Many creatures are endowed with a ready discernment to see what will turn to their own advantage & emolument; & will often discover more sagacity than could be expected. Thus Benham’s poultry watch for waggons loaded with wheat, & running after them pick up a number of grains which are shaken from the sheaves by the agitation of the carriages. Thus when my brother used to take down his gun to shoot sparrows, his cats would run out before him to be ready to pick up the birds as they fell.
Rode to Fir-grove in the parish of Bramshot, & saw the house & garden. The south wall of the kitchen-garden is covered with a range of vines of the sort called the millers-grape. Each vine was trained within a very narrow space, & their boughs upright: yet they had fine wood, & promised for much fruit, & were almost in full bloom. Mr Richardson’s vines, my sort, did not blow then: but Fir-grove is much more sheltered than Bramshot-place. The soils are the same, a warm sandy loam. When we came to Evely-corner a hen-partridge came out of a ditch, & ran along shivering with her wings, & crying out as if wounded, & unable to get from us. While the dam acted this distress, the boy who attended me, saw her brood, that was small & unable to fly, run for shelter into an old fox-earth under the bank. So wonderful a power is instinct.
Every ant-hill is in a strange hurry & confusion; & all the winged ants, agitated by some violent impulse, are leaving their homes; &, bent on emigration, swarm by myriads in the air, to the great emoulment of the hirundines, which fare luxuriously. Those that escape the swallows return no more to their nests, but looking out for new retreats, lay a foundation for future colonies. All the females at these times are pregnant.
No young partridges are flyers yet: but by the deportment of the dams it is plain they have chickens hatched; for they rise & fall before the horses feet, & hobble along as if wounded to draw-off attention from their helpless broods. Sphinx forte ocellata. A vast insect; appears after it is dusk, flying with an humming noise, & inserting it’s tongue into the bloom of the honey-suckle: it scarcely settles on the plants but feeds on the wing in the manner of humming-birds. Omiah, who is gone on board the Resolution, is expected to sail this week for Otaheite with Capt. Cook.
Saw yesterday a considerable flock of gulls flying over the hanger to the S.W. Gulls very seldom appear in this district; except sometimes on the forest ponds. * When horses, cows, sheep, deer, &c. feed in the wind, & rain, they always keep their heads down the wind, & their tails to the weather; but birds always perch, & chuse to fly, with their heads to the weather to prevent the winds from ruffling their feathers, & the cold & wet from penetrating their skins.
Hay much damaged: many meadows not cut. This dripping season, which hurts individuals in their hay, does marvelous service to the public, in the spring-corn, after-grass, turneps, fallows, &c. Oats are much recovered, & brought-on. Wheat begins to change colour; is not lodged.
* When a person approaches the haunt of fern-owls (caprimulgi) in an evening, they continue flying round the head of the obtruder; & striking their wings together above their backs, in the manner that the pigeons called smiters are known to do, make a smart snap: perhaps at that time they are jealous for their young; & their noise & gesture are intended by way of menace.
Drought has continued five weeks this day. Watered the rasp and annuals well.
* There is a sort of wild bee frequenting the garden-campion for the sake of its tomentum, which probably it turns to some purpose in the business of nidification. It is very pleasant to see with what address it strips off the pubes, running from the top to the bottom of a branch, & shaving it bare with all the dexterity of a hoop-shaver. When it has got a vast bundle, almost as large as itself, it flies away, holding it secure between it’s chin and it’s forelegs.
Fine haymaking: hay-cargin. Young hedge-hogs are frequently found, four or five in a litter. At five or six days old their spines, (which are then white) grow stiff enough to wound any body’s hands. They, I see, are born blind, like puppies; have small external ears; & can in part draw their skins down over their faces: but are not able to contract thenselves into a ball, as they do for defence when well-grown.