The Baldwin Lbrary
And what may be Seen There.
FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.
BEDFORD STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
NEW YORK: SCRIBNER, WELFORD, AND CO.
CAMDEN PREBB LONDON, N.W.
THE GARDEN SNATL AND WOLF SPIDER 1
A WALK IN THE GARDEN AFTER A SHOWER 16
THE MARTINS 41
A WALK TO THE PONDS 54
CARRIER AND WILD PIGEONS 67
THE HOUSE-FLY 77
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER BOATMEN 81
RAMBLE IN TIE FIELDS 94
AUNT LUCY'S RETURN FROM WOODTILLE . 112
THE GREAT WATER BEETLE. 129
OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
THE GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER.
"I AM so glad you have come," said Charles Long
to his cousin Clara, a little girl about eight years of
age. "Alfred has gone back to school, and I feel so
dull without him; I have been wishing for you all
"And I have been wishing to come, too," said
Clara, "for Aunt Long sent for me directly after
breakfast. Mamma did not wish me to come before,
but I am to stay all the rest of the day; so we will
have a good long time together. What shall we do? "
Oh come into the garden, and play at horses;
or I will give you a ride in my wheelbarrow, if you
will give me one afterwards."
To this Clara agreed, and they ran into the garden,
but they soon found that these sports were not suited
for a day in August, although the weather was cloudy.
"Weary and hot, they flung themselves on the grass-
"I wish we could do something," said Clara,
"without making ourselves so hot."
2 OUR PONDS AND OU1 FIELDS.
Oh, if you will help me, I know something,"
replied Charles. Mamma has promised me a new
watering-pot if I clear the snails from the walls in a
week : I should be glad if you would help me."
I will help you with pleasure," replied Clara;
"but that job will not take us long."
Indeed, we shall be tired long before it will be
done," said Charles; I have already picked off
several hundreds from that wall alone, and there are
some remaining yet."
After Charles had found two empty flower-pots,
he and Clara began their search.
Snails can only eat the leaves of the fruit-trees,"
said Clara; "I do not think there is much use in
disturbing them, poor things Peach-trees and nec-
tarines are not like young seedlings."
No; snails cannot kill the trees as they do
young plants," said Charles, but they are very
mischievous, for all that. Look at these green nec-
tarines, completely peeled by them. See, here is
one with the snail on it, eating away."
Why, how can such a soft animal as a snail eat
so hard a thing as an unripe nectarine ?" said Clara.
Very easily," replied Charles, because, soft as
it is, it has eight sharp teeth."
"Oh, where ?" asked Clara. I cannot see
"Nor can I; but you can see its four horns, with
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. 3
its two black eyes at the top of the upper pair, can
"Yes, I can see those plain enough," replied Clara.
"Well, mamma told me that the mouth is placed
under the lower pair of horns, and that it contains
eight small teeth, with which the snail bites leaves,
fruits, and stems. They are so sharp and strong
that the snail can even bite its own shell if it
How very curious?" exclaimed Clara; no
wonder snails can eat up both leaves and fruit so
quickly. But what becomes of the snails in the
winter time, when there is scarcely any food for
They creep into holes, or bury themselves in
the ground when the cold weather comes on, and
they sleep the whole winter through until the warm
weather returns. I think they often cluster together
to keep each other warm, because I have found a
dozen or twenty together in holes and corners in the
early part of the spring."
But are they not sometimes attacked by other
insects when they are buried in the ground?" said
"I do not know exactly how the snail manages
to protect itself then," replied Charles. In the
autumn, I know it covers the opening of its shell
with a kind of skin; but the skin is so very thin,
4 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
that although it may keep out the cold, I should
think many insects might easily break through it."
Is that kind of covering something like the skin
which periwinkles have at the end of their bodies ?"
said Clara; I mean that round tough piece of skin
which exactly fits the opening of the shell."
"Yes, it is very much like it, only it is not nearly
so tough and hard as
S---- the periwinkle's,"said
i Charles. "There is a
I ,.much larger kind of
snail, which closes the
opening of its shell
with a very hard co-
S ver, more like a piece
of plaster of Paris than
anything else. No bird
or insect can break through that: so the snail sleeps
safe enough till the warm spring awakens it. These
snails are of a light brown colour. Mamma told me
that the people in Rome used to consider them as de-
licate food. They were brought to England a long
time ago, some think by the Romans. The summer
we were at Dorking, we saw several on Box Hill,
and mamma has seen them at Reigate and Guild-
I should like to see that kind of snail," said
Clara, but I should not like to eat it at all."
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. 5
I dare say we should be glad enough to eat
them," said Charles, if we could get nothing else.
Papa met an African traveller only the other day,
who had just returned to this country. He told
papa that before he left England he had accustomed
himself to eat all kinds of strange dishes. He had
snails, and worms, and frogs, and spiders, cooked for
him, that he might not dislike them so much when
he could not find other food."
Well, I should have waited till I was obliged to
eat such disagreeable food," exclaimed Clara.
The traveller told papa that he was very glad
he had conquered his dislikes before he left England,
as he had been often forced to put up with such
food in the deserts of Africa. Let me look at your
flower-pot, Clara, for I think we have not got on
very fast while we have been talking."
Indeed, but I have; my pot is nearly full," said
Clara; "the snails are very cunning ; they hide
themselves under the leaves."
"Yes, and between the stems and the wall, and
in the holes of the mortar; sometimes I find many
near the ground. The old snail lays its eggs in the
ground, a few inches deep, near the wall. The eggs
are something like a tiny bunch of grapes, and when
each egg is hatched in the spring, out comes a small
snail, with a little soft shell on its back."
While Charles was speaking, Clara stooped to
6 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
examine the lower part of the wall. Is the little
snail just like the old one ?" said she.
"No, not quite," answered Charles; "when they
are first hatched, the shells have only one turn;
but, as the snail increases in size, it makes its house
Why, how can it do that?" said Clara.
It forces out of its body a shining substance,
which hardens in the air," replied Charles. If you
look at a large old snail-shell, Clara, you will see
that there are four turns and a half, and that the
edge of the mouth of the shell is bent a little.
Mamma told me that this edge is called the lip of
the shell, and that after it is formed the shell does
not increase in size."
I think I know what you mean by that shining
substance," said Clara; I have seen a poor snail
that had had its shell broken, squeezing out ever so
much froth: was that to mend the shell with ?"
Yes, that froth hardens in a short time, and
quite fills up the hole. You can always tell the new
patches, because those parts look so much fresher.
Is your flower-pot filled yet, Clara? Mine is quite
And mine is almost," said Clara; "let us go
and empty them both. Where must we put the
I will empty the pots into the large watering-
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. 7
pot, and then cook will pour boiling water over the
snails, which will kill them in a moment."
Oh, Charles, how shocking !" exclaimed Clara.
" I did not know, when I was picking them off the
trees, that you were going to kill them."
Why," said Charles, we must get rid of them
in some way. We have no right to throw them into
the lane, because then they would crawl into our
neighbour's garden; and killing them by hot scald-
ing water, in a moment, is much better than the
gardener's way of smashing them with his foot.
Mamma does not think it cruel. She is very par-
ticular, though, that the water should be quite
boiling, because, if it were merely warm, the snails
would suffer a great deal of pain, and that would
be cruel, because most of this pain we might
I do not wish to look for any more snails," said
Clara, putting down her flower-pot.
"Well, I will fill the rest of your pot; you have
helped me a good deal, Clara."
While Charles was searching for a few more
snails, Clara observed several spiders running very
quickly over the border. Their colour resembled
that of the earth, particularly where it was a little
Look, Charles," said she, how very fast these
brown spiders run. The moment I moved this lump
8 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
of earth, a dozen ran from under it. They are very
odd shaped spiders. They look as
if they had two stomachs; the
large stomach is as big as a pea,
and of a whitish-grey colour. See, they run so quick,
I cannot catch one of them!"
That large round thing is not a stomach," said
Charles, laughing; "it is a bag of eggs, which the
spider carries with it, till the young ones are
I thought spiders laid their eggs in holes in the
wall, or in cracks in palings," said Clara; I think
I have seen them too, wrapped in silk at the bottom
of their large cobweb nests."
I have seen them in all these places, but those
eggs were laid by different kinds of spiders. The
spiders that we are watching do not spin a web to
catch their prey, but hunt for it. They are called
wolf-spiders, and fierce little fellows they are. I
watched one the other day creep like a cat towards
a small fly that, quietly brushing its wings, was
settled on a stone. The spider moved so slowly
at first, that I thought the fly would be off; but,
when the spider was tolerably near, it suddenly
quickened its pace, and, seizing the fly, dragged it
to a hole under a clod of earth."
"I think that spider has a very good name," said
Clara. Do you know, Charles, whether there are
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. 9
any other spiders that kill their prey in the same
"Yes, several, and still more suddenly, because
they pounce upon the prey, springing upon it from
a height as a hawk does upon a small bird. What
do you think, Clara, of a spider killing a bird ?"
Oh, is that possible ?" said Clara.
I believe so. It is a great spider, that is found
in the woods of South America. Its body is three
inches long, and when its legs are stretched out,
it measures nearly a foot across. It must be pretty
sharp in its movements, for it seizes and kills the
beautiful humming birds, which are so very quick
in their flight, that they look like little glittering
spots in the air, and hardly ever seem to rest for a
"That American spider ought to be called the
tiger-spider," said Clara; but have we any spiders
in this country that spring in that way?"
"Yes, I believe so; but then they are little things.
Mamma pointed out one to me last week, striped like
a zebra. I put my finger near it, and it sprang upon
it three or four inches from the wall."
Did it hurt you? said Clara.
Oh, no," replied her cousin.
I wish, Charles, you would catch one of these
wolf-spiders for me; they run so quickly that I can-
not manage it. I should like to take one into the
io OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
house to show my aunt, and then we could look at it
together. I am sure we shall be cooler in the shady
parlour than here."
Very well, I will catch one of the spiders for you
in a trice," answered Charles. Wait till I have
taken these snails to cook; and I will bring back a
tumbler with me."
When Charles returned, he moved aside two or
three clods of earth, from under which several spiders
ran. Most of them carried a bag of eggs under them,
placed nearly at the end of the body. Charles easily
secured two in the tumbler, which he covered over
with his pocket-handkerchief. Then he and his cousin
went into tie house. They turned the tumbler upside
down on the table, and gently removed the handker-
"Aunt Long," said Clara, "Charles has caught
two spiders, and we want to show them to you. He
calls them wolf-spiders. Have you ever seen a wolf-
"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Long, as she left her
work at the end of the room, and came towards the
table. "The attachment of those spiders to their
young is quite remarkable."
"How do you know that, mamma?" said Charles.
"( Because if I were to take the bag of eggs from
one of these spiders, you would see her strive with all
her might to regain it," said Mrs. Long. She would
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. ii
show no fear of us, and instead of running away,
would brave every danger to recover it. If she
thought the other spider had it, she would in
endeavouring to seize it, fight as courageously as
the white bear does in defending her young."
Mamma, could you take the bag away from the
spider, without hurting it?" said Charles, eagerly.
Yes, because it only adheres (that is, sticks) by
a slight glue."
As Mrs. Long spoke, she gently lifted the tumbler,
and with some difficulty secured the smaller of the
two spiders. She carefully disengaged the bag of
eggs, without breaking it, and then placed the spider
on the table. The poor mother did not attempt to
scamper away, as she would have done if she still
had had her precious eggs with her; but she slowly
wandered over every part of the table-over books,
work-box, and other things-as if searching for some-
thing. A second time she wandered round, but did
not attempt to leave the table.
Oh, do put the bag of eggs on the table, aunt,"
said Clara; the poor spider ought to have it now."
Mrs. Long did so, and after some little time they
saw the spider rush quickly to it, and seize it with
her mandibles (that is, her upper pair of jaws).
