Children nature walk-July 4

The stories are taken from the book 'Walks of a Country Naturalist' { with his children},not in copyright and courtesy of the Gutenberg Project. The author was based in Shropshire { English Midlands} and the book was written in the 1800's. Only if the species names have changed and other relevant information will I add to the text and this will be in brackets. Otherwise the story is as it was printed in the book. Additional images will be attributed with there license permissions.Images that are not so attributed are taken from the book.

Our story begins----

On the page Children nature walk-July-3, we left the family in the fields having looked at the grasshopper,it is here that we rejoin them----

Here is a large pond, and from this bank we can look down into the water. There are some yellow water lilies with their broad expanded leaves.  I have noticed that the blossoms are often attacked by the larvae of some two-winged flies. These flies lay their eggs within the petals;'lily-cradled';literally,the eggs hatch and the larvae eat the cradle. I do not know any more about these flies. I have often meant to trace their history,but I have somehow forgotten to do so.

Do you see that pike basking on top of the water,how still and motionless he lies. He is a good sized fish,at least I should say he is four pounds weight. " I wish we could catch him" said Willy.We have no tackle with us;besides,when pike are sunning themselves in that way on top of the water, they are seldom inclined to take bait.

" What is the largest pike", asked Jack " You ever saw caught? "  The largest I ever saw alive was one caught in the canal about five years ago;it weighed twenty four pounds,and was really a splendid fish. What voracious fish they are;they will often take young ducks,water-hens and coots,and will sometimes try to swallow a fish much to large for their throats. It is said that a pike once seized the head of a swan as she was feeding under the water and gorged so much of it as killed them both. The servants perceiving the swan with its head under water for much longer than usual took the boat and found both the swan and pike dead!

" Gesner,relates that a pike in the Rhone seized on the lips of a mule that was brought to water,and that beast drew the fish out before it could disengage itself. Walton was assured by his friend Mr.Segrave whom kept tame otters,that he had known a pike in extreme hunger fight with one of his otters for a carp that the otter had caught and was then bringing out of the water. A woman in Poland had her foot seized by a pike  as she was washing clothes in a pond"

Mr Jesse, tells the story of a gentleman,who,as he was one day walking by the side of a river, Wey,saw a large pike in a shallow creek;he immediately pulled off his coat, tucked up his shirt sleeves,and went into the water to intercept the return of the fish to the river,and endeavour  to throw it out onto the bank,by getting his hands under it. during the attempt the Pike ,finding he could not make his escape,seized one of the arms of the gentleman,and lacerated it so much that the marks of the wound were visible for a long time afterwards

Pike will live to a great age ninety Years or more. { Scientific data shows that Pike can live for over thirty years but this depends on the habitat depth of water availability of food}etc-Dal} In the year 1497,according to old Gesner, a pike was taken at Halibrun in Suabia { An historic region of South West Germany-Dal} with a Brazen ring attached to it, on which was the following inscription in Greek   " I am the fish that was put into the lake by the hands of the governor of the universe,Frederick the second the 5th of October,1230" This pike therefore would be two hundred and sixty seven years old;people said that it weighed three hundred and fifty pounds and its skeleton was nineteen feet long. I will show you a picture of this ring in Gesner's book we we get home.


The pike is a large fish with teeth

Public domain  Drawing by Timothy Knepp USFWS.Esox lucius1.jpg


On the way home our family walk by the canal--and the Rev Houghton spies a blue tit

The little blue tit,which has just fled across our path is a very pretty active bird, and common everywhere,in lanes,woods and gardens. The blue tit makes its nest in a wall or a hole in a tree, and lays nine or ten pretty little spotted eggs. How often I remember,when I was a boy,to have been bitten rather sharply by this little bird into whose nest I had placed my hand. I can fancy I can hear the snake-like hissing which the blue tit utters when some rude hand invades its home. Its food consists of various kinds of larvae and insects,which it finds on the bark of trees and in fruit buds. I think it does much good by eating all kinds of injurious insects,though gardeners and others destroy this bird, because they say it harms the fruit buds.

