A fern-owl this evening showed-off in a very unusual, & entertaining manner, by hawking round, & round the circumference of my great spreading oak for twenty times following, keeping mostly close to the grass but occasionally glancing up amidst the boughs of the tree. This amusing bird was then in pursuit of a brood of some particular phalaena belonging to the oak, of which there are several sorts; & exhibited on the occasion a command of wing superior, I think, to that of the swallow itself. Fern-owls have attachment to oaks, no doubt on account of food: for the next evening we saw one again several times among the boughs of the same tree; but it did not skim round it’s stem over the grass, as on the evening before. In May these birds find the Scarabaeus melolontha on the oak; & the Scarabaeus solstitialis at Midsummer. These peculiar birds can only be watched & observed for two hours in the twenty-four, & then in dubious twilight, an hour after sun-set & an hour before sun-rise.
My large American Juniper, probably Juniperus Virginiana, has produced this summer a few few small blossoms of a strong flavour like that of the juniper-berries: but I could not distinguish whether the flowers were male, or female; so consequently could not determine the sex of the tree, which is dioecious. The order is dioecia monadelphia.
Thomas, in mowing the walks, finds that the grass begins to grow weak, & to yield before the scythe. This is an indication of the decline of heat. Yucca filamentosa, silk grass, glows with a fine large white flower. It thrives abroad in a warm aspect. Habitat in Virginia.
My shrub, Rhus cotinus, known to the nursery-men by the title of Cocygria, makes this summer a peculiar shew, being covered all over with it’s “bracteae paniculae filiformes,” which give it a feathery plume-like appearance, very amusing to those that have not seen it before. On the extremities of these panicles appear about midsumer a minute white bloom which with us brings no seeds to perfection. Towards the end of August the panicles turn red & decay.