"Look! look mamma," said Charles, "she is
running off with it just as the cat carried her kitten
yesterday. But that bag of eggs is a very large
12 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
thing for the spider to carry. She has stopped
behind your work-box, mamma. I dare say she
thinks that nobody will follow her now. See, she
is pushing the bag underneath her, between her
legs. She has got it in the old place again. I
suppose she is glueing it there. She is running
again. How quickly she goes now. She will be
off the table in a moment. I must stop your
journey, though, Mrs. Spider:" and so saying, he
caught the spider.
"Oh, do not take the bag from her again," said
Clara, as her cousin was once more separating it
from the spider.
Only for a few minutes," replied Charles; "I
should like to see whether she will suppose the
bag of the other spider to be her own, and whether
she will strive to get it. May I try, mamma?"
Yes, if you like," replied Mrs. Long, if you do
not let them struggle too long."
Charles instantly placed the spider under the tum-
bler, and in a moment both spiders were struggling
for the possession of the bag.
"Why how very strange!" said Clara; "the
spider cannot know its own bag, if it is so eager
to seize the other's; and yet, aunt, the colour
is different; one is of a darker grey than the
"I have tried this experiment several times," said
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. 13
Mrs. Long, "and I have always observed that the
spider was quite as contented with a strange bag
of eggs as with her own."
Presently, the bag of eggs separated from the real
mother, and the smaller spider struggled violently to
obtain it. Both spiders reared themselves up, ex-
tending their front legs, in a menacing attitude, and
by every motion showed their angry feelings.
"The little spider has conquered," said Charles;
"the other one has rolled right over, and the little
one is scampering away with her bag. I will let her
out, before she gets it snatched from her." He lifted
the tumbler as he spoke, and gently drew the spider,
with the bag, from under it.
"Put the bag of eggs, that you took from her first,
near her," said Mrs. Long, "and then we shall see if
she prefers her own."
Charles did so; but the spider took no notice of
her own bag, but ran quickly on with her stolen
treasure, climbing from the window to the balcony,
and so into the garden. The spider remaining in the
glass was set at liberty. At first she wandered over
the table much in the same manner as the other had
done, but on perceiving the neglected bag of eggs,
she eagerly seized it, and was running off with it,
when Mrs. Long caught her, and gently holding her,
pricked the bag of eggs with a needle.
Immediately, to the great amusement of Charles
14 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
and Clara, the young ones ran out of the bag in
great numbers, and spread themselves over the old
spider, almost covering her.
"Mamma, this reminds me of the picture you
showed roe of the Surinam toad," said Charles.
"But will the spider keep the young ones on her
back, as the toad does ?"
"Yes, for some time, till the first skin is peeling
off," replied Mrs. Long. "Although each of these
little spiders has broken through a tiny egg-shell,
they are still covered with a delicate skin, and till
this comes off they cannot catch their prey. I
believe, during this state the old spiders feed them,
but I am not sure, because it has been said that
food is not necessary to them, until after they have
cast their first skin. We will not keep them to try,
for we should be very likely to forget them; so carry
them all into the garden. Unless spiders be very
numerous in a garden, they are harmless, and we
should not uselessly destroy any living thing."
"Do spiders live long, aunt?" asked Clara.
"Not more than a few months, I believe," an-
swered Mrs. Long; "most of them die before their
eggs are hatched. The wolf-spider, you observe,
lives to see her young ones around her, but she
dies as soon as they can provide for themselves. If
you happen to move the grass growing near the
edge of ponds, you may often disturb the wolf-
GARDEN SNAIL AND WOLF SPIDER. I5
spider; and then you will see it run over the surface
of the water, instead of concealing itself under the
clods of earth as it does in our garden."
"I have never seen that," said Charles.
Perhaps not; but if you look carefully you will,"
said Mrs. Long.
I am glad I thought of bringing the spiders to
show you, aunt," said Clara. "How many enter-
taining things you have told us. When I go
home, I shall look in our garden for a wolf-spider,
and then I can tell my sister Mary all about it.
I am sure she does not know what a curious insect
it is." The two cousins then returned to the gar-
den, where they amused themselves in tying up
the flowers, and hoeing and raking the ground,
A WALK IN THE GARDEN
AFTER A SHOWER.
"MAMMA, the rain has left off, and the sun shines
quite brightly," said Charles Long to his mamma:
"will you come and walk in the garden? I like
you to be in the garden while I am running about."
"Yes, Charles," said his mamma, "I will come
When Mrs. Long had put on her bonnet and
shawl, she followed her little boy into the garden.
Mamma," said Charles, is it not a pity to see
the nice paths covered with all these little heaps of
earthly The gardener says, that the worms make
them. I think they are very mischievous creatures,
do not you?"
They do indeed spoil the neatness of our paths,"
said Mrs. Long, but they cannot know that. They
build these little heaps to protect their young."
How, mamma?" said Charles, I do not under-
The worms," said Mrs. Long, "live in burrows
in the ground, where they lay their eggs. In these
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
burrows they also keep a few leaves, straws, or small
plants for food, for themselves and their young ones.
The worms close the openings to the burrows, because
they fear that the rain might fill them and spoil their
work; and also to prevent those insects from enter-
ing that live upon the eggs of worms, and the young
"*"Do you know what those insects are?" said
"I do not know them all," said Mrs. Long, "but
I believe that fierce little black
fellow, the Staphylinus, is one of
x I :I* them. You must have often seen
the Staphylinus turn up its tail,
"2t/ Charles, when you have happened
Sto place your foot near it."
"Oh, I know the insect you mean,
S mamma," said Charles: if you
touch it ever so gently, it opens its wide jaws and
turns up its tail quite angrily. But, mamma, why is
there a piece of a leaf at the top of most of these
"Because, my dear," said Mrs. Long, "the worms
like to close their holes with some young plant, or
leaf, which they partly drag into their holes. When
the plant is nearly decayed, it makes a delicious
meal for their young ones. Worms like decayed
or rotten leaves better than fresh leaves, and by
18 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
dragging the leaf partly into their holes, they prevent
its being blown away. But look, Charles, I will
carefully remove one of these mounds, and we will
watch what the worms will do."
Then Mrs. Long cleared the earth from one of the
holes very gently.
How will the worm find out that you have taken
the covering away?" said Charles, "for there is no
rain now to enter his little house. Oh, I know; he
will see the bright light; for before you took away
the earth he must have been in the dark. Is not
that the reason, mamma?"
"It may be the reason," said Mrs. Long, "but
I cannot be certain, for no one has yet discovered
eyes in the earthworm. All that we know is, tlat
the worms dislike the light; for when a light is held
near them, they shrink into their holes, and there-
fore I think we shall soon see the opening mended."
There is the worm, mamma," exclaimed Charles.
"There he is! look how he peeps about as if he
were afraid. He will not leave his hole. I can see
something in his mouth, and he is sticking it round
the opening. The worm seems to me, mamma, to
suck in the earth, and then to squirt it out again,
quite soft like mud. How quickly he works! Is
not he a clever fellow?"
"Do not make a noise, my dear," said Mrs. Long,
"or you will frighten it into its hole. Do you observe
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
how neatly and smoothly the inside of the little hole
is finished, while the outside is left quite rough?"
Yes, I can see that quite plainly," replied
Charles; "but how does he manage to make the
inside so smooth?"
I believe the worm uses its tongue as a trowel,"
said Mrs. Long. See, Charles, the worm is crawl-
ing out; speak low, my dear, or it will hide itself."
"I suppose, mamma," said Charles, very softly,
"that he is going in search of a leaf for the little
door of his house. He is crawling over the flower-
bed. There he goes. Oh, mamma, he has turned
up one of your young stocks that have just come
up; look at him; he has pulled it right into his hole,
all but the little top of it that sticks in the clay; I
do not like the worms to spoil your plants at all,
We must try and prevent the mischief, Charles,"
said Mrs. Long. "If we put a few ashes round the
young seedlings, the worms will not touch them, for
they do not like to crawl over the rough ashes.
Worms are very useful to us, though they sometimes
spoil a few plants. By making holes in the ground
they loosen it, and then the rain entering, nourishes
the young plants. The roots of plants and trees
grow better in earth that is frequently loosened than
in hard ground. That is the reason why the gardener
digs and hoes round the trees and plants so often."
20 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
Some of the worm-hills," said Charles, have no
leaves on the top; how then do these worms close
their little houses?"
They make use of a straw, or sometimes of a
lump of clay," answered Mrs. Long.
I think, mamma," said Charles, that there are
very few worms about, although there are so many
little mounds. Why do they not come out of their
They travel about at night chiefly," said Mrs.
Long, "in search of food, and seem to prefer rainy
weather. I have sometimes on a fine moonlight
night seen the lawn covered with them. Those
worms that live in holes on the lawn do not quit
them, as the food is within their reach, but fixing
their tails firmly in the hole, they stretch out their
I suppose, mamma, when they are frightened,"said
Charles, they shrink suddenly into their holes."
"Yes," said Mrs. Long, "and sometimes as sud-
denly pass out. Worms are very fearful of the
mole, who attacks them in their burrows; and
the moment they feel the ground move, they dart
to the surface of the ground. You may very easily
see how soon they are alarmed, Charles."
"How, mamma?" said Charles, "I have never
even seen a mole; how can I then watch the worm
darting away from him? "
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
Because, my dear," replied Mrs. Long, the
worm is frightened at any sudden movement in
the earth. If you ask the gardener to stick the
pitchfork in the ground, near the place where he
supposes there may be any worms, you will see that
they will appear above the ground immediately."
Oh, I will be sure to ask him," said Charles;
"but I cannot to-day, for the gardener told me he
should not be here again till to-morrow. I like to
watch the worms, mamma. Shall we take off another
mound to see whether the opening will be mended ?"
"You can stay if you like, my dear," said Mrs.
Long, but this side of the garden is too damp for
me to stand still longer."
"Then, mamma," said Charles, "I will show you
my garden; that is nice and sunny. I have altered
it since you were there last. Does not my new path
look pretty? You see it divides my flowers from
my lettuces, radishes, and mustard and cress. I
should like to have a seat at the end of this path
very much, and I am sure I can make one, mamma,
if you will be so good as to give me that old board
in the tool-house. May I have the board ?"
"Yes, Charles," said his mother, "you may have it."
"Thank you," exclaimed Charles; it will be
quite large enough for you, mamma, and you will
like to sit in my garden, shall you not ?"
Yes, my dear," answered Mrs. Long; it will
22 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
be very pleasant to sit and read in your little garden,
"while you are digging and weeding."
And then when I have worked till I am famously
hot," said Charles, I can sit by your side to rest
myself. Have you seen my poor apple-tree, mamma,
that you gave me last year ? All the blossoms seem
spoiled, and I do not think I shall have one apple
this year. See, mamma, the blossoms are all withered
and stuck together."
Mrs. Long carefully examined the blossoms, and
she asked Charles if he knew what occasioned the
No, mamma," said Charles, "I do not; the
gardener says it is the blight, but I do not know
what he means by blight; and when I asked him, he
looked up, and said it was in the air."
My dear boy," said Mrs. Long, the word blight
has puzzled wiser heads than either the gardener's or
yours. I believe gardeners call a frost, a cold wind,
a great number of insects, or anything that injures
the trees or plants, a blight. It was once imagined,
that there were thousands and thousands of the eggs
of insects floating in the air, as well as the smaller
caterpillars, and that they appeared in large numbers
in certain places, when brought there by a strong
wind. But this is a mistake; for the parent insect,
when at liberty, always lays her eggs where the
young caterpillars may find proper food the moment
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
they are hatched. These eggs are almost always
covered with a sticky matter, to fasten them to the
place where the mother insect lays them, and there-
fore they cannot be blown about by the winds.
