would know
    How you can so reckless and fearless go,
    Head upward, head downward, all one to you,
    Zenith and nadir the same to your view.

    —Edith M. Thomas, in _Bird-Lore_.

    Even the woodpeckers, supplied, as they are, with a reversed toe
    and a stiff, supporting tail, cannot compete with the Nuthatches
    in descending head first. The Woodpecker, in going down the
    trunk, finds itself in the same predicament as the bear,—its
    climbing tools work only one way. It is dependent on its stiff
    tail for support, and so must needs hop down backwards. The
    Creeper is still more hidebound in its habits, and its motto
    seems to be “Excelsior.” It begins at the foot of its ladder,
    and climbs ever upwards. But the climbing ability of the
    Nuthatch is unlimited. It circles round the branches, or moves
    up, down, and around the trunks, apparently oblivious to the law
    of gravitation. Its readiness in descending topsyturvy is due,
    in part, to the fact that, as the quills of its tail are not
    stiff enough to afford support, it is obliged to depend upon its
    legs and feet. As it has on each foot three toes in front and
    only one behind, it reverses the position of one foot in going
    head downward, throwing it out sidewise and backward, so that
    the three long claws on the three front toes grip the bark and
    keep the bird from falling forward. The other foot is thrown
    forward, and thus, with feet far apart, the “little gymnast has
    a wide base beneath him.” The Nuthatch not only straddles in
    going down the tree, but spreads its legs widely in going around
    the trunk, but bird artists generally seem to have overlooked
    this habit. The slightly upturned bill of the Nuthatch, and its
    habit of hanging upside down, give it an advantage when in the
    act of prying off scales of bark, under which many noxious
    insects are secreted.

                                                   —E. H. Forbush.

“The little, brown-striped bird that Sarah saw this morning, that
somewhat resembles a Wren, is the Brown Creeper, for it creeps like a
veritable feathered mouse. Though it is a true tree-trunk bird, in that
it lives and nests as close to the heart of wood as possible, it has a
slender needle-like bill for picking out insects; but it cannot bore
wood with it, so it has to be content to make its home between the wood
and the bark.

“This bird comes to us in middle New England only as a winter visitor,
and well does it pay its way by eating grubs and insect eggs. It does
not seem very shy, hereabouts, but in the nesting time it loves deep,
silent forests and the cedar swamps of the North, and it is only in
these places that its strange, sweet song may be heard, which is
something that I have never heard successfully imitated or put into
syllables, but Mr. Brewster, who is one of the Wise Men who knows, says
it is like the soft sigh of the wind among the pine boughs.

“It is in these deep woods, also, that it nests. Discovering a tree
where the bark is loose and yet does not strip off too easily, this
little Creeper finds a nook of the right size, which he lines with soft
bark, moss, or bits of wood so thoroughly decayed that it is like
sponge, and in this bed are laid six or eight pretty little lavender
eggs with brown spots wreathed about the larger end.

“When the Creeper comes to us, he has evidently forgotten home and
family cares as well as his beautiful song, for he only favours us with
a very scratchy squeak, as if a file at work on a wire and a couple of
crossed tree branches were striving to see which could sing the better.
But he is as busy as busy can be, and acts as if he were practising for
a race in climbing the stairs of a lighthouse tower.

“At the bottom of the tree, he starts and goes up and around without a
pause until he is two-thirds of the way up and the more frequent
branches bother him. Then he stops a moment to rest, bracketing himself
against the tree by the sharp point of his tail-feathers, which
arrangement he possesses in common with the Chimney Swift and the
Woodpeckers. Next, without warning, he flits with a backward tilt either
to the base of another tree, or to the same one, and again begins to
climb; so for him the Stair-climber would be a good name.

“He, also, when the trees are ice-plated, will come gladly to the
lunch-counter, I know, for as a girl, long before I left home, this
Creeper used to feed upon the scraps that I put upon my window-ledge;
for, though people here have been feeding birds in winter this long
while, it has only been since the Wise Men have told us of the
particular needs of each bird family that we have been able to do it
intelligently, and to the best advantage.

“There are some verses in my scrap-book about this tree-trunk bird,
also, and it seems as if our poets were very fond of these songless
birds who inspire them as much by their friendliness as the others do by
melody. I hope that a couple of you will learn this to recite at
Christmas. As there are four verses, each can learn two, and then
alternate in repeating them.


                        THE LITTLE BROWN CREEPER

    “Although I’m a bird, I give you my word
        That seldom you’ll know me to fly;
    For I have a notion about locomotion,
        The little Brown Creeper am I,
        Dear little Brown Creeper am I.

    “Beginning below, I search as I go
        The trunk and the limbs of a tree,
    For a fly or a slug, a beetle or bug;
        They’re better than candy for me,
        Far better than candy for me.

    “When people are nigh I’m apt to be shy,
        And say to myself, ‘I will hide,’
    Continue my creeping, but carefully keeping
        Away on the opposite side,
        Well around on the opposite side.

    “Yet sometimes I peek while I play hide-and-seek
        If you’re nice I shall wish to see you;
    I’ll make a faint sound and come quite around
        And creep like a mouse in full view,
        Very much like a mouse to your view.”

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.

“I guess I know what the other tree-trunk birds are, Gray Lady; they’re
Woodpeckers,” said little Bobby, who seemed to have grown taller and
broader ever since the day that Jacob had put a jack-knife in his hand
and taught him to carve a wooden spoon, and he felt himself to be a
full-fledged boy.

“Some Woodpeckers are pretty bad, though, ’cause grandpa caught a whole
bunch of ’em early last spring sucking the juice out of the apple trees
in the young orchard, and Uncle Bill, over the mountain, said they did
the same to his sugar-maples. I saw what they did, myself, and you can
see, too, if you stop up at our house some time when you are passing,
for the marks are there,—little round holes, all in rows so as they
make squares like the peppery holey plasters grandma wears for a lame
back. They were awfully pretty birds, too—all red on the head and neck,
and black and white speckled on top, and yellow underneath, and black
across the front. I had a good chance to see it, ’cause grandpop was
hoppin’ mad and tried to shoot them, and he did get one of the prettiest
of them all. Some of them that were on the apple tree didn’t have so
many colours in their feathers.”

“Perhaps those were females,” said Sarah Barnes.

“Yes, the paler ones are the females and lack the red throat and
sometimes the red head-feathers, also,” said Gray Lady, “for this bird
is called the Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, because it has, as
Bobby has told us, the bad habit of not only boring into trees for
insects, but sucking the sap as well, and when a number of them are
found together, of course, they are likely to do harm. Still, to my
mind, the very worst that they do is to give a bad name to the family of
the most industrious insect-eating birds that we have.

“Even though this Sapsucker takes enough sap to have earned his title,
he keeps up the family record as an insect eater, for he has a form of
the pointed tongue with hooked bristles on the end, like all
Woodpeckers, and this weapon acts both as a spear and trap to catch
insects. Then, too, the Sapsucker is not a permanent resident, like many
of his family, but nests early in the most northerly states and travels
about during a great part of the year. As he can only suck sap during
the growing season, and eats insects the year around, besides many wild
berries—such as those of poison ivy, dogwood, etc.—that are of no use
to us, I think he should be forgiven his sip of fresh spring sap, except
where, as in the case of Bobby’s grandfather, he is caught in the act of
hurting valuable trees.


                             THE SAPSUCKER

    A bacchant for sweets is the Sapsucker free!
    “The spring is here, and I’m thirsty!” quoth he:
    “There’s good drink, and plenty stored up in this cave;
    ’Tis ready to broach!” quoth the Sapsucker brave.

    A bacchant for sweets! “’Tis nectar I seek!”
    And he raps on the tree with his sharp-whetted beak;
    And he drinks, in the wild March wind and the sun,
    The coveted drops, as they start and run.

    He girdles the maple round and round—
    ’Tis heart-blood he drinks at each sweet wound;
    And his bacchanal song is the tap-tap-tap,
    That brings from the bark the clear-flowing sap.

    —Edith M. Thomas, in _Bird-Lore_.

“How many kinds of Woodpeckers are there around here?” asked Eliza
Clausen. “I didn’t know there was but one, the great big one, thick like
a Pigeon, all speckled black and brown on top, with a red spot on his
head and a big white spot over his tail. We had two down at our farm
this summer, and they lived in a hole in the old wild cherry, and they
laid real nice white eggs, just as white as our Leghorns.”

“How’d you know they had white eggs?” asked Clary. “You can’t see into a
Woodpecker’s hole.”

“No; I could reach in, though. I didn’t keep the egg, and only looked at
it, and one of the old birds bit me something fierce. They’re real
plucky birds, anyway, whatever they are called, for nobody seems to give
them the same name. Mother says they are Pigeon Woodpeckers, and Dad
calls them Yallerhammers, and both names fit pretty well.”

“There are half a dozen Woodpeckers to be found here, but the one that
Eliza has described and the little black-and-white streaked Downy
Woodpecker are the most familiar as well as the most useful of them all.
As to Eliza’s Pigeon Woodpecker or Yellowhammer, the poor bird is
weighed down by over thirty popular names,—Northern Flicker,
Golden-winged Woodpecker, Wake-up, Gaffer, and Partridge Woodpecker
being among them, though the Wise Men who settle these things for us
have decided to call him merely ‘the Flicker.’

“In spite of the fact that, owing to his size and plumpness, the Flicker
has been until recently allowed to be shot as a game-bird, he is our
commonest Woodpecker, and spring would not be the same in this woodland
region if we did not hear the roll of the drum, as he beats on a branch,
that announces the coming of the feathered procession of migrants.

“Then, too, it is such a jolly bird, it calls out ‘wick, wick, wick,’ as
soon as the ponds are free of ice, and this call he changes to
‘wicker-wicker’ as soon as the courting begins; at this time the birds
show to the best advantage. The rival birds are perfectly friendly, but
‘they play curious antics, each trying to outdo the other in the display
of his golden beauty, that he may thus attract and hold the attention of
the female. There is no fighting, but, in its place, an exhibition of
all the airs and graces that rival dandies can muster. Their
extravagant, comical gestures, rapidly changing attitudes, and exuberant
cries, all seem laughable to the onlooker, but evidently give pleasure
to the birds.’—Forbush.

[Illustration: FLICKER]

“The Flicker spends more time on the ground, itself, than the others of
its family; and it has a slightly curved beak, but its tongue is very
long, and the fine points on the end are set backward like the barbs of
a fish-hook. Its most valuable work is as an ant-eater, and as one of
the Wise Men says: ‘This bird is more of an ant-eater than a Woodpecker.
It may be seen in fields and open spaces, in woods and orchards, where
it strikes its long bill into ant-hills, and then thrusts out its still
longer tongue coated with sticky saliva and licks up the out-rushing
ants by the dozen. Many kinds of ants are decidedly harmful, as they
attend, protect, and help to spread plant-root, or bark-lice, which are
among the greatest enemies of garden plants, also shrubs and trees.
These lice the ants keep as cows to nourish their young with green,
sappy milk. Ants also infest houses and destroy timber.’

“Some people complain that the Flicker bores holes in the attics of
houses, and also under eaves when searching for nesting-places, and also
for winter shelter. This is true, doubtless, but as the Nuthatch told me
that my cornice was decayed and needed mending, so the working of a
Flicker about any building should be a warning to the owner to look and
see if repairs are not needed.

“Our neighbour, Mr. Burwood, the florist, on the next hill, who, in
spite of the fact that he must keep his eyes indoors on the splendid
carnations and roses he grows, still has a glance or two to spare for
the birds, told me, not long ago, this story of a Flicker. It was in
early spring, and he was thinking of turning the water into a great
covered tank, mounted on high trestles, that supplies water for the
houses, that had been empty all winter; in fact, he had given the men
orders so to do. Early in the morning he heard a vigorous tapping high
up in the air, and tried in vain to locate it. The next morning, the
same sound came, when he traced it to a Flicker, hammering away at one
of the stout oaken staves of which the tank was made.

“Thinking that the bird was trying an impossible task, he continued
about his work, but, after the hammering had continued for several days,
his suspicions were aroused, the tank was examined, and two holes were
found, drilled entirely through the stave, which, in spite of
appearances, was unsound and would, probably, have given out without
warning at some inconvenient season when repairs would have cut off the
water supply.

“Always deal kindly with the Flicker, and never make the mistake of
confusing it with the Sapsucker; look for the _white spot on the rump_
and the _yellow wing-linings_, and you will know it, and, though the
young of the year lack these marks at first, they have no yellow upon
their breasts that can excuse you for making a mistake.


                      MR. FLICKER WRITES A LETTER

      _People_:

                Tell me where you scare up
    Names for me like “Flicker,” “Yarup,”
    “High-hole,” “Yucker,” “Yellowhammer”—
    None of these are in my grammar—
    “Piquebois jaune” (Woodpick yellow),
    So the Creoles name a fellow.
    Others call me “Golden-wings,”
    “Clape,” and twenty other things
    That I never half remember,
    Any summer till September.

    Many names and frequent mention
    Show that I receive attention,
    And the honour that is due me;
    But if you would interview me
    Call me any name you please,
    I’m “at home” among the trees.
    Yet I never cease my labours
    To receive my nearest neighbours,
    And ’twill be your best enjoyment
    Just to view me at employment.

    I’m the friend of every sower,
    Useful to the orchard grower,
    Helping many a plant and tree
    From its enemies to free—
    They are always food for me.
    And I like dessert in reason,
    Just a bit of fruit in season,
    But my _delicacy_ is _ants_,
    Stump or hill inhabitants;
    Thrusting in my sticky tongue,
    So I take them, old and young.

    Surely, we have found the best
    Place wherein to make our nest
    Tunnel bored within a tree,
    Smooth and clean as it can be,
    Smallest at the door,
    Curving wider toward the floor,
    Every year we make a new one,
    Freshly bore another true one;
    Other birds, you understand,
    Use our old ones, second-hand—
    Occupying free of rent,
    They are very well content.

    To my wife I quite defer,
    I am most polite to her,
    Bowing while I say, “kee-cher.”
    Eggs we number five to nine,
    Pearly white with finish fine.
    On our nest we sit by turns,
    So each one a living earns;
    Though I think I sit the better,
    When she wishes to, I let ’er!
                      Flicker.

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.

“Then, last and least in size, but chief in importance among the
tree-trunk birds, come the little Downy Woodpeckers, only as big as the
Tree-sparrow or Winter Chippy, as it is called, plump, all neatly
patterned in black and white, a scarlet band on the back of the neck,
while Mrs. Downy and the children lack even this bit of colour. You
cannot mistake this Woodpecker for any other, for his big brother the
Hairy Woodpecker, who has somewhat similar markings, is almost as big as
a Robin, besides being a more timid bird of the woods that does not come
about houses like the confiding and cheerful Downy. The Hairy Woodpecker
has a more harsh and screaming call-note than the clear, sharp cry of
the Downy. In watching birds, you should remember to keep the ears open
and trained to hearing as well as the eye to seeing, as a bird that
keeps too far away for the sight may oftentimes be recognized by its
note.

[Illustration: F. M. Chapman, Photo. DOWNY WOODPECKER]

“The Downy’s life is spent in the tree-trunks and hollow limbs, where he
merely chisels his doorway large enough, but with not a bit to spare,
and the hole within is nicely finished with a few soft chips by way of a
bed for the eggs; nice white eggs like all the Woodpeckers, and this
would seem to prove that thrifty Nature, knowing that the eggs would be
hidden in the dark nesting-hole, did not think it necessary to decorate
them for their better protection as she does the eggs laid in open
nests.

“To name the injurious insects, moths, and caterpillars our little Downy
eats would require a long list, but, as he is a lover of orchards in
spring and summer, we may mention the apple-tree borer as one against
whom he wages war, and here, by his delicate sense of touch, he locates
the larvæ of the codling-moth. ‘Every stroke with which he knocks at the
door of an insect’s retreat sounds the crack of doom. He pierces the
bark with his beak, then with his barbed tongue drags forth an insect,
and moves on to tap a last summons on the door of the next in line.’

“Boring beetles, bark beetles, weevils, caterpillars, ants, and
plant-lice, the imagoes of night-moths, as well as the eggs of many
insects, are also on his bill of fare. Sometimes he has been accused of
boring holes for sap-sucking, but this is disproven; where a hole exists
it is because insect prey, in one of its many forms, hide beneath.

“Fortunately, we have many families of the little Downy in the old
orchard, and the fact that they are good patrons of Goldilocks’
lunch-counter does not seem to make them relax their vigilance about the
apple trees, so that I wonder if it may not be their care, together with
the other tree-trunk birds, to which we owe the keeping of the trees,
during the ten long years they have been neglected by man. For, though
the trees in Birdland are old, gnarled, and vine-draped, yet they are
neither worm-eaten nor unsightly, but merely picturesque, and from the
birds’ point of view cosy and homelike.

“Now, boys, back into the workroom, and if any one of you has not made a
house for a tree-trunk bird, I am sure that he will begin one to-day.”

-----

[2] These fine charts may be purchased from the Audubon Society, State
of Massachusetts.



                                  XIV
                             FOUR NOTABLES


              _Grouse, Quail, Woodcock, and the Wood Duck_

The Saturday before Thanksgiving Tommy Todd came trudging up the road
toward “the General’s,” with an extremely contented expression on a face
that was usually more than cheerful, while he kept turning his head to
admire something that he carried in his right hand, twisting and
swinging it as he walked. The something was a beautiful male Ruffed
Grouse, or Partridge, as it is commonly called, in all the bravery of
its glossy neck-ruff and tail that when spread looks like that of a
miniature Wild Turkey.

Together with the Grouse was a pair of Quail in rich, brown autumn coats
and snowy throats that excel those of the White-throated Sparrow itself.
Tommy’s father and his elder brother Joe, the Fair Meadows blacksmith,
had taken two “days off,” and gone a-hunting up to the upland
brush-country beyond the river woods, and these birds, a part of the
result, were a gift for Gray Lady and Goldilocks. Not only were the
birds in fine condition, but they were nicely tied together with some
sprays of trailing ground-pine and a little tuft of pungent wintergreen
with its coral berries.

Gray Lady took the birds, and as she thanked Tommy for them, glanced
toward Goldilocks, who sat in the library window watching for the
children to come. When the young girl saw the birds, she gave an
exclamation, half of pleasure at their plumage, half of sorrow that they
were dead, for to keep everything alive and as happy as possible was her
inherent nature. But she knew that these were game- or “chicken-birds,”
as she had once called them when a mere baby, whose fate was to be
eaten, and that Tommy’s father had only followed a legitimate desire for
outdoor life and its sports when he had tramped more than thirty miles
for the hunting. So she merely said, as she smoothed the beautifully
shaded feathers, “I wish the Kind Hearts’ Club could do something to
make game-birds have a _very_ comfortable, good time, the part of the
year when they are not hunted; do you think we could, mother? For I
don’t think that this shy kind of bird will come to the lunch-counter,
and I’ve been wondering lately what they find to eat in such cold
winters as the last. Miss Wilde has told me that for weeks last winter
the snow was so deep that in going, from where she lived, a mile to
school, she never even saw a fence top, so if game-birds ‘feed chiefly
on the ground after the manner of barnyard fowls, roosting in low trees
and bushes,’ as one of my books says, I do not see why they do not
freeze and starve.”

“That’s what Pop and Grand’ther and Joe were talking about last night,”
said Tommy; “they said that they travelled over miles of stubble-fields
and brush-lots where there used to be lots of birds, and now, in spite
of the laws in our place that are down on pot-hunters and won’t let game
be sold or carried away, and our having a keen county warden, the birds
seem to be melting away just the same.”

[Illustration: Dr. C. K. Hodge, Photo. RUFFED GROUSE]

“What did your father think was the reason?” asked Gray Lady, for she
remembered as a young girl that the General used to say, “Get a farmer
interested in a subject enough to make him really think, and you cannot
get better advice.”

“Pop said all these new stiff-edged stone roads that are pushing out the
dirt and grass lanes may be mighty fine for automobiles and all the
other dust-raisers, but they’re poor trash for horses’ feet and
game-birds, ’cause the brush along the old roads both sides of the
fences made good cover and kept the snow, when it drifted, sort of
loose, so that the birds could get in and out to look for food. But when
everything is trimmed smooth, the snow lies flat and hard and crusty,
and the birds can’t get under to grub for food, and if they’re under and
it freezes on top of ’em, they can’t get out.

“Grand’ther said that was so, but he reckoned there wasn’t so much for
the game-birds to eat, anyhow, because folks that used to raise just so
many acres of rye and wheat and oats and buckwheat had mostly given it
up and put their land down to meadows for hay, because that is the only
crop that there is a sure market for everywhere. Then Grand’ther said
that, between freezing and starving, and what was left being shot down
close, it’s a wonder there’s any Grouse left, or Bob-whites either.”

“There, Goldilocks, you have your answer as to what the Kind Hearts’
Club can do to make these food-birds comfortable during the ten months
of the year (in this state, Connecticut), when they may roam without
fear of hunting by honest sportsmen. The dishonest hunters and
pot-hunters, who do not care for law and order, we must watch and bring
to justice, just as we do any other class of criminals.

“Some very good people are extremely careless about this, and would
arrest a hungry man for stealing a bottle of milk from a doorstep, and
yet even buy game from poachers whom they knew had taken it against the
law; doing this is a far more serious offence, for one of our Wise Men
has said that wild birds are not the property of the individual, but of
the Commonwealth.”

“I wish these birds need never be shot; don’t you?” said Sarah Barnes.
“They are much prettier than some song-birds, and I’m sure that
Bob-white’s call is just as pleasant to hear as a song.”

“Yes, Sarah, I should like to protect the game-birds also, unless in
cases where people, living away from places where other food can be had,
are really hungry. But there are two sides to this question, and the
Kind Hearts’ Club must always try to look at both, so as to be sure that
in being just to one, the other may not be misjudged. All over the
country there are hundreds of men who, for nearly all the year, are tied
to desks in offices, and their heads are weary and their bodies cramped.
The love of hunting is born in man, probably an inheritance from his
ancestors, who hunted for their living, just as the bird inherits the
instincts of migration from its parents and performs the journeys even
when there is no need.

“This love of hunting leads the men out into the woods for a few weeks,
or even days, each year, and, besides the hunting, they meet Nature face
to face, and, whether they know it or not, come back better able to take
up the work of life, which is a harder struggle as the world gets older
and older.

[Illustration: Dr. C. K. Hodge, Photo. JUST OUT
(Chicks of Domesticated Ruffed Grouse)]

“Some people may not agree with me, but I had a good warm-hearted
father, who gave his life in the cause of humanity; yet he loved fair
hunting, and Goldilocks’ father did, also. So I think that the Kind
Hearts’ Club will not only be doing the game-bird a service, but man
also, if it can make and carry out a plan to feed and shelter these
birds, even in the space of Fair Meadows township.

“I have been talking this over with some men who know the haunts of
these birds, and next month, if the big boys join us, I will tell you my
plan; for it will need sturdy fellows to carry it out, though you can
all help.”

“Where do the Grouse nest, in bushes or on the ground?” asked Dave;
“I’ve never seen one, though I’ve found a Woodcock’s nest, and touched
the bird on it, she was so tame.”

“They make their nest on the ground, Dave,” said Gray Lady; “not much of
a nest, merely a few leaves scratched together in a tree hollow. Now we
have these real birds here (for later I know that Tommy will let me
share them with Miss Wilde’s mother, who has been so ill, and her
appetite needs tempting), let us spend the morning with the game-birds;
Dave shall tell us of his Woodcock’s nest, and I have many little bits
in the scrap-book about the others, besides remembrances of my own.

“Children, can you realize that when I was a girl of twelve, I could
stand of a May morn, by the old orchard bars, where the Birdland gate is
now, and hear twenty or thirty Bob-whites calling all the way across the
fields and brush-lots, until the Ridge shut off the sound?


                               BOB-WHITE

    “I own the country hereabout,” says Bob-white;
    “At early morn I gayly shout, ‘I’m Bob-white!’
    From stubble-field and stake-rail fence
    You hear me call without offence,
    ‘I’m Bob-white! Bob-white!’
    Sometimes I think I’ll nevermore say Bob-white;
    It often gives me quite away, does Bob-white;
    And mate and I, and our young brood,
    When separate, wandering through the wood,
    Are killed by sportsmen I invite
    By my clear voice—‘Bob-white! Bob-white!’
    Still, don’t you find I’m out of sight
    While I am saying ‘Bob-white, Bob-white’?”

    —Charles C. Marble.

“They rested in the orchard bushes and the edge of brush-lots, so that I
was as sure of seeing broods of little Quail as of our own little
barnyard chicks. In the autumn they seemed to know about the hunting as
soon as a gun was fired in the distance; then they grew shy, but by
Christmas the survivors, and they were many, would come about the
hay-barns for food as familiarly as the tree-trunk birds come to the
lunch-counter, and I have seen them eating cracked corn with the fowls
in the barnyard.

[Illustration: Dr. C. K. Hodge, Photo. DOMESTICATED BOB-WHITE CALLING]

“Not only is Bob-white a beautiful object in the landscape, when he sits
on a fence top overlooking the fields, but his voice is a delight to the
ear, when he either tells his own name, or gives the beseeching ‘covey
call,’ in autumn, to gather his scattered flock for the night. Then, on
the more useful or material side of the question, not only is his flesh
good for food, but, all through the year, he is one of the farmer’s good
friends, gleaning, day in and day out, besides the waste grain that he
loves, weed seeds, harmful beetles, such as the cucumber beetle, potato
and squash bugs, leaf beetles, the dreaded weevils, and the click
beetles, that are wire worms in a further stage of their development.

“Ah me, but poor Bob-white, as he calls himself (bringing out the words
with peculiar jerks of the head), works for his living, and when you
think of the dangers he braves from foxes and snakes, rats and weasels,
birds of prey with wings, and the two-legged birds of prey,—the
poachers,—does it not seem that where his tribe is growing swiftly
less, he should not only be fed and sheltered, but, for a term of years,
there should be no open season, until this fertile and vigorous bird
should again increase and be able to hold its own against even fair
hunting? If the Quail needs this protection, doubly so does the Ruffed
Grouse, who is larger and can with greater difficulty conceal himself.


                               PARTRIDGES
                            (Ruffed Grouse)

    Under the alders, along the brooks,
    Under the hemlocks, along the hill,
    Spreading their plumage with furtive looks,
    Daintily pecking the leaves at will;
    Whir! and they float from the startled sight—
    And the forest is silent, the air is still.

    Crushing the leaves ’neath our careless feet,
    Snapping the twigs with a heavy tread,
    Dreamy October is late and sweet,
    And stooping we gather a blossom dead;
    Boom! and our heart has a thunderous beat
    As the gray apparition flits overhead.

    —Alonzo Teall Worden.

“I will read you his story, written by a Wise Man of Massachusetts who
knows the game-birds from all sides.”

    “The Ruffed Grouse, the ‘King of American game-birds,’ was
    abundant in all our woods, and was often seen in fields and
    orchards, until its numbers were decimated by the gunner and the
    survivors driven to the cover of the pines. The characteristic
    startling roar of its wings, with which it starts away when
    flushed from the ground, and its habit of drumming on a log,
    have been often described. The speed with which the wings are
    beaten in drumming makes it impossible for the human eye to
    follow them and make sure whether they strike anything or not.
    Naturalists, after long discussion, had come to believe that the
    so-called ‘drumming,’ of the Ruffed Grouse was caused by the
    bird beating the air with its wings, as described by Mr. William
    Brewster; but now comes Dr. C. F. Hodge and reopens the
    controversy by exhibiting a series of photographs, which seem to
    show that the bird, in drumming, strikes the contour feathers of
    the body. Strange as it may seem, there are many people who
    often take outings in the country, yet have never heard the
    drumming of this bird. This tattoo is most common in late winter
    and early spring, but may be heard occasionally in summer and
    not uncommonly in fall. While sounded oftenest during the day,
    it may fall on the ear at any hour of the night. In making it,
    the bird usually stands very erect on a hollow log or stump,
    with head held high and ruffs erected and spread, and, raising
    its wings, strikes downward and forward. The sound produced is a
    muffled boom or thump. It begins with a few slow beats, growing
    gradually quicker, and ends in a rolling, accelerated tattoo. It
    has a ventriloquial property. Sometimes, when one is very close
    to the bird, the drumming seems almost soundless; at other times
    it sounds much louder at a distance, as if, through some
    principle of acoustics, it were most distinctly audible at a
    certain radius from the bird. It is the bird’s best expression
    of its abounding vigour and virility, and signifies that the
    drummer is ready for love or war.

    “The female alone understands the task of incubation and the
    care of the young. Once, however, when I came upon a young
    brood, the agonized cry of the distressed mother attracted a
    fine cock bird. He raised all his feathers and, with ruffs and
    tail spread, strutted up to within a rod of my position,
    seemingly almost as much concerned as the female, but not coming
    quite so near. The hen sometimes struts forward toward the
    intruder in a similar manner, when surprised while with her
    young. She can raise her ruffs and strut exactly like the cock.

    “The Grouse has so many enemies that it seems remarkable how it
    can escape them, nesting as it does on the ground. Instances are
    on record, however, where birds, that probably have been much
    persecuted, have learned to deposit their eggs in old nests of
    Hawks or Crows, in tall trees. Whenever the mother bird leaves
    the nest, the eggs are easily seen, and, while she sits, it
    would seem impossible for her whereabouts to remain a secret to
    the keen-scented prowlers of the woods. But her colours blend so
    perfectly with those of the dead leaves on the forest floor, and
    she sits so closely, and remains so motionless among the
    shadows, that she escapes the sharp-eyed Hawk. She gives out so
    little scent that the dog, skunk, or fox passes quite near,
    unnoticing.

    “The Grouse does not naturally fear man; more than once, in the
    wilderness of the northwest, a single bird has walked up to
    within a few feet of me. They will sit on limbs just above one’s
    head, almost within reach, and regard one curiously, but without
    much alarm. Usually, in Massachusetts, when a human being comes
    near the nest, the mother bird whirs loudly away. She has well
    learned the fear of man; but, in a place where no shooting was
    permitted, a large gang of men were cutting under-brush, while a
    Partridge, sitting there, remained quietly on her nest as the
    men worked noisily all about her. Another bird, that nested
    beside a woods road, along which I walked daily, at first would
    fly before I had come within a rod of her; but later she became
    confiding enough to sit on her nest while six persons passed
    close beside her. Evidently the bird’s facility in concealing
    her nest consists in sitting close and keeping her eggs well
    covered. Her apparent faith in her invisibility is overcome only
    by her fear of man or her dread of the fox. When the fox is seen
    approaching directly toward her, she bristles up and flies at
    him, in the attempt to frighten him with the sudden roar of her
    wings and the impetuosity of her attack; but Reynard, although
    at first taken aback, cannot always be deceived by such tricks;
    and the poor bird, in her anxiety to defend her nest, only
    betrays its whereabouts. Probably, however, the fox rarely finds
    her nest, unless he happens to blunder directly into it.

[Illustration: Dr. C. K. Hodge, Photo. GROUSE, SHOWING RUFF AND TAIL]

                 *        *        *        *        *

    “During the fall the Grouse keep together in small flocks.
    Sometimes a dozen birds may be found around some favourite
    grape-vine or apple tree, but they are usually so harried and
    scattered by gunners that toward winter the old birds may
    sometimes be found alone.

    “As winter approaches, this hardy bird puts on its ‘snow-shoes,’
    which consist of a fringe of horny processes or pectinations
    that grow out along each toe, and help to distribute the weight
    of the bird over a larger surface, and so allow it to walk over
    snows into which a bird not so provided would sink deeply. Its
    digestion must resemble that of the famous Ostrich, as broken
    twigs and dry leaves are ground up in its mill. It is a hard
    winter that will starve the Grouse. A pair spent many winter
    nights in a little cave in the rocky walls of an old quarry.
    Sumacs grew there and many rank weeds. The birds lived well on
    sumac berries, weed seeds, and buds.

    “Sometimes, but perhaps rarely, these birds are imprisoned under
    the snow by the icy crust which forms in cold weather following
    a rain, but usually they are vigorous enough to find a way out,
    somewhere. The Grouse is perfectly at home beneath the snow; it
    will dive into it to escape a Hawk, and can move rapidly about
    beneath the surface and burst out again in rapid flight at some
    unexpected place.

    “The Ruffed Grouse is a bird of the woodland, and though useful
    in the woods, it sometimes does some injury in the orchard, by
    removing too many buds from a single tree. In winter and early
    spring, when other food is buried by the snow, and hard to
    obtain, the Grouse lives largely on the buds and green twigs of
    trees; but, as spring advances, insects form a considerable part
    of the food. The young feed very largely on insects, including
    many very destructive species.”

           —E. H. Forbush, in _Useful Birds and Their Protection_.


                           THE RUFFED GROUSE

    When the pallid sun has vanished
    Under Osceola’s ledges,
    When the lengthening shadows mingle
    In a sombre sea of twilight,
    From the hemlocks in the hollow
    Swift emerging comes the Partridge;
    Not a sound betrays her starting,
    Not a sound betrays her lighting
    In the birches by the wayside,
    In her favoured place for budding.
    When the twilight turns to darkness,
    When the fox’s bark is sounding,
    From her buds the Partridge hastens,
    Seeks the soft snow by the hazels,
    Burrows in its sheltering masses,
    Burrows where no Owl can find her.

    —Frank Bolles.

“You all know the path that runs by the grist-mill and up through the
river woods. In spring, I could almost count upon seeing a Grouse or two
when I took that walk, and very early, of September and October
mornings, I have seen the Woodcock probing, with their long, sensitive,
pointed bills, with which they can feel like fingers, in the muddy
ground back of the river woods for the worms, and such like, upon which
they feed. It was my father, himself, who took me one evening, even
though it was bedtime, to these same woods to hear the Woodcock’s
courting dance and song.”

“I didn’t know any game-birds could sing,” said Tommy.

“They are not classed with song-birds, and yet in courting time, most
birds have some sort of musical speech in addition to their call-notes;
you know that even Crows sometimes succeed in singing. But this
love-song varies with the individual bird more than it does with the
birds that are real vocalists.

“The Woodcock feed chiefly at dawn and twilight, and it is easy to tell
where they have been by the little holes in the mud left by the bill.
This spring night father took me to the wood edge, and drew me to him,
to keep me still while we waited—for what? I was soon to know.

“Presently a half-musical cry came out of the gathering darkness, and
was repeated and echoed by several others. Then a rush, as if a bird had
flung himself into the air and opened his wings at the same time; next,
a whirring sound as the bird circled skyward and vanished, his notes
falling behind him, but before I realized what was going on, the bird
dropped straight as a Hawk, balanced on his toes, gave a low, musical
cry, and began again; for thus it is that the Woodcock tries to please
and win his mate.


                         THE WOODCOCK’S WOOING

    Peent, -peent, -peent, -peent,
      From the thick grass on the hill;
    Peent, -peent, -peent, -peent,
      At eve when the world is still.

    Then a sudden whistle of whirring wings,—
      A rush to the upper air,—
    And a rain of maddening music falls
      From the whole sky,—everywhere!

    —Winifred Ballard Blake in _Bird-Lore_.

“Dave, please tell us about the bird that you saw on the nest,” said
Gray Lady, “and how you came to find it.”

“Half a dozen of us went out to hunt for May-flowers (Trailing Arbutus)
one Wednesday along the first part of April last year. Miss Wilde
thought Zella had measles, and school was closed two days, but doctor
found it was only a cold and eating too much sausage meat and sweet
pickles, and so they broke out, and he gave her rhubarb.” (Dave, having
been asked to tell all about it, was bound to omit no detail.)

“The others of our crowd stayed along by the path that runs through the
wood, where you saw the birds dance, because there are black snakes
through the brush there that begin to crawl out to sun in April, and the
girls were scared of them.

“I went on ahead a little piece, and turned up a side hill where there
was an old rail fence that divides our woods from the Cobbs’ piece.
Right in front of me I found a bully patch of May-flowers, and I sat
down and began cutting them with my knife (’cause they have wiry sort of
stems) and made them in a nice even bunch, when something ahead sort of
made me keep my eyes glued to it. It was under the slant of the lowest
fence rail. I thought it was a striped snake curled up round, at first,
because I felt eyes were looking at me, though it was too dark to see
them, at first. Did you ever have that feeling, Gray Lady?”

“Yes, I have had it, Dave, and I know what a strange sensation it is.
The last time I had it I felt no better when I saw the eyes; in fact,
little cold shivers went all over, for I was far away from here, and the
eyes were those of a rattlesnake that was coiled up, amid the stones of
a ledge, where I was gathering some rare wild flowers.”

“Oh, what _did_ you do?” cried all the children, together.

“I backed away as fast as I could, keeping my eyes upon the snake, until
I was at a safe distance, where he could not spring at me, and then I
very foolishly ran! What did you do, Dave?”

“I crept up nearer until I got a good look, and then I saw that it was a
bird. It was sitting ever so still, with its head well down on its
shoulders and its long beak close to its breast. It had queer, big eyes
set up on top of its head, and round like a frog’s, not like any other
bird that I know of.”

“The eyes of the Woodcock and its cousins, the Snipe, are set in this
way, so that, when they are boring in the  mud for food, they can keep
watch behind them as well as in front,” said Gray Lady.

“First, I thought the bird was dead, it kept so still,” continued Dave,
“but I could see its breast raised a little with its breathing.”

“If it had been dead, its eyes would have been closed,” said Gray Lady.
“It is one of the many mysterious and unaccountable facts about a bird,
that it is the only animal that closes its own eyes when death touches
it.”

“It wasn’t afraid, so I thought that I would just smooth its feathers,”
said Dave. “I did, and it didn’t fly, only just puffed up a little, so I
thought I would lift it very carefully to see if there were any eggs
under it, and there were four nice, sort of round, light, brown eggs,
the colour that our Plymouth Rocks lay, only mottled. But the bird
didn’t like to be lifted, and she sort of growled inside, the way a hen
does, so I set her down and went away.”

“That was a very pleasant experience of yours, Dave, and shows how tame
game-birds will become if they are kindly treated. This Woodcock has an
advantage over the Grouse and Bob-white, his cousin, because it travels
South in winter and constantly shifts its feeding-places, but it suffers
from other dangers: it is hunted in all the states through which it
passes, and the eggs are large enough to be very attractive, not only to
foxes and all the gnawing creatures of the woods, but to people as well.
If that nest and eggs had been seen by one of those foreign-born
poachers who come here thinking that everything they find out-of-doors,
and they can pocket, belongs to them, the poor Woodcock would have lost
her entire brood and perhaps her own life as well.

[Illustration: E. Van Alterna, Photo. WOODCOCK ON NEST]

                 *        *        *        *        *

“These three land-birds, together with a number of wild ducks, that live
some on fresh and some near salt water, travelling North and South
according to season, are the legitimate game-birds of the country. Of
the wild ducks, the most of these breed in the far North, and are hunted
in their migrations. If this hunting is done fairly, as the law
prescribes, and the birds are not chased and shot at from moving boats,
or with repeating guns, or when startled from their sleep with flashing
lights, they seem able to hold their own. Humanity, however, demands
that they should not be hunted on their spring journeys on the way to
their nesting-haunts and when they may have already chosen mates.

“One Duck there is, however, of exquisite plumage, gentle disposition,
and quiet, domestic habits, nesting about inland ponds and streams, in
the inhabited parts of the United States, from Florida up to Hudson Bay,
that is in danger of swift extinction if the protection given song-birds
is not extended to it. This is the Wood Duck, called in Latin ‘_Aix
Sponsa_’—‘Bridal Duck’—from the fact that the beauty of his plumage
was fit for a bridal garment.

“Look at that bird, mounted on a mossy stump, in that case by the
window. When I was a girl, I have seen a half-dozen pairs in the pond
above the grist-mill, and I knew as surely where I could always find a
pair nesting as where I could find a Robin or Song Sparrow, but now it
is fast becoming a bird of the past, only to be seen in pictures. Why is
this? The reasons are many, and some, such as the settlement of the
country, and the draining of ponds and waterways, and the cutting down
of river brush, cannot be helped.

“The Wood Duck nests in a tree hole, and, when the young are able to
leave the nest, the parents hold them in their bills and carry them to
the ground in somewhat the way in which cats remove their kittens from
place to place. Consequently, if the lumber is cleared, and no suitable
trees are left, what is this Duck to do? He cannot take to the chimneys
as the Swifts have. Still, this Duck, whose beauty alone is a sufficient
and patriotic reason for saving him to his country, might adapt his
nesting to other conditions if it could be protected as the Grouse,
Quail, and Woodcock are in New England, or, better yet, not be hunted in
any way for a number of years, so that the Wood Ducks, wherever located,
should have, a chance to increase once more and reëstablish themselves.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies WOOD DUCK]

                   Order—Anseres      Family—Anatidæ
                     Genus—Aix      Species—Sponsa

“For, when we come to look closely at the matter, there is really no
fair hunting, for the killing inventions of man—the magazine guns,
etc.,—are on the increase, while the power of poor game-birds to
protect themselves lessens both on land and water. Think of it, in some
states there are no laws to protect this bird, even in summer, and, as
Wood Ducks are fond of their nesting-places, and are very unsuspicious
birds, it often happens that an entire family is killed the moment the
young are large enough to furnish the pitiful thing, in this case, that
is called ‘sport.’

