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epicure gains by the exchange of the red-legged species of partridge. Inveterate runners, they are the very instruments of action for spoiling good dogs, and, on the table, as we heard a worthy old farmer once say, they be dooms dry.' They are hardly presentable roasted, if they are not artistically larded. Split and brandered, they are passable, with the aid of fresh mushrooms; but the best way of presenting them is aux choux. It is sacrilege to swamp the juicy sapid British bird in such a savoury olio.
And here we must protest against a most abominable custom, which has lately grown up, of steeping grain in poisonous solutions with the view of guarding it against the ravages of insects. As a preventive precaution, we believe it to be next to nugatory; and to the feathered game, especially to partridges, it is most destructive. Not long ago, a whole Covey was found sitting dead from the effect of poisoned wheat. Birds which have picked up this deadly food are frequently sent to table, and more instances than one have occurred of serious illness produced by partaking of the drugged dish. The King of Pontus alone would have been safe in a country where this lethal system was practised; and we advise no one to indulge in partridges where it prevails, unless he can digest them sauced with arsenic or corrosive sublimate.
The common English partridge, when tamed-and it is easily susceptible of such domestication, though it is difficult to get it to breed in confinement becomes often very much attached to its owner. Titian's picture of the Emperor Charles the Fifth preceded by one of these birds will occur to those of our readers who are familiar with the works of the great Venetian painter.
A lady in West Sussex had a tame partridge for many years: it was a mere chick when it came into her possession, and no dog or parrot ever presented a more perfect model of affection and docility. Although it had the run of the house, its favourite quarters were in the drawing-room, where it would sit for hours on the back of the chair usually occupied by its beloved mistress, and never fail to exhibit every symptom of grief and concern during her occasional
absence. When she retired to rest, it would accompany her to her chamber, and take up its position near the head of her bed. No wonder then that many a tear was dropped when, from an untimely accident, it went the way of all' pets.
The chapters on hawks and hawking will be found full of pleasant
Of the Peregrine Falcon, which is evidently a favourite with Mr. Knox, and it well deserves the distinction, he gives a very interesting account, pointing out the accuracy of Virgil's well-known description::
Quam facile accipiter saxo, sacer ales, ab alto
Consequitur pennis sublimem in nube columbam,
Comprensamque tenet, pedibusque eviscerat uncis ;
Tum cruor et vulsæ labuntur ab æthere plumæ.
On one of the most inaccessible ledges (writes Mr. Knox) of a lofty maritime cliff on the north-west coast of Ireland, long year been established: there have a pair of these hawks have for many a I frequently seen either of them plunge into the midst of a party of rock pigeons (columba livia), as they issued from a deep fissure in the face of the rock, and carry one off to their expectant family. Even the deadly clutch of the falcon at the moment that he grasps his quarry (comprensamque tenet) is true to the life, for although at other seasons, and in different situations, he usually fells his victim to the earth at a single blow, yet when foraging for his young he selects from the motley inhabitants of the cliff one of ring gull, a jackdaw, and occasionally moderate size-a pigeon, a puffin, a hereven his congener the kestrel - for a greater burden might impede his ascent to the eyrie; and it would be irretrievably lost if struck in the ordinary manner, and suffered to fall into the sea, perhaps many hundred feet below.
Our ancestors, who spent so much of their time in the open air, loving rather to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak, valued the bird so highly, as the principal instrument of one of their most stirring amusements, that in the days of gentle King Jamie, a sum equivalent to a thousand pounds of our money was once given for a welltrained 'cast.' The peregrine may be traced, under the name of the gull-hawk, the puffin-hawk, the duck-hawk, the sharp-winged hawk,
the great blue hawk, the great hawk of Benbulben, &c., whether the appellation be pronounced in the language of the ancient Briton, the Celt, or the Saxon.-(p. 19.)
The geographical distribution of the species is very wide; and distant as their eyries are-for no noble birds of prey, no, nor ravens nor crows, will tolerate near neighbours of the same species, having a shrewd eye to the supplies-Mr. Knox observes that there is no nest of the falcon, however remote or isolated, where, in the event of the death of one of the proprietors, the survivor will not succeed, generally within twenty-four hours, in finding a helpmate of the opposite sex, even when none but the original pair had, up to that moment perhaps, ever been observed in the neighbourhood. similar propensity has been remarked with regard to partridges, as far as one sex is concerned, by White, of happy Selborne memory, who states that a sporting friend related, that though he had widowed the same hen several times, she always found a new mate.
Not very faithful this: but the ornithological world must be peopled. The same observing sportsman had noticed the habit of the cock partridges congregating, and pleasantly called such societies old bachelors.
