The Mountains of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about The Mountains of California.

One cold afternoon, while hunting along the river-bank, he noticed a plain-feathered little bird skipping about in the shallows, and immediately raised his gun.  But just then the confiding songster began to sing, and after listening to his summery melody the charmed hunter turned away, saying, “Bless your little heart, I can’t shoot you, not even for Tom.”

[Illustration:  YOSEMITE BIRDS, SNOW-BOUND AT THE FOOT OF INDIAN CANON.]

Even so far north as icy Alaska, I have found my glad singer.  When I was exploring the glaciers between Mount Fairweather and the Stikeen River, one cold day in November, after trying in vain to force a way through the innumerable icebergs of Sum Dum Bay to the great glaciers at the head of it, I was weary and baffled and sat resting in my canoe convinced at last that I would have to leave this part of my work for another year.  Then I began to plan my escape to open water before the young ice which was beginning to form should shut me in.  While I thus lingered drifting with the bergs, in the midst of these gloomy forebodings and all the terrible glacial desolation and grandeur, I suddenly heard the well-known whir of an Ouzel’s wings, and, looking up, saw my little comforter coming straight across the ice from the shore.  In a second or two he was with me, flying three times round my head with a happy salute, as if saying, “Cheer up, old friend; you see I’m here, and all’s well.”  Then he flew back to the shore, alighted on the topmost jag of a stranded iceberg, and began to nod and bow as though he were on one of his favorite boulders in the midst of a sunny Sierra cascade.

The species is distributed all along the mountain-ranges of the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, and east to the Rocky Mountains.  Nevertheless, it is as yet comparatively little known.  Audubon and Wilson did not meet it.  Swainson was, I believe, the first naturalist to describe a specimen from Mexico.  Specimens were shortly afterward procured by Drummond near the sources of the Athabasca River, between the fifty-fourth and fifty-sixth parallels; and it has been collected by nearly all of the numerous exploring expeditions undertaken of late through our Western States and Territories; for it never fails to engage the attention of naturalists in a very particular manner.

Such, then, is our little cinclus, beloved of every one who is so fortunate as to know him.  Tracing on strong wing every curve of the most precipitous torrents from one extremity of the Sierra to the other; not fearing to follow them through their darkest gorges and coldest snow-tunnels; acquainted with every waterfall, echoing their divine music; and throughout the whole of their beautiful lives interpreting all that we in our unbelief call terrible in the utterances of torrents and storms, as only varied expressions of God’s eternal love.

CHAPTER XIV

THE WILD SHEEP (Ovis montana)

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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