Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/50

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CHEERLESS SPRING. MUNNI-ULA.

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backs on the warm plains of China, and face cold and hunger on the barren deserts before they can reach their favourite northern haunts. Yes! even Siberia, awful as the name may sound to many, is a paradise compared to these deserts; its spring is real spring, not the crippled substitute which greets you in Mongolia. Here, even in April, nothing reminds you that Nature has awakened from her winter's sleep—everything is yet dead and inanimate. The yellow grey steppe appears as uninviting as ever; the carol of the lark or the song of the linnet are rare sounds, and no other songsters visit these plains. The streams are still waterless; the salt lakes drier than in summer, when rains supply the evaporation, and the icy cold blasts of winter heighten the dreariness of the landscape.

For a little more than a month we journeyed from Kalgan to the Munni-ula range, where we determined to make some halt in order to observe the flights of small birds and collect the spring flora of these mountains. We had first intended returning to the Hoang-ho in the beginning of March, crossing that river over the ice into Ordos, and there watching the migration of birds of passage; but we were disappointed in our expectations, only arriving at the Munni-ula mountains on April 22nd, by which time most of the birds were gone. We had therefore to give up our second visit to Ordos, and content ourselves with the Munni-ula.

Here, towards the end of April, vegetation made rapid progress, especially in the lower and middle