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THE RUFF AND REEVE.
It is curious to see, in our observations upon natural objects, how the creative power of Providence seems to have tried all forms and shapes in the composition of species. In the cock bird a circle or collar of long feathers, somewhat resembling a ruff, encompasses the neck under the head, whence the bird took the name of Ruff. It is about a foot in length, with a bill about an inch long. There is a wonderful and almost infinite variety in the colours of the feathers of the males; so that in spring there can scarcely be found any two exactly alike. After moulting time they become all alike again. The hens are smaller than the cocks, and their feathers undergo no change. This small creature has been endowed with great natural courage. Spurred by love, the males fight desperately for the females, and the strongest often destroy many of their sex. The female is called a Reeve, and the flesh of this bird affords a very luscious meat. These are birds of passage, and arrive in the fens of Lincolnshire, and other
similar places in the spring. Mr. Pennant tells us, that in the course of a single morning, more than six dozen have been caught in one net; and that a fowler has been known to catch between forty and fifty dozen
in a season.
Is a small bird, whose head and back are of a dusky ash colour, or dark gray. The rump white, and varied with black lines. The breast and belly white. The sides under the wings spotted with brown. He weighs about four ounces and a half, and generally makes his appearance in Lincolnshire in the beginning of winter. They abide there for two or three months, and fly off in flocks. When the Knot is fat, his flesh is accounted excellent food. They are caught in great numbers by nets, into which they are decoyed by carved wooden figures, painted to represent itself, and placed within them, much in the same way as the ruff. It is also fattened for sale, and then considered equal to the ruff in flavour. The season for taking it is from August to November, after which the frost compels it to disappear. This bird is said to have been a favourite dish with Canute the Great; and Camden observes that its name is derived from his-Knute, or Knout, as he was called, which, in process of time, has been changed to Knot.
WEIGHS about four ounces. A pale red line divides the head in the middle longways; the chin under the bill is white; the neck is a mixture of brown and red; the breast and belly are almost wholly white. The back and wings are of a dusky colour. The flesh is tender, sweet, and of a very agreeable flavour, next to that of the woodcock. They feed especially upon small red worms, and upon insects, which they find in muddy and swampy places, on the shores of rivulets and brooks, and on the clayish margin of ponds. It is said that some Snipes remain with us all the summer, and build in moors and marshes, laying four or five eggs. The others are migratory. When forced by severe frosts to sheltered springs, they are often seen in large flights. Mr. Daniel states, that, about thirty years ago, Snipes were so abundant in the fens of Cambridgeshire, that as many were taken in Milton fen, by means of a lark-net, in one night, and by a single man, as could be contained in a small hamper.
The Snipe flies screaming from the marshy verge,
Is somewhat less than a partridge. The upper side of the body is party-coloured of red, black, and gray, very beautiful to the sight. From the bill almost to the middle of the head he is of a reddish ash colour. The breast and belly are gray, with transverse brown lines; under the tail the colour is somewhat yellowish; the chin is white with a tincture of yellow. They are migratory birds, coming over into Britain in autumn, and departing again in the beginning of spring; yet they pair before they go, and are seen flying two together.
The colours of this timid bird make him apparently like the withered stalks and leaves of fern, sticks, moss and grass, which form the back ground of the scenery, by which he is sheltered in his moist and solitary retreats. Only, by being accustomed to it, is the sportsman enabled to discover him, and his leading marks are the full eye and glossy silver white-tipped tail of the bird. The flesh is held in high estimation, and hence he is eagerly sought after by sportsmen. It is hardly necessary to notice, that in dressing it for the spit the entrails are not to be drawn, as, dropping
upon slices of toasted bread, they are relished as a delicious kind of sauce. By some late observations, it appears that several individuals of the species remain with us the whole year. They frequent especially wet and swampy woods, the thick hedges near rivulets, and places affording them their allotted food, which consists of very small insects found in the moist ground.
Soothed by the murmurs of the sea-beat shore,
THE Curlew is a pretty large bird, weighing about twenty-four or five ounces. He is found on the seashore on all sides of England. The middle parts of the feathers of the head, neck, and back are black, the borders or outsides ash-coloured, with a mixture of