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February. Now shifting gales with milder influence blow, Cloud o'er the skies, and melt the falling snow; The softened soil with fertile moisture teems, And, freed from icy bonds, down rush the swelling
streams. The earlier part of this month may still be reckoned winter; though the cold generally begins to abate. The days are sensibly lengthened ; and the sun has power enough gradually to melt away the snow and ice. Some. times a sudden thaw comes on, with a south wind, and rain, which at once dissolves the snow. Torrents of water then descend from the hills ; every little brook and rill is swelled to a large stream; and the ice is swept away with great violence from the rivers. The frost, how. - ever, returns for a time; fresh snow falls, often in great quantities; and thus the weather alternately changes during most part of this month,
Various signs of returning spring occur at different times in February. The woodlark, one of the earliest and sweetest of our songs. ters, ofien begins his note at the very entrance of the month. Not long after, rooks begin to pair and geese to lay. The thrush and chaf. finch then add to the early music of the groves.
Moles go to work in throwing up their hillocks as soon as the eartb is softened.--Under some of the largest ; a little below the surface of the earth, they make their nests of moss, in which four or five young are found at a time.
These animals live on worms, insects, and the roots of plants.
They do much mischief in gardens, by loosening and devouring flower-roots; but in the fields they do no other damage than rendering the surface of the ground uneven by their hillocks, which obstruct the sithe in mowing. They are said also to pierce the sides of dams and canals, and let out the water. But this can only be an accidental occurrence, attended with their own destruction.
Many plants emerge from under ground in February, but few flowers yet adorn the fields or gardens. Snowdrops in general are fully opened from the beginning of the month, often peeping from the midst of the snow :
Already now the snowdrop dares appear,
The alder-tree discloses its flower-buds ; the catkins of the hazel become very conspicuous in the hedges; and young leaves appear on the gooseberry and currant bushes. The farmer is impatient to begin his work in the fields, as soon as the ground is sufficiently
thawed. He ploughs up his fallows : sows beans snd pease, rye and spring wheat ; sets early potatoes ; drains his wet land; dresses and repairs hedges; lops trees, and plants those kinds which love a wet soil, as poplars and willows.
The great operations of Nature during this month seem to be, to dry up the superabundant moisture of February, thereby preventing the roots and seeds from rotting in the earth, and gradually to bring forward the swell. ing buds ;' while at the same time, by the wholesome severity of chilling blasts, they are kept from too quick a growth, which would expose their tender contents to injury from the yet unsettled season.
The winds of March, boisterous and vehement to a proverb, are to be regarded as par. ticularly useful to vegetation ; for those years generally prove most fruitful, in which the pleasing appearances of spring are the most retarded.
The importance of a dry season for getting the seed early and favourably into the ground is expressed in the old proverb, A bushel of March dust is worth a king's
The mellow note of the thrush, singing perched on the naked bough of some Tofty tree, and the cooing of the ring-dove in the
woods, are heard from the beginning of the month of March. The rooks also are now in motion, building and repairing their nests; and it is highly ainusing to observe the tricks and artifices of this thievish tribe, some to defend, and others to plunder, the materials of their new habitations. These birds are accused of doing inuch injury to the farmer, by plucking up the young corn, and other springing vegetables ; but some are of opinion, that this mischief is fully repaid by their diligence in devouring the grubs of various insects, which, if suffered to come to maturity, would occasion much greater damage. For this purpose, they are frequently seen following the plough, or settling in flocko on newly turned-up lands.
In the month of March, those birds which took refuge in our mild climate from the ri. gour of the northern winters begin to leave us, and return to the countries where they
bred. The redwing, fieldfare, and woodcock, are of this kind, and retire to spend their summer in Norway, Sweden, and other parts of the north of Europe. Frogs, which during winter, lie in a torpid stale at the bot. tom of ponds or ditches, now enlivened by the warmth of spring, rise in vast numbers to the surface of the water, and make themselves heard to a surprising distance by their croak. ings.
Those small but beautiful fish called unelts, or sparlings, . proceed up the rivers in
this month, in order to spawn ; but they are of so tender a nature, that the least mixture of snow-water in the river drives i hem back to sea.
One of the most agreeable tokens of our approaching Spring is, that about the middle of the month of March, bees venture out of their hives. These admirable and useful in. sects appear to be possessed of uncommon foresight of the weather; so that their appearance in the morning may be reckoned a sure token of a fair day. As their food is the sweet juice to be found in the blossom of flowers, their coming abroad is a certain sign that flowers are now to be met with. The gardens are adorned with the yellow and purple crocus; and, towards the end of the month, primroses peep out beneath the hedges, while the most fragrant of all flowers, the vio. let, discovers itself by the perfume it gives to the surrounding air. The peach, the nectarine, the almond, apricot, and cherry-trees come into full bud during this month; the sallow enlivens. the hedges with its catkins full of yellow dust, and the leaves of the honeysuckle are nearly expanded.
In the latter part of the month of March, the equinor happens, when day and night are of an equal length all over the globe; or rather, when the sun is an equal time above and be. low the horizon : for the morning and evening twilight make apparent day considerably longer