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Their Sociability. possess himself of a morsel ; unlike the tomtit, he was unable to breakfast comfortably on a tight rope.
However, they had neither of them reason to complain, for they were both fed as they liked.
We found this sociability on the part of the nuthatch not peculiar to those which frequented the mulberry tree; for some friends who lived a mile and a half off, on noticing a pair of them about the garden, soon found them appreciate the arrangement with the board. In their case it was laid upon the window-sill, and the nuts sewn to it through gimlet holes. The board was no sooner set out than the two birds were down upon it, and hard at work. Nuthatches are always found in pairs—matrimony appearing to be a permanent institution in their society. Any one living in a wooded part of the country, where these birds are found, might easily thus tame a couple. Ours became so sociable, that they would often set up their short note when they saw one of us come out of the door of the house. However frequently fed they always asked for more, carrying off and sticking in the trees about, for future contingencies, any pieces they did not feel inclined to eat on the spot.
They soon got so tame as to superintend
81 the process of setting out their breakfast, from the nearest boughs, hopping about within a few yards, in great anxiety, till the nuts were pinned down. They would leave any neighbouring tree directly they saw their friend come out of the house and approach the table with their morning meal. We always fed them at our own breakfast time. At last we tried whether they would take food from the hand, and threw them some. By this time they had grown so bold that after a few days' trial they would catch the nuts thrown towards themnot, as I have seen it mentioned in some book of natural history, with the claw, but with the beak. They always darted down and caught the nut from beneath. They were now so tame as generally to remain in the neighbourhood of the mulberry tree, and fly towards us when we tapped on one of the brancheslooking out sharp for a catch, which they very seldom missed.
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ARKS are perhaps the most familiar
of all small birds to us English. The
robin commits himself more fearlessly to the society of mankind, but then he is essentially a country bird. The swallow skims the parks of our great towns, as well as the meadows by the far-off stream where no wheel is heard, but she comes to us only in the summer. The sparrow, indeed, remains all the year, and may be found everywhere—as fearless as the robin—a bird of catholic impudence; but even he does not pretend to sing, only to twitter. The lark, on the other hand, may be heard in the field and in the street, in the sky and in the cage. We find him on Salisbury Plain, and in Hungerford Market; up at “ heaven's gate," and down in the bird-shops about the Seven Dials. Moreover, he possesses the (to him) questionable recommendation of being eatable; he is a delicacy to the tongue as well as to the ear; he is pleasant to
Excellence of Larks. see, to hear, and to taste. Sparrows are seldom cooked, except, perhaps, at the urgent request of spoiled little boys who have caught them; and roast swallows or robin-pie are delicacies yet to be proved. But the lark combines in himself almost all that a little bird can offer. He is very beautiful, though not brilliant; sings the sweet songs of liberty even when a captive; and after all, stripped of his bright brown feathers, and with his melodious throat twisted, gratifies his owner to the last mouthful, when eaten with gravy and fried bread crumbs.
Call not this horrible, dear reader, but recollect that I have here put down the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the advantages and excellence of larks. It is indeed this fulness of my record, this anxiety to say all that I can bring in rightly about them, which causes the painful transition from song to simmering, from the vault of heaven to the spit. Such contrasts may be horrible to some; there is perhaps more of the horrible than you think in most quiet histories, if you did but-as in the case of the larks-know all.
Don't suppose, from the readiness with which I passed on to the gastronomical properties of
the bird, that I myself am fond of eating larks; I am not. I like to hear them sing; to see them mount. As for eating, most men hold that birds are tedious and provoking when small. They like bigger cuts, though they don't inherit that appetite of our ancestors, the record of which survives in the saying : “A goose
is a foolish bird—too much for one, but not enough for two."
Larks are not only, as I have said, good to see, hear, and taste, but they provide more similes and illustrations to humanity than any other birds. I have not forgotten the eagle, of course ; how some people are "eyed" like him; how he sets forth the conquering farseeing soul, when he is seen “sailing in supreme dominion through the azure fields of air.” I have not forgotten that a man may be as hoarse as a rook, as greedy as a vulture, as pert as a sparrow.
I have heard a little pretentious fellow compared to a tom-tit on a drum. No doubt there are some as wise as owls, and as silly as geese. There are others who swim like ducks, more who chatter like magpies. The local magnifico, when carried away by his pride, is compared to a turkeycock; lovers bill and coo like turtle-doves. The persistent sot boasts of being able to sit