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sheared, according to the season of elder-blossoms will
vary the time of sheep-shearing.
The cuckoo's arrival is regularly preceded some days by that of the wry-neck, a small bird, singular in its attitudes and plumage, and living on ants and insects that harbour in the bark of trees, which it extracts by means of its long tongue, furnished with a sharp bony tip. This bird has also a peculiar note or cry, easily distinguished by those who have once heard it.
The other summer birds of passage that arrive during this month, usually make their appearance in the following order: the ring-ousel, red-start, yellow-wren, swift, whitethroat, grasshopper-lark, and willow-wren. Various kinds of insects are seen about this time, of which the most remarkable is the gryllus gryllotalpa, or mole-cricket. This singular animal is distinguished by its low, dull, jarring note, continued for a long time without intermission, like the chattering of the fern-owl; but still more so by the peculiar structure of its fore-feet, which are exceedingly strong, and greatly resemble those of the mole, whence this insect derives its name. Anatomists also have discovered so great a conformity between its internal structure, and that of the ruminating quadrupeds, as renders it highly probable that this animal, like them, chews the cud.
The mole-cricket inhabits the sides of canals and swampy wet soils, in which, just below the surface, it forms long winding burrows, and a chamber neatly smoothed and rounded, of the size of a moderate snuff-box, in which, about the middle of May, it deposits its eggs, to the number of nearly a hundred. The ridges, which they raise in their subterraneous progress, interrupt the evenness of gravel walks, and the havoc they commit in beds of young cabbages, legumes, and flowers, renders them very unwelcome guests in a garden.
Several species of that elegant tribe of insects the Tibellula, or dragon-fly, about this time emerge from the water, in which they pass their aurelia state.*
The poetical reader will recal Tennyson's lovely lines in “ The Two Voices."
To-day I saw the dragon-fly
The formica herculanea, or horse-ant, in the beginning of this month recommences its annual labours; this species is about three times the size of the common black ant, and inhabits the pine forests of Scotland, and the rocky woods of England and Wales, in which it erects a large conical nest, two feet or more in height, composed of leaves and small twigs.
The snake, too, the large bat, and shell-snails, quit their winter retirements at this period; and on mild evenings earth-worms come out of their holes in search of food, or for the purpose of propagation.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Miss Mitford, who is ever an accurate and intelligent observer of nature, tells us, that " walking along the meadows one bright sunny afternoon, a year or two back, and rather late in the season, I had an opportunity of noticing a curious circumstance in natural history. Standing close to the edge of the stream, I remarked a singular appearance on a large tuft of flags. It looked like bunches of flowers, the leaves of which seemed dark, yet transparent, intermingled with brilliant tubes of bright blue or shining green. On examining this phenomenon more closely, it turned out to be several clusters of dragon-flies just emerged from their deformed chrysalis state, and still torpid and motionless from the wetness of their filmy wings. Half an hour later ire returned to the spot, and they were gone. We had seen them at the very moment when beauty was complete, and animation dormant. I have since found nearly a similar account of this curious process in Mr. Bingley's very entertaining work called ' Animal Biography.'"-Ed.
Fish, actuated by the same law that
exerts its influence upon the rest of nature, now leave
the deep holes and sheltered bottoms, where they passed the winter, and wandering about in search of food, again offer themselves to the angler
Beneath a willow long forsook,
Many trees come into blossom during this month, and form a most agreeable spectacle, as well on account of their beauty, as the promise which they give of future benefits. The blackthorn or sloe leads the way, and is succeeded by the apricot, peach, nectarine, cherry, and plum : but though
Hope waits upon the flowery prime,
yet it is an anxious time for the possessor, as the fairest prospect of a plentiful increase is often blighted by the frequent return of frosty winds.
Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Cowper describes the same circumstance in the following
Spring is but the child
Those of the earlier plants that now most strike the eye, are the primrose and wood-sorrel under hedges; the wood anemone in dry woods and thickets; the wood crowfoot and marsh-marigold in wet marshy places; and the lady-smock or cuckoo-flower in meadows.
The farmer is still busied in sowing different sorts of grain and seeds for fodder, for which purpose dry weather is yet suitable ; though plentiful showers at due intervals are desirable for feeding the young grass and springing
AN APRIL SONG.
Laud the first spring daisies ;
Gather the primroses ;
Give the children holidays,
See, the birds together,
Ah, come and woo the spring;
Come, come into the wood;