Your silkworm eggs are quite firm on the paper
where your silk-worm moths laid them last year,
Charles, are they not ?"
Yes, mamma, quite firm," said Charles; but do
you think my apple-tree blossoms are spoilt by an
insect, or by a cold wind?"
"You will be able to tell me yourself, Charles,"
said Mrs. Long, "if you will allow me to pluck off
this bunch of blossoms from your tree."
Oh yes, mamma, you may take anything you
like in my garden; besides, I should like to know how
all this mischief is done."
While Charles was saying this, Mrs. Long
plucked a bunch of blossoms. The flowers were
all joined together by a fine cobweb; and, as she
carefully unfolded them, she asked Charles what he
"A very small caterpillar," answered Charles:
"it has a green body and a little black head. But
can this small caterpillar do so much mischief,
"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Long; "from the
moment it is hatched it begins to eat. It fastens
the blossoms together to make a secure little house,
24 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
and goes on eating and eating until it is ready for its
"I know what change you mean, mamma," ex-
claimed Charles eagerly; "I have never forgotten
how insects change, since you let me keep silkworms.
First, the egg is laid by the moth or the beetle, or
any other perfect insect; then, when the egg is
hatched, out comes the little caterpillar or maggot,
which, after some time, leaves off eating, and becomes
a chrysalis; it looks quite dead then, but by and by
the skin cracks, and the perfect insect crawls out
just like the one that laid the egg. Is it not so,
Almost, my dear," said Mrs. Long. Some few
insects, when young, have nearly the same shape
as the parent, and only change their skin at diffe,
rent times. A few other kinds of insects resemble
in their young state the parent insect, except in the
wings, which they have not. But almost all insects
go through three great changes-from the egg to the
caterpillar or maggot, from the caterpillar to the
chrysalis, and from the chrysalis to the perfect
insect. One other thing you must remember,
Charles. Some insects in their chrysalis or pupa
state, as it is called, do not appear dead: grass-
hoppers, dragon-flies, and some others, continue to
move about as briskly as before."
And what is the name, mamma," said Charles,
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
" of the perfect insect that has laid its eggs in my
apple-tree, and when did it lay them? "
"I believe that the apple-bud-weevil is the name
of the insect," said Mrs. Long, "and that it laid its
eggs in the young flower-bud last autumn. It is a
red insect, and may often be seen running up the
branches of apple-trees in the autumn, searching
for the flower-buds, and then is the time to prevent,
by destroying them, the mischief they may otherwise
Mamma, will you be so good as to draw me one,"
said Charles, "that I may know it when I see it? I
will run into the parlour to fetch a pencil."
"I have a pencil in my pocket, my dear," said
Mrs. Long, "and a card also. Look; this is the
shape of the apple-bud-weevil. Weevils are some-
thing like beetles, only the head is more pointed,
with this curious forked snout. And this is the
shape of the chrysalis, and the cater-
-c-. pillar, or grub."
Your drawing, mamma," said
Charles, "is just like the caterpillar
in the apple-blossom, but why do you
Scall it a grub? I think it has the
same shape as many other caterpillars
that I have seen."
"If you look at its legs, Charles," answered Mrs.
Long, you will see but six in front, and the young of
26 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
beetles and weevils, which are properly called grubs,
have never more than that number. But the true
caterpillars that change into four-winged insects,
such as moths and butterflies, have not only six
legs near the head, which are always armed with
claws, but from two to sixteen legs under the body,
that help them to cling closely and to climb
"But, mamma," said Charles, "what becomes of
the grub of the weevil when the blossom of the apple
"The grub falls also, ceases to eat, and buries
itself in the ground, to remain there during its
chrysalis state," said Mrs. Long; after a few months
it changes to the perfect insect. There are many
other insects that destroy the apple-blossom, the fruit,
the leaves, and the bark; but I do not see any of
them at present."
Thank you, mamma," said Charles. "I shall
now know that mischievous weevil quite well. It
is not cruel to destroy insects when they do mischief,
"( No, my dear," replied Mrs. Long, but we ought
to be very careful to give them as little pain as
possible, by killing them quickly. Some thought-
less people will leave a poor insect suffering for an
hour after they have attempted to kill it: this is
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
"I hope the snails and slugs will not touch my
young lettuces," said Charles: I think I had
better get some ashes and put round them,
"Yes, that will be a good plan," said Mrs. Long:
"but what is that little heap of stones for in that
corner ? "
Oh, mamma I" exclaimed Charles, that is not a
heap of stones that is my frog-house. I have put
a little piece of wood for a door, and the frogs are
quite warm and comfortable there. Look at them;
I will take away the door, and, if you stoop down,
you will see them."
As Charles said this, Mrs. Long stooped down to
look into his frog-house.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
frogs!" exclaimed Mrs. Long. Why, Charles, they
are quite crowded; they cannot be comfortable in that
small place; it is not larger than a garden-pot. They
can scarcely have any air."
Oh, yes, indeed, mamma," answered Charles,
" they have plenty of air, for I take them out of the
house very often, and give them a ride in my wheel-
I think the jolting and shaking must be still
more disagreeable to them than the confinement. Do
you think it would be agreeable to you to be put in a
small room, from which light and fresh air were shut
28 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
out, with seven or eight other children, and only to
be taken out in a great box for a short time, without
being once allowed to jump or to hop?"
"No, mamma, I do not think I should like that,"
replied Charles; "but I am sure I try to make
my frogs happy, for I have given them all kinds
of leaves for their food. I suppose frogs are not
often hungry, for they have not eaten one half
"No, that is not the reason," answered his mother.
"Frogs do not eat leaves: they live upon insects,
snails, small worms, and maggots. Your poor frogs
that you thought were so happy must have been
very hungry and very uncomfortable in their prison;
they have not had the power to procure their proper
food, while you have been filling their house with
useless leaves !"
I am sure I did not mean to starve them," said
Charles: I will let them out directly."
That is right, Charles," said Mrs. Long; "it is
better to lose a little pleasure than to hurt a poor
As the frogs came out one by one, glad to regain
their liberty, Charles said, "Mamma, one of the
frogs looks as if he had a broken back; the middle
is quite pointed; its skin is of a greener colour than
the skin of the others, and it has, besides the dark
spots like the other frogs, three stripes of yellow
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
down the back. Is that a different kind of frog,
"Yes," said Mrs. Long, "it is called the edible
frog. Edible means good for food; and in Italy,
Germany, and France, this kind of frog is eaten. I
believe, however, the common frog is also frequently
eaten, although it is not considered so nice as the
edible frog. Both kinds of frogs live upon insects
and worms, but the edible frog is so voracious and
bold, that it will sometimes venture to attack and
swallow young mice, and even young ducklings when
they are just hatched."
<. ., 1 .I '- --,.--.
":"-." I :.,=z
"How strong it must be," said Charles: "but
look, mamma, three of the frogs have hopped on
that ant-hill. I don't think they will get any food
there, for ants keep in their holes in rainy weather."
Stop a minute," said his mamma, and let us
watch. I think the noise that the frogs make in
30 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
moving so near the ants, will frighten them from
their holes. Besides, although ants dislike very
rainy weather, they generally work soon after the
rain ceases, because the earth is moist, and they can
press the little heaps that they carry into the shape
they wish. They will even work in a gentle shower.
See, Charles, the ants are now running about in all
directions, and the frogs are darting out their forked
tongues to seize all that come near them."
their tongues so very, very quickly, that I cannot
see how they catch the ants. I wonder the ants do
not tumble off."
"They cannot fall off," said MCrs. Long; "gs ve
tongue of the frog is covered with a sticky substance
like paste, and therefore the moment the tongue
touches the ant, it holds the ant quite fast. The
tongue of the frog is differently placed to our tongues,
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
Charles. It is fastened inside the front of the mouth,
and not to the back; and when the frog is not using
it to seize insects, it is turned back, with the tip
towards the throat."
"I understand you, mamma," said Charles; the
frog packs up his tongue, something like I do when
I roll up my tongue. If the frog did not turn his
tongue back, there would be no room for the tongue
in his mouth, and the tongue would be obliged to
hang out. How many ants the frogs must have
eaten while we have been talking! They dart out
their tongues a great deal faster than I can."
I have heard of a tame toad," said Mrs. Long,
"that was fed upon flies and other insects. When
its master held it in his hand near a window, it
would sit quite still, darting its tongue with great
quickness, while it swallowed fly after fly."
Mamma," said Charles, "I should like to read
about that tame toad. Do you think one of these
frogs could be tamed?"
I do not know, my dear," said his mamma.
Charles took up one of the frogs very carefully,
and held it towards a fly that was settled on a bush;
but the frog was frightened, and quickly jumped off
"It will not stop on my hand, mamma," said
Charles; do you know how the gentleman tamed
32 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
When we go in, Charles," said Mrs. Long, I
will show you the account, and then you can read
it yourself; but now let us walk quickly, or we shall
Charles ran for his hoop; and after he had gone
several times round the garden, guiding his hoop
carefully when he passed his mamma, he became
quite warm, and then he and his mamma went into
the house. He hung up his hat on the peg in the
passage, and put away his hoop and stick, and then
running into the parlour, said, eagerly,"Now, mamma,
for the tame toad, please."
Mrs. Long took a book from the book-case, and
after marking several parts with a pencil, she gave
it to him, and said she had marked those parts that
she thought he would like to read.
"Thank you, mamma," said Charles; "may I read
it to you while you are working ? I will begin with
You may read it to me, my dear," said Mrs.
Long, "but you had better begin with the com-
mon frog, because you will then understand it
"Very well, mamma," said Charles; and he
began to read some account of the common frog, the
edible frog, and the common toad.
"The common frog is seen almost in every damp
place where the frog can find its favourite food, insects,
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
small worms, and snails. Its fore feet are divided into
four toes, and the hind feet are strongly webbed like
the foot of a goose; that is, they have a skin stretched
between each toe. The web assists the frog to swim.
Frogs generally seek the water in very hot weather,
and again in the beginning of winter. During the
cold winter months they lie at the bottom of ponds,
plunged in the soft mud, or in holes in the bank in a
I know what torpid means, mamma," said Charles,
" you told me yesterday; very fast asleep for a long,
"Yes," said Mrs. Long; "and during this time the
animal neither eats nor drinks."
Charles continued. "In the northern parts of
North America, when the cold is very severe, frogs
have been dug up frozen as hard as ice. In this
state their legs break like a piece of dry stick;
but what is very curious, without awaking them
from their torpidity. If, however, the injured
frog be wrapped in flannel, and gradually warmed
near a fire, it will recover its feeling, and soon
come to life. Upon first coming out of their
winter holes, frogs change their skin, and they
continue to do so every eight or ten days during
the summer. When the old skin has just peeled
off, the frog looks of a brighter colour than
34 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
"The eggs of the frog may be seen in large clusters
in the ponds in the month of
March, like hundreds of white
transparent beads, with a black
dot in the middle. In the month
of April a small tadpole is
hatched from each of these eggs,
which at first is not at all like the parent frog. In-
deed, no one who had not heard of the great change
the tadpole goes through, could imagine that this
strange looking animal could be-
come a perfect frog. Tadpoles
have a small fringe round the
under lip, by means of which
they can hang to the under sur-
face of the leaves of the plants
that grow in the water. While
they live in the water they feed
S-- chiefly upon the duck-weed.
When the tadpole is about six
weeks old, the hind legs make their appearance, and
soon afterwards the fore legs. The tail being now
no longer necessary, begins to get less, and at last
falls off, and the little animal first ventures upon land.
They are sometimes seen in such vast numbers,
marching to some wood, or moist place, that the
ground has been covered with them; and ignorant
people have been very much frightened, thinking
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
they came from the clouds in showers like rain.
