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ings of hunger, unable to make way against the storm; and often, during the winter, they can only make a short daily excursion in quest of a precarious morsel of food.”
Similar storms may obtain at the time and place of the intended departure of any species of bird, and cause it to defer its migration until a more conducive state of weather is established.]
ART. VI. On the Habits and Note of the Grey Wagtail, and on
the Note of the Spring Wagtail. By T. G., of Clitheroe, Lancashire.
We have the grey wagtail with us the whole year; but it is rather a rare bird at all times, and in all the localities for it with which I am acquainted. I very strongly suspect that Selby is mistaken about this bird when he says, that, “ previous to its departure in September, it assembles in small flocks or families, which haunt the meadows or bare pastures." This does not agree with my observations on it; although it is quite true, if applied to the spring wagtail. On the contrary, the grey wagtail, which stays with us through the winter, is a solitary bird, except in the breeding season; and the young ones, which certainly associate in broods for a month or two after leaving the nest, are dispersed before September. As to their frequenting the meadows and bare pastures, although I see them at all times of the year (and a pair or two breed, every year, near my house), and although they are birds with whose peculiar note and habits I am as well acquainted as I am with those of the house sparrow, yet I have never known them frequent the fields at any time. As far as I have observed them, they invariably seek their food on the beds of the rivers, brooks, and ditches; where their shrill note often betrays them to persons who would otherwise never see them.
This bird may be distinguished from the spring wagtail, very easily, by its note, at any time, but particularly when flying; yet, notwithstanding that the difference is very apparent to a person who hears both, it is not so easy to describe it. In attempting to do this, I hope, therefore, I shall be excused if I do not make it so obvious in the description as it is in reality. The latter part of the note of the grey wagtail is a little higher in the musical scale than the former part; and it is very staccato. Thus:
Vol. VII.- No. 43.
Chiz chiz chizzet chizzet it being usually altered as the bird makes a spring in the air. * While the latter part of the note of the summer bird is lower in the scale than the former part; which is more prolonged than in the note of the grey wagtail, and is slurred into the latter part something in the following manner :
Che-4 che - u It is also softer and sweeter than the note of the grey wagtail; which bird, like the water ouzel, is fond of the letter z. I do not, of course, mean it to be understood that these notes are either of the same pitch, or that they bear the same relation to each other that the notes of the birds do, but intend the sketches as rude attempts at illustrating what I could not so well explain in any other way.
I have been amused with a singular habit which I have noticed in several individuals of the grey wagtail. They were fond of looking at their own images in the windows, and attacking them; uttering their peculiar cry, pecking, and fluttering against the glass, as earnestly as if the object they saw had been a real rival, instead of an imaginary one: or, perhaps, they were only admiring themselves, and testifying their satisfaction in this way. It is remarkable that two of these instances were in the autumn, when the same motives for either love or animosity, which would be likely to actuate them in the spring, would no longer exist. The first of these instances occurred when I was a boy, and was repeated daily, and almost hourly, both against the windows of my father's house, and those of that of our neighbour; who, being rather superstitious, was alarmed about it, and came to consult my mother on the subject. She said there was a bird, which, her brother had told her, was a barley-bird (Motacilla Alava), which was continually flying against her windows; and, as
* Persons conversant with the habits of birds will readily comprehend me: for the sake of those who are not, I will just observe that the flight of all the wagtails is very peculiar; being a succession of great leaps in the air (if I may be allowed the expression), which form a series of curves; the bird rising considerably at the commencement of each effort, and sinking again at the close. (See, in IV. 418., Mr. Main's remarks on the mode of flight of the families “ of Lóxia, Pyrrhula, Emberiza, and Fringilla."]
birds were not in the habit of doing so at any other time, she thought some serious calamity was portended by it. My mother comforted her as well as she could; and I undertook. to rid her of the annoyance. By setting a horse-hair noose on one of the window-ledges which it was in the habit of frequenting, I soon caught it; and, by plucking out the under tailcoverts, which I wanted to dress yellow duns with, I effectually cured it of the propensity, whether the stimulus had been love or hatred ; whether, Narcissus-like (see VI. 513, 514.], it was in an ecstasy of self-admiration; or whether, like the cock which attacked its own image in the boot (and which Mr. Robert Warren's poet and painter have exalted to lasting fame), it would admit of no rival.
Clitheroe, Lancashire, May 29. 1834.
ART. VII. Notes on Luminous Insects, chiefly of the West Indies ;
on Luminous Meteors ; on I'gnes Fátui ; on the Luminousness of the Sea; and on the Powers possessed by the Races of Lizards, of voluntarily changing their Colour : with other Information on the Habits of Lizards. By the late Rev. LANSDOWN GUILDING, B.A. F.L.S. &c.