“As it happens, the woods on this side of the river from above the pond
to the sawmill belong to the General’s farm, and, Tommy and Dave, the
water right on the other side belongs to your fathers.

“Will you not ask them if they will help me to protect their birds, if I
can get half a dozen pairs from one of the Wise Men who is trying to
reëstablish them in their old haunts?

“The Grouse and Quail are growing friendly again under protection, and I
am in hopes that we may have a drummer, as well as a fifer and his
family, in the orchard and near-by woods next spring.

“There are many hollow willows near the upper pond like the ones in
which the Wood Ducks used to nest. If these are left, the ducks will
soon become attached to them, and, if they escape peril elsewhere, for
this Duck’s greatest danger is in the vicinity of home, then we shall
all have a chance, possibly, some day to see a sight that ever the Wise
Men argue about,—the parent Duck bringing her young from the tree hole
to take their first swim!”

The boys promised to ask the question, and Tommy reported at the
schoolhouse, the next Friday, that “grandpa thinks it would be just
bully to have Wood Ducks again, and he’ll sit round the pond, with a
shot-gun, all he’s able, to keep folks away. He says he’s seen the old
ones yank the young, one by one, right out of the nest by the wing, and
set ’em on the ground, and when they were all down, lead ’em to the
water. And once, when the tree was close over the pond, the old bird
flew down and set ’em right on the water. He says weasels and water-rats
and snakes and snapping-turtles help kill off the ducklings, because
until they get big enough to fly they’ve got no way of lighting-out.”
All of which goes to prove that Tommy Todd had inherited some of his
keenness of eye in “watching out” for the doings of wild things.

“There are others that are classed with game-birds that will surely
everywhere be stricken from the list some day, and put with those birds
that we wish to cherish at all seasons, and for whom there should be no
hunting, either fair or foul.

“These birds, even though a couple of them are cousins to the Woodcock,
are so small of body (their long wing in flight giving a deceptive idea
of their size) that their flesh is of no account, save to either the
starving, who are bound by no laws, or the glutton seeking for an
article of food to whet a jaded palate, like the old emperors of Rome
who ate nightingale’s tongues, forsooth! We do not wish to breed or
encourage such barbarians in our America. At the same time, these birds
have great value in their insect-eating capacity.”

“Pop says they always used to shoot Meadowlarks when he was a boy, and
up to not very long ago,” said Tommy, “and Yellowhammers and Pigeons and
Doves and Robins, too, but now nobody dares, except on the sly. Anyway,
the Wild Pigeons grandfather tells of are all gone, and I’ve only seen a
couple of Doves this year.”

“The birds you speak of are now protected by law, here in Connecticut,”
said Gray Lady, “though in some states they are not, but the game-birds
I mean are the little Killdeer Plover, and the Upland and other small
Plovers, together with the Sandpipers, both of fresh and salt water.”



                                   XV
                              GAME-BIRDS?


  _The plea of the Meadowlark, Mourning Dove, Sandpiper, Plovers, and
                       Bobolink, the Masquerader_

             “Spare us, please! We are too small for food.”

“You, children, who live with green fields about you, all know the
Meadowlark by sight and sound, even if you never have had the curiosity
to learn its name. It is the bird seen walking in old fields and
lowlands. In size it is a little larger than a Robin, with a rather flat
head and long, stout bill, its back speckled and streaked with brown and
black, and a beautiful yellow throat and breast crossed by a crescent of
black. When the bird is on the ground, if you came behind it, at a
distance, you might think it a Flicker, but the moment it takes to the
air with a whirring flight, the white feathers at the outside of the
tail show plainly, and name it Meadowlark, just as the white rump names
the Flicker.

“Then, you know its voice, that sometimes drops from a tree, sometimes
rises from the grass, that Mr. Burroughs says calls, ‘Spring o’ the
year—Spring o’ the year.’ The notes are clear as a flute, and,
beautiful as our Meadowlark’s song is, that of his brother, the Prairie
Lark, is still more melodious, and I shall never forget the first spring
morning that I heard it from the border of one of those endless
grain-fields that roll on to meet the sky like a glistening green sea
with its waters stirred by the breeze.

“The Meadowlark is certainly a thing of beauty, but, at the same time,
its greater service to man is its usefulness; not as a bit of meat, no
matter how plump it may grow, but as the untiring guardian of the
fields, where it spends its life and makes its nest home in a grass
tussock. For this bird, of the eastern United States, is with us here in
Southern New England, and southward, all the year, and those flocks that
migrate do not leave until late fall, and are back again by the middle
of March, while the Prairie Lark covers the western part of the country,
as permanent warden of the meadow and hayfields. All the year they keep
at work; from March to December insect food is the chief part of the
diet; insects that are the farmer’s bane,—grasshoppers, cutworms,
sow-bugs, ticks, weevils, plant-lice, and the click-beetle (the grown-up
wire worm) being but a few of them. The remaining months, December,
January, and February, insects failing, waste grain is eaten, and weed
seeds, as pigeon grass, rag and smart weed, and black mustard.

[Illustration: MEADOWLARK]

“Happily for us, this beautiful bird is protected in all the New England
and Middle States, but, if we have friends who live in Florida, North
Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee, Missouri and Idaho,
where the Larks are only considered as food, let us beg them to tell
every one of this and the Prairie Lark’s merits, so that they may be
placed on the list of the protected. And when you hear any one say that
the Meadowlark is by rights a game-bird, say as politely as may be, but
very firmly, ‘No; it is _not_! At least, not in staunch, common-sensed
New England!’


                          _The Mourning Dove_

“Soft of plumage, gentle, and almost sad of voice is the Mourning Dove,
the grayish brown bird with metallic lustres, whose name is taken from
its plaintive accents. Its comings and goings are silent, and, in spite
of its size, for it is as large as the Meadowlark, if it was not for its
cooing, heard early in the morning, we should seldom know of its
presence, for its flight is noiseless, and it chooses trees in secluded
places for the little loose bunch of sticks that forms its nest.

“Formerly, this Dove, together with its cousin, the Passenger Pigeon,
were everywhere to be found, while the Passenger Pigeon, a bird of fine
flesh, was so plentiful as to be almost a staple article of food, and
wagons loaded with birds were peddled through city streets. With the
wastefulness of a people coming to a new and liberal country, the birds
were often shot down in their roosts, from pure wantonness, and left to
decay upon the ground, so that now the Passenger Pigeon and the wild
buffalo have gone to the happy animal-country, where there is no
hunting, together,—two valuable animals practically extinct,—and North
America is the poorer for its thoughtlessness.

“With this warning before us, the Kind Hearts’, of which there are
plenty everywhere, whether they are banded into clubs or not, should
strive to have this gentle, harmless life protected.

“‘Why?’ says the farmer, in the states that refuse protection. ‘Maybe it
doesn’t do any harm, but what good can it do that can make up to me for
not eating it?’ To such a man say this: The Mourning Dove is a consumer
of evil weeds, and its presence in flocks will lessen his labour and
give his hoe arm a rest; that the crop of a dove, examined by the
Department of Agriculture in Washington, was found to hold 9200 seeds of
noxious weeds! _Not to have these weeds grow_ would give the farmer, or
his boy, time for a half holiday, wherein to go clamming or berry
picking!

[Illustration: MOURNING DOVES]

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Now we have some little birds whose names are still on the list of
food- or game-birds, and I should like to see them wiped from it
forever, or, at least, until they are once more plentiful in their
haunts. These are the two cousins of the Woodcock,—Sandpipers, the
Spotted and the Least, and two Plovers, also water-loving birds, the
Killdeer and the Upland Plover.

“Most of you children, at some part of the season, go down to the shore
of the bay yonder, perhaps it may be when your fathers gather seaweed in
the spring and fall, in late summer for the snapper fishing, or all
through the autumn and early winter for long-necked clams. Some of you,
I know, like Tommy and Dave, have camped out there for several weeks.
Have you not noticed the little prints of birds’ feet just above the
edge of tide-water? Or have you not seen the little birds themselves, no
bigger than Sparrows, with streaked, brown-gray backs and soft white
feathers underneath, running to and fro, balancing when they feed, as if
making a courtesy, all the while whispering softly among themselves?

“Or, again, others slightly larger, with ash and brown backs, and
underparts spotted with round, black marks like a thrush, white spotted
wings, and the outer tail-feathers white barred, showing in flight?

“These two gracious, confiding little birds are the Least and the
Spotted Sandpiper. Their small size should keep them off the food list,
for what are their dead bodies but a single mouthful? And what are they
alive? Things of joy and mystery combined. For what is a more perfect
picture of grace and happiness than these birds with a background of
sand, seaweed, and shells, and all the sparkling water before?

“Of a gray day, their pleasant prattle is shut down by the fog, and
sounds strange and mysterious, and when they spread their pointed wings,
and vanish into the mist, that seems to pick them up as it rolls in, the
picture is complete.

“The Least Sandpiper, the smallest of his tribe, is found in greater
numbers on our beach than the Spotted. He comes to us in the migrations,
as he nests only in the far North. I can remember, when as a girl I was
fond of swiming in the bay until late in autumn, that a flock of these
little birds flew over me so close that I could feel the beating of
their wings. His use is to give interest to the landscape, and his plea
for life his harmless littleness, his confidence, and his obedience in
filling the place in nature which the great Plan has given him. Perhaps
you may have heard the poem that he inspired in the heart of one woman,
who lived on a sea-girt island, and, oftentimes, had only the birds for
company; even if you have heard it, the verses are among those of which
we never tire.


                             THE SANDPIPER

    Across the narrow beach we flit,
    One little Sandpiper and I;
    And fast I gather, bit by bit,
    The scattered driftwood, bleached and dry.
    The wild waves reach their hands for it,
    The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
    As up and down the beach we flit,—
    One little Sandpiper and I.

    Above our heads the sullen clouds
    Scud black and swift across the sky;
    Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
    Stand out the white lighthouses high.
    Almost as far as eye can reach
    I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
    As fast we flit along the beach,—
    One little Sandpiper and I.

    I watch him as he skims along,
    Uttering his sweet and mournful cry;
    He starts not at my fitful song,
    Or flash of fluttering drapery.
    He has no thought of any wrong;
    He scans me with a fearless eye.
    Staunch friends are we, well tried and strong,
    The little Sandpiper and I.

    Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night,
    When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
    My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
    To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
    I do not fear for thee, though wroth
    The tempest rushes through the sky;
    For are we not God’s children both,
    Thou, little Sandpiper, and I?

    —Celia Thaxter.

[Illustration: SPOTTED SANDPIPER]

[Illustration: LEAST SANDPIPER]

“The spotted Sandpiper, in my girlhood, was here, with us, a familiar
bird of moist meadows and pond edges, and every season I used to see
them stepping about the stones in the little brook that flows through
the river woods, across the meadow above the orchard. They frequently
nested there, also, and I have often seen the buff, chocolate, spotted
eggs. I have seen the birds wading in the stream quite up to their
bodies, sometimes dragging their legs after them as children do in play;
they can also swim, when they wish to cross a stream without taking to
wing, and it is said, when hard pressed or wounded, can dive deep and
swim, or rather, fly under water very swiftly, for they use the wings as
the Loon does. Teeter and Tip-up are two of its common names, because it
seems to be always balancing in order not to tumble over. If you startle
it, it gives a frightened cry like ‘peet-weet-weet,’ as it rises, but
soon drops again.

“This bird has a list of good deeds as an insect eater to plead for its
removal from the list of game-birds. Birds consume the most insects in
the nesting season when the quick-growing young require constant
feeding, and, as it breeds all over North America as far as Hudson Bay,
you can see that the Spotted Sandpiper’s field of usefulness is very
wide, and wherever he goes, following the sun as he does throughout the
seasons, his value, aside from his dainty beauty, does not lie in the
morsel of food he would make for those short sighted enough to shoot
him, but in the insects of all sorts, including grasshoppers and
locusts, he kills in the simple process of getting a living.

“Another bird of the moist meadows of rivers and salt creeks is the
Killdeer or Little Ring-necked Plover. It is about the size of the
Spotted Sandpiper, equally beautiful, and with a certain dignity all its
own. We always used to have them in the river meadows, but, since my
return this year, I have not seen a single one.

“I have found the curious, creamy, pear-shaped eggs, with brown spots,
in a grassy hollow, with no other bed than the turf itself. Strange eggs
they are, seemingly so much too large for their owners, and an
apparently careless arrangement to leave them with no protecting nest.
But the shape of the egg prevents accident, for, if disturbed, they
simply turn round and round on the pointed end, but do not roll away.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies KILLDEER]

                 Order—Limicolæ      Family—Charadriidæ
                 Genus—Ægialitis      Species—Vocifera

“The young chicks are the prettiest little creatures; even when first
hatched, they are well covered with down, and have strong, useful legs,
with which they can follow their parents all day long until their
pinions have developed to let them fly. It is a peculiarity of the
game-bird that, like our domestic poultry, the chick comes from the egg
open-eyed, well covered, and able, in a measure, to care for itself from
the moment that it is hatched. The song-birds, birds of prey, and others
are hatched blind and naked, and require several weeks’ time before they
are fit for independent life.

“No prettier scene of young bird-life can be drawn than that of Mother
Killdeer, walking through the dewy meadows, with stately gait, followed
by her four chicks, now brooding them with a warning cry, if the shadow
of a hawk appears; now turning over leaves and bits of dead wood in
search of their insect food. When danger is near, the young squat, and
the blending of their colours with those of the ground gives them the
benefit of what is known as ‘colour protection,’ a wise plan of Heart of
Nature for the benefit of the weaker species. If threatened danger does
not pass by, then the old birds become aggressive, and sometimes fly at
the intruder, be he man or animal. The peculiar call of the bird,
‘Killdee-Killde-e-e-Killdeer,’ has given it its name, though it has
several other cries when brooding and protecting its young.

“The desire to protect this charming bird, that the National Association
of the Audubon Societies is endeavouring to have made a law, state by
state, is, after all, nothing new. Listen to what Audubon himself wrote
about the Killdeer, beginning with the nesting time: ‘At this period the
parents, who sit alternately on the eggs, never leaving them to the heat
of the sun, are extremely clamorous at the sight of an enemy. The female
droops her wings, emits her plaintive notes, and endeavours, by every
means she can devise, to draw you from her nest or young. The male
dashes over you in the air and vociferates all the remonstrances of an
angry parent whose family is endangered. If you cannot find pity for the
poor birds at such a time, you may take up their eggs and see their
distress, but if you be at all so tender hearted as I would wish you to
be, it will be quite unnecessary for me to recommend mercy.’

“So, children of the Kind Hearts’ Club, ask all those you meet to help
put the little Killdeer upon the protected list; say that it is too
small to be counted as food, and, in addition, whisper to every farmer
you meet (and farmers north, south, east, and west should be interested,
for the bird inhabits the whole of temperate North America), ‘The
Killdeer is an insect eater, taking grasshoppers, crickets, beetles,
boll weevils, and the dreaded Rocky Mountain locust.’ If this is not
enough, add that the Kind Hearts wish to protect all these gentle little
birds, that are out of place on the list of food-birds, and we all know
that when a kind heart _wishes_ to do a thing, it usually finds the
way!”

“Somebody told Dad at the last Farmers’ Institute that the Reed birds,
that the big boys go gunning for down in the marsh meadows along in
August, are changed Bobolinks,” said Tommy, “and that we mustn’t shoot
them any more, because Bobolinks are singing-birds, and I just guess
they are. My! can’t they sing, and fly right up at the same time, as if
going so fast shook the song out of them, and they couldn’t help it!”

Gray Lady laughed at Tommy’s description, which was certainly very true,
and expressed in vigorous boy language.

“Yes, Tommy, the black-white-and-buff Bobolink of May, after the
midsummer moult, becomes a dull, brown-striped bird like his wife, and,
shedding his lovely voice and glowing feathers together, he keeps only a
call note. In this masquerade he leads a double, and somewhat vagabond,
life, travelling by slow degrees toward his winter home and then back
again in the spring, all the while eating many things which the owners
do not wish him to have, one being rice,—rice in the ear and the
sprouting rice in spring.

“Let others do as they must, but we, who have no rice to be hurt, insist
that this bit of ardent, flying melody shall receive the treatment that
his music deserves, and be taken forever off the list of semigame-birds.
What if this singer of the opera does choose to don a sober travelling
cloak and journey silently? The musician is only waiting for the pink
blossoms to come on the apple trees, and the grass to grow long enough
to sway to the wind, to again let his music float from the one and give
his nest to the care of the other, where no human eye, at least, may spy
it. If we destroy Robert of Lincoln, called Bobolink for short, we kill
not one but many qualities and songs. Did you never hear the rhyme of
his merry family?”


                          THE O’LINCOLN FAMILY

    A flock of merry singing-birds were sporting in a grove;
    Some were warbling cheerily and some were making love.
    There were Bobolincon, Wadolincon, Winterseeble, Conquedle,—
    A livelier set were never led by tabor, pipe, or fiddle:—
    Crying “Whew, shew, Wadolincon; see, see, Bobolincon
    Down among the tickle tops, hiding in the buttercups;
    I know the saucy chap; I see his shining cap
    Bobbing there in the clover,—see, see, see!”

    Up flies Bobolincon perching on an apple tree;
    Startled by his rival’s song, quickened by his raillery.
    Soon he spies the rogue afloat, curvetting in the air,
    And merrily he turns about and warns him to beware!
    “’Tis you that would a-wooing go, down among the rushes O!
    Wait a week, till flowers are cheery; wait a week ere you marry,
    Be sure of a house wherein to tarry;
    Wadolink, Whiskodink, Tom Denny, wait, wait, wait!”

    Every one’s a funny fellow; every one’s a little mellow;
    Follow, follow, follow, follow, o’er the hill and in the hollow.
    Merrily, merrily, there they hie; now they rise and now they fly;
    They cross and turn, and in and out, down the middle, and wheel about,
    With a “Phew, shew, Wadolincon; listen to me, Bobolincon!
    Happy’s the wooing that’s speedily doing, that’s speedily doing,
    That’s merry and over with the bloom of the clover;
    Bobolincon, Wadolincon, Winterseeble, follow, follow me!”

    O what a happy life they lead, over hill and in the mead!
    How they sing and how they play! See, that fly away, away!
    Now they gambol o’er the clearing—off again, and then appearing;
    Poised aloft on quivering wing, now they soar and now they sing,
    “We must all be merry and moving, we all must be happy and loving;
    For when the midsummer has come and the grain has ripened its ear,
    The haymakers scatter our young and we mourn for the rest of the year;
    Then, Bobolincon, Wadolincon, Winterseeble, haste, haste away!”

    —Wilson Flagg, in _Birds and Seasons in New England_.



                                  XVI
                      TREASURE-TROVE AT THE SHORE


                     _The Herring or Harbour Gull_

The autumn had been clear and fine, and the hillside farmers of Fair
Meadows township had their out-of-door work well in hand by
Thanksgiving. The fall-sown rye was well up, and the fields that were to
lie fallow and be sweetened by the frost were ploughed and in good
shape. Ice-cutting, on the chain of large ponds that lay in the valley
between the hills north of the river woods, was an important industry of
the region, so that every one was anxious to have the ice form clear and
firm before snowfall. As yet, however, there had been no signs of
either, except the thin ice with which Black Frost always covers the
roof, gutters, water-pails, and shallow pools when he prowls round in
the early morning, as if merely to let the good folks know of his
presence, and to prepare them for his gentler mediating brother, Snow.

The day after Thanksgiving the wind began to blow, not in mere passing
gusts, but steadily and systematically. Then, too, it came from a
strange quarter for that season—the extreme southeast. This was the
wind to drive the sea into the bay and force the water high on shore.
Such winds, at this season, piled the elastic brown seaweed in long
lines high above tide-water, and many a farmer, and market-gardener, as
he ate his supper, laid plans to drive down to the beach next morning,
with a double team, and secure a full load of the weed for covering his
strawberry or asparagus beds.

Before morning, however, a driving rain set in that lasted for two days
and kept everybody house-bound. The roadways ran water like rivers, and,
by the time the storm lessened at sunset Sunday evening, there was
barely a leaf left on the apple trees of the Birdland orchard, and
Goldilocks was well-nigh heartbroken over the state of the
lunch-counter, for, in spite of the protecting roof, the broken biscuits
turned to paste, the suet hung in rags, and as for the kernels of
cracked corn and the buckwheat, they had swelled as if they thought it
was a spring rain and it was their duty to grow. So that Goldilocks was
worried lest some Juncos and Goldfinches that made a hearty meal upon
the grains, in spite of the rain, should suffer from a fit of
indigestion.

Early Monday morning, when he returned to milk, the hired man at Tommy
Todd’s, who had been spending the night with his brother at one of the
little huts four miles below on the shore road, brought word that the
great storm had, as he expressed it, “heaved” the deep-water oyster-beds
that extended out through the bay and that in addition to the seaweed,
the beach was completely covered with fine large oysters, bushels and
bushels of them.

How the news spread, nobody knew, but by half-past eight every available
team within a mile of Foxes Corners school was “hooked up” and entire
families were hurrying toward the beach in every sort of vehicle, to
gather up this unexpected treasure-trove of the sea.

The parents seemed to have entirely forgotten that school began at nine,
and it was not to be expected that the children should remind them. And,
truth be told, when Jared Barnes gathered his flock, grandma included,
into the hay wagon, Sarah and Ruth, conscientious as they usually were
about their lessons, entirely forgot the day of the week, so eager were
they for the fray; for the prospect, not only of oysters to roast and
stew, but of oysters to pickle and keep, was too great a temptation to
resist.

Miss Wilde, who arrived at the schoolhouse rather earlier than usual,
found the door locked, and no fire in the stove. It was Dave’s week to
tend the fire, and, as Miss Wilde stood in the open doorway pondering on
the matter, one of the most exacting of the school committee men came
bumping along in a lumber cart. Pulling up his horses so suddenly that a
neighbour who was with him tipped backward off the seat, he called to
the astonished teacher: “You had best close up and go home; you won’t
have any pupils to-day. Or else come down, and hold school on the shore!
The rest of the committee will probably meet together in a few minutes,
and we’ll vote to extend Thanksgiving holidays over to-day.” So saying,
he cracked his whip and rattled downhill, leaving Miss Wilde to wonder
if he was losing his mind, or the world was turning topsyturvy, or if
she was still asleep, for it was beginning to be hard to wake up as the
mornings shortened.

Miss Wilde locked the door and started to walk toward Eliza Clausen’s
house, that being the nearest place where she could possibly find out
what was happening. As she reached the cross-road that met the turnpike
a little above the school, she heard the sharp trot of hoofs, and,
turning in that direction, saw Jacob Hughes driving the depot rockaway,
Goldilocks being beside him and Gray Lady seated behind. Goldilocks
waved her hand on seeing Miss Wilde, and in another minute “teacher” was
seated beside Gray Lady, and not only knew of the avalanche of oysters,
but was herself on the way to the shore with her friends, who were
going, not for the sake of the oysters, but to enjoy what was sure to be
a picturesque scene, with the shell-strewn beach, the sharp bluff on the
left, and the long sand-bar, with its lighthouse on the right, for a
setting. Nor were they disappointed.

For once tell-tale news did not exaggerate, and, though there were many
cut and scratched fingers from the sharp shells, before noon there was
no one who had not gathered all the oysters he could carry. The more
thrifty among the men also began to gather the seaweed into heaps safe
from the incoming tide, so that they might be sure of finding it the
next day, while the women and children gathered driftwood and, making
fireplaces of a few stones, heated the coffee they had brought. For,
though the sun was now shining clear, and the wind had dropped to a
little breeze that scarcely moved the surface of the tide pools, there
was a growing keenness in the air that named the month “December,” and
promised the wind would be in the northwest by night.

[Illustration: HERRING GULLS]

In spite of the unusual human picture before them, that which interested
Gray Lady, Miss Wilde, and Goldilocks the most were the Gulls that
covered the bare sand-bar, waded in the shallow pools, and clambered
among the stones in search of food, which they picked out with their
stout, hooked bills, then flew swiftly overhead toward the creek, across
the salt meadows, with a shrill cry, such as the creaking windlass of a
well gives when the rope plays out quickly and the bucket
drops—“quake-wake-wake.”

Further out, in the arm of the bar, where there was no current, and the
water was deep and smooth, many Gulls were resting motionless as white
skiffs at anchor, or flying and diving for food in the wake of some
boats that were evidently grappling to discover the extent of the damage
to the oyster-beds.

“How many kinds of Gulls are there?” asked Goldilocks. “Three, I should
think, unless the males and the females were different.”

“The Gulls here are all Herring, or, as the Wise Men now wish them
called, ‘Harbour Gulls.’ The old birds have the pure white breasts and
pearly gray, or what is sometimes called ‘Gull-blue,’ upper parts and
the black-and-white wing-markings. The mixed and streaked ash, buff, and
brown birds are the young of the year, while the black-and-white patched
birds are not Gulls, but Old Squaw Ducks. These have spent the winter
about the bay and bar ever since I can remember, and, strangely enough,
both Gulls and Ducks seem to be no less in number than they were twenty
years ago. That is probably because the Gulls are protected, and the
Ducks’ flesh is so tough that even a hungry dog could hardly tear it
apart. I hope your children are noticing these birds while they are
gathering driftwood for the fires,” Gray Lady said to Miss Wilde. “It is
very seldom that they come to the shore as late as this, or see the
Gulls in such numbers. It seems to-day as though the storm must have
driven all that belong to many miles of coast to take shelter in this
bay.”

“Yes, they are looking,” said Goldilocks, “for Sarah and Tommy and Dave
and Clary, who are all together by the nearest fire, are watching and
pointing to the Gulls that are over by the boats, and I think that Bobby
has found a dead Gull tangled in seaweed and he is showing it to the
others.”

“Then I foresee that the Harbour Gull will be the bird of next Friday
afternoon,” said Gray Lady, as they turned homeward, taking Miss Wilde
with them for lunch, so that Gray Lady might talk over a new plan
concerning the old farm-house in the corner of the orchard, with its
great stone chimney where the Swifts loved to build.

                 *        *        *        *        *

As Gray Lady had expected, the next Friday afternoon, when she went to
Foxes Corners schoolhouse, she was greeted by many enthusiastic accounts
of the stolen holiday at the shore, but a perfect chorus of questions
arose about the “big birds that fly and swim and yet aren’t quite like
Ducks”; while Bobby proudly produced his treasured Gull, wrapped in a
newspaper, at the same time assuring Gray Lady, as became a member of
the Kind Hearts’ Club, that he hadn’t thrown a stone at it, or anything,
and that it was “drowned dead in the seaweed.” All of which she already
knew to be true.

“Why aren’t the Gulls there in the summer when we go down camping and
clamming?” asked Tommy.

“Because,” said Gray Lady, “they do not like very warm weather, and
nowadays at least, though they live all through North America, they do
not nest on the Atlantic coast south of Maine. For this reason, we
seldom see them between May and October, and that is the very time that
you children and people in general visit the shore.”

“It must take a pretty big tree to hold a Gull’s nest,” said Dave,
picking up the bird and weighing it in his hand; “it’s lots bigger than
a Crow.”

“Yes; a Gull measures two feet in length (that is, from the tip of its
beak over its back to the tail, which is the way the length of a bird is
reckoned), and is quite three feet across the spread of its open wings,
while the body of the Crow is five inches shorter and the wings only
spread a little over two feet.

“You probably noticed, the other day, what very long, pointed wings the
Gulls have. But though these Gulls do sometimes nest in fairly high
trees and in bushes, it is not common, and their favourite place is on
the gray shingle, and among the stones of rocky beaches well above
tide-water, or else between tussocks of beach grass or sheltering pieces
of driftwood.

“As a Gull’s chief food is gleaned from the sea, it must nest as close
as possible to its source of supply. You can easily see that so large a
bird could never be free from annoyance on our bathing beaches or
offshore islands that are used as summer resorts; so, as people flocked
to the shore, more and more, the places where Gulls might nest in
comfort grew fewer and fewer, and they were driven to the remote islands
like those off the Maine coast, Great Duck Island, No Man’s Land, and
others, and it is at Great Duck Island that is to be found the largest
colony of Gulls within the United States.

“But even here and on many lesser islands, with only lighthouses and
their keepers for company, where there were no summer cottages or
pleasure-seekers, until a few years ago, the Gulls were not safe, for
they, like the White Herons of the South, were bonnet martyrs.”

“Bonnet martyrs!” exclaimed Eliza Clausen, jumping as if some one had
stuck a pin in her. “I don’t think they would look one bit nice on hats;
why, they are so big that there wouldn’t be any hat, but all bird.”

“You are quite right,” said Gray Lady, “but the whole Gull was not used.
These beautiful white breast-feathers were made into turbans. Perhaps,
on one side of these, a smaller cousin of the Gull, the Tern, or Sea
Swallow, with its coral-red beak, would be perched by way of finish. Or
else, soft bands made of the breast, and some of the handsomest wing
quills were used for trimming.

“Not only were these feathers sold wholesale to the plume merchants and
milliners, but people who went to the coast resorts would buy them of
the sailors simply because they were pretty, without giving a thought to
the lives they cost, or of how desolate and lonely the shores would be
when there were no more Gulls.

“There are comparatively few people, I earnestly believe, who would wear
feathers for ornament if they realized the waste of life that the habit
causes. It is largely because people do not stop to think, and they do
not associate the happy living bird with the lifeless feathers in the
milliner’s window. But now that the Wise Men—yes, and wise women,
too—have explained the matter, the protection of these beautiful
sea-birds is an established fact.

“This bird was called ‘Herring Gull,’ because by hovering over the
schools of Herring where they swam, and diving to get them for food,
they told the fishermen, who spend their lives upon the ocean on the
lookout, where the fish were to be found. Now, though the Gulls still do
this, they do better work, also, for they spend the time that they are
away from their nesting-homes about the harbours of the large cities,
making daily trips up the rivers and cleansing the water of refuse, upon
which they feed. For this reason, ‘Harbour Gull’ seems to be a better
name for them.

“They are very sociable birds at all times of the year, keeping in
colonies even in the breeding season, a time when song- and other
land-birds pair, and prefer to be alone. The nests, when on the ground
or upon flat rocks, are built of grass, mosses, seaweed, and bits of
soft driftwood formed into a shallow bowl. If the edges of this crumble
or flatten while the birds are sitting, they use bunches of fresh grass
or seaweed to keep it in repair, with the result that the nest is not
only a very tasteful object, but it blends perfectly with its
surroundings.

“The eggs are very interesting because no two seem to be of the same
colour, being of every shade of blue and gray, from the colour of summer
sky and sand to the tint of the many-coloured, water-soaked rocks
themselves. The markings vary also in shape and size, and are in every
shade of brown, through lilac and purple, to black. The parents are very
devoted to their nests, and take turns in sitting, though the eggs are
often left to the care of the sun on days when it is sufficiently warm.
When the young are first hatched, though covered with down, they are
very weak in the neck and helpless; but in the course of a few hours the
little Gulls are strong enough to walk, and the instinct to hide at the
approach of anything strange comes to them very suddenly, so that a Gull
only three or four hours old will slip out of the nest and either hide
beneath a few grass blades or flatten itself in the sand, where, owing
to its spotted, colour-protective down, it is almost invisible, so well
does Nature care for her children—provided that man does not interfere.
When a Gull nests in a tree, however, the little birds, not feeling the
same necessity for hiding, do not try to leave the nest until the growth
of their wings will let them fly.

“On the sea beaches squids and marine refuse are fed to the young Gulls,
but where they have nested near fresh, instead of salt, water many
insects gleaned from the fields are eaten.

“It was in the Gulls’ nesting season that the plunderers chose to go to
their island haunts, steal the eggs, and kill the parent birds, whose
devotion, like that of the White Heron, left the birds at the mercy of
the plume hunters.

“At the end of summer the young, wearing their speckled suits, are able
to join the old in flocks, and it is then that they scatter along the
coast, some going from the northern borders down to the Great Lakes. In
and about New York City they are one of the features of the winter
scenery; they fly to and fro under the arches of the great bridge, and
follow the ships the entire length of the harbour and out to sea. At
night they bed down so close together that in places they make a
continuous coverlid of feathers on the waters of the reservoirs and in
the sheltered coves of the Hudson. From the banks of Riverside Park, any
autumn or winter afternoon, so long as the channel is free from ice,
they may be seen flying about as fearless as a flock of domestic
Pigeons.”

“Here on our beach they are scary enough,” said Tommy. “Why, the other
day I tried every way to creep up close to some of them, but I never
could; they were always up and off, sometimes without saying a word, and
sometimes screeching, ‘Yuka-yuka-yuka,’ enough to frighten any one. Pop
says that, way back when he was a boy, and there weren’t any laws to
prevent shooting anything except the game-birds out of season, that
these birds were just as scary, so that the best shots used to go down
on the bar and try to hit a Gull, not to eat, but for the sake of being
called a good shot, because Gulls were harder to get than old leader
Crows.”

“That is the very reason why Gulls alongshore are afraid now. For so
many years they have served as targets for Duck hunters, and people who
did not realize what they were destroying, that fear has become an
instinct. Now in the nesting-haunts, where they are protected, they are
gradually becoming more and more tame. About the harbours of cities and
parks, where shooting has never been allowed for other reasons than bird
protection, they fly about unconcernedly and exhibit little alarm.”

“Are Gulls any real use, except that they are nice to look at and watch
fly?” asked Dave, presently, as Bobbie’s bird was being passed from desk
to desk.

“Yes, the Harbour Gulls are useful in many ways, and would be more so if
man would protect them fully everywhere, as they do in some countries
and in some of the western parts of our own country; but, in general,
they have been so persistently hunted that they shun the land-bound
fresh water, where they would help the farmers by feeding on large
insects, and prefer the freedom of the open water.”

    “The true Gull of the sea, the spirit of the salt, is a sort of
    feathered bell-buoy, and thus is of use to the sailors, as there
    is ample testimony to prove.

    “In summer, in thick weather, the appearance of Gulls and Terns
    in numbers, or the sound of their clamorous voices, gives
    warning to the mariner that he is near the rocks on which they
    breed. Shore fishermen, enshrouded in fog, can tell the
    direction of the islands on which the birds live by watching
    their undeviating flight homeward with food for their young. The
    keen senses of sea-birds enable them to head direct for their
    nests, even in dense mist.

    “Navigators approaching their home ports during the seasons of
    bird migration welcome the appearance of familiar birds from the
    land. . . .

    “Sea-birds must be reckoned among the chief agencies which have
    made many rocky or sandy islands fit for human habitation. The
    service performed by birds in fertilizing, soil-building, and
    seed-sowing on many barren islands entitles our feathered
    friends to the gratitude of many a shipwrecked sailor, who must
    else have lost his life on barren, storm-beaten shores.”

                                                   —E. H. Forbush.

“Is mine a good grown-up Gull?” asked Bobbie, who had been waiting
anxiously for its safe return to his hands, “because grandpa says if it
is, he’ll take it over to town, and get it stuffed, and fixed up on a
perch, to remember Oyster Day by; but I’ll bury it if you’d rather I
would.”

“It is a fully grown bird, Bobbie,” said Gray Lady, “and it is wearing
its winter dress. In summer the head and neck that are now streaked with
gray would be a dazzling white, and as accident killed it, and wind and
tide gave it to you, there is no reason why you may not keep it with a
clear conscience.”



                                  XVII
                       THE BIRDS’ CHRISTMAS TREE


                             _Preparation_

The Christmas sale was over. It had been held in the play and work rooms
the Saturday before Christmas, and was a great success. The dressed
dolls, iron-holders, aprons, bird-houses, wooden spoons, racks for
clothes, and little knickknacks had been ranged on the work-table and
carpenter’s bench, and all the people of the neighbouring towns, as well
as from Fair Meadows village itself, had been asked to come and see.
When they came and saw, they stayed to buy.

The bird-houses proved the greatest novelty, and Tommy Todd and Dave,
their cheeks red with excitement, were kept busy taking orders for more,
to be finished by May or June, one customer said. She, however, was very
much amused when Tommy told her that if she expected to have birds in
the house (it was a box for Tree Swallows) the first season, she must
have the house in place before April, so that it might “be weathered a
little, and the birds find it when they first came, and not think it was
a trap put up to catch them.”

Gray Lady donated some delicious cake of Ann’s make, and hot chocolate,
and while the visitors enjoyed it, they asked many questions about the
bird class, the school at Foxes Corners, and the motives of the Kind
Hearts’ Club itself; for this name had been printed on the posters
advertising the sale.

The result that concerned the public good was that other men and women
resolved, even if they could not do it as thoroughly as Gray Lady, to
supply the teachers in their various districts with charts and books,
and before night settled down, Sarah Barnes, the treasurer of the Club,
was hugging tight in her arms a small iron box, with a lock and key,
wherein were fifty precious dollars, while orders that meant an equal
sum before the close of the school year were being copied from a rather
mussy paper into a blank-book, by Tommy Todd, the secretary, whose
usually clear upright letters were made crooked by his excitement.

The next question was, How should the money be spent? Each child was
asked to write his or her idea on a slip of paper and bring it to the
birds’ Christmas festival that was to be held, as seemed fitting, in
Birdland, the afternoon before Christmas, from two o’clock until four.

“Supposin’ it’s cold and snowy?—that’s a long time to be outdoors,”
said Eliza Clausen, as she walked home between Sarah and Ruth Barnes.

“It may not be out-of-doors,” said Sarah, looking very wise.

“Then it can’t be in Birdland, as Gray Lady said,” persisted Eliza, who,
though she was less critical since she had come under the older woman’s
influence, could not resist once in a while, “hoping for the worst,” as
Gray Lady called borrowing trouble.

“Yes; the party can be indoors, and yet in Birdland,” answered Sarah.

“Oh, you’re trying to catch me with a riddle or something.”

“If I am, I’ll tell you the answer at the birds’ Christmas tree next
Tuesday,” called Sarah, as she turned in at her own gate.

                 *        *        *        *        *

A two-inch fall of soft, clinging snow fell during the night before
Christmas eve, so that the next morning “everything looked as pretty as
the pictures on a calendar,” as Sarah Barnes said, when she arrived at
Gray Lady’s door, bright and early, to help decorate the birds’ tree.

Sarah did not enter the door, however, for she was joined on the porch
by Goldilocks and Ann, and together they walked through the garden to
Birdland.

Jacob Hughes had swept paths from the house in and out among the trees
through the garden. In Birdland he had used the single-horse snow-plough
to scrape a track running from the bird lunch-counter, about the edge of
the orchard, and then through the centre down to the old farm-house of
the Swallow Chimney, that stood in the lower corner facing on what had
been a cross-road, but was now a pretty grass-grown lane, with the snow
wreathing the bushes of black alder, with its red, glistening berries,
giving out a real Christmas feeling.

What had happened to the old house of the Swallow Chimney, where the
General’s father had lived, but which had now remained closed for so
many years, merely a storage-place for old furniture?

Smoke was coming from the great stone chimney, new shingles stained to
look old replaced the broken ones, new paint glistened on the
window-sashes, and the quaint old panes of glass, bearing the rainbow
tints of years, shone like mirrors. The front door was painted dark
green, and the spread-eagle knocker of brass was as bright as polishing
could make it; while around the deep front porch was a little fence of
cedar bushes in boxes, all garlanded with vines of coral, bittersweet
berries.

Goldilocks and Sarah went to the front door of the old house, while Ann
disappeared in the woodshed that joined the side porch and well-house.

The girls had not touched the knocker when the door flew open, and who
should stand there but Miss Rose Wilde, while beyond her, sitting by the
blazing log-fire in the long, low living-room, that had once been the
kitchen, was her mother, looking better and younger than she had for at
least ten years!

This was the secret. Gray Lady had repaired the old house and
established the faithful little teacher and her mother in it, so that
instead of mother and daughter only meeting once a week, or less often
in winter, and each having a good bit of heartache between, they had a
real home once more. What was also a bit of good luck, Mrs. Wilde’s
furniture, that had been stored away, was of the kind that seemed as if
it had been made for the old homestead and had never been anywhere else.

Once inside, Rose Wilde led them into the kitchen, where everything was
as neat as wax, and there, spread upon tables and half-covering the
floor, were the decorations for the birds’ Christmas tree.

Where was the tree itself? Where trees are the best and healthiest,
out-of-doors back of the house, a stout, young spruce, some twenty odd
feet high, growing in the orchard corner where no one had planted it,
the child of one of the spruces near the great house,—a half-wild tree,
sprung from the seed of a cone dropped by a Crossbill, perhaps, or left
by a squirrel who was making a winter store-house in the attic of the
farm-house.

The dainties for the tree were selected to suit all the various needs
and appetites of the winter birds likely to come to the orchard.

Gray Lady, Goldilocks, Rose Wilde, and Ann had strung quantities of
popcorn upon the chance of the Jays and Crows liking it. They had used
strong thread, but had only strung the corn by the very edge, so that it
would detach easily. There were lumps of suet, and marrow-bones,
securely bound with wire, ears of red and yellow corn, bunches of
unthreshed rye, wheat, and oats, little open boxes filled with
beechnuts, and various wild berries. Last of all, something that
Goldilocks had suggested, the heads of a couple of dozen sunflowers,
filled with the ripe, nutritious seeds, for she had noticed that all the
autumn the Goldfinches and various Sparrows had stayed about the beds
where the composite flowers like asters, marigolds, cornflowers,
zinnias, and sunflowers grew, and that also the wild sunflowers and
black-eyed Susans of waste fields were always surrounded by birds.

