Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/689

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WOODLAND AND WATER-COURSE

is, says Coues, "obscure, its only pertinence being in geo-, earth, signifying the humility of this bird of brake and brier."

Keeping a sharp lookout, I see the pair flit down among the sedges, the white tops of the meadow rue trembling as they push against the stout stems, and go skulking here and there among the tussocks of rushes where their nest is concealed. Approaching cautiously and tenderly, pushing aside every culm and stem, I at last discover their home, exquisitely placed in a tuft of sedge, some of the spears of which are bent over it so as to form a regular canopy. Ornithologists say that the nest is often built over at the top, with a hole for the entrance. This one has no such contrivance, the thick, overbending sedges answering as a dome and portal. The foundation is composed of dead leaves and coarse grasses, very compact, as if the architects were aware of the dampness of the situation, and had taken the necessary precautions to prevent the eggs from spoiling before hatching-time. The cavity is quite deep and wide for the size of the bird, and has the unusual though sparse lining of horse-hair. There are two eggs in the nest, and, though I read from no authority that the general ground color should be of a flesh-tint, it is certainly true of these, the larger end being covered thickly with dark purple and brown blotches. Bending the spikes over the nest again, as naturally as a clumsy hand could perform such a delicate task, I went away, trusting that the disturbed pair had comprehended my purpose of merely looking in upon them. But it was of no use; their nice sense of the proprieties had been disturbed, and a week afterward the ogre had the remorse of gazing into the deserted home from which the songs, confined in their little round prisons, were never to be set free.

The streams and swamps offer more attractive entertainment, at this season, than the dry uplands. Every bird in the vicinity comes here to slake its thirst and bathe. Here is a merry skating carnival of gerris, and a larger party of whirligig water-beetles dodging about in every direction, but never appearing to collide, as they pounce upon the drowning flies, or the twisting, jerking larva? of the gnat. Down through the thick alders and overhanging sprays of sambucus the red eyed vireo flits from water to twig and from twig to water, striking it with her wings, and sipping it as she flutters over the stream. I am inclined to believe that this may be the manner in which all birds belonging to this group perform their ablutions and quench their thirst. They are not groundlings, and shun the earth as the swallows do the foliage.

Ah! here is a small flock of chickadees (Parus atricapillus), that I have surprised, climbing about on the trunk of this patriarchal willow. The black-capped titmouse is a real Mark Tapley among birds, and actually seems to be less joyous in the midst of summer sunshine and foliage than when the cold winds whirl the snows of winter before his door. How wonderful it is that such a wee bit of a bird