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and then by a robin. A solitary gray eagle was braving the storm on the top of a tall pine stump. He was standing bolt upright, with his back to the wind, a tuft of snow piled on his square shoulders, – a monument of passive endurance. Every snow-bound bird seemed more or less uncomfortable, if not in positive distress. Not one cheerful note came from a single bill. Their patient suffering offered a striking contrast to the spontaneous gladness of thy ouzel, who could no more help exhaling sweet song than a rose sweet fragrance.
The songs of the ouzel are exceedingly difficult of description. Though I have been acquainted with my favorite ten years, and have heard him sing nearly every day, I still detect notes and strains that seem new to me. Nearly all of his music is sweet and tender, flowing from his round breast like water over the smooth lip of a pool, and then breaking into a sparkling foam of melodious notes.
The ouzel never sings in chorus with other birds, but only with the streams. I have often observed him singing in the midst of beaten spray, his music completely buried beneath the water's roar. Yet I knew he was surely singing, by his gestures and the movements of his bill.
His food consists of all kind of water insects, which in summer are chiefly found along shallow margins. Here he wades about, ducking his head under water and deftly turning over pebbles and fallen leaves with his bill. He seldom chooses to go into deep water, where he has to use his wings in diving.
During the winter, when the streams are chilled nearly to the freezing point, so that the snow falling into them is not wholly dissolved, — then he seeks the deeper portions of the rivers where he
dive to clear water.
One stormy morning in winter when the Merced River was blue and green with unmelted snow, I observed an ouzel perched on a snag in the midst of a swift-rushing rapid. He was singing cheerily, as if everything was just to his mind. vi hile I stood on the bank admiring him, he suddenly plunged into the current, leaving his song abruptly broken off. After feeding a minute or two at the bottom, and when one would suppose that he must surely be swept far down stream, he emerged just where he went down. Alighting on the same snag, he showered the water beads from his feathers, and continued his unfinished song.
The ouzel's nest is one of the most extraordinary pieces of bird architecture I ever saw, odd and novel in design, and in every way worthy of the genius of the little builder. It is about a foot in diameter, round in outline, with a neatly arched opening near
the bottom, somewhat like an old-fashioned brick
It is built chiefly of the green and yellow mosses that cover the rocks and drift logs near the waterfalls. These are deftly interwoven into a charming little hut, and so situated that many of the outer mosses continue to grow as if they had not been plucked. The site chosen for the curious mansion is usually some little rock shelf within reach of the lighter spray of a waterfall, so that its walls are kept green and growing.
In these moss huts three or four eggs are laid, white, like foam bubbles. And well may the little birds hatched from them sing water songs, for they hear them all their lives. I have often observed the young just out of the nest making their odd gestures, and seeming in every way as much at home as their experienced parents. No amount of familiarity with people and their ways seems to change them in the least.
Even so far north as icy Alaska, I have found my glad singer. One cold day in November I was exploring the glaciers between Mount Fairweather and the Stikeen River. After trying in vain to force a way through the icebergs, I was weary and baffled, and sat resting in my canoe.
While I thus lingered drifting with the bergs, I suddenly heard the wellknown whir of an ouzel's wings, and, looking up, saw my little comforter coming straight across the ice from the shore. In a second or two he was with me, flying around my head with a happy salute, as if to say:
“Cheer up, old friend, you see I am here, and all's well.”
Then he flew back to the shore, alighted on the topmost jag of a stranded iceberg, and began to nod and bow as though he were on one of his favorite bowlders in the midst of a sunny sierra cascade.
Such, then, is our little water ouzel, beloved of every one who is so fortunate as to know him. Tracing on strong wing every curve of the swiftest torrent, not fearing to follow it through its darkest gorges and its coldest snow tunnels; acquainted with every waterfall, he echoes its divine music.
- JOHN MUIR.
From “ The Mountains of California."
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
Continuous as the stars that shine
The waves beside them danced; but they
For oft, when on my couch I lie
WHERE LIES THE LAND ?
WHERE lies the land to which the ship would go ?