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bird was singing, and presently had our Virginia place, “ Pine Knot,” and he deglasses upon him.
scribed its peculiar, emphatic song. “ There is no mistake about it, Mr. I moved along with the thought of this President,” we both said ; “it is surely bird in mind and its snappy, incisive the black-throated green," and he laughed song, as I used to hear it in the old days in glee. “I knew it could be no other; near Washington, I fancied I caught its there is no mistaking that song and note in a dense bushy place below us. those markings. Trees, trees, murmuring We paused to listen. "A catbird," said
« trees!' some one reports him as saying. the President, and so we all agreed. Now if we could only find the nest;" We saw and heard a chewink. “Out but we did not, though it was doubtless West the chewink calls like a catbird,” not far off.
said the President. Continuing our Our warblers, both in color and in song, walk, we skirted the edge of an orchard. are bewildering even to the experienced Here the President called our attention ornithologist, but the President had to a high-hole's nest in a cavity of an old mastered most of them. Not long before apple-tree. He rapped on the trunk of he had written me from Washington that the tree that we might hear the smothhe had just come in from walking with ered cry for food of the young inside. Mrs. Roosevelt about the White House A few days before he had found one of grounds looking up arriving warblers. the half-fledged young on the ground
Most of the warblers were up in the under the tree, and had managed to reach tops of the trees, and I could not get a up and drop it back into the nest. good glimpse of them ; but there was What a boiling there was in there,” he one with chestnut cheeks, with bright said, " when the youngster dropped yellow behind the cheeks, and a yellow
in !” breast thickly streaked with black, which A cuckoo called in a tree overhead, has puzzled me.
Doubtless it is a very the first I had heard this season. I coinmon kind which has for the moment feared the cold spring had cut them off. slipped my memory. I saw the black- * The yellow-billed, undoubtedly,” said burnian, the summer yellowbird, and the President, and was confirmed by the black-throated green.” The next Mr. Childs. I was not certain that I day he wrote me that he had identified kuew the call of the yellow-billed from the puzzling warbler; it was the Cape that of the black-billed. “We have them May.
both,” said the President, “ but the yelAt luncheon he told us of some of his low-billed is the more common." ornithological excursions in the White We continued our walk along a path House grounds, how people would stare that led down through a most delightful at him as he stood gazing up into the wood to the bay. Everywhere the marks trees like one demented. “No doubt of the President's ax were visible, as he they thought me insane." “Yes,” said had with his own hand thinned out and Mrs. Roosevelt, “and as I was always cleared up a large section of the wood. with him, they no doubt thought I was A few days previous he had seen some the nurse that had him in charge.” birds in a group of tulip-trees near the
In his Pastimes of an American edge of the woods facing the water; he Hunter” he tells of the owls that in June thought they were rose-breasted grossometimes came after nightfall about the beaks, but could not quite make them Winite House. “Sometimes they flew out. He had hoped to find them there noiselessly to and fro, and seemingly now, and we looked and listened for caught big insects on the wing. At other some moments, but no birds appeared. times they would perch on the iron awn- Then he led us to a little pond in the ing bars directly overhead. Once one of midst of the forest where the night heron them perched over one of the windows sometimes nested. A pair of them had and sat motionless, looking e ctly like nested there in a big water-maple the year an owl of Pallas Athene."
before, but the crows had broken them He knew the vireos also, and had up.
As we reached the spot the cry of seen and heard the white-eyed at his the heron was heard over the tree-tops.
“ That is its alarm note,” said the Presi. in his apparent belief in the truth of his dent. I remarked that it was much like story. Of course he had dreamed it or the cry of the little green heron. “Yes, seen incorrectly, as the chickadee does it is, but if we wait here till the heron not build till April or May, and then returns, and we are not discovered, you always in the cavity of a limb or stub. would hear his other more characteristic We agreed that the story afforded a good call, a hoarse quawk."
illustration of the occasional exceptional Presently we moved on along another originality and individuality among the path through the woo; toward the animals of which a certain writer makes house. A large, wide-spreading oak so much account. attracted my attention-a superb tree. Nothing is harder than to convince a
“ You see by the branching of that person that he has seen wrongly. The oak,” said the President, “ that when it other day a doctor accosted me in the grew up this wood was an open field street of one of our inland towns to tell and maybe under the plow; it is only in me of a strange bird he had seen; the fields that oaks take that form." I knew bird was blood-red all over and was in it was true, but my mind did not take in some low bushes by the roadside. Of the fact when I first saw the tree. His course I thought of our scarlet tanager, mind acts with wonderful swiftness and which was then just arriving. No, he completeness, as I had abundant proof knew that bird with black wings and that day.