As soon as the tadpole has changed into the perffeet
happens to rain in the
frog, it no longer feeds
on leaves, but upon in-
sects and small worms,
and it therefore leaves
the pond in search of
food.* The young frogs
travel all night, and con-
ceal themselves during
the day under stones,
and in holes. When
evening arrives, they
again continue their
journey. If, however, it
day time, they will come
out of their holes to refresh themselves. The com-
mon frog makes a low croaking noise in the even-
inT?, but not nearly so loud as the edible frog, and
s ;; other kinds. Both the common frog and the
edible frog live about fifteen years. The edible frog
is so much admired as a delicate dish in Austria,
All these interesting changes can be observed in a fresh water
aquarium, as well as many other habits of the inhabitants of our
ponds. Care should be taken, by means of a floating island (made
of a piece of cork) or by a piece of rock sufficiently large for the
upper part to be dry, for the perfect frog or insect to be able to
escape from the water. The glass or muslin at the top of tlh
aquarium will prevent their leaving the aquarium itself till
removed by the observer.
36 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
that thirty or forty thousand are brought at a time
to the city of Vienna. The people who provide
frogs for the market keep them in large holes,
covered over in the winter with straw. In these
holes the frogs never become quite torpid. When
large numbers of the edible frog are croaking to-
gether, they make so loud a noise as to be heard at
a great distance. It is a larger kind of frog than
the common frog, and much more courageous, but it
is not nearly so often seen in this country. When
pursued by a snake it will take immense leaps, croak-
ing so sharply, that it sounds like the shriek of a
child; but when closely attacked, it will never yield
till forced by its enemy."
"Mamma," said Charles, laying down his book,
"have you ever seen a frog climb a tree? I have;
I watched one the other day, crawling up the cherry-
tree that is trained against the wall near my garden.
I think it was a young edible frog. It used its
front legs just as I would use my hands and arms,
and climbed from twig to twig, till he reached about
the middle of the wall. It then fell down, and it did
not try again."
I have never seen a frog climb a tree," said Mrs.
Long, "but I have often observed them climbing a
wall where two walls meet, and supporting them-
selves by pressing their feet against both sides.
There is a beautiful little green frog both in America
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
and in Europe, that lives amongst the topmost
branches of trees, where it swings from branch to
branch, something like a monkey; but its feet are
very differently formed to those of our frogs."
"I should like to hear about that frog some other
day, mamma," said Charles; "but now we have
come to the toad."
., ,- .
The common toad so abounds in some parts of
South America, as in Carthagena and Porto Bello,
that in rainy weather not only the marshy ground,
but the gardens, courts, and streets are almost covered
with them. In these countries the toad is of great
size, the smallest being at least six inches long. If
it happens to rain during the night, it is then still
worse; they crawl about in such great numbers that
they nearly touch one another. On such occasions
it is almost impossible to stir out of doors without
trampling them under foot at every step. The toad
passes the winter in ponds during its torpid state, or
38 UUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
in hollows in the roots of trees. It is a dull heavy-
looking animal, but the eye is beautiful. The hind-
feet are only slightly webbed, the web not extending
more than half way
up each toe. It lays .,-t 5-
its eggs in the form .
of a necklace, not in ,
clusters like the frog.
The tadpoles become
perfect toads in the
autumn, when they may be seen by hundreds
crawling up the bank of ponds, seeking a drier
"Having found a place to suit them, each one
for himself, they continue to live alone until winter;
only venturing out in moist evenings. The toad is
covered with small bumps, so that the skin is rough.
When irritated it does not attempt to escape, but
stops suddenly, swells its body, and presses from
various parts of its skin a sticky bitter liquid which
smells disagreeably. The bite of the toad and this
liquid have generally been considered to be highly
poisonous, but this cannot be true. It is well known
that numbers of persons have handled toads without
receiving any injury. The negroes of Senegal, in
travelling across the burning sands of that country,
are in the habit of applying a toad to their foreheads
for the sake of its refreshing coolness. Both frogs
A WALK AFTER A SHOWER.
and toads are always covered with moisture, though
this moisture is more abundant at one time than at
another. It defends their skin from the heat of the
air and sun. The bite of the toad produces a slight
inflammation that occasions no real inconvenience.
"Many anecdotes have been related of the extra-
ordinary power of the toad to live without food, and
almost without air, even for years. It is difficult to
discover the truth or error of these accounts; but we
know from the experiments of a French gentleman,
that out of three toads which were shut up in boxes
securely covered with plaster, two were found alive
at the end of eighteen months.
"Neither toads nor frogs are difficult to tame.
Both may soon be taught to be taken in hand and
carried about without fear. A gentleman in Devon-
shire kept a tame toad, which continued in his
garden for nearly thirty-six years. It was generally
found near the steps of the hall door. By being
constantly fed, it became so tame as always to come
out of its hole in the evening when a candle was
brought, and to look up as if it expected to be carried
into the house, where it was frequently fed with
insects. It appeared most fond of maggots, which
were kept for it in bran. When the maggots were
placed on the table, it would fix its eyes on them,
and remain quite still for a moment, and then dart
out its tongue so quickly, and swallow the maggot so
40 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
instantly, that the eye could not follow it. The
motion was faster than winking the eye. This
favourite toad was injured by a tame raven, who
seeing it one day peep out of its hole, pecked an eye
out, and although the poor toad lived a year after, it
never recovered from the wound."
"Oh, mamma, how sorry I should have been,"
exclaimed Charles. "I will try and tame a frog.
You see, mamma, the book says that both frogs and
toads can be easily tamed. I should like to see the
frog come out of its hole to meet me. I should then
be quite sure it was happy, because if it did not like
to stay it could hop away."
Yes," said his mother, I think that is a very
good plan; and now that you have finished reading,
my dear, be so good as to ring the bell for tea."
"WHAT are you looking at so attentively?" said
Mrs. Long to her son Charles, who was earnestly
gazing from an open window.
I am watching two swallows, mamma, that have
been flying backwards and forwards for the last
quarter of an hour. Do come and look at them;
they cling for a moment to the side of the house, or
to the eaves, and then off they dart over the fields
and trees. They never stop to eat for an instant."
There is no need of their resting to eat,
Charles," said Mrs. Long. "They can easily
catch winged insects as they fly; their mouths open
so wide. They have probably destroyed hundreds
of insects during the time you have been at the
Well, that is strange said Charles, "I have
watched them as attentively as possible, and I have
not seen them open their beaks once."
"No; because the motion of seizing the insect
is so quick; but if you were sufficiently near, you
42 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
would hear the loud snap which the bill makes
Why do the swallows return so often to the
caves of the house? Do you think they will build
there ? inquired Charles.
"I think they probably may, my dear," answered
his mamma, but not for some days to come. These
birds appear to me to have only just arrived from
warmer climates, at least I have not observed any
window swallows before, this year; and I believe
most of the swallows spend several days in sporting
and playing about, before they begin their nests for
"But, mamma," said Charles, "I have seen a
great many swallows every day for the last fortnight.
I have watched them flying about in all directions."
You have very likely seen a great number
of chimney swallows, Charles," said Mrs. Long,
" for they generally appear the first fortnight in
April; but these two we are watching are not
chimney swallows. They are window swallows,
martins, as they are also called."
Is it not the same kind of swallow, mamma,"
asked Charles, that builds in barns, chimneys, the
corners of windows, and the eaves of houses? "
"No; look carefully at the shape of the martin
now clinging to the roof of the house. The tail
and wings are much shorter than those of the
chimney swallow, and the legs are covered with
short downy feathers to the toes. It can also be
easily distinguished from the chimney swallow by
the bright white colour of all the under parts of the
body. This kind never builds in chimneys nor in
barns, but either in the corners of windows, under
the roofs of houses, or against rocks and cliffs."
I wish these martins would build against our
house, mamma," said Charles. "How I should
like to watch them making their nests and feediin
their young. Can you tell me where swallows fly to
in the winter, and all about them ? "
I am afraid, Charles, no one knows all about them,
that is, the complete history of their habits. Many
interesting facts have, however, been collected con-
cerning them. I believe that large numbers of both
martins and swallows pass over in the autumn as
far even as Senegal in Africa, for their winter
retreat; but they do not build there. Swallows
have been seen hundreds of miles from land. Many
thousands have been observed at one time in the
south of Spain, waiting for a fair wind, and then
44 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
passing in large flocks over the Mediterranean Sea
"But, mannma," said Charles, how can the
swallows keep so long on the wing as they must
sometimes do when flying over the sea ? "
When they fly over a great extent of ocean, it
is probable that many must die of fatigue," answered
Mrs. Long, as several have been known to drop
on the decks of sLips, exhausted and half-starved;
but I should think that most swallows and mar-
tins travel overland from the colder countries, only
passing over the sea when they cannot help it. A
swallow flies at least seventy or eighty miles an
hour; and therefore one day's journey would enable
it to traverse a great distance. The martins do not
fly so quickly as the chimney swallows. Their short
wings and tails are not suitable for extraordinary
swiftness, but their power of flight is still very
Do you think," said Charles, that if I were to
keep a swallow in a cage, and feed him very carefully,
he would wish to fly away ?"
"Yes ; I believe it would, Charles," answered his
mamma, for people have tried that experiment.
The birds have been easily tamed in the summer, but
on the approach of the usual time for migration,
September and October, they have appeared restless
and uneasy, fluttering from side to side, and beating
their wings with great violence. This agitation
much increased when the cage was hung outside the
window; as the poor prisoners could then see the
flocks of swallows and martins assembled on the
roofs of the houses previous to their departure. The
wild swallows were observed to hover over the cage
for some time, seeming to invite their friends to join
them. When, however, the caged birds were not
allowed to see the wild swallows, they soon became
calm; and after all the flocks had left the country,
they returned to their usual cheerful state as if
nothing had happened."
"But, mamma, why do people keep swallows?"
"Because it is very interesting to study their
habits, which have been much misunderstood. For
a long time, Charles, indeed until very lately, all our
European swallows were supposed to pass the winter
in a dormant state, either in holes or crevices, or
under the water."
*' Oh, mamma, how could a bird live under the
"I believe, my dear, that it is quite impossible;
for the swallow is formed to live in the air, and could
not breathe like a fish or a frog in the water. But
notwithstanding this fact, many persons believed the
contrary; and even clever and learned men have
asserted that they have seen the fishermen in the
northern countries draw from the sea in their nets
4.6 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
clusters of torpid swallows, which, if kept suffi-
ciently warm, might be restored to life."
How could they make such a mistake?" exclaimed
Because," said Mrs. Long, they were not accu-
rate observers. They were so astonished at the
annual appearance and disappearance of thousands of
swallows, and almost all at one time, that they were
ready to admit any explanation of this wonderful
fact, and were easily imposed upon by the ignorant
"But, mamma," said Charles, "the swallows
might be dormant in the winter, like squirrels and
Yes; and I believe they have occasionally been
found in holes and nooks," said Mrs. Long. Per-
haps they were weakly birds that were fledged
unusually late, and were not strong enough to join
their companions. Mr. John Hunter, the celebrated
surgeon, who was a very accurate observer, took the
pains' to have a room fitted up for swallows. There
were large tubs of water half filled with reeds and
rushes, old stems of trees and rough grotto work,
so that if inclined, the swallows might retire either
to the water or to dry holes for their winter sleep.
When the birds were assembling by thousands among
the reeds and rushes of the little islands in the
Thames, previous to their departure, Mr. Hunter
THE AL4R TINS.
had several secured and placed in the room prepared
for them. Not one of these birds showed the least
desire to bury itself in the water or became at all
torpid. A number of swallows have also been kept
for years by one gentleman, without showing any
inclination to become dormant."
