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The father of the gentleman to whose observations we are indebted for these interesting facts was a country physician, and drove an old two-wheeled gig without a cover. In the back of this there was a long narrow box, open at the top. This having been left unused in the shed several days, a pair of wrens built their nest in it, and, before there was occasion to use it, had laid an egg. When the gig was brought out for use, the nest was discovered and removed. It was again left unused a day or two, and again the wrens began to build in it a nest, which was again removed. This was repeated several times, and several times eggs were laid, and even some were deposited on the bare boards, when the birds had seemingly given up in despair the building of their nest. All this time the gig was taken out every day, and it was nearly two weeks before the pertinacious little pair gave up their claims to the use of the doctor's gig, who, knowing that the jolting on the road would destroy their eggs, and not being able quite to give up his gig to them, sought for a long while in vain to make them desist from their useless labors.
During May, June, and part of July, the wren is a constant and remarkable singer. Its song is loud, clear, and shrill, given out with great rapidity and animation. If a cat approaches his nest while he is singing, a great change in his tune takes place. Angry vociferations succeed his sprightly song. Naturally enough, a wren detests a cat, and is by no means slow to show it.
We are sorry to say that our little friends do not always observe the golden rule of doing to others as they would be done by. Occasionally, without asking leave, they will take possession of a box or a hollow tree that belongs to a meek Bluebird or a lively White-breasted Swallow, and, by constructing a barricade across its entrance, effectually shut out the rightful owners, and compel them to seek other quarters.
Wrens are insect-eaters altogether, and of great service to farmers. It has been estimated that a single pair of wrens, with their young, destroy on an average a thousand insects each day.
Next in point of interest is the Carolina or Mocking Wren. It is the largest of the true wrens, and, in the Southern States, the most com
It is found from Virginia to Florida, and as far west as the Rio Grande.
In its habits it is very much like all the rest of the Wren family. It moves about with sudden jerks, uttering a quick, 'sharp note, as if in anger, passing in at one place and out at another almost with the rapidity of thought, appearing and disappearing nearly at the same moment. It possesses a great variety and power of song, and also apparently great powers of imitation. It often exhibits an almost ludicrous variety, from the hoarse rattle of the Kingfisher to the simpler refrains of the Towhee, the Meadow Lark, or the Bluebird.
Sometimes this wren places its nest in the hollow of a tree, and at other times builds an elaborate nest, with an overarching roof to protect it from the rain.
Although generally described as shy, retiring, and studious of concealment, in some of the more Southern cities it seems to be most familiar, and is to be found on the house-tops, singing with great energy. A friend staying at Fort Dallas, in Florida, describes the nest built in a mill by a pair of these birds, in a box on a shelf only four feet from the floor. It was arched over at the top with a covering of fine shavings and small sticks; though of course this was not necessary to protect it from the rain. The birds were very tame, and were in no wise disturbed by the noise of the mill.
The Bewick Wren is found from Pennsylvania to Georgia, but is more common on the Pacific coast. It is very much like the Carolina Wren in its appearance and in its habits. For the most part, it is a shy and retiring bird, building its nest in hollow trees or stumps. By some it is described as a fine singer. General Couch, who found it quite common in the eastern parts of Mexico, says it was there very tame and familiar, nesting in the thatched roofs of the houses, freely entering them, and nesting in the most convenient places, just under the roof. He describes its song as one of the sweetest he ever heard. A German naturalist who lived, before the Rebellion, in Northern Georgia, but who was forced into the Rebel army and there killed, once gave me an interesting account of a pair of Bewick Wrens, that undertook to build a nest in his bed. This was more than he could consent to, and he put a stop to their proceedings; whereupon they still persisted in occupying his bedchamber, building their nest in another part of the room.
On the Pacific coast of North America is found another Wren, very closely resembling the common House Wren. It was named, by Mr. Audubon, Parkman's Wren, in honor of the unfortunate Dr. George Parkman, of Boston, who had been a kind friend and benefactor to that celebrated naturalist. Its habits, song, mode of building its nest, and other characteristics, make it a complete counterpart of our common wren. Dr. Cooper saw one of its nests built in the skull of a horse that had been stuck upon a fence. In Vancouver's Island, where it is very abundant, it breeds chiefly in hollow trees, arching over its eggs with a warm and neat covering of feathers. A friend who observed their habits in that island states that, like our wren, they will take possession of any convenient cavity, - one pair building under the roof of a frame house, entering by a hole between the boards and the shingles. Another pair had their nest in a gate-post, by which people were continually passing and repassing. A third pair built over a door-way, entering under a loose board, and placing their nest within reach of the hand. A fourth took possession of an old cigar-box, placed in a tree in a garden in Victoria, in which they constructed their nest, and in it laid seven eggs.