THE Luminous Matter of the Lampýride of the Tropics seems to afford a much stronger and more durable light than that of the glowworm of England (I. 156.; VII. 250.); which faintly sheds
“ A beam of soften'd splendour through the gloom,
And feeds his lamp in solitude's recess." The matter taken from the vesicles, and rubbed on the wall, long retains its brilliance, after the manner of phosphoric preparations. The occurrence, too, of luminous insects in Britain is more rare. Seldom does the same bank support a dozen of these inactive midnight sparklers : but what can equal the splendour of those fairy scenes which the inhabitant of the tropics has nightly before his eyes ? The fireflies of the West Indies,
" Stars of the earth, and diamonds of the night,” are said to be more numerous in rainy weather : the truth, perhaps, is, that, in dark and cloudy evenings, their tiny lamps and coruscations are more visible, and attract greater notice. As twilight dies away you see, at one step, some gigantic tree peopled by these magic rovers glowing with all the green, the gold, and emerald lustre of precious stones.
- “ Around Myriads of insect meteors, living lamps
People the glittering air ; a fairy world." At another step, some long lane in the darkness of night seems to have been consumed by fire, and to be throwing up its last expiring sparks. The insects, as they present their backs, conceal their floating lantern for a moment, and render the resemblance perfect,
“ And every hedge and copse is bright,
With the quick firefly's playful light;
Which blaze in Eastern diadems.” Presently, with a steady and bold sweeping course, the luminous Eʻlater (E. noctilùcus L.) crosses your path,
“A meteor swift and brigh: And the wide space around, on high,
Gleams with his emerald light.".. It forms a strong contrast to the twinkling phosphoric fires of the lesser stars, and resembles a wax taper borne rapidly through the gloom, by some invisible hand : while the ear is assailed by countless tribes of sonorous insects, and frogs raising their nuptial cries.
How glorious is such a scene! From the innumerable host of insects which light up the earth, and from their proximity to the eye of the spectator, they have all the brilliance of real stars. Above our heads is the broad firmament of stationary lights ; below is a second firmament of luminous points, moving with all the eccentric courses of comets and meteoric balls, and with all the glory that tracks the shooting stars. [See V. 672.]
[Luminous Meteors. (A note made in relation to the remarks on “ Falling Stars," in II. 305.). ]—The meteors called falling stars are very common in these islands. I lately observed one of vast magnitude traversing slowly the Bay of Kingston, a most splendid body, and at a very trifling elevation.
Ignes Fatui. (I. 156.)— The reviewer is undoubtedly right in his supposition that the far-famed ignes fatui,
“ Which dance and glimmer on the marshy mead,” may sometimes owe their origin to the phenomena attending the gaseous exhalations of the earth. They sometimes also proceed (as the reviewer has deemed probable] from the lanterns of luminous insects. When a boy in Worcestershire, I have repeatedly seen these
- « aerial lights betray
And charm th' unwary wanderer from his way;" and from comparison with the motions of luminous animals, which I have since seen in other lands, I have no doubt whatever of their origin. In the generality of cases, perhaps, these lights proceed from orthopterous ? or other insects attached to swampy grounds, and luminous only during the season of their nuptials.
Luminousness of the Sea. (I. 156.)— The most satisfactory information on the luminousness of the sea, and the animals producing these lovely sparks, will be found in one of the numbers of Thomson's Zoological Researches (see IV. 256.], a work, of course, in the hands of all naturalists. While sailing in the more shallow parts of the Caribbean Sea, and looking over the vessel's side when becalmed in these dangerous waters, in the midst of reefs, I have seen at the bottom huge molluscous or radiate animals emitting the splendour of a lamp, but could never ascertain the species.
Putrescent matter is occasionally highly luminous in the West Indies. [Mr. Guilding has a note, in another part, upon the remarks of some correspondents given in II. 209. — The gelatinous mass containing portions of the frog was probably vomited by the heron. I have known similar matter in the West Indies to become highly phosphorescent.]
It has been already observed that the larvæ of some insects emit light. The larva of an Elater ? as far as I can determine, was lately sent to me, which was said, by the respectable person from whom I obtained it, to have been very luminous between every segment of the abdomen.
The Voluntary Changing of Colour in Several Genera of Lizards, and more especially in Chamæleon and Anolis. (I. 157.) - There is not in nature a more singular phenomenon than this. The mode of effecting this miraculous change does not seem to have been yet fully determined. It may depend upon some small, peculiar, and supplementary system of vessels pouring a coloured fluid to the integuments, or withdrawing it from the skin; or it may proceed from the more simple action of the arterial system, from the rapidity or lethargy of the circulation : though one would suppose a temporary stagnation would deprive the creature of all activity. It is strange that the power is within the perfect control of the lizard, and is not abandoned even at the eager moment of springing on the prey.
The passions of the human mind do indeed change the colour of the face, and distort the countenance; but these changes indicative of strong feeling are transitory, if not momentary, and almost in all cases involuntary : whereas the lizards can regulate this protean power for hours, days, or months. By inflating the body, the numerous scales might be separated to certain degrees, and thus affect the general colour