On the 12th of May, about a fortnight after the
above conversation, Charles ran to his mother's room
to tell her that he thought the martins were now
certainly beginning to build. "I have been longing
for you to come down to breakfast, mamma, for I
have seen three pairs of martins flying backwards
and forwards for the last hour, and I want you to
come into the garden with me, that we may watch
"I will be with you in a minute, Charles,"
answered his mother, and she quickly followed her
son into the garden.
Charles was correct in his observation. Three
pairs of martins were now commencing their mud
dwellings under the eaves of the house.
Do look, mamma, at that martin which has just
settled. How he clings against the wall, while lie
dabs the earth on the brickwork with his beak. I
should have thought he would fall."
It very likely would do so," said Mrs. Long, "if
it did not partly support itself by leaning its tail
firmly against the wall. The foundation is the most
48 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
difficult part to build, because if the mud is not well
plastered so as to adhere firmly, the weight of the
"upper part might easily loosen it, and the whole would
then fall to the ground. They mix the earth with
little pieces of straw, and moisten it well in their
mouths before they use it."
"They can get plenty of water from our pond,
mamma," said Charles, and I have seen them skim-
ming over it several times this morning."
That was not for the purpose of wetting the earth
for their nests, Charles," said his mother. Swal-
lows and martins can sip as they fly, but they cannot
carry water in their mouths as you can do. They
moisten the earth in the same way that we moisten
our food, and perhaps that kind of liquid may be of
a sticky nature, and help to make the little pellets
of earth adhere to the wall."
Do you think, mamma, they will finish their nests
"No, Charles; they will leave off working in the
middle of the day, that the part which they have
built may dry well; but to-morrow morning, long
before you and I are up, they will be busily employed.
The nest will be finished in about a fortnight, I
should think. But papa taps at the window, and
we must leave the martins for breakfast."
During breakfast, Charles asked his father if he
had ever observed martins building ?
"Very frequently," said his father. "I am
particularly fond of the swallow tribe, they are so
cheerful, active, and industrious. Besides, they are
very useful, for by their consuming a great number of
insects, we are not annoyed by gnats and flies so
much as we certainly should be without their assist-
"I shall be very glad when ours have finished
their nest, papa," said Charles. "What will they
line them with, for those lumps of earth must be
very rough for the young birds ? Do they smooth
the earth inside?"
"I believe not," said Mr. Long, or very slightly;
but as they make a nice little bed of grasses, small
straws, wool, feathers, or moss, the roughness of the
nest is not of much consequence."
"I will make a collection of the materials that
you have mentioned, papa, in a heap on the grass-
plot," said Charles, "and then, perhaps, I shall see
the martins make use of them."
"Yes ; I think you will," said his father. "These
martins have chosen a good situation for building,
as the projecting roof of our house will defend the
nests from rain. Martins very frequently build
where a heavy shower will expose their nest to
destruction, and yet they will, year after year,
attempt to rear their young in the same insecure
So OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
"*Then, father," said Charles, "you think our
martins will come again next spring to build
They will probably make use of the very same
nest, Charles," said Mr. Long, "and perhaps will
continue to do so for years, only clearing and
repairing them. The chimney swallow, on the con-
trary, always builds a new nest."
"But how can people know they are the same
martins that return to the old nests, father? They
may be different ones, you know."
"People have several times tied coloured silk
round the legs of the martins, and when they have
returned in the spring, they have been observed to
have the silk still round their legs."
Oh, how I should like to try that," exclaimed
Charles; will you do it for me in the autumn,
Yes; if we can catch the martins, Charles."
Day after day, Charles watched the martins, till at
the end of ten or twelve days the three nests were
completed. He had the pleasure to see the martins
peck at the little heaps of moss, feathers, and wool
that he had prepared for them, and carry the pieces
to their nest. He wished he could see the inside of
a nest without destroying it, but as that was not
possible, he waited patiently till the eggs were
hatched. His mother told him that each hen-bird
had probably laid five white eggs, but that he would
see nothing of the young birds for some time.
Shortly after the nests were completed, Charles
heard a loud chirping among the martins; and
looking up, he saw a sparrow striving with all his
might to enter one of the nests and turn out the
martin. After a long struggle, the sparrow was
obliged to fly off. Charles asked his mother why
the sparrow should attempt to turn out the martin,
as sparrows can build very good nests for them-
selves. Mrs. Long said that she did not know the
reason; it might either be to save labour, or to
secure more quickly a suitable shelter. Sparrows,
she added, roost all the year in their nests.
Many days passed, and Charles almost forgot
the martins, till his mother called his attention to
the young birds hanging their heads out of the holes
of the nest, and opening their wide mouths con-
tinually. It was very entertaining to watch the
parents feeding them. No labour seemed to weary
them; and they spent the whole day in catching
insects on the wing to supply their young with food;
only resting for a moment to feed them, and then
again flying off. They rolled the insects which they
caught into a little cluster under their tongues to
convey to the young birds. As soon as the young
birds were able to fly, they accompanied the old
ones in short flights; and Mrs. Long told Charles
OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
that for some time they would be fed on the wing,
the young bird meeting the parent in the air and
receiving the food from its bill. Some of the young
nestlings were more forward than others, and Charles
watched them for several days hovering near the
nest, or clinging to it.
About the beginning of August, the young birds
left the nest entirely, and frequently assembled with
other martins on the roofs of the neighboring
houses. As soon as the young had quite left the
nests, the parents prepared for their second brood,
clearing the insides of the nests and lining them with
fresh moss, feathers, and straw.
Mrs. Long told Charles, that for some days
previous to their departure in the autumn, all the
nests would be deserted, and the martins would roost
on shrubs, trees, or the roofs of buildings.
Do all the swallows and martins go at one time,
mamma?" inquired Charles.
"No," answered Mrs. Long; "the martins remain
in this country for two or three weeks after the
chimney swallows. Both kinds, however, depart in
large flocks, seeming to wait on the cliffs of the
south and east of England, till their companions
arrive, and then they take flight in large bodies.
The chimney swallow, the bank swallow, and the
wift, all live in this country during part of the
year, Charles; and you may observe them also at
come future time, without forgetting your friends,
"If you will be so good as to show me where to
find them all, mamma, I should like to watch them.
I know where to find the chimney swallow, with
its long tail and wings, because you told me that it
built in barns as well as chimneys, but I do not know
anything about the bank swallow and swift."
It is almost too late to observe the swift," said
Mrs. Long, for it leaves us much earlier than the
rest of the swallow tribe, but the bank swallow
remains till September or October. We will walk
to the chalk pit this afternoon, to see if we can find
any of the holes which they bore for their nests."
"Thank you, mamma; and I will go and ask papa
to walk with us."
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
"MAMMA, I wish you would go with Alfred and me
to the brickfields," said Charles Long to his mother;
" we are going to fish for sticklebacks, and, you
know, you can walk near us while we are fishing,
and then we can all talk together."
Mamma is very much obliged to you, I dare
say," said Alfred, laughing. Why, Charles, you
would not like to stand waiting and waiting, while
another person was employed in doing something
that you did not care about."
"1 But, mamma," said Charles, shall not you like
to see our sticklebacks? You cannot think what
beauties some of them are! Alfred caught one the
other day that was just like a little gold fish. Do
I have no objection to go with you," said Mrs.
Long, "if you think you can find me a little dry
mound or bank to sit on. I cannot say I should like
to walk up and down as you propose, Charles, but I
can take my book with me, and then I shall be quite
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
comfortable, even if you stay the whole morning
Oh! thank you," said both the boys together,
" we will find you a dry seat."
Will you be so good, mamma," said Alfred,
"as to give us a small piece of muslin ? Papa has
given us a strong piece of wire, and I have made
the framework for two nets, and now I want some
thin kind of stuff to cover them with. Two pieces,
about the size of the top of my hat, will do."
"Let me look at the frames, Alfred," replied
Mrs. Long, "and then I can better judge of the
Alfred showed his mamma the two frames which
were made of wire, bent in a circle, and measured
six inches across. The two ends of the wire were
twisted, and left four inches long to strap to a
walking-stick. There were
.- two cross bars of wire, so bent
-- that the net might be pretty
deep. Mrs. Long soon found
two pieces of coarse muslin,
which she cut to the proper size, and gave the boys
to sew thickly round the wire frames, while she
prepared to accompany them.
When Mrs. Long returned, she found the boys
quite ready, Alfred with the walking sticks and nets,
and Charles with six large phials. The distance
56 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
to the brickfield was not great, so that they were
soon there. In this field were several large ponds,
formed by the hollows from whence the clay had
been dug. The boys were some time before they
could fix on what they considered the best situation.
At length, they observed a sandy bank sloping
gently, near which the water was so clear, that they
saw dozens of delicate sticklebacks swimming about;
and there they determined to fish. They soon
chose a dry, clean seat for their mother, which,
they assured her, was free from snails and ants.
Every now and then she heard their exclamations
of surprise as a brilliant little fellow glided by un-
caught by the nets.
"There! there do you not see that beauty,
Charles? You have lost him, how foolishly Now
look at me, I put the net right under him. He
is gone, I declare! Hush, do not make a noise;
there is a little shoal coming this way. Oh! they
are only tinkers. You do not want tinkers, do you,
No, I do not care about those black fellows,"
answered Charles, "' I shall go a little further from
you; we should not both try in one place."
In a minute Charles shouted out, I have caught
him! It is a gold one! and he ran to Mrs. Long,
with the net in one hand, and the phial in the other.
"Look, mamma, look at the colours Is it not a
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
beautiful little fish ? How it does jump about!
Just hold the net, please, while I fill the phial with
Charles filled the phial, and then with great care
he took hold of the stickleback by the tail and
dropped him in. You are safe now, little fish,"
said he. How red and shining you are!"
"It is a very pretty little fish, indeed," said
Mrs. Long. What a bright circle of blue there
is round the eye! Do you see the little gills,
"Yes, mamma, I see those small pieces of skin
that keep opening and shutting by the side of the
head. What are they for ? "
To breathe with," answered Mrs. Long.
But can fish breathe air in the water, mamma?
I did not know that there was any air in the
There is air in all water," replied Mrs. Long;
"but some kinds of water contain more air than
others. Have you ever tasted water, Charles, that
had been boiled ? "
Yes; I drank some yesterday that was in a
jug, and had become cold, because I did not like
tie trouble of pumping some spring water. But
it did not taste nice and fresh like the pump
That pleasant fresh taste of the pump water,"
58 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
said Mrs. Long, "is occasioned by the quantity of
air that is mixed with it. When the water is boiled,
some of the air is separated from the water, and
mixes with the air in the room. Now do you know,
this little fish, as well as all other fish, can by some
means separate the air from the water. He takes a
good mouthful of water, as you see, into his mouth,
and then he presses it through the gills, but the
water that comes out of the gills has but little air
in it. The fish has separated the air from it. A
fish can no more live without air passing into his
body than we can."
It is like breathing through our cheeks, mamma,"
said Charles. How curious! You can see the
motions of the fish very nicely in this phial. When
he wants to come up to the top of the water, he
moves his tail very quickly, mamma, and then up he
darts. Now he dives to the bottom again."
Some fish, Charles, cannot easily rise to the
surface of the water, such as the sole, skate, and
other flat fish. They are almost always found at the
I should have thought such large strong fish as
those, mamma," said Charles, "might easily swim
about as they please. Why cannot they rise like
the stickleback ?"
Because flat fish are without a particular kind
of bladder, called an air-bladder, which is found in
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
the stickleback and most other fish. This bladder,
Charles, is placed under the back-bone. When it is
full of air, the fish rises to the top of the water, and
when the fish presses the air out of the bladder,
which he has the power of doing, he instantly
goes down. If you were to prick a little hole
in the air-bladder of that stickleback, so as to let
the air out, the poor little fish would sink to the
bottom of the phial, and would be unable to rise
"I should not like to spoil his pleasure, mamma,"
said Charles ; besides, it would hurt him, and that
would be cruel. I shall go to the pond, and try to
find some companions for him."