Look at this sprightly fellow,how restless he is;in what curious attitudes he puts himself on yonder branch. Hark!,you hear him tapping quite distinctly. Mr.St.John tells us that the blue tom tit {old name for the bird} once took up his abode in the drawing room,having been first attracted there by the house flies which crawl on the window," These he was most active searching for and catching, inserting his little bill into every corner and crevice detecting every fly,which had escaped the brush of the housemaid" He soon became more bold and came down to pick up crumbs that the children placed for him on the table, looking up into Mr.St,Johns face without the least apparent fear. The boys sometimes call the little blue tit 'Billy Biter' no doubt from their own experiences of the sharpness of Mr. Tit's beak.


The charming little Blue tit

Creative commons attribution share alike 2.5 generic license.

" Oh! papa",said Willy, " there are some birds on the towing-path of the canal about sixty yards off;they seem to be breaking something with their beaks by knocking it against the ground;just look" Yes, they are thrushes,and I can tell you what they are doing and what we shall find when we get to the spot. We shall see several broken snail shells {Helix},which the thrushes find on grassy slopes of the canal bank then take them up to the path in order to get at the animals inside the shell by breaking them against the hard ground and stones.

There! as I told you see at least a dozen broken snail shells. I am sure the thrushes do a great deal of good destroying both snails and young slugs and it is a pity their labours are not more appreciated than they are. Lads in the village and great grown men from the collieries,are continually hunting for the nests,eggs or young thrushes,and many other useful birds,which they wantonly destroy.

Now we get on the Duke's Drive,and there, on the branch of a poplar tree,I see the great tit. Look at him; he is the king of the titmice,and he seems to know it. he is a restless fellow,like tits in general,look at his black head and breast,white cheeks and greenish back. Now by one of his hooked claws,he hangs suspended from a branch;now again he his clinging by both legs;see how busy he is examining the leaves and bark for insects. 

Great tit is our largest species of tit. Female in Lancashire UK

Courtesy of Francis C Franklin   CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

The bird has a black head with a prominent white cheek, a greenish back, a blue wing with a prominent white bar, and a yellowish belly.

There flies one of those pretty little birds,the long-tailed titmouse;it is common enough,certainly; but I never fail to notice several upon the hedges and the poplar trees of the 'Duke's Drive'. We have several species of titmouse family in Britain. Let me count them first we have the great tit,then the little blue tit,the long tailed tit the cole tit {coal} the crested tit, the marsh tit and the bearded tit how many does that make?. Seven { there is also the willow tit }. The crested tit is very uncommon,and the bearded tit doe not occur in Shropshire. They other five are very common and as we have seen we have met with some of them.

The long tailed tit is so called on account of the great length of the tail feathers; it is a very active lively little bird. Indeed active and liveliness  belong to all the tit family. See how the little fellow flits from branch to branch,seldom remaining long on one spot. It is a very small bird almost the smallest British bird we have;of course I am thinking of the birds body and not taking into account its tail.

The skin is remarkably tender, and thin as tissue paper. Like all tits the long tailed titmouse feeds on insects and their larvae. I do not remember  to have heard or seen this species tapping the bark of a tree with its beak as the great tit and blue tit are in the habit of doing, but most probably they do the same . " What do they tap for, papa ?" asked May. I suppose for the purpose of frightening the tiny insects,which lurk under the bark,from their hiding places,when they quickly snap them up with their sharply-pointed bills and devour them.

"Is this not the tit,that which people around here call the bottle tit,and which makes a very beautiful nest?" asked Willy. Yes the nest is very pretty object,and one that you would never,I think, confuse with the nest of any other bird. The outside is formed of that white coloured lichen,so pretty and so common,and moss,and if you were to put your finger , May, into the inside which is full of the the softest feathers,you would say it was as nice as your own muff. The nest is oval,with a hole at the side. I believe that sometimes two holes exist, but I have never seen two in a nest.The eggs are very small,and are white with a few lilac spots. As many as a dozen or more are sometimes found in a nest.

Long tailed tit

Courtesy of Dave Croker  CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic license.

Long tailed Tit on a washing line - geograph.org.uk - 1714032.jpg

Drawing of the long tailed tit

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