On this occasion we placed ourselves boldly, though very quietly, in the paths that run through the oak-brush. We had abandoned all attempt at concealment; we could hope only for tolerance. The birds readily understood; they appreciated that they were seen and watched, and their manners changed accordingly. The first one of the black-and-white gentry who entered the grove discovered my comrade, and announced the presence of the enemy by a loud cry, in what somebody has aptly called a "frontier tone of voice." Instantly another appeared and added his remarks; then another, and still another, till within five minutes there were ten or twelve excited magpies, shouting at the top of their voices, and hopping and flying about her head, coming ever nearer and nearer, as if they meditated a personal attack. I did not really fear it, but I kept close watch, while remaining motionless, in the hope that they would not notice me. Vain hope! nothing could escape those sharp eyes when once the bird was aroused. After they had said what they chose to my friend, who received the taunts and abuse of the infuriated mob in meek silence, lifting not her voice to reply, they turned the stream of their eloquence upon me.
I was equally passive, for indeed I felt that they had a grievance. We have no right to expect birds to tell one human being from another, so long as we, with all our boasted intelligence, cannot tell one crow or one magpie from another; and all the week they had suffered persecution at the hands of the village boys. Young magpies, nestlings, were in nearly every house, and the birds had endured pillage, and doubtless some of them death. I did not blame the grieved parents for the reception they gave us; from their point of view we belonged to the enemy.
After the storm had swept by, and while we sat there waiting to see if the birds would return, one of the horses of the pasture made his appearance on the side where I sat, now eating the top of a rosebush, now snipping off a flower plant that had succeeded in getting two leaves above the ground, but at every step coming nearer me. It was plain that he contemplated retiring to this shady grove, and, not so observing as the magpies, did not see that it was already occupied. When he was not more than ten feet away, I snatched off my sun hat and waved it before him, not wishing to make a noise. He stopped instantly, stared wildly for a moment, as if he had never seen such an apparition, then wheeled with a snort, flung out his heels in disrespect, and galloped off down the field.
The incident was insignificant, but the result was curious. So long as we stayed in that bit of brush, not a horse attempted to enter, though they all browsed around outside. They avoided it as if it were haunted, or, as my comrade said, "filled with beckoning forms." Nor was that all; I have reason to think they never again entered that particular patch of brush, for, some weeks after we had abandoned the study of magpies and the pasture altogether, we found the spot transformed, as if by the wand of enchantment. From the burned-up desert outside we stepped at once into a miniature paradise, to our surprise, almost our consternation. Excepting the footpaths through it, it bore no appearance of having ever been a thoroughfare. Around the foot of every tree had grown up clumps of ferns or brakes, a yard high, luxuriant, graceful, and exquisite in form and color; and peeping out from under them were flowers, dainty wildings we had not before seen there. A bit of the tropics or a gem out of fairyland it looked to our sun and sand weary eyes. Outside were the burning sun of June, a withering hot wind, and yellow and dead vegetation; within was cool greenness and a mere rustle of leaves whispering of the gale. It was the loveliest bit of greenery we saw on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was marvelous; it was almost uncanny.
Our daily trips to the pasture had ceased, and other birds and other nests had occupied our thoughts for a week or two, when we resolved to pay a last visit to our old haunts, to see if we could learn anything of the magpies. We went through the pasture, led by the voices of the birds away over to the farther side, and there, across another fenced pasture, we heard them plainly, calling and chattering and making much noise, but in different tones from any we had heard before. Evidently a magpie nursery had been established over there. We fancied we could distinguish maternal reproof and loving baby talk, beside the weaker voices of the young, and we went home rejoicing to believe, that in spite of nest robbers, and the fright we had given them, some young magpies were growing up to enliven the world another summer.
THE SECRET OF THE WILD ROSE PATH.
"Shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice?"
Wordsworth's lines are addressed to the cuckoo of the Old World, a bird of unenviable reputation, notorious for imposing his most sacred duties upon others; naturally, therefore, one who would not court observation, and whose ways would be somewhat mysterious. But the American representative of the family is a bird of different manners. Unlike his namesake across the water, our cuckoo never—or so rarely as practically to be never—shirks the labor of nest-building and raising a family. He has no reason to skulk, and though always a shy bird, he is no more so than several others, and in no sense is he a mystery.
There is, however, one American bird for whom Wordsworth's verse might have been written; one whose chief aim seems to be, reversing our grandmothers' rule for little people, to be heard, and not seen. To be seen is, with this peculiar fellow, a misfortune, an accident, which he avoids with great care, while his voice rings out loud and clear above all others in the shrubbery. I refer to the yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens), whose summer home is the warmer temperate regions of our country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and whose unbirdlike utterances prepare one to believe the stories told of his eccentric actions; this, for example, by Dr. Abbott:—
"Aloft in the sunny air he springs; To his timid mate he calls; With dangling legs and fluttering wings On the tangled smilax falls; He mutters, he shrieks— A hopeless cry; You think that he seeks In peace to die, But pity him not; 't is the ghostly chat, An imp if there is one, be sure of that."
I first knew the chat—if one may be said to know a creature so shy—in a spot I have elsewhere described, a deserted park at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain. I became familiar with his various calls and cries (one can hardly call them songs); I secured one or two fleeting glimpses of his graceful form; I sought and discovered the nest, which thereupon my Lady Chat promptly abandoned, though I had not laid a finger upon it; and last of all, I had the sorrow and shame of knowing that my curiosity had driven the pair from the neighborhood. This was the Western form of Icteria, differing from the Eastern only in a greater length of tail, which several of our Rocky Mountain birds affect, for the purpose, apparently, of puzzling the ornithologist.
Two years after my unsuccessful attempt to cultivate friendly relations with "the ghostly chat," the middle of May found me on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, where I settled myself at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, at that point bare, gray, and unattractive, showing miles of loose bowlders and great patches of sage-bush. In the monotonous stretches of this shrub, each plant of which looks exactly like every other, dwelt many shy birds, as well hidden as bobolinks in the meadow grass, or meadow-larks in the alfalfa.
But on this mountain side no friendly cover existed from which I could spy out bird secrets. Whatever my position, and wherever I placed myself, I was as conspicuous as a tower in the middle of a plain; again, no shadow of protection was there from the too-ardent sun of Utah, which drew the vitality from my frame as it did the color from my gown; worse than these, the everywhere present rocks were the chosen haunts of the one enemy of a peaceful bird lover, the rattlesnake, and I hesitated to pursue the bird, because I invariably forgot to watch and listen for the reptile. Bird study under these conditions was impossible, but the place presented a phase of nature unfamiliar to me, and for a time so fascinating that every morning my steps turned of themselves "up the stony pathway to the hills."
The companion of my walks, a fellow bird-student, was more than fascinated; she was enraptured. The odorous bush had associations for her; she reveled in it; she inhaled its fragrance as a delicious perfume; she filled her pockets with it; she lay for hours at a time on the ground, where she could bask in the sunshine, and see nothing but the gray leaves around her and the blue sky above.
