Page images
[graphic][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus

and sub-species). Length, about 22 inches. The great size and long ear tufts sufficiently distinguish this owl.

Range: Resident over the greater part of North and South America.

This, our largest owl, inhabits heavily forested and unsettled regions and is becoming more and more rare in thickly populated areas. It is well known by its far reaching call-“hoo-hoo-hoohoo”—which is heard best in the still small hours of the night, when it echoes across the expanse of canyon and forest in the far west.

This owl destroys many partridges and other game birds, and unhoused poultry is never safe from its nocturnal attacks. Its deeds are those of darkness, since usually it hunts only at night, though when disturbed in the daytime it can see well enough to take good care of itself. Its bill of fare is a long one and includes many kinds of mammals and birds. It is one of the few creatures which when hungry do not hesitate to attack the skunk, and it appears to have no great difficulty in killing this rather formidable little beast. That it does not always do so with entire impunity is evident from the odor frequently attaching to its feathers. Its destruction of rodents entitles it to our gratitude, especially when it kills pocket gophers, rats, mice, ground squirrels and rabbits. In some parts of the west rabbits are responsible for much damage to orchards and crops and consequently their reduction is a blessing. Nevertheless the protection of this big and fierce owl cannot be recommended on sound economic grounds.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa). Length, about 19 inches. The elongated crest of feathers and variegated plumage of white and brown, spotted with chestnut, ochraceous and steel blue are characteristic.

Range: Breeds from Washington to middle California, and from Manitoba and southeastern Canada to Texas and Florida; winters chiefly in the United States.

It can be said of this duck, as of no other, that it is our very own, since most of the breeding area it occupies is within our territory, and by far the greater number of the species winter within the United States. The story of its former abundance on our ponds and streams and of its present scarcity is a sad commentary on our improvidence and a warning for the future. Happily, it is not yet too late to save this most beautiful of our ducks, and under proper regulations it may be expected not only to hold its own, but to increase until it is once more a proper object for the skill of sports

Under present conditions all true sportsmen should refrain from its further pursuit.

As is well known, the wood duck is one of the few wildfowl that builds its nest in hollow trees, and the security thus provided for the young is one of the factors to be relied upon for the increase of the species. North, south, east and west, the States of every section are, or should be, interested in the preservation of this distinctively American duck, and should make suitable regulations for its welfare and see to their enforcement.


COOT (Fulica americana).

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularia).

Length, about 15 inches. The slate-colored plumage, with blackish head and neck, white bill, and scalloped toes mark this bird apart from all others.

Range: Breeds from southern Canada south to Lower California, Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey; also in southern Mexico and Guatemala; winters from southern British Columbia, Nevada, Utah, Ohio Valley and Virginia south to Panama.

The coot, or mud-hen, is a sort of combination of duck, gallinule and rail, and withal is a very interesting bird. Fortunately for the coot, its flesh is little esteemed, and by many, indeed, is considered unfit for human consumption. The coot is thus passed by in contempt by most sportsmen, and in some regions it is as tame as can well be imagined, swimming within a few feet of the observer with entire unconcern. Under other circumstances, however, as in Louisiana, where it is shot for food under the name poule d'eau, it becomes as wild as the most wary of ducks.

It frequents both salt and fresh water, preferably the latter. The mud-hen is one of the few American birds that occasionally visits the distant Hawaiian Islands in fall and winter. Finding conditions there to their liking, some of the immigrants, probably centuries ago, elected to remain and found a new colony, and there, in the fresh water ponds of the island archipelago, their descendants still live and thrive.

The food of the coot consists almost entirely of water plants of no use to man. There would seem, therefore, to be no excuse for killing or disturbing the bird in any way.

Length, about 6 inches. The "tip up," with its brownish gray upper parts and white under parts and its teetering motion, is too well known to need description.

Range: Breeds in northwestern Alaska and in much of northern Canada south to southern California, Arizona, southern Texas, southern Louisiana and northern South Carolina; winters from California, Louisiana and South Carolina to southern Brazil and Peru.

