After ewes & lambs are shorn there is great confusion & bleating, neither the dams nor the young being able to distinguish one another as before. This embarassment seems not so much to arise from the loss of the fleece, which may occasion an alteration in their appearance, as from the defect of that notus odor, discriminating each individual personally: which also is confounded by the strong scent of the pitch & tar wherewith they are newly marked; for the brute creation recognize each other more from the smell than the sight; & in matters of Identity & Diversity appeal much more to their noses than to their eyes. Thus dogs smell to persons when they meet, when they want to be informed whether they are stranger or not. After sheep have been washed, there is the same confusion, for the reason given above.
The country people have a notion that the Fern-owl or Churn-owl, or Eve-jarr, which they also call a Puckeridge, is very injurious to weanling calves by inflicting, as it strikes at them, the fatal distemper known to cow-leeches as Puckeridge. Thus does this harmless, ill-fated bird fall under a double imputation, which it by no means deserves; in Italy, of sucking the teats of goats, whence it is called Caprimulgus; & with us, of communicating a deadly disorder to cattle. But the truth of the matter is, the malady above-mentioned is occasioned by the Oestrus bovis, a dipterous insect, which lays it’s eggs along the backs (chines) of kine, where the maggots, when hatched, eat their way thro’ the hide of the beast into the flesh, & grow to a very large size. I have just talked with a man, who says he has, more than once stripped calves who have died of the puckeridge; that the ail, or complaint lay along the chine, where the flesh was much swelled, & filled with purulent matter. Once myself I saw a large rough maggot of this sort taken (squeezed) out of the back of a cow. These maggots in Essex are called wornils. The least observation & attention would convince men, that these birds neither injure the goatherd, nor the grazier, but are perfectly harmless, & subsist alone, being night birds, on night-insects, such as scarabaei & phalaneae; thro’ the month of July mostly on the scarabaeus solstitialis, which in many districts abounds at that season. Those that we have opened, have always had their craws stuffed with large night-moths & their eggs, & pieces of chafers: nor does it anywise appear how they can, weak & unarmed as they are, inflict any harm upon kine, unless they possess the powers of animal magnetism, & can affect them by fluttering over them. Mr Churton informs me “that the disease along the chine of calves, or rather the maggots that cause them, are called by the graziers in Cheshire worry brees, & a single one worry-bree.” No doubt them mean a breese, or breeze, one name for the gad-fly or Oestrus, which is the parent of these maggots, & lays it’s eggs on the backs of kine. Dogs come into my garden at night, & eat my goose-berries. Levant weather.
A patent machine, called a Fire Escape (rather perhaps a ‘Scape fire) was brought along Fleet street. It consisted of a Ladder, perhaps 38 feet in length, which turned on a pivot, so as to be elevated or depressed at will, & was supported on timber frame-work, drawn on wheels. A groove in each rail of this ladder-like construction admitted a box or hutch to be drawn up or let down by a pulley at the top round & by a windlass at bottom. When the ladder is set up against a wall, the person in danger is to escape into the hutch, then drawn to the top. That the ladder may not take fire from any flames breaking out below, it is defended all the way by a sheathing of tin. Several people, it seems, had illiberally refused the Patentee the privilege of trying his machine against their houses: but Mr White, on application, immediately consented; when the ladder was applyed to a sash on the second story, & a man was hoisted up, & let down with great expedition, & safety, & then a couple of boys went together. Some spectators were of opinion that the hutch or box was too scanty or shallow, & for that security it ought to be raised on the sides and lower end by a treillis of strong wire, or iron-work, lest people in terror & confusion should miss of their aim & fall over to the ground. This machine was easily drawn by four men only. The ladder, the owner told us, would reach to a third story, when properly elevated. The name of the Inventor is Mounsieur Dufour.
My brother’s barley begins to come into ear. The squirrel is very fond of the cones of various trees. My niece Hannah’s squirrel is much delighted with the fruit of the coniferous trees, such as the pine, the fir, the larch, & the birch; & had it an opportunity would probably be pleased with the cones of alders. As to Scotch firs, Squirrels not only devour the cones, but they also bark large boughs, & gnaw off the tops of the leading shoots; so that the pine-groves belonging to Mr Beckford at Basing-park are much injured & defaced by those little mischievous quadroupeds, which are too subtile, & too nimble to be easily taken, or destroyed. The Cypress-trees, & passion-flowers mostly killed by the late hard winter.
