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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Birds - The Lark

( Originally Published 1894 )

The skylark is common all over Europe and is an especial favourite in the British Isles. It builds its nest on the ground among growing corn or high grass, and shows especial care for its young. Its song is perhaps the most joyous and inspiriting of those of English birds. Captain Brown quotes the following interesting particulars of its song from a communication made by Mr. J. Main to the " Magazine of Natural History:" "His joyous matins and heavenward flight have been aptly compared to hymns and acts of adoration and praise. No bird sings with more method: there is an overture performed vivace crescendo, while the singer ascends; when at the full height, the song becomes moderato, and distinctly divided into short passages, each repeated three or four times over, like a fantasia, in the same key and time. If there be any wind, he rises perpendicularly by bounds, and afterwards poises himself with breast opposed to it. If calm, he ascends in spiral circles; in horizontal circles during the principal part of his song, and zigzagly downwards during the performance of the finale. Sometimes, after descending about half way, he ceases to sing, and drops with the velocity of an arrow to the ground. Those acquainted with the song of the skylark can tell without looking at them whether the birds be ascending or stationary in the air, or on their descent; so different is the style of the song in each case. In the first, there is an expression of ardent impatience; in the second, an andante composure, in which rests of a bar at a time frequently occur; and in the last, a graduated sinking of the strains."

Mrs. Bowdich quoting from "The Naturalist" gives the following pretty story of the maternal instinct of the Lark:--"The other day, some mowers shaved off the upper part of the nest of a skylark, without injuring the female, who was sitting on her young: still she did not fly away; and the mowers levelled the grass all round her, without her taking any notice of their proceedings. The son of the owner of the crop witnessed this, and, about an hour afterwards, went to see if she were safe; when, to his great surprise, he found that she had actually constructed a dome of dry grass over the nest during the interval, leaving an aperture on one side for ingress and egress; thus endeavouring to secure a continuance of the shelter previously supplied by the long grass." Buffon tells a remarkable story of the self-sacrifice of a young lark who took upon itself the duties of a foster mother. He says:-"A young hen bird was brought to me in the month of May, which was not able to feed without assistance. I caused her to be educated, and she was hardly fledged when I received from another place a nest of three or four unfledged skylarks. She took a strong liking to these new-comers, which were scarcely younger than herself; she tended them night and day, cherished them beneath her wings, and fed them with her bill. Nothing could interrupt her tender offices. If the young ones were torn from her, she flew to them as soon as she was liberated, and would not think of effecting her own escape, which she might have done a hundred times. Her affection grew upon her; she neglected food and drink; she now required the same support as her adopted offspring, and expired at last consumed with maternal anxiety. None of the young ones survived her. They died one after another; so essential were her cares, which were equally tender and judicious."

The Lark when pursued by the Hawk has been known to seek refuge under the protection of man, as the following quoted by Captain Brown from Bell's " Weekly Messenger " will show. " On Wednesday, the 6th of October, 1805, as a gentleman was sitting on the rocks at the end of Collercot's sands, near Tynemouth, Northumberland, dressing himself after bathing, he perceived a hawk in the air, in close pursuit of, and nearly within reach of a lark. To save the little fugitive, he shouted and clapped his hands, when immediately the lark descended, and alighted on his knee, nor did it offer to leave him, when taken into the hand, but seemed confident of that protection, which it found. The hawk sailed about for some time. The gentleman, after taking the lark nearly to Tynemouth, restored it to its former liberty."

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