BIRDS OF ALA-SHAN.
Still less can be said of animal life in these regions. The flooded fields in the valley of the river were the resort of water-fowl, and in the tall tufts of dirisun could be heard the call of many a pheasant; small birds were also now and then seen, but on entering Ala-shan all was changed, and scarcely a note broke the stillness of the desert.
The same death-like silence reigned in the mountains bordering the left valley of the Hoang-ho. When I passed the night near the summit of Mount Koir-Bogdo, while on a hunting excursion, the evening and early morning were as still and voiceless as in winter; the only sounds were the noise of the buzzard, and the hideous cry of a kite or vulture.
The climate of these regions harmonizes with their whole nature. After sultry heat in the beginning of May, it suddenly froze on the 17th of that month, the thermometer marking 2° Cent. (29° Fahr.) at sunrise; to this succeeded hot weather, followed by a short interval of moderate temperature, after which the heat again became intense, the thermometer in the middle of June registering 40° Cent. (104° Fahr.) in the shade.
In April and May violent winds sometimes occurred, but less frequently than at the same season in the previous year. While these lasted, the air was so thick with dust as almost to prevent respiration; the sun was darkened and everything covered with a thick layer of dust, which entered eyes, nose, and mouth. The direction of the wind was variable: during April it generally blew from the NW.