I can hardly tell what was the fascination for me. It was certainly not the view of the mountains, though mountains are beyond words in my affections. The truth is, the Rocky Mountains, many of them, need a certain distance to make them either picturesque or dignified. The range then daily before our eyes, the Wasatch, was, to dwellers at its feet, bleak, monotonous, and hopelessly prosaic. The lowest foothills, being near, hid the taller peaks, as a penny before the eye will hide a whole landscape.
Let me not, however, be unjust to the mountains I love. There is a range which satisfies my soul, and will rest in my memory forever, a beautiful picture, or rather a whole gallery of pictures. I can shut my eyes and see it at this moment, as I have seen it a thousand times. In the early morning, when the level sun shines on its face, it is like one continuous mountain reaching across the whole western horizon; it has a broken and beautiful sky line; Pike's Peak looms up toward the middle, and lovely Cheyenne ends it in graceful slope on the south; lights and shadows play over it; its colors change with the changing sky or atmosphere,—sometimes blue as the heavens, sometimes misty as a dream; it is wonderfully beautiful then. But wait till the sun gets higher; look again at noon, or a little later. Behold the whole range has sprung into life, separated into individuals; gorges are cut where none had appeared; chasms come to light; canyons and all sorts of divisions are seen; foothills move forward to their proper places, and taller peaks turn at angles to each other; shapes and colors that one never suspected come out in the picture: the transformation is marvelous. But the sun moves on, the magical moment passes, each mountain slips back into line, and behold, you see again the morning's picture.
Indulge me one moment, while I try to show you the last picture impressed upon my memory as the train bore me, unwilling, away. It was cloudy, a storm was coming up, and the whole range was in deep shadow, when suddenly through some rift in the clouds a burst of sunshine fell upon the "beloved mountain" Cheyenne, and upon it alone. In a moment it was a smiling picture,
"Glad With light as with a garment it was clad;"
all its inequalities, its divisions, its irregularities emphasized, its greens turned greener, its reds made more glowing,—an unequaled gem for a parting gift.
To come back to Utah. One morning, on our way up to the heights, as we were passing a clump of oak-brush, a bird cry rang out. The voice was loud and clear, and the notes were of a peculiar character: first a "chack" two or three times repeated, then subdued barks like those of a distressed puppy, followed by hoarse "mews" and other sounds suggesting almost any creature rather than one in feathers. But with delight I recognized the chat; my enthusiasm instantly revived. I unfolded my camp chair, placed myself against a stone wall on the opposite side of the road, and became silent and motionless as the wall itself.
My comrade, on the contrary, as was her custom, proceeded with equal promptness to follow the bird up, to hunt him out. She slipped between the barbed wires which, quite unnecessarily, one would suppose, defended the bleak pasture from outside encroachment, and passed out of sight down an obscure path that led into the brush where the bird was hidden. Though our ways differ, or rather, perhaps, because our ways differ, we are able to study in company. Certainly this circumstance proved available in circumventing the wily chat, and that happened which had happened before: in fleeing from one who made herself obvious to him, he presented himself, an unsuspecting victim, to another who sat like a statue against the wall. To avoid his pursuer, the bird slipped through the thick foliage of the low oaks, and took his place on the outside, in full view of me, but looking through the branches at the movements within so intently that he never turned his eyes toward me. This gave me an opportunity to study his manners that is rare indeed, for a chat off his guard is something inconceivable.
He shouted out his whole repertoire (or so it seemed) with great vehemence, now "peeping" like a bird in the nest, then "chacking" like a blackbird, mewing as neatly as pussy herself, and varying these calls by the rattling of castanets and other indescribable sounds. His perch was half way down the bush; his trim olive-drab back and shining golden breast were in their spring glory, and he stood nearly upright as he sang, every moment stretching up to look for the invader behind the leaves. The instant she appeared outside, he vanished within, and I folded my chair and passed on. His disturber had not caught a glimpse of him.
My next interview with a chat took place a day or two later. Between the cottage which was our temporary home and the next one was a narrow garden bordered by thick hedges, raspberry bushes down each side, and a mass of flowering shrubs next the street. From my seat within the house, a little back from the open window, I was startled by the voice of a chat close at hand. Looking cautiously out, I saw him in the garden, foraging about under cover of the bushes, near the ground, and there for some time I watched him. He had not the slightest repose of manner; the most ill-bred tramp in the English sparrow family was in that respect his superior, and the most nervous and excitable of wrens could not outdo him in posturing, jerking himself up, flirting his tail, and hopping from twig to twig. When musically inclined, he perched on the inner side of the bushes against the front fence, a foot or two above the ground, and within three feet of any one who might pass, but perfectly hidden.
The performance of the chat was exceedingly droll; first a whistle, clear as an oriole note, followed by chacks that would deceive a red-wing himself, and then, oddest of all, the laugh of a feeble old man, a weak sort of "yah! yah! yah!" If I had not seen him in the act, I could not have believed the sound came from a bird's throat. He concluded with a low, almost whispered "chur-r-r," a sort of private chuckle over his unique exhibition. After a few minutes' singing he returned to his foraging on the ground, or over the lowest twigs of the bushes, all the time bubbling over with low joyous notes, his graceful head thrown up, and his beautiful golden throat swelling with the happy song. The listener and looker behind the screen was charmed to absolute quiet, and the bird so utterly unsuspicious of observers that he was perfectly natural and at his ease, hopping quickly from place to place, and apparently snatching his repast between notes.
The chat's secret of invisibility was thus plainly revealed. It is not in his protective coloring, for though his back is modest of hue, his breast is conspicuously showy; nor is it in his size, for he is almost as large as an oriole; it is in his manners. The bird I was watching never approached the top of a shrub, but invariably perched a foot or more below it, and his movements, though quick, were silence itself. No rustle of leaves proclaimed his presence; indeed, he seemed to avoid leaves, using the outside twigs near the main stalk or trunk, where they are usually quite bare, and no flit of wing or tail gave warning of his change of position. There was a seemingly natural wariness and cautiousness in every movement and attitude, that I never saw equaled in feathers.
Then, too, the clever fellow was so constantly on his guard and so alert that the least stir attracted his attention. Though inside the house, as I said, not near the window, and further veiled by screens, I had to remain as nearly motionless as possible, and use my glass with utmost caution. The smallest movement sent him into the bushes like a shot,—or rather, like a shadow, for the passage was always noiseless. Suspicion once aroused, the bird simply disappeared. One could not say of him, as of others, that he flew, for whether he used his wings, or melted away, or sank into the earth, it would be hard to tell. All I can be positive about is, that whereas one moment he was there, the next he was gone.
After this exhibition of the character of the chat, his constant watchfulness, his distrust, his love of mystery, it may appear strange that I should try again to study him at home, to find his nest and see his family. But there is something so bewitching in his individuality, that, though I may be always baffled, I shall never be discouraged. Somewhat later, when it was evident that his spouse had arrived and domestic life had begun, and I became accustomed to hearing a chat in a certain place every day as I passed, I resolved to make one more effort to win his confidence, or, if not that, at least his tolerance.