But to return to the peregrine. Mr. Knox has not only seen it strike down grouse that he had wounded -he gives at page 20 a lively description of such a robbery on one of those sultry, bad-scenting days that a sportsman abhors-but the swapping mallard in his full vigour.
In a secluded part of the demesne of Parsontown is the confluence of the Birr and the Brosna, where the former pours its rapid and turbid stream, springing from the distant mountains, into the dark but clear Brosna, in whose bosom they are gradually lost. This last river forms the boundary between Tipperary and King's County, and having its source in one of the vast bogs which extend through this part of Ireland, winds along, deep and silent-now contracting itself, as it hurries over some declivity-now stretching out into wide pools, whose sluggish waters are margined with swampy banks, well fringed with beds of
whispering reeds and tall, sighing sedges, presenting a combination of all that forms a winter paradise for wild-fowl.-(p. 23.)
Towards the close of a day's snipeshooting, Mr. Knox stealthily approached this spot, not without hope of adding a few teal or widgeon to his bag, just at twilight. Crawling along the side of the river, and availing himself of every inequality in an approach frequently made on his hands and knees, he at last found himself standing up to the latter in mud, sinking deeper and deeper still at each succeding moment, but buoyed up by the consciousness of the capital position which he held for a family shot at the first party of ducks that might rise. Two mallards and a teal had already passed within tempting distance, but our sporting author reserved his fire; and at last, as the light was waning, he managed to clap his hands, when up sprang some dozen within a few yards. Bang-bang, right and left, goes the gun, and down tumble about half of them into the pool-the shooter being planté in the ooze without dog of any kind. The report of the gun sent up a cloud of ducks, widgeon, and teal, which kept wheeling about the planted sportsman while he was loading; and by the time the operation was finished, they were sweeping in circles far aloft, until they were all but lost in the distance; for, unlike Robinson Crusoe, Mr. Knox had not, on this occasion, two guns with him, as every wild-fowl shooter should have. Well, unlike a friend of ours whom we have seen, under such circumstances, off with his lendings, and most successfully play the part of his own retriever, Mr. Knox felt himself obliged to give up all idea of recovering the dropped birds; and just as he was casting his last lingering look at the distant ducks, he saw a Peregrine falcon pass rapidly overhead in full pursuit
of a batch which had cleared the opposite bank, and were making for Killeen bog, about a mile off. She soon singled out a duck which had quitted its companions, and endeavoured, by making a wide circuit, to attain a greater elevation. This act brought both duck and falcon nearly over the spot where Mr.
Knox was standing, no longer thinking of his own dead or wounded fowl in the absorbing anxiety of the moment. It was already growing dark, and he feared lest, after all, he should not be a witness to the termination of the chace. The falcon was just then above her quarry, in a favourable position, but evidently waiting until the duck had cleared the banks of the river. Then down she came, the sound of the fatal blow reaching the spectator's ears distinctly, as the duck tumbled, heels over head, through the air into the callows on the opposite side of the Brosna, where Mr. Knox saw the conqueror descend with closed pinions till an intervening bank of sedges hid both from his view; when, we suppose, he scrambled out of the mud.
This was enough to whet the appetite of our ornithological sportsman for a more satisfactory view of the exciting scene of the falcon in action, unchecked by artificial influences; and many a weary and chilling hour did he pass, for the sake of improving his acquaintance with the peregrine, in a well concealed position, not far from the junction of the two streams, and commanding a good view of both banks of the pool.
On one side spread the wide callows, or flooded meadows, stretching away towards the great bog of Killeen, with the fairy mountain of Knockshegowna (immortalized by Crofton Croker) in the distance. Immediately in front, near the edge of the river, stood a dead tree, the topmost branch of which was the falcon's favourite resting-place. There she sat, erect and motionless, as if scorning to conceal her person, and in full reliance on her own irresistible powers whenever she chose to exert them.
On the other side lay the grounds of the demesne watered by the upper river, here working its obscure way through the trees, many of which, uprooted by a late flood, were still floating on its surface; there rushing down an abrupt descent in a foaming cascade, or suddenly turning away into open ground and expanding into many a little bay, where neither bush nor bramble could interfere with the tackle of the fly-fisher; while the grey turrets that flank the monster telescope, and the summit of the great tube itself, frowned over the tops of the trees near the castle.
After waiting one day in vain, Mr. Knox changed his tactics, and dispatching a fight-footed native well acquainted with the favourite resorts of the fowl in the labyrinths of a distant bog, through which the river meandered, he directed his messenger to flush them from the recesses thereof, whilst he resumed the post which he had occupied on the preceding day.