Jacob Hughes had his ladders all ready, but it was no small task to keep
him supplied with material, and there were many mishaps before all the
articles were in place, but to Goldilocks’ great joy, before Jacob had
fairly finished and taken the ladder away, a Chickadee and a Goldfinch
were both clinging to the same sunflower head, and a little Downy
Woodpecker had discovered one of the bones fastened to a branch and was
revelling, “up to his neck,” as Sarah expressed it, in the marrow.

Underneath the tree a place had been cleared for the gifts Gray Lady had
in store for what she called “the featherless two-legged birds of the
Kind Hearts’ Club.”

After they had rested a few minutes, and were thoroughly warmed, Gray
Lady, Rose Wilde, Goldilocks, and Sarah Barnes set out for a stroll
through the orchard, and the lane that ran back of it, up to the
farm-barns, to see what feathered guests were in the neighbourhood, the
walk taking them past a great pile of unhewn wood and a tent-shaped
brush-heap at the end of the lane.

Gray Lady used her opera-glasses, but the others trusted to their eyes
alone. These are the birds they saw and named easily: A flock of
Goldfinches in their dull winter coats feeding on weed seeds in the
lane; their old friends the Chickadees, three Blue Jays, two Flickers,
and several Downy Woodpeckers; Gray Lady thought possibly from their
markings, a whole Downy family,—Mr., Mrs., and four children.

As they neared the woodpile Goldilocks stopped, her hand on Gray Lady’s
sleeve and a finger raised in caution. “I do believe there is a Jenny
Wren that has not gone away or is lost, it is such a little bit of a
thing.”

As they stood looking, the little, neat, brown bird, about four inches
long, ran up and down among the logs like a mouse, then flew with a
little short flapping of the wings to the bush, where it clung to a
spray, bobbing to and fro, its comical bit of a tail pointing as close
to its head as possible. Then it appeared to pick something very
deliberately from the twigs and flew back again to the woodpile with a
sharp, warning note.

“That is not a belated House Wren,” said Gray Lady, “but the Winter
Wren, his cousin, who nests from the northern boundaries of the states
northward, but comes down in winter to visit us in southern New England
and travels as far south as Florida. A brave little fellow he is to
weather storms and cold here, and one of our three smallest birds, the
Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Humming-bird being the other two. In his
nesting-haunts he has a beautiful song; I have never heard it, but one
of his admirers who has says that it is ‘full of trills, runs, and grace
notes, a tinkling, rippling roundelay.’”

A few minutes later it was Sarah’s turn to exclaim, as she pointed to a
small, sparrow-like bird, perched on a giant stalk of seeded ragweed at
the side of the lane. “It’s a Chippy or else a Song Sparrow,” she said,
hesitatingly. “It’s bigger than a Chippy, and it’s got a spot on its
breast like the Song Sparrow, only it isn’t as big. O dear me! I don’t
think that I shall ever be sure of telling Sparrows apart,” she sighed.

“To be sure a bird _is_ a Sparrow is a step in the right direction,”
said Gray Lady. “I have known some one older than you call me to see a
big Sparrow which turned out to be a Wood Thrush. If you will remember
one thing, it will help you in placing the smaller birds. Look at a
bird’s beak; if it is thick, short, and cone-shaped, the bird is most
likely to be a Sparrow, for this family are all seed-eaters except in
the nesting season, while insect-eating birds, of all families, have
longer and more slender bills.

[Illustration: TREE-SPARROW]

“As for this little fellow, it is another of our winter visitors, the
_Tree-sparrow_ or _Winter Chippy_, and there is probably quite a flock
of his kin at this moment distributed over the wild fields below, doing
the work of seed-destroying that the farmers have neglected; for, aside
from the cheerful companionship of all these winter birds, the Sparrow
tribe is working for us all winter as Weed Warriors,[3] just as the
tree-trunk birds are Tree Trappers, the birds who take insects while on
the wing, Sky Sweepers, and the silent birds of prey, who sit in wait
for the field-mice and other vermin, Wise Watchers.

“Ah, it is my turn now to make discoveries,” said Gray Lady, as they
turned into the orchard at the end opposite the lunch-counter tree.
“Keep very quiet, and look at the mossy branch of that half-dead tree to
which some frozen apples still hang; what do you see, Goldilocks? Take
my glasses and look carefully before you answer.”

“Where?” said Goldilocks; “yes; I see. One is a little, fluffy, greenish
gray bird with a dirty white breast. Oh! he has a red stripe edged with
yellow on top of his head! He moves so quickly that I can’t seem to see
the whole of him with one look, though he is small. The other bird is a
little bigger, and not so fat; he has a yellow spot on his head, and a
brighter one over the tail, and a yellow spot on each side; he is
striped gray and black all over, except some white on his wings and
underneath. How he flits about, just like that bird that looked like a
red-and-black butterfly that we saw last summer that you said was a
Redstart.”

“You have very sharp eyes,” said her mother, “for you saw at once the
identifying marks of two birds that were new to you. The merry fellow of
the flaming crown is the Golden-crowned Kinglet, another sturdy winter
visitor, who breeds in the North, and finds our climate quite warm
enough for him if the food holds out; for he is a tree trapper, giving
his attention, like the Chickadee, to the smaller branches and twigs too
slender to bear the weight of the heavier tree-trunk birds.

“His companion is the Myrtle or Yellow-rumped Warbler, a hardy cousin of
the Redstart and Summer Yellowbird that Sarah, perhaps, does not yet
know by name, though she has doubtless seen them. When you have once
seen the male bird, you will never forget him, because of the four
yellow spots. These warblers are great insect eaters, but lacking these,
they will eat berries, the bayberries being their favourite, and I
believe that we have to thank the bayberry bushes, in the rocky hill
pastures hereabouts, for the numbers of the Myrtle Warblers that stay
all winter, myrtle being a common title for the bay, giving them their
name.”

[Illustration: F. M. Chapman, Photo. SHELTER FOR BIRD FOOD]

At the garden end of Birdland, just inside the rustic gate, a flock of
Juncoes or Gray Snowbirds were feeding, plump, cheerful, and contented,
and giving vent to their satisfaction in their pleasant “tchip, tchip,
tchip” call. Those who only know one winter bird know the Junco, for he
belongs to city parks, village yards, and remote farms alike, anywhere
that a frugal meal of grain or weed seeds may be found, with a piazza
vine or brush-heap or haystack to creep into for shelter. His flesh-pink
bill, slate-coloured coat, and neat white vest, together with the _two
conspicuous white tail-feathers_, tell his name to any one who wishes to
know it.

The Junco is an autumn and winter visitor only, being away from May
until late September, as he nests northward from New York and
Connecticut. When the flocks first return, you will be puzzled by many
birds of the shape and build of Juncoes, but who are wearing more or
less striped clothes; these are the young of the year.

“Five new birds in one morning! I wish Tommy had been here,” said Sarah;
“but perhaps he knows them already; Tommy knows a lot you can’t see
because it’s down so deep.”

“You must find us a new bird, too, before we go in to lunch, Miss
Wilde,” said Goldilocks.

“I have been looking at, not one, but a dozen, while you have been
watching the Kinglet and Myrtle Warbler. Look over the gate-arch across
toward the house. Do you see something moving among the bunches of ripe
spruce cones?”

“I see birds moving, but I want to go nearer.” So the party managed, by
walking quietly, to reach the trees where the birds were feeding without
disturbing them in the least.

“There are two kinds of birds up there,” said Sarah, presently, for it
was her turn to use the opera-glasses. “They are both rather red. One is
darker than the other and has no white on him. The other is lighter red
and has some white on the wings and tail. Why, Gray Lady! their beaks
are out of joint at the end and don’t shut tight. I wonder what can have
happened to the poor things. I thought at first they might be wild
parrots.”

Gray Lady and Miss Wilde both laughed, Sarah’s concern for the birds was
so real.

“You are right about the bills not closing at the tip, but it is not
owing to an accident. Nature developed this bill so that the bird, who
is a lover of evergreen forests, might be able to wrench open the cones,
the only winter food that is oftentimes to be found.

“The bird belongs to the Finch and Sparrow family, though you would
never guess it, and is called the ‘Crossbill.’ The plain red one is the
Red-winged Crossbill, and the lighter-coloured one, with white markings,
the White-winged Crossbill. Both birds nest north of New England, but
travel about the country in little flocks, sometimes going as far south
as Virginia and the Gulf States.”

“Listen, I think I can hear the crackling as they tear the scales from
the cones,” said Goldilocks.

“Yes, and you can see those that they have dropped lying on the fresh
snow under the trees,” added Sarah.

At that moment an old-fashioned dinner-bell sounded from the direction
of the farm-house in the orchard. It was Mrs. Wilde letting them know
that luncheon was ready, for Gray Lady, Goldilocks, and Sarah were to
lunch at “Swallow Chimney,” as Goldilocks had christened the restored
home, by way of a house-warming.

As they left, the Crossbills, who had been climbing up and down, with
all the adroitness of the Chickadees or the Upside-down birds
themselves, suddenly took to wing, giving short, metallic-sounding
cries, flew rapidly over the orchard, to alight—where do you suppose?
On the birds’ Christmas tree. Here, after some inspection, they began to
tear at the popcorn, their twisted beaks doing the work so well that
they seemed fashioned for that purpose alone.

“Well,” said Goldilocks, her hands clasped in amazement, as they reached
the farm-house, and saw what had happened, “I never knew anything _quite
so quick_ to happen outside of a story-book!”

-----

[3] See _Citizen Bird_.



                                 XVIII
                       HOW THEY SPENT THEIR MONEY


At two o’clock a procession of the pupils of Foxes Corners school filed
through the hall at “the General’s,” wondering what new surprise was in
store. The big boys, who would not begin school until the mid-winter
term, had come under the strong persuasion of Tommy and Dave. They
looked rather uneasy, however, as if they were not quite sure whether
the performances that the younger boys considered “bully” might not be
undignified for men of their age.

As the children went through the garden, Jim Crow lurched out of a bush
and walked along after them with an air of great importance, as if he
were the master of ceremonies. Larry, the Starling, was not particularly
fond of cold weather, and kept inside the shelter of the south porch,
making little excursions here and there, prompted by curiosity, and the
desire to use his wings, which were now quite strong, as food was to be
had from the dish that he and Jim shared, merely for the eating.

The lunch-counter was well patronized that afternoon, for, in addition
to the birds that had been in the vicinity during the morning, several
Bluebirds came, together with three Robins, who simply gorged themselves
upon some dried currants that Goldilocks had put out as an extra dainty.
Gray Lady was trying experiments with all sorts of odds and ends at the
lunch-counter, that she might see exactly what sort of food was the most
acceptable, and she was very much surprised to find that though wild
birds, like human beings, can adapt themselves to circumstances, a great
number have such a craving for animal food that it explained why Crows,
Jays, and some others become nest-robbers in the midst of summer plenty.

After they had called upon Miss Wilde at Swallow Chimney, where Eliza
Clausen discovered the meaning of Sarah Barnes’ mysterious remarks about
the party being held in the orchard, and yet being indoors, they went to
see the birds’ Christmas tree.

Since morning many things had been added to it that were not intended
for birds. Bundles, strange of shape, wrapped in green tissue-paper tied
up with red ribbon and little sprigs of southern holly, hung to the
lower branches, while Jacob, dressed as Father Christmas, stood by armed
with a hooked stick, with which he loosened the bundles and dropped them
into the waiting hands.

As it was impossible to tell from the shape of the parcels what they
contained, there was a good deal of pinching and squeezing done, but
beyond the feeling of sharp corners that might belong to either books or
boxes, nothing could be discovered.

“It is too cold for you to stand out here to open your parcels,” said
Gray Lady. “Suppose you take them in the living-room at the cottage, and
while the girls open theirs you boys come for a little walk with me, for
I have some work planned particularly for the boys of the Kind Hearts’
Club.

“Oh, do not look worried, I shall not keep you more than half an hour,”
she said, as she saw the boys were quite as curious about untying their
parcels as the girls.

So, following her lead, they trudged off up the lane, past the barn and
woodpile, to where the brush on either side narrowed it to a mere path.
Then, where another lane crossed it, the way grew broader again, and
while one side was screened by woods, from the other you could look out
upon a stretch of waste meadows and fallow fields.

There was only enough snow to crunch underfoot, and as Gray Lady walked
ahead, a sprig of holly fastened at the neck of her gray chinchilla
collar, and another in the close fitting hat of the same fur, her arms
buried to the elbows in a great muff, her eyes sparkling with pleasure,
and a rosy spot on each cheek made by the keen air, the boys cast many
glances of genuine admiration at her. The big boys, especially, felt
that she understood the situation exactly, by taking them to walk
without the girls, giving them her confidence, and planning something
for them to do that would be different from girls’ work, or, at least,
apart from it.

“Perhaps some of the others have told you,” Gray Lady said to the big
boys as they walked, “that I am very anxious not only to feed the small
tree birds, that they may stay with us in winter, but to try and help
the Grouse and Quail, so that, instead of those that have escaped the
dangers of the hunting season being driven out by hunger and cold, they
shall live on and increase, and become again the friends to the farmers
that they were in the old days.

“You big boys all know how much complaint there is of all kinds of new
bugs and worms and blights that discourage the farmers and leave but
little profit in their crops? As you learn to watch wild birds and their
habits, and realize the way in which they work for their living the year
round, you will see that it is largely the lack of these old residents,
these birds who were here before man came, that allows all the
new-fangled bugs to gain such headway.

“Now, while it is quite easy for all of us to have some sort of a
lunch-counter, either on a window-ledge, tree-trunk, or shed
roof,—anywhere, in short, where cats will not venture,—feeding the
larger game-birds is not such a simple matter, for until they thoroughly
understand our motives, they will not come to us; we must take food to
them.

“Birds that are hunted everywhere, for at least two months in a year,
cannot be expected the day after the season closes to come boldly to our
houses for food, as if they could consult a calendar, and say to one
another, ‘To-day is December first, we may go and take a walk in the
open road in safety.’

“Neither would they be safe, for there are always, I am sorry to say,
cowards in every township who will set snares, and get by stealth what
they dare not take openly. And, of the two, I think the snare a greater
danger to the poor birds than the gun.”

“The trouble with feeding game-birds away from houses would be that,
even if you knew their runs, and I think I know some pretty well, the
feed would most likely blow away or be snowed under unless they ate it
right away,” said Jack Todd, Tommy’s second eldest brother.

“Yes, that is one of the difficulties, but I think an idea that I have
borrowed, and am trying now for myself, may partly solve the trouble.
Look ahead of you, close to the rail fence. What do you see? No; don’t
rush to the fence and trample the snow; keep on the lane side.”

“It’s some sort of a tent,” said Tommy; “I thought at first it was just
a corn-stack with snow on it.”

“No; it isn’t a tent,” said Everett Judd, going closer; “it’s only bean
poles stacked with the vines left hanging, two rows of them, so’s the
snow won’t all drift in at one spot.”

“And what else?” asked Gray Lady. “Don’t you see cracked corn and mill
sweepings scattered in between the poles? This is a feeding-station for
our friends, the game-birds, if we can only make them understand that it
is not a form of trap and does not hold a snare in disguise.”

Jack Todd, who had gone close to the tepee on one side, stepping on
stones that he might avoid tracking the snow, and was examining the
ground intently, suddenly cried out, “There _have_ been mill sweepings
here, because I can see some dust, but the grain is all gone, and I
guess—no; I’m _sure_—there have been Grouse about, and they have fed
here since snow fell, for there are tracks coming out from under the
fence and going back the same way!”

“But how can you tell that they belong to Grouse?” asked Gray Lady,
coming close to look at the prints and thinking in her excitement they
might have been made by chickens.

“No, they are real Grouse tracks, for they’ve got their spiked
snow-shoes on, and here’s the marks of the prickers!” And Jack pointed
to the footprints of the brushed claws in triumph.

“This proves two points,” said Gray Lady, “that there are Grouse in the
neighbourhood, and that they will take food if it is offered to them in
the right way. I should like to put up a dozen of these
feeding-stations, if you boys will help; you know the woods and
brush-lots better than I do now, and you can select the places that will
be suitable for these shelters and find what material there is close at
hand of which they can be built.

“When this is done, I shall again have to depend upon you for keeping
them supplied with food. If we find that the grain is eaten, I think
that it should be renewed three times a week, so if six of you boys will
volunteer for the service, two can go together, and it will only make
one trip a week for each pair. If the snow is deep, you might possibly
arrange to fit some boxes to your sleds to hold food, or, if the
shelters are in rough ground, a bag fastened to the shoulders like a
pedler’s pack might work well; for, in doing this work on a large scale,
merely a pocketful of food will not suffice.”

“I will help,” said Jack Todd, after thinking a moment. “Me, too,” said
Everett, and Irving Todd, together; then of course the others followed,
Dave and Tommy anxious lest they should be left out, while Bobby and
little Jared Hill, though too small to undertake to care for a station
alone, were acceptable as companions for the big boys.

“We have the rest of this week, and all of next for a holiday,” said
Jack Todd, “so suppose we take a tramp about the hill country on each
side of the river valley to Centreville, that’s about five miles, and
fetch axes with us. I know most of the people on the way, and, if we put
the shelters somewhere near houses, we could distribute the food along,
and they would let us keep it in one of the outbuildings, so that it
would be handy in stormy weather. I’m pretty sure we can collect stuff
enough as we go for the shelters. My uncle, who lives at Hilltop Farm,
would give me corn-stacks for three or four. There’s a heap of
slab-sides (the outside strip, with the bark, when a log is to be sawn
into boards) left to go to pieces up by where the sawmill was last year;
they will make fine wigwams, and there are plenty of cedars and birches,
with brushy tops, for the rest. Then perhaps the folks along the line
might be interested and rig a few up on their own account.”

“Thank you, Jack,” said Gray Lady, warmly; “you have caught the spirit
of the idea and improved it already, for if we are to do the game-birds
any real good, and establish the feeding plan permanently, the people
all ‘along the line,’ as you call it, must be interested until not only
Fair Meadows township, and the county, but all the counties in the
state, are linked together in the work of restoration.

“Meanwhile, though, of course, everything that is done regularly is
work, I really envy you boys some of the fun you will have in your
winter tramps; sometimes you will be able to skate nearly all the way
upon the river, and sometimes, if the snow is as deep as people are
predicting, you may be able to go on snow-shoes.”

“Only I don’t think any of the fellows hereabouts own a pair of
snow-shoes,” said Everett.

“Then they are the very things for Jacob to help you make if you come to
any of our Saturday meetings,” said Gray Lady. “Jacob was born in
Canada, and worked with fur trappers for several years, and though,
perhaps, he may not be able to make them as well as when he was a young
man, they would surely be better than nothing, and who knows but what
one of the many things that the Kind Hearts will organize may be a
Snow-shoe Club.”

Thus the big boys of Foxes Corner school found themselves interested and
pledged in Gray Lady’s work without a suspicion of the “playing baby” of
which they had such dread.

                 *        *        *        *        *

By the time Gray Lady and the boys returned to Swallow Chimney, the
girls had opened their bundles, and besides little work-boxes, each with
a silver thimble of the right size for the owner, and a pair of scissors
that would “cut clean and not haggle,” as Eliza Clausen expressed it,
there were books for all. Some were about birds, and others about
flowers, trees, butterflies, and the real life out-of-doors that is more
wonderful than any fairy-tale. Having disposed of their own presents,
with many little shrieks of delight, the girls stood by, waiting for the
boys to open their bundles. These were all long and flat, with a bunch
in the centre, as if two objects of different shapes were fastened
together.

Tommy succeeded in untying his first, skeining up the string so that he
might have it for the re-wrapping. A strong, well-made knife, with two
blades fell out, and under it was a hammer, a chisel, a half-inch auger,
and a medium-sized cross-cut saw. Seeing Tommy’s gifts made the others
pull open their packages hastily, with less regard for string and paper,
to find that they also had the coveted tools.

“Now,” said Gray Lady, “you boys will be independent of your fathers’
tools when you take a bird-house home to finish, or wish to do a little
bit of work for yourselves, as the girls will also be independent of
their mothers’ work-boxes and thimbles; because, if the grown-up people
are always having their tools borrowed or mislaid, they are apt to have
a sort of grudge against both the work and the workers.”

Some of the boys looked at each other rather sheepishly, and wondered
how Gray Lady knew that their fathers had said that “since the boys took
to carpentering there hadn’t been a hammer or nail to be found nor a saw
with the sign of an edge left on it.”

“By and by,” continued Gray Lady, “if you have the desire, you will all
have a chance to earn other tools, and also make boxes in which to keep
them.

“You may wonder why the Christmas tree bore no candy by way of fruit;
that was because part of the fun for this afternoon will be making
candy,—caramels, chocolate creams, nut taffy, and old-fashioned pulled
molasses rope-candy,—so that, besides the making and tasting, you will
all have something that you have made yourselves to give the people at
home to-morrow, or put in their stockings if they are hung up. See! here
are the boxes that Goldilocks has made to hold the candy!” There upon a
tray were two dozen square boxes covered with green-and-white paper, and
a row of red-paper hearts pasted across the top of each, with the words,
“The Kind Hearts wish you a Merry Christmas,” printed in red.

“Did you make all those boxes yourself, Goldilocks?” asked Sarah Barnes,
in amazement; “I don’t see how you could turn the corners so nice.”

“Not the boxes; you can buy them for very little at the factory. I
covered them and put the hearts on, but Mother did the printing. It is
easy enough if you take time. You see the two years that my feet
wouldn’t go, I learned to make my fingers work for both.”

“The fire and pans, sugar, molasses, and nuts are all ready, but, before
we become Miss Wilde’s guests and begin, for the candy-making and supper
belong to her party, we must hold a short business meeting of the Kind
Hearts’ Club, that we may decide how the Christmas money is to be
spent.”

Gray Lady then sat down at the end of the room with Mrs. Wilde, while
Goldilocks, the president, took her place at the head of the long table,
with the vice-president, Miss Wilde, close at hand to prompt. Sarah, the
treasurer, and Tommy, the secretary, were on opposite sides of the table
facing each other, and all the others sat up very straight, wearing
various expressions of importance that were quite amusing.

Goldilocks rapped on the table with her pencil, and said in a rather
shaky voice, blushing rosy red as she spoke, “The meeting will please
come to order and listen to the reading of the minutes of the last
meeting.”

There had been but one previous meeting, that to arrange for the
Christmas sale, and it had been informal, so that this was really the
president’s first appearance in the chair, and, as she spoke, she kept
her eyes fastened to the paper upon which Miss Wilde had written the
order to be followed.

“Secretary will please read the minutes of the last meeting,” she said,
after a pause.

The secretary looked around in a hunted sort of way, as if to find an
open door through which he could escape, and, seeing none, got rather
unsteadily upon his feet, opened the square blank-book that Gray Lady
had given him for his records, fumbled with the pages, and then said,
rather than read,—“We were all there. We all agreed to sell the things
we’ve been making so as to get some money to feed birds, and buy things;
and Gray Lady said we could do it in her house; the Saturday before
Christmas was duly appointed, and Dave was to get the bills, to tell
folks it was going to be printed down at the Chronicle Office, because
it is his uncle runs it, and Gray Lady promised to give cakes and
chocolate, in case folks were hungry.

                                        “Respectfully submitted,
                                    “Thomas Todd, Jr., Secretary, Amen!”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Gray Lady did not dare look at Miss Wilde during the reading of this
report, but the children took it in perfect earnestness, and Goldilocks,
having put the report to vote, as she had been told, proceeded to the
next item before her and called, “Report of the secretary.”

Again Tommy fumbled, and, after looking in every page of the book but
the ones that were written upon, suddenly burst forth,—“We had it, and
we sold everything, besides some things we haven’t made yet. The people
ate all there was, and took the other things home. It was a big cinch!
Sarah Barnes has got the money in a box, and her father’s put it in the
clock-case, except some of it that’s in dimes and nickels, and they’re
in a bag in the dresser with the rye meal so’s no one’ll know. Gray Lady
said that to-day we must each bring a paper, with written on it the way
we wanted the money spent. We have. It was hard to write because some
things we would like to have wouldn’t be nice to everybody all around,
and that’s what it means to have a Kind Heart, grandma says.

                                                       “Yours truly,
                                                            “T. Todd.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Action having been taken upon this, and the report accepted without a
dissenting voice, the treasurer was called upon, and Sarah arose.

“The result of the sale of the Kind Hearts’ Club, which was held in the
spacious residence of Mrs. Gray Lady Wentworth on Saturday, December
18th, was very gratifying to all concerned, and the proceeds, fifty
dollars, are now in the hands of the treasurer awaiting the orders of
this august body.

                                           “Respectfully reported by
                                                       “Sarah Barnes.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“How did you get yours together so slick and short, and full of nice
words?” whispered Tommy to Sarah, across the table, his usual admiration
for her now tinged with new respect.

“I didn’t,” she signalled back, not speaking audibly, but making the
words with her lips. “I just told grandma how much money we had, and she
worded it; they always talked reports that way at the missionary
meetings and sewing societies when she was a girl, and she thinks folks
are getting to be real slack talkers now.”

“A dis—cussion is now in order as to the spending of the money. Will
Mr. Todd collect the papers and the vice-president kindly read them?”
said Goldilocks, after looking at her paper again. And as Tommy passed a
little box for the slips, Gray Lady came from the corner, so eager was
she to hear what the children had in view.

Rose Wilde opened the papers, and the ideas on the first few, though
good, presented nothing original: food for birds; books for the school;
bird charts for the Bridgeton Hospital. Sarah’s paper suggested
sleigh-rides and charts for the children in the Bridgeton Orphan Asylum,
“because they don’t know any birds but English Sparrows.”

Tommy’s paper read:—“To fix the spring that used to come down Sugar
Loaf Hill into a trough, before Bill Evans got mad with the Selectmen,
and blocked it from coming through his pasture. There’s no water for
drivers along the road above the Centre until you get to Beaver Brook,
and that’s four miles, unless they get it from our well, which isn’t
handy. My father could fix a big stone trough, ’cause he’s a mason, and
birds and dogs and horses could drink. Birds need water to mix mud for
their nests, too, especially Robins and Wood Thrushes. What is wanting,
is to pipe the spring across Evans’ field,—his widow’d be pleased to
have us; it’s her land. It’s two hundred feet, father says.”

“That is a very good, practical idea, Tommy,” said Gray Lady, earnestly;
“we must consider this.”

Rose Wilde had now come to the last paper without discovering anything
else of special novelty; this was written in little Clary’s stiff
letters, and filled a whole sheet of paper.

“It isn’t for birds, it’s a blanket for Joel Hanks, the mail-man’s
horse. It’s blind in one eye, and it’s a kind horse, and knows where all
the boxes are. It’s got a cough now. Mr. Hanks was going to buy a new
one (a blanket), and get shingles on that end of the barn where the
horse stands, so’s the snow won’t drift in, but his wife got sick last
summer, and had doctors and nurses, and that costs more money than a new
horse, and a whole barn, my mother says. Mother says it isn’t Joel’s
fault he’s poor; he isn’t slack, only some folks are marked for trouble.
Last summer, lightning struck his haystack, and burned it and only his
cornstalks were left. His horse is thin, too. Cornstalks aren’t filling
for uphill work, my father says, and the mail-route is all either up or
down, and in winter downhill is slippery, and just as bad. A horse is a
lovely animal, and useful; I would like us to help this horse. He isn’t
a bird, to be sure, but birds have feathers, and don’t have to drag a
wagon uphill, against the wind, with bent axles. It will take three
bundles of shingles for that barn-end and three lights of window-glass.”

There was silence for a moment, and Miss Wilde, looking at Gray Lady,
while she waited for her to speak, saw tears in her eyes.

“Tommy’s idea about the fountain is excellent, and I think we can build
it before spring, but the blind old horse and his patient master cannot
wait, and they both serve us, each and all, in fair weather and foul.

“How is it, children? Shall we set aside ten dollars for the bird food
for the winter, and then buy Mr. Hanks a ton of good hay, a
horse-blanket, the three bundles of shingles, and the window-glass? And
do you think that you big boys could put on the shingles if Jacob Hughes
helped you?”

“You can just bet we will!” cried Jack Todd, and the others nodded
approval.

This matter also was put to vote, and then a committee appointed,
consisting of Miss Wilde and Jack Todd, to purchase blanket, hay, etc.,
while to Clary fell the inexpressible bliss of stopping at Mr. Hanks’ on
her way home, telling him the news, and taking a blanket, warm but not
new, that Gray Lady loaned until the new one could be had.

“Now for the candy!” shouted Tommy, whose spirits could keep in no
longer.

“The meeting isn’t adjourned, yet,” said Goldilocks, reprovingly,
clutching her paper and pounding on the table. “A motion is in order.”

“I move that we adjourn,” said Miss Wilde.

“Now somebody say, ‘I second it,’” insisted Goldilocks.

“I second it,” came a chorus. And any further remarks were lost in a
shout that arose at the sight of Jim Crow, climbing along a shelf of the
kitchen dresser, with one of the new pairs of scissors in his beak, that
he had managed to take unobserved from nobody-knew-whose work-basket.



                                  XIX
                            BEHIND THE BARS


          _Mockingbird, Cardinal, Indigo-bird, and Nonpareil_

One gray Saturday in January, when the wind rushed through the trees,
making the frozen branches clash with the sound of metal rather than
wood, and it was too cold to snow, Tommy Todd came to the kitchen door
at “the General’s” carrying a large and unwieldy bundle carefully wrapt
in an old quilt.

The door was opened by Matilda, the old coloured woman, who had been
“the General’s” cook in her youth, staying on as caretaker during the
years when the house had been closed. “What you got dere, sonny? Sumpin’
live, ’cause I kin hear hit scratchin’. Don’t say yer bringin’ in a trap
o’ rats, ’cause if dere’s anythink I mislike ’ticular, it is dem.”

“No, mammy; it isn’t rats, it’s a bird,” said Tommy, beginning to unwind
the quilt which covered a long cage made of wood and stout wires. When
he had succeeded in freeing it from the cover, which, being ragged,
caught on the wires, he lifted the cage to the kitchen table, where the
light came full upon it. There, hopping nervously to and fro between the
perches, was a gray bird about the size of a Robin. Its wings and tail
had a browner wash than the rest of its back, while some of its
tail-feathers and its underparts were white, though now soiled and
rather ragged from chafing against the bars. As it moved about, it
whisked its tail to and fro, in very much the same way as our Catbirds
and Brown Thrashers.

Matilda adjusted her big spectacles, grumbling as she did so, “Doan you
know, chile, dat Missy doan like birds to be shet up in cages, and be
prisoners, and sole away from home no mor’n de General would ’low folks
to be shet from liberty an’ traded away? I ’spect she’ll be powerful mad
when she sees dis yere. Whar yeh done git hit?” Then, as she drew near
the cage and saw the bird plainly, which for a moment stopped its
fluttering, she cried, “For de love ob Heaven, honey! it’s a Mocker, and
my ole eyes ain’t seen one since de ole cabin hit burn down, and we was
all scattered out’en, and left Lou’siana for to git Norf!

“My! but what birds dem Mockers were. I kin just year ’em now.” And
Matilda seated herself by the table, pushed back her glasses, and closed
her eyes.

“Winter wa’n’t well ober ’fore dey began to sing up, and come peepin’
around de cabins and in de road bushes lookin’ fer a nest-place.
Sometimes dey put it in de thick bush ober top de swamp, but more times
dey put it close in de rose vines, like as if dey t’ought snakes
wouldn’t likely git ’em dere, ’cause snakes is as set to git Mockers as
de ole one in de garden ob Eden was bound ter git Ebe.

“Dat nest, hit was kinder throwed together ob sticks, but de beddin’ in
hit was good an soft, for de Mockers knew mighty well whar ter find ole
cotton fluff to make a linin’. An’, while all this was doin’, how dey
did sing! Day wasn’t long ’nough fer him, ’cause ’long towards noon his
froat hit git dry and he’d go way down de orange grove an’ rest him jest
a li’l bit, and den come out again an’ git nearer and nearer to de
cabin, an’ when de sun hit role away to bed an’ de moon-up come, he’d
git from de rose vine to de roof, an’ den up to de chimley edge an’ sing
straight down at yer. Laws, honey, yer couldn’t never tell in daylight
what birds was singin’, de real ones or him a-mockin’ ob dem. De Red
Bird with de topknot, de Blue Jay, de li’l Wren wif de sassy tail, de
Hangnest (Oriole), or de Blue Sparrow might all be singin’, for all I
know’d, or hit might be only he a-mockin’ of ’em better than dey knew
how demselves.

“But when hit come night, and eb’ry one was home at de quarters, an’
some was singin’, an’ some playin’ de banjo, an’ de smell from de orange
groves risin’ up powerful on de wind, and sun-down t’ree four hours
gone, den when we heard all dem birds a-singin’, we knew it was de
Mocker, an’ sometimes he wouldn’t stop all the night until de light hit
slip right from silber to gold, an’ den copper, an’ ’twas sun-up again;
an’ in dose days most eb’ry one had a Mocker in a cage. But here I be
runnin’ on ’bout de times when de Lord he let folks an’ wild birds both
be bought an’ sold. Tell me, honey, whar ye done git him? Shore he neber
was flyin’ round about up yere in de cold an’ snow—him what lubs de
sun-up ’way down Lou’siana way.”

“I didn’t put him in a cage, Aunt Tilda,” said Tommy, earnestly; “it is
this way. He belonged to old Ned that works of summers for my Uncle Eph
over at Bridgeton, and then goes home every year down South at
Christmas, to spend the cold weather. This year he has hurt his leg, and
is sick and can’t go, and has to stay in Bridgeton Hospital. So, as he
used to know ‘the General,’ and he’s heard that Gray Lady loves birds,
he told me to bring his Mocker over here, and ask her if she’d keep it
safe and feed it until real warm spring weather, and then hang the cage
outside, and open the door, and let it fly away if it would. ’Cause he
thinks somehow it would find the way home if it wants to.

“He fed it well, and cared for it, and never thought about its being
unhappy in a cage until he had to go to the hospital, and be shut in,
and couldn’t go home South, perhaps, any more. Then I guess he knew how
his Mocker might feel, too. I think Gray Lady will keep him, even though
it says on the Bird Law posters that _you mustn’t keep a wild bird dead
or alive or have its nest or eggs_. Because if Sheriff Blake arrested
her, he knows old Ned and Gray Lady could explain it all so’s she
wouldn’t be fined.”

“What is it that Gray Lady can explain so that she need not be fined?”
said a voice from the store-room on the other side of the entry way, and
“sheself” walked in; “sheself” being Matilda’s name for her mistress
when she wished to use a term that she considered more dignified than
the homely one of “Missy.”

Then Tommy repeated his explanation, while Matilda stood looking at the
Mockingbird and muttering to herself of the many happenings of her slave
days, happy as well as sad, that the sight of him recalled.

“Of course I will keep the Mockingbird until spring,” said Gray Lady,
“and then I will hang the cage in the porch, open the door, but still
keep it well supplied with food, so that he may come and go, and if his
heart leads him back towards his southern birthplace, be sure that he
will join the flock of some of his northern kindred and in their company
reach home.”

“Do we have any kind of Mockingbird up here?” asked Tommy, his eyes
opening in wonder.

“Not real brothers of the Mockingbird, though he has half a dozen in the
southwestern part of the country, but two first cousins, and half a
dozen second cousins. Let us take the Mocker up to the playroom and hang
his cage in the warm window by the chimney, where the sun will shine on
him whenever the clouds let it peep through. Then I will tell you all
who his cousins are, and about three other American birds that for many
years were caught and kept prisoners in cages and sold out of their
native land.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

The children were all gathered upstairs by the time Gray Lady arrived,
followed by Tommy, carrying the cage.

“I had a Robin in a cage, once, and a Catbird, and grandma and Aunt Mary
always have Canaries. Why is it against the law to keep wild birds in
cages? That Mockingbird doesn’t seem to mind it a bit; now that he’s
smoothed down his feathers, and has begun to eat, he acts real happy,”
said Eliza Clausen, after they had looked at the newcomer and heard the
story of his being sent to Gray Lady.

“There are two reasons why wild birds should never be kept in cages
except for really scientific study, or to help them when they are
exposed to cold, or are ill and maimed in some way. The first reason is
that when Nature placed birds in certain localities provided with the
best sorts of beaks, feet, etc., to make them able to earn their living,
it was done because there was work there for them to do that they could
perform better than anything else. They were a part of the Great Plan
for preventing insect life (which also has its uses) from increasing too
much and doing damage. This is the practical way of considering birds
for what the Wise Men call their ‘economic value.’ These birds may be
able to hold their own against the birds of prey, that in the beginning
were doubtless made to keep the smaller birds from becoming too numerous
and upsetting the balance of the Plan, but when man came in, and not
only destroyed them for some fancied damage to his crops, but took the
young from the nest, or trapped the old birds, and sold them into
captivity where they could no longer follow the creative law, to
‘increase and multiply,’ the danger became grave.

“The second reason, however, is one that our own kind hearts can
understand the best, and that is the misery of the bird born wild when
he feels himself a captive. If he outlives the first misery, and seems
to become resigned, he may become content in a way, but he can never
forget the liberty he has lost, nor can we, in any way, make up to him,
by mere food and creature-comforts, the ecstasy of the wild life. The
very fact that the healthful joy of flight and choice in mating is
denied him is enough.

“I did not realize this when I was a girl, and I also kept cage birds
like every one else; it was not because I was cruel, simply that I had
never thought of the matter any more than my friends, until one day,
being ill and shut in my room, like poor old Ned in the hospital, I
watched the fluttering of a Painted Bunting or Nonpareil that my father
had bought me.

“This bird is one of the southern Sparrows, in size no larger than a
Chippy. Its plumage is tropical in its beauty, deep blue head and neck,
red underparts, glistening green back, green-and-red wings, with a
reddish tail; in short, a glittering opal copied in feathers. Its cage
was roomy, and it had the best of food, and fresh water for bathing and
drinking, while the shelf in the window, on which it stood, was filled
with flowering plants, up through the branches of which it could look.
But, oh, the expression of that bird’s body! I watched its every motion;
the head thrown backward, searching in vain for a loophole of escape
between the bars, the quivering of its wings as the impulse for freedom,
and the company of its kind, swept over it! Sometimes, late in the
night, when I awoke and looked toward it, I could see that it was awake
and its wings trembling with the thought of dawn that it could not fly
to meet. Then I knew, even if it became cowed, and forgot its natural
instincts so far as to be dumbly content as a prisoner, that the real
life of the bird would be as dead as if a bullet had ended it, and
though it was late winter, February, I felt that I must give it liberty.

“I told my father, and he sympathized with me as usual, listened to my
story, and then, packing the cage safely, had it sent by special express
to a family friend, who was wintering in Florida, with the request that
she liberate the prisoner. For, as we could not get it to its winter
haunt in the tropics, this seemed next best, and it would soon meet the
flocks of its kin on the return trip.

“So the bird was freed, and once more felt the joy of being lifted on
his wings whither he would go, and whatever loneliness he may have
suffered after that, he had gained liberty, which is the right of the
least of God’s creatures.

“Of the four American birds that were most commonly caged, the
Mockingbird and Cardinal have always been the most popular, and this is
what some of the writers have said about taking them into captivity.


                           _The Mockingbird_

    “The Mockingbird ranges from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and
    from middle Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, southward to
    the Gulf of Mexico. Usually the bird-hunters take the young from
    the nest as soon as they open their beaks for food. These are
    sold in Southern cities by negro boys for from fifteen to
    twenty-five cents apiece. . . . Thousands of Mockingbirds find
    their way across the Atlantic.”—Henry Nehrling.


                             _The Cardinal_

    “This is one of our most common cage-birds and is very generally
    known, not only in North America, but even in Europe, numbers of
    them having been carried over both to France and England, in
    which last country they are called ‘Virginia
    Nightingales.’”—Alexander Wilson.


                           _The Indigo-bird_

    “The combination of musical ability, lovely plumage, and its
    seed-eating qualities long since has made the Indigo Bunting in
    danger of extermination, through the fact of its being
    universally captured throughout the South and sold as a
    cage-bird, both for home use and for export.”


                     _Painted Bunting or Nonpareil_

    “This splendid, gay, and docile bird, known to Americans as the
    Nonpareil (the unequalled), and to the French Louisianans as _le
    pape_, inhabits the woods of the low countries of the Southern
    states.

    “For the sake of their song as well as beauty of plumage they
    are commonly domesticated in the houses of the French
    inhabitants of New Orleans and its vicinity. . . .

    “They are commonly caught in trap-cages, to which they are
    sometimes allured by a stuffed bird, which they descend to
    attack; and they have been known to live in captivity for
    upwards of ten years.”—Thomas Nuttall.