The chat medley for which I was always listening came invariably from one spot on my pathway up the mountain. It was the lower end of a large horse pasture, and near the entrance stood a small brick house, in which no doubt dwelt the owner, or care-taker, of the animals. The wide gate, in a common fashion of that country, opened in the middle, and was fastened by a link of iron which dropped over the two centre posts. The rattle of the iron as I touched it, on the morning I resolved to go in, brought to the door a woman. She was rather young, with hair cut close to her head, and wore a dark cotton gown, which was short and scant of skirt, and covered with a "checked apron." She was evidently at work, and was probably the mistress, since few in that "working-bee" village kept maids.
I made my request to go into the pasture to look at the birds.
"Why, certainly," she said, with a courtesy that I have found everywhere in Utah, though with a slow surprise growing in her face. "Come right in."
I closed and fastened the gate, and started on past her. Three feet beyond the doorsteps I was brought to a standstill: the ground as far as I could see was water-soaked; it was like a saturated sponge. Utah is dominated by Irrigation; she is a slave to her water supply. One going there from the land of rains has much to learn of the possibilities and the inconveniences of water. I was always stumbling upon it in new combinations and unaccustomed places, and I never could get used to its vagaries. Books written in the interest of the Territory indulge in rhapsodies over the fact that every man is his own rain-maker; and I admit that the arrangement has its advantages—to the cultivator. But judging from the standpoint of an outsider, I should say that man is not an improvement upon the original providence which distributes the staff of life to plants elsewhere, spreading the vital fluid over the whole land, so evenly that every grass blade gets its due share; and as all parts are wet at once, so all are dry at the same time, and the surplus, if there be any, runs in well-appointed ways, with delight to both eye and ear. All this is changed when the office of Jupiter Pluvius devolves upon man; different indeed are his methods. A man turns a stream loose in a field or pasture, and it wanders whither it will over the ground. The grass hides it, and the walker, bird-student or botanist, steps splash into it without the slightest warning. This is always unpleasant, and is sometimes disastrous, as when one attempts to cross the edge of a field of some close-growing crop, and instantly sinks to the top of the shoes in the soft mud.
On the morning spoken of, I stopped before the barrier, considering how I should pass it, when the woman showed me a narrow passage between the house and the stone wall, through which I could reach the higher ground at the back. I took this path, and in a moment was in the grove of young oaks which made her out-of-doors kitchen and yard. A fire was burning merrily in the stove, which stood under a tree; frying-pans and baking-tins, dippers and dishcloths, hung on the outer wall of her little house, and the whole had a camping-out air that was captivating, and possible only in a rainless land. I longed to linger and study this open-air housekeeping; if that woman had only been a bird!
But I passed on through the oak-grove back yard, following a path the horses had made, till I reached an open place where I could overlook the lower land, filled with clumps of willows with their feet in the water, and rosebushes
"O'erburdened with their weight of flowers, And drooping 'neath their own sweet scent."
A bird was singing as I took my seat, a grosbeak,—perhaps the one who had entertained me in the field below, while I had waited hour after hour, for his calm-eyed mate to point out her nest. He sang there from the top of a tall tree, and she busied herself in the low bushes, but up to that time they had kept their secret well. He was a beautiful bird, in black and orange-brown and gold,—the black-headed grosbeak; and his song, besides being very pleasing, was interesting because it seemed hard to get out. It was as if he had conceived a brilliant and beautiful strain, and found himself unable to execute it. But if he felt the incompleteness of his performance as I did, he did not let it put an end to his endeavor. I sat there listening, and he came nearer, even to a low tree over my head; and as I had a glimpse or two of his mate in a tangle of willow and roses far out in the wet land, I concluded he was singing to her, and not to me. Now that he was so near, I heard more than I had before, certain low, sweet notes, plainly not intended for the public ear. This undertone song ended always in "sweet! sweet! sweet!" usually followed by a trill, and was far more effective than his state performances. Sometimes, after the "sweet" repeated half a dozen times, each note lower than the preceding one, he ended with a sort of purr of contentment.
I became so absorbed in listening that I had almost forgotten the object of my search, but I was suddenly recalled by a loud voice at one side, and the lively genius of the place was on hand in his usual role. Indeed, he rather surpassed himself in mocking and taunting cries that morning, either because he wished, as my host, to entertain me, or, what was more probable, to reproach me for disturbing the serenity of his life. Whatever might have been his motive, he delighted me, as always, by the spirit and vigor with which he poured out his chacks and whistles and rattles and calls. Then I tried to locate him by following up the sound, picking my way through the bushes, and among the straggling arms of the irrigating stream. After some experiments, I discovered that he was most concerned when I came near an impenetrable tangle that skirted the lower end of the lot. I say "near:" it was near "as the crow flies," but for one without wings it may have been half a mile; for between me and that spot was a great gulf fixed, the rallying point of the most erratic of wandering streamlets, and so given over to its vagaries that no bird-gazer, however enthusiastic, and indifferent to wet feet and draggled garments, dared attempt to pass. There I was forced to pause, while the bird flung out his notes as if in defiance, wilder, louder, and more vehement than ever.
In that thicket, I said to myself, as I took my way home, behind that tangle, if I can manage to reach it, I shall find the home of the chat. The situation was discouraging, but I was not to be discouraged; to reach that stronghold I was resolved, if I had to dam up the irrigator, build a bridge, or fill up the quagmire.
No such heroic treatment of the difficulty was demanded; my problem was very simply solved. As I entered the gate the next morning, my eyes fell upon an obscure footpath leading away from the house and the watery way beyond it, down through overhanging wild roses, and under the great tangle in which the chat had hidden. It looked mysterious, not to say forbidding, and, from the low drooping of the foliage above, it was plainly a horse path, not a human way. But it was undoubtedly the key to the secrets of the tangle, and I turned into it without hesitation. Stooping under the branches hanging low with their fragrant burden, and stopping every moment to loosen the hold of some hindering thorn, I followed in the footsteps of my four-footed pioneers till I reached the lower end of the marsh that had kept me from entering on the upper side. On its edge I placed my chair and seated myself.
It was an ideal retreat; within call if help were needed, yet a solitude it was plain no human being, in that land where (according to the Prophet) every man, woman, and child is a working bee, ever invaded;
"A leafy nook Where wind never entered, nor branch ever shook,"
known only to my equine friends and to me. I exulted in it! No discoverer of a new land, no stumbler upon a gold mine, was ever more exhilarated over his find than I over my solitary wild rose path.
The tangle was composed of a varied growth. There seemed to have been originally a straggling row of low trees, chokecherry, peach, and willow, which had been surrounded, overwhelmed, and almost buried by a rich growth of shoots from their own roots, bound and cemented together by the luxuriant wild rose of the West, which grows profusely everywhere it can get a foothold, stealing up around and between the branches, till it overtops and fairly smothers in blossoms a fair-sized oak or other tree. Besides these were great ferns, or brakes, three or four feet high, which filled up the edges of the thicket, making it absolutely impervious to the eye, as well as to the foot of any straggler. Except in the obscure passages the horses kept open, no person could penetrate my jungle.