"Do, Charles," said Mrs. Long. I should like
you to take home half a dozen, which we could keep
in a tub of water. I wish to see whether a state-
ment which I saw in a book the other day is
correct. It is said that the stickleback is a very
quarrelsome fish, and that when several of them
are placed in a vessel together, they will dispute the
possession of any part of it. The conqueror becomes
of a beautiful red colour, while the beaten party,
losing all brilliancy, changes to a dingy slate. This
curious change is said to take place every time a
Oh, I should like to see if that is true," exclaimed
Charles; "I will get as many as I can."
60 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
As Charles went to the edge of the pond again, he
called out, Mamma wants some more sticklebacks,
Alfred. Have you caught any ?"
No, they are so shy! answered Alfred; I have
been trying these ten minutes to catch a little black
insect, which has been darting about ever so long. I
thought I had him once, but he is gone, and my net
is half full of mud and clay. There are some strange
looking insects jumping about in it though, and
numbers of merry-go-rounds."
Oh I like those," said Charles; save the
merry-go-rounds for me, they are such shining little
"Fill the bottles, then, while I take the net as it is
to mamma," said Alfred; make haste, for I shall
lose some of the insects, if I do not put them into the
Not too near, Alfred, if you please," said
Mrs. Long, as Alfred approached with his net
dripping with muddy water.
"No, mamma, I will
take care; but we want -
you to tell us the
names of these insects.
Some of them I have
never seen before.
The merry-go-rounds I know well enough. I
have seen them hundreds of times."
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
So have I, Alfred," said Mrs. Long, but yet it
was not till yesterday that I learnt many interesting
particulars about them. Do you know that they
have four eyes, which, I believe, no other water
insect has ?"
"Why, what can be the use of four eyes,
mamma?" said Alfred; "oh',ir insects see well
enough with only two."
The merry-go-rounds, or gyrini, as they are
called in Latin," answered Mrs. Long, "are fond of
sporting about on the surface of the water, where
they assemble, as you must have seen, in little troops.
Now the upper pair of eyes are formed for seeing
out of the water, and the under pair for observing
in the water; so that they can be always on the
watch against their enemies."
"Yes, and now I can understand, mamma," said
Alfred, "why they seem to dart sometimes very
suddenly. They must see danger much sooner than
"When we go home," said Mrs. Long, "if we
place these gyrini in a tumbler of water, you will
see that after a few turns they will remain quiet
on the surface, but that the moment you approach
the tumbler with your hand, they will dart off
in all directions. Here is Charles with the phials
of water. Put these little black insects in,
62 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
Charles did so, and asked his mamma if she did
not think them very pretty. I have often watched
them," said he, playing about in the ponds. They
chase one another, and make little circles in the
water, and look as bright as glass. I am glad you
caught them, Alfred, for I never can manage to catch
Look at the bubble of air on the backs of those
that are diving," said Alfred, "it makes them look
They dart so quickly," said Charles, "that I
cannot see their legs well. How many have they,
Six, Charles," answered Mrs. Long; "the first
two are used as arms to seize their prey with, and
the other four for swimming. When you go home I
will give you a magnifying glass, and then you will
see that their feet are hooked. This assists the insect
to cling to water-plants, when it wishes to remain at
the bottom of the water. If it did not cling to some-
thing it would instantly rise to the top, because it is
lighter than water."
"I think, mamma," said Alfred, "that these
gyrini are more often seen in ponds than almost any
other insect. I have observed them in mere puddles
Yes; because they fly by night," said Mrs. Long,
"and often change their abode; and if they are
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
pursued by other insects, they probably seek the
first piece of water they can find."
I do not see any wings," said Charles."
"No; because the real wings are covered by the
black wing-cases, just as the wings of the common
beetle are covered. You know I showed you the
wings of the beetle the other day."
And what is the shape of the merry-go-round,
mamma," said Alfred, "in its young state, before
it becomes a winged insect?"
I can hardly describe it to you, Alfred, the form is
"so singular," answered Mrs. Long; but I will show
you a print of it when we return
home, as well as a print of the
perfect insect magnified. The
larva is, I believe, but seldom
found. Before it changes to
its chrysalis state, it crawls
out of the water up the stem
of a plant, close to the side
of the pond, and from some
matter which it presses out of its body it makes
a little case, something like gray paper, in which
it fastens itself up. When it becomes perfectly
winged, it cracks the case and jumps into the water."
What makes those little pieces of stick move
about in your net, Alfred?" said Charles.
". "Oh, they are only the caddis-worms," answered
64 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
Alfred, carelessly. The boys bait their lines with
them for angling."
"I see no worms," replied
Charles, they look to me
like little bundles of sticks
moving about of themselves. What are they,
Alfred has told you the right name of the insect
that moves those little sticks," said Mrs. Long. "Take
up one of the little bundles in
your hand, my dear, and you
will see that it is a little hol-
low case, and that the insect
lives within it. In dragging about its house the
caddis-worm only puts out the head, so that amongst
the mud in the net you did not observe it."
Oh, now I see his little brown head, mamma,"
said Charles, as he took one of the cases in his hand.
"How does he make his house? and can he get
He can go in and out
when he likes," said Mrs.
Long; "and when he finds
he has grown too large for
it, he makes another. First,
he makes a little case of
silk, open at each end, and covers it with small
pieces of rush, or wood, or straw, which he bites to
A WALK TO THE PONDS.
the right length. He does not always use the same
materials, for sometimes he makes the case with sand,
small stones, or even little shells; but however
rough the outside of his house may be, the inside is
always smooth. When he is going to change into the
chrysalis state, in which he neither eats nor moves,
he crawls on some plant that grows above the water,
and fastens his case to one of the leaves; then he
carefully closes the two openings of the case by a
thick net-work of silk, which allows the water to
pass freely through, but prevents the entrance of
his enemies. As he takes care to place himself
near the surface of the water, he can easily escape
when his great change arrives."
"What does he change to, mamma?" said Charles.
"To a large four-winged insect," said Alfred,
" with four transparent wings. Does he not, mamma?
I think you showed me one hovering near the candle
one evening last summer."
"Yes; the caddis-fly often enters the rooms of an
evening, if the windows are left open," answered Mrs.
Long, "and I dare say you have seen them, Charles,
but have very likely mistaken them for moths."
"Have I?" said Charles. "Well, I will look
sharp the next time I see insects fluttering near a
candle, mamma, and then I will ask you to show me
which is the caddis-fly."
"Remember, the four delicate wings of the caddis-
66 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
fly," said Mrs. Long, "are not covered with down
like those of the moths and butterflies."
"1 What is this little green insect, mamma," said
Alfred, "with three tails?"
"I do not at this moment remember," answered
Mrs. Long; "and as I wish now to read my book,
put the remaining insects into the phials, and I will
tell you all that I know about them when we are at
home. Keep the more delicate insects apart from
"Yes; we have done so, mamma," said Alfred,
"and if you will take care of the phials with the
insects, we will fish for the sticklebacks at some of
the other ponds."
The boys then left Mrs. Long, and she was not
interrupted again for some time.
CARRIEI AND WILD PIGEONS.
"I iiAVE had such a pleasant day, mamma," said
Charles Long, as he entered the parlour where Mrs.
Long was sitting; "I have been ever since breakfast
with Fred Lawson. You cannot think what a many
entertaining things there are at his house."
"Then, I suppose you have been in Mr. Lawson's
fine poultry-yard, Charles," said Mrs. Long.
"Oh, yes; we have been quite busy. We fed the
fowls, and the geese, and the pigeons, and the ducks,
and the rabbits, and we cleaned the rabbit hutches.
We have been so happy! I wish you had been with
"And so do I, my dear," answered Mrs. Long;
"but when your papa told me that he intended to
take you to Mr. Lawson's, I was engaged, and I did
not like to detain you till I was ready. You say
you fed the pigeons; they are a new addition to the
poultry-yard. Has Mr. Lawson many?"
"Yes; and they are such beauties! Some of them
68 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
have colours on the breast and throat like the pea-
cocks. But I liked the carriers best of all. Mr.
Lawson has three of them. Do not you recollect,
mamma, the story of the 'White Pigeon?' Ever
since I read it I have wished very much to see a
Are they different in appearance from the com-
mon tame pigeon, Charles ? I have never seen any of
"I could not, at first sight, know the carrier from
a grey-coloured tame pigeon; but Mr. Lawson showed
me a broad circle of naked white flesh round the
eyes of the carriers, by which, he said, you may
always know them. lie sent one of his carriers to
Ramsgate, and will you believe it, mamma, it flew all
that long way, more than seventy miles, in two hours
and a half I"
"I can easily believe that, Charles," said Mrs.
Long, "because I have heard of large flocks of
pigeons that travel at a much greater rate, passing
over a distance of between three and four hundred
miles in six hours; that is, about a mile in a minute."
Three or four hundred miles in six hours I" ex-
claimed Charles; what famous carriers they would
make I They would fly from one end of England to
the other between our breakfast and dinner."
They would certainly be able to do so," said Mrs.
Long; but, remember, I am speaking of a foreign
CARRIER AND WILD PIGEONS.
pigeon in its wild state. I have never heard of
tame pigeons flying so quickly. Where did Mr.
Lawson procure his carriers?"
He bought them last spring when he was staying
at Ramsgate," said Charles. "Fred told me they
were brought home in a bag, and that his papa let
one of them fly a few days after their arrival. He
said that the pigeon flew up to a great height, made
two or three circles in the air, and then darted
off to its old home at Ramsgate. How could it
know the proper direction, mamma? It had never
even seen the way."
"Indeed, I do not know," said Mrs. Long; "nor
do I think that any one is acquainted with the
method by which birds and animals find their way
in so surprising a manner. Do you know where the
wild pigeon builds its nest, Charles ? "
Yes; I think you showed me last summer,
mamma; on the branches of trees in the wood, just
where two branches meet. Their nests are made of
sticks and twigs laid almost flat. I wonder the
young ones do not fall out."
"I am not surprised, Charles," said Mrs. Long,
"that you should mistake those nests for the wild
pigeon's. They were the nests of the Ringdove or
Woodpigeon, which, though a much larger bird than
the wild pigeon, a good deal resembles it. The wild
pigeon, which of all pigeons is most like our English
70 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
tame pigeon, builds its nest in the holes of rocks, and
old towers, and in the hollows of trees."
Mr. Lawson showed me a pair of ringdoves,
mamma, that he is trying to tame," said Charles,
"but he says he does not think he shall be able
to tame them, they are so very wild. They are
much larger than the other pigeons, and are very
fierce and quarrelsome. I saw the white mark
round tle back of their necks, just like a ring; but
Mr. Lawson did not tell me they were called
woodpigeons as well as ringdoves. What pretty
creatures pigeons are! They look so clean, and
their feathers are so soft. I wish I might keep
I am afraid, my dear, we cannot allow you; we
have no suitable place for them, and I do not like
to keep animals of any kind unless I can make them
quite comfortable. Did you observe the pigeons
Yes, mamma, I did; but I should not have taken
much notice of it, if Mr. Lawson had not told me to
watch the fowls drinking at the same time; and then
I saw that pigeons did not sip, and rest and sip, and
rest again, like the fowls, but that they drank a
great deal at a time, like a horse or a dog. I think
all other birds that I have seen drinking, sip like
the fowls, throwing their heads back every minute.
What do you think, mamma ?"
CARRIER AND WILD PIGEONS.
"I am not sure that all birds drink in that
manner, but I believe it is the general habit," said
Mrs. Long. Pigeons, I know, are remarkable for
drinking in a continued draught, like quadrupeds.
