something more than a mere lazy listener to the Bobolink: far up in the air, determined to be thorough in his chastisements, you will see him, with a comrade or two, driving the bulky intruder away into the distance, till you wonder how he ever expects to find his own way back again.
He speaks with emphasis on these occasions, and then reverts, more sedately than ever, to his accustomed silence.
We know but little, even now, of the local distribution of our birds.
I remember that in my latest conversation with Thoreau
, in December, 1861, he mentioned most remarkable facts in this department, which had fallen under his unerring eyes.
most common at Concord
, the Red-Tailed
species, is not known near the sea-shore, twenty miles off, —as at Boston
The White-Breasted Sparrow
is rare in Concord
; but the Ashburnham woods, thirty miles away, are full of it. The Scarlet Tanager's is the commonest note in Concord
, except the Red-Eyed Flycatcher
's; yet one of the best field-ornithologists in Boston
had never heard it. The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is seen not infrequently at Concord
, though its nest is rarely found; but in Minnesota
found it more abundant than any other bird, far more so than the Robin.
But his most interesting statement, to my fancy, was, that, during a stay of ten weeks on Monadnock
, he found that the Snow-Bird
built its nest on the top of the mountain, and probably never came down through the season.
That was its Arctic; and it would probably yet be found, he predicted, on Wachusett and other Massachusetts
It is known that the Snow-Bird
, or ‘Snow-Flake
,’ as it is called in England
, was reported by Audubon
as having only once been proved to build in the United States
, namely, among the White Mountains
, though Wilson
found its nests among the Alleghanies
; and in New England
it used to be the rural belief that the Snow-Bird
and the Chipping-Sparrow
were the same.
After July most of our birds grow silent, and, but for the insects, August would be almost the stillest month in the year,—stiller than the winter, when the woods are often vocal with the Crow, the Jay
, and the Chickadee.
But with patient attention one may hear, even far into the autumn, the accustomed notes.
As I sat in my boat, one sunny afternoon of last September, beneath the shady western shore of our quiet lake, with the low sunlight striking almost level across the wooded banks, it seemed as if the last hoarded drops of summer's sweetness were being poured over all the world.
The air was full of quiet sounds.
Turtles rustled beside the brink and slid into the water,— cows plashed in the shallows,—fishes leaped from the placid depths,—a squirrel sobbed and fretted on a neighboring stump,—a katydid across the lake maintained its hard, dry croak,—the crickets chirped pertinaciously, but with little, fatigued pauses, as if glad that their work was almost done,—the grasshoppers kept up their continual chant, which