I had hardly placed myself, and I had not noted half of these details, when it became evident that my presence disturbed somebody. A chat cried out excitedly, "chack! chack! whe-e-w!" whereupon there followed an angry squawk, so loud and so near that it startled me. I turned quickly, and saw madam herself, all ruffled as if from the nest. She was plainly as much startled as I was, but she scorned to flee. She perked up her tail till she looked like an exaggerated wren; she humped her shoulders; she turned this way and that, showing in every movement her anger at my intrusion; above all, she repeated at short intervals that squawk, like an enraged hen. Hearing a rustle of wings on the other side, I turned my eyes an instant, and when I looked again she had gone! She would not run while I looked at her, but she had the true chat instinct of keeping out of sight.
She did not desert her grove, however. The canopy over my head, the roof to my retreat, was of green leaves, translucent, almost transparent. The sun was the sun of Utah; it cast strong shadows, and not a bird could move without my seeing it. I could see that she remained on guard, hopping and flying silently from one point of view to another, no doubt keeping close watch of me all the time.
Meanwhile the chat himself had not for a moment ceased calling. For some time his voice would sound quite near; then it would draw off, growing more and more distant, as if he were tired of watching one who did absolutely nothing. But he never got far away before madam recalled him, sometimes by the squawk alone, sometimes preceding it by a single clear whistle, exactly in his own tone. At once, as if this were a signal,—which doubtless it was,—his cries redoubled in energy, and seemed to come nearer again.
Above the restless demonstrations of the chats I could hear the clear, sweet song of the Western meadow-lark in the next field. Well indeed might his song be serene; the minstrel of the meadow knew perfectly well that his nest and nestlings were as safely hidden in the middle of the growing lucern as if in another planet; while the chat, on the contrary, was plainly conscious of the ease with which his homestead might be discovered. A ruthless destroyer, a nest-robbing boy, would have had the whole thing in his pocket days ago. Even I, if I had not preferred to have the owners show it to me: if I had not made excuses to myself, of the marsh, of bushes too low to go under; if I had not hated to take it by force, to frighten the little folk I wished to make friends with,—even I might have seen the nest long before that morning. Thus I meditated as, after waiting an hour or two, I started for home.
Outside the gate I met my fellow-student, and we went on together. Our way lay beside an old orchard that we had often noticed in our walks. The trees were not far apart, and so overgrown that they formed a deep shade, like a heavy forest, which was most attractive when everything outside was baking in the June sun. It was nearly noon when we reached the gate, and looking into a place
"So curtained with trunks and boughs That in hours when the ringdove coos to his spouse The sun to its heart scarce a way could win,"
we could not resist its inviting coolness; we went in.
As soon as we were quiet, we noticed that there were more robins than we had heretofore seen in one neighborhood in that part of the world; for our familiar bird is by no means plentiful in the Rocky Mountain countries, where grassy lawns are rare, and his chosen food is not forthcoming. The old apple-trees seemed to be a favorite nesting-place, and before we had been there five minutes we saw that there were at least two nests within fifty feet of us, and a grosbeak singing his love song, so near that we had hopes of finding his home, also, in this secluded nook.
The alighting of a bird low down on the trunk of a tree, perhaps twenty feet away, called the attention of my friend to a neighbor we had not counted upon, a large snake, with, as we noted with horror, the color and markings of the dreaded rattler. He had, as it seemed, started to climb one of the leaning trunks, and when he had reached a point where the trunk divided into two parts, his head about two feet up, and the lower part of his body still on the ground, had stopped, and now rested thus, motionless as the tree itself. It may be that it was the sudden presence of his hereditary enemy that held him apparently spellbound, or it is possible that this position served his own purposes better than any other. Our first impulse was to leave his lordship in undisputed possession of his shady retreat; but the second thought, which held us, was to see what sort of reception the robins would give him. There was a nest full of young on a neighboring tree, and it was the mother who had come down to interview the foe. Would she call her mate? Would the neighbors come to the rescue? Should we see a fight, such as we had read of? We decided to wait for the result.
Strange to say, however, this little mother did not call for help. Not one of the loud, disturbed cries with which robins greet an innocent bird-student or a passing sparrow hawk was heard from her; though her kinsfolk sprinkled the orchard, she uttered not a sound. For a moment she seemed dazed; she stood motionless, staring at the invader as if uncertain whether he were alive. Then she appeared to be interested; she came a little nearer, still gazing into the face of her enemy, whose erect head and glittering eyes were turned toward her. We could not see that he made the slightest movement, while she hopped nearer and nearer; sometimes on one division of the trunk, and sometimes on the other, but always, with every hop, coming a little nearer. She did not act frightened nor at all anxious; she simply seemed interested, and inclined to close investigation. Was she fascinated? Were the old stories of snake power over birds true? Our interest was most intense; we did not take our eyes from her; nothing could have dragged us away then.
Suddenly the bird flew to the ground, and, so quickly that we did not see the movement, the head of the snake was turned over toward her, proving that it was the bird, and not us, he was watching. Still she kept drawing nearer till she was not more than a foot from him, when our sympathy with the unfortunate creature, who apparently was unable to tear herself away, overcame our scientific curiosity. "Poor thing, she'll be killed! Let us drive her away!" we cried. We picked up small stones which we threw toward her; we threatened her with sticks; we "shooed" at her with demonstrations that would have quickly driven away a robin in possession of its senses. Not a step farther off did she move; she hopped one side to avoid our missiles, but instantly fluttered back to her doom. Meanwhile her mate appeared upon the scene, hovering anxiously about in the trees overhead, but not coming near the snake.
By this time we had lost all interest in the question whether a snake can charm a bird to its destruction; we thought only of saving the little life in such danger. We looked around for help; my friend ran across the street to a house, hurriedly secured the help of a man with a heavy stick, and in two minutes the snake lay dead on the ground.
The bird, at once relieved, flew hastily to her nest, showing no signs of mental aberration, or any other effect of the strain she had been under. The snake was what the man called a "bull snake," and so closely resembled the rattler in color and markings that, although its exterminator had killed many of the more famous reptiles, he could not tell, until it was stretched out in death, which of the two it was. This tragedy spoiled the old orchard for me, and never again did I enter its gates.
Down the wild rose path I took my way the next morning. Silently and quickly I gained my seat of yesterday, hoping to surprise the chat family. No doubt my hope was vain; noiseless, indeed, and deft of movement must be the human being who could come upon this alert bird unawares. He greeted me with a new note, a single clear call, like "ho!" Then he proceeded to study me, coming cautiously nearer and nearer, as I could see out of the corner of my eye, while pretending to be closely occupied with my notebook. His loud notes had ceased, but it is not in chat nature to be utterly silent; many low sounds dropped from his beak as he approached. Sometimes it was a squawk, a gentle imitation of that which rang through the air from the mouth of his spouse; again it was a hoarse sort of mewing, followed by various indescribable sounds in the same undertone; and then he would suddenly take himself in hand, and be perfectly silent for half a minute.