The Wood Wren and the Winter Wren are supposed by some naturalists to be the same bird. But few of the first have been observed. It is said to breed in holes in the ground, and to be a very shy bird, living only in wild and solitary places. The Winter Wren is more common in the northern parts of North America. In its appearance it is not distinguishable from the common wren of Europe, and is, by many naturalists, regarded as the same bird. The song of this wren is described by those who have heard it as excelling in its brilliant sweetness that of almost every other bird, — full of cadence, energy, and melody, and very musical; and its power of continuance is said to be truly surprising. It constructs a very beautiful mosscovered nest, entirely spherical, with only a small aperture though which the parents go in and out. The wall of this nest is two or three inches in thickness, and is very warmly lined. It is made to resemble the mosscovered protuberances of old trees, and is not easily found except by watching the parent birds. One of our young Boston naturalists recently met with a nest of these birds in an unoccupied hut in the upper part of Maine, between the logs of the building. It was large and bulky, composed chiefly of moss, and lined with the finer hair of the hedgehog and the feathers of the spruce partridge. It was built in the form of a long porch, and the entrance was ingeniously constructed of fine pine twigs.
There are two kinds of Marsh Wrens in the United States, both found throughout its entire extent, but differing each from the other in their affected by the ocean tides. It is also found in the neighborhood of large bodies of water. It constructs a nest of about the size and shape of a cocoa-nut, with an opening at one side. It is placed in a low bush, just high enough to be out of the reach of tide-water, and protected from the weather by an arched roof. The entrance to the nest is also furnished with an overarching protection like the porch to a house. It has no song, and its cry resembles the sound made by an insect rather than the note of a bird. Its eggs are of a deep, dark chocolate or mahogany-brown color.
The Short-billed Wren is, for the most part, found only in fresh-water and inland meadows. It is very irregularly distributed about the country, and is rather common in the vicinity of Boston. It is shy and unapproachable. It has a lively, quaint song, delivered with great earnestness, and as if in great haste, when unobserved. If you approach it, this song changes into a harsh, angry, and petulant cry, as if of annoyance at your intrusion. Its home is in the midst of the long rank grass of meadows, and its food is the insects it there finds. Its nest is constructed in a very curious and interesting manner. In a tussock of high, rank meadow-grass, it interweaves the long and slender stalks, while yet fresh and green, into a spherical or globular form. In the interior of this it builds its nest, warmly lined, with an opening at one side. The long stalks of grass of which it is constructed keep fresh and green, and effectually conceal the nest, except when the grass is cut by the mower. The eggs of this wren are of the purest crystal white. The representation on the preceding page is taken from a nest found in the meadows of West Roxbury.
T. M. B.
WILLIAM HENRY'S LETTERS TO HIS GRANDMOTHER.
Grandmother's Letter to William Henry.
Y DEAR LITTLE BOY, –
Your poor old grandmother was so glad to get those letters, after such long waiting! My dear child, we were anxious ; but now we are pleased. I was afraid you were down with the measles, for they 're about. Your aunt Phebe thinks you had 'em when you were a month old; but I know better.
Your father was anxious himself at not hearing; though he did n't show it any. But I could see it plain enough. As soon as he brought the letters in, I set a light in the window to let your aunt Phebe know she was wanted. She came running across the yard, all of a breeze. You know how your aunt Phebe always comes running in.
* What is it?" says she. “Letters from Billy? I mistrusted ’t was letters from Billy. In his own handwriting? Must have had 'em pretty light. Measles commonly leave the eyes very bad.”
But you know how your aunt Phebe goes running on. Your father came in, and sat down in his rocking-chair, - your mother's chair, dear. Your sister was sewing on her doll's cloak by the little table. She sews remarkably well for a little girl.
“Now, Phebe,” says I, “read loud, and do speak every word plain.” I put on my glasses, and drew close up, for she does speak her words so fast. I have to look her right in the face.
At the beginning, where you speak about being whipped, your father's rocking-chair stopped stock still. You might have heard a pin drop. Georgianna said, “O dear!” and down dropped the doll's cloak. “Pshaw ! ” said Aunt Phebe, “'t is n't very likely our Billy 's been whipped.”
Then she read on and on, and not one of us spoke. Your father kept his arms folded up, and never raised his eyes. I had to look away, towards the last, for I could n't see through my glasses. Georgianna cried. And, when the end came, we all wiped our eyes.
Now what 's the use,” said Aunt Phebe, “ for folks to cry before they're hurt?"
“But you almost cried yourself,” said Georgianna. “ Your voice was different, and your nose is red now.” And that was true.
After your sister was in bed, and Aunt Phebe gone, your father says to me: “Grandma, the boy's like his mother.” And he took a walk around the place, and then went off to his bedroom, without even opening his night's paper. If ever a man set store by his boy, that man is your father. And, O Billy, if you had done anything mean, or disgraced yourself in any way, what a dreadful blow 't would have been to us all !
The measles come with a cough. The first thing is to drive 'em out. Get a nurse. That is, if you catch them. They ’re a natural sickness, and one sensible old woman is better than half a dozen doctors. Saffron 's good to drive 'em out.
Aunt Phebe is knitting you a comforter. As if she had n't family enough of her own to do for!
From your loving
A Letter from William Henry. MY DEAR GRANDMOTHER,
Dorry asked his sister to ask his mother if he might ask me to go home with him. And she said yes; but to wait a week first, because the house was just got ready to have a great party, and she could n't stand two muddy-shoed boys. May I go?
Tom Cush was sent home ; but he did n't go. His father lives in the same town that Dorry does. He has been here to look for him.
I never went to make anybody a visit. I hope you will say yes. I should like to have some money. Everybody tells boys not to spend money ; but