Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/49

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DRYNESS OF THE AIR. BIRDS.

29

summer weather suddenly set in, in the valley of the Hoang-ho.

The early spring this year differed from the last in the greater frequency of snow-storms and comparatively rare occurrence of NW. winds, although it blew hard for several days in succession. The dryness of the air was as remarkable as ever, a fact we were reminded of not only by the psychrometer, but also by the extraordinary dryness of our lips and hands, the skin of which cracked and had a polished appearance.

The flight of birds even in March was very small; during the whole of that month we only remarked 26 kinds,[1] in small numbers, sometimes only one or two of a species. Geese and cranes appeared in large flocks, but they flew high, hardly ever alighting to rest. Even in the wooded mountains of Munni-ula, where we passed the latter end of April, birds of passage, including small birds, were very scarce. In all probability, these winged wanderers, in their flight to the North, keep as long as they can within the limits of China Proper, sheltering themselves behind the great border ranges of the plateau, only ascending the latter when driven to their last extremity and compelled to turn their

  1. They appeared in the following order: — Anser segetum, Anas rutila, Cygnusmusicus, Milvus govindus, Larus occidentalis(?), Vanellus cristatus, Saxicola leucomela, Saxicola Isabellina, Motacilla paradoxa, Ruticilla erythrogastra, Upupa Epops, Ardea cinerea, Anthus pratensis, Anser grandis, Larus ridibundus, Anas tadorna, Anas crecca, Anas acuta, Recurvirostra Avocetta, Aegialites cantianus, Grus Virgo, Cygnus olor, Anser cinereus, Lanius major, Grus cinerea, Totanus calidris.