After a little, madam took up the matter, uttering her angry squawk, and breaking upon my silence almost like a pistol shot. At once I forgot her mate, and though he retired to a little distance and resumed his brilliant musical performance, I did not turn my head at his beguilements. She was the business partner of the firm whose movements I wished to follow. She must, sooner or later, go to her nest, while he might deceive me for days. Indeed, I strongly suspected him of that very thing, and whenever he became bolder in approaching, or louder and more vociferous of tongue, I was convinced that it was to cover her operations. I redoubled my vigilance in watching for her, keeping my eyes open for any slight stirring of a twig, tremble of a leaf, or quick shadow near the ground that should point her out as she skulked to her nest. I had already observed that whenever she uttered her squawks he instantly burst into energetic shouts and calls. I believed it a concerted action, with the intent of drawing my attention from her movements.
On this day the disturbed little mother herself interviewed me. First she came silently under the green canopy, in plain sight, stood a moment before me, jerking up her beautiful long tail and letting it drop slowly back, and posing her mobile body in different positions; then suddenly flying close past me, she alighted on one side, and stared at me for half a dozen seconds. Then, evidently, she resolved to take me in hand. She assumed the role of deceiver, with all the wariness of her family; her object being, as I suppose, carefully to point out where her nest was not. She circled about me, taking no pains to avoid my gaze. Now she squawked on the right; then she acted "the anxious mother" on the left; this time it was from the clump of rosebushes in front that she rose hurriedly, as if that was her home; again it was from over my head, in the chokecherry-tree, that she bustled off, as if she had been "caught in the act." It was a brilliant, a wonderful performance, a thousand times more effective than trailing or any of the similar devices by which an uneasy bird mother draws attention from her brood. It was so well done that at each separate manoeuvre I could hardly be convinced by my own eyes that the particular spot indicated did not conceal the little homestead I was seeking. Several times I rose triumphant, feeling sure that "now indeed I do know where it is," and proceeded at once to the bush she had pointed out with so much simulated reluctance, parted the branches, and looked in, only to find myself deceived again. Her acting was marvelous. With just the properly anxious, uneasy manner, she would steal behind a clump of leaves into some retired spot admirably adapted for a chat's nest, and after a moment sneak out at the other side, and fly away near the ground, exactly as all bird-students have seen bird mothers do a thousand times.
After this performance a silence fell upon the tangle and the solitary nook in which I sat,—and I meditated. It was the last day of my stay. Should I set up a search for that nest which I was sure was within reach? I could go over the whole in half an hour, examine every shrub and low tree and inch of ground in it, and doubtless I should find it. No; I do not care for a nest thus forced. The distress of parents, the panic of nestlings, give me no pleasure. I know how a chat's nest looks. I have seen one with its pinky-pearl eggs; why should I care to see another? I know how young birds look; I have seen dozens of them this very summer. Far better that I never lay eyes upon the nest than to do it at such cost.
As I reached this conclusion, into the midst of my silence came the steady tramp of a horse. I knew the wild rose path was a favorite retreat from the sun, and it was very hot. The path was narrow; if a horse came in upon me, he could not turn round and retreat, nor was there room for him to pass me. Realizing all this in an instant, I snatched up my belongings, and hurried to get out before he should get in.
When I emerged, the chat set up his loudest and most triumphant shouts. "Again we have fooled you," he seemed to say; "again we have thrown your poor human acuteness off the scent! We shall manage to bring up our babies in safety, in spite of you!"
So indeed they might, even if I had seen them; but this, alas, I could not make him understand. So he treated me—his best friend—exactly as he treated the nest-robber and the bird-shooter.
I shall never know whether that nest contained eggs or young birds; or whether perchance there was no nest at all, and I had been deceived from the first by the most artful and beguiling of birds. And through all this I had never once squarely seen the chat I had been following.
"Even yet thou art to me No bird, but, an invisible thing, A voice, a mystery."
ON THE LAWN.
The first thing that strikes an Eastern bird-student in the Rocky Mountain region, as I have already said, is the absence of the birds he is familiar with. Instead of the chipping sparrow everywhere, one sees the lazuli-painted finch, or the Rocky Mountain bluebird; in place of the American robin's song, most common of sounds in country neighborhoods on the Atlantic side of the continent, is heard the silver bell of the towhee bunting, sometimes called marsh robin, or the harsh "chack" of Brewer's blackbird; the music that opens sleepy eyes at daybreak is not a chorus of robins and song-sparrows, but the ringing notes of the chewink, the clear-cut song of the Western meadow-lark, or the labored utterance of the black-headed grosbeak; it is not by the melancholy refrain of the whippoorwill or the heavenly hymns of thrushes that the approach of night is heralded, but by the cheery trill of the house wren or the dismal wail of the Western wood-pewee.
Most of all does the bird-lover miss the thrushes from the feathered orchestra. Some of them may dwell in that part of the world,—the books affirm it, and I cannot deny it,—but this I know: one whose eye is untiring, and whose ear is open night and day to bird-notes, may spend May, June, July, yes, and even August, in the haunts of Rocky Mountain birds, and not once see or hear either of our choice singing thrushes.
However the student may miss the birds he knows at home, he must rejoice in the absence of one,—the English sparrow. When one sees the charming purple finch and summer yellow-bird, nesting and singing in the streets of Denver, and the bewitching Arkansas goldfinch and the beautiful Western bluebird perfectly at home in Colorado Springs, he is reminded of what might be in the Eastern cities, if only the human race had not interfered with Nature's distribution of her feathered families. In Utah, indeed, we meet again the foreigner, for in that unfortunate Territory the man, wise in his own conceit, was found to introduce him, and Salt Lake, the city of their pride and glory, is as completely infested by the feathered tramp as New York itself. Happy is Colorado that great deserts form her borders, and that chains of mountains separate her from her neighbors; for, since the sparrow is as fond of the city as Dr. Johnson, it may be hoped that neither he, nor his children, nor his grandchildren, will ever cross the barriers.
In Utah, as everywhere, the English sparrows are sharp-witted rogues, and they have discovered and taken possession of the most comfortable place for bird quarters to be found, for protection from the terrible heat of summer, and the wind and snow of winter; it is between the roof and the stone or adobe walls of the houses. Wherever the inequalities of the stones or the shrinkage of the wood has left an opening, and made penetration possible, there an English sparrow has established a permanent abode.
The first bird I noticed in the quiet Mormon village where I settled myself to study was a little beauty in blue. I knew him instantly, for I had met him before in Colorado. He was dining luxuriously on the feathery seeds of a dandelion when I discovered him, and at no great distance was his olive-clad mate, similarly engaged. They were conversing cheerfully in low tones, and in a few minutes I suppose he called her attention to the superior quality of his dandelion; for she came to his side, and he at once flew to a neighboring bush and burst into song. It was a pretty little ditty, or rather a musical rattle on one note, resembling the song of the indigo bird, his near relative.