For the first half-hour (writes the watcher) I was almost in despair: for the falcon was absent from her accustomed station, and I thought it not improbable that the operations of my coadjutor might have attracted her attention, and that she was perhaps at that very moment in full enjoyment of a chace which I was fated not to witness; but on looking up a few moments afterwards, there she sat, bolt upright as usual, and now every minute appeared an hour, as I strained my eyes continually in the direction from which I expected the arrival of the first detachment of ducks. Presently a cluster of dark spots appeared against the distant sky, gradually becoming more distinct, and sinking lower and lower as they neared the river, and at last keeping close to its surface, until they scudded by within a few yards of the commanding position of their enemy; who, probably from her reluctance to strike so large a quarry as a wild-duck, which she could not have clutched and carried off with ease across the water, suffered them to pass unmolested. Next came two or three wigeons, which also ran the gauntlet with impunity. I now began to fancy that the appetite of the hawk must have been satisfied by some recent prey, or that perhaps the bird which I had seen her strike two days before might remain still undigested. Just at that moment, however, a whistling of wings reached my ears; and I perceived a party of five or six wild ducks and a few tea! approaching from a different direction, and nearly at right-angles to the course of the river, which they would apparently have reached at a point about thirty yards distant from the falcon's position. But she had no intention of allowing them such an advantage. In an instant she was on the wing, and had cut them off from their retreat. For a few seconds it seemed doubtful which was to be the victim, but one of the mallards having made a bolder dash at the stream than his companions, she seemed to mark him at once for destruction, while on his part he endeavoured to mount above his pursuer, and strained every nerve to accomplish this object by ascending spi
rally. In the meantime his comrades, availing themselves of this diversion in their favour, scudded down to the water and dashed at once into the friendly shelter of the sedges. Almost at the same instant the falcon made a swoop, but missing her quarry, she suddenly appeared a considerable distance below him, and now it seemed doubtful whether she could recover the advantage which she had lost by this unexpected failure. While she struggled upwards again in circular gyrations, and the mallard also made the best of his time to attain a higher elevation by executing a similar movement, but in a much wider curve, the two birds frequently seemed to be flying in opposite directions. The superior ease and rapidity, however, with which this manoeuvre was performed by the peregrine, soon convinced me that the result of the chace could not be doubtful; for the drake was now far from his favourite element, and as each successive evolution brought his enemy nearer and nearer, he seemed to relax in his efforts to ascend any higher, and at length turning his tail to the wind, away he went towards the bog of Killeen, trusting for escape to the rapidity of his flight, and closely pursued by the falcon. I felt that not a moment was to be lost if I wished to witness the denouement; so, scrambling to the top of the bank, I I was just in time to see the mallard tumbling headlong to the earth, while the falcon, checking her downward career for a moment, as if to satisfy herself of the success of the stroke, dropped to the spot where he had fallen in the middle of a wide marsh, which I might have reached, by crossing the river at a higher point and making a circuit of about half a mile; but fearing that any closer inspection of her proceedings might tend to alarm her from her favourite haunts, and being quite satisfied with my share of the sport, I left her to discuss her well-earned prize without further interruption.
Another chapter, the ninth,
'all of Hawking is, Than which there can be found no better blisse,'
according to rare old Turbervile ;* and Mr. Knox seems entirely to agree with him-treating of the sport from the grouse and heron to the magpie; which last, according to Sir John Sebright and others, affords capital amusement.
Here is a specimen of one of the
modern attempts at what our ancestors denominated 'flying at the brook :'
The falconer and his party-of which I was one-stationed themselves in a deep ditch or drain which traversed the edge of a large bog, over which the herons had been observed to fly very low, when returning from fishing in the neighbouring swamps and morasses. Some of us would crawl occasionally to the top of the bank, and straining our eyes to the utmost, endeavour to catch a glimpse of the quarry in the distance, as, with heavy flight, it might be seen flapping slowly along the surface of the moor, gradually nearing our position, and apparently certain of passing directly over our heads; but we were frequently disappointed. One after another did several of these magnificent birds come within what we supposed to be a moderate distance, and many and loud were our remonstrances as the inexorable falconer still obstinately refused to liberate his hawks, and persisted in waiting for a more favourable opportunity. This at last occurred. A devoted heron, whose approach we had all regarded in breathless silence, now advanced in a direction which seemed to satisfy the scruples of even the fastidious 'auceps." In a second the hawks were unhooded and turned off, and the next moment were in full flight after the heron, who, taking advantage of the wind, was rapidly increasing the distance between us, and at the same time ascending to a great height in a wide curve or circular gyration; a manœuvre in which he was anticipated by his more active pursuers, who were now seen to rise above him, but postponed coming to closer quarters for so long, that we were soon running at our best speed in the vain hope of obtaining a nearer view of the sport; while several of the party, with their eyes directed upwards, appeared to forget, or to despise the obstacles that were continually presented to their progress by an Irish bog, and were soon sprawling in a turf-pit, or floundering, waist-deep, in a quagmire; so that but very few of us were fortunate enough to be looking in the right direction when the falcons, who had already 'bound to their quarry,' were now seen slowly descending together, like a feathered parachute, to the ground. For my own part, I was so lucky as to reach the spot a few moments after the falconer, and found him bestriding the prostrate heron, whose head he had secured between his knees,
* The Booke of Falconrie or Hawking. At London. Printed by Thomas Purfoot, An. Dom. 1611.
