Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/690

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"should come out so strong under circumstances that would make many of the other birds miserable"! One would suppose a good cold breath from Jack Frost would whiff the life from them. It is true they are wrapped in the best kind of overcoats, with black caps drawn over their ears, and good chest-protectors. But what in the world of wonders saves those little wires of legs and claws? What fiery hearts they must have in their breasts, to force the blood-corpuscles through the tendons in the coldest days! "What pleasant, convivial, round-headed little fellows they are, calling to one another from their holes in the trees, living on the best of terms with their neighbors, and ar ranging picnic-parties with the blue-jay and downy wood-pecker!

By the middle of June all their children have become sufficiently clothed for the summer, and as the season advances they gradually don their flannels for the winter campaign. All that I see now in these woods have thus early in the season formed themselves into flocks, which leads me to believe that they have but one brood in the year. All birds seem to understand each other's alarm-notes, although they may belong to a different genus, and there is something that causes them to congregate from all quarters whenever it is sounded. For birds, like the higher bipeds, are of an inquiring turn of mind, and the same motive prompts them, I believe, to gather at any unusual occurrence in their precincts, which collects a crowd at a fire, or any other excitement, in the streets of a city.

At such times you realize the number and variety of birds that, a moment before, were hidden and silent all around you. Here a female oriole, startled by the close proximity of a meadow-mouse, that like herself has come down to the stream to drink, flies up scolding terribly at the spectacle, and instantly the other birds gather around to inquire the reason of this consternation. The cedar-birds appear suddenly on the spot, silent but observing. The song-sparrow hops upon a twig, from his washing, preens his speckled breast, and curiously eyes his brilliant neighbor. The yellow warbler holds up her head from behind an alder-leaf, and goes skulking through the thick foliage. The indigo-bird looks upon the scene from the lofty spray of yonder elm, and begins a song, when a puff of wind blows him off and cuts it short. The brown thresher, last to come, flies across the opening, flaunts his long tail as he alights on a low branch, and utters a few croaks. Then all is silent as before.