tail; this bird had no black upon it, but As we walked along we discussed every quill and feather was vivid scarmany questions, all bearing directly or let. The doctor was very positive, so I indirectly upon natural history. The had to tell him we had no such bird. conversation was perpetually interrupted There was the summer redbird in the by some bird note in the trees about us Southern States, but this place is much which we would pause to identify—the beyond its northern limit, and, besides, President's ear, I thought, being the most it is of a dull red. Of course he had alert of the three. Continuing the talk, seen a tanager, but in the shade of the he dwelt upon the inaccuracy of most bushes the black of the wings and tail persons' seeing, and upon the unreliabil had escaped him. ity as natural history of most of the This was simply a case of misseeing stories told by guides and hunters. in an educated man; but in the untrained Sometimes writers of repute were to be minds of trappers and woodsmen generread with caution. He mentioned that ally there is an element of the superexcellent hunting book of Colonel stitious, and a love for the marvelous, Dodge's, in which are described two spe which often prevents them from seeing cies of the puma, one in the West called the wild life about them just as it is. the mountain lion, very fierce and dan- They possess the mythopæic faculty, and gerous; the other called in the East the they unconsciously give play to it. "panther ”—a harmless and cowardly Thus our talk wandered as we wananimal. “Both the same species,” said dered along the woods and field paths. the President, “and almost identical in The President brought us back by the disposition.” Mr. Childs told of an corner of a clover meadow where he was intelligent guide he had recently had at sure a pair of red-shouldered starlings his club in Maine, who told him this had a nest. He knew it was an unlikely incredible tale about a pair of chicka- place for starlings to nest, as they breed dees. The guide said that when he was in marshes and along streams and in the lumbering in the Maine woods one win- low bushes on lake borders, but this pair ter, a pair of chickadees had built a had always shown great uneasiness when nest in a small tree close to his cabin. he had approached this plot of tall They carried up material and built a clover. As we drew near, the male starmassive nest like that of a squirrel, with ling appeared and uttered his alarm in hole in the side, and laid their eggs note. The President struck out to look and reared their young there in midwin- for the nest, and for a time the Administer. And the man could not be shaien tration was indeed in clover, with the alarmed black bird circling above it and watching of birds and plants, never showing great agitation. For my part, identified it; but the President tad I hesitated on the edge of the clover caught it quickly and easily, sitting on patch, having a farmer's dread of seeing his porch at Sagamore Hill. I believe fine grass trampled down. I suggested I may take the credit of being the first to the President that he was injuring his to identify and describe this song—back hay crop ; that the nest was undoubtedly in the old Wake Robin days. there or near there ; so he came out of In an inscription in a book the Presithe tall grass, and, after looking into the dent had just given me he had referred old tumbled-down barn—a regular early to himself as my pupil. Now I was to settler's barn, with huge timbers hewn be his pupil. In dealing with the birds from forest trees—that stood near by, I could keep pace with him pretty easily, and which the President said he pre- and, maybe, occasionally lead him ; but served for its picturesqueness and its when we came to consider big game and savor of old times, as well as for a place the animal life of the globe, I was to romp with his dogs and children, we nowhere. His experience with the big made our way to the house.
game has been very extensive, and his The purple finch nested in the trees acquaintance with the literature of the about the house, and the President was subject is far beyond my own; and he greatly pleased that he was able to show forgets nothing, while my memory is a us this bird also.