“The Mockingbird, as you see, has sombre gray plumage like his cousin,
the Catbird, that we all know so well that I think he should drop a name
that belies his wonderful musical ability, and be called the ‘Northern
Mockingbird.’ Even though the Mocker is caged, you can see the
resemblance, in the way in which he twitches his tail, and first throws
back his beak and then looks sideways, to our merry singer of the garden
who often makes us think that half a dozen birds are perching in the
drying-yard when he sits upon the top of a clothes-pole and lets his
imagination float away with his voice.

“The Brown Thrasher, too, with the long, curved beak, brown back, and
speckled breast, is also a first cousin and has the Mockingbird habit of
mounting high up when he sings and looking straight up at the sky; while
the Wrens, one and all, belong to this famous family group and come in,
we may say, as second cousins, and like the Mockingbird, aside from the
beauty of song, are very valuable insect eaters. The other three birds
have the conical beak that stamps them as members of the family of
Finches and Sparrows.

“Rich colour is the chief attribute that sets the Indigo Bunting apart
from its kin of the tribe of Sparrows and Finches.

“Blue that is decided in tone, and not a bluish gray, is one of the
rarest hues among the birds of temperate zones; for one may count the
really blue birds of the eastern United States upon the fingers of one
hand.

“This Bunting belongs to the tree-loving and tree-nesting part of his
tribe, in company with the Grosbeaks, and the brilliant yellow American
Goldfinch, whose black cap, wings, and tail-feathers only enhance his
beauty. The Sparrows, of sober stripes, nest on or near the ground, and
their plumage blends with brown grass, twigs, and the general
earth-colouring, illustrating very directly the theory of colour
protection, while the birds of brilliant plumage invariably keep more
closely to the trees.

“In size the Indigo Bunting ranks with the small Sparrows, coming in
grade between the Field- and the Song Sparrows, and being only slightly
larger than the Chippy. The female wears a modification of the Sparrow
garb, the upper parts being ashy brown without stripes, the underparts
grayish white, washed and very faintly streaked with dull brown, the
wings and tail-feathers having some darker edges and markings.

“When it comes to painting the plumage of the male in words, the task
becomes difficult; for to use simply the term indigo-blue is as
inadequate as to say that a bit of water that looks blue while in
shadow, is of the same colour when it ripples out into full sunlight and
catches a dozen reflections from foliage and sky. A merely technical
description would read: Front of head and chin rich indigo-blue, growing
lighter and greener on back and underparts; wings dusky brown, with blue
edges to coverts; tail-feathers also blue edged; bill and feet dark;
general shape rounded and canary-like, resembling the Goldfinch.

“The last of May one of these Buntings came to a low bush, outside my
window, and, after resting awhile, for the night before had been stormy,
dropped to the closely cut turf to feed upon the crumbs left where the
hounds had been munching their biscuits. I have never seen a more
beautiful specimen, and the contrast with the vivid grass seemed to
develop the colour of malachite that ran along one edge of the feathers,
shifting as the bird moved like the sheen of changeable silk.

“The nest, in no wise typical, is a loose and rather careless structure
of grass, twigs, horsehairs, roots, or bits of bark placed in a low,
scrubby tree or bush at no great distance from the ground, and the eggs
are a very pale blue or bluish white, and only three or four in number.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies INDIGO BUNTING
(Upper figure, Male; Lower figure, Female)]

                 Order—Passeres      Family—Fringillidæ
                  Genus—Passerina      Species—Cyanea

“Being a seed-eater, it is undoubtedly this Bunting’s love of warmth
that gives him so short a season with us: for he does not come to the
New England states until the first week in May, and, after the August
moult, when he dons the sober clothing of his mate, he begins to work
southward by the middle of September,—those from the most northerly
portions of the breeding range, which extends northward to Minnesota and
Nova Scotia, having passed by the tenth of October. He winters in
Central America and southward.

“Although of the insect-eating fraternity of the conical beak, the
Indigo Bunting consumes many noxious insects in the nesting season, when
the rapid growth of the young demands animal food, no matter to what
race they belong. Being an inhabitant of the overgrown edges of old
pastures, or the brushy fences of clearings and pent roads, he is in a
position where he can do a great deal of good. Mr. Forbush, in his
valuable book on _Useful Birds and Their Protection_, credits the Indigo
Bunting with being a consumer of the larvæ of the mischievous brown-tail
moth; but whatever service it may do as an insect destroyer, its service
the year through as a consumer of weed seeds, in common with the rest of
its tribe, is beyond dispute.

“The voice of the Indigo Bunting is pretty rather than impressive, and
varies much in individuals. It consists of a series of hurried,
canary-like notes repeated constantly and rising in key, but, to my
mind, never reaching the dignity of being called impressive song.

“Nuttall, one of the early American Wise Men, writes that, though
usually shy, the Indigo-bird, during the season, is more frequently seen
near habitations than in remote thickets: ‘Their favourite resort is the
garden, where, from the topmost branch of some tall tree that commands
the whole wide landscape, the male regularly pours out his lively chant
and continues it for a considerable length of time. Nor is this song
confined to the cool and animating dawn of morning, but it is renewed,
and still more vigorous, during the noonday heat of summer. This lively
strain is composed of a repetition of short notes, which, commencing
loud and rapid, and then slowly falling, descend almost to a whisper,
succeeded by a silence of almost half a minute, when the song is again
continued as before.

“‘In the village of Cambridge (Massachusetts), I have seen one of these
azure, almost celestial musicians, regularly chant to the inmates of a
tall dwelling-house from the summit of the chimney or the tall fork of
the lightning-rod. I have also heard a Canary repeat and imitate the low
lisping trill of the Indigo-bird, whose warble, indeed, often resembles
that of this species.’

“This combination of musical ability, lovely plumage, and its
seed-eating qualities long since has made the Indigo Bunting in danger
of extermination, through the fact of its being universally, throughout
the South, captured and sold as a cage-bird, both for home use and for
export. In that section the bird is called the ‘blue pop,’ a corruption
of ‘bleu pape,’ or ‘pope,’ of the French.

“The Cardinal, called ‘Grosbeak’ from the thickness and size of its
bill, is of course a very conspicuous bird wherever seen, and therefore
has always been a mark for the ‘arrow of death,’ as Mr. Allen, who knows
this bird in its native haunts, and its every mood, puts it. Some day
when you are older you will read his story of it as it lives in the deep
recesses of the evergreen woods, called _The Kentucky Cardinal_. For
though this bird is found nesting as far north as Central Park, New
York, and it has once or twice come to my garden here, and gone into
Massachusetts even, in the fall roving-time, we must always associate
him with a long outdoor season and sunny skies, as we do the
Mockingbird.

“If the Mocker suffered for his voice, the Cardinal was made a prisoner
for his song and gorgeous colour combined, and though, as is bird law in
such cases, the female is dull in colour, she has a very attractive song
also, even in confinement. But I hope that these prison days are over.
Whoever now confines the Cardinal is a law-breaker as well as a
heart-breaker, and yet, but ten years ago, every bird-store window was
aglow with the colour of the Cardinal’s mantle. I have here in the
scrap-book a charming story that you will like to hear, of a Cardinal in
Boston, made a temporary captive for its own preservation, and of its
release when the right time came.”


                        THE CARDINAL AT THE HUB

His range being southern, Cardinal Grosbeak seldom travels through New
England; and, to my knowledge, has never established a home and reared a
family north of Connecticut until in the instance here recorded.
Kentuckians claim him, and with some show of right, since James Lane
Allen built his monument in imperishable prose. But, soon or late, all
notables come to Boston, and among them may now be registered the
“Kentucky Cardinal.”

Shy by nature, conspicuous in plumage, he shuns publicity; and avoiding
the main lines of travel, he puts up at a quiet country house in a
Boston suburb—Brookline.

Here, one October day in 1897, among the migrants stopping at this
halfway house, appeared a distinguished guest, clad in red, with a black
mask, a light red bill, and a striking crest; with him a bird so like
him that they might have been called the two Dromios. After a few days
the double passed on, and left our hero the only red-coat in the field.
A White-throated Sparrow now arrived from the mountains, and a
Damon-and-Pythias friendship sprang up between the birds. Having decided
to winter at the North, they took lodgings in a spruce tree, and came
regularly to the _table d’hôte_ on the porch. My lord Cardinal, being
the more distinguished guest, met with particular favour, and soon
became welcome at the homes of the neighbourhood. With truly catholic
taste, he refused creature-comforts from none, but showed preference for
his first abode.

It was March 5, 1898, when we kept our first appointment with the
Cardinal. A light snow had fallen during the night, and the air was
keen, without premonition of spring. It was a day for home-keeping
birds, the earth larder being closed. The most delicate tact was
required in presenting strangers. A loud, clear summons—the Cardinal’s
own whistle echoed by human lips—soon brought a response. Into the
syringa bush near the porch flew, with a whir and a sharp _tsip_, a
bird. How gorgeous he looked in the snow-laden shrub! For an instant the
syringa blossoms loaded the air with fragrance as a dream of summer
floated by. Then a call to the porch was met by several sallies and
quick retreats, while the wary bird studied the newcomers. Reassuring
tones from his gentle hostess, accompanied by the rattle of nuts and
seeds, at last prevailed, and the Cardinal flew to the railing, and
looked us over with keen, inquiring eye. Convinced that no hostilities
were intended, he gave a long, trustful look into the face of his
benefactress and flew to her feet.

A gray squirrel, frisking by, stopped at the lunch-counter and seized an
“Educator” cracker.

The novel sensation of an uncaged bird within touch, where one might
notice the lovely shading of his plumage as one notes a flower, was
memorable; but a sweeter surprise was in store. As we left the house,
having made obeisance to his eminence, the Cardinal, the bird flew into
a spruce tree and saluted us with a melodious “Mizpah.” Then, as if
reading the longing of our hearts, he opened his bright bill, and a song
came forth such as never before enraptured the air of a New England
March,—a song so copious, so free, so full of heavenly hope, that it
seemed as if forever obliterated were the “tragic memories of his race.”

As March advanced, several changes in the Cardinal were noted by his
ever-watchful friends. He made longer trips abroad, returning tired and
hungry. The restlessness of the unsatisfied heart was plainly his. His
long, sweet, interpolating whistle, variously rendering “Peace . . .
peace . . . peace!” “Three cheers, three cheers,” etc., to these
sympathetic northern ears became “Louise, Louise, Louise!” Thenceforth
he was Louis, the Cardinal, calling for his mate.

On March 26, a kind friend took pity on the lonely bachelor, and a caged
bird, “Louise,” was introduced to him. In the lovely dove-coloured bird,
with faint washings of red, and the family mask and crest, the Cardinal
at once recognized his kind. His joy was unbounded, and the acquaintance
progressed rapidly, a mutual understanding being plainly reached during
the seventeen days of cage courtship. Louis brought food to Louise, and
they had all things in common, except liberty.

April 12, in the early morning, the cage was taken out-of-doors, and
Louise was set free. She was quick to embrace her chance, and flew into
the neighbouring shrubbery. For six days she revelled in her new-found
freedom, Louis, meanwhile, coming and going as of old, and often
carrying away seeds from the house to share with his mate.

April 16, he lured her into the house, and after that they came often
for food, flying fearlessly in at the window, and delighting their
friends with their songs and charming ways. Louis invariably gave the
choicest morsels to his mate, and the course of true love seemed to
cross the adage; but, alas! Death was already adjusting an arrow for
that shining mark.

April 25, Louise stayed in the house all day, going out at nightfall.
Again the following day she remained indoors, Louis feeding her; but her
excellent appetite disarmed suspicion, and it was thought that she had
taken refuge from the cold and rain, especially as she spent the night
within. The third morning, April 27, she died. An examination of her
body showed three dreadful wounds.

Louis came twittering to the window, but was not let in until a day or
two later, when a new bird, “Louisa,” had been put in the cage. When he
saw the familiar form, he evidently thought his lost love restored, for
he burst into glorious song; but, soon discovering his mistake, he
stopped short in his hallelujahs, and walked around the cage inspecting
the occupant.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies CARDINAL
Upper Figure, Female; Lower Figure, Male.]

Louisa’s admiration for the Cardinal was marked; but for some days he
took little notice of her, and his friends began to fear that their
second attempt at match-making would prove a failure. April 30, however,
some responsive interest was shown, and the next day Louis brought to
the cage a brown bug, half an inch long, and gave Louisa his first
meat-offering.

The second wooing progressed rapidly, and May 7, when Louisa was set
free, the pair flew away together with unrestrained delight. After three
days of liberty, Louisa flew back to the house with her mate, and
thenceforth was a frequent visitor.

May 21, Louisa was seen carrying straws, and on June 6 her nest was
discovered low down in a dense evergreen thorn. Four speckled eggs lay
in the nest. These were hatched June 9, the parent birds, meantime and
afterward, going regularly to market, and keeping up social relations
with their friends.

In nine days after their exit from the shell, the little Cardinals left
the nest and faced life’s sterner realities. A black cat was their worst
foe, and more than once, during their youth, Louis flew to his devoted
commissary and made known his anxiety. Each time, on following him to
the nest, she found the black prowler, or one of his kind, watching for
prey. On June 28, the black cat outwitted the allied forces, Señor
Cardinal and his friends, and a little one was slain. The other three
grew up, and enjoyed all the privileges of their parents, flying in at
the window, and frequenting the bountiful porch.

July 25, Louisa disappeared from the scene, presumably on a southern
trip, leaving the Cardinal sole protector, provider, and peacemaker for
their lively and quarrelsome triplet. A fight is apparently as needful
for the development of a young Cardinal as of an English schoolboy,
possibly due in both cases to a meat diet.

Overfeeding was but temporary with our birds. On the 8th of August the
migratory instinct prevailed over ease, indulgence, friendship, and the
Cardinal with his brood left the house, where he had been so well
entertained, to return no more. No more? Who shall say of any novel that
it can have no sequel? Massachusetts may yet become the permanent home
of the Kentucky Cardinal, the descendant to the third and fourth
generation of Louis and his mate.

                                   —Ella Gilbert Ives, in _Bird-Lore_.

                 *        *        *        *        *

As Gray Lady read the story of the Cardinal, the children, between
listening to it and being intent on their work, forgot the Mockingbird
in the window, upon whom the rays of the sun, that had gradually managed
to pierce the clouds, were resting.

As her mother finished and paused, Goldilocks, with a very slight
gesture, directed their glance toward the window, where the Mockingbird,
having completed his toilet and meal, perched, wings slightly raised and
quivering, with half-closed eyes, murmuring a few broken snatches of
song, half to himself and half as if in a dream, his head thrown back
and, oh, such a human expression of longing in his attitude, that Gray
Lady, without speaking, turned the leaves of her scrap-book slowly until
she came to a place where the long line of prose shortened to verse, and
then in a low but distinct voice she read:—


                              IN CAPTIVITY

          You ask me why
          I long to fly
    Out from your palace to the dreamy woods,
    And the summer solitude,
          Why I pine
          In this cage of mine;
          Why I fret,
          Why I set
    All manner of querulous echoes fluttering forth
          From the cold North
    And wandering southward with beseeching pain
          In every strain.
          Ask me not,
          Task me not
    With such vain questions, but fling wide the door
    And hinder me no more;
          Give back my wings to me,
    And the wild current of my liberty.

            *     *     *     *     *     *

          Oh if you please
          Give me release!
          Open the gate
          Of this cage of Fate
    And let me mount the South wind and go down
          To Bay St. Louis town,
          Where the brown bees hum
    In amber mists of pollen and perfume;
          And the roses gush a-bloom!

            *     *     *     *     *     *

          Fainter, fainter—so
          My life-stream sinks—runs low.
                  Ah!
                  Oh!
          Open the cage and let me go.
    Floating, dreaming, revelling, dying, down
          To my mate, my queen, my love
          In the fragrant drowsy grove
    Beyond the flowery closes of Bay St. Louis town.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was very still for a moment, and something fell on Sarah Barnes’ work
that was bright, but it wasn’t a needle! Then, looking across at the
cage, but addressing Gray Lady, she said, “We’ve paid for the shingles,
and the hay, and the horse-blanket, and a chest-protector, besides, for
the horse to wear all the time, to keep the uphill wind off his lungs.
We’ve bought the bags of sweepings for the feeding-places, and there’s
three dollars and eighty-five cents left.

“Couldn’t the Kind Hearts’ Club have a meeting _right away_, and vote to
send Old Ned’s Mocker back down South by express, _now_, before he,
maybe, dies, so’s he’d be there to meet spring, even if old Ned can’t?
Then he’d have time to look up a mate in case his old one has got tired
of waiting for him,” she added in a more cheerful tone.

Gray Lady said that, as all the members were present, a special meeting
would be in order; and two days later the Mockingbird started for the
southern home of one of Gray Lady’s school friends, with a “special” tag
on his well-wrapped cage and a bottle of extra food fastened outside.

Oh, the untold misery and waste of this caging and selling of free-born
birds! It is only one grade less direct a slaughter than killing them to
trim a bonnet. While the sufferings of the bonnet-bird end at once, with
its life, those of the caged bird have only begun as the door closes
behind him.

A few exceptional cases, where birds in care of those who are both able
and willing to make their surroundings endurable, count as nothing
against the general condemnation of the practice of caging birds born
wild.

Those of us who have known, by experience, in caring for wounded or sick
birds, exactly what incessant watchfulness is necessary to keep them
alive, realize how impossible it is that this care should be given them
by the average purchaser.

Birds born and reared in captivity, like the Canary, are the only ones
that real humanity should keep behind bars. There is no more condemnable
habit than taking nestlings of any kind, and trying to rear them, unless
disaster overtakes the parents.

Nominally, the traffic in caged wild birds has ceased; actually, it has
not; nor will it until every bird-lover feels himself responsible for
staying the hand that would rob the nest, whether it is that of the
ignorant little pickaninny of the South, who climbs up the vine outside
the window where you are wintering, and sees, in the four young Mockers,
in the nest just under the sill, a prospective dollar; the child at
home, who likes to experiment for a few days with pets, and then forgets
them; or the wily dealer, who sells secretly what he dares not exhibit.
No quarter to any class who make prisoners of the wild, outside of the
zoölogical gardens or the few private outdoor aviaries, where the proper
conditions exist.

Any free citizen prefers death to loss of liberty, and even the most
material mind will, at least, allow this human quality to Citizen Bird,
while it proves that he or she who either cages or buys the captive
wholly lacks the spiritual quality.

Should we make prisoners of

    “The ballad-singers and the Troubadours,
      The street musicians of the heavenly city,
    The birds, who make sweet music for us all
      In our dark hours, as David did for Saul”?



                                   XX
                            MIDWINTER BIRDS


                            WINTER COMRADES

    Plume and go, ye summer folk
    Fly from Winter’s killing stroke,
    Bluebird, Sparrow, Thrush, and Swallow,
    Wild Geese from the marshes follow,
    Wood-dove from the lonesome hollow
    Rise and follow South—all follow!

    Now I greet ye, hardy tribes,
    Snowy Owl, and night-black Crow,
    Starling with your wild halloo;
    Blue Jay screaming like the wind,
    In the tree-tops gaunt and thinned;
    You in summer called “Bob-white”
    (Voice of far-off fields’ delight).
    Now among the barnyard brood
    Fearless, searching for your food;
    Nuthatch, Snowbird, Chickadee,
    Downy tapper on the tree;
    And you twittering Goldfinch drove
    (Masked in gray) that blithely rove
    Where the herby pastures show
    Tables set above the snow:
    And ye other flocks that ramble,
    Where the red hop trims the bramble,
    Or the rowan-berry bright
    And the scarlet haw invite—
    Winter comrades, well betide ye,
    Friendly trunk and hollow hide ye,
    Hemlock branches interlace,
    When the Northern Blast gives chase.

    —Edith M. Thomas.

These were the hard days for birds and people both, days of sleet and
ice, when the snow seemed to chill and bind the trees down, instead of
winding lovely draperies about them as it did at first.

Toward the end of January the cedar-berries gave out, and the juicy
blackberries of the honeysuckle, that clings to everything that will
hold the vines, became watery and poor; most of the seed-stalks of weeds
were beaten down, and it was “mighty poor picking for birds,” as Sarah
Barnes expressed the matter.

The lunch-counter in Birdland received a fresh supply of food every
morning, and yet, sometimes before dark, every grain had been eaten, and
the generous lumps of suet picked to shreds. The feeding-stations for
the game-birds all had visitors, and the boys, who kept them supplied,
saw, in their walks, many winter birds that they never before knew came
so near to the cultivated farmland.

Acting on the general idea of feeding and sheltering birds that now
seemed to pervade the air of Fair Meadows township, many people
scattered food on the roofs of their sheds, and made openings in their
corn-stacks, or left a window of the hay-barn ajar, where birds might
seek a shelter.

All through the month the resident winter birds were seen at intervals.
Of course, there would be many days when no birds would appear, and it
would seem as if they had all gone, but let the sun shine, and the least
breath of wind blow from the southeast, and they would come out of the
near-by shelter where they had been hiding.

The orchard lunch-counter was the one place where, at least, a single
bird was always to be found, and, at times, as many as half a dozen
different kinds would be seen feeding peaceably together.

Gray Lady kept a list of all the birds that the children reported, and
sometimes it was quite a puzzle for her to name a bird, unknown to the
discoverer, from the description that was brought of it. For to see the
chief points of a bird at a glance is difficult enough in itself, but to
put them into exact words seemed sometimes impossible.

When Dave, on his return from a sleigh-ride to the shore, said that he’d
seen a “big round-headed Owl sitting on a stump in the salt meadows, and
it looked as if it had sat out all night in a snow-squall,” Gray Lady
knew at once that he had seen one of the Arctic or Snowy Owls that
occasionally drift down from the North on a short visit, and that it was
on the lookout for a meal of meadow-mice or other little gnawers.

But when Bobbie, who went to the same location, reported that he had
seen “a flock of birds that were sort of Sparrows with a yellow breast,
and a black mark on it, and long ears,” it took a little time and many
questions before she found that the birds were visiting Horned Larks,
with pinkish brown backs, a black crescent on the breast, and a black
bar across the forehead, that, extending around the sides of the head,
forms two little tufts, or feather horns. For the rest, the throat and
neck were dull yellow, and the underparts white streaked with black.
These birds were little known. They only made flying visits, and gave
merely a call-note, keeping their beautiful song, during which they soar
in the air like the Sky-lark, for their nesting-haunts in the far North.

Gray Lady’s ingenuity was taxed to its utmost, however, when one
Saturday morning little Clary came to the playroom, her face aglow, and
said that she had seen “a brown Blue Jay with a yellow tail and red
wings; not just one, but a whole family.”

For a moment Gray Lady was quite at a loss how to proceed; yellow tail
and red wings were surely startling; then she saw that there must be
some point about the bird that reminded the child of a Jay other than
its colour.

“How did this bird look like a Jay, Clary?” she asked.

“In the head,” came the prompt reply; “it had feathers on top that moved
up and down, the way a Jay’s does, and it was dark in the nose.”

On thinking over the winter birds that had a crest of feathers that
could be raised or lowered, she realized that the Cedar-bird had such a
one, also a black beak, and a black eye-stripe that made it look “dark
in the nose,” but yellow tail and red wings it certainly did not have,
merely a narrow yellow band on the tail and small, waxen, coral-red tips
to some of the wing quills. However, taking half a dozen coloured
pictures from one of the portfolios that she kept at hand to settle
disputed points, she spread them in front of the little girl, who,
without a moment’s hesitation, picked out the Cedar-bird, or Cedar
Waxwing, as it is properly called from its coral wings-tips.

These are the resident birds on the list that Gray Lady kept of those
the children saw during that winter:—

Bob-white
Ruffed Grouse
Red-shouldered Hawk
Meadowlark
Long-eared Owl
Screech Owl
Downy Woodpecker
Robin
Bluebird
Song Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Barred Owl
Cedar Waxwing
Hairy Woodpecker
Flicker
Blue Jay
Crow
American Goldfinch
Chickadee
Herring Gull

This is a list of the visiting birds, that nest in the far North and
drift southward, either in search of food or driven on the course of the
storm clouds; and before February came, with its longer afternoons, the
children could name them all, either from sight or from the pictures in
Gray Lady’s portfolio.

    _Horned Lark._ (See above.)

    _Snowflake._ A bird of the Sparrow tribe, winter plumage soft
    brown and white, colour of dead leaves and snow, black feet and
    bill. Comes in flocks to feed on weed seeds, especially of snowy
    winters.

    _Redpoll._ Of the Sparrow tribe and the size of the Chippy.
    Dusky gray and brown, with long, pointed wings and short, forked
    tail. _Head, neck, and rump washed with crimson!_ A canary-like
    call-note.

    _The Two Crossbills._ (See page 252.)

    _Snowy Owl._ (See page 295.)

    _Tree-sparrow._ (See page 249.)

    _White-throated Sparrow._ The most beautiful of all our
    Sparrows; a plump handsome bird. _White throat and crown
    stripes._ Back striped with black, bay, and whitish. Rump light
    olive-brown. Bay edgings to wings, and two white cross-bars;
    underparts gray. _Yellow spot before eye._ Female, crown brown,
    markings less distinct. Song, sweet and plaintive
    “Pee-a-peabody, peabody, peabody!”

    Abundant migrant; also a winter resident from September to May.

    _Junco._ (See page 250.)

    _Myrtle Warbler._ (See page 250.)

    _Winter Wren._ (See page 247.)

    _Golden-crowned Kinglet._ (See page 249.)

    _Brown Creeper._ (See page 184.)

    _Northern Shrike._ A roving winter resident with Hawklike
    habits, Hawklike in flight: called “Butcher-bird,” from its
    meat-eating habits.

        Length: 9-10.50 inches.

        Male and Female: Powerful head, neck, and blackish beak
        with hooked point. Above bluish ash, lighter on the rump
        and shoulders. Wide black bar on each side of the head
        from the eye backward. Below, light gray with a brownish
        cast, broken on breast and sides by waved lines of
        darker gray. Wings and tail black, edged and tipped with
        white. Large white spot on wings, white tips and edges
        to outer quills of tail. Legs bluish black.

        A call-note, and in its breeding-haunts a sweet,
        warbling song.

In common with all winter birds, its movements are guided by the food
supply, and if severe cold and heavy snows drive away the small birds,
and bury the mice upon which it feeds, the Shrike must necessarily rove.

Grasshoppers, beetles, other large insects, and field-mice are staple
articles of its food in seasons when they are obtainable; in fact, next
to insects, mice constitute the staple article of its diet; and
protection should be accorded it on this account, even though we know
the Shrike chiefly as the killer of small birds. The victims are caught
by two methods: sneaking,—after the fashion of Crows,—and dropping
upon them suddenly from a height, like the small Hawks. In the former
case the Shrikes frequent clumps of bushes, either in open meadows or
gardens, lure the little birds by imitating their call-notes, and then
seize them as soon as they come within range. They often kill many more
birds than they can possibly eat at a meal, and hang them on the spikes
of a thorn or on the hooks of a cat-brier in some convenient spot, until
they are needed, in the same manner as a butcher hangs his meat; and
from this trait the name “Butcher-bird” was given them.

                 *        *        *        *        *

During some of these wintry days of meeting, questions and answers about
the birds seen filled the time, and then Gray Lady read to them from
some of her many books what people living in other places had said and
thought of these same familiar birds. Besides the stories, she told them
many things about the building of a bird, its bones, its feathers, the
reasons why of the various kinds of feet and bills, the grouping of
race, tribe, and family that both divide the bird world and at the same
time bind it together; for she very well knew that when spring came with
its procession of songsters, the children would be so eager to listen,
see, follow, and learn the names of the living birds that they would not
have patience to listen to the dry details.


                              THE SNOWBIRD

    When the leaves are shed
        And the branches bare,
        When the snows are deep
        And the flowers asleep,
    And the autumn dead;
    And the skies are o’er us bent
    Gray and gloomy since she went,
    And the sifting snow is drifting
        Through the air;

    Then mid snowdrifts white,
        Though the trees are bare,
        Comes the Snowbird bold
        In the winter’s cold.
    Quick and round and bright,
    Light he steps across the snow.
    Cares he not for winds that blow,
    Though the sifting snow be drifting
        Through the air.

    —Dora R. Goodale.


                ON HEARING A WINTER WREN SING IN WINTER

    When wintry winds through woodlands blow
    And naked tree-tops shake and shiver;
    While all the paths were bound in snow,
    And thick ice chains the merry river,

        One little feathered denizen,
        A plump and nut-brown winter wren,
        Sings of springtime even there—
        “Tsip-twis-ch-e-e-e cheerily-cheerily-dare”—
        Who could listen and despair?

    Charmed with the sweetness of his strain,
    My heart found cheer in winter’s bluster;
    The leafless wood was fair again,
    Its ice-gems sparkled with new lustre.
        The tiny, trembling, tinkling throat
        Poured forth despair’s sure antidote,
        No leafy June hears sweeter note—
        “Tsip-twis-ch-e-e-e cheerily-cheerily-dare”—
        The essence of unspoken prayer.

    —Lynn Tew Sprague, in _Bird-Lore_.


                             THE CHICKADEE

    When piped a tiny voice hard by,
    Gay and polite, a cheerful cry,
    Chic-chickadee-dee! saucy note
    Out of sound heart and merry throat,
    As if it said, “Good day, good sir!
    Fine afternoon, old passenger!
    Happy to meet you in these places
    Where January brings few faces.”

    —R. W. Emerson.

                 *        *        *        *        *

These are a few of the many bits of verse and poems that Gray Lady read
or recited to the children in these days, some of which they learned by
heart. Once learned, she knew they would never be forgotten, but that
years afterward, when they saw the birds that the lines described, the
words and the days in the schoolhouse and playroom, and the faces of
their companions, would all come back to them.


                          BIRD SONGS OF MEMORY

    Oh, surpassing all expression by the rhythmic use of words,
    Are the memories that gather of the singing of the birds:
    When as a child I listened to the Whip-poor-will at dark,
    And with the dawn awakened to the music of the Lark.

    Then what a chorus wonderful when morning had begun,—
    The very leaves, it seemed to me, were singing to the sun,
    And calling on the world asleep to waken and behold
    The king in glory coming forth along his path of gold.

    The crimson-fronted Linnet sang above the river’s edge,
    The Finches in the evergreens, the Thrasher in the hedge;
    Each one as if a dozen songs were chorused in his own,
    And all the world were listening to him and him alone.

    In gladness sang the Bobolink upon ascending wing,
    With cheery voice the bird of blue, the pioneer of spring,
    The Oriole upon the elm, with martial note and clear,
    While Martins twittered gayly by the cottage window near.

    Among the orchard trees were heard the Robin and the Wren,
    And the army of the Blackbirds along the marshy fen;
    The songster in the meadow and the Quail upon the wheat,
    And the warbler’s minor music made the symphony complete.

    Beyond the tow’ring chimney’d walls that daily meet my eyes,
    I hold a vision beautiful beneath the summer skies;
    Within the city’s grim confines, above the roaring street,
    The Happy Birds of Memory are singing clear and sweet.

    —Garrett Newkirk.



                                  XXI
                     JACOB HUGHES’ OPINION OF CATS


One morning after a light snow-storm, followed by sparkling sunshine,
Gray Lady took the younger children out for a walk through Birdland and
the lane. Not but what even the younger children knew the way! But often
as they had trodden it, there were many things that they noticed for the
first time: the wonderful shapes of the snow crystals, the snow flowers
that blossomed on the old weed stalks, the snow filling that brought
many hidden nests into view, and all the other wonders that are so often
wrought in the winter night, while we sleep soundly.

Tommy and Dave, who had walked on ahead, halted suddenly and picked up a
handful of feathers from the snow and stood looking at them as Gray Lady
came up.

“A bad Hawk or a Crow or Owl or something big has been here,” said Dave,
with a quaver in his voice, “and it’s killed a banty rooster that looks
just like mine, that is, this bunch of feathers does; but then,
Goldilocks has banties, too, so perhaps it is one of hers,” and he held
the feathers up.

Gray Lady took them; yes, they were banty feathers, and from a bird that
had not been long dead, for the quill ends were still moist. Then she
looked at the ground: “Something that did not fly has killed the bantam,
and dragged its body along the ground, and it had feet with padded
claws, look!” she said, and there was a blood-stained trail that skirted
the bushes and then ran across the lane toward a hay-barn that now held
only bedding and cornstalks.

“You children amuse yourselves here while Tommy, Dave, and I follow this
up.”

Nothing could have been more simple than this following, as the
footprints of the large cat, for that is what it was, showed plainly in
the new snow, and, here and there, a few drops of blood also marked the
way. Straight to the barn ran the trail, and then through a small door
that had been left open at Gray Lady’s request, that birds might take
shelter inside.

So they had, poor things, and so had the cat also. On the floor were
other feathers of many kinds, among which Gray Lady recognized the
white-spotted tail-feathers of a Robin, the pointed shafts of the
Flicker, and gray-and-white down that might have come from a Junco’s
breast; while half hidden by loose cornstalks was the foot of a Grouse,
also yellow legs that had belonged to a good-sized chicken.

The boys stood still in amazement, and Dave said, “I knew foxes and dogs
carried things home or buried them, but I didn’t know cats did unless
they have kittens hidden. I wonder if there are kittens in the
cornstalks, and if this cat stole all the chickens we’ve been losing
every day almost along since fall? Because it couldn’t be any kind of
birds that stole them, they couldn’t get in; and father said it lay
between cats, rats, and weasels.”

“We will soon find out,” said Gray Lady. “Will you boys go down to the
stable and ask Jacob to come up? I will watch here.” As soon as they had
gone, Gray Lady went into a corner and seated herself upon a box.
Presently she heard a rustle among the cornstalks and out stalked a
great tiger-striped cat, licking her whiskers. After snuffing the
footsteps of the boys, she began to lash her tail to and fro, which in a
cat means anger, and quite the reverse of the dog’s sociable, “I’m glad
to see you” tail-wag. Then, looking back at the hole in the corn stack
through which she had come, she made a strange sound, half purr, half
growl, that Gray Lady thought was evidently intended as a note of
warning, and then the cat slunk off through the snow, keeping as close
to the fence as possible and dropping her body low as she hurried away.

When Jacob came, he took a hayfork and began to shift the cornstalks
from the corner to the empty floor opposite. The feathers, he said, had
all been gathered during the two past weeks, for when he had last taken
the wood-sled from the barn, no feathers were to be seen.

“Here they are!” he exclaimed, as the last stack was reached, but even
as he spoke, six half-grown kittens, brindled like their parent, sprang
in different directions, some going up on the beams and others diving
into the hay, only one remaining, with arched back and flashing eyes, to
hiss a protest at the disturbing of their comfortable home.

“What’s the use of making bird laws and feeding birds and all that, and
letting wild beasts like these multiply about the country?” said Jacob,
resting on the handle of the fork. “_No, ma’am_, if I had my way, I’d
get up a Kind Heart Club of men to help the birds and rid the township
of homeless cats, red squirrels, and English Sparrows—yes, I would,
ma’am!

“I have eyes and I use them, and I know cats are worse enemies to birds,
counting wild birds and poultry together, than everything else that
walks or flies humped together. Tame house cats are bad enough, for
they’ll kill for pleasure when they’re not hungry. My sister over at
Hill’s farm says she’s taken over fifty dead or half-dead birds away
from her pet cat this summer, until it sickened her of the idea of
keeping cats.

“But when it comes to the half-breeds that some folks let grow up
because they’re too slack to kill ’em, it’s just a crime! Look at this
piece of work here; the cat that has done all this is one of the
outcasts of the lot down at the grist-mill. Cats are only half tamed at
best; let them get a taste of hunting and back they go and are savages.

“They don’t belong to this country; we folks brought ’em, like we did
English Sparrows, and we made a mistake, and we ought to undo it when we
can. Transplanted animals, like pauper foreigners, always get the upper
hand. Traps can catch up the rats and mice, only we’re too lazy to set
them. Cats are no good, even for pets, for they’re tricky, and they
aren’t healthy for children to have because they carry skin diseases and
such in their fur. They claim that Jessie Lyons that died in Bridgeton
’long in the fall got the diphtheria from her cat’s trampin’ all over
creation, and then her huggin’ it.

“If it’s right and proper to license dogs, and if one kills fowls or
sheep, for the town to pay damages, then, say I, the least we can do is
to license cats and hold the owners for their mischief.

“Next to cats I’m most put out with red squirrels and English Sparrows.
The first are sneaks; they take eggs, little birds, and all. They make
free with young gray squirrels, too, and don’t spare their next-door
neighbours even, while Sparrows hustle and do much likewise, taking the
nesting-places of Swallows and Bluebirds and Jenny Wrens, and fighting
and wrastling with anything smaller than themselves, breaking up nests
and pitching out young ones until I just can’t stand it! Now it’s woe to
any of these three that comes across my path. Maybe some folks will say
I’m cruel. Will those folks let mice and rats eat their groceries and
not kill them? and by themselves rats and mice are decent, clean
animals.

“Not they; and to us that love our tree birds, cats and red squirrels
and English Sparrows are hateful as are rats and mice, and I warrant
you’ll not think I’m going too far when I say it, ma’am!”

“No, Jacob, you are right, though I’m sorry to say so,” answered Gray
Lady, still looking at the feathers. “The cat tribe is by nature cruel.
All animals kill for food, but the cat tortures before she kills. I used
to defend the keeping of pet cats until one that I had trusted bit me
through the hand at a moment when I was petting her, without the
slightest provocation. I never knew a dog to bite his master
unprovoked—unless he was ill—and even if we love our cats, we should
be unselfish, for birds are of value to the country at large and cats
are not. Only, I insist upon this, that the killing, even of vermin, is
a matter for the grown-up, and some one with authority should be
appointed to do it. It should not be left to the young and
irresponsible, just as the punishing of human criminals is not a matter
for the people in general to decide and put in execution.

“Yes, boys,” Gray Lady continued, “I wish every one would feel
responsible in this matter. No farmer will raise more poultry or calves
or colts than he can feed and then turn them loose to either starve or
prey upon his neighbours. Why, then, should he allow his cats to
straggle about and kill the song-birds that even much money cannot buy
or replace? But come, we must go on; the others will be wondering where
we are.

“I want you all to look at something at the lane end,—that great beech
tree with the gray streaked trunk. Do you see the sunbeams playing
checkers on the bark, this side? Do you know what this means? I will
tell you. It means that the tide of winter is turning toward spring,
that February is here. We should not know it unless we looked at the day
in the calendar. It is quite as cold as it has been all through the
winter, but the days are growing longer, and now, once more, the sun
slips by the barn in the morning and lies upon the beech trunk that has
been in shadow all winter long.

“My father showed me this when I was a child; and whenever I grew tired
of winter, the earth seemed dead, and it seemed as if spring would never
come back, he would say, ‘Go up the lane and see if the sun’s message is
written on the beech tree.’ So, while it is still winter here, down in
the South the flocks of Robins and Song Sparrows and Bluebirds are
reading the sun’s message, and, far away as spring seems, they are
planning their return. Meanwhile we have the brave winter birds to keep
us cheerful. See the flock of Juncoes alighting yonder. They are as
plump and freshly plumed as new arrivals in spring dress. This Snowbird
is no sloven, he always wears a trim dress-suit.”

    Better far, ah yes! than no bird
    Is the ever-present snowbird;
    Gayly tripping, dainty creature,
    When the snow hides every feature;
    Covers fences, field, and tree,
    Clothes in white all things but thee.
    Restless, twittering, trusty snowbird
    Lighter heart than thine hath no bird.

    —C. C. Abbott, _Snowbird_.



                                  XXII
                    FEBRUARY, “THE LONG-SHORT MONTH”


                    _Bluebird, Song Sparrow, Robin_

“I wonder why February is so long, when it is the very shortest month in
the year?” said Goldilocks one Saturday, as she and Miss Wilde were
walking from Swallow Chimney, up through Birdland, to the big house for
the bird class.

“I have often thought the same thing myself,” answered Rose Wilde, “and
I think it must be because, knowing that it is a short month, we think
spring is hurrying to us because we are trying to hurry toward it.
Spring, however, never hurries to return to New England, even when
nature faces her this way she seems to take pleasure in walking
backward!”

Miss Wilde and Goldilocks had become fast friends since the little
teacher had come to live on the hill. With the interest Gray Lady had
shown in the children and school, the dreary, lonely days had passed
away, and she no longer looked pale and nervous, but was bright-eyed,
with a lovely soft colour in her cheeks, so that, as Goldilocks told her
one day, her name could be written in two ways, Rose Wilde, and Wild
Rose, which, of course, made her blush with pleasure, and look all the
more like that radiant June flower.

Goldilocks would have liked to go to school at Foxes Corners with the
others, but the doctor shook his head and said something to her mother
about “unwholesome stove heat, fresh air but not draughts,” but Gray
Lady smiled at Goldilocks with a mysterious sort of glance that always
hid a surprise and said, “Be content to grow strong this winter and wait
and see what will happen.”

“Yes, but Miss Wilde may go to a better school next year, if she is
well, for you know that Sarah Barnes’ grandmother heard that she had two
chances, one at the Bridgeton High School and one to teach the eighth
grade at the Centre. Besides, the children I like best—Sarah, and
Tommy, and Dave, and Eliza—won’t be at Foxes Corners next year. If
their parents can take turns in lending them a horse, they will have to
go to the Centre School for the eighth grade, because no one can go from
Foxes Corners straight into the High School, and they do _so_ want to
learn.”

