Before I quit the subject of birds, I must recall to your remembrance the little houses that the Americans build for the swallow; I have since found out one of their great reasons for cherishing this useful bird. It appears that a most rooted antipathy exists between this species and the hawk tribe, and no hawk will abide their neighbourhood; as they pursue them for miles, annoying them in every possible way, haunting the hawk like its evil genius: it is most singular that so small a creature should thus overcome one that is the formidable enemy of so many of the feathered race. I should have been somewhat sceptical on the subject, had I not myself been an eyewitness to the fact. I was looking out of my window one bright summer-day, when I noticed a hawk of a large description flying heavily along the lake, uttering cries of distress; within a yard or two of it was a small—in the distance it appeared to me a very small—bird pursuing it closely, and also screaming. I watched this strange pair till the pine-wood hid them from my sight; and I often marvelled at the circumstance, till a very intelligent French Canadian traveller happened to name the fact, and said so great was the value placed on these birds, that they had been sold at high prices to be sent to different parts of the province. They never forsake their old haunts when once naturalized, the same pairs constantly returning year after year, to their old house.
The singular fact of these swallows driving the hawk from his haunts is worthy of attention; as it is well authenticated, and adds one more to the many interesting and surprising anecdotes recorded by naturalists of the sagacity and instinct of these birds.
I have, however, scribbled so many sheets, that I fear my long letter must weary you.
Utility of Botanical Knowledge.—The Fire-Weed.—Sarsaparilla Plants.— Magnificent Water-Lily.—Rice Beds.—Indian Strawberry.—Scarlet Columbine.—Ferns.—Grasses.
July 13, 1834
OUR winter broke up unusually early this year: by the end of February the ground was quite free from snow, and the weather continued all through March mild and pleasant, though not so warm as the preceding year, and certainly more variable. By the last week in April and the beginning of May, the forest-trees had all burst into leaf, with a brilliancy of green that was exquisitely lovely.
On the 14th, 15th, and 16th of May, the air became suddenly cold, with sharp winds from the north-west, and heavy storms of snow that nipped the young buds, and destroyed many of the early-sown vegetable seeds; fortunately for us we were behindhand with ours, which was very well, as it happened.
Our woods and clearings are now full of beautiful flowers. You will be able to form some idea of them from the dried specimens that I send you. You will recognize among them many of the cherished pets of our gardens and green-houses, which are here flung carelessly from Nature’s lavish hand among our woods and wilds.