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long practice. Of course these remarks refer to large plantations, where there are no open spaces to take advantage of.
A few woodcocks remain to breed in this country; and nests of young are found, most seasons, in the heathery islands of Loch Lomond. When the summer is very warm, they, like the wild drakes, moult so severely as for a short time to be unable to fly. I have occasionally seen them in the twilight, after a calm, clear, summer day, chasing each other high in the air; making a piping noise not unlike the “ blouting” of a mire snipe. In former times, I never heard of their nests being discovered : so, most likely, our less sunny summers have induced a sprinkling of them to remain the whole year. I have in my collection a couple of woodcocks' eggs, found in Inchtavanach, the spring before last.
The evening flight of the woodcock is rather earlier than the wild duck's. The shrill chirp of the blackbird is a good warning bell when to expect them.
This chirpy scream of the blackbird generally begins a little bef re dusk; the woodcocks fly about dusk; and the ducks a little after. In a good place for evening flight, you may generally secure four or five fair chances at woodcock. A few cocks come to the coverts again in March, immediately before taking their final departure. As the ground is then soft, and plenty of worms, &c., to be found in every part of it, they are not so apt to frequent moist places; and may, in fact, be flushed in any part of the coppice. It is, therefore, scarcely worth while to beat for them.
Numbers of the mire snipe breed among the heather on our moors, and afford no small amusement to the grouseshooter. I have often bagged four or five couple in a day,
when after grouse; merely picking them up as they came in the way. The young are constantly met with in all stages of progress; from the downy ball of a few days old, to the scarcely fledged bird, essaying its first tottering flight.
Jacks come in September, but are more local in their habits. They are found in considerable plenty on many of our more marshy moors. It is very amusing to witness the attempts of an indifferent shot at jack snipes in such open ground. They are easily found, by a good dog, as they have a strong scent; and, being close-lying birds, they generally spring within a yard of the sportsman's toes; who at last wishes his teazing game far enough, when a heroic jack doggedly offers another chance. A good shot will hit a jack even more certainly than a mire snipe.
In bare ground, I have frequently noticed both mire and jack snipes squatted before my dog's nose. Once I plainly saw the point of a mire snipe's bill stuck in the ground, ready to hoist him into the air. I watched narrowly, and, in taking wing, he used his long bill exactly as we would a walking stick. Snipes have the same predilection for a particular spot as woodcocks. One severe winter, my retriever sprung a mire snipe out of a puddle, close to the Gala water. It flew across the stream, and I fractured the tip of its wing just when it reached the other side. It fell among thick furze, and we were unable to find it. Next day my retriever picked it up at the same ditch, unable to fly a yard. It could only have recrossed the Gala by swimming
& SPRING WEEK IN THE WEST
The lark, with his song of glee, and lapwings, as they wheeled about, tumbling and chasing each other, to their vernal scream of ecstacy, had given some cheerfulness to the dull sown fields of the Lothians, when a short tour was recommended for the health of my youngest child. I had seen enough of the lovely glen which separates the Holy Loch from Loch Eck, in my shooting and fishing excursions, to make me long to penetrate further; so with the hearty concurrence of my fellow travellers, it was to this inlet of the West Highlands that we directed our course.
An easy steam-passage brought us to Kilmun, and next morning we skirted the Echaig*, which, like a band of silver, unites the two lochs. Every object here was familiar. McErle's pool famous for a stray grilse. Ouig Hill, appropriately pronounced wig by the people, from its rough long heather, and Rashfield shielings, with their thatched roofs and smoky kipples, where the peat fuel gives a pleasant notice to the traveller that for once he is getting out of the reach of carbonic influence. With most of the inmates of these poor dwellings we were also well acquainted; and among them could place on record examples both of worth and happiness.
* I had this salmon-stream, and the shooting of Kilmun Hills, taken from Mr. Campbell of Monzie, and can confidently recommend both to any man who is a true admirer of wild sport. In addition to salmon and grilse, the river abounds with sea-trout and whitlings; I have killed forty in about six hours. Thews and sinews are required to travel the
It is a sort of peninsula, jutting out between Loch Long and the Holy Loch, on which account scarcely a bird escapes the boundary. The grouse are pretty regularly distributed, and, with really good dogs, no man need return dissatisfied. At the beginning of the season, when the tops of the hills are the best range, the eye rests upon views singularly bold and varied. For the first few weeks I generally averaged from twelve to eighteen brace a day, besides hares and snipe. The woodcock shooting is the best in Cowal-side.
At a little distance, but only far enough to keep up his credit as a lone man, is the cell of the Hermit of the Glen. A less interesting specimen of this genus of mortals can scarcely be imagined. He seems to have courted solitude only for its notoriety; and instead of the anchorite's "crystal well,” drinks freely and constantly of mountain dew.”
This jovial recluse lays claim to the attention of all strangers; and, after repeated invitations, I once had the curiosity with some friends to visit the “wee place," as he calls his hut. His methods of making us understand that guests were expected to leave some donation behind them, as a trifling memento of the pleasure their company had given, were certainly ingenious enough; and after gaining his point, he in his turn volunteered to treat us with “The Braes of Balquhidder." And really it was worth a trifle, for he managed what I had supposed an impossibility; viz., to deprive the beautiful air and words of every vestige of harmony. But his grand recipe for drawing the purse-strings is practised upon his female visitors, and consists in enumerating the monied dames who were dying to share his eight feet by six
cabin, but they never gaed near his heart,” placing his hand most pathetically on the spot where that organ should have been! This stale trick, I am credibly informed, has maintained in full radiance his salamander of a nose for the last thirty years.
Like many anticipated pleasures, the unknown half of our day's journey did not come up to expectation. The rugged grandeur at the lower end of the glen soon blended into low hills and copses; but the drive along Loch Fine is certainly very beautiful. We slept at Inverary, and next day, after admiring the waterfall in Glenara, and walking up all the steep braes for the sake of the views, arrived at Dalmally.
Having despatched a messenger to the Black Mount to ascertain whether the sea eagle had built in any of the forest lochs, we stepped out as far as the little rustic bridge to enjoy the soft pure air. A well-known twitter greeted us, and there was the first swallow darting under the old arch of the primitive bridge, his steel-blue back glancing in the setting sun. “ Two of them,” shouted my eldest urchin, who, for great diligence in Greek and Latin, had been allowed to accompany us, “they do make a summer.”
A car, containing two anglers and their attendants, now drove up. They had been fishing since morning at the falls of the Urchay, and taken a couple of salmon, one nine, the other fifteen and a half pound weight. The captor of the large fish was in great glee; for the landlord told me it was the “biggest" that had been caught since the season began. The weather had been so dry, and our time so limited, that my salmon rod and tackle had been voted supernumerary. I should now have had no objec