sieve. In his study he set before me a A few days previous to our visit the small bronze elephant in action, made children had found a bird's nest on the by the famous French sculptor Barye. ground, in the grass, a few yards below He asked me if I saw anything wrong with the front of the house. There were it. I looked it over carefully, and was young birds in it, and as the President obliged to confess that, so far as I could had seen the grasshopper-sparrow about see, it was all right. Then he placed there, he concluded the nest belonged before me another, by a Japanese artist. to it. We went down to investigate it, Instantly I saw what was wrong with the and found the young gone and two Frenchman's elephant. Its action was addled eggs in the nest. When the like that of a horse or a cow, or any trotPresident saw those eggs, he said: “That ting animal—a hind and front foot on is not the nest of the grasshopper-spar- opposite sides moving together. The row, after all; those are the eggs of the Jap had caught the real movement of the song-sparrow, though the nest is more animal, which is that of a pacer—both like that of the vesper-sparrow. The legs on the same side at a time. What eggs of the grasshopper-sparrow are a different effect the two actions gave much lighter in color-almost white, to the statuettes ! The free swing of with brown specks." For my part, I had the Jap's elephant you at once recognize quite forgotten for the moment how the as the real thing. The President laughed, eggs of the little sparrow looked or dif- and said he had never seen any criticism fered in color from those of the song- of Barye's elephant on this ground, or sparrow. But the President has so little any allusion to his mistake ; it was his to remember that he forgets none of own discovery. I was fairly beaten at these minor things! His bird-lore and my own game of observation. wood-lore
as fresh as if just He then 'took down a copy of his learned.
“ Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail," I asked him if he ever heard that rare and pointed out to me the mistakes the piece of bird music, the flight song of the artist had made in some of his drawings oven-bird. “Yes,” he replied, we fre- of big Western game. quently hear it of an evening, while we “Do you see anything wrong in the are sitting on the porch, right down there head of the pronghorn ?” he asked, reat the corner of the woods.” Now, this ferring to the animal which the hunter is flight song of the oven-bird was unknown bringing in on the saddle behind him. to the older ornithologists, and Thoreau, Again I had to confess that I could not. with all his years of patient and tireless Then he showed me the mounted head
of a pronghorn over the mantel in one when he was a lad of fourteen, and a of his rooms, and called my attention to case of three African plovers which he the fact that the eye was close under the had set up at that time; and they were root of the horn, whereas Remington had well done. placed it about two inches too low. And Evidently one of his chief sources of in the artist's picture of the pronghorn pleasure at Sagamore Hill is the comwhich heads Chapter IX. he had made panionship of the birds. He missed the the tail much too long, as he had the tail bobolink, the seaside finch, and the of the elk on the opposite page.
marsh wren, but his woods and grounds I had heard of Mr. Roosevelt's attend- abounded in other species. He knew ing a fair in Orange County, while he and enjoyed all the more common birds, was Governor, where a group of mounted but many rarer and shyer ones that few deer were exhibited. It seems the group country people ever take note of such had had rough usage, and one of the deer as the Maryland yellowthroat, the black had lost its tail and a new one had been and white creeper, the yellow-breasted supplied. No one had noticed anything chat, the oven-bird, the prairie warbler, wrong with it till Mr. Roosevelt came the great crested flycatcher, the wood along. “But the minute he clapped his pewee, and the sharp-tailed finch.
He eyes on that group,” says the exhibitor, enjoyed the little owls, too. “It is a pity
“ he called out, 'Here, Gunther, what do the little-eared owl is called a screechyou mean by putting a white-tail deer's tail owl. Its tremulous, quavering cry is not on a black-tail deer?” Such closeness and a screech at all, and has an attraction of accuracy of observation even few natural
These little owls come up to ists can lay claim to. I mentioned the the house after dark, and are fond of incident to him, and he recalled it laugh- sitting on the elk's antlers over the gable. ingly. He then took down a volume on When the moon is up, by choosing one's the deer family which he had himself position, the little owl appears in sharp had a share in writing, and pointed out outline against the bright disk, seated on two mistakes in the naming of the his many-tined perch.” pictures which had been overlooked. The President is a born nature-lover, The picture of “the whitetail in flight and he has what does not always go with was the blacktail of Colorado, and the this passion-remarkable powers of obpicture of the blacktail of Colorado servation. He sees quickly and surely, showed the blacktail of Columbia—the not less so with the corporeal eye than difference this time being seen in the with the mental. His exceptional vitalbranching of the horns.
