Hops are dioecious plants: hence perhaps it might be proper, tho’ not practised, to leave purposely some male plants in every garden, that their farina might impregnate the blossoms. The female plants without their male attendants are not in their natural state: hence we may suppose the frequent failure of crop so incident to hop grounds. No ther growth, cultivated by man, has such frequent & general failures as hops.
Daniel Wheeler’s boy found a young fledge cuckow in the nest of an hedge-sparrow. Under the nest lay an egg of the hedge-sparrow, which looked as if it had been sucked. In the late hot weather the cock bird has been crying much in the neighbourhood of the nest, but not since last week.
Mr. Chr. Etty has taken the young Cuckow, & put it in a cage, where the hedge-sparrows feed it. No old Cuckow has been seen to come near it. Mr CHarles Etty brought down with him from London in the coach his two finely-chequered tortoises, natives of the island of Madagascar, which appear to be Testudo geometrica, Linn., and the Testudo tessellat, Raii. One of them was small, & probably a male, weighing about five pounds; the other , which was undoubtedly a female, because it layed an egg the day after it’s arrival, weighed ten pounds and a quarter. The egg was round, & white, & much resembling in size & shape the egg of an owl. Ray says of this species that the shell was “Ellipticae seu ovatae figurae solidae plus quam dimidia pars”: & again, “Ex omnibus quas unquam vidi maxime concava.” Ray’s quadrup: 260. The head, neck, & legs of these were yellow. These tortoises in the morning when put into the coach at Kensignton were brisk, & well; but the small one dyed the first night that they came to Selborne; & the other, two nights after, having received, as it should seem, some Injury on their Journey. When the female was cleared of the contents of her body, a bunch of eggs of about 30 in number was found in her.
On this day my Godson, Littleton Etty discovered a young Cuckow in one of the yew hedges of the vicarage garden, sitting in a small nest that would scarce contain the bird, tho’ not half grown. By watching in a morning we found that the owners of the nest were hedge-sparrows, who were much busied in feeding their great booby. The nest is in so secret a place that it is to be wondered how the parent Cuckow could discover it. Tho’ the bird is very young it is very fierce, gaping, & striking at peoples fingers, & heaving up by way of menace, & striving to intimidate those that approach it. This is now only the fourth young cuckow that I have ever seen in a nest: three of those h. sparrows, & one in that of a tit-lark. As I rose up the N. field-hill lane I saw young partridges, that were about two or three days old, skulking in the cart-ruts; while the dams ran hovering & crying up the horse-track, as if wounded, to draw off my attention.
Timothy the tortoise has been missing for more than a week. He got out of the garden at the wicket, we suppose; & may be in the fields among the grass. Timothy found in the little bean-field short of the pound-field. The nightingale, fern-owl, cuckow, & grass-hopper lark may be heard at the same time in my outlet. Gryllo-talpa curs in the moist meadows.
My garden is in high beauty, glowing with a variety of solstitial flowers. A person lately found a young cuckow in a small nest built in a beechen shrub at the upper end of the bostal. By watching in a morning, he soon saw the young bird fed by a pair of hedge-sparrows. The cuckow is but half-fledge; yet the nest will hardly contain him: for his wings hang out, & his tail & body are much compressed, & streightened. When looked at he opens a very red, wide mouth, & heaves himself up; using contorsions with his neck by way of menace, & picking at a person’s finger, if he advances it towards him.