“Of course it is quite possible that Rose Wilde may go to another
school, and we would not wish to keep her back, I’m sure, little
daughter.” Something in Gray Lady’s voice made Goldilocks look at her
quickly.

“I can’t guess what it is, motherkin, but I simply _know_ that you have
a secret and a plan in your head that I may not know until summer.” Then
Goldilocks smiled to herself, as she remembered that she also had, or
rather was a part of, a secret of Miss Wilde’s that her mother could not
know until summer; and this secret had many things in it,—girls and
boys, needles and thread and bits of coloured cloth, long walks into the
far-away hemlock woods, axes, and many other things!

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was now the last week in February. Every one was on the lookout for
the first spring migrants, and the children were beginning to bring news
of birds that they had seen imperfectly and yet were sure were new
arrivals from the South. It was impossible that most of these birds
should have been in the vicinity, but the pictures on the charts, mixed
with equal portions of imagination and hope, caused the children to
_think_ they saw the bird that they wished to be the first to report,
rather than the one that was actually there.

Aside from the birds that are represented by a few individuals all the
year the only newcomers to hope for are a few adventurous Blackbirds,
the Purple Grackle, and the Red-wing, and they are not usually seen in
any numbers before the beginning of March. There are three birds,
however, that, unless the month is very stormy, may be expected at any
time to show their fresh plumage and bring the latest news of travel to
their stay-at-home brothers who have remained behind. These are the
Bluebird, the Song Sparrow, and the Robin.

“We all know those. Even little brother Ebby knows _those_ birds,” said
Clary, when Gray Lady proposed to spend the morning in the company of
the most homelike and familiar birds of New England. “That is, Ebby
knows the Bluebird and Robin, and the Song Sparrow if it is singing; but
I do think Sparrows are dreadful hard to tell by sight. If a Song
Sparrow doesn’t sing, and turns his back so’s I can’t see the big spot
and the little one on his breast, I don’t always know him myself.”

“I hope that we all know these three birds,” said Gray Lady, “but, like
old friends, we are even more glad to see them when they come than if
they were the most brilliant of strangers. Old friends also may bring
news, and as for birds, no one can ever be sure that there is nothing
new to learn of them. And as for what we do know, it becomes fresh and
new each spring with his return. One thing about this bird is worthy of
notice, and that is the wonderful way in which Nature uses colour, both
as an ornament and a protection to her children. The majority of the
brightly coloured birds do not arrive until there are at least a few
leaves to screen them; the Oriole, Tanager, Rose-breast, and Indigo-bird
perching on leafless branches. Yet the Bluebird and the Blue Jay, both
of brilliant and striking plumage, are with us when the trees are
entirely bare, and when evergreens are lacking they have only sky or
earth for a background.

“What does this mean? Look out of the window, Sarah, as you are the
nearest to it, and perhaps you will discover. Do you see two Bluebirds
in the branches of the old Bell pear tree in the garden? No? Look again;
they are in the top, where the blue sky shows through the smaller
limbs.”

“No, ma’am; that is, I see something moving, but I can’t see any colour.
Oh, yes! now I do; it was because the blue of their backs came right
against the sky and matched it.”

“Yes,” said Gray Lady, “and the light underparts match the snow and the
ruddy breast the fresh earth, so that the Bluebird’s beauty is his
protection also; for as our dear old friend John Burroughs says, ‘When
Nature made the Bluebird, she wished to gain for him the protection of
both earth and sky, so she gave him the colour of one on his back and
the other on his breast; yes, and we might also add a touch beneath of
the snow that falls from sky to earth.’

“For the rest, who dares write of the Bluebird, thinking to add a
fresher tint to his plumage, a new tone to his melodious voice, or a
word of praise to his gentle life, that is as much a part of our human
heritage and blended with our memories as any other attribute of home?

“Not I, surely, for I know him too well, and each year feel myself more
spellbound and mute by memories he awakens. Yet I would repeat his brief
biography, lest there be any who, being absorbed by living inward, have
not yet looked outward and upward to this poet of the sky and the earth
and the fulness and goodness thereof.

“For the Bluebird was the first of all poets,—even before man had
blazed a trail in the wilderness or set up the sign of his habitation
and tamed his thoughts to wear harness and travel to measure. And so he
came to inherit the earth before man, and this, our country, is all the
Bluebird’s country, for at some time of the year he roves about it from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Mexico to Nova Scotia, though
westward, after he passes the range of the Rocky Mountains, he wears a
different dress and bears other longer names.

“In spite of the fact that our eastern Bluebird is a home-body, loving
his nesting-haunt and returning to it year after year, he is an
adventurous traveller. Ranging all over the eastern United States at
some time in the season, this bird has its nesting-haunts at the very
edge of the Gulf States and upward, as far north as Manitoba and Nova
Scotia.



[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies]

                 Upper Figures—CHESTNUT-BACKED BLUEBIRD
                   Order—Passeres      Family—Turdidæ
                   Genus—Sialia      Species—Mexicana
                           Subspecies—Bairdi

                        Lower Figures—BLUEBIRDS
                   Order—Passeres      Family—Turdidæ
                    Genus—Sialia      Species—Sialis

“When the breeding season is over, the birds travel sometimes in family
groups and sometimes in large flocks, moving southward little by little,
according to season and food supply, some journeying as far as Mexico,
others lingering through the middle and southern states. The Bluebirds
that live in our orchards in summer are very unlikely to be those that
we see in the same place in winter days. Next to breeding impulse, the
migrating instinct seems to be the strongest factor in bird-life. When
the life of the home is over, Nature whispers, ‘To wing, up and on!’ So
a few of the Bluebirds who have nested in Massachusetts may be those who
linger in New Jersey, while those whose breeding-haunts were in Nova
Scotia drift downward to fill their places in Massachusetts. But the
great mass of even those birds we call winter residents go to the more
southern parts of their range every winter; those who do not being but a
handful in comparison.

“Before more than the first notes of the spring have sounded in the
distance, Bluebirds are to be seen by twos and threes about the edge of
old orchards along open roads, where the skirting trees have crumbled or
decaying knot-holes have left tempting nooks for the tree-trunk birds,
with which the Bluebird may be classed. For, though he takes kindly to a
bird-box, or a convenient hole in fence-post, telegraph pole, or
outbuilding, a tree hole must have been his first home, and consequently
he has a strong feeling in its favour.

“As with many other species of migrant birds, the male is the first to
arrive; and he does not seem to be particularly interested in
house-hunting until the arrival of the female, when the courtship begins
without delay, and the delicate purling song, with the refrain, ‘Dear,
dear, think of it, think of it,’ and the low two-syllabled answer of the
female is heard in every orchard. The building of the nest is not an
important function,—merely the gathering of a few wisps and straws,
with some chance feathers for lining. It seems to be shared by both
parents, as are the duties of hatching, and feeding the young. The eggs
vary in number, six being the maximum, and they are not especially
attractive, being of so pale a blue that it is better to call them
bluish white. Two broods are usually raised each year, though three are
said to be not uncommon; for Bluebirds are active during a long season,
and, while the first nest is made before the middle of April, last year
a brood left the box over my rose arbour September 12, though I do not
know whether this was a belated or a prolonged family arrangement.

“As parents the Bluebirds are tireless, both in supplying the nest with
insect food and attending to its sanitation; the wastage being taken
away and dropped at a distance from the nest at almost unbelievably
short intervals, proving the wonderful rapidity of digestion and the
immense amount of labour required to supply the mill inside the little
speckled throats with grist.

“The young Bluebirds are spotted thickly on throat and back, after the
manner of the throat of their cousin, the Robin; or rather, the back
feathers are spotted, the breast-feathers having dusky edges, giving a
speckled effect.

“The study of the graduations of plumage of almost any brightly coloured
male bird, from its first clothing until the perfectly matured feather
of its breeding season, is in itself a science and a subject about which
there are many theories and differences of opinion by equally
distinguished men.

“The food of the nestling Bluebird is insectivorous, or, rather, to be
more exact, I should say animal; but the adult birds vary their diet at
all seasons by eating berries and small fruits. In autumn and early
winter cedar and honeysuckle berries, the grapelike cluster of fruit of
the poison ivy, bittersweet and cat-brier berries, are all consumed
according to their needs.

“Professor Beal, of the Department of Agriculture, writes, after a
prolonged study, that 76 per cent of the Bluebird’s food ‘consists of
insects and their allies, while the other 24 per cent is made up of
various vegetable substances, found mostly in stomachs taken in winter.
Beetles constitute 28 per cent of the whole food, grasshoppers 22 per
cent, caterpillars 11 per cent, and various insects, including quite a
number of spiders, comprise the remainder of the insect diet. All these
are more or less harmful, except a few predaceous beetles, which amount
to 8 per cent, but in view of the large consumption of grasshoppers and
caterpillars, we can at least condone this offence, if such it may be
called. The destruction of grasshoppers is very noticeable in the months
of August and September, when these insects form more than 60 per cent
of the diet.’

“It is not easy to tempt Bluebirds to an artificial feeding-place, such
as I keep supplied with food for Juncoes, Chickadees, Woodpeckers,
Nuthatches, Jays, etc.; yet it has been done, and they have been coaxed
to nest close to houses and feed on window-sills like the Chickadees. In
winter they will eat dried currants, and make their own selection from
mill sweepings if scattered about the trees of their haunts. For, above
all things, the Bluebird, though friendly, and seeking the borderland
between the wild and the tame, never becomes familiar, and never does he
lose the half-remote individuality that is one of his great charms.
Though he lives with us, and gives no sign of pride of birth or race, he
is not one of us, as the Song Sparrow, Chippy, or even the easily
alarmed Robin. The poet’s mantle envelops him as the apple blossoms
throw a rosy mist about his doorway, and it is best so.


                          BLUEBIRDS’ GREETING

    Over the mossy walls,
      Above the slumbering fields,
      Where yet the ground no vintage yields,
    Save as the sunlight falls
      In dreams of harvest yellow,
    What voice remembered calls—
      So bubbling fresh, so soft and mellow?

    A darting, azure-feathered arrow
      From some lithe sapling’s low curve fleet
    The Bluebird, springing light and narrow,
      Sings in flight, with gurglings sweet.

    —George P. Lathrop.

“We become attached to some birds for one reason, and to others for
totally different qualities. We admire the Oriole and Tanager first
through the eye, because of their rich colouring. The Robin we like
because he is always with us, and he was probably the very first bird
that we knew by name and we could watch from the moment the nest was
built until the young left it; so he awakens the general interest first,
and then the ear is won by his cheerful and sometimes remarkable song.

“The Catbird stirs one’s curiosity. We wonder what he will say and do
next; and when he throws back his head to sing, we never can tell
whether a dreamy melody or a series of jeers will be the result. But the
Song Sparrow we love for himself alone, from the very beginning of our
acquaintance.

“In personal appearance he bears nearly all the markings of his
characteristic family, but the few exceptions, if remembered, will tell
you his name: his brown crown-feathers have a gray parting-line, _his
wings have no white bars or yellow markings_, while the breast and sides
are streaked; one large spot in the centre, with sometimes a smaller one
close to it, tell the Song Sparrow’s identity.

“He is seldom seen feeding on the ground like the Chippy, but loves the
shelter of low bushes, from which he gives his warning cry of
‘Dick-Dick!’ and then flies out with a jerking motion of the tail and,
never going high into the air, perches on another bush. If he wishes to
sing, he climbs from the dense lower branches to a spray well above the
others, as if he needed plenty of air and light for the effort, and
bubbles into song.

“As to the nest, well made of roots and bedded soft with fine grass and
hairs, the Song Sparrow uses his own taste, as all birds do, and though
the favourite place is within the crown of a small bush not far above
the ground, or even in a grass tuft close to the earth itself, yet I
have found them in very different places.

“Down in the garden a Song Sparrow once insisted on building, not only
in a flower-bed, but among the stalks of perishable plants that would
wither long before the young left the nest. To prevent disaster, we
drove stakes on each side of the nest, fastened a fruit-box underneath,
and a shelter overhead, so that, when the overhanging blossoms faded,
the sun might not make broiled squabs of the little ones. This brood was
raised successfully, but to our surprise the Sparrows began a second
nest directly opposite the first in the brush of the line of sweet-peas.
The location was chosen with more judgment, but in picking the pea
blossoms I passed within a foot of the nest every morning during the
whole time of building, hatching, and feeding of the young.

“This did not trouble the parents in the least; they seemed to know that
I would neither hurt them nor intrude upon their privacy, by watching
their movements too closely, and the father of the family repaid me by
such music as I never before believed could come from the throat of even
a Song Sparrow.

“At first I wondered why they should have chosen a garden border, when
there were so many near-by bushes about the orchard edge, and tufted
grasses and scrubs in a waste meadow over the way. For, familiar as the
Song Sparrow is, and fearless, too, yet he is a reserved bird even among
his kin, not even travelling in great flocks, and does not care, even
when in the full spring ecstasy of song, to be very near another singer.

“Presently I discovered the reason. Song Sparrows love water, both for
drinking and bathing: and, possibly from close association with it,
these bubblings of the little wayside brooks have had an influence upon
their song. This particular year was a time of severe drought; the
near-by streams were dried up early in June, and the ‘birds’ bath,’ made
of a hollowed-out log, and put in the shelter of some vines at the far
end of the garden, was the nearest available water within half a mile.
This trough was filled every night, and as the hollow sloped gently at
one end, small birds could either walk in it to bathe, or perch on the
edge to drink; and it was the sight of the first brood all bathing
there, a few days after they left the nest, that made me sure that it
was this little watering trough to which I owed their presence.

“Many other birds besides the Sparrows came as well, and Robins and Wood
Thrushes, who use wet clay in the shaping of their nests, found it
particularly useful. Now I have a stone basin for the water, because the
old wooden one was decayed on our return, but I’m sure the birds liked
the mossy log the best, and Jacob Hughes is on the lookout for another.”

Gray Lady paused and looked up quickly, as though a new idea had come to
her; then, glancing at the older boys who had that morning been working
on a large Martin house which had been ordered, and which made it
certain that the wayside drinking-fountain would be built as soon as
frost left the ground, she said, “This suggests something more to be
made for the spring sale. I saw some fine oak and beech logs with the
bark still on at the lumber camp last week. If you are willing to
undertake hollowing them out, it will be a good investment for the Kind
Hearts’ Club to buy a half a dozen of them. When sawn into lengths of
three feet, and the ends covered with bark securely nailed, as all the
bark covering must be, to prevent splitting, the logs will be attractive
both as drinking-troughs for the birds and as features of the gardens
where they are placed, and I am sure that we shall have no difficulty in
selling them. Many people would establish drinking-places for the birds
if they had something suitable to hold the water, but tin pans glisten,
heat quickly, and even earthenware dishes are slippery, while the hollow
log, that soon mosses over, must seem to the wild bird like a natural
bit of the woods. Only one thing must be remembered: the log must not be
allowed to become dry at any season, or it will warp and split.

“It would be worth the trouble of keeping such a fountain filled, I am
sure, if only to lure a single pair of Song Sparrows about the garden or
yard. For this Sparrow is the only bird whose song I have heard in every
month of the year. Not the full spring song, of course, though I have
heard a very perfect melody in December; but in dreary winter, when the
scatter-brained Robin has forgotten his alarm cry of
‘Quick-Quick-Quick!’ the dear little bird will find a warm spot in which
to sun himself after a hard-earned meal of gleaned weed seeds,—for like
all of his tribe he is a valiant Weed Warrior, working in the
home-fields when other birds have followed the sun for richer
fare,—and, after swelling his throat vainly for a few moments, begin to
whisper a song, as if in a dream, that finally grows strong and clear.

“Yes, neither winter nor the darkness of night dishearten the Song
Sparrow. Last season, in the darkest of summer nights, when some slight
sound had awakened the feathered sleepers, I have heard a few subdued
bars of his song from almost under my window, and I have thought, ‘Yes,
there you are, dear little companion, cheerful by day and night, in
summer and in winter; how much we, who are called the “higher animals,”
have yet to learn from you.’

“Another thing of interest about the Song Sparrow: like the Bluebird, he
belongs not alone to us of the East, but to the whole United States as
well. To be sure, he changes his size, dress, and name slightly
according to location, as does the Bluebird; another proof of the
adaptability of the bird to circumstances.


                            THE SONG SPARROW

    By the road in early spring
    Always hopefully you sing;
    It may rain or it may snow,
    Sun may shine or wind may blow,
    Still your dainty strain we hear—
          “Cheer—Cheer—
          Never, never fear,
          May will soon be here.”
    Darling little prophet that you are!

    When at last the leaves are out
    And wild flowers all about,
    Songs of other birds are fraught
    With the spirit that you taught.
    Still you sing on, sweet and clear—
          “Hear—Hear—
          Happy, happy cheer,
          Singing all the year.”
    Jocund little brother of the air.

    —Lynn Tew Sprague.

“Many birds that inhabit parts of the country having different climates
vary thus in colour. In the hot, dry desert regions the bird will be
found smaller and paler; in the cool, well-watered North, larger and of
deeper hue.

“Bob-white comes under this law, and our birds in New England are larger
and of more brilliant hue than their southern brothers.

“Now is a chance for you to look at the map. The Song Sparrow as we know
him lives east of the Rockies. Start at the extreme northern portion of
Alaska. Here is found the largest of the race, the Aleutian Song
Sparrow. Next come down to the coast of British Columbia and Southern
Alaska, where the rainfall is one hundred and twenty-five inches in a
year, and you see the home of the Sooty Song Sparrow, the darkest in
colour of all.

“If you then travel farther to the desert regions of Nevada and Arizona,
where the rainfall is only six inches, you will find the palest of all,
the Desert Song Sparrow; and, finally, on the border between Mexico and
Central America, lives the Mexican Song Sparrow, the smallest of the
tribe.[4]

“So, wherever we wander our country over, we find this bird to be a
reminder of home, which, after all, is the best thing that can happen to
us, wherever we go or whatever we see; for the proof that journeys are
healthful for body and mind lies in the joy with which, like the bird
wanderers, we turn homeward at the end.

“You children may not think of this now. You may think, possibly, that
home is dull and full of work, that the birds and flowers of other
places are better. Wait a few years and see. Wait until you have been so
far away that you could not get home, or have been filled with dread
that a day was near when there would be no home there. Then return, and
stand under the sky at evening, and listen to the voice of the Song
Sparrow down in the alders, and you will not only know that God is very
near, but that He is very good, and a part of your home itself.


                            THE SONG SPARROW

    There is a bird I know so well,
      It seems as if he must have sung
      Beside my crib when I was young;
    Before I knew the way to spell
      The name of even the smallest bird,
      His gentle, joyful song I heard.
    Now see if you can tell, my dear,
    What bird it is that every year,
    Sings “Sweet-sweet-sweet, very merry cheer.”

    He comes in March when winds are strong,
      And snow returns to hide the earth;
      But still he warms his heart with mirth,
    And waits for May. He lingers long
      While flowers fade; and every day
      Repeats his small contented lay,
    As if to say, we need not fear
    The season’s change, if love is here,
    With “Sweet-sweet-sweet, very merry cheer.”

    He does not wear a Joseph’s coat
      Of many colours, smart and gay:
      His suit is Quaker brown and gray,
    With darker patches at his throat.
      And yet of all the well-dressed throng
      Not one can sing so brave a song.
    It makes the pride of looks appear
    A vain and foolish thing, to hear
    His “Sweet-sweet-sweet, very merry cheer.”

    —Henry Van Dyke, from _The Builders and Other Poems_.

                 *        *        *        *        *


                             ROBIN REJOICE

    Among the first of the spring,
    The notes of the Robin ring;
        With flute-like voice,
        He calls, “Rejoice,
    For I am coming to sing!”

    To any one gloomy or sad,
    He says, “Be glad! be glad!
        Look on the bright side,
        ’Tis aye the right side;
    The world is good, not bad.”

    At daybreak in June we hear
    His melody, strong and clear:
        “Cheer up, be merry,
        I’ve found a cherry;
    ’Tis a glorious time of the year!”

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.

[Illustration: ROBIN]

“Our Robin is a big-bodied Thrush, whereas the Robin-redbreast, the Cock
Robin of story, is more nearly akin in size and build to our Bluebird.
If you want to see the family marks that yoke the Robin to his Thrush
cousin, look carefully at the youngsters as they are leaving the nest,
and you will see that instead of wearing plain brick-coloured breasts
like the parents, they are striped like the Thrushes; this marking
disappears after their first moult. As for Robin himself, you know him
well, but can any of you tell exactly the colour of his clothing?”

Sarah and Tommy raised their hands at the same time, but as ladies come
first, Sarah began: “He is gray on top, and red underneath, and he’s got
white spots outside of his wings.”

“Very good, indeed,” said Gray Lady; “but can you add anything to that,
Tommy?”

“Yes, ma’am; he’s black on top of his head, and he’s got a white chin
and eye spot and a yellow beak.”

“Why, Tommy, that is really very good; I didn’t know that any of you
children had learned to look so carefully and remember.”

“I saw all that yesterday,” said Tommy, in a state of glee. “There came
a flock of bran’-new fresh birds, and sat in the cedar bushes back of
the barn, but they didn’t find many berries, because the winter birds
have eaten them. Ma gave me some old cake to crumble up, and I put some
on the top of the stone fence, and some right on the shed, and this
morning when I first looked out, a couple of them were out there eating
it, and I got a good square look at them. They liked that cake because
it had currants in it.”

“So Tommy is the first to report a ‘bran’-new’ Robin flock,” said Gray
Lady. “Now that they have really come, will any of the others tell me
what they know about Robins? Begin at Sarah’s end of the table.”

“Robins build mud nests before there are any leaves to hide them, and
cats often get them when they are sitting,” said Sarah; “and then by and
by, when they build another nest, maybe they’ll put it out on a branch
that’s weak, and when it storms and the nest gets wet and heavy, it
falls down all of a lump. They seem to get along best when they come
under the porch or get in a high up crotch.”

“I like Robins,” said Eliza, who sat next, “because they stay around and
let you look at them; but I think that they aren’t very clever birds,
for instead of keeping quiet when anything comes near the nest, they
holler like everything, so that you can tell just where it is. We had a
nest in the grape-vine outside the kitchen window, and you couldn’t
believe what those little birds ate in one day. I had the mumps and had
to stay inside, so I watched them. They ate all the time, that is, in
turn, for the old birds seemed to know just which one had food last.
Sometimes, if they had a little worm or a bug, they gave it all to one,
but if it was one of those long, rubberneck earthworms, they would twist
it and bite pieces off and ram one down each throat.

“My Ma said it made her dreadful tired to see how much those four little
birds ate, and that if children were as hungry as that, nobody would
have the patience to cook food and raise any. When they grew too big for
the nest, they sort of fell out into the vine and stayed in that for a
few days, and their father and mother fed them just the same. They
couldn’t fly well at first, because their tails were so short that they
upset.”

“You watched them quite carefully,” said Gray Lady, “but can you tell me
what happened after they were able to fly?”

“Yes, ma’am, they acted real mean. They went right down in the cedar
trees beyond the garden to sleep, and every morning before father or my
brothers were up they went into the strawberry bed, and even before any
were ripe, they bit the red side of the green ones and spoiled them.
Father was pretty mad, because our land has run out for onions and we’ve
got to raise berries for a few years—all kinds, raspberries, currants,
blackberries—to even up.

“Father dassent shoot the Robins, ’cause of the law, and besides, we
like ’em real well after berry time, so brother John he made a plan, and
it worked splendid. He fixed up a nice little house like a chicken-coop
and put it on a stump in the middle of the bed, and then he put our cat
in the house. She was comfortable and had good eating and plenty of air,
but of course she couldn’t get out, so she just sat there and growled
and switched her tail at the birds, and they stayed away.”

Gray Lady laughed heartily at this scheme, which certainly was very
ingenious.

“That was truly a new sort of scarecrow, and much better than firing off
blank cartridges in the nesting season, when other birds might be
frightened. However, it proves one thing without a doubt, that cats are
the worst enemies that wild birds have to fear, and shows us how careful
we should be about turning them out at large, outside of the cities
where there are no birds, or keeping more than one under any
circumstances.

“What I meant to ask was, do you know what the young Robins do after
they leave the nest and the mother bird is perhaps busy with some
younger brothers and sisters?

“The father birds choose some tall trees with plenty of leaves, or if
evergreens are at hand, they prefer them, and go there in parties of
from half a dozen to a hundred every night, leaving the mother birds to
tend the nest. When the first brood is able to fly, they go with papa to
this roost, where his warning ‘Quick! Quick!’ tells them of dangers they
do not yet understand.

“Then, when the nesting is over, all the Robins unite in a flock, but
wherever they go, or however far they range in the day, night sees them
collected at some favourite roosting-place. I know about this habit very
well, because ever since I can remember these spruces outside the window
have been used as roosts by many generations of Robins all through the
season, except in the dead of winter, when they prefer to nestle into
the heart of the young cedars.

“Of course it is not to be denied that Robin likes berries and eats them
without asking leave or waiting for sugar and cream, but we must think
of this: the farmers are of more importance than any other class of
people, for they give the world food. Therefore, the bird laws are made
for their benefit, even when at first it might seem otherwise.

“The Robin only troubles berries in June, July, and August, and grapes
in September, while all the rest of the year he does valiant work as a
gleaner of insects that cannot easily be destroyed by man,—many beetles
that destroy foliage and their white grubs that eat the roots of hay,
grass, and strawberry plants, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, moths,
army-worms, and the larvæ of the owlet moths, better known as
army-worms.

“So you can see that if the Robin helps the farmers in this way, the
fruit grower should be willing to protect his crops in other ways than
by shooting his friend and his children’s friend, the Robin.

“One other reason there is, also, why we of the North should protect the
Robin at home; in many southern states he is a legal mark for all who
wish to kill him. Not only is the Robin to be found in the markets, but
shooting him merely for competition, to see who can bag the most, is a
common form of—sport, I was going to say, but game of chance is better.

“Let the Kind Hearts of the North be kind to dear blundering brother
Robin, that by the very force of example the hearts of others may be
warmed to show mercy and their heads be given the intelligence to see
that, in shooting the migrant Robins by the hundreds, the loss is to
their country and themselves.”

“Look! Oh, look, Gray Lady!” cried little Clary, climbing to the
window-seat; “here are some bright, fresh Robins lighting on the
spruces. Let’s play they are some that roosted there last summer; or
maybe were hatched right in the orchard, and that they are real glad to
get home again.”


                              ROBIN’S MATE

    Everybody praises Robin,
      Singing early, singing late;
    But who ever thinks of saying
      A good word for Robin’s mate?

    Yet she’s everything to Robin,
      Silent partner though she be;
    Source and theme and inspiration
      Of each madrigal and glee.

    For as she, with mute devotion,
      Shapes and curves the plastic nest,
    Fashioning a tiny cradle
      With the pressure of her breast,

    So the love in that soft bosom
      Moulds his being as ’twere clay,
    Prints upon his breast the music
      Of his most impassioned lay.

    And when next you praise the Robin,
      Flinging wide with tuneful gate
    To his eager brood of love-notes,
      Don’t forget the Robin’s mate.

    —Eliza Gilbert Ives.

-----

[4] See _Climatic Variations in Colour and Size of Song Sparrow_, F. M.
Chapman.



                                 XXIII
                                 MARCH


                     _Red-wings and Pussy-willows_


                                 MARCH

    March! March! March! They are coming
      In troops to the tune of the wind;
    Red-headed Woodpeckers drumming,
      Gold-crested Thrushes behind.
    Sparrows in brown jackets hopping
      Past every gateway and door.
    Finches with crimson caps stopping
      Just where they stopped years before.

    —Lucy Larcom.

“How do the birds know when spring has come? How can they tell the
difference between a warm day in December and a warm day in March when
the ground is still snow covered? We ourselves might be puzzled to tell
the difference if we had not kept record of the days and weeks by the
almanac.

“But the birds know. The Red-wings, Grackles, and Cowbirds will not
return for the warmest December sun, but let the sun of early March but
blink, and they are up and away, oftentimes stealing a march on shy
Pussy-willow herself.

“Unless the season is very stormy, as we have seen for ourselves this
year, a few Robins, Bluebirds, and Blackbirds are added to the winter
residents in February. These, however, belong to a sort of roving
advance-guard; the real procession comes in March, the exact time
depending upon the weather, for the insect-eating birds cannot stay if
their larder of field and air is ice locked.

“So we may look for larger flocks of the birds that drifted along in
February, and in addition to these the Woodcock, the Great Fox Sparrow
as big as the Hermit Thrush, Phœbe, Kingfisher, Mourning Dove, and Field
Sparrow of the flesh-pink bill, rusty head and back, and buff breast,
who sings his little strain, ‘cherwee-cher-wee-cherwee-iddle-iddle-iddle
ee,’ as the sun goes down.

“The three birds that are the most noticeable in the latter part of
March, that has made up its mind to go out like a lamb and let
Pussy-willow wave in peace in moist pasture and the delicate
blue-and-white hepaticas star the edges of dry woods, are the Red-winged
Blackbirds, the Kingfishers, and the cheerful little Phœbe. All love the
vicinity of water, but the Red-wing locates often in merely marshy
ground, while the bird who is a fisherman by trade locates near a pond
or stream of considerable size and the Phœbe comes to house or woodshed.

“‘Among all the birds that return to us in late March or April, which is
the most striking and most compels attention?’ asked a bird-lover of a
group of kindred spirits.

“‘The Fox Sparrow,’ said one, who lived on the edge of a village where
sheltered wild fields stretched uphill to the woodlands. ‘Every morning
when I open my window I can hear them almost without listening.’

[Illustration: RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD
(Upper Figure, Male; Lower Figure, Female)]

                  Order—Passeres      Family—Icteridæ
                 Genus—Agelaius      Species—Phœniceus

“‘The Phœbe,’ said another, who was the owner of a pretty home, where
many rambling sheds broke the way from cow-barn to pasture.

“‘The Whip-poor-will, but that does not come until late in the month,’
answered a third, a dweller in a remote colony of artists in a
picturesque spot of cleared woodland, where the ground dropped quickly
to a stream.

“‘No, the Woodcock,’ said her nearest neighbour, a man whose cottage was
upon the upper edge of these same woods, where they were margined by
moist meadows and soft bottom-lands,—a man who spent much time
out-of-doors at dawn and twilight studying sky effects.

“‘And I think it’s Red-winged Blackbirds,’ cried the ten-year-old son of
the latter; ‘for when I go out up back of the trout brook by the little
path along the alders near the squashy place where the cat-tails grow in
summer, you’ve just got to hear them. You can’t listen to them as you do
to real singing-birds, for they make too much noise, and when you listen
for a bird it’s got to be still, at least in the beginning. Sometimes
they go it all together down in the bushes out of sight, then a few will
walk out up to the dry Meadowlark’s field with Cowbirds, or maybe it’s
their wives, and then one or two will lift up and shoot over the marsh
back again, calling out just like juicy sky-rockets. Ah, they’re in it
before the leaves come out to hide them even the least bit.’ And, in
spite of difference of viewpoint, the group finally acknowledged that
the boy was right.

“In point of colouring, the Red-wing is faultlessly plumed,—glossy
black with epaulets of scarlet edged with gold, the uniform of a
soldier,—and this, coupled with the three martial notes that serve him
as a song, would make one expect to find in him all the manly and
military virtues. But aside from the superficial matter of personal
appearance, the Red-wing is lacking in many of the qualities that endear
the feathered tribe to us and make us judge them, perhaps, too much by
human standards.

“When Red-wings live in colonies it is often difficult to estimate the
exact relationship existing between the members, though it is apparent
that the sober brown-striped females outnumber the males; but in places
where the birds are uncommon and only one or two male birds can be
found, it is easily seen that the household of the male consists of from
three to five nests, each presided over by a watchful female, and when
danger arises, this feathered Mormon shows equal anxiety for each nest,
and circles screaming about the general location. In colony life the
males ofttimes act in concert as a general guard, being diverted
oftentimes from the main issue, it must be confessed, to indulge in
duels and pitched battles among themselves.

“The Red-wing belongs to a notable family,—that of the Blackbirds and
Orioles,—and in spite of the structural semblances that group them
together, the differences of plumage, voice, and breeding habits are
very great.

“The Cowbird, the Red-wing’s next of kin, even lacks the rich liquid
call-note of the latter, and the lack of marital fidelity, on the part
of the male, is met in a truly progressive spirit by the female, who,
shirking all domestic responsibility, drops her eggs craftily in the
nests of other and usually smaller birds, who cannot easily resent the
imposition; though a strong proof of the unconscious affinity of race
lies in the fact that these young foundling Cowbirds invariably join the
parent flocks in autumn instead of continuing with their foster-mothers.

“The Meadowlark, with the true spring song, who hides his nest in the
dry grass of old fields, is also kin to the Red-wing, and the Bobolink,
too, the vocal harlequin of the meadows and hillside pastures. The
Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, also next of kin, are skilled musicians
and model husbands.

“Still another plane is to be found in the Red-wing’s dismal cousins,
the Grackles,—Purple, Rusty, Bronzed, and Boat-tailed,—all harsh of
voice and furtive in action, as if a Crow fairy had been present at
their creating and, endowing them with ready wits, had, at the same
time, deprived them of all sense of humour and cast a shadow upon their
happiness. For a Grackle is gloomy even during the absurd gyrations of
his courtship, and when, in autumn, the great flocks settle on lawns and
fields, and solemnly walk about, as they forage they seem like a party
of feathered mutes waiting to attend the funeral of the year; and this
trait somewhat tinctures the disposition of the Red-wing before and
after the breeding season.

“The Red-wing in one of his many subspecific forms, and masquerading
under many names,—Red-shouldered Blackbird, American Starling, and
Swamp Blackbird,—lives in North America from Nova Scotia and the Great
Slave Lake southward to Costa Rica. The Red-wing, as known to us of
middle and eastern North America, breeds in all parts of its United
States and Canadian range, though it is more numerous by far in the
great prairies of the upper Mississippi Valley, with their countless
back-water sloughs, than anywhere else. It is in regions of this sort
that the great flocks turn both to the fall-sown grain, as well as that
of the crop in the ear, causing the farmers the loss that puts a black
mark against the Red-wings. Yet those that dwell east of this area,
owing to the draining and ditching of their swampy haunts being in much
reduced numbers, are comparatively harmless.

“During the winter months the Red-wings are distributed throughout the
South, though stragglers may be occasionally seen in many parts of their
summer range. Exactly why they begin the southward migration in
September and end it with the falling of the leaves in late October, it
is not easy to guess; for the food supply is not at an end, and they do
not dread moderate cold, else why should they be in the front rank of
spring migrants?

“The last of February will bring a few individuals of the advance-guard
of males. In early March their calls are heard often before the ice has
melted and the hylas found voice; yet in spite of this hurried return,
the nesting season does not begin until the middle of May; and so for
two months and more the flock life continues, and foraging, fighting,
and general courting serve to kill time until the remote marshes show
enough green drapery to hide the nests.

“As a nest-builder the Red-wing shows much of the weaver’s skill of its
Oriole cousins, though the material they work with is of coarser
texture, being fastened firmly to low bushes or reeds and woven of grass
and the split leaves of reeds and flags, all nicely lined with soft
grasses and various vegetable fibres. Often, like that of the Marsh
Wren, the nest will be suspended between three or four reeds, and so
firmly knit that it resembles one of the four-legged work-baskets that
belonged to the ‘mother’s room’ of our youth. The pale blue eggs of the
Red-wing are particularly noticeable from the character of the markings
that thickly cover the larger end, for they seem the work of a sharp
scratching pen dipped in purplish black ink and held by an aimless human
hand, rather than the distribution of natural pigment.

“An eater of grain though the Red-wing is, and a menace to the farmer in
certain regions, Professor Beal concedes to him a liberal diet of weed
seeds and animal food, itself injurious to vegetation. Dr. B. H. Warren,
who has made a wide study of the food habits of this Blackbird, says:
‘The Red-wing destroys large numbers of cutworms. I have taken from the
stomach of a single Swamp Blackbird as many as twenty-eight cutworms. In
addition to the insects, etc., mentioned above, these birds also, during
their residence with us, feed on earthworms, grasshoppers, crickets,
plant-lice, and various larvæ, so destructive at times in field and
garden. During the summer season fruits of the blackberry, raspberry,
wild strawberry, and wild cherry are eaten to a more or less extent. The
young, while under parental care, are fed exclusively on an insect
diet.’

“Mr. Forbush also tells us that Kalm states in his _Travels in America_,
that in 1749, ‘after a great destruction among the Crows and Blackbirds
for a legal reward of three pence per dozen, the northern states
experienced a complete loss of their grass and grain crops. The
colonists were obliged to import hay from England to feed their cattle.
The greatest losses from the ravages of the Rocky Mountain Locust were
coincident with, or followed soon after, the destruction by the people
of countless thousands of Blackbirds, Prairie Chickens, Quail, Upland
Plover, Curlew, and other birds. This coincidence seems significant, at
least. A farmer from Wisconsin informed me that, the Blackbirds in his
vicinity having been killed off, the white grubs increased in number and
destroyed the grass roots, so that he lost four hundred dollars from
this cause.’

“These facts should make us of the East welcome rather than discourage
the Red-wing; for this is one of the species of familiar birds that must
become extinct in many localities, owing to the circumstance, so
desirable in itself, of reducing the waste marshlands, and though, later
in the year, other birds replace him acceptably, March and April would
seem lonely without the Red-wing, for then, as the child said, ‘you’ve
just got to look at him.’

                 *        *        *        *        *

“The Kingfisher is certainly one of the most dashing birds that we have;
without having the cruel and ferocious expression of some of the smaller
Hawks, he has the swagger and dash of a feathered brigand.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies BELTED KINGFISHER
(Upper Figure, Female; Lower Figure, Male)]

                 Order—Coccyges      Family—Alcedinidæ
                    Genus—Ceryle      Species—Alcyon

“His plumage is beautiful in texture and soft in colour; bluish gray
that sometimes looks quite blue in the bright light; wings and
tail-feathers spotted with white, a white collar deep in front and
narrow at the back, and a broad belt of the gray crossing the white
breast and seeming to keep the gray mantle from slipping from his
shoulders. The long head-feathers, also of the bluish gray, form a crest
that the bird can raise at will and thus put on an expression of
combined alertness and defiance.

“The Kingfisher’s plumage is more perfect than his form, his head, with
its beak two inches in length, being out of proportion to his short
tail, and his small, weak feet seeming too small to support a body more
than a foot long.

“In disposition the Kingfisher seems to be rather remote and unfriendly;
they never seem to travel in flocks, and even in the nesting season, the
only time in which they associate in pairs, they seem to be quarrelling
and wrangling, so very harsh are their notes. Hereabouts we have very
few Kingfishers. Last summer a pair tunnelled a hole in the loamy bank
of the river fifty feet below the grist-mill; for the Kingfisher does
not build a tree nest, or, in fact, any nest, but, like the Bank
Swallow, burrows sidewise into a bank of sufficiently stiff soil not to
cave in for the depth of anywhere from three to fifteen feet. This
burrow may be only a few feet below the surface, or if the bluff rises
above the stream, the hole may be twenty feet from the top and close to
high-water mark.

“Sometimes the hole runs straight, and then again it may have several
turns before the nesting-chamber is reached, the turns probably being
made to avoid stones or tough roots; though one[5] careful observer,
whose account of this bird is so novel and charming (I will read it to
you from the scrap-book), thought for a time that these turns might be
for the purpose of keeping light from the nesting-chamber.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“A hole in a bank seems a strange place in which to build a nest, but
although one may know it to be the home of a Kingfisher, he little
imagines the singular course of the passage leading to the room at the
other end, and is hardly aware of the six long weeks of faithful care
bestowed by the parent birds upon their eggs and family.

“Early in April we may hear the Kingfisher’s voice, sounding like a
policeman’s rattle, as he patrols the stream, and we often see him
leaving a favourite limb, where he has been keeping watch for some
innocent minnow in the water below. Off he goes in his slaty blue coat,
shaking his rattle and showing his top-heavy crest, his abnormal bill,
and pure white collar.

“The mother bird, as usual with the sex, does most of the work at home.
The hole is generally located high upon the bank, is somewhat less than
four inches in diameter, and varies from at least five to eight feet in
length. It slightly ascends to the dark, mysterious den at the other
end,—dark because the passage generally bends once or twice, thereby
entirely excluding the light. The roof of the passage is vaulted from
end to end, merging into a domed ceiling almost as shapely as that of
the Pantheon. Such a home is built to stay, and if undisturbed would
endure for years. Two little tracks are worn by the female’s feet the
full length of the tunnel as she passes in and out.

“The Kingfisher’s knowledge of construction, her ingenious manner of
hiding her eggs from molestation, and her constancy to her young arouse
our interest and admiration. We must also appreciate the difficulty with
which the digging is attended, the meeting of frequent stones to block
the work, which, by the way, may be the cause of the change in direction
of the hole, but which I was inclined to believe intentional until I
found a perfectly straight passage, in which a brood was successfully
raised.