while he appeared to be anxiously examining his hawks to ascertain whether they had received any wound from the sharp beak of their adversary. As to the heron, with the exception of a slight laceration of the dorsal plumage, he seemed to have suffered no injury. He was therefore reserved as a trophy, and doomed, poor, fellow, to be turned out soon afterwards for the amusement of a larger party of spectators.
Our author notices some popular errors connected with the habits of the heron. One is, that he presents his beak to the enemy, so as to transfix him when he stoops. Mr. Knox observes, that the awkward and lumbering movements of the heron at this critical moment show that, even if it were disposed to try the experiment, it has no power to bring this formidable weapon into play against its swift and vigorous antagonist, whose mode of attack and rapidity of execution would render such a result exceedingly improbable, for the swoop is made obliquely, not perpendicularly, and the falcon strikes her quarry from behind. Charming Die Vernon's poor Cheviot must have been hatched under an unlucky star to have spitted himself upon a heron's bill. And yet we have old prints now before us-one showing how to flye at the hearon according to Martine,' in which the heron confronts the hawk in the air with bill and claws -that corroborate the notion. But there is no doubt that on the ground the heron and the bittern show bold fronts, and try to revenge themselves on their persecutors by welldirected and repeated plunges of their sharp, dagger-like beaks; and unless the falconer makes in to the rescue, he may, as Mr. Knox remarks, find that his hawks have caught a tartar. The heron aims at the eye; and Mr. Knox tells us that he is acquainted with a gentleman who was deprived of one of his visual organs by a wounded heron which he incautiously seized. In his Ornithological Rambles, Mr. Knox records his own narrow escape from a similar misfortune; and he shot for two seasons in Ireland over a capital old pointer who had lost one eye in an imprudent attack on a winged heron. We remember a spirited picture by Abraham Hondius, wherein the cautious approach
of a dog towards a wounded bittern, and the threatening aspect of the bird, were admirably portrayed.
The vexed question, how the falcon deals the fatal blow, is entered into with fairness and acuteness. Mr. Knox's opinion-and he is fully corroborated by Colonel Bonham, who had at one time as many as twelve peregrines, and whose extensive experience renders him a most powerful ally-is, that the deadly wound is inflicted by the strong and well developed hind talon.
If (observes Mr. Knox) a grouse, a duck, or a woodcock that has been thus suddenly killed by a peregrine be examined, it will generally be found that the loins and shoulders are deeply scored, the back of the neck much torn, and even the skull sometimes penetrated by this formidable weapon. Now as the stroke is almost always delivered obliquely, that is, in a slanting, downward direction from behind, this laceration could not be effected by any of the talons of the front toes; nor would the severest possible blow from the breast of the falcon produce such an effect. Indeed, Colonel Bonham had several rare oppor tunities of witnessing the operation distinctly, and his testimony on this point ought to be conclusive. On one occasion in particular, when in Ireland, a woodcock, after a long chace over an adjoining moor, had taken refuge in a small cover, whither it was closely pursued by the hawk-the falconer and several assistants following. Colonel Bonham himself made for a nearer point of the coppice, and had just taken up his position under a tree at the side of a ride or alley, when he saw the woodcock flying towards him, and its enemy close upon it. As the former passed within a few yards of the spot where he stood, he perceived by its laborious flight and open beak that it was much exhausted. The next moment down came the falcon, and he could see distinctly that the blow was delivered by the hind talons. The effect was instantaneously fatal, and precisely such as might have been expected from the nature of the weapons that were brought into play. The back of the woodcock was completely ripped up, and the lower part of its skull split open.
For other particulars, and a solution of the question, whether eyasses ought to be fed with washed or unwashed meat, which caused the expulsion of my lady's page from the castle of Avenel, we must refer the reader to Mr. Knox's book and