Began the new hay-rick. Snow on the ground; but the quantity little in comparison with what has fallen in most parts. As one of my neighbours was traversing Wolmer-forest from Bramshot across the moors, he found a large uncommon bird fluttering in the heath, but not wounded, which he brought home alive. On examination it proved to be Colymbus glacialis, Linn. the great speckled diver, or Loon, which is most excellently described in Willughby’s Ornithology. Every part & proportion of this bird is so incomparably adapted to it’s mode of life, that in no instance do we see the wisdom of God in the Creation to more advantage. The head is sharp, & smaller than the part of the neck adjoining, in order that it may pierce the water; the wings are placed forward & out of the center of gravity, for a purpose which shall be noticed hereafter; the thighs quite at the podex, in order to facilitate diving; & the legs are flat, & as sharp backwards almost as the edge of a knife, that in striking they may easily cut the water; while the feet are palmated, & broad for swimming, yet so folded up when advanced forward to take a fresh stroke, as to be full as narrow as the shank. The two exterior toes of the feet are longest; the nails flat & broad, resembling the human, which give strength & increase the power of swimming. The foot, when expanded is not at right angles to the leg or body of the bird; but the exterior part, inclining towards the head, forms an acute angle with the body. Most people know, that have observed at all, that the swimming of birds is nothing is nothing more than a walking in the water, where one foot succeeds the other as on the land; yet no one, as far as I am aware, has remarked that diving fowls, while under water, impell & row themselves forward by a motion of their wings, as well as by the impulse of their feet: but such is really the case, as any person may easily be convinced who will observe ducks when hunted by dogs in a clear pond. Nor do I know that any one has given a reason why the wings of diving fowls are placed so far forward. Doubtless not for the purpose of promoting their speed in flying, since that position certainly impedes it but probably for the encrease of their motion under water by the use of four oars instead of two; yet were the wings & feet nearer together, as in land birds, they would, when in action, rather hinder than assist one another. The Colymbus was of considerable bulk, weighting only three drachms short of three pounds averdupoise. It measured in length from the bill to the tail (which was very short) two feet; & to the extremities of the toes, four inches more; & the breadth of the wings expanded was 42 inches. A person attempted to eat the body, but found it very strong & rancid, as is the flesh of all birds living on fish. Divers or loons, though bred in the most northerly parts of Europe, yet are seen with us in very severe winters; & on the Thames are called Sprat loons, because they prey much on that sort of fish. The legs of the Colymbi & mergi are placed so very backward, & so out of all center of gravity, that these birds cannot walk at all. They are called by Linnaeus Compedes, because they move on the ground as if shackled or fettered.
Some mushrooms spring on my hotbeds. Mr Sam Barker, from a measurement taken, adjudged Wolmer pond to contain 66 acres, & an half, exclusive of the arm at the E. end: the pond keeper at Frinsham avers that his pond measures 80 acres. Zizania aquatica, Linn: called by the English setlers wild Rice; & by the Canadian French– Folle Avoin. In consequence of an application to a Gentleman at Quebec, my Bro. Thomas White received a cask of the seed of this plant, part of which was sent down to Selborne. His desire was to have received it in the ear, as it then would have been much more likely to have retain’d it’s vegetative faculty: but this part of his request was not attended to; for the seed arrived stript even of it’s husk. It has a pleasant taste, & makes a pudding equal to rice, or millet. This kind of corn, growing naturally in the water, is of great service to the wild natives of the south west part of N. America: for as Carver in his travels says, they have no farther care & trouble with it than only to tye it up in bunches when it first comes into ear, & when ripe to gather it into their boats; every person or family knowing their own by some distinction in the bandage. Carver observes, that it would be very advantageous to new settlers in that country, as it furnishes at once a store of corn the first year; & by that means removes the distress & difficulty incident to new colonies till their first crop begins to ripen. Linnaeus has given this plant the name of Zizania: but what could induce the celebrated Botanist to degrade this very beneficial grain with the title of that pernicious weed which the enemy in the parable served among the good-corn while men slept, does not so easily appear. (Matt. 13 chapter)
Mr. Reeve, a master Carpenter in the town of Lambeth, is employed in building a Conservatory for the Queen of Naples, the dimensions of which are 117 feet in length, 40 feet in breadth, 20 feet to the angle of the roof, & 10 feet to the eaves. This noble greenhouse ( the largest that has been constructed yet in this kingdom) Continue Reading »
The scarbaei solstitiales begin to swarm in my Brother’s outlet. My Bror this spring turned one of his grass-fields into a kitchen-garden, & sowed it with crops: but the ground so abounded with the maggots of these chafers, that few things escaped their ravages. The lettuces, beans & cabbages were mostly devoured: & yet in trenching this enclosure his people had destroyed multitudes of these noxious grubs. The stalks & ribs of the leaves of the Lombardy polare are embossed with large tumours of an oblong shape, which by incurious observers have been taken for the fruit of the tree. These Galls are full of small insects, some of which are winged, and some not. The parent insect is of the Genus of Cynips. Some poplars of the garden are quite loaded with these excrescencies.
The stream at Fyfield encreases very fast. Spent three hours of this day, viz. from one o’ the clock till four, in the midst of the downs between Andover & Winton, where we should have suffered greatly from cold & hunger, had not the day proved very fine, & had not we been opposite to the house of Mr Treadgold’s down farm, where we were hospitably entertained by the labourer’s wife with cold sparerib, & good bread, & cheese, & ale, while the driver went back to Andover to fetch a better horse. The case was, the saddle-horse being new to his business, became jaded and restiff, & would not stir an inch; but was soon kept in countenance by the shaft-horse, who followed his example: so we were quite set-up ’till four o’ the clock, when an other driver arrived with an other lean jaded horse, & with much difficulty assisted in dragging us to Winton, which we did not reach toll six in the evening. We set out from Fyfield at eleven; so were were seven hours in getting 19 miles. During our long conversation with the dame, we found that this lone farm-house & it’s buildings, tho’ so sequestered from all neighbourhood, & so far removed from all streams & water, are much annoyed with Norway rats: the carter also told us that about 12 years ago he had seen a flock of 18 bustards at one time on that farm, & once since only two. This is the only habitation to be met with on theses downs between Whorwel & Winchester.
Extreme frost!!! yet still bright sun. At 11 one degree below zero. On the 9th and 10th of Decr when my Thermr was down at 0, or zero; & 1 degree below zero: Mr Yalden’s Thermr at Newton was at 12, & 22. On Dec, 24, when my Thermr was at 10 1/2 that at Newton was at 22, & 19. At Newton, when hung side by side, these two instruments accorded exactly. Thomas Hoar shook the snow carefully off the evergreens. The snow fell for 24 hours, without ceasing. The ice in one night in Gracious street full four inches! Bread, cheese, meat, potatoes, apples all frozen where not secured in cellars under ground.