The lazuli-painted finch should be called the blue-headed finch, for the exquisite blueness of his whole head, including throat, breast, and shoulders, as if he had been dipped so far into blue dye, is his distinguishing feature. The bluebird wears heaven's color; so does the jay, and likewise the indigo bird; but not one can boast the lovely and indescribable shade, with its silvery reflections, that adorns the lazuli. Across the breast, under the blue, is a broad band of chestnut, like the breast color of our bluebird, and back of that is white, while the wings and tail are dark. Altogether, he is charming to look upon. Who would not prefer him about the yard to the squawking house sparrow, or even the squabbling chippy?
My catching the pair at dinner was not an accident; I soon found out that they lived there, and had settled upon a row of tall raspberry bushes that separated the garden from the lawn for their summer home. Madam was already at work collecting her building materials, and very soon the fragile walls of her pretty nest were formed in an upright crotch of the raspberries, about a foot below the top.
Naturally, I was greatly interested in the fairy house building, and often inspected the work while the little dame was out of sight. One day, however, as I was about to part the branches to look in, I heard an anxious "phit," and glanced up to see the owner alight on the lowest limb of a peach-tree near by. Of course I turned away at once, pretending that I was just passing, and had no suspicion of her precious secret in the raspberries, and hoping that she would not mind. But she did mind, very seriously; she continued to stand on that branch with an aggrieved air, as if life were no longer worth living, now that her home was perhaps discovered. Without uttering a sound or moving a muscle, so far as I could see, she remained for half an hour before she accepted my taking a distant seat and turning my attention to dragonflies as an apology, and ventured to visit her nest again. After that I made very sure that she was engaged elsewhere before I paid my daily call.
The dragonflies, by the way, were well worth looking at; indeed, they divided my interest with the birds. So many and such variety I never noticed elsewhere, and they acted exactly like fly-catching birds, staying an hour at a time on one perch, from which every now and then they sallied out, sweeping the air and returning to the perch they had left. Sometimes I saw four or five of them at once, resting on different dead twigs in the yard the other side of the lawn, and I have even seen one knock a fellow-dragonfly off a favorite perch and take it himself.
They were very beautiful, too: some with wings of transparent white or light amber barred off by wide patches of rich dark brown or black; others, again, smaller, and all over blue as the lazuli's head; and a third of brilliant silver, which sparkled as it flew, as if covered with spangles. One alighted there with wings which seemed to be covered with a close and intricate design in the most brilliant gold thread. I went almost near enough to put my hand on him, and I never saw a more gorgeous creature; beside his beautiful wings his back was of old gold, coming down in scallops over the black and dark blue under part.
In due time four lovely blue eggs filled the nest of the lazuli, and about the middle of June madam began to sit, and I had to be more careful than ever in timing my visits.
Some birds approach their nest in a loitering, aimless sort of way, as if they had no particular business, in that quarter, and, if they see any cause for alarm, depart with an indifferent air that reveals nothing of their secret. Not thus the ingenuous lazuli. She showed her anxiety every moment; coming in the most businesslike way, and proclaiming her errand to the most careless observer, till I thought every boy on the street would know where her eggs were to be found. She had a very pretty way of going to the nest; indeed, all her manners were winning. She always alighted on the peach-tree branch, looked about on all sides, especially at me in my seat on the piazza, flirted her tail, uttered an anxious "phit," and then jumped off the limb and dived under the bushes near the ground. It is to be presumed that she ascended to her nest behind the leaves by hopping from twig to twig, though this I could never manage to see.
And what of her gay little spouse all this time? Did he spend his days cheering her with music, as all the fathers of feathered families are fabled to do? Indeed he did not, and until I watched very closely, and saw him going about over the poplars in silence, I thought he had left the neighborhood. Once in the day he had a good singing time, about five o'clock in the morning, two hours before the sun rose over the mountains. If one happened to be awake then, he would hear the most rapturous song, delivered at the top of his voice, and continuing for a long time. But as it grew lighter, and the human world began to stir, he became quiet again, and, if he sang at all, he went so far from home that I did not hear him.
But the wise little blue-head had not deserted; he was merely cautious. Every time that the little sitter went off for food she met him somewhere, and he came back with her. Occasionally he took a peep at the treasures himself, but he never entered by her roundabout way. He always flew directly in from above.
Ten days passed away in this quiet manner, my attention divided between the birds, the dragonflies, and the clacking grasshopper, who went jerking himself about with a noise like a subdued lawn-mower, giving one the impression that his machinery was out of order.
The tenth day of sitting we had a south wind. That does not seem very terrible, but a south wind on the shore of the Great Salt Lake is something to be dreaded.
"A wind that is dizzy with whirling play, A dozen winds that have lost their way."
It starts up suddenly, and comes with such force as to snap off the leaves of trees, and even the tender twigs of shrubs. As it waxes powerful it bends great trees, and tries the strength of roofs and chimneys. From the first breath it rolls up tremendous clouds of dust, that come and come, and never cease, long after it seems as if every particle in that rainless land must have been driven by. It is in the "Great Basin," and the south wind is the broom that sweeps it clean. Not only dust does the south wind bring, but heat, terrible and suffocating, like that of a fiery furnace. Before it the human and the vegetable worlds shrink and wither, and birds and beasts are little seen.
Such a day was the birthday in the little nest in the raspberries, and on my usual morning call I found four featherless birdlings, with beaks already yawning for food. Every morning, of course, I looked at the babies, but it was not till the eighth day of their life that I found their eyes open. Before this they opened their mouths when I jarred the nest in parting the branches, thus showing they were not asleep, but did not open their eyes, and I was forced to conclude that they were not yet unclosed.
Sometimes the daily visit was made under difficulties, and I was unpleasantly surprised when I stepped upon the grass of the little lawn that I was obliged to cross. The grass looked as usual; the evening before we had been sitting upon it. But all night a stream had been silently spreading itself upon it, and my hasty step was into water two or three inches deep, which swished up in a small fountain and filled a low shoe in an instant.
This is one of the idiosyncrasies of irrigation, which it seemed I should never get accustomed to, and several times I was obliged to turn back for overshoes before I could pay my usual call. A lawn asoak is a curious sight, and always reminds me of Lanier's verses,
"A thousand rivulets run 'Twixt the roots of the soil; the blades of the marsh grass stir; ... and the currents cease to run, And the sea and the marsh are one."
The morning the lazulis were ten days old, before I came out of the house, that happened which so often puts an end to a study of bird life,—the nest was torn out of place and destroyed, and the little family had disappeared. The particulars will never be known. Whether a nest-robbing boy or a hungry cat was the transgressor, and whether the nestlings were carried off or eaten, or had happily escaped, who can tell? I could only judge by the conduct of the birds themselves, and as they did not appear disturbed, and continued to carry food, it is to be presumed that part, if not all, of the brood was saved from the wreck of their home.
Happily, to console me in my sorrow for this catastrophe, the lazuli was not the only bird to be seen on the lawn, though his was the only nest. I had for some time been greatly interested in the daily visits of a humming-bird, a little dame in green and white, who had taken possession of a honeysuckle vine beside the door, claiming the whole as her own, and driving away, with squeaky but fierce cries, any other of her race who ventured to sip from the coral cups so profusely offered.