ity, his awareness all around, gives the The President took us through his clue to his powers of seeing. The chief house and showed us his trophies of the qualification of a born observer is an chase—bear-skins of all sorts and sizes alert, sensitive, objective type of mind, on the floors, panther and lynx skins on and this he has in a pre-eminent degree. the chairs, and elk heads and deer heads You may know the true observer, not on the walls, and one very large skin of by the big things he sees, but by the the gray timber-wolf. We examined its little things; and then not by the things teeth, barely more than an inch long, and he sees with effort and premeditation, we all laughed at the idea of its reaching but by his effortless, unpremeditated seethe heart of a caribou through the breast ing—the quick, spontaneous action of his by a snap, or any number of snaps, as mind in the presence of natural objects. has been claimed it does. I doubt if it Everybody sees the big things, and anycould have reached the heart of a gobble body can go out with note-book and turkey in that way at a single snap. opera-glass and make a dead set at the
The President's interest in birds and birds, or can go into the northern forests in natural history generally dates from and interview guides and trappers and his youth. While yet in his teens he Indians, and stare in at the door of the published a list of the birds of Franklin school of the woods. None of these County, New York. He showed me a things evince powers of observation; they
, bird journal which he kept in Egypt only evince industry and intention. In
fact, born observers are about as rare as tioned persons who had seen the pigeons, born poets. Plenty of men
and I came away fully convinced that a straight and report straight what they flock of probably a thousand birds had see; but the men who see what others been seen there late in the afternoon of miss, who see quickly and surely, who May 23. You need have no doubt have the detective eye, like Sherlock about it,” said the most competent witHolmes, who “get the drop,” so to speak, ness, an old farmer. “ I lived here when on every object, who see minutely and the pigeons nested here in countless who see whole, are rare indeed.
numbers forty years ago, I know pigeons President Roosevelt comes as near as I know folks, and these were pigeons." fulfilling this ideal as any man I have I mention this incident of the pigeons known. His mind moves with wonder- because I know that the fact that they ful celerity, and yet as an observer he have been lately seen in considerable is very cautious, jumps to no hasty con- numbers will be good news to a large clusions.
number of readers. He had written me, toward the end of The President's nature-love is deep May, that while at Pine Knot in Vir- and abiding. Not every bird student ginia he had seen a small flock of pas- succeeds in making the birds a part of senger pigeons. As I had been following his life. Not till you have long and up the reports of wild pigeons from vari- sympathetic intercourse with them, in ous parts of our own State during the fact, not till you have loved them for past two or three years, this statement their own sake, do they enter into and of the President's made me prick up my become a part of your life. I could
In my reply I said, “ I hope you quote many passages from President are sure about those pigeons,” and I Roosevelt's books which show how he told him of my interest in the subject, has felt and loved the birds, and how and also how all reports of pigeons in discriminating his ear is with regard to the East had been discredited by a man
Here is one : in Michigan who was writing a book on “ The meadow-lark is a singer of a the subject. This made him prick up higher order [than the plains skylark], his ears, and he replied that while he deserving to rank with the best. Its felt very •certain he had seen
a small song has length, variety, power, and rich band of the old wild pigeons, yet he melody, and there is in it sometimes a might have been deceived; the eye cadence of wild sadness inexpressibly sometimes plays one tricks. He said touching. Yet I cannot say that either that in his old ranch days he and a cow- song would appeal to others as it appeals boy companion thought one day that to me; for to me it comes forever laden they had discovered a colony of black with a hundred memories and associprairie dogs, thanks entirely to the pecu- ations—with the sight of dim hills redliar angle at which the light struck them. dening in the dawn, with the breath of He said that while he was President he cool morning winds blowing across lonely did not want to make any statement, plains, with the scent of flowers on the even about pigeons, for the truth of which sunlit prairie, with the motion of fiery he did not have good evidence. He horses, with all the strong thrill of eager would have the matter looked into by a and buoyant life. I doubt if any man can friend at Pine Knot upon whom he could judge dispassionately the bird-songs of depend. He did so, and convinced his own country; he cannot disassociate himself and me also that he had really them from the sights and sounds of the seen wild pigeons. I had the pleasure land that is so dear to him.” of telling him that in the same mail with I wish space permitted me to quote in his letter came the news to me of a large full his fine estimate of the song of the flock of wild pigeons having been seen European nightingale, in which, after near the Beaverkill in Sullivan County, awarding it its full meed of praise, he New York. While he was verifying his says : “In melody, and above all in that observation I was in Sullivan County finer, higher melody where the chords verifying this report. I saw and ques- vibrate with the touch of eternal sorrow,