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Varied as is the character of all our National Sports, none is more so than that of shooting, and if, in accordance with the old maxim, variety is charming, then may the lover of the trigger be deemed truly fortunate, for to him each season of the year brings its own sport-each district offers its peculiar quarry. No matter in what locality his lot is cast, the true sportsman is never idle. Although he cannot fare at all seasons alike, he cheerfully puts up with what is offered to him ; whilst retrospection of the past and anticipations of the future, alike add zest to the enjoyment of the present.
There are few of our national sports in which at some time of my life I have not participated. I have enjoyed the refinement of sport (if I may use the term) in the richly preserved stubbles and turnips of Norfolk. I have trod the brown heather of the north, and followed the grouse in all the wild grandeur of their “ mountain home." I have spent days in the wild solitude of the fen, with no companion save my retriever and the fenman who has acted as my guide ; and I need hardly add, that each and every one has yielded me heartfelt enjoyment-Yet there has always been some restraint as it were upon my sport; but in coast shooting the case is different.
Here we are free to wander where we choose, with no one to deny us leave, none to molest us; and as we roam along the coast, or dash through the waves in our fishing boat, we for awhile forget the world, lost in the admiration of nature, as we gaze on her grandest form.
The coast gunner, excepting at the breeding season, can always find sport. Ducks, gulls, or stints, may always be obtained. But of the many aquatic birds that are to be met with on our coasts, at the various seasons of the year, none are more eagerly followed than the divers (a most comprehensive term in coast gunnery), which, coming southward from their breeding haunts in June and July, at this time abound on most parts of our shores. Of this group of birds, the species which are indigenous to Britain, and consequently most frequently to be met with, are the guillemot, the razor-bill, and the puffin. The two former are very generally dispersed, and breed in the cliffs on many parts of our coast, from the Orkneys to the Lands-end. The puffin is a much rarer bird, and breeds principally in Iceland and the Orkneys. Each of these lays but one large egg. The variety of the guillemot's eggs is most extraordinary, scarcely two being alike. The general character is green and white, with black scratches. The egg of the razor bill is white, spotted with brown; and that of the puffin, dirty white with brown blotches.
To the lover of wild scenery, nothing can be finer than the breeding NO XVI.-VOL. III.-NEW SERIES.
haunts of the sea bird; I have taken the eggs of the guillemot at the
could not bear long to dwell upon. It was not long before he was pulled up by his comrade, and I then bought all the eggs he had procured for one shilling ! . Of the larger kinds of divers, the great norther, the red and black throated, we see but little in our southern latitudes, but on the frost barred coasts of Labrador, and in Iceland where they breed, these birds may be met with in almost every lake ; but it is not until the rigours of an Arctic winter drive them to a milder latitude, that they are seen in Britain.,
But to return to the more immediate subject of our sketch. Let us repair to any of the little fishing villages with which our shore abounds, on the north or north-western coast, and fix upon a day towards the end of June, at which time the young birds being able to stem
the waves, repair from their northern haunts; and having engaged a cobble, and provided the necessary tackle, we embark, and threading our way through the fleet of fishing boats which stud the surface of the little bay, we put out to sea, steering towards yon tall cliffs in the distance, around which the birds swarm by thousands. It is a clear hot morning, scarcely a breath of wind is stirring, the sea is smooth as glass, and the rays of the morning sun are reflected with double force from its mirror-like surface. Our crew consists of two men and a boy, besides ourselves, and at the bottom of the boat lie two single guns, guage No. 12, weight, 8lbs.
A basket of prog is stowed away in the stern of the boat, and our telescope lies on the seat by our side—very littie wind is stirring, and the homeward bound vessels lie becalmed in the offing, impatiently watching for the breeze to freshen.' We lie along the bottom of the boat, and scan the surface of the ocean with our telescope. The restless terns dash rapidly by us, every now and then dipping into the sea, or hovering over its -surface, uttering their hoarse cec cec; while buoyantly on high the sea-gulls ride, weaving a sportive dance, and turning to the sun their snowy plumes. A trip of scoters fly rapidly by us, and a solitary cormorant passes by, far out at sea, beyond the reach of our artillery. We soon reach the bottom of the cliff, and as the report of our first gun is re-echoed from the rocks which tower above us, the startled birds rise in a cloud, and seek shelter either on the summit of the rock, or by flying out to sea, However quite enough remain behind to afford us plenty of sport, and it is not until some dozens lie in the bottom of the boat, that we put out to sea in pursuit of the birds which having left the cliff, are riding on the waves in little troops of a dozen or so, in fancied security; as we approach them they endeavour to escape us by swimming, but finding that we have the speed of them, they disappear beneath the waves, and rise perhaps a hundred yards from the spot, in quite a different direction. But we gain on them at length, and it is not till we have fired several times that the birds which escape, reluctantly rise on the wing, and we then turn towards another lot-Thus we go on, the birds rarely escaping our fire, save when the motion of the boat throws us off our aim, or if they chance to dive just as we pull. Before we have been out long; a gull, as it floats over our heads, falls to the gun, and tying it to the boat with a piece of cord, we let the dead body float on the surface, and thus bring many others within shot.
It is wonderful what a quantity of shot these birds will carry away, and many a miserable gull, though cut to ribbons by the charge, will Ay far out to sea, till exhausted nature yields, and the poor bird sinks helplessly into the sea, where its obsequies are sung by the piercing cries of its comrades who gather round from all quarters and hover above