The season for humming-birds opened with the locust blossoms next door, which were for days a mass of blooms and buzzings, of birds and bees. But when the fragrant flowers began to fall and the ground was white with them, one bird settled herself on our honeysuckle, and there took her daily meals for a month. Being not six feet from where I sat for hours every day, I had the first good opportunity of my life to learn the ways of one of these queer little creatures in feathers.
After long searching and much overhauling of the books, I made her out to be the female broad-tailed humming-bird, who is somewhat larger than the familiar ruby-throat of the East. Her mate, if she had one, never came to the vine; but whether she drove him away and discouraged him, or whether he had an independent source of supply, I never knew. She was the only one whose acquaintance I made, and in a month's watching I came to know her pretty well.
In one way she differed strikingly from any humming-bird I have seen: she alighted, and rested frequently and for long periods. Droll enough it looked to see such an atom, such a mere pinch of feathers, conduct herself after the fashion of a big bird; to see her wipe that needle-like beak, and dress those infinitesimal feathers, combing out her head plumage with her minute black claws, running the same useful appendages through her long, gauzy-looking wings, and carefully removing the yellow pollen of the honeysuckle blooms which stuck to her face and throat. Her favorite perch was a tiny dead twig on the lowest branch of a poplar-tree, near the honeysuckle. There she spent a long time each day, sitting usually, though sometimes she stood on her little wiry legs.
But though my humming friend might sit down, there was no repose about her; she was continually in motion. Her head turned from side to side, as regularly, and apparently as mechanically, as an elephant weaves his great head and trunk. Sometimes she turned her attention to me, and leaned far over, with her large, dark eyes fixed upon me with interest or curiosity. But never was there the least fear in her bearing; she evidently considered herself mistress of the place, and reproved me if I made the slightest movement, or spoke too much to a neighbor. If she happened to be engaged among her honey-pots when a movement was made, she instantly jerked herself back a foot or more from the vine, and stood upon nothing, as it were, motionless, except the wings, while she looked into the cause of the disturbance, and often expressed her disapproval of our behavior in squeaky cries.
The toilet of this lilliputian in feathers, performed on her chosen twig as it often was, interested me greatly. As carefully as though she were a foot or two, instead of an inch or two long, did she clean and put in order every plume on her little body, and the work of polishing her beak was the great performance of the day. This member was plainly her pride and her joy; every part of it, down to the very tip, was scraped and rubbed by her claws, with the leg thrown over the wing, exactly as big birds do. It was astonishing to see what she could do with her leg. I have even seen her pause in mid-air and thrust one over her vibrating wing to scratch her head.
Then when the pretty creature was all in beautiful order, her emerald-green back and white breast immaculate, when she had shaken herself out, and darted out and drawn back many times her long bristle-like tongue, she would sometimes hover along before the tips of the fence-stakes, which were like laths, held an inch apart by wires,—collecting, I suppose, the tiny spiders which were to be found there. She always returned to the honeysuckle, however, to finish her repast, opening and closing her tail as one flirts a fan, while the breeze made by her wings agitated the leaves for two feet around her. Should a blossom just ready to fall come off on her beak like a coral case, as it sometimes did, she was indignant indeed; she jerked herself back and flung it off with an air that was comical to see.
When the hot wind blew, the little creature seemed to feel the discomfort that bigger ones did: she sat with open beak as though panting for breath; she flew around with legs hanging, and even alighted on a convenient leaf or cluster of flowers, while she rifled a blossom, standing with sturdy little legs far apart, while stretching up to reach the bloom she desired.
Two statements of the books were not true in the case of this bird: she did not sit on a twig upright like an owl or a hawk, but held her body exactly as does a robin or sparrow; and she did fly backward and sideways, as well as forward.
Toward the end of June my tiny visitor began to make longer intervals between her calls, and when she did appear she was always in too great haste to stop; she passed rapidly over half a dozen blossoms, and then flitted away. Past were the days of loitering about on poplar twigs or preening herself on the peach-tree. It was plain that she had set up a home for herself, and the mussy state of her once nicely kept breast feathers told the tale,—she had a nest somewhere. Vainly, however, did I try to track her home: she either took her way like an arrow across the garden to a row of very tall locusts, where a hundred humming-birds' nests might have been hidden, or turned the other way over a neighbor's field to a cluster of thickly grown apple-trees, equally impossible to search. If she had always gone one way I might have tried to follow, but to look for her infinitesimal nest at opposite poles of the earth was too discouraging, even if the weather had been cool enough for such exertion.
When at last I could endure the wind and the dust and the heat no longer, and stood one morning on the porch, waiting for the most deliberate of drivers with his carriage to drive me to the station, that I might leave Utah altogether, the humming-bird appeared on the scene, took a sip or two out of her red cups, flirted her feathers saucily in my very face, then darted over the top of the cottage and disappeared; and that was the very last glimpse I had of the little dame in green.
Acadian flycatcher, 161.
Arkansas goldfinch, 23.
At four o'clock in the morning, 95.
Barbed wire fence, 157.
Behind the tangle, 246.
Birds: and poets, 194. a strange song, 73. different ways, 264. hard to study, 20. in Colorado, 18. in Colorado Springs, 260. in Denver, 260. in the "Wrens' Court," 161, 166, 168. leave nesting place, 154. morning chorus, 21, 22, 105. music in Colorado, 32. not on exhibition, 19. not sing alike, 34. panic among, 39. unfamiliar, 23, 259. Utah, 260.
Black-headed grosbeak, 244, 251. song of, 244.
Blue jay, 126. and doll, 103. and red-headed woodpecker, 104. apple-tree nest, 151. a struggle, 149. attentive to mate, 127. bad name, 147. devoted mother, 127. eating, 144. getting over the ground, 145. home deserted, 140. interview with, 146. joke or war-cry? 134. manners, 130, 132, 144. my search for nest, 126. no pretense, 130. pine-tree nest, 126. vocabulary, 133. when babies are noisy, 131. with a stranger, 148. with catbirds, 150.
Blue jay, the young: accident to, 140. beauty of, 143. climber, 141. first outing, 138. imperfect, 152. intelligence in house, 152. on edge of nest, 137. returned to parents, 153.
Bobolink song, 120.
Burro an investigator, 89.
Camp Harding, 9.
Camping in Colorado, 3.
Canyon wren, the, 74. manners, 86, 87. song, 74.
Cardinal grosbeak, 107. abandoning the nest, 120. as a father, 113. confidence in people, 121. delight of parents, 123. eating corn, 109, 115. importance of the builder, 119. kindness to young, 117. manners, 107. nest, 122. on grass, 105, 107. politeness to mate, 116. reception of woodpecker, 108. rose trellis nest, 121. speeding the parting guest, 125. victim of English sparrow, 114.
Cardinal, the young, 113. characteristics, 114. first baby out, 122. food of, 123. song of, 116. training, 116. with sparrows, 114, 115.
Carolina wren, the great: babies appear, 172. ceremony of approaching, 177. father disturbed, 175. first sight of, 159. fighting a chipmunk, 178. hard to see, 177. interruption to study, 168. manners, 163, 173, 175. mother anxious, 176. nest, 149, 182. song, 162, 164. trailing, 162. "Wrens' Court," 160.