“To get photographs of a series of the eggs and young was almost as
difficult a task, I believe, as the Kingfisher had in making the hole.
It was necessary to walk at least four miles and dig down to the back of
the nest, through the bank above, and fill it in again four times,
without deranging the nest or frightening away the parent birds. But we
were well repaid for the trouble, for the pictures accurately record
what could not be described.

“A photograph of the seven eggs was taken before they had even been
touched, and numerous disgorgements of fish bones and scales show about
the roomy apartment. The shapely domed ceiling, as well as the arch of
the passage, is constructionally necessary for the safety of the
occupants, the former being even more perfect than the pictures show.
What is generally called instinct in birds has long since been to me a
term used to explain what in reality is intelligence.

“Some writer has mentioned that as soon as the young Kingfishers are
able, they wander about their little homes until they are able to fly,
but evidently his experience was limited. My four pictures of the young
birds were taken by lifting them out of their nests and placing them in
a proper place to be photographed in the light, but the first two
pictures were taken in the positions in which they were naturally found
in the nest. The first, when they were about two days old, was obtained
on the 21st of May, 1899, and the young were not only found wrapped
together in the nest, but the moment they were put on the ground, one at
a time, though their eyes were still sealed, they immediately covered
one another with their wings and wide bills, making such a tight ball
that when any one shifted a leg, the whole mass would move like a single
bird. This is a most sensible method of keeping warm, since the mother
bird’s legs are so short that she could not stand over them, but, as
they are protected from the wind and weather, they have no need of her.
Their appearance is comical in the extreme, and all out of proportion.
This clinging to one another is apparently kept up for at least ten
days, for a week later, when nine days old, they were found in exactly a
similar position.

“When the young were first observed, they were absolutely naked, without
the suggestion of a feather, and, unlike most young birds, showed no
plumage of any kind until the regular final feathering, which was the
same as that of the adult, began to appear. The growth of the birds was
remarkably slow, and even when nine days old the feathers were just
beginning to push through their tiny sheaths, but so distinctly showed
their markings that I was able to distinguish the sexes by the colouring
of the bands on the chest. They did not open their mouths in the usual
manner for food, but tried to pick up small objects from the ground, and
one got another by his foot, as the picture shows. I took two other
photographs the same day, showing several birds searching on the ground
with their bills, as if they were already used to this manner of
feeding.

“When the birds were sixteen days old, they had begun to look like
formidable Kingfishers, with more shapely bills and crests, but as yet
they evidently knew no use for their wings. They showed little temper,
though they appeared to be somewhat surprised at being disturbed.

“My next visit to the hole in the bank was when the birds were
twenty-three days old, and, to ascertain whether they were still at
home, I poked into the entrance of the hole a long, thin twig, which was
quickly accepted by quite a strong bite. Taking the precaution to stop
the hole with a good-sized stone, I proceeded to my digging for the last
time on the top of the bank. This time I found the chamber had been
moved, and I had some difficulty in locating it about a foot higher up
and about the same distance to one side. The old birds had evidently
discovered my imperfectly closed back door, and either mistrusted its
security, or else a heavy rain had soaked down into the loosened earth
and caused them to make alterations. They had completely closed up the
old chamber and packed it tightly with earth and disgorged fish bones.

“The skill with which they met this emergency was of unusual interest,
showing again the ingenuity and general intelligence which so often
surprises us in the study of birds. Their home was kept perfectly clean
by its constant caretaker. One of the full-grown birds, with every
feather, as far as I could see, entirely developed, sat just long enough
for me to photograph him, and then flew from the branch where I had
placed him, down the stream, and out of sight, loudly chattering like an
old bird. One more bird performed the same feat, but before I was able
to get him on my plate. The rest I left in the nest, and no doubt they
were all in the open air that warm, sunny day, before nightfall.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“It happens that but few of us may look into a Kingfisher’s home as Mr.
Baily did, but it is very pleasant to know where this dashing bird goes
when, on securing a fish, instead of swallowing it, he seems to dive,
drop into the water, and disappear, when in reality he is taking his
prey home to the nest.

“We must be content to enjoy the Kingfisher as a feature in the
landscape, as the centre of a picture of woods, pond, or river, to which
he gives the needful touch of life. The river scenery of March is
lifeless and dreary, for, if the snow has melted and the ice broken up,
the bushes alongshore are beaten down by the storms of winter or partly
submerged by the spring freshets. Here and there, in sunny spots on the
low shore, we may see the purple-pointed hood and bright green leaves of
the skunk-cabbage, but if a Kingfisher is perching on a dead branch
overhanging the water, crest erect, gazing into the water and on the
alert for a fish to pass, the scene at once becomes full of interest. Of
course the Kingfisher, as his name implies, is above all a fisherman,
and complaints come sometimes from those who are stocking ponds and
rivers with fish, and who object to his taking his tithe, but when
pressed by hunger through the sudden skimming of their hunting ponds
with ice in early winter, he has been known to eat berries of many
kinds, and in time of drought when streams run low or dry up entirely,
the Kingfisher will feed upon beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, frogs,
lizards, etc. But here in the East, at any rate, the bird is not
plentiful enough to be a danger to the fishing industry.”

“I’ve seen a Kingfisher fishing in the salt-water creek that goes into
the bay. We camped right there on the point last summer,” said Tommy.
“He must have lived up the river somewhere, for he used to come down
early in the morning, and stay about all day, and I suppose he must have
got through feeding his children, for it was along in August. I never
saw but one,—the male, I guess, because it didn’t have any brown on its
breast like what there is in the picture of the female.

“It was great fun to watch him. One day the rest all went off fishing to
Middle Ground Light, and I stayed at home because I’d cut my finger with
a fish-hook, and it hurt a lot, and the Doctor made me keep it soaking
in medicine, so I just lay in the sand under the shady side of the tent,
only moving enough to keep out of the sun, and watched out.

“When the Kingfisher first came, the tide was just turned and beginning
to rush out of the creek like everything. Mr. Fisherman sat on a tall
post that we tie the boats up to at night. It was close to the water,
not where the strong current was, but a little to one side, where it was
more still. He did pretty well for a while; the fish looked small, and
he swallowed ’em without wriggling his throat so very much.

“One thing he did was very funny; he didn’t dive right down from the
post after the fish, but he took a little fly up first and then folded
his wings to his sides and dropped right in beak first, same as we
fellows do when we jump off the spring board dad rigged to a raft and
then dive. I couldn’t make out whether he always did it, or if it was
because the post was too near the water.

“After a little, the water went down so that the post wasn’t near enough
to the water; then what did he do but shift over to the bowsprit of an
old oyster boat that was wrecked and half buried in the sand, right in
the bank just inside the creek; this gave him a fine perch right over
the channel. When he saw that there was no one about, he sort of settled
down, and looking at him so long made me lazy, and I guess I fell asleep
and didn’t see him dive, because the next thing I knew, there was the
Kingfisher back on the perch, but he had an eel in his beak instead of a
fish.

“Say, Gray Lady, did you ever try to hold an eel in your fingers,
without rubbing wet sand on them first? Well, you should have seen that
bird twist and flop about. It was only a little eel, not any bigger than
a pencil, but, oh my!” And Tommy laughed heartily at the very memory of
the fray.

“Kingfisher couldn’t stick to the perch, so he dropped right on to a
piece of the deck of the boat that wasn’t buried, and began to beat the
eel on the wood and dance about. The eel squirmed so, it didn’t hit
often, and it acted as if it had legs and was dancing too. When the fun
began, the bird had the eel about in the middle, but it pulled away
until one end was longer than the other, and that made it harder to
hold.”

“Which was the head end, the one that hung down?” asked Eliza, who
always insisted on precise details.

“I didn’t know then,” said Tommy; “I couldn’t see, and it didn’t keep
still long enough for me to ask!

“At last Kingfisher gave the eel a good bang, and it didn’t squirm so
much (then I knew the head must have been on the long piece because it
wouldn’t have hurt its tail), and the bird began to swallow and work his
throat, just like when a snake begins to work a toad down. Once or twice
he stopped, and I thought that he was going to choke and keel over. He
didn’t, though, but after it was all down, he looked real sorry and
uncomfortable and his feathers laid down almost flat to his head, and he
crouched there on the boat quite a while before he flew up creek and
didn’t fish any more that day.

“Maybe he’d never caught a salt-water eel before, and didn’t know how
lively they are; you can’t measure them by mud eels out of still water
any more’n you can match snakes with ground-worms.”


                             THE KINGFISHER

    He laughs by the summer stream
    Where the lilies nod and dream,
    As through the sheen of water cool and clear
    He sees the chub and sunfish cutting shear.

    His are resplendent eyes;
    His mien is kingliwise;
    And down the March wind rides he like a king
    With more than royal purple on his wing.

    His palace is the brake
    Where the rushes shine and shake;
    His music is the murmur of the stream,
    And the leaf-rustle where the lilies dream.

    Such life as his would be
    A more than heaven to me;
    All sun, all bloom, all happy weather,
    All joys bound in a sheaf together.

    No wonder he laughs so loud!
    No wonder he looks so proud!
    There are great kings would give their royalty
    To have one day of his felicity!

    —Maurice Thompson.

“The very name of Phœbe calls us from the Red-wing in the marsh meadows
and the Kingfisher by the waterways and brings us home again. Not only
within the home acres, but close to the house, barns, and woodshed, for
has she not been living in and about them quite as long as we have, or
even longer? There was a Phœbe who always built her first nest on the
deep sill of the dormer-window of the store-closet, and her second in
the bracket that supports the hood of the north window in the
guest-room.

“She was not very tidy about her work of nest-building (it seems more
natural to call the Phœbe _she_ than _he_), but then, it must be very
difficult to make a nest with a high foundation of crumbling moss and
mud, with hairs and grass for a lining, without spilling some of the
nesting material. My mother used to grumble about having the store-room
window-sill remain in such a litter for so long, but she never disturbed
the nest, even by brushing away the loose moss, and almost every day she
would look through the window to see how the eggs or young were faring,
and I thought it a great privilege to be allowed to go to the store-room
and sit quite still inside the closed window and watch the Phœbe’s
housekeeping.

“It was in this way that I first learned how the bird stands up in the
nest and turns the white eggs over with its feet so that they may be
evenly warmed through; how the young are fed and the droppings removed
from the nest so that it need not become foul.

“In spite of great care and constant bathing, for Phœbe is very fond of
a bath and was always a great patron of the log water-trough, the
puddles that gathered in the gutter after rain, and upon occasion would
dash into the bucket that always stood under the well-spout, the poor
bird suffers greatly from insect parasites. The reason for this I cannot
tell, unless it is that the foundation of the nest is so light and
spongy on account of the moss, that the air does not pass through and
the lice breed freely. One thing I remember, however, is that as soon as
the birds had flown, mother always removed the empty nest and had its
resting-place thoroughly cleansed.

“This is not so apt to happen when the bird chooses a fresh location and
makes a new nest for a second brood, but upon the only occasion that the
window-sill nest was used twice in a season, the lice crawled through
the window-frame into the house, and of the second brood, only one lived
to fly, and he was a miserable, emaciated little thing, so badly did the
lice beset the young birds. After that, mother always gave them a hint
that a new nest was best by making it impossible for them to use the old
one.”

“I should think the Phœbes might have got mad and gone away for good,”
said Sarah Barnes.

“No; they either understood that mother’s intentions were good, or else
they appreciated the comfort and cleanliness of the new nest, for their
children and grandchildren have occupied the two sites ever since, and
this summer when I stood inside the store-room window showing the nest
to Goldilocks, bird and nest were just the same as when my mother stood
there by me.

“That is why the everyday birds that live about our homes are so
precious and should be so carefully guarded. We never see them grow old,
and so they help us to keep young in heart.

“Phœbe belongs to a very important family, that of the Flycatchers,
songless birds with call-notes that are distinctive; these take their
food upon the wing, diving from a perch into the air for it as the
Kingfisher dives into the water for his. In this way the flycatchers are
among the most valuable of the Sky Sweepers.

“Among Phœbe’s cousins you will find the _Kingbird_, who wears a
slate-coloured coat and white vest, a crest on his head, and a white
band on the end of his tail by which you may know him, as he sits on a
fence rail, stump, or even on a tall mullen stalk and sallies out into
the air, crying a shrill ‘Kyrie-Kyrie!’ The Great Crested Flycatcher,
with an olive-brown coat, gray throat, and yellow belly, who builds in a
tree hole well above the ground, and uses dried snake skins among his
materials when he can get them, is another relative, and the largest of
the family; while a third is the little Wood-pewee, of the dark
olive-brown coat and two whitish wing-bars, who saddles his
lichen-covered nest, as dainty as that of a Humming-bird high up on a
limb, and calls his plaintive note, Pee-wee-pee-a-wee peer,’ through the
aisles of the deep woods, as constantly as Phœbe lets her name be known
in a more shrill and rasping voice to the barnyard flock.

“These and several other flycatchers do not come to us until May, but
the Phœbe of all his tribes trusts his livelihood to the care of gusty
March. Perhaps it is the early return that makes the Phœbe so friendly
and causes it to choose either a site by the water or near a house.
Insect life awakes much more quickly in gardens and about the
farm-yards, or near open running water, than in the remote woods; for
certain it is that no other member of the family is so easily
domesticated.

“The Phœbe not only eats the earliest insects that appear, but it has
peculiarly constructed eyes, like the Whip-poor-will and Night Hawk; it
can catch its food until the end of twilight, so that it kills many bugs
that hide all day. Among the hurtful insects that it catches are the
click-beetle, brown-tail moth, canker-worm moth, and the elm beetle. As
a berry-eater no one can find fault with it, as when late in a dry
season it takes a little fruit, wild berries supply the need.

“All this should be a hint to us to leave a few nooks about the place
for a pair of Phœbes to appropriate for a homestead; a little shelf
under suitable shelter is all they ask, or, better yet, nail a few wide
braces under the roof of a wagon, cattle, or wood shed, even if it does
not need supporting. Then, before the first Robin or Chipping-sparrow
awakens, when the first flush of light penetrates the darkness of night,
you will have a home sentinel at hand to cry, ‘Phœbe! I see, all’s
well!’ to the morning, and at evening she will blend her voice with the
Whip-poor-will’s in wishing you good night, for though Phœbe is early to
come in the spring and early to rise in the morning, she goes late to
bed and meets the bats in the sky during her evening excursions.”

“Maybe Phœbes don’t really sing, but they think they do,” said Tommy, as
Gray Lady looked in vain in her scrap-book for a poem that should do the
bird justice and be catching in rhythm.

“Sometimes in May they get up on the roof or the telephone wire or
something like that, and tumble somersaults into the air and cry
‘phœbe-phœbe-phœbe-phœbe,’ on and on and on and over again, like the
Katydids and Katydidn’ts in the maples at night, only the Phœbe is so
worked up she can only think of her own name.”

“Then this verse of Lowell’s at least is true,” said Gray Lady, closing
the scrap-book.

        “Phœbe is all it has to say
        In plaintive cadence o’er and o’er,
        Like children that have lost their way
        And know their names, but nothing more.”

-----

[5] _The Kingfishers’ Home Life_, W. L. Baily in _Bird-Lore_.



                                  XXIV
                          THE TIDE HAS TURNED


                       THE MASQUERADING CHICKADEE

    I came to the woods in the dead of the year,
      I saw the wing’d sprite thro’ the green-brier peeping:
    “Darling of Winter, you’ve nothing to fear,
      Though the branches are bare and the cold earth is sleeping!”

    With a _dee, dee, dee_! the sprite seemed to say,
      “I’m friends with the Maytime as well as December,
    And I’ll meet you here on a fair-weather day;
      Here, in the green-brier thicket,—remember!”

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    I came to the woods in the spring of the year,
      And I followed a voice that was most entreating:
    _Phebe! Phebe!_ (and yet more near),
      _Phebe! Phebe!_ it kept repeating!

    I gave up the search, when, not far away,
      I saw the wing’d sprite thro’ the green-brier peeping,
    With a _Phebe! Phebe!_ that seemed to say,
      “I told you so! and my promise I’m keeping.”

    “You’ll know me again, when you meet me here,
      Whether you come in December or Maytime:
    I’ve a _dee, dee, dee!_ for the Winter’s ear,
      And a _Phebe! Phebe!_ for Spring and Playtime!”

    —Edith M. Thomas.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“When the Chickadee, who has persistently told us his name all winter,
and has assured us also in the darkest weather that it was
‘day-day-day,’ changes his call for the flute-like spring song of
‘Phewe-Phe-wee,’ clear as the wind blowing through a reed, we know that
at last the springtide has really turned. Chickadee occasionally gives
this note in autumn as if in anticipation, but it is really a love-song
of tender accent.

“Another spring sign comes to us in April, a sign to be seen. It comes
out of a clear sky and has all the mystery about it that still shrouds
the bird migrations. Spring and fall I see it, but it always fills me
with awe. This morning I stood out in the open meadow below the orchard,
looking at the sky to see if the clouds were going to break away, or if
it was to be a day of April showers. To the southwest a curious fine
black bar appeared high up against the clouds. Quickly it drew nearer,
and I saw what seemed to be a great letter that moved rapidly and yet
kept its shape printed on the sky,—a letter V coming toward me, point
on. In another minute the line proved to be made of separate marks, then
each mark developed a long neck and rapidly moving wings.”

Tommy Todd could stand it no longer; without giving the usual school
“hand up” warning he cried out, “The V was Wild Geese, with the wise old
gander that leads them for the point, and maybe if he wanted them to
shift and change their way, he gave a big honk, honk, like the
automobiles when they turn the sharp corner at the foot of our hill.

“We saw Wild Geese yesterday, grandpa and I; they were flying so low
over the mill-pond that grandpa said maybe they had been resting
somewhere. They do stop in fall sometimes, but in spring they generally
go right over in a big hurry. This time I could see their feathers
pretty well, black, gray, and light underneath, and a white mark around
the neck as if it was tied up for a sore throat. Grandpa says he shot
one once that was a yard long, but their necks looked all of that. How
far away do they have to go before they can stop to nest, please, Gray
Lady?”

“They nest only in our most northern states, and from there up through
British America; but as the country is settled they have to shift their
haunts very often, for you can well imagine that a colony, even in the
nesting season, would have but little peace if hunters could reach it
easily. These great birds on their journeys are one of the most
thrilling sights that everyday people can see, for they travel the
thousands of miles that separate their summer and winter homes, straight
through the night as well as the day, without chart or compass, but with
the same lack of fear and unfailing directness as a train would follow
the rails upon the road-bed.

“We hear and read stories of Nature that are inventions, and could not
have happened because they are not according to the plan of
creation,—so the people who tell these instead of being clever are
really very stupid,—but not one of these is as wonderful as the simple
truth, or as awe-inspiring as the flight of Wild Geese that goes on
before our sight year after year in the April sky, or that we know by
their cries and the rush of wings is passing overhead in the gloom of a
wild and stormy night.


                               WILD GEESE

    A far, strange sound through the night,
        A dauntless and resolute cry,
    Clear in the tempest’s despite,
        Ringing so wild and so high.

    Darkness and tumult and dread,
        Rain and the battling of gales,
    Yet cleaving the storm overhead,
        The wedge of the Wild Geese sails.

    Pushing their perilous way,
        Buffeted, beaten, and vexed;
    Steadfast by night and by day,
        Weary, but never perplexed;

    Sure that the land of their hope
        Waits beyond tempest and dread,
    Sure that the dark where they grope
        Shall glow with the morning red!

    O birds in the wild, wild sky!
        Would I could so follow God’s way
    Through darkness, unquestioning why,
        With only one thought to obey!

    —Celia Thaxter.


                             Nest-Building

“Though a few of our common birds, like the Robin, Bluebird, Woodcock,
Crow, Grackle, and some of the Hawks and Owls, begin to nest in April,
May and June are the real nesting months.

“When the spring migration is over, we call those birds who have decided
to stay with us and build their homes Summer Residents, and it is from
these that we must learn of the home life of birds.

“The visitors who stop awhile on their way to other places we may learn
to call by name, but we can never really know them any more than we can
a chance visitor who boards a few weeks in our vicinity.

“The nesting habits of birds and the manner in which they build their
homes vary according to the necessity and skill of the species. (See
_Citizen Bird_.)

“In their house-building you will find that the birds know almost as
many trades as human beings, for among them are weavers, basket-makers,
masons, and carpenters, as well as workers in felt, hair, and feathers.

“Many water-birds merely make a hollow in the sand or gather a few bits
of grass together for a nest.

“The Grouse, Quail, and Woodcock scratch up a few leaves in a ground
hollow or between stumps, for, like domestic fowl, they always nest on
the ground and their colour, being dull, blends with it, and you may
almost step on one of these birds when it is on its nest and never know
it.

“The dull brown Sparrows build nests of grasses set in a low bush or
between its roots, but the flaming Oriole weaves himself a snug hammock
high out on a swaying elm bough, and the Scarlet Tanager builds high in
an oak. The Blue Jay weaves small roots into a firm nest set well above
reach, while the Bluebird lines a hollow in a tree or takes an abandoned
Woodpecker’s hole for his house. The Woodpeckers chisel out homes in
tree-trunks, and Robins and Cliff and Barn Swallows use more or less
mud, and plaster the inside of their homes. If you watch carefully now
when the birds are building, and associate the various nests with the
birds that build them, in autumn, when the young have flown, you can
collect many of these nests and study their beautiful workmanship. But
pray keep your hands off them while they are in use, for it is not being
either kind or polite to meddle.

“How do you think your mother would feel if somebody climbed in at the
window and tumbled up your baby brother’s crib, perhaps spilling him out
on the floor, or at least frightening him badly, in order to find out if
he slept on a mattress or a feather bed, or if the crib itself was made
of wood or metal?

“At the time of the spring migration the birds that have been living in
flocks all winter put on fresh feathers, and court and separate into
pairs just as people do when they marry and begin housekeeping.
Naturally they feel very happy, and have a great deal to say to each
other, and this is what makes birds break into song when the spring
comes to give them new life.

“Though some few females can sing, it is the males who make the
beautiful music that we hear in the spring mornings. The female is too
busy with her housekeeping to do more than answer, but her husband’s
song cheers her while she is brooding, and he probably tells her how
pretty her new feathers are, and how much he loves her, too.

“Among our gayly coloured birds, unlike people, it is the male who wears
the brightest clothes. You have heard of this all through our fall and
winter lessons, and you have seen the difference in pictures; now that
the birds themselves have come, you will have a chance to see how well
you remember, and if you can name the birds as they fly. The Scarlet
Tanager and the Goldfinch both have plain greenish olive-coloured wives.
The female Blue Jay is of a less bright hue than her mate, and the mate
of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak wears a buff, brownish streaked vest.

“Why? Because, as the mother bird spends more time about the nest than
the father, if she wore bright clothes she would attract too much
attention, and cruel Hawks, squirrels, and thieving people would find it
too easily; and Nature’s first thought is always of the care and
protection of young life, whether of plant, bird, or beast.

“Almost all of our birds feed the young nestlings with animal food, even
if they themselves are seed-eaters; for little birds must grow quickly,
and you would hardly believe the number of worms and flying things it
takes to turn one little Robin from the queer, helpless, featherless
thing that it is when it hatches from the egg, into the clumsy,
clamouring ball of feathers, with awkward wings and hardly a bit of tail
to balance it, that it is when it leaves the nest.

“No human father and mother work harder to feed their children than do
these feathered parents, who toil ceaselessly from sunrise until sunset
to bring food, and share by turns the protection of the nest.


                                THE NEST

    When oaken woods with buds are pink,
      And new-come birds each morning sing,
    When fickle May on summer’s brink
      Pauses, and knows not which to fling,
    Whether fresh bud and bloom again,
    Or hoar-frost silvering hill and plain,

    Then from the honeysuckle gray
      The Oriole with experienced quest
    Twitches the fibrous bark away,
      The cordage of his hammock-nest,
    Cheering his labour with a note
      Rich as the orange of his throat.

    High o’er the loud and dusty road
      The soft gray cup in safety swings,
    To brim ere August with its load
      Of downy breasts and throbbing wings,
    O’er which the friendly elm tree heaves
      An emerald roof with sculptured eaves.

    Below, the noisy world drags by
      In the old way, because it must;
    The bride with heartbreak in her eye,
      The mourner following hated dust;
    Thy duty, winged flame of spring,
      Is but to love, and fly, and sing.

    O happy life, to soar and sway
      Above the life by mortals led,
    Singing the merry months away,
      Master, not slave of daily bread,
    And, when the autumn comes, to flee
      Wherever sunshine beckons thee!

    —James Russell Lowell.


                            OUT OF THE SOUTH

          A migrant song-bird I,
    Out of the blue, between the sea and the sky,
    Landward blown on bright, untiring wings;
          Out of the South I fly,
    Urged by some vague, strange force of destiny,
    To where the young wheat springs,

          And the maize begins to grow,
          And the clover fields to blow.
          I have sought
    In far wild groves below the tropic line
    To lose old memories of this land of mine;
          I have fought
    This vague, mysterious power that flings me forth
          Into the North;
    But all in vain. When flutes of April blow,
    The immemorial longing lures me, and I go.

    —Maurice Thompson.


                             WHAT TO EXPECT

“In April we may look for the coming of a score or more of different
birds. How quickly they come and in what numbers depends upon the
season. If it is mild, they come gradually; if stormy, by fits and
starts, and sometimes in strangely mixed flocks.

“These belong to the first half of the month:—

_The Great Blue Heron._ Cousin to the white Egret; we always used to
have a pair of them by the upper mill-pond.

_The Purple Finch._ A large sparrow with a beautiful voice; the fully
grown male having a rosy flush to his feathers as if, it has been said,
the juice of crimson berries had been squeezed over him.

_The Vesper-sparrow._ The wayside Sparrow of our afternoon walk that we
have known as long as the Song Sparrow and Bluebird; famous for his
clear, ringing song at twilight and dawn. Rather light in color, with
_rust-red wing-markings and white outside tail-feathers_ that show
conspicuously as he flits along and tells his name.


                           THE VESPER-SPARROW

    It comes from childhood land,
      Where summer days are long
    And summer eves are bland—
      A lulling good-night song.

    Upon a pasture stone,
      Against the fading west,
    A small bird sings alone,
      Then dives and finds its nest.

    The evening star has heard
      And flutters into sight.
    Oh, childhood’s vesper bird,
      My heart calls back good night.

    —Edith M. Thomas.

_The Chipping-sparrow._ Our least Sparrow, who wears a little chestnut
velvet cap, gray back, and black bill, and has a mild, innocent
expression in keeping with his friendly ways. He puts his dainty
hair-lined nest (from which he is sometimes called Hair-bird) in a
near-by shrub or rose-bush in the garden, and then hops about the door,
picking up almost invisible bits of food, calling “chip-chip-chip.” His
courting song is a long trill that begins at dawn almost with the Phœbe,
and the dear little bird often sings as he sits on the ground.

_The Tree Swallow._ This we saw last fall in the migration, and we may
hope that it will take lodging in some of the new bird-boxes.

“In the second half of the month:—

_The Barn Swallow._

_Spotted Sandpiper._

_Bank Swallow._

_Purple Martin._

_Whip-poor-will._ One of the birds of the air that, together with its
brother the Nighthawk and its cousins the Chimney Swift and
Humming-bird, may well be called winged mysteries.

_Towhee-Chewink, or Ground-robin_, of the tribe of Sparrows and Finches,
but, like the Cardinal, without stripes, and having a stout beak. Head,
throat, back, and breast black; white belly and rust-red sides. Black
tail with white outer feathers. A handsome, vigorous bird and a lover of
bushes and thickets, where he scratches among the leaves. Call-note,
“Tow-hee-tow-hee.”

_Black-and-white Warbler._ This you will at first take to be a small
Woodpecker from its black-and-white stripes and tree-creeping habits
that remind one of the Brown Creeper of winter, but its slender bill
names it a warbler; one of the “lispers,” who, though they have musical
names, whisper or lisp a few notes as if to themselves.

_Ovenbird._ Also a warbler, but, though it sings high among the trees,
nests on the ground among the leaves, the nest being closed at the top
and open on the sides like an oven. A shy bird with a _golden brown
crown edged by a black line_. Plain olive above, white beneath, with
thrush-like black streaks on breast and sides.

_House Wren._ Dear little Jenny Wren, of several nests and a large
family, who lives in our bird-boxes, outbuildings, and garden trellises.
Gowned in reddish brown, with fine black bars and a pert little tail
that she jerks nervously as she flies. Johnny Wren is the singing
partner, for Jenny has no voice left of a morning after she has
spluttered and scolded her bird neighbours and attended to her
housekeeping.

_Brown Thrasher._

_Catbird._

_Wood Thrush._

_Veery._—No matter how familiar with them we may be, we must always
pause to look and listen when we meet one of this wonderful quartette of
vocalists, whose voices belong with the gorgeously apparelled singers of
the opera; but the quiet plumage and demeanour of three of the four mark
them for peaceful home life and seclusion.


                            WINGED MYSTERIES

“Four birds there are that live under one roof, so to speak, for they
belong to one order divided into three different families. They are
perfectly familiar to most of us who have lived in the real country, and
yet they awaken our curiosity anew every season when they return. These
birds are the Whip-poor-will, Chimney Swift, Nighthawk, and
Humming-bird. The two first return to New England late in April; the two
last during the first part of May, but it is better for us to take them
all together now in April so as to be ready to recognize the first one
that comes.

“The _Whip-poor-will_ comes first. It is a bird of the woods; in size a
little less than the Robin, but of a build peculiar to its own family,
long and low, a contrast heightened by its short legs and its habit of
sitting length-wise on a limb and close to it. In short, it does not
perch, it ‘squats.’ Its general colour is black, white, and buff, much
streaked and mottled. Its tail is _round_, half of the three outer
feathers white, giving the effect of a white spot.

“All of you children of this wooded hill country know this bird that
flies about the house and across the fields to the woods before dawn or
soon after dark, making no more noise than the bats, until, stopping to
rest, he mechanically jerks out his name,
‘Whip-poor-will-Whip-poor-will-Chuck!’ So lonely and mournful does the
cry sound in the distance that many weird stories have been told about
the bird. But when the call comes close at hand, it is more cheerful,
though always startling.

“This bird builds no nest, but lays its pair of dull white eggs, so
marked that they blend with the earth like lichens and mosses, on the
bare ground, or at best among a few leaves. But rash as this seems, the
protective colour that nature has given to the parents, eggs, and young
serves to keep them as safe as many another bird in a well-woven tree
nest.

“Then, too, aside from its picturesque qualities, the Whip-poor-will, as
Mr. Forbush says of it, ‘is an animated insect trap. Its enormous mouth
is surrounded by long bristles which form a wide fringe about a yawning
cavity, and the bird flies rather low among the trees and over the
undergrowth, snapping up nocturnal insects in flight. It is, perhaps,
the greatest enemy of night-moths, but is quite as destructive to May
beetles and other leaf-eating beetles.’


                 THE WOOD THRUSH AND THE WHIP-POOR-WILL

    When the faintest flush of morning
      Overtints the distant hill,
          _If you waken, if you listen_,
      You may hear the Whip-poor-will.
    Like an echo from the darkness,
      Strangely wild across the glen,
    Sound the notes of his finale,
      And the woods are still again.

    Soon upon the dreamy silence
      There will come a gentle trill,
    Like the whisper of an organ,
      Or the murmur of a rill,
    And then a burst of music,
      Swelling forth upon the air,
    Till the melody of morning
      Seems to come from everywhere.
    A Thrush, as if awakened by
      The parting voice of night,
    Gives forth a joyous welcome to
      The coming of the light.

    In early evening twilight
      Again the Wood Thrush sings,
    Like a voice of inspiration
      With the melody of strings;
    A song of joy ecstatic,
      And a vesper hymn of praise,
    For the glory of the summer
      And the promise of the days.

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    And when his song is ended,
      And all the world grows still,
    As if but just awakened,
      Calls again the Whip-poor-will.

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.

“_The Nighthawk_, when perching, bears a general resemblance to the
Whip-poor-will. The white band on its throat is wider, the tail is _not_
round, and it has white band near the end. There is a white bar across
the quills of the wings that in flight looks like a round white spot or
a hole.

“These four white patches, throat, wings, and tail tell you his name
plainly, so when he is on the wing the Nighthawk should never be
mistaken for a Whip-poor-will. Then, too, their habits are unlike. The
Nighthawk does not belong to the night, neither is he a Hawk, which is a
Bird of Prey with talons and a hooked beak. Early morning and late
afternoon are his favourite times for hunting the sky for insects, for
he also is one of our most valuable sky sweepers.

“Having no song, the cry of Skirk-skirk! given when on the wing, has a
wild and eerie sound which is often followed by a booming noise of the
quality that can be imitated by placing tissue-paper over a long, coarse
comb and then blowing rapidly across it from one end to the other. This
noise is made by the rush of the wind through the wing quills as the
bird drops through the air after its winged food.

“The Nighthawk builds no nest, but lays its eggs on a bare rock in a
field, amid the stones of rocky ground, on roofs even of city houses.
Again does colour protection aid a bird, for the arrangements of its
markings blend the Nighthawk with granite as perfectly as those of the
Whip-poor-will conceal it in the woods.

“The Nighthawk, whose erratic flight makes it a target that piques the
skill of a certain class of sportsmen, has frequently been shot at for
prowess, the excuse being that it ‘wasn’t any good, anyway.’ Aside from
the list of insects harmful to agriculture and domestic animals that it
destroys, let us remember its crowning virtue, and cry ‘Hands off!’ It
kills mosquitoes, and has thus earned the local name of Mosquito-hawk.

“It is hard to believe that any one should insist that the Nighthawk and
the Whip-poor-will are one and the same bird, but such has been the
case, and among intelligent people also, though the mistake has been
definitely settled by one of the Wise Men.


                          A NIGHTHAWK INCIDENT

A discussion of the specific distinctness of the Whip-poor-will and
Nighthawk, following an address to Connecticut agriculturists some years
ago, led to my receipt, in July, 1900, of an invitation from a gentleman
who was present, to come and see a bird then nesting on his farm that he
believed combined the characters of both the Whip-poor-will and
Nighthawk; in short, was the bird to which both these names applied.

[Illustration: NIGHTHAWKS]

Here was an opportunity to secure a much-desired photograph, and armed
with the needed apparatus, as well as specimens of both the Nighthawk
and Whip-poor-will, I boarded an early train for Stevenson, Connecticut,
prepared to gain my point with bird as well as with man.

The latter accepted the specimens as incontrovertible facts, and
readjusted his views as to the status of the birds they represented, and
we may therefore at once turn our attention to the Nighthawk, who was
waiting so patiently on a bit of granite out in the hayfields. The sun
was setting when we reached the flat rock on which her eggs had been
laid and young hatched, and where she had last been seen; but a fragment
of egg-shell was the only evidence that the bare-looking spot had once
been a bird’s home. The grass had lately been mowed, and there was no
immediately surrounding cover in which the bird might have hidden. It is
eloquent testimony of the value of her protective colouring, therefore,
that we should almost have stepped on the bird, who had moved to a
near-by flat rock as we approached the place in which we had expected to
find her.

Far more convincing, however, was her faith in her own invisibility.
Even the presence of a dog did not tempt her to flight, and when the
camera was erected on its tripod within three feet of her body,
squatting so closely to its rocky background, her only movement was
occasioned by her rapid breathing.

There was other cause, however, besides the belief in her own
inconspicuousness to hold her to the rock: one little downy chick
nestled at her side, and with instinctive obedience was as motionless as
its parent.

So they sat while picture after picture was made from various points of
view, and still no movement, until the parent was lightly touched, when,
starting quickly, she spread her long wings and sailed out over the
fields. Perhaps she was startled, and deserted her young on the impulse
of sudden fear. But in a few seconds she recovered herself, and
circling, returned and spread herself out on the grass at my feet. Then
followed the evolutions common to so many birds but wonderful in all.
With surprising skill in mimicry, the bird fluttered painfully along,
ever just beyond my reach, until it had led me a hundred feet or more
from its young, and then, the feat evidently successful, it sailed away
again, to perch first on a fence and later on a limb in characteristic
(length-wise) Nighthawk attitude.

How are we to account for the development in so many birds of what is
now a common habit? Ducks, Snipe, Grouse, Doves, some ground-nesting
Sparrows and Warblers, and many other species also feign lameness, with
the object of drawing a supposed enemy from the vicinity of their nest
or young. Are we to believe that each individual who in this most
reasonable manner opposes strategy to force, does so intelligently? Or
are we to believe that the habit has been acquired through the agency of
natural selection, and is now purely instinctive? Probably neither
question can be answered until we know beyond question whether this
mimetic or deceptive power is inherited.—Frank M. Chapman, in
_Bird-Lore_.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Now comes the _Chimney Swift_, universally called the Chimney Swallow;
with small, compact body, only a little larger than a Bank Swallow, and
long, strong wings, it dominates the air in which it lives and feeds,
and so little does it use its feet that it does not perch on them, but
brackets itself against post, wall, or chimney, Woodpecker fashion, the
sharp, pointed quills of its short tail acting as a brace.

“In colour the Chimney Swift is sooty gray, and as it darts about the
sky it looks like a winged spruce cone, the wings being held further
forward in flight than those of the average bird.

“Like their cousins the Nighthawks, they feed chiefly in early morning
and late afternoon, though in the nesting season this work continues all
day. In the old wild days, like many another bird, this Swift built its
basket nest of twigs and bird glue on the inside wall of hollow trees,
but when man came, hollow trees went, and so, with the happy
adaptability of Heart of Nature himself, the bird moved to the hollow
chimneys of man’s own invention, and so, unwittingly, descended from his
sky parlour and became the one real fireside bird that we have. And for
this companionship he is willing to brave the risk of being smoked out
and having sparks scorch his nest.

“Now that wide-mouthed stone chimneys are also disappearing, what
remains for this Swift? We do not know, unless he changes his home to
the open air and builds his bracket nests on outside walls.

“The Swift folds his wings and dives down the chimney to his nest
silently as a bird cleaves the water, but when he rises, a roar of
rapidly whirring wings marks the ascent, so that sometimes it annoys the
people in whose rooms the chimney opens. Last summer, in the old
orchard-house where Miss Wilde lives, we used to sit before the wide
fireplace and listen to the Swifts twittering and whirling in and out of
the chimney, and by looking up on a bright day their nests could be seen
plainly. Once in a while an accident would happen, and Goldilocks will
show you a beautiful bracket nest and five white eggs that became
loosened after a storm and fell out on to the hearth.”

“But now that there is a fire all the time and a coal stove at Swallow
Chimney, won’t the birds choke if they live there?” asked Sarah Barnes.
“Grandma says they can stand wood smoke, but that coal-gas ‘spixiates’
’em; ’cause we’ve never had any at our house since we’ve been burning
coal.”

“I believe that your grandmother is right,” said Gray Lady, “and for
this reason I have planned to have a new outside chimney for the cooking
stove, so that the real ‘Swallow Chimney’ may be only used for the wood
hearth fires, and so continue to be their home for as long as I live or
the birds wish to rent it.

[Illustration: R. H. Beebe, Photo. CHIMNEY SWIFT RESTING]


                           TO A CHIMNEY SWIFT

    Uncumbered neighbour of our race!
        Thou only of thy clan
    Hast made thy haunt and dwelling-place
        Within the walls of man.

    Thy haughty wing, which rides the storm,
        Hath stooped to Earth’s desires,
    And round thy eery rises warm
        The smoke of human fires.

    Still didst thou come from lands afar
        In childhood days as now,—
    Yet alien as the planets are,
        And elfin-strange art thou.

    Thy little realm of quick delights,
        Fierce instincts, untaught powers—
    What unimagined days and nights
        Cut off that realm from ours!

    Thy soul is of the dawn of Earth,
        And thine the secrets be
    Of sentient being’s far-off birth
        And round-eyed infancy.

    With thee, beneath our sheltering roof,
        The starry Sphinx doth dwell,
    Untamed, eternally aloof
        And inaccessible!

    —Dora Read Goodale.


                     THE RUBY-THROATED HUMMING-BIRD

“The last and least of the four-winged mysteries is also the smallest of
our birds, lacking a quarter of being four inches long. But it does not
need size to proclaim its beauty any more than a glowing ruby or
emerald; and indeed it wears both of these gems, the one on its throat
and the other on its back. Its world is the garden where everything is
brightest, its food nectar, and such little aphis as gather in it, and
its home lashed by cobwebs to a slender branch, a fairy nest of plant,
wool, and lichens, soft as feather down, wherein lie two eggs, white and
opaque and glistening like some fresh-water pearls.

“When on the wing it either darts about like a ray of feathered light,
or else, poised before a deep-throated flower, remains apparently
motionless, though its wings vibrate with the mechanical hum of a
fly-wheel of perfect workmanship.

“In spite of the fact that Father Humming-bird takes himself to parts
unknown and leaves his mate to tend both eggs and birds, the mother is
neither put out nor discouraged, and makes a model parent, who gathers
and swallows the food for her tiny offspring and then, by a pumping
process called regurgitation, brings it up and, taking no chances of
spilling a drop, literally rams it into the little throat! This bird is
to me the greatest mystery of all. It comes and it goes, but how does it
endure the stress of weather and travel? Many a moth outspans it in
breadth of wings. If the flight of the Wild Goose is wonderful in its
courage, what of the Humming-bird? Is Puck of Pook’s Hill still alive,
and has he feathered playfellows?


