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and musical, and capable of almost every modulation, from the clear, mellow tones of the wood thrush to the savage screams of the bald eagle.
In measure and accent, he faithfully follows his originals. In force and sweetness of expression, he greatly improves upon them. In his native groves, mounted upon the top of a tall bush or half-grown tree, in the dawn of dewy morning, while woods are already vocal with a multitude of warblers, his admirable song rises preëminent over every competitor. The ear can listen to his music alone, to which that of all the others seems a mere accompaniinent. Neither is this strain altogether imitative. native notes, which are easily distinguishable by such as are well acquainted with those of our various birds of song, are bold and full and varied, seemingly, beyond all limits. They consist of short expressions of two, three, or at the most, five or six syllables, generally interspersed with imitations, and all of them uttered with great emphasis and rapidity, and continued with ardor, for half an hour, or an hour, at a time.
His expanded wings and tail glisten with white, and the buoyant gayety of his action arrests the eye, as his song most irresistibly does the ear. round with the most enthusiastic ecstasy; he mounts and descends, as his song swells or dies away. He bounds aloft with the celerity of an arrow, as if to
He sweeps recover or recall his very soul, which expired in the last elevated strain.
Wbile thus exerting himself, a bystander, destitute of sight, would suppose that all the feathered tribes had assembled together for a trial of skill, each striving to produce his utmost effect, — so perfect are his imitations. He many times deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds that perhaps are not within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates. Even birds themselves are frequently imposed on by this admirable mimic, and are decoyed by the fancied call of their mates, or dive, with precipitation, into the depths of thickets, at the scream of what they suppose to be the sparrow hawk.
The mocking bird loses little of the power and energy of his song by confinement. In his domesticated state, when he begins his career of song, it is impossible to stand by uninterested. He whistles for the dog. Cæsar starts up, wags his tail, and runs to meet his master. The bird squeaks out like a hurt chicken; and the hen hurries about, with hanging wings and bristled feathers, clucking to protect her injured brood. The barking of the dog, the mewing of the cat, the creaking of a passing wheelbarrow, follow with great truth and rapidity. He repeats the tune taught him by his master, though of considerable length, fully and faithfully. He runs over the quiverings of the canary, and the clear whistling of the Virginia nightingale or redbird, with such superior execution and effect, that the mortified songsters feel their own inferiority, and become altogether silent, while he seems to triumph in their defeat, by redoubling his exertions.
This excessive fondness for variety, however, in the opinion of some, injures his song. His elevated imitations of the brown thrush are frequently interrupted by the crowing of cocks; and the warblings of the bluebird, which he exquisitely manages, are mingled with the screaming of swallows, or the cackling of hens.
Amidst the simple melody of the robin, we are suddenly surprised by the shrill reiterations of the whip-poor-will; while the notes of the killdeer, blue jay, martin, Baltimore oriole, and twenty others succeed, with such imposing reality, that we look round for the originals, and discover, with astonishment, that the sole performer, in this singular concert, is the admirable bird before us.
During this exhibition of his powers, he spreads his wings, expands his tail, and throws himself around the cage in all the ecstasy of enthusiasm, seeming not only to sing, but to dance, keeping time to the measure of his own music.
THE WATER OUZEL
THE waterfalls of the sierra are frequented by only one bird, — the ouzel, or water thrush. He is a singularly joyous and lovable little fellow, about the size of a robin, clad in a plain waterproof suit of bluish gray, with a tinge of chocolate on his head and shoulders.
Among all the countless waterfalls I have met in the course of my exploration in the sierra, not one was found without its ouzel. No cañon is too cold for this little bird, none too lonely, provided it be rich in falling water. Find a fall or rushing rapid anywhere upon a clear stream, and there you will find an ouzel, flitting about in the spray, diving in foaming eddies; ever vigorous yet self-contained, and neither seeking nor shunning your company.
If disturbed while dipping about in the margin shallows, he either sets off with a rapid whir to some other feeding ground, or alights on some half-submerged rock out in the current, and immediately begins to nod and courtesy like a wren, turning his head from side to side, with many other odd, dainty movements.
He is the humming bird of the waters, loving rocky ripple slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows. Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings. For both in winter and in summer he sings, and cheerily. While water sings, so must he, in heat or cold, calm or storm; low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter, but never silent.
As for weather, dark days and bright days are the same to him. The voices of most song birds, however joyous, suffer a long winter eclipse, but the ouzel sings on through all the seasons and every kind of storm. No need of spring sunshine to thaw his song, for it never freezes. Never shall you hear anything wintry from his warm breast; no wavering notes between sorrow and joy. His mellow, fluty voice is ever tuned to gladness.
One cold winter morning I sallied forth to see what I might learn and enjoy. The loose snow was already over five feet deep on the meadows, but I made my way to a certain ripple on the river where one of my ouzels lived. He was at home, busily gleaning his breakfast among the pebbles, apparently unaware of anything extraordinary in the weather. Presently he flew out to a stone against which the icy current was beating, and turning his back to the wind, sang as delightfully as a lark in springtime.
I found a few sparrows busy at the feet of the larger trees gleaning seeds and insects, joined now