Carolina wren, the young: cries of, 181. delay in taking flight, 179. development of, 174. first sallies, 180, 181. manners, 178.
Catbird song, 23.
Cat on lawn, 112.
Cedar-tree little folk, 194.
Charming nook, a, 124.
Chat, long-tailed, yellow-breasted, 40, 232. alertness of, 240. bewitching, 241. comes in sight, 237. eccentric, 232. egg stolen, 50. farewell, 51. first sight of, 45. hard to study, 47. haunts of, 241. home of, 246. humor, 40. manners, 44, 46, 238, 239, 240. nest, 47, 48. on hand, 245. saucy, 41. secret of invisibility, 239. studies me, 254, triumphant, 257. voice, 40, 43, 45, 236, 237, 239.
Chat, the madam: interviews me, 255. keeps her mate up to duty, 249. manners, 248. squawks, 254. wonderful acting, 256.
Chewink, or towhee bunting: babies, 31. green-tailed towhee, 210. husky cry, 30. manners, 28, 29. nest, 30. song, 29.
Cheyenne Canyon, 15. solitary possession of, 75.
Cheyenne Mountain, 43.
Cinderella among the flowers, a, 60.
Cliff-dwellers in the canyon, 70.
Colorado, a restful way to see, 13. the wonderland, 14.
Cotton storm, a, 17.
Cottonwoods, in the, 17.
Cuckoo, 157, 231.
Doll as a bogy, 103.
Dragonflies in Utah, 263.
English or house sparrow: as a climber, 110. autocrat, 129. in Utah, 261. robbing blackbirds, 100. robbing red-headed woodpecker, 110.
Feast of flowers, the, 52.
Flicker a character, 106.
Flowers: abundance of bloom, 54. anemone, 61. cactus, 56, 62, 74. castilleia, 67. cleome, 67. columbine, 58, 67. cyclamen, 67. extermination by cattle, 208. extermination by tourists, 68. geranium, 58. gilia, 64. golden prince's feather, 65. gummy and clinging stems, 66. harebells, 67. in a niche, 73. in Kansas, 52. mariposa lily, 65. mentzelia, 60. mertensia, 67. Mexican poppy, 62. milky juice, 66. moccasin plant, 54, 75. nasturtium, self-willed, 149. ox-eye daisy, 66. painter of, 68. paradise of, 53. pentstemon, 58. pink stranger, 62. primrose, 58, 67. roses, 58, 63, 75. spiderwort, 52. symphony in green, 55. varieties, 53, 57. vetches, 67. wild garden, 57. wild mignonette, 62. yellow daisies, 52. yucca, 55, 62.
Gates, idiosyncrasies of, 220.
Getting up in the morning, 95.
Glen, a beautiful, 155. frightened out of, 169.
Grasshopper, a clacking, 266.
Grave of "H. H.," 90, 91.
Great-crested flycatcher, 167.
Gull, the herring, 211. following the plow, 213. flight, 215. manners, 213. nesting, 216. nooning, 215. penalty for killing, 212. sent to the "Chosen People," 212. value of, 216.
Horned lark: horns, 36. nest, 36. song, 35.
Horse, a scared, and result, 228. drive me away, 257.
House wren, the Western, 24. babies, 27, 28. disturbed, 27. manners, 24. nest, 25. song, 27. strange cry, 25.
Humming-bird: collecting spiders, 271. different from the Eastern, 38. dislike of heat, 272. in canyon, 76. last glimpse, 273. manners, 269. nesting, 272. noisy, 38. precious beak, 271. scolding, 42. surveillance, 40. the broad-tailed, 268. toilet of, 271.
Ideal retreat, an, 247.
In a pasture, 207.
In the Middle Country, 93.
In the Rocky Mountains, 1.
Irrigation vagaries, 242, 245, 267.
Kitchen, an al fresco, 243.
Kitten, a lost, 39.
Lazuli-painted finch, 261. anxiety of mother, 263. babies, 267. manners, 262, 265. nest, 262. nest destroyed, 268.
Magpie: discover us, 225. manners, 216, 219, 224. nest, 223. nursery, 230. reception to us, 227. search for nest, 216. song, 224.
Meadow-lark, the Western, 249. cry, 120. song, 24, 32, 34.
Morning tramp, a, 156.
Mosquito, absence of, 20. a lonely, 21.
Mourning dove, 103. headquarters, 199. joke of, 200. manners, 196, 198, 199. nest, 198. silence of, 201, 204. song, 195, 204. talk, 204. wing whistle, 204. young, interview with, 201. young, manners of, 197, 201.
Oak-brush, the, 222.
On the lawn, 259.
Orchard, an old, 250.
Orchard oriole: a later view, 191. anxiety of parents, 185. baby cries, 186. babies' first flight, 189, 190. call from a Baltimore, 188. called by nestlings, 184. manners, 186, 190. nest, 184, 192. song of female, 191. song of male, 192.
Park, a deserted, 42.
Pewee, Western wood, 22. nest, 38. song, 22, 37. voice, 37.
Purple grackle, the, 96. discouraging them, 104. eating, 100. greeting to me, 97. husky tones, 98. humor, 99. no repose of manner, 101. plumage, 99. robbed by sparrows, 100. strange utterances, 98. treatment of young, 101. young, 98, 101, 102. young, persistence of, 102.
Red-headed woodpecker: autocrat, 106. eating corn, 109. protecting the place, 110. treatment of cardinal grosbeak, 108. treatment of doll, 104.
Rest, to find, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11.
Robin, absence of, 28. and corn, 103. and doll, 103. not plentiful, 250. reception of snake, 250.
Rocky Mountains: a pasture on, 207. Cheyenne range, 235. Wasatch range, 233, 234.
Sage the delight of my friend, 234.
Salt Lake, view of, 218.
Secret of the Wild Rose Path, 231.
Seven Sisters' Falls, 72.
Sight-seeing travelers, 12.
South wind, 266.
Strange character of feathered world, 128.
Strangers not allowed, 129.
Study of birds, my way, 226.
Study of birds, two ways, 236.
Tents to live in, 11.
Thrushes absent, 260.
Tourist, 89, 91.
Tourist, the unscrupulous, 68.
Towhee (see Chewink).
Tragedy of a nest, 42.
Uproar of song, an, 32.
Vagaries of name-givers, 160.
View, a beautiful, 136.
Walks from the camp, 70. the evening, 70. the morning, 72. up to the canyon, 72.
Water ouzel, or American dipper: baby, 80, 85. cry, 79. "dipping," 80. feats in the water, 83. manners, 80, 81. nest, 77. song, 79, 81. the mother, 82.
Wood-thrush nest, 168.
Yellow warbler: nest, 36, 37. song, 23, 36.
Transcriber's Note: Letters with a macron above are represented by x. Typographical errors corrected in the text: Page 72 standstone changed to sandstone Page 153 Word "to" added before "one side" Page 250 cooes changed to coos Page 277 " added to "Wrens' Court,