                            THE HUMMING-BIRD

    Is it a monster bee,
      Or is it a midget bird,
    Or yet an air-born mystery
      That now yon marigold has stirred,
    And now on vocal wing
      To a neighbour bloom has whirred
    In an aëry ecstasy, in a passion of pilfering?

    Ah! ’tis the Humming-bird,
      Rich-coated one,
      Ruby-throated one,
    That is not chosen for song,

    But throws its whole rapt sprite
      Into the secrets of flowers
    The summer days along,
      Into most odorous hours
    It’s a murmurous sound of wings too swift for sight.

    —Richard Burton.


                            THE WOOD THRUSH

    He has a coat of cinnamon brown,
    The brightest on his head and crown,
    A very low-cut vest of white
    That shines like satin in the light,
    And on his breast a hundred spots,
    As if he wore a veil with dots;
    With movement quick and full of grace,
    The highbred manner of his race;
    A very prince of birds is he
    Whose form it is a joy to see.

    And _music_—was there ever heard
    A sweeter song from any bird?
    Now clarion-like, so loud and clear,
    Now like a whisper low and near,
    And now, again, with rhythmic swells
    And tinkling harmony of bells,
    He seems to play accompaniment
    Upon some harp-like instrument.

    —Garrett Newkirk, in _Bird-Lore_.


                          MOCKERS AND THRUSHES

“How many of you know the _Wood Thrush_, or, if you do not know his
name, can recognize him by aid of these verses?”

“I know it,” answered little Clary; “I know his colour and the way his
song tinkles, but up at our house we call him Song Thrush. Why, Gray
Lady, he doesn’t live in the woods; we haven’t any woods. He stays right
around the garden and orchard, and last summer they made a nest in the
crotch of a sugar-maple so low that I could see into it by standing on
the fence. It looked just like Robin’s nest, and it had some rags woven
into it, and the eggs are like the Robin’s, too.

“Mother said that I mustn’t watch too long, or they might not come back
next year, but that if we didn’t bother them, they might come back, and
the children, too, and bring their wives.

“This pair seemed real tame; they used to hop all round on the grass
where the clothes dry, and they drank out of Roy’s dish. He’s a Collie
dog, you know, and they don’t bother birds at all the way bird-dogs will
sometimes.

“The Thrushes did eat some strawberries and currants, but mother said to
credit those to company, for they pleasured her when she sat sewing on
the porch of afternoons more than all the company she ever had to tea,
for they had to have sugar and cream on their berries, and left plates
and spoons to wash up, and the Thrushes cleared up after themselves and
gave a concert every night.

“You know, Gray Lady, it isn’t nice to have company and not give them
any lunch, so mother says if you have nice garden birds, why should you
expect more of them than of folks?”

[Illustration: E. Van Alterna, Photo. WOOD THRUSH AND NEST]

“Why, indeed,” said Gray Lady. “I will go and see your mother and ask
her to come to Birdland. A mother in a community who thinks as she does
is better than half a dozen bird wardens.”

“I know that bird, too,” said Dave, “but on the hill where I live he
stays in the river woods and only comes out to the lane edge to get wild
cherries and blackcaps and shadberries. We call it Wood Robin, ’cause
it’s shaped like a Robin and runs on the ground like one, only it’s
different in colour. Do you suppose they are the same bird? Or are there
two that seem alike, like the Nighthawk and Whip-poor-will?”

“Wood Thrush, Song Thrush, Wood Robin, are all one; the shy bird of
river woods or the lovely musician of gardens and home grounds, where
they are protected and dogs reign instead of cats. This place is vocal
with them all through May, June, and well into July. Not only Birdland
and the orchard, but the garden and trees on the lawn.

“One afternoon last June, when Goldilocks lay in her hammock under the
spruces, four were singing where I could see all at once,—and oh, that
song! As the bird sits in a tree-top with head thrown back and pours it
forth,

    ‘the song of the Wood Thrush is one of the finest specimens of
    bird music that America can produce. Among all the bird songs I
    have ever heard, it is second only in quality to that of the
    Hermit Thrush. Its tones are solemn and serene. They seem to
    harmonize with the sounds of the forest, the whispering breeze,
    the purling water, or the falling of raindrops in the summer
    woods.’

                                                   —E. H. Forbush.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“This Thrush has a sharp alarm note, ‘Pit! Pit!’ and a sort of whistle
that he seems to use as a signal. Fruit he does eat at times, but he has
as long a list of evil insects to his credit as the Robin himself.
Unfortunately, owing to his size and plumpness, southern vandals shoot
him in the fall and winter. Fancy silencing his heavenly voice for a
pitiful mouthful of meat.

“There is another Thrush that lives in your river woods, Dave, smaller
than the Wood Thrushes, tawny of back, and a buffy breast with faint
arrow-shaped spots upon it, the Wilson’s Thrush, or Veery. It has not so
long and varied a song as either the Wood Thrush or the more northern
Hermit Thrush, is really but an echo song, wonderfully pure and
spiritual in quality. One of the Wise Men gives in syllables this
‘Ta-weel-ah-ta-weel-ah,’ pronounced in whispering head tones, and then
repeated a third lower, ending with the twang of a stringed instrument.

“At evening and until quite late into the night these birds echo
themselves and each other. It is not a song to hear amid laughter and
talking, but for the heart that is alone, even if not lonely. To at
least one of our poets, he who best interprets the song-life of birds,
it rivals the famous English Nightingale.

“Aside from its musical value, the Veery, feeding as it does almost
altogether on insects, has a practical side as a neighbour. It also has
a most penetrating call-note, a ‘Whew! Whew!’ heard after the song is
over, that is at once resentful, critical, and challenging, as if
questioning your right to be in its woodland retreat in the nesting
time, and condemning your persistence. Many people, who do not know the
bird by sight, know both its echo song and its note of alarm and
challenge.


                         THE INCREDULOUS VEERY

    Two hunters chanced one day to meet
      Near by a thicket wood;
    They paused each other there to greet,
      Both in a playful mood.
    Said one, “I had to wade a stream,
      Now, this you must not doubt,
    And when I reached the other shore
      My boots were full of trout.”

    _Whew!_ cried a Veery perched in view
    To hear if what they said were true. _Whew!_

    The other’s wit was now well whet.
      Said he, “Let me narrate:
    I bought three hundred traps and set
      For fur both small and great;
    Now, when next morning came, behold,
      Each trap contained a skin;
    And other disappointed game
      Stood waiting to get in.”

    The astonished Veery whistled, _Whew!_
    I hardly think that story true. _Whew!!!_

    —Florence A. Van Sant, in _Bird-Lore_.

                 *        *        *        *        *


                           THE BROWN THRASHER

“Also called _Brown Thrush_, _Red Mavis_, _Planting Bird_. Brown of
back, with his white throat and belly speckled with black arrow marks, a
long, curved bill, and long, restless tail, whose thrashing gives the
bird his name, this bird combines the markings of the Thrush with the
general build of a true Mockingbird, while in varied and rich song it
rivals the Catbird, its shorter song season, however, leaving its
gray-backed neighbour in the lead.

“This spring Brown Thrasher came to the bushy end of the orchard the
last of April, and scratched about in the leaves like a Grouse. In a few
days I saw him in the back of the garden, where Jacob had a great pile
of pea-brush. This the bird looked at favourably. Birds know how to get
in and out of pea-brush, but cats are afraid of the sharp twigs.

“For a couple of weeks or more I heard him singing every day in the
tree-tops, and I wondered where he would locate.

“Jacob, one morning, told me that he wished to use the pea-brush, but
that a ‘pair of great brown birds that beat their tails and “sassed” him
when he came near’ had built a nest of twigs in the back of the heap.
‘My friends, the Thrashers,’ said I, ‘will need that brush for a couple
of months. Have you no more in the lot?’ Jacob had plenty with only the
trouble of carting.

“Now hardy vines have grown over the brush and tangled into what
Goldilocks calls a lovely ‘Thrashery’ that will last for several years.”

“I know them,” said Jack Todd; “they are mockers and jeerers for
certain; when Dad and I plant the big south field with corn every
spring, they come in the berry-bushes by the fence and tell us how to do
it, and that if we’re smart and take their advice, we won’t cut the
fence brush until they are done with nesting.

“But can’t they pick cherries to beat the band? Last summer I was up in
the ox-heart tree and they came in the top and picked ’em off, just as
they grew in pairs, and flew away with them as pleased and satisfied as
if they were picking them for market and were a week ahead of the
season. Dad was awfully down on them once, but one morning about two
years ago he got up at daylight to try and get the cutworms that were
spoiling his early cauliflowers, and there were Thrashers and Catbirds
doing the work for him, watching out for the worms to move ground just
as clever as a man could.

“As for the _Catbird_ or _New England Mockingbird_, trim of shape, and
shrewd of eye, what should we do without him? He is a graphophone in
feathers, that gives us selections from all the popular bird songs of
the day, with this addition—there is no mechanical twang to mar the
melody, and when the repertoire is ended he improvises by the hour.

“Ah, the merry, mischievous Mocker, all dressed in a parson’s suit of
gray, with a solemn black cap on his head that is as full of tricks as
his throat is of music.

“You say, ‘Yes, I know that he is a jolly musician, but my father says
that he bites the best strawberries and cherries, and always on the
ripest cheek!’

“Well, so he does _sometimes_; but his ancestors lived on that spot
where your garden stands before yours did, and you have more ways of
earning a living than he has. Give him something else to eat. Plant a
little wild fruit along your fences.

“Some people think that he likes to live in seclusion, but he doesn’t;
he likes to be near people and perch on a clothes-pole to plume and
sing. Yes, indeed, and he shall nest in the syringa nearest my garden,
where he gets his fresh fruit for breakfast, and be the only thing with
anything catlike about it on my premises!”


                              THE CATBIRD

    He sits on a branch of yon blossoming bush,
    This madcap cousin of Robin and Thrush,
    And sings without ceasing the whole morning long
    Now wild, now tender, the wayward song
    That flows from his soft, gray, fluttering throat.
    But often he stops in his sweetest note,
    And, shaking a flower from the blossoming bough,
    Drawls out, “Mi-ew, mi-ou!”

[Illustration: Dr. T. S. Roberts, Photo. CATBIRD ON NEST]



                                  XXV
                  BIRD AND ARBOUR DAY AT FOXES CORNERS


It was the first Friday of May, the day that was set apart for Arbour
and Bird Day in the schools. Gray Lady and Miss Wilde had thought of
having the celebration in Birdland, but for a good reason decided to
hold it in the schoolhouse.

The reason was this: One day after the schoolhouse had been put in
order,—for Gray Lady had persuaded the town fathers to have the walls
painted, and had then given a band of soft green burlap that covered the
wall just above the chair board, and made a fine background against
which pictures might be pinned and then changed at will,—little Clary
said with a sigh, “I wish we could have a bird party here in school some
day, so’s mother could _see_ how we learn about the birds; it would be
much realer than my telling her about it.”

So a very simple programme was arranged for the forenoon, and the
parents invited. It is a great mistake to hold celebrations that are too
long when it is spring, and the weather is so bright and the bird music
so fine that people can learn much more by being out-of-doors than in
poring over books.

The first part of the programme was under the charge of Jacob Hughes and
the older boys. It consisted in the planting of some strong young
sugar-maples to complete the row between the schoolhouse and the highway
that had been begun last autumn. The holes had been dug the day
previous, and Mr. Todd brought the trees from his grove in the hay-cart,
with plenty of earth about their roots, and after they were set straight
and true, the boys filled in the holes and tramped the earth down
firmly. After this the little boys brought water, four pails being
considered a sufficient drink for each tree.

Next, a dozen shrubs were planted in the eastern corner of the bit of
ground where it rolled up toward the brush-lot and the earth was deep
and good. They were varieties that would flower in May and June, before
the closing of school. Syringa, Weigela, Yellow Forsythia, Purple and
White Lilac, Snowballs, Spireas, Scarlet Flowering Quince, Strawberry
Shrub, and Deutzia. Between this shrubbery a little strip along the
north fence had been made into a long bed of about thirty feet, and the
girls had been asked to collect enough hardy plants from about the farm
gardens to fill it; for there is little use in planting bedding or
annual flowers in school yards, for these are later in starting and are
killed by early frost.

The girls had been very successful in their task, and a goodly
assortment of old-fashioned, hardy plants, that many a gardener would
envy, was the result: Iris of several shades, Peonies, Sweet Williams,
Larkspur, Foxgloves, Honesty, May Pinks, Lemon Lilies, Johnny-jumpers,
and several good roots of Cinnamon and Damask Roses were among the
collection, while Sarah Barnes’ grandmother sent a basket of the roots
of hardy button Chrysanthemums—pink, white, crimson, yellow, and
tawny—that she said would hold out from October to Thanksgiving if they
had “bushes between them and the north.” It was quite eleven o’clock
when, the planting over and the benches that the boys had made during
the winter set in place, the children, whose hands were washed under
very difficult conditions, gathered in the school.

But those parents who cared to come had meanwhile had a chance to go
into the little building, see the pictures, charts, and books on the
shelf behind the desk, and chat with Miss Wilde in a friendly, informal
way that was helpful to all concerned.

Goldilocks had been there all the morning, but when Gray Lady arrived
she brought with her a friend of “the General’s,” who was also a _Wise
Man_ in one of the chief agricultural colleges of the country, who had
promised to talk to the children. Gray Lady herself was to read them
some bird poetry, and Miss Wilde a little story of her own invention,
while as a finale the children themselves were to recite some verses
where ten familiar birds were represented each by a child who wore a cap
and shoulder cape, cleverly made of crêpe paper, that would give a clew,
at least, to the bird he or she represented.

These costumes had been made at the last Saturday meeting of the Kind
Hearts’ Club, in the playroom at “the General’s,” and had caused no
little fun, the idea of them having come from the caps in the mottoes at
that orchard party, in September, eight months before, when the children
first entered Birdland.

This is the poem that Gray Lady read. She had a voice that sang even in
speaking, and as Goldilocks often said, “When mother reads bird poetry
you don’t hear the words, but the birds themselves.”


                            BIRDS IN SPRING

    What time the rose of dawn is laid across the lips of night,
    And all the drowsy little stars have fallen asleep in light,
    ’Tis then a wandering wind awakes, and runs from tree to tree,
    And borrows words from all the birds to sound the reveille.

            This is the carol the Robin throws
                Over the edge of the valley;
            Listen how boldly it flows,
                Sally on sally:

                    _Tirra-lirra, down the river,_
                    _Laughing water all a-quiver._
                    _Day is near, clear, clear._
                        _Fish are breaking,_
                        _Time for waking._
                        _Tup, tup, tup!_
                    _Do you hear? All clear._
                        _Wake up!_

    The phantom flood of dreams has ebbed and vanished with the dark,
    And like a dove the heart forsakes the prison of the ark;
    Now forth she fares through friendly woods and diamond-fields of dew,
    While every voice cries out “Rejoice!” as if the world were new.

            This is the ballad the Bluebird sings,
                Unto his mate replying,
            Shaking the tune from his wings
                While he is flying:

                    _Surely, surely, surely,_
                        _Life is dear_
                        _Even here._
                        _Blue above,_
                        _You to love,_
                    _Purely, purely, purely._

    There’s wild azalea on the hill, and roses down the dell,
    And just a spray of lilac still a-bloom beside the well;
    The columbine adorns the rocks, the laurel buds grow pink,
    Along the stream white arums gleam, and violets bend to drink.

            This is the song of the Yellowthroat,
                Fluttering gayly beside you;
            Hear how each voluble note
                Offers to guide you:

                        _Which way, sir?_
                        _I say, sir,_
                        _Let me teach you,_
                        _I beseech you!_
                        _Are you wishing_
                        _Jolly fishing?_
                        _This way, sir!_
                        _Let me teach you._

    Oh come, forget your foes and fears, and leave your cares behind,
    And wander forth to try your luck, with cheerful, quiet mind;
    For be your fortune great or small, you’ll take what God may give,
    And all the day your heart will say, “’Tis luck enough to live.”

            This is the song the Brown Thrush flings
                Out of his thicket of roses;
            Hark how it warbles and rings,
                Mark how it closes:

                        _Luck, luck,_
                        _What luck?_
                        _Good enough for me!_
                        _I’m alive, you see._
                        _Sun shining, no repining;_
                        _Never borrow idle sorrow;_
                        _Drop it! Cover it up!_
                        _Hold your cup!_
                        _Joy will fill it,_
                        _Don’t spill it!_
                        _Steady, be ready,_
                        _Love your luck!_

    —Henry van Dyke, in _Bird-Lore_.

“I do declare!” exclaimed Tommy Todd’s grandfather, speaking out loud,
much to the boy’s embarrassment. “I reckon I’ll get out a pole and go
a-trout-fishing to-morrow dawn. I haven’t thought of a yallerthroat, not
since I used to go casting in the brook that ran through Ogden’s meadows
among the bush willows, and them birds kept hollerin’ on ahead.”

This is what the Wise Man told the children, standing in front of Miss
Wilde’s desk and speaking as if he knew them all by name.


                            THE BIRDS AND I

The springtime belongs to the birds and me. We own it. We know when the
May-flowers and the buttercups bloom. We know when the first frogs peep.
We watch the awakening of the woods. We are wet by the warm April
showers. We go where we will, and we are companions. Every tree and
brook and blade of grass is ours; and our hearts are full of song.

There are boys who kill the birds, and girls who want to catch them and
put them in cages; and there are others who steal their eggs. The birds
are not partners with them; they are only servants. Birds, like people,
sing for their friends, not for their masters. I am sure that one cannot
think much of the springtime and the flowers if his heart is always set
upon killing or catching something. We are happy when we are free; and
so are the birds.

The birds and I get acquainted all over again every spring. They have
seen strange lands in the winter, and all the brooks and woods have been
covered with snow. So we run and romp together, and find all the nooks
and crannies which we had half forgotten since October. The birds
remember the old places. The Wrens pull the sticks from the old hollow
rail and seem to be wild with joy to see the place again. They must be
the same Wrens that were here last year and the year before, for
strangers could not make so much fuss over an old rail. The Bluebirds
and Wrens look into every crack and corner for a place in which to
build, and the Robins and Chipping-sparrows explore every tree in the
old orchard.

If the birds want to live with us, we should encourage them. The first
thing to do is to let them alone. Let them be as free from danger and
fear as you or I. Take the hammer off the old gun, give pussy so much to
eat that she will not care to hunt for birds, and keep away the boys who
steal eggs and who carry sling-shots and throw stones. Plant trees and
bushes about the borders of the place, and let some of them, at least,
grow into tangles; then, even in the back yard, the wary Catbird may
make its home.

For some kinds of birds we can build houses. You have been doing this
all through the winter, I hear. Some of the many forms which can be used
are shown in the pictures, but any ingenious boy can suggest a dozen
other patterns. Although birds may not appreciate architecture, it is
well to make the houses neat and tasty by taking pains to have the
proportions right. The floor space in each compartment should be not
less than five by six inches, and six by six or six by eight may be
better. By cutting the boards in multiples of these numbers, one can
easily make a house with several compartments; for there are some birds,
as Martins, Tree Swallows, and Pigeons that like to live in families or
colonies. The size of the doorway is important. It should be just large
enough to admit the bird. A larger opening not only looks bad, but it
exposes the inhabitants to dangers of cats and other enemies. Birds
which build in houses, aside from Doves and Pigeons, are Bluebirds,
Wrens, Tree Swallows, Martins, and sometimes the Chickadee. For the Wren
and Chickadee the opening should be an inch-and-a-half augur-hole, and
for the others it should be two inches. Only one opening should be
provided for each house or compartment. A perch or doorstep should be
provided just below each door. It is here that the birds often stop to
arrange their toilets; and when the mistress is busy with domestic
affairs indoors, the male bird often sits outside and entertains her
with the latest neighbourhood gossip. These houses should be placed on
poles or on buildings in somewhat secluded places. Martins and Tree
Swallows like to build their nests twenty-five feet or more above the
ground, but the other birds usually prefer an elevation less than twelve
feet. Newly made houses, and particularly newly painted ones, do not
often attract the birds.

But if the birds and I are companions, I must know them more intimately.
Merely building houses for them is not enough. I want to know live and
happy birds, not dead ones. We are not to know them, then, by catching
them, nor stuffing them, nor collecting their eggs. Persons who make a
business of studying birds may shoot birds now and then, and collect
their eggs. But these persons are scientists and they are grown-up
people. They are trying to add to the sum of human knowledge, but we
want to know birds just because we want to. But even scientists do not
take specimens recklessly. They do not rob nests. They do not kill
brooding birds. They do not make collections merely for the sake of
making them; and even their collections are less valuable than a
knowledge of the bird as it lives and flies and sings.

Boys and girls should not make collections of eggs, for these
collections are mere curiosities, as collections of spools and marbles
are. They may afford some entertainment, to be sure, but one can find
amusement in harmless ways. Some people think that making collections
makes one a naturalist, but it does not. The naturalist cares more for
things as they really are in their own homes than for museum specimens.
One does not love the birds when he steals their eggs and breaks up
their homes; and he is depriving the farmer of one of his best friends,
for birds keep insects in check!

Stuffed birds do not sing and empty eggs do not hatch. Then let us go to
the fields and watch the birds. Sit down on the soft grass and try to
make out what the Robin is doing on yonder fence or why the Wren is
bursting with song in the thicket. An opera-glass or spy-glass will
bring them close to you. Try to find out not only what the colours and
shapes and sizes are, but what their habits are. What does the bird eat?
How much does it eat? Where is its nest? How many eggs does it lay? What
colour are they? How long does the mother bird sit? Does the father bird
care for her when she is sitting? For how long do the young birds remain
in the nest? Who feeds them? What are they fed? Is there more than one
brood in the season? Where do the birds go after breeding? Do they
change their plumage? Are the mother birds and father birds unlike in
size or colour? How many kinds of birds do you know?

These are some of the things which every boy or girl wants to know; and
we can find out by watching the birds! There is no harm in visiting the
nests, if one does it in the right way. I have visited hundreds of them
and have kept many records of the number of eggs and the dates when they
were laid, how long before they hatched, and when the birds flew away;
and the birds took no offence at my inquisitiveness. These are some of
the cautions to be observed: Watch only those nests which can be seen
without climbing, for if you have to climb the tree, the birds will
resent it. Make the visit when the birds are absent if possible; at
least, never scare the bird from the nest. Do not touch the eggs or the
nest. Make your visit very short. Make up your mind just what you want
to see, then look in quickly and pass on. Do not go too often, once or
twice a day will be sufficient. Do not take the other children with you,
for you are then apt to stay too long and to offend the birds.

Now let us see how intimately you can become acquainted with some bird
this summer.

                                                       —L. H. Bailey.

                 *        *        *        *        *

This is the little story that Miss Wilde read them, and they were very
anxious as to what schoolhouse and children she really meant, but she
said that was a secret.


                        THE BIRDS AND THE TREES

It was May Day. Half a dozen birds had collected in an old apple tree,
which stood in a pasture close by the road that passed the schoolhouse;
some of them had not met for many months, consequently a wave of
conversation rippled through the branches.

“You were in a great hurry, the last time I saw you,” said the little
black-and-white Downy Woodpecker to the Brown Thrasher, who was pluming
his long tail, exclaiming now and then because the feathers would not
lie straight.

“Indeed! When? I do not remember. What was I doing?”

“It was the last of October; a cold storm was blowing up, and you were
starting on your southern trip in such a haste that you did not hear me
call ‘good-by’ from this same tree, where I was picking insect eggs that
expected to hide safely in the bark all winter, only to hatch into all
kinds of mischief in the spring. But I was too quick for them; my keen
eyes spied them and my beak chiselled them out. Winter and summer I’m
always at work, yet some house-people do not understand that I work for
my living. They seem to think that a bird who does not sing is good for
nothing but a target for them to shoot at.”

“That is true,” said the dust-coloured Phœbe, dashing out to swallow a
May beetle, which stuck in her throat, causing her to choke and cough.
“I can only call, yet I worked with the best for the farmer where I
lodged last year. I made a nest on his cowshed rafters and laid two sets
of lovely white eggs, but his boys stole them and that was all my thanks
for a season’s toil.”

“Singing birds do not fare much better,” said the Thrasher. “I may say
frankly that I have a fine voice and I can sing as many tunes as any
wild bird, but children rob my nest, when they can find it, and
house-people drive me from their gardens, thinking I’m stealing
berries.”

“They treat me even worse,” said the Robin, bolting a cutworm he had
brought from a piece of ploughed land. “In spring, when I lead the Bird
Chorus night and morning, they rob my nest. In summer they drive me from
the gardens, where I work peacefully, and in autumn, when I linger
through the gloomy days, long after your travelling brothers have
disappeared, they shoot me for pot-pie!”

“It is a shame!” blustered Jennie Wren. “Not that I suffer much myself,
for I’m not good to eat, and I’m a most ticklish mark to shoot at.
Though I lose some eggs, I usually give a piece of my mind to any one
who disturbs me, and immediately go and lay another nest full. Yet I say
it is a shame, the way we poor birds are treated, more like tramps than
citizens, though we are citizens, every one of us who pays rent and
works for the family.”

“Hear, hear!” croaked the Cuckoo, with the yellow bill. He is always
hoarse, probably because he eats so many caterpillars that his throat is
rough with their hairs. “Something ought to be done, but can Jennie Wren
tell us what it shall be?”

“I’ve noticed that most of the boys and girls who rob our nests and
whose parents drive us from their gardens go every day to that square
house down the road yonder,” said Mrs. Wren. “Now if some bird with a
fine voice that would _make_ them listen could only fly in the window
and sing a song, telling them how useful even the songless bird brothers
are, they might treat us better and tell their parents about us when
they go home.”

“Well spoken,” said the Robin; “but who would venture into that house
with all those boys? There is one boy in there who, last year, killed my
mate with a stone in a bean-shooter, and also shot my cousin, a
Bluebird. Then the boy’s sister cut off the wings of these dead brothers
and wore them in her hat. I think it would be dangerous to go in that
schoolhouse.”

“The windows are open,” said the Song Sparrow, who had listened in
silence. “I hear the children singing, so they must be happy. I will go
down and speak to them, for though I have no grand voice, they all know
me and perhaps they will understand my homely wayside song.”

So the Sparrow flew down the road, but as he paused in the lilac hedge
before going in the window, he heard that the voices were singing about
birds, telling of their music, beauty, and good deeds. While he
hesitated in great wonder at the sounds, the children trooped out, the
girls carrying pots of geraniums which they began to plant in some beds
by the walk. Then two boys brought a fine young maple tree to set in the
place of an old tree that had died. A woman with a bright, pleasant face
came to the door to watch the children at their planting, saying to the
boys, “This is Arbour Day, the day of planting trees, but pray remember
that it is Bird Day also. You may dig a deep hole for your tree and
water it well; but if you wish it to grow and flourish, beg the birds to
help you. The old tree died because insects gnawed it, for you were
rough and cruel, driving all the birds away from hereabouts and robbing
their nests.”

“Please, ma’am,” said a little girl, “our orchard was full of spinning
caterpillars last season and we had no apples. Then father read in a
book the government sent him that Cuckoos would eat the caterpillars all
up, so he let the Cuckoos stay, and this year the trees are nice and
clean and all set full of buds!”

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Song Sparrow did not wait to hear any more, but flew back to his
companions with the news.

“I shall put my nest under the lilac hedge to show the children that I
trust them,” said he, after the birds had recovered from their surprise.

“I will lodge in the bushes near the old apple tree,” said the Cuckoo;
“it needs me sadly.”

“I will build over the schoolhouse door,” said the Phoebe; “there is a
peafield near by that will need me to keep the weevils away.”

“I think I will take the nice little nook under the gable,” said Jennie
Wren, “though I need not build for two weeks yet, and I have not even
chosen my mate.”

“I shall go to the sill of that upper window where the blind is half
closed,” said the Robin. “They have planted early cauliflowers in the
great field and I must help the farmer catch the cutworms.”

“I will stay by also,” said the Woodpecker. “I know of a charming hole
in an old telegraph pole and I can see to the bark of all the trees that
shade the schoolhouse.”

Just then a gust of wind blew through the branches, reminding the birds
that they must go to work, and May passed by whispering with Heart of
Nature, her companion, about the work that must be done before June
should come,—June, with her gown all embroidered with roses and a
circle of young birds fluttering about her head for a hat.

“Dear Master,” May said, “why am I always hurried and always working? I
do more than all other months. July basks in the sun and August sits
with her hands folded while the people gather in her crops. Each year
March quarrels with Winter and does no work; then April cries her eyes
out over her task, leaving it dim and colourless. Even the willow wears
only pale yellow wands until I touch them. The leaf buds only half
unfold, and the birds hold aloof from the undraped trees; see, nothing
thrives without me.” And May shook the branches of a cherry tree and it
was powdered with white blossoms.

“Nothing grows by or for itself,” said Heart of Nature, tenderly. “The
tree is for bird and the bird for the tree, while both working together
are for the house-people if they will only understand me and use them
wisely. Never complain of work, sweet daughter May. Be thankful that you
have the quickening touch, for to work in my garden is to be happy.”

Then the Song Sparrow caught up the words and wove them in his song and
carolled it in May’s ear as she swept up the hillside to set the
red-bells chiming for a holiday.

                 *        *        *        *        *

These are the verses that the children recited. Goldilocks asked the
question in the first line of each verse, and the child who represented
the bird answered. Little Clary was the first,—the Chippy,—and as she
said the words she raised her arms and flapped them like wings; the
parents all applauded with delight.


                        THE BIRDS AND THE HOURS

                   4 A.M.
    Who is the bird of the early dawn?
        The brown-capped Chippy, who from the lawn
    Raises his wings and with rapture thrills,
        While his simple ditty he softly trills.

                   5 A.M.
    Who is the bird of the risen sun?
        The Robin’s chorus is well-nigh done
    When Bobolink swings from the clover high,
        And scatters his love-notes across the sky.

                   9 A.M.
    Who is the bird of the calm forenoon?
        The Catbird gay with his jeering tune,
    Who scolds and mimics and waves his wings
        And jerks his tail as he wildly sings.

                   Noon
    Who is the bird of the middle day?
        The green-winged, red-eyed Vireo gay,
    Who talks and preaches, yet keeps an eye
        On every stranger who passes by.

                   5 P.M.
    Who is the bird of the afternoon?
        The Wood Thrush shy, with his silvery tune
    Of flute and zither and flageolet;
        His rippling song you will never forget.

                   7 P.M.
    Who is the bird of the coming night?
        The tawny Veery, who out of sight
    In cool dim green o’er the waterway
        The lullaby echoes of sleeping day.

                   9 P.M.
    Who is the bird that when all is still
        Like a banshee calls? The Whip-poor-will;
    Who greets the Nighthawk in upper air
        Where they take their supper of insect fare.

                  Midnight
    Who are the birds that at midnight’s stroke
        Play hide-and-seek in the half-dead oak?
    And laugh and scream ’till the watch-dog howls?
        The wise-looking, mouse-hunting young Screech Owls.

                All in chorus
        Good Night! Good Day!
    Be kind to the birds and help repay
    The songs they sing you the livelong day,
    The bugs they gobble and put to flight—
    Without birds, orchards would perish quite!
        Good Day! Good Night!

    —M. O. W.

Tommy and Dave, who represented the Screech Owls, followed up the last
“good night” by a very realistic imitation of the mewing call-note and
the cry of the little Screech Owl, that not only brought down the house,
but caused the guests to go home in a state of laughing good humour.



                                  XXVI
                      SOME BIRDS THAT COME IN MAY


 _In Apple-blossom Time look for Orioles and All the Brightly Coloured
                                Birds._

“In May you must get up early and keep both eyes and ears wide open if
you would name this month’s share of the birds. All that have not come
must do so now or never, though sick and crippled birds may straggle
along at any time.

“These are the birds you may expect during the month. Some you already
know from both pictures and stories, and these will seem like old
friends:—

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Nighthawk
Humming-bird
Kingbird
Baltimore Oriole
Bobolink
Indigo-bird
Scarlet Tanager
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow Warbler
Maryland Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Redstart
Veery
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

“Some cloudy morning early in the month, you will hear a new call. At
first it may suggest the coo-oo-oo of the Mourning Dove, then the
drumming of the Flicker, but after waiting for a moment you realize that
it is neither. The first sound is like that made by clicking the tongue
rapidly against the roof of the mouth; the second sounds like
cow-cow-cow-cow-cow repeated in quick succession. By this you will know
that the _Yellow-billed Cuckoo_ has come.

“You will be disappointed when first you see the bird itself, for it
does not in the least resemble the bird of the English poets, who lives
in Cuckoo clocks and bobs out to tell the hours. Neither is it a lazy
bird who refuses to build a nest and leaves its eggs to the care of
others like the Cowbird.

“This Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a slender bird cloaked in brownish gray,
of a soft hue and with a light belly. The tail-feathers are tipped with
white, so that, as you look at the bird from below, it shows large white
spots. This Cuckoo takes its name because the lower part of its bill is
yellow, but you will scarcely notice this when he is in the trees, where
he spends the greater part of his time in searching for insects and
caterpillars, which are his favourite food.

[Illustration: YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO]

“The nest is a shallow, rather shiftless sort of an affair, and very
often has so little lining that if the vine or bush in which it is
placed tips a little, the pale blue eggs are in danger of rolling out.
What the Cuckoos lack in housekeeping thrift they make up as destroyers
of harmful insects, and here it has helped to keep the old orchard alive
by tearing apart the nests of the tent-caterpillar and eating the
inhabitants. These mischievous caterpillars used to be content to live
in the wild cherry trees that line the roads and old pastures. People
cut these down in consequence, so after a time the caterpillar found
that apple trees were quite as much to his taste and seized upon the
orchards. Then comes Master Cuckoo, and wherever the tent worms are,
there we find him also. So many has he been known to devour that one of
the Wise Men, upon examining the stomach of a Cuckoo that had been
killed, found it lined with a sort of felt made from the hairs of the
caterpillars.

“So, if you hear the harsh call near by, be very glad; the sound may not
please the ear, but the bird is a pleasure to the sight as he slips away
silently through the trees to do work for us that we cannot do as well.

“The _Red-eyed Vireo_, excepting the Catbird, is the most talkative bird
that we have; in fact, so fond is he of the sound of his own voice that
he is rarely silent during the daylight hours. Then, too, his eloquence
has a questioning and arguing quality that made Wilson Flagg give him
the nickname of ‘The Preacher,’ by which he will always be known. ‘You
see it—you know it—do you hear me? Do you believe it?’ he hears this
voice say, and if you keep these words in your mind, you will recognize
the bird the first time that you hear his song. You may hear the Vireo’s
words twenty times for every peep that you may get of his person; not
that he is at all shy, but he is restlessness in feathers, while unlike
many talkers he both talks and works at the same time. Now he is at the
end of a branch close to you, then on the opposite side of the tree,
from whence he works his way to the very top, clearing the small limbs
and twigs of insects as he goes.

“After trying in vain to see him, one day when you are not thinking of
this or any other bird, you will pass a familiar tree, one of the
apples, perhaps, whose branches nearly sweep the ground. Your eye in
going idly over the leaves halts at an object that is partly suspended
between the forked twigs of a branch almost under your eye. You look
again; it is a nest, pocket-shaped, and fastened between the twigs as
the heel of a stocking is held between knitting needles. The nest itself
is finely woven of plant-down, soft bark, and perhaps a few shreds of
paper.

“You step nearer; a little head with a long, curved beak rises slightly
above the nest,—Madam is at home. An eye holds your own,—a red eye
with a long, clear, white mark over it by way of an eyebrow. Then you
notice the head wears a gray cap bordered with black. The bird perhaps
breathes a little faster, and the prettily shaded olive-green back
heaves and the wings twitch as if to make ready to fly, otherwise the
bird does not budge, but simply sits and waits for you to go; this, if
you are really one of the Kind Hearts, you will do very soon.

“True, you may come back the next day and the next, and from a
comfortable distance watch the Vireo’s housekeeping and the progress of
her brood, only please do not touch either the nest or its contents.
After she has done with it and autumn comes, you may have it for your
own and see for yourself how wonderfully it is made.

“All sorts of amusing bits of printing from newspapers have been found
woven into these nests, and there is one in Goldilocks’ cabinet, that I
will show you later, that says upon the shred of paper,—‘an eight-room
flat,—electric light and —— —— improvements,’ the missing words
being concealed where the paper was woven under the plant fibres.

[Illustration: F. M. Chapman, Photo. RED-EYED VIREO ON NEST]

“There are several other Vireos with richer, more melodious voices that
you will learn to name after you have made your first bowing and
speaking acquaintances in Birdland. The Red-eyed, however, is the
largest and most easily named of them all if you remember his love of
preaching, his white eyebrow, and gray, black-edged cap. He will be with
us all summer, leaving in early October with the last flocks of Barn
Swallows.


                             RED-EYED VIREO

    When overhead you hear a bird
      Who talks, or rather, chatters,
    Of all the latest woodland news,
      And other trivial matters,
    Who is so kind, so very kind,
      She never can say no,
    And so the nasty Cowbird
      Drops an egg among her row
    Of neat white eggs. Behold her then,
      The Red-eyed Vireo!

    —Faith C. Lee, in _Bird-Lore_.


                   THREE LISPERS AND A VENTRILOQUIST

“When the trees are putting on their best and greenest leaves, many new
sounds mingle with the hum of insects among the branches. You pause and
look up in the confusing mass of fluttering green and sunbeams to find,
if possible, the origin of these sounds.

“Many feathered shapes are fluttering about, some flying after the
manner of birds, while others flit and move in the irregular fashion of
butterflies, while the notes they utter, instead of being full-throated,
have a sort of childish lisp.

“These birds belong to the tribe of _Warblers_; a few do really warble,
but for the majority the _Lispers_ would be a more appropriate title.
Listen! there comes a little call now, as if the bird had kept his beak
half closed, ‘Sweet-sweetie-sweazy!’ and a bird of light build and no
larger than a Chippy flits backward from the twig where he was perching
and alights on one below, following in his flight one of the insects of
which he is a valiant destroyer, as he belongs really to both the order
of Tree Trappers and Sky Sweepers.

“Now is your chance; he is at rest for a moment; look at him,—black of
back, head, and breast, some salmon-red feathers on wings and tail, and
the sides of breast rich, pure salmon, and the belly white. What a brave
little uniform, almost the Oriole colours. One of the Wise Men who has
met the Redstart in his winter home in Cuba says that there he is called
‘_Candelita_, the little torch that flashes in the gloomy depth of
tropical forests.’

“There is nothing secluded about him, however, except the depths of
shade where he feeds and weaves his nest, in texture much like the
Vireo’s. His mate is also a very dainty bird, but his flame colour and
black is replaced by pale yellow and gray.

“The Redstart is a bird to know in May and June, though it does not
leave until early in October.


                        _The Summer Yellowbird_

“From the apple trees or shrubs near the house comes a cheerful lisping
song that constantly declares that life up among the leaves is
‘Sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweeter,’ ending this remark by a warble full
of melody. Then a little bird smaller than a Chippy flits out with a bit
of green worm hanging from his beak and disappears in another tree.
Brief as the glimpse is, you see that the bird is rich olive-yellow,
with cinnamon streaks on the breast. If he pauses a moment, you will
notice that the underparts are almost the colour of gold. This is the
_Yellow Warbler_ of many names,—_Wild Canary_, _Summer Yellowbird_, or
simply _Yellowbird_; though this name is also commonly given to the
seed-eating Goldfinch of the Sparrow tribe who wears a jaunty black cap,
and stays with us all the year, while the Yellow Warbler goes southward
before leaf-fall in September.

“The Yellow Warbler’s nest is one of the most beautiful and interesting
bird-homes, and shares the fame of that of the Baltimore Oriole, Wood
Pewee, Humming-bird, and Vireo. It is cup-shaped and deep, woven of
fibres and plant-down, and is placed in the fork of a bush or in a fruit
tree, where it is as firmly lashed by cords of vegetable fibre and
cobwebs. The female is the builder and a very rapid workwoman. This nest
is often used by the Cowbird, but little Mrs. Yellow Warbler is more
clever than many other small birds and refuses to be imposed upon. She
is evidently afraid to push out the alien egg, so she swiftly walls it
in by building a second nest on top of the first. If this does not check
the Cowbird, a third nest is sometimes added, like the one that Tommy
brought me last fall, and there is a two-story nest in Goldilocks’
cabinet.

“This Warbler is not only beautiful to look at and pleasant to hear, but
he is a very valuable tree trapper, for he eats the spinning cankerworms
and also tent-caterpillars, pulling apart webs of the latter and using
them ‘for cordage’ to bind the nest. He is also a destroyer of
plant-lice and something of a flycatcher as well.


                        _Maryland Yellowthroat_

“Here is a merry bird that you cannot miss seeing or fail to name if you
have eyes and ears. Olive on head and back, this bird certainly has a
yellow throat, also much yellow on tail, wings, and underparts, but if I
had the naming of it I should call him the ‘Yellow, Black-masked
Warbler,’ for he wears a narrow mask of black across his face, through
which his keen eyes peer provokingly as he flits ahead calling for you
to follow, ‘Follow me—follow me—follow!’ When you see the bird, of two
points you may be sure at once; it is yellow, and it wears a black mask,
but whether it is yellowest on back, throat, or breast will require a
second look.