Did Mr. Lawson tell you anything more about
Oh, he told me a great deal about them," said
Charles. He showed me the two white eggs
which one of the hen pigeons had laid; and he said
that both parents assist in hatching them, and that
both help to feed the young ones. Then, mamma,
the young are not fed, at first, on the same food
as the old ones, grain and seeds; but on a kind
of curd, that the parent-birds can throw up from
their stomachs. For three or four days, the young
pigeons take this food only; then the old birds mix
it with seed to give them, and at the end of eight
or nine days, they eat the same food as their parents.
Mr. Lawson told me, that a great number of the
wild pigeons and doves leave this country in the
spring. Do they go to warm countries, like the
swallows ? "
"No, my dear; they choose Norway and Sweden
for their summer abode. These are much colder
countries than our own. There are, however, many
pigeons that stay the year round with us; although
the chief of them migrate and return in autumn. I
do not know whether they leave Norway and Sweden,
72 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
because of the severity of the winter, or for some
other reason. Pigeons are found nearly all over the
world; in some of the coldest countries to the North,
as well as in milder climates."
"Mr. Lawson said, mamma, that there was a
pigeon in America, called the passenger-pigeon,
which is seen in such great flocks as to darken
the air. Do not you think that he must have
made a mistake? You know, mamma, there must
have been thousands and thousands of pigeons flying
almost close together, to have hidden the light."
Indeed, Charles, I should have thought it very
improbable," said Mrs. Long, "had I not read
several accounts of these wonderful flights, by
observers whose word cannot be doubted. A cele-
brated naturalist, Mr. Audubon, describes one flight
alone as consisting of many millions. He was once
travelling in America, when he attempted to reckon
the flocks that passed over his head, by making on a
card a pencil dot for every flock, but this he found
was impossible: flock followed flock so quickly.
The air became darkened, though the sun was
shining brilliantly at the time; and this pro-
digious flight of birds continued for three days!
Now, as these are the pigeons that fly a mile in a
minute, the number that passed in those three days
must have been far greater than either you or I can
CARRIER AND WILD PIGEONS.
Oh, mamma, where could they all have found
food? I think the farmers must have been quite
"The corn-fields do not suffer as you suppose,
Charles," said Mrs. Long, "for the passenger-
pigeon feeds principally on beech-mast, that is, the
seed of the beech; and there are immense beech
forests in America. The passenger-pigeon affords
excellent food, and has sometimes been almost the
only provision for whole armies. They are killed
not only for their flesh, but for the sake of their fat,
which, when melted, is used by the Indians instead
of butter, and, in some parts of America, by the
"How do the people kill them, mamma? Do the
pigeons fly low? "
Sometimes, and they can then be easily shot, or
knocked down with sticks. They are also caught in
large nets stretched on the ground, a tame pigeon
being employed to entice them to enter. But they
are generally procured in a different way. The
inhabitants know that they roost in the forest, and
bring up their young there. The passenger-pigeon
builds the same kind of nest as our ringdoves,
but lay no more than a single egg at one hatch.
The pigeons will occupy whole forests of forty
miles in extent, while engaged in rearing the young
birds, and the ground becomes covered with branches
74 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
of trees, broken down by the weight of the birds
clustering so closely together. When the people
imagine that the first brood is nearly fledged, they
move in large parties to the neighbourhood of those
forests which the birds are known to frequent,
taking with them waggons, axes, beds, cooking
utensils, and sometimes their children. The noise in
the woods at that time is so great as to terrify the
horses, and it is with difficulty that one person can
be heard by another, except by bawling in his ear.
The men with their axes cut down the trees that
seem to be most crowded with nests, and contrive
so that as they fall these trees may knock down other
trees. The tumult of the pigeons' wings sounding
like thunder, mixed with the frequent crash of the
timber, is described as truly wonderful.
"Then, besides these sounds, there are the cries
of eagles, buzzards, and hawks, which sail about
and drag the young pigeons from their nests; and the
delighted grunt of herds of hogs which are feeding
on the broken eggs and the young birds that have
fallen from their nests. One tree will often produce
above a hundred nests, and the young birds are
almost one lump of fat, so that in a short time a very
large quantity of oil is obtained."
"Where did you learn all this, mamma?" said
Charles. "It must be a very entertaining book, I
CARRIER AND WILD PIGEONS.
"I found most of the information, my dear,"
answered his mamma, "in a book called Wilson's
American Birds. If you like I will borrow it for
you, for I have not the book. There are many
parts of it which you would both understand and
"Was Mr. Wilson an American, mamma?" said
"No; he was a Scotch weaver, very poor, and with
few friends to help him, Charles; and, therefore,
though he was remarkably fond of reading, he found
great difficulty in obtaining books. Still he took
such pains, when he was a boy, to examine every
living object around him, and to study its habits,
that he acquired far greater knowledge of Natural
History than those who have hundreds of books
in their possession, and yet make but little use of
their eyes. When he went to America, he deter-
mined to make himself acquainted as well as possible
with the American birds, in order to increase his
own knowledge, and also that of others. Now Wilson
knew that no written description could give an
accurate idea of new kinds of birds to those who
were ignorant of them, and le, therefore, at forty
years of age, set about with great perseverance to
teach himself drawing. He travelled seven years
over a great part of North America, wandering alone
many thousands of miles, minutely describing the
76 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
birds he met with, and drawing their forms. He
has added to the knowledge of American birds far
more than any other person."
I wish you had the book, mamma," said Charles;
"I like to read things just at the time I want to
know about them, because I sometimes forget to
ask afterwards. But I will not forget this time, if
I can help it. You are taking out your desk,
mamma; I hope you are not going to write."
"Yes; I am obliged to write a letter, my dear,
so I must beg you not to interrupt me," said Mrs.
"Then, mamma, I will get the glue-pot and mend
my broken cart," said Charles.
Take care of my carpet and table, if you please,"
said Mrs. Long.
"Yes, mamma; I have a small deal board that I
will place the glue-pot on. I will carry it from the
fire very carefully."
Mrs. Long then wrote her latter, and Charles
occupied himself till bed-time v;ith his cart.
* 7 >
" I WONDER, Mr. Fly, what you will do with yourself
now the cold rainy weather is coming on!" exclaimed
Charles Long one morning, as he was watching
a fly crawling languidly over his slate. It seems
very weak," continued he, addressing his mother,
who sat working at the same table. "It has scarcely
strength to brush its wings, mamma. Do you know
where flies hide themselves in the winter?"
"I do not think they hide themselves at all, my
dear," replied Mrs. Long; "I believe most of them
die before winter."
Oh, mamma, you must be mistaken; where can
all the flies come from, that we see on a warm sunny
day in spring, if the flies die before the winter? Do
not you recollect seeing hundreds and hundreds
It f '-*
78 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
appear all of a sudden, just as if they had left their
winter holes to enjoy the fine sunshine ?"
Yes, I have observed them in great numbers,"
replied his mother, "wlwhn, perhaps, a day or two
before, scarcely one was to be seen; but these flies
were not the flies of the last summer."
Indeed then where did they come from ?"
"From the eggs that the old flies had laid in the
autumn. When we observe them for the first time,
they are enjoying a totally new kind of life, sporting in
the air and sipping sweet juices, instead of living half-
buried in manure in the form of a shapeless :.1 ii."
Was a fly ever a maggot?" exclaimed Charles
in astonishment. I know that a butterfly was once
a caterpillar, but I thought a fly was always a fly.
I have seen very little flies, mamma, and I thought
they grew to be large ones."
No, they were flies of different kinds, and would
not alter in size. The house-fly is generally very
common near stable-yards, or coach stands, because
the eggs are laid in manure by the parent fly, as
affording the best food for the young maggot when it
bursts from the egg-shell. The maggot has no legs,
only two little hooks near the head, to assist it in
moving, or in securing its position. CSTS When
it is about to change into a chrysalis, which it does
before winter, the skin shrivels, and it becomes stiff
and motionless, but the parts within grow every day
more and more like a fly; at last, in the warm days
of spring, the skin cracks, and the perfectly winged
insect escapes from its confinement."
"I should never have thought that this delicate
little fly, with its fine gauze wings, could once have
been a maggot," exclaimed Charles, as he examined
the fly on his slate more minutely. Do all kinds of
flies pass their young state in manure, mamma ? "
"No, some pass their early life in the seeds of
plants, in leaves, mushrooms, and fruits; others live
m the bodies of caterpillars and different larve,
which they entirely destroy; some feed on cheese:
those little maggots, Charles, which are generally
called cheese-hoppers, turn to small flies; other kinds
inhabit muddy and marshy waters, and feed on
rotten leaves. Some of these latter flies are
particularly curious, being able to support them-
selves by the tail from the surface of the
water, and to draw out their tails much in the
same way as you would draw out the tubes of
a telescope. The maggots of other flies devour
the flesh of dead animals; and in hot countries
these are very useful, for, from their numbers,
they are capable of consuming a carcass in a very
short time, and thus they destroy offensive matter.
Have you ever seen the feet of a fly, Charles,
through a magnifying glass?"
80 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
"C No, never, mamma; I have often looked at the
prints of them in the Atlas of Nature,' and wished
I could see, in the real fly, the little cushions by
which it sticks to the glass; and the tiny hooks
which help it to cling in walking on the wall or
ceiling; but I thought people could not see them
except with grand microscopes."
You, my dear, or any one else, can see them, if you
wish to do so, with a two-shilling magnifying glass,"
replied Mrs. Long. "I will lend you my glass,
Charles, if you will be careful to return it to me."
Oh, thank you, mamma; but how am I to hold
the fly steady while I look at his feet?"
"You need not hold the fly; take the magnifying
glass to the window, Charles, and watch for a fly
crawling on the outside, and then look at it through
the pane with your glass."
Charles quickly followed his mother's direction,
A and to his great pleasure
soon saw the little fringed
.A cushions or suckers, and
"the tiny hooks, and also
the different movements of the proboscis, which
amused him greatly.
DBAGON-FLIES AND WATER-
ALFRED and Charles Long were busy in their garden
one fine summer morning, while their mother was
tying up some pinks that a shower had laid on the
ground. Suddenly a large dragon-fly flew over
the heads of the boys, and they threw down their
rakes and spades to chase it. In their hurry they
nearly fell over their mother, exclaiming, as they
passed her, "A horse-stinger, a horse-stinger, mammal
there he goes there he goes I Did you ever see so
large a one?"
Just as Alfred was going to fling his hat over the
insect, Mrs. Long held back his arm. You will
kill it, or at least hurt it very much, my dear," said
she; "wait till it settles, and then you can easily
But if I catch it with my hand, will it not sting
me?" said Alfred.
"No; fierce as it looks," answered Mrs. Long, "it
has not the power to sting."
Then why do people call them horse-stingers ?"
said Charles. "I always thought they stung horses."
82 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
Because people make strange mistakes, from
not carefully observing the structures and habits of
How it hovers over the flowers," exclaimed
Alfred, "with its thin beautiful wings! It darts
down every now and then, like the sparrow-hawk,
when he suddenly drops on the small birds."
"Yes; because the dragon-fly lives upon winged
insects, which it can see at a great distance. It is
quite as bold, and still more voracious than the hawk.
Two or three times I have seen one seize a large
butterfly. There it is, resting on the laurel, Charles,
with its four wings spread open. Move softly, and
take it by the thick part of its body, and we will
examine it together."
I am almost afraid, mamma," said Charles, draw-
ing back, he is such a very large fellow."
I will take him then," said Alfred. Gently,
gently, my friend, you must not flutter your wings
in that way. I have him !"
Charles clapped his hands with glee, and ran to
the large garden seat, followed by Alfred and his
What prodigious eyes he has !" he exclaimed,
"and what a long thin body, Alfred But I should
not like to hold him while he keeps bending his
body so. Does he not look, mamma, as if he wished
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOIATMIrEN. 83
Yes," said Mrs. Long, "it appears like it, but
the movement is only the attempt of the insect to
escape. It cannot possibly sting, because it has no
instrument to sting with."
