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and are worked accordingly. The better to entice the fowl into the pipe, hemp-seed is occasionally strewn on the water. The season allowed by Act of Parliament for taking ducks in this way is from the latter end of October until February.
Willughby states that formerly, before the young ducks took flight, or while the old ones were in moult and unable to fly, they were driven by men in boats, furnished with long poles, with which they splashed the water, between long nets stretched vertically across the pools in the shape of two sides of a triangle, into lesser nets placed at the point; and in this way he says that four thousand were taken at one drive in Deeping Fen; and Latham has recorded an instance in which two thousand six hundred and forty-six were taken in two days near Spalding, in Lincolnshire. But these practices being considered injurious, were prohibited by statute in the reign of George II.
Tame ducks are also used for the purpose of leading the way into the pipe. Hence the term "decoy-ducks." These birds are fed on the pond, and made quite tame, and come to the keeper's whistle, to eat the hemp-seed which he strews on the pond. They generally lead the way into the pipe when whistled to. As they are used to the sight of the keeper, they do not rush forward with the wild ones into the net, but return back again safe into the pond; or if any of them should be driven forward, they are easily, by their colour, distinguished from the wild ones.
To a lover of Nature, the woods now offer much worthy of his contemplation. The stems of trees with all their mossy branches are no longer concealed by foliage; the fantastic ramifications are visible, traversing and intersecting each other in unimaginable forms. There is a beauty in this desolation, a wild architecture, admirable in its confusion, a fitting roof for these old temples of the ancient Druids; branch is interwoven with branch, and spray extended to spray, filling the vacant spaces and uniting the trees together. The ivy also hangs around the oak, covering its mighty bole with dark verdure, while the
giant arms are thrown out in the majesty of naked grandeur. At times the upper part of the boughs, in frosty weather, are covered with a white rime, while underneath their darker barks are seen standing out in deep shadow. The fir, beech, and elm show themselves to great advantage under this circumstance. It is only in winter that we can observe these beautiful pencillings of the spray, the elegant lines so gracefully intersecting each other. They form a good picture of the busy world: in every little opening some small branch has thrust itself, and become as firmly fixed as the large arm from whence it sprang all seem bent upon making their way even at the expense of jostling their neighbours. The author of "Needwood Forest" has very aptly described the naked beauty of the woods at this season.
"Oft have I through this solemn glade
With tottering spire and mouldering wall,
Winter destroys the beauty of our fields: the winged fairies of summer who people the sunbeams, and hum themselves to sleep in the bosom of the flowers, or spread their deep-dyed pinions above the heath-bells, have left the air a silent solitude. Still there are birds with us; and the missel-thrush may now be heard singing, as the country people say, to tell us of the approaching storm. Who is not a lover of birds? They flock around us in winter, and through cold and hunger forage for their mean subsistence amid our barns, in- the farmyard among cattle, and even at our threshold. They fly from one naked spray to another, -nay, they also seem to look down
wistfully upon us, as if to excite our pity. Oh! ye bearers of murderous guns, take not away their little lives!
The poor robin is universally considered a household bird: many an anecdote is told of his familiarity. He pecks about our doors, and erects his little head or hops around us as if in supplication. He has so many winning ways, that we cannot but love him; and such firm reliance upon us, that we cannot injure him: all the little "wee things" have an affection for poor Bobby. If we turn up the earth, he is always at hand, sometimes daring to alight upon the spade: he often flutters at our windows, and asks as well as he can for food.
The beautiful and brave little robin, whiffler of the choir of song-birds, advances first and alone to give the earliest greetings of the new year, with notes clear and brilliant as his eyes, bold and abrupt as his resolute hoppings and determined stand. He might be called the winter nightingale, only that he never sings after the blue twilight. From a comfortable room at this dead season, it is delicious to look out upon a robin, as he perches on a near tree, among "naked shoots, barren as lances," jerking his sweet tones upon the wintry stillness. In a walk before the grey of evening, it is a still higher gratification to find him, "far from the haunts of care-worn men," upon a slender spray by some high bank, seemingly unconscious of other living things, pouring upon the dreariness of the dell short liquid carols, with long intervals between-converting the frozen steep into a solemn place of devotion, and winning the passenger to a thought of thanksgiving. In infancy the robin was our favourite and familiar, and through life every recollection of him is pleasurable. We remember the beautiful ballad of "The Babes in the Wood," and how
Their pretty lips with blackberries
And when they saw the darksome night,
"Thus wander'd these two pretty babes,
Of any man receives,
Till robin-redbreast painfully
Did cover them with leaves."
And tradition has still rendered him sacred for covering the babes with leaves, and he is protected in all countries with even more reverence than the swallow or martin are protected. Thomson thus sings of his annual visit:
"The redbreast, sacred to the household gods,
And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is;
Attract his slender beak."
"Larks," says Forster, now congregate, and fly to the warm stubble for shelter; and the nuthatch is heard; the slug makes its appearance, and commences its depredations on plants and green wheat." The hedge-sparrow and the thrush begin to sing; the wren also pipes her perennial lay" even among the flakes of snow; the titmouse pulls straw out of the thatch in search of insects; linnets congregate, and rooks resort to their nest-trees; pullets begin to lay, and young lambs are dropped now. The house-sparrow chirps, the bat appears,
spiders shoot out their webs, and the blackbird occasionally whistles. The fieldfares, redwings, skylarks, and titlarks, resort to watered meadows for food, and are in part supported by the gnats which are on the snow near the water.
The tops of tender turnips and ivy-berries afford food for the graminivorous birds, as the ringdove, &c.; earth-worms lie out on the ground, and the snail appears.
"The wild quadrupeds are now driven from their remote haunts; hares enter the gardens to browse on the vegetables, and the hen-roosts are pillaged by foxes. The weather this month may be divided into the hard and mild, alternations of which last for above a week or a fortnight. Generally speaking, these changes of weather seem under lunar influence, and happen often near the new or full of the moon. This month is considered more liable to snow than any other in the year. Shelley thus describes a severe season:
'A winter such as when birds die
In the deep forests, and the fishes lie
Stiffen'd in the translucent ice, which makes
Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold :
"Wild fowl of several kinds still perform partial migrations; and when the weather is mild, the sportsman may find diversion in the field: snipes and woodcocks are also found in swampy grounds. The Christmas rose expands its beautiful white chalices at this inclement season: the blowing of this plant was formerly considered a miracle worked by the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.
"Buds and embryo blossoms in their silk downy coats, so finely varnished to protect them from the wet and cold, are the principal botanical subjects for observation in January, and their structure is particularly worthy of notice. To the practical