“This bird is here about the garden and lane from May to September, and
last June we found its long, bulky nest, partly covered like an Indian
cradle, in the bushes between the garden and orchard, but it usually is
so clever at going into the bushes and then darting along close to the
ground to its nest, that we had known of this nest for several days
before we discovered that it belonged to Black Mask, for his wife, who
kept the nearest to the nest, wears no mask, and we thought her some
other kind of Warbler.


                       THE MARYLAND YELLOWTHROAT

    While May bedecks the naked trees
    With tassels and embroideries,
    And many blue-eyed violets beam
    Along the edges of the stream,

    I hear a voice that seems to say,
    Now near at hand, now far away,
    “Witchery-witchery-witchery!”

            *     *     *     *     *     *

    An incantation so serene,
    So innocent, befits the scene;
    There’s magic in that small bird’s note.
    See! there he flits—the Yellowthroat;
    A living sunbeam, tipped with wings,
    A spark of light that shines and sings,
    “Witchery-witchery-witchery!”

    —Henry van Dyke, in _The Builders and Other Poems_.

“A whistle comes out of the bushes that line the wood lane perhaps when
you are gathering the pink Wild Azalea. If you have a dog with you, he
will get up and sniff about. The whistle is repeated, and you yourself
think it is one of your companions who has rounded the turn calling you.
No; then it is merely a Catbird mocking half a dozen other songsters and
then jeering at them.

“By mere chance, glancing at a tree close above, you see a bird of good
size with brilliant yellow throat, breast, and wing-linings, and a
strong curved beak that appears almost hooked. Perching there is a
Yellow-breasted Chat. He it is who is doing the mocking and jeering, but
throws his voice in such a way that it seems to come from the opposite
bushes. It is this power that gives him the name of ‘Ventriloquist.’
Being observed, he slips quickly out of sight, and then you notice the
olive-green colour on his back. He has a song of his own as well as the
power of imitating others and in the nesting season floats out upon the
air, with spread wings and legs trailing behind, in a wild ecstasy of
singing, looking to us humans very foolish, but is doubtless very
fascinating to his mate on her nest hidden amid briers and bushes and
thoroughly protected by vines.


                          _Singers in Costume_

“Among the birds many of the best vocalists are choir singers, as it
were. We hear their voices first, and from hearing them desire to know
and name the singers. The Thrushes belong to the first group. Others
there are who come on the stage in brilliant costume; we see them first,
then desire to hear them sing, and afterward remember them as pleasing
both to eye and ear. These are the gentlemen of the Opera, and four of
them made the garden and orchard their music-hall last summer and I do
not doubt will do so again. In fact the Goldfinches have never left, but
a flock in sober winter suits have fed at the lunch-counter on the
sunflower heads and fluttered over the weed seeds in the fields all
winter.

“The _Baltimore Oriole_ is the first of the quartet to settle down to
family life late in May. The _Rose-breast_ follows him closely. But the
_Tanager_ waits for the heavy leafage of June to cover his brilliant
colours while, for some reason not yet understood, the _American
Goldfinch_ keeps his bachelor freedom longer than any bird except the
Cedar Waxwing. And though he wears his handsome yellow wedding-clothes
from late April, he waits until he has feasted well on dandelion-down
and the best grass seeds before he ceases to rove and takes to a bush,
high maple, or other tree, to locate his soft nest made of moss and
grasses and lined with thistle-down.


                          THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE

    How falls it, Oriole, thou hast come to fly
    In tropic splendour through our northern sky?

    At some glad moment was it Nature’s choice
    To dower a scrap of sunset with a voice?

    Or did an orange tulip flaked with black,
    In some forgotten ages back,

    Yearning toward Heaven until its wish was heard,
    Desire unspeakably to be a bird?

    —Edgar Fawcett.

“The Baltimore Oriole should be first mentioned, for his voice is that
of the bugler that heralds actual spring, the long-expected,
long-delayed mellow period, distinct from the almanac spring, that, when
it once comes to us of the middle and north country, is quickly absorbed
by the ardour of summer herself. Also is this Oriole the gloriously
illuminated initial letter wrought in ruddy gold and black pigments
heading the chapter that records the season; and when we see him high in
a tree against a light tracery of fresh foliage, we know in very truth
that not only is winter over, that the treacherous snow-squalls of April
are past, but that May is working day and night to complete the task
allotted.

“For as the Indian waited for the blooming of the dogwood, _Cornus
florida_, before planting his maize, so does the prudent gardener wait
for the first call of the Oriole before she trusts her cellar-wintered
geraniums and lemon balms once more to the care of Mother Earth.

“This Oriole has history blended with his name; for it is said that
George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, tired and discouraged by many
of the troubles of his Newfoundland colony, in visiting the Virginia
settlement in 1628, explored the waters of the Chesapeake, where he
found the shores and woods alive with birds, and conspicuous among them,
vast flocks of Orioles. These so pleased him that he took their colours
for his own and they ever afterward bore his name—a fair exchange.

“The _Baltimore Oriole_ comes of a party-coloured American
family—_Icteridæ_—that to the eye of the uninitiated at least would
appear to be a hybrid clan drawn from all quarters of the bird world.
Yet it is typically American, even in this variety; for what other race
would have the temerity to harbour the Bobolink, Orchard and Baltimore
Orioles, Red-wing, Meadowlark, various Grackles, together with the
vagrant Cowbird, in the branches of the same family tree?

“One of the many welcome facts concerning the Oriole is the ease with
which he is identified; and I say _he_ advisedly, for his more
industrious half, who is the expert weaver of the pair, is much the more
sombre of hue. In early May, or even as late as the middle of the month
in backward seasons, you will hear a half-militant, half-complaining
note from the high tree branches. As you go out to find its origin, it
will be repeated, and then a flash of flame and black will shoot across
the range of vision toward another tree, and the bird, chiding and
complaining, begins a minute search along the smaller twigs for insects.
This is the Oriole, _Icterus galbula_, as he first appears in full
spring array,—his head, throat, and top of back and wings black, except
a few margins and quills that are white edged. The breast and
underparts, lower part of back, and lesser wing-coverts are orange
flame, while his tail is partly black and partly orange.

“Two other tree-top birds that arrive at about the same time, one to
remain and one to pass on, wear somewhat the same combination of red and
black,—the Redstart and the Blackburnian Warbler. But, besides being
much smaller birds, they both belong to the pretty tribe of Warblers
that, with a few notable exceptions, such as the Chat and
Water-thrushes, should be more properly called ‘lispers’ and not be
confused with the clear-toned Oriole.

“Once the female Oriole arrives, usually several days after the male,
his complaining call, ‘Will you? Will you really, truly?’ gradually
lessens: and after a few weeks, when nest-building begins, it quite
disappears, or rather, is appropriated by the songless female, who,
while she weaves the nest, is encouraged by the clarion song of her
mate. The plumage of the female is brown and gray blended with orange
above, the head, back, and throat being mottled with black, while the
underparts are a dull orange, with little of the flaming tints of the
male.

“Though the Oriole exposes himself more freely to view than most of our
highly coloured birds and in fact seems to regard his gift of beauty
anything but seriously, he takes no chances, however, in the locating of
his nest, which is not only from twenty feet above the ground upward,
but is suspended from a forked branch that is at once tough yet so
slender that no marauding cat would dare venture to it. This pensile
nest is diligently woven of grasses, twine, vegetable fibres, horsehair,
bits of worsted, or anything manageable and varies much in size and
shape, as if the matter of individual taste entered somewhat into the
matter. It has been fairly well proven that location enters largely into
this matter, and that nests in wild regions, where birds of prey, etc.,
abound, are smaller at the top and have a more decided neck than those
in the trees of home lawns and orchard. Of the many nests that I have
found and handled or else observed closely with a glass, the majority
have been quite open at the top like the one pictured, and the only one
with a narrow and funnel-like opening came from a wayside elm on the
edge of a dense wood.

“The female seems to be weaver-in-chief, using both claw and bill,
though I have seen the male carry her material. It is asserted that
Orioles will weave gayly coloured worsteds into their nests. This I very
much doubt, or if they do, I believe it is for lack of something more
suitable. I have repeatedly fastened varicoloured bunches of soft linen
twine, carpet-thread, flosses, and the like under the bark of trees
frequented by Orioles, and with one exception, it has been the more
sombre tints that were selected, though I am told that nests are found
made of very bright colours.

“In the exceptional case a long thread of scarlet linen floss was taken
and woven into the nest for about half its length, the remainder hanging
down; but on resuming my watch the next day, I found that the weaver had
left the half-finished task and crossed the lawn to another tree.
Whether it was owing to the presence of red squirrels close by, or that
the red thread had been a subject for domestic criticism and dissension,
we may not know.

“Be this as it may, in spite of the bright hues of the parent birds and
the hanging shape of the nest that is never concealed by a branch upon
which it is saddled, like the home of so many birds, an Oriole’s nest is
exceedingly difficult to locate unless one has noticed the trips to and
fro in the building process; but once the half-dozen white, darkly
etched and spotted eggs it contains hatch out, the vociferous youngsters
at once call attention to the spot and make their whereabouts known, in
spite of sky cradle and carefully adjusted leaf umbrellas.

“If their parents bring them food, they squeal (yes, that is the only
word for it); if they are left alone, they do likewise. Their baby
voices can be heard above the wind, and it is only either at night or
during a heavy shower, when a parent would naturally be supposed to be
upon the nest, that they are silent.

“As an adult, the Oriole lives on rather mixed diet and has a great love
of honey; but of course as a parent he is, with his sharp beak, a great
provider of animal food for his home, and to his credit must be placed a
vast number of injurious tree-top insects that escape the notice of less
agile birds.

“Complaints are frequently heard of his propensity for opening pods and
eating young peas, piercing the throats of trumpet-shaped flowers for
the honey, and in the autumn, before the southward migration, siphoning
grape and plum juice by means of this same slender, pointed bill.

“Personally, I have never lost peas through his appetite for green
vegetables, though I have had the entire floral output of an old
trumpet-vine riddled bud and blossom; and I have often stood and scolded
them from under the boughs of a Spitzenburgh apple tree, amid the
blossoms of which they were rummaging,—perhaps for insects, but also
scattering the rosy blossoms right and left with torn and bruised
petals. Powell, in _The Independent_, writes feelingly of this trait of
the Oriole, thus:—

“‘An Oriole is like a golden shuttle in the foliage of the trees, but he
is the incarnation of mischief. That is just the word for it. If there
is anything possible to be destroyed, the Oriole likes to tear it up.

“‘He wastes a lot of string in building his nest. He is pulling off
apple blossoms now, possibly eating a few petals. By and by he will pick
holes in bushels of grapes, and in plum season he will let the wasps and
hornets into the heart of every Golden Abundance plum on your favourite
tree. . . . Yet the saucy scamp is so beautiful that he is
tolerated—and he does kill an enormous lot of insects. There is a
swinging nest just over there above the blackberry bushes. It is
wonderfully woven and is a cradle as well as a house. I should like to
have been brought up in such a homestead.’

“It seems as if the Oriole must be a descendant of one of the brilliant
birds that inhabited North America in by-gone days of tropic heat and
that has stayed on from a matter of hereditary association; for in the
nesting season it is to be found from Florida and Texas up to New
Brunswick and the Saskatchewan country and westward to the Rockies,
beyond which this type is replaced by Bullock’s Oriole, of much similar
colouring save that it has more orange on the sides of the head, and the
white wing-patch is larger.

“But however much the Baltimore Oriole loves his native land, the
climate and the exigencies of travel make his stay in it brief; for he
does not appear until there is some protection of foliage and he starts
southward toward his winter home in Central and South America often
before a single leaf has fallen.


                          THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE

    O Golden Robin! pipe again
    That happy, hopeful, cheering strain!

    A prisoner in my chamber, I
    See neither grass, nor bough, nor sky;
    Yet to my mind thy warblings bring,
    In troops, all images of spring;
    And every sense is satisfied
    But what thy magic has supplied.
    As by enchantment, now I see
    On every bush and forest tree
    The tender, downy leaf appear.—
    The loveliest robe they wear.

    The tulip and the hyacinth grace
    The garden bed; each grassy place
    With dandelions glowing bright,
    Or king-cups, childhood’s pure delight,
    Invite the passer-by to tread
    Upon the soft, elastic bed,
    And pluck again the simple flowers
    Which charmed so oft his younger hours.
    The apple orchards all in bloom—
    I seem to smell their rare perfume.
    And thou, gay whistler! to whose song
    These powers of magic art belong,
    On top of lofty elm I see
    Thy black and orange livery;
    Forgive that word! a freeman bold,
    Of choice thou wearest jet and gold,
    And no man’s livery dost bear,
    Thou flying tulip! free as air!

    Come, Golden Robin! once again
    That magic, joy-inspiring strain!

    —Thomas Hill.

“Of all our North American birds, the Tanager is the most gorgeous and
suggestive of the tropics. I do not understand how any one can fail to
name him. He is unlike any other. Entire body rich scarlet, wings and
tail black; that is all that there is to remember about him in spring
dress. In autumn he moults to a greenish yellow like his mate, but still
keeps his black wings and tail.

“This bird is commonly thought to be rare, but that is because he loves
groves of oaks, chestnuts, and beeches, and Nature has taught him to
keep in high deep shade, that his colour, far richer than the Cardinals,
may not make him a target for enemies, both feathered and human. But in
the migrations he is often to be seen. Half a dozen were feeding at one
time in the garden and about the lunch-counter this spring, and in May,
whenever I drove about or went to Fair Meadows village, some one was
sure to either ask me the name of the beautiful red birds that they had
seen about the yard, or, if they knew the bird, tell how plentiful
Tanagers had been this year.

“Protection has certainly helped this bird, and in some places it is
said to be increasing; and as it is distinctly a bird of high trees,
where its nest of loosely built sticks is placed, it is not so much
affected by the modern plague of cats as either Robin, Song Sparrow, or
the Thrushes. ‘The song resembles somewhat that of the Robin, but is
shorter and less varied, with a little apparent hoarseness or harshness
in the tone. Chi-chi-chi-char-ee, char-ee-chi represents it fairly
well.’ It also has a sharp ‘Chip-churr!’ alarm note.

“The Robin, Grosbeak, and Tanager all have certain notes in common, so
that when they all sing at once, it is often difficult to distinguish
the individual songs.

“The Tanager is the guardian of the forest trees and their insect pests.
As a caterpillar hunter, it is said ‘he has but few superiors.’ He finds
the leaf-rolling caterpillar in its snug retreat and destroys myriads of
weevils, click-beetles, and crane-flies. The Tanager also visits
orchards, and in early spring, during the migrations, he braves danger
and feeds in the furrows of ploughed land in the same way as the
Grackles and Robins.

“The Tanagers are unique little specimens when they first leave the
nest, for the male birds undergo as many changes of colour as Harlequin
in the pantomime. After the down of nestlings, they wear the dull colour
of the mother, and before they put on the full spring plumage, they go
through a stage of patchwork such as you see in this picture in my
portfolio. Then after being bright red all summer, they again go through
the patchwork state before leaving in fall.

“The coming of cold weather evidently warns this Tanager to go, for
being provided with a dull travelling cloak, he need no more fear being
seen in the leafless trees than the Thrushes or Sparrows.

“_Thistle-bird_, _Lettuce-bird_, and _Yellowbird_ are all names given to
this friendly little Sparrow of the stout bill, black cap, tail, wings,
and bright gamboge-yellow plumage, who lives with us all the year and is
almost always seen in flocks. In spring we find these birds and their
more sober wives feeding on dandelion seeds. In early summer they glean
grass seeds in the hayfields. In late summer and early autumn they
flutter about the seeding thistle in company with the rich red
butterflies, and after this, the male and female, garbed alike, then
live wherever the wild composite flowers like asters, sunflowers, or
garden marigolds and zinnias have gone to seed and in the great waste
fields of weeds.

“At all times its flight is noticeable for its dip, followed by an
upward jerk, and as they fly, they call ‘per-chic-o-ree-per-chic-o-ree’
(Chapman) in a jolly, gleeful manner.

“In May, June, and July they sing in a varied and canary-like manner
from tree-tops and as they swing on stalks of grass, having quite
powerful voices for their size, which is under five inches.

“A lover and close observer of these Goldfinches has written the summer
life of a pair of these birds in so interesting a fashion that I will
read it to you. Either the pair that she describes were very late in
nesting, or it was their second brood.

[Illustration: GOLDFINCH]

                 Order—Passeres      Family—Fringillidæ
                Genus—Astragalinus      Species—Tristis


                            A GOLDFINCH IDYL

Do you know of any far-away pasture where, in blueberry time, Sparrows
play hide-and-seek in the bushes, and Finches are like little golden
balls tossed on the breeze? It was in such a field that my Goldfinch
found the thistle-down for her soft couch—_her_ couch, observe, for it
was the dull mate in greenish olive that made the bed.

I was there when the maple twig was chosen for the nest—as good luck
would have it—close by our cottage door and in plain sight from my
window. The choice was announced by a shower of golden notes from the
male bird and a responsive twitter from his mate. She began building at
once, quickly outlining the nest with grasses and bark. Her approach was
always heralded by a burst of song from her mate, who hovered near while
she deftly wove the pretty fabric and then flew away with him to the
base of supply.

It was August 2 when the nest began. I quote from my note-book:—

“August 3. I observed the work closely for an hour. The working partner
made eighteen trips, the first eleven in twenty-two minutes, grass and
thistle-down being brought; the last nine trips only down, more time
being taken to weave it into the walls. The male warbled near by and
twice flew into the tree and cheered his industrious mate with song.

“August 5. The home growing. The female tarries much longer at the nest,
fashioning the lining.

“August 6. Both birds sing while flying to and from the nest.

“August 7. Nest completed. The mother bird has a little ‘song of the
nest’—a very happy song. Think an egg was laid to-day.

“August 11. The male Goldfinch feeds his mate on the nest. Flies to her
with a jubilant twitter, his mouth full of seeds. She eagerly takes from
twelve to twenty morsels. They always meet and part with song. Once the
brooding mate grew impatient, flew to the next tree to meet her
provider, took eight or ten morsels, then flew with him to the nest and
took twelve more. A generous commissary!

“August 17. Breakfast on the nest; twenty-three morsels from one
mouthful. How is it possible for song to escape from that bill before
the unloading? Yet it never fails.”

Here the record comes to an untimely stop, the reporter being suddenly
called home. But the following year Nature’s serial opened at the same
leaf.

Toward the last of July, a steady increase in Goldfinch music, and a
subtle change in its meaning marked the approach of nesting time. Again
I quote from my journal:—

“August 8. My careful search was rewarded by the discovery of a
Goldfinch’s nest, barely outlined, in the rock maple near the former
site, but on the road side of the tree. That my bird friends had
returned to the old treestead I could not doubt, as they bore my
scrutiny with unconcern. In six days the nest was completed. The builder
flew to the brook and drank with her mate, but rarely stayed away long
enough for food supply; that was carried to her and received on the
nest.

“August 18. An episode: a rival male flew to the home tree with the male
Goldfinch, both singing delightfully and circling about the nest. The
mate, much excited, several times flew from the nest and joined in the
discussion. Two bouts between the males ended in the discomfiture of
number two and the return of my Goldfinch with a victor’s song.

“August 20. The course of true love now ran smooth, and Goldfinch, sure
of his intrenched affection, sang less volubly. The female, delicately
sensitive of ear, apparently recognizes the voice of her mate and never
fails to respond. Other Goldfinches flew by in song, calling and
singing, but only one appealed to her.

“August 25 was a red-letter day in Goldfinch annals; then, and only
then, I saw the male on the nest fed by his mate. The male then shares
incubation? He certainly gave it a trial, but so far as my observation
goes, found it too confining to be repeated.

“August 29. ‘Out to-day,’ as the newsboy cries—the female’s elevation
on the nest determined that. Her eagerness now overcame caution, and she
flew straight to the nest instead of in a roundabout course. Both
parents fed the young.

“August 30. In a single trip the male Goldfinch brought forty morsels to
the family, his mate eager to get her ‘thirds,’ but as soon as he had
gone she slipped off the nest and fed the young. This method was pursued
for three days.

“Sept. 1. The female very active at the nest, making toilets of young,
reassuring them with tender syllables when a red squirrel ran up the
tree with alarming sounds. I saw three open mouths. The brooding bird
went for food and returned stealthily to the nest. The male came once,
but brought nothing, and henceforth was an idle partner.

“Sept. 6. Young birds, having found their voices, announced meal time
with joyous twitter. They were fed, on an average, once in forty-five
minutes and were now forming cleanly habits, like young Swallows,
voiding excrement over the rim of the nest.

“Sept. 8. The old bird no longer perching at the nest to feed her young,
but on the branch, to lure them from their cradle. They shook their
wings vigorously and preened their tiny feathers.

“Sept. 11. Young Finches ventured to the edge of the nest and peered
curiously into the unknown.

“Sept. 11. An empty nest.”

                                   —Ella Gilbert Ives, in _Bird-Lore_.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“In spite of the rosy wing-linings and shield set above his white
breast, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is the least conspicuous of the
Singers in Costume. The reason for this is, that unless you are either
directly under or before him, the richly coloured breast may escape
notice and only the dark back appear. Yet to one who knows birds, even
the back will serve to name him, for no other familiar songster has so
much black and white about him—black head and back, a white rump,
black-and-white wings, and black-and-white tail.

[Illustration: National Association of Audubon Societies ROSE-BREASTED
  GROSBEAK
(Upper Figure, Male; Lower Figure, Female)]

                 Order—Passeres      Family—Fringillidæ
                Genus—Zamelodia      Species—Ludoviciana

“This Grosbeak delights in young woodlands where the trees are small and
well branched, and the big, rather loosely woven nest of weeds, twigs,
and various wood fibres is seldom placed as high as even the Robin’s or
Tanager’s, and yet, in spite of the fact that female birds are supposed
to have dull feathers because they will be less seen when on the nest, I
have seen a gorgeous male brooding the eggs in bright daylight, the nest
being on a low sapling in a rather thickly wooded brush-lot.

“The Rose-breast is very useful as a killer of large beetles and
insects, and from his prowess with the striped potato-beetle has been
called locally the ‘Potato Bird’; but it is for its song that we love
and prize him as one of the birds that to miss from the garden, means
that one of the best features of the season has been lost.

“Listen to what Audubon said of this song, that great pioneer
naturalist, whose pure nature and spiritual kinship with the birds never
forsook him in hours of adversity.

“‘One year, in the month of August, I was trudging along the shores of
the Mohawk River, when night overtook me. Being little acquainted with
that part of the country, I resolved to camp where I was. The evening
was calm and beautiful, the sky sparkled with stars, which were
reflected by the smooth waters, and the deep shade of the rocks and
trees of the opposite shore fell on the bosom of the stream, while
gently from afar came on the ear the muttering sound of the cataract. My
little fire was soon lighted under a rock, and, spreading out my scanty
stock of provisions, I reclined on my grassy couch. As I looked around
on the fading features of the beautiful landscape, my heart turned
toward my distant home, where my friends were doubtless wishing me, as I
wished them, a happy night and peaceful slumbers. Then were heard the
barkings of the watch-dog and I tapped my faithful companion to prevent
his answering them. The thoughts of my worldly mission then came over my
mind, and having thanked the Creator of all for His never-failing mercy,
I closed my eyes and was passing away into the world of dreaming
existence, when suddenly there burst on my soul the serenade of the
Rose-breasted Bird, so rich, so mellow, so loud in the stillness of the
night, that sleep fled from my eyelids. Never did I enjoy music more: it
thrilled through my heart and surrounded me with an atmosphere of bliss.
One might easily have imagined that even the Owl, charmed by such
delightful music, remained reverently silent. Long after the sounds
ceased did I enjoy them, and when all had again become still, I
stretched out my wearied limbs and gave myself up to the luxury of
repose.’

“As a near-by garden neighbour, the Rose-breast, though shy by nature,
may become as intimate as the Wood Thrush, and if you are near his
feeding-haunts you will notice, aside from his song, he has a way of
talking when he feeds and that, with a little imagination, you can
translate his words to suit yourself. I had once thought this an idea of
my own, but this clipping in my scrap-book proves the contrary, and that
others have made his notes into words.”


                   A TALKING ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.

Early last summer, while standing on my back steps, I heard a cheerful
voice say, “You’re a pretty bird. Where are you?” I supposed it to be
the voice of a Parrot, but wondered how any Parrot could talk loud
enough to be heard at that distance, for the houses on the street back
of us are quite a way off.

Almost before I had done laughing, the voice came again, clear, musical,
and strong—“You’re a pretty bird. Where are you?”

For several days I endured the suspense of waiting for time to
investigate. Then I chased him up. There he was in the top of a walnut
tree, his gorgeous attire telling me immediately that he was a
Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

At the end of a week he varied his compliment to, “Pretty, pretty bird,
where are you? Where are you?” with a kind of impatient jerk on the last
“you.”

He and his mate stayed near us all last summer, and though I heard him
talk a hundred times, yet he always brought a feeling of gladness and a
laugh.

Our friend has come back again this spring. About May 1st I heard the
same endearing compliment as before.

Several of my friends whom I have told about him have asked, “Does he
say the words plainly? Do you mean that he really talks?” My reply is,
“He says them just as plainly as a bird ever says anything, so plainly,
that even now I laugh whenever I hear him.”

He is not very easily frightened, and sometimes talks quite a while when
I am standing under the tree where he is.

                   —Emily B. Pellet, Worcester, Mass., in _Bird-Lore_.


                  A SONG OF THE ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK

          Hark! Hark!
    From the elm tree’s topmost spray,
      As the sun’s first spark
      O’erleaps the dark

      He sings to the dawning day.
    Over and over and over, the thrilling strain:
        Never more clear
        On love-tuned ear
    Burst forth love’s charmed refrain.

      Hark, hark, listen and hear!
    The robin’s whistle, the oriole’s note,
        Both are drowned
        In the golden sound
    That pours from the perfect throat.

        Sing, spirit of might,
      Bird of beauty and tune,—
    Sable-winged as a summer’s night,
    With the red-rose breast as soft, as bright
      As a rose-red dawn in June!

    Sing, sing to the rippling light,
      Sing to the paling moon!
        Sing, sing, sing
      Of a joy beyond our ken,
    Till the burdens of manhood loose their hold,
    And the heart grows young, and the Age of Gold
      Rolls back on the souls of men.

    —Dora Read Goodale, in _Youth’s Companion_.



                                 XXVII
                                FLAG DAY


The Spring Sale of the work of the Kind Hearts’ Club was held the
Saturday after Arbour and Bird Day. People who had seen the bird-houses
that their friends had bought at Christmas drove over from towns many
miles away, while those who had been before came again and seemed
perfectly fascinated by the birds’ baths and drinking-troughs made from
the hollowed logs.

The money thus being secure, the wayside drinking-fountain for man,
beast, and bird was begun at once and before Memorial Day was completed
and the water turned on, to Tommy’s great pride.

Nor were the children obliged to spend all their pennies upon the work,
for besides the actual money, they had earned something of more
value—the confidence and co-operation of their own parents and of the
neighbourhood.

At first the work that Gray Lady had begun at Foxes Corners school was
thought to be merely a passing fancy or a matter of sentiment only, but
day by day many of those who were not only indifferent, but perhaps
aggressive, saw that common sense went hand in hand with the common
humanity that the Kind Hearts’ Club expressed.

Flag Day, that year falling upon a Friday, was to be the last regular
bird lesson for the Foxes Corners school. Now that the planting season
had come, and the summer vacation was near, the Friday afternoons were
needed for making up back work on the part of those who had been absent
and in preparing for examinations.

In some way it seemed to be an understood fact that Rose Wilde would go
to Bridgeton to teach in the High School, and it was a subject about
which her pupils were very unhappy.

There were to be some patriotic exercises at the school in the morning
as usual; then Miss Wilde asked Gray Lady, who had been away for several
days, if the children might not have their afternoon talk at Swallow
Chimney instead of at the school, as the air in the low room was quite
heavy and uncomfortable in the warm June afternoons.

Luncheon was hardly over on that day before Goldilocks began to show
unusual signs of hurry. In answer to her mother’s question as to what
made her so restless, she replied, “I’m so afraid we may be late. I
promised Miss Wilde we would be over by half-past one,” and then stopped
and looked confused.

“I do not see how we can be late when the class cannot begin by itself,”
said Gray Lady, smiling, for she was well aware that there was something
unusual in the air, but exactly what, she had purposely kept herself
from guessing.

However, she did not aggravate Goldilocks by any unnecessary delay, and
half-past one saw mother and daughter going through the garden toward
the gate of Birdland. Goldilocks, for some mysterious reason, kept her
eyes upon the ground, while it seemed to her as if her mother stopped an
endlessly long time to admire every shrub and to gather a bunch of
delicately pencilled pansies of lilac, mauve, and royal purple to fasten
in the belt of her soft gray muslin gown.

As the pair came out from the shadow of the overhanging vines of the
garden walk, a low murmur and the distinct words “here she comes” made
Gray Lady pause and look toward the rustic gate of Birdland. As she did
so, the gate opened, and inside she saw the school children drawn up in
line on either side of the grass path that formed a natural aisle to the
middle of the orchard, where several of the old trees had crumbled away,
leaving an open space.

“We must walk right on,” whispered Goldilocks, clutching her mother’s
hand and almost pulling her along. So, wishing every one good day right
and left as she went, Gray Lady allowed herself to be led, the children
closing in and following.

At first the bright light in the open space blinded Gray Lady, and then
she saw that a tall flagpole was planted in the centre of the open,—a
slender pole, flawless from bottom to top, polished and smooth as glass.
On the top was perched a gilded eagle with wings wide-spread; in the
halyards on the pole a loosely folded bundle was caught, and the end of
the line was in the hands of Jack Todd.

Gray Lady stood quite still looking from one to the other, her breath
coming fast. Then Jack jerked the line, and out of the bundle, fold on
fold, fell a large flag; slowly it rose to the top of the pole and
floated in the breeze, while at the little click of Miss Wilde’s
tuning-fork twenty-five fresh young voices broke into song.


                            HYMN OF THE FLAG

    (Dedicated to the Army and Navy)

    North, South, East, and West
    Rise and join your hands.
    Native born and Brothers drawn
    From many Fatherlands.
        Rise ye Nation of the morn,
        Land where Liberty was born;
        Ye who fear no ruler’s nod,
        Ye who only kneel to God—
        Rise—Salute your Flag!

    Stars upon its azure throng,
    Stars for states that stride along,
    Stars of hope that make men strong.
        Blood-red bars for battle done,
        Steel-white stars for peace well won.
        Rise—Salute this Flag!

    North, South, East, and West
    Bring your tribute then.
    Gold ye have and grain enough
    To feed earth’s starving men.
        Ye who tent on distant shores,
        Ye whose name the ocean roars,
        Ye who toil in mine and field,
        Ye who pluck the cotton’s yield,
        Rise—Salute your flag!

    North, South, East, and West
    Rise and join your hands;
    Native born and brothers drawn
    From many Fatherlands.
        One ye stand in common cause,
        One to break oppression’s laws,
        One to open Freedom’s gate,
        One! Ye re-United States!
        Rise—Salute your Flag!

    Stars upon its azure throng,
    Stars for states that stride along,
    Stars of hope that make men strong.
        Blood-red bars for battles done,
        Steel-white stars for peace well won.
        Rise—Salute this Flag!

                 *        *        *        *        *

The singing ceased, and Gray Lady stood with bent head, a smile upon her
lips and tears in her eyes, for often when one is happiest, the two go
together.

The words of the hymn had been written by a dear friend on one of the
anniversaries of the day that the General gave his life for his flag’s
honour, and forgetting that Goldilocks knew, Gray Lady had thought that
no one remembered the verses but herself.

Tommy and Sarah, to whom it had fallen to explain the occasion in a
little speech of Miss Wilde’s wording, stepped forward, then looked at
each other and seemed struck dumb. Sarah found her tongue first and also
her own wording for the speech; clasping her hands nervously, she began:
“Last fall when we had the orchard party, you said ‘some day Birdland
must have a flagpole of its own,’ so we thought we would all do it and
Miss Wilde said, ‘yes.’ The big boys cut the pole in Haines’ woods (he
let them), and they shaped it out and polished it all themselves, and
Jacob helped set it yesterday. We were awfully afraid you wouldn’t go to
New York so’s they could do it without being seen.

“Miss Wilde fitted the music to the words, and Mrs. Wilde cut out the
flag, and the rest of us all sewed on it, the little boys too. The
stripes were easy, but some of the stars wiggled in the points, because
it’s hard turning sharp corners.

“We all bought the eagle, not in a store,—they cost too much,—but of
the junk pedler, and it’s been done over. It’s a good strong one, better
than they make nowadays, grandma says.” Then, as Sarah realized that she
had forgotten all the expressions of thanks for the happiness that had
come to them at “the General’s” which Miss Wilde had so carefully worded
and drilled them to pronounce correctly, she gave a despairing look at
their friend and, seeing something in her face that invited her, cast
herself into Gray Lady’s arms.

                 *        *        *        *        *

After the flag had been lowered, duly examined, and praised, and the
crooked stars declared to be quite natural, because, as Goldilocks
truthfully remarked, “real stars twinkle and always look crooked, you
know,” Gray Lady said: “Now that I know the beautiful surprise you had
for me, I will tell you a little secret of my own. It is true, as rumour
says, that Miss Wilde is going to leave Foxes Corners school at the term
end, but _not_ to go to Bridgeton.

“She is going to have a little school all of her own in the big room at
Swallow Chimney, with Goldilocks and as many of you for pupils as wish
to go to the High School by and by and are ready for the eighth grade.
Yes, I have arranged it with the school committee, and it is perfectly
satisfactory to them. Oh! children, do not smother me!”

Then Tommy Todd suddenly realized that he had not only thought of
following Sarah’s example and hugging Gray Lady, but that he had
actually done so!


                                THE END



                                 INDEX


Birds, Travels of, 136-153.
Blackbird, Red-winged, 333-340.
Bluebird, 313-317.
Bobolink, 21, 34, 147, 226-228, 403.
Bob-white (Quail), 145, 199-202.

Cardinal, 145, 277, 282-288.
Catbird, 32, 366, 382, 383.
Chat, Yellow-breasted, 403, 411.
Chickadee, 25-27, 181, 246, 355-356.
Chippy, Winter, see Tree-Sparrow.
Cowbird, 333, 336.
Creeper, Brown, 184-186.
Crossbill, Red-winged, 252.
Crossbill, White-winged, 252.
Crow, 10-11, 107-109, 114-128.
Cuckoo, Yellow-billed, 403, 404.
Curlew, Eskimo, 148.

Dove, Mourning, 219-220.
Duck, Wood, 213-215.

Finch, Purple, 363.
Flicker, 189-194.

Goldfinch, American, 247, 422-426.
Goose, Wild, 356-358.
Grackle, Purple, 117, 337.
Grackle, Rusty, 337.
Grosbeak, Rose-breasted, 403, 426-430.
Grouse, Ruffed (Partridge), 197-199, 203-208.
Gull, Herring or Harbour, 229, 232-241.

Hawks, 157, etc.
Hawk, American Sparrow, 172-174.
Hawk, Harrier, 171.
Hawk, Marsh, 171.
Hawk, Red-shouldered, 154, 171.
Heron, Great Blue, 363.
Heron, Snowy Egret, 50, 65-72.
Humming-bird, Ruby-throated, 366, 375-376, 403.

Indigo-bird, 279-281, 403.

Jay, Blue, 25, 116, 128-135.
Junco, 250, 308.

Killdeer, 220, 223-225.
Kingbird, 403.
Kingfisher, 340-350.
Kinglet, Golden-crowned, 250, 251.

Lark, Horned, 297.

Martin, Purple, 95, 96, 99, 101, 365.
Meadowlark, 217-218, 337.
Migration of Birds, 136-153.
Mockingbird, 271-274, 277, 289, 290.
Murres, 143.

Nest-Building, 358.
Nighthawk, 147-153, 366, 369-372, 403.
Nonpareil, 276, 278.
Nuthatch, White-breasted, 178-180, 183.

Oriole, Baltimore, 403, 412-420.
Ostrich, 65, 73-79.
Ovenbird, 365.
Owls, 157, etc.
Owl, Barn, 166-167.
Owl, Barred, 163, 166.
Owl, Great Horned, 163, 165.
Owl, Gray, see Screech Owl.
Owl, Mottled, see Screech Owl.
Owl, Red, see Screech Owl.
Owl, Screech, 158-162.
Owl, Short-eared, 166-169.
Owl, Snowy, 295.

Partridge, see Ruffed Grouse.
Phœbe, 32, 335, 350-354.
Plover, Upland, 220.
Plover, Golden, 148-150.

Quail, see Bob-White.

Redpoll, 297.
Redstart, 249, 403, 408.
Robin, 23, 322, 326-332.

Sandpiper, Least, 220-222.
Sandpiper, Spotted, 220-223, 365.
Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied, 188-189.
Shrike, Northern, 298-299.
Snowbird, Gray, see Junco.
Sparrow, Chipping, 364.
Sparrow, Fox, 334.
Sparrow, Song, 21, 318-325.
Sparrow, Tree, 249.
Sparrow, Vesper, 363.
Sparrow, White-throated, 298.
Starling, English, 110-113.
Swallows, 89.
Swallow, Bank, 91-95, 98, 101, 365.
Swallow, Barn, 21, 91-94, 98, 101, 365.
Swallow, Chimney, see Chimney Swift.
Swallow, Cliff, or Eave, 93, 95, 98-99.
Swallow, Tree, 94, 98, 101, 364.
Swallow, White-breasted, 93.
Swift, Chimney, 90, 152, 366, 372-375.

Tanager, Scarlet, 34, 403, 420-422.
Thistle-bird, see Goldfinch.
Thrasher, Brown, 366, 381-383.
Thrush, Golden-crowned, see Ovenbird.
Thrush, Wood, 366, 377-379.
Thrush, Brown, see Thrasher.
Turnstone, 148.

Veery, 366, 380-381, 403.
Vireo, Red-eyed, 403, 405-407.

Wake-up, see Flicker.
Warbler, Black-and-white, 365.
Warbler, Myrtle, 250, 251.
Warbler, Yellow, 403.
Warbler, Yellow-rumped, see Myrtle Warbler.

Whip-poor-will, 335, 365-367.
Wilson’s Thrush, see Veery.
Woodcock, 201, 209-212.
Woodpeckers, 187.
Woodpecker, Downy, 194-196.
Woodpecker, Golden-winged, see Flicker.
Woodpecker, Partridge, see Flicker.
Woodpecker, Pigeon, see Flicker.
Wren, House, 366.
Wren, Winter, 248.


Yellowbird, Summer, 408-409.
Yellowhammer, see Flicker.
Yellowthroat, Maryland, 403, 410.



                      OUT-DOOR BOOKS BY “BARBARA”
                        (_MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT_)
                                                       _Each_, $1.50

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Garden of a Commuter’s Wife

_Recorded by the Gardener, with eight photogravure illustrations_

    “‘The Garden of a Commuter’s Wife’ is a legend which gives no
    hint of the wit and wisdom and graceful phrase within its
    covers. The Commuter’s charming woman writes of her suburban
    garden, her original servants, and various other incidents which
    come in the course of living in a thoroughly human way. She
    reminds one of Elizabeth of ‘German Garden’ fame in more ways
    than one, but being American she is broader, more versatile and
    humorous, if not also more poetic. It breathes an air of cheery
    companionship, of flowers, birds, all nature, and the warm
    affection of human friendship. Its philosophy is wholesome,
    unselfish, and kindly, and the Commuter’s Wife, who writes her
    own memoirs, is one we would be glad to number among our
    friends.”—_The Evening Post_, Chicago.

                 *        *        *        *        *

People of the Whirlpool

_From the Experience Book of a Commuter’s Wife_

_With eight illustrations_

    “They who have read ‘The Garden of a Commuter’s Wife’ know what
    to expect in this, ‘The Experience Book’ of the same delightful
    Barbara; but to the uninitiated, who light upon the book without
    preconceived ‘notions’ of what it is, it will come with a double
    note of delight.”—_New York Times’ Saturday Review_.

    “The whole book is delicious, with wise and kindly humor, its
    just perspectives of the true values of things, its clever pen
    pictures of people and customs, and its healthy optimism for the
    great world in general.”—_The Evening Telegraph_, Philadelphia.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The Garden, You and I

_With a Frontispiece in Colors and Other Illustrations_

    “The garden and its flowers are the dominant interest, of
    course, but it is so managed that they shall serve as a setting
    for the human activities that engage a good share of the
    reader’s attention. There runs through the book that strong and
    hearty nature which is characteristic of all this author’s work.
    Before everything else, it is an outdoor book. It tells for the
    most part the tale of the open-air seasons.”—_Brooklyn Eagle_.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Transcriber’s Notes:

A few obvious typesetting errors have been corrected without note. Some
illustrations have been moved slightly to keep paragraphs intact.


[End of _Gray Lady and the Birds_ by Mabel Osgood Wright]





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