"Does not the light shine beautifully on its deli-
cate wings ?" said Alfred. "The colours appear like
mother-of-pearl! I have often watched these dragon-
flies flitting over the surface of the ponds, and some-
times flying so low that you would think they would
drop into the water."
That is because they seize the water insects as
they skim over the surface of the pond," answered
Mrs. Long. "You generally find dragon-flies near
ponds and ditches, both because water insects are
their favourite food, and also because the dragon-
flies pass their young state in the water. It is,
therefore, likely that you often see those dragon-
flies, which have only just escaped from their former
"Do you think, mamma, we could find some of
the larvae in the pond where we found the caddis-
worms ?" inquired Alfred.
"Yes, I think we might," answered Mrs. Long;
" and if you like to fetch your net, I will go with
you to the brick-field now."
Oh, I should like to go very much," said Alfred.
"And so should I," said Charles; "let the dragon-
fly go, Alfred, and come and find the phials."
84 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
In a few minutes Mrs. Long and the boys were
ready for another ramble to the pond, where they
had so much enjoyed themselves a fortnight before.
When they arrived at the edge of the pond, they
saw dragon-flies sporting about in all directions, with
caddis-flies, swarms of gnats, and other insects that
pass their early life in the water. There were two
or three of the large but thin-bodied dragon-flies,
like that which they had caught in the garden,
dozens of light blue and crimson dragon-flies, with
bodies so slender that they looked not larger than a
carpet pin, and a few with thick flat bodies, of a slate
or dingy blue colour. Alfred soon put his net into
the water, and, by his mother's advice, dragged it
along the bottom of the pond. He drew it out two
or three times without catching any insects; but at
last he brought up several together, which he showed
to his mother.
"You have the larvae of two different dragon-flies
in your net, Alfred," said
she; "that large muddy-
looking insect is the larva
of the great dragon-fly like
that which you caught in the
"He seems very fond of the mud," said Charles,
"for as fast as you put him in the clean part of the net,
Alfred, he crawls back into the muddy part of it."
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOATMEN. 85
"Yes," said Mrs. Long, "because it usually con-
ceals itself in the mud, from whence it pounces upon
all the insects that come in its way. It therefore
likes the muddy part of the net best."
It does not look as if it could move very
quickly," said Charles; "I should have thought the
other insects could easily escape from it."
Because, Charles, you have never seen the
curious apparatus it has for seizing its prey," replied
Mrs. Long; it has very large
jaws, which are covered with
a kind of mask." As Mrs.
Long said this, she took up the
insect in her hand, and pointed
to a horny scale which con-
cealed its face. "Look here,"
said she, when the insect pleases, it can let down
this mask, which is divided at the end like the
claws of a lobster. When it observes its prey within
reach, it darts out this strange kind of trunk, and,
seizing it with the greatest celerity, conveys it to
Then it has a method of bringing small insects
near it, that you do not know of. It has the power
of drawing in and squirting out the water from its
tail, by opening and shutting these five little sharp
points at the tail. This motion forms a tiny current
in the water, which floats small insects within its
86 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
reach. I believe, also, this action of the larva of the
dragon-fly assists it in breathing, as well as helps its
motion in the water. When we go home we will put
this larva in a saucer of water, and then we shall see
it pump the water in and out quite plainly."
I have a little box in my pocket that will just
hold him," said Charles.
"Put him in, then," said his mother, "and you
had better put some of the duck-weed in at the same
time. It will keep him moist till we get home."
"Do you know, mamma," said Charles, "when we
find any new insect or anything else that is curious,
it is much pleasanter to ask you questions than to
look into books to learn about it."
"Yes, so it may be," said Mrs. Long, smiling;
"but, as I know but little, you will often lose a great
deal of amusement, if you are too lazy to look in a
book for the information you want."
Well, I like you to tell us first," said Charles,
" and then I feel more interest in searching in books
afterwards. What are you looking at these osiers so
closely for, mamma?"
"Put down your net, and you will see," said
Mrs. Long, who still continued intently watching
The boys ran immediately to her.
"What can it be?" said Charles, as his mother
pointed to an insect on the osier. It is alive, but I
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOATMEN. 87
can't make it out. It looks like an insect with two
"1 The head and eyes are like those of the dragon-
fly," observed Alfred. Do you know what it is,
"Yes; it is the dragon-fly escaping from its pupa
state," answered Mrs. Long. I have seen this
change take place but twice before. It is very
The pupa, in shape, seems just like the larva
that we have in the box," said Charles.
Almost," said his mother: "the only difference
is the appearance of short wings folded on the back,
which the larva is without. They move and eat
equally in both states."
"Look! look! How he struggles to get out of
the old pupa case," said
Charles. "But where "'
are his beautiful wings? ?
These are poor miser- .-'
able things, they are
hardly half an inch --
Because they are folded up in that small space,"
answered Mrs. Long. When the dragon-fly has
quite cleaned itself from the old pupa skin, you
will see that it will gradually expand its wings
till it is strong enough to fly."
88 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
"C He is quite out," exclaimed Alfred, "how well he
has managed. But I wonder the old skin does not fall,
How transparent it appears now that it is quite empty.
See, mamma, the dragon-fly has crawled to another
stem, and seems resting himself after his fatigue."
Charles tried to remove the pupa case, but he
was surprised to find it cling to the osier.
"How can that be, mamma?" said he. "The
case is not alive."
No; it is certainly not alive, Charles, but if you
look, you will see that each leg has two little claws,
which cling to the stem. Look, now that I have
removed it, by carefully lifting each leg, it clings
to my glove."
How very perfect each part is, mamma!" said
Alfred; "not one bit has been broken by the
dragon-fly in his escape from it."
Oh, do let us take it home," said Charles, "I
should like to keep it."
Do so, Charles," said his mother; "here is a
piece of paper to put it in. Now
for your net again, Alfred."
They searched the contents of
the net, and Mrs. Long took out
of it a slender insect, with three
tails, which she told the boys was
the larva of the delicate dragon-fly, that the French
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOATMEN. 89
Oh, you mean the small striped dragon-fly,"
said Alfred, "that is so easy to catch. It rests
with its wings closed,
not wide open, as the
other dragon-flies rest."
I like those beau-
tiful little dragon-flies
better than all," said
Charles. "They can-
not do much harm amongst the insects, I should
"They cannot, of course, eat such large insects
as the greater dragon-flies," said Mrs. Long, "but
they are equally fierce and voracious. All the
dragon-flies, whether in their young or perfect state,
destroy a vast number of insects. Look, Alfred, the
dragon-fly has left the bush, and is enjoying himself
in his new kind of life."
I cannot find him out amongst all the others,"
What are these little slippery fellows, with
two legs much longer than the rest?" exclaimed
Charles, as from amidst the mud in his brother's
net he picked out three or four insects, and placed
them in a phial.
How silvery they look!" said Alfred. "They
swim on their backs, and use their long legs like
go OUR PONDS -AND OUR FIELDS.
They are called water-boatmen," said Mrs. Long,
"from their resemblance to a tiny boat and oars.
Their motions are so curious that I have kept three
or four in a glass decanter, for more than a year,
for the sake of observing them. But I was obliged
to keep them well supplied with food, for they are
voracious little things, and very quarrelsome. They
will frequently attack and kill one another, till, out
of a dozen boatmen, there will not be above three
or four left."
"What large eyes they have," said Charles; but
I do not think they see particularly well with them,
for they keep knocking their heads against the glass,
and make quite a loud noise, louder than your watch
"They may see very well," observed Alfred, and
yet not observe the glass. Think how clear it is,
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOATMEN. 91
almost like the water itself. They must wonder why
they cannot swim on as they do in the ponds."
I am not surprised, Charles, that you notice the
loud noise which they make against the glass," said
Mrs. Long; I remember, the first time I observed
the water-boatmen, I brought some home with me in
a phial, and placed it on the mantelpiece. I sat down
to read in the evening in the same room, and was
enjoying my book, when I heard a loud click, click,
click.' I looked round, and saw nothing that I
thought could make the noise. I went to the window
and examined the sashes, then I looked under the
chairs and sofa, and behind the doors. I went out of
the room into the passage, but I heard no noise there,
though, when I returned, the same 'click, click,
click,' continued as loud as ever. At last, looking on
the mantelpiece, I caught sight of the noisy little
boatmen, knocking their heads against the side of
Have the boatmen wings, in their perfect state,
like the merry-go-rounds ? said Alfred.
"Yes; but excepting that difference, their shape
continues nearly the same in each part of their lives,"
said Mrs. Long. Those insects that have thin
wing-cases, like the boatmen, only cast their skins,
instead of altering their forms. During their pupa
state, they have two little bumps near the head,
which enclose the future wings. They swim about,
92 OUR PONDS AND OUR FIELDS.
and eat as usual, and when the wings have grown
sufficiently large, they throw off their skin for the
last time, and become perfectly-winged insects. You
can easily see that these boatmen are not covered
with a shining, hard case like the beetle. Well,
none of the thin-cased insects have jaws like those
insects that have their wings covered with horny
cases. They are furnished with a kind of proboscis,
or sucker, instead of jaws; so that they do not tear
their prey to pieces, but suck the juice only."
"Then, I suppose this poor fellow," said Alfred,
" that has fallen to the bottom of the phial, has been
killed by one of the others, and as the juice is sucked
out of him, the rest of the boatmen do not care
The boys now packed up the phials and net that
they might be ready to return home with their
mother, who did not wish to stay longer. As they
were walking, Charles said, "I should like to have a
curiosity-box, mamma, to put things in that I find in
"Things! Charles, what things, a tree or a gate?"
No, no, mamma," said Charles, laughing; "you
know I do not mean things of that kind, but dead
insects, or curious stones, or moss, or any thing that
I should wish to keep, like the pupa skin of the
dragon-fly that we have found to-day. Do you
think you can give me a box ?"
DRAGON-FLIES AND WATER-BOATMEN. 93
"Yes; I think I have one that would suit your
purpose," replied Mrs. Long, and I shall be happy
to give it to you. I shall like to see you make a
collection, and try to learn and observe as much as
Oh, thank you, mamma," said Charles, and you
will help me, Alfred, to fill my box, will you not ?"
I cannot help you much now," answered his
brother, "because you know I am going to school
soon; but when there, perhaps I shall be able to
send you some things."
As soon as Mrs. Long and the boys arrived at
home, Mrs. Long gave Charles a box, which was a
foot and a half long, and a foot broad. It was
sufficiently deep to contain a shallow tray, leaving
under it a space about four inches deep. His mo-
ther gave him a sheet of pasteboard to make little
trays for each article; and Alfred and Charles were
employed at this new occupation for two or three
'""' "'. 'N .4.
^"" y^' -
o IL "- -L 0 r p
RAMBLE IN THE FIELDS.
ELLEN and SornY Monnis were spending a week in
the country with their Aunt Long, and her eldest
son, Alfred. They were very happy, for their aunt
was particularly kind to young people; and Alfred
was a good-natured, agreeable boy. Their cousin
Charles was absent from home.
One morning they had an extremely pleasant
walk. The path led them through green lanes, over
stiles, through cornfields, and a thick wood. Alfred
wished to help Sophy over the stiles, but Sophy
declared she liked climbing stiles herself; and she
jumped over them so nimbly that Alfred pronounced
her a capital climber. Ellen was collecting wild-
flowers for her mamma, who lived near London, and
who had taught her the names of many of the plants
that grew in that neighbourhood; but, every now
and then, Aunt Long was charged with the nosegay,
while Ellen ran after her sister arid cousin. In the
course of their walk they came to a fine oak, under
the shade of which they all agreed to sit, for the day
was warm. Mrs. Long opened a little basket that
she had carried in her hand, and produced cake and