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BIRDS OF PASSAGE.
MANY kinds of birds are found in this country; there are also many which are never seen in England; and some kinds of birds visit us only during a part of the year, some spending the summer with us, and some the winter. Some, particularly birds of prey, travel by day, but by far the greater part travel by night. They commonly keep very high in the air, and always nearly at the same distance from the earth, so that they rise very high over mountains and fly lower among valleys. Most country boys know the fieldfare and the redwing, which come to us in November and December. The redwing is a very pretty bird; his back and wings are dark brown, his breast is white spotted with brown, and his sides and the inner part of his wings are a bright orange-red. The fieldfare is larger but not so gaily dressed; his colours are chiefly brown and dark grey, and his throat and breast are spotted with black. These birds come from countries quite in the north of Europe, Sweden and Norway. The winters are very long there, and the ground is covered with snow and ice during many weeks, so the poor birds cannot find any food there, and they fly over in large flocks to warmer countries, and come to our meadows and pasture fields, seeking for slugs and worms. But they are very cautious; one or two birds always watch while the rest are feeding, and if any one draws near, they utter a shrill cry of alarm, and the whole flock of fieldfares rise and fly off directly. When they cannot find worms, they
eat the berries in the hedges. But sometimes we have a long and hard frost in England, and then the poor fieldfares die by thousands. In the spring these birds hasten home again, for then all the ice and snow of those northern countries quickly melt away, and the earth is soon covered with grass and flowers. When he is in Sweden, the redwing sings delightfully; he only makes a low, pleasant piping while he is in this country. Before they go away, some of the little birds which spend the spring and summer with us arrive in England. One of them is the chiff-chaff, so named from its note, "chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff," which it repeats over and over again; it is hardly like singing. This little bird lives upon insects, and the caterpillars that roll up the leaves of our fruit trees. In the month of April the swallows come to England from the warm countries in which they have been spending the winter. It is perfectly surprising how swiftly these birds fly, and how long they can remain on the wing. It is supposed that the swallow flies about ninety miles an hour, and at this rate he would reach Egypt in thirteen hours. There are several kinds of swallows those which come first are the house swallows, which build their nests in barns and outhouses, and sometimes even in chimneys, for they like a warm place. But even when it lives in a chimney, you will never see a swallow with its feathers black or dirty. The house swallow likes the water, you may see it skimming over a pool many times together; it is a pretty bird, with purplish back and wings, and a spot of dull red upon its throat. Another kind of swallow is called the martin, and sometimes the window swallow, because it is fond of building its
In October, when the
nest in the corners of windows. weather becomes cold, the swallows begin to think of returning to their homes in the south; but before they depart they assemble together in great numbers on some open field, and make a great chattering as if they were consulting together about the time and manner of their departure. A few days after such a flock has been seen, all the swallows will have quitted the neighbourhood, and will not appear again till the next spring.
As soon as the swallows have arrived in England the nightingale comes, and then the cuckoo. The nightingale is a plain-looking bird; it has a reddishbrown back and a light-grey breast; but you know there is an old saying "handsome is that handsome does," and if we think of that we shall call the nightingale handsome, for it sings more beautifully than any other bird. It does not sing in the daytime only, but at night, when all is still, it gives us delightful music. The cuckoo does not sing, but everybody likes its pleasant cry of "cuckoo, cuckoo," for it tells us that summer is coming. This bird has a curious habit of leaving her eggs in the nests of other birds, instead of having a nest of her own and taking care of her little ones till they are able to fly. She always lays one egg at a time in the nest of some small bird, and the cuckoo's egg is hatched with those of the bird to whom the nest belongs; but the young cuckoo is much larger and stronger when it comes out of the egg-shell than the other young ones, and it pushes them all out of the nest, one after another, to make more room for itself.
TO SOME CHILDREN LISTENING TO A LARK.
SEE the lark prunes his active wings,
* Prunes.] Arranges with his beak. † Orb of light.] The sun. Vespers.] Evening songs of praise.
§ My dear children.
IN the reign of King James II., an orphan boy, of the name of Hopson, was apprenticed to a tailor
at Bonchurch, a little village in the Isle of Wight. War was at this time declared with the Dutch, and a squadron of English men-of-war were collected off the coast of the Isle of Wight. The tailor's apprentice was seated on his master's shop-board, when the ships were passing, and was attracted by the sight. He hastened to the shore, and was seized with a strong desire to quit his trade, and serve on board one of these fine vessels: he jumped into a boat, and rowed up to one of the ships, which happened to be the admiral's. He was received on board, and the boat was cast adrift; it was picked up empty a few days afterwards, and his hat, which in his hurry he had left behind, being found upon the shore, it was concluded that poor Hopson had perished.
The lad, having entered upon service, soon showed that the sea suited him much better than the tailor's board. The very next day they fell in with the enemy, and the admiral's ship was soon engaged with a Dutch vessel. After some hours' hard fighting the victory was still doubtful, when young Hopson, who had been very active, asked a comrade how long they should continue to fight? "Until that rag be hauled down," said the man, pointing to the enemy's flag. The ships were now so close, that their yard-arms* touched each other. Hopson, hearing the man's answer, climbed up the mast into the rigging, and managed to clamber unseen from the yard-arm of his own ship to that of the enemy. He thence mounted to the maintop,† seized
* Yard-arm.] A cross-beam to the mast of a ship, which supports the sail.
+ Maintop.] The top of the principal mast.