The little “tip up," as it is appropriately named, from its quaint nodding motion, unduly favors no one section or community but elects to dwell in every region suited to its needs from Alaska to Florida. It is doubtless more widely known than any other of our shore birds, and as it takes wing when disturbed, its “wit, wit” comes to us from beach, river side, and mill pond, from one end of the land to the other. It is the only shore bird that habitually nests in cornfields and pastures, and its handsome buff eggs spotted with chocolate are well known to the farmer's boy everywhere. Much is to be said in favor of the food habits of the little tip up, as the bird includes in its diet army worms, squash bugs, cabbage worms, grasshoppers, green flies and crayfishes. Having thus carned a right to be numbered among the farmers' friends, the bird should be exempt from persecution. The tiny morsel of flesh afforded by its plump little body, when the bird has been shot, is in no sense an adequate return for its services when alive and active in our behalf.


Photo by Frank M. Chapinan TIN SNOW-CROWNED JT. ORIZABI "The country lying between the cities of Vera Cruz and Mexico City possesses more varied natural attractions than any other area of similar extent in the world" (see text, page 533). "The summit of Orizalia cun be reached without great difficulty. One may travel to an altitude of 15.000 feet ly mule, and the remaining 3,000 odd feet are traversed on foot. No physical obstacles are encountered, and the walk to the top is inerely a matter of legs, lungs, and heart" (see text, page 548).





With Photograplis by the iluthor

If one

[ocr errors]

HILE fully aware of the high short-lived empire of Maximilian, and

percentage of error most sweep the campaign of Scott, to the astonishing

ing assertions contain, I never era of material development under Diaz, theless venture to claim that the country and the no less disastrous years of dislying between the cities of Vera Cruz and integration once his iron grip was loosMexico City possesses more varied nat ened. ural attractions than any other area of Thus, omitting all reference to natural similar extent in the world.

resources and commercial possibilities, From the moment when, on the Gulf, whether one be a student of nature or of one sights the still distant Sierra, until man, or merely a tourist in search of one reaches the site of Tenochtitlan itself, the novel and beautiful, this portion of one's attention is held by a variety of Mexico will appeal to him with a force interests which make the trip from coast and fascination which makes a journey to table-land, and the snow-peaks rising through it one of the memorable experifrom it, an epitome of a journey from ences in a lifetime of travel. equatorial to boreal regions. If one is in search of supremely beauti

ENTER FROM THE GUIT ful scenery, it is here to and beyond the Be one student or tourist, there can be limit of human appreciation.

no question that one should enter Mexico would test the climates of the world, he from the Gulf. Were it not for customsmay go in a day from perpetual summer house formalities, the northern boundary to everlasting snow, and at the same time might be crossed

at many pass from belts where rain falls almost points; but to follow for days in the wake daily to others where it is rarely known. of the Conquistadores produces a mental With these extremes of temperature and condition which prepares one properly to humidity there is, of course, a corre enjoy a definite arrival in Vexico near the sponding diversity in flora and fauna. landfall of Cortez. journey from the which makes the region of exceptional in coast to the capital follows a natural sueterest to the botanist and zoologist, and cession of climatic zones as well as the particularly, as I shall endeavor shortly

sequence of early historic events. to show, to the student of the distribution Furthermore, steamers so arrange their of life.

schedules that they reach Vera Cruz in For the archeologist there are ruins the morning, and we begin our day, therewhich evince a high degree of aboriginal fore, alert and eager for the experiences culture; and for the ethnologist. natives incident to travel in a land where the eve who, in retaining their tribal customs, is greeted by strange sights, the ear by offer problems of fundamental impor- unfamiliar sounds. tance in connecting the present with the The day. indeed, should begin at suinpast.

rise, some hours before disembarking at The historic period opens with the in Vera Cruz, with a hope that one may comparable romance of Cortez and Jon have the rare good fortune to see the first tezuma, of Az can and Tlaxcalan, and rays of the sun touch the summit of Mt. passes through three centuries of Spanish Orizaba, the first, as it will be among the government, the war of independence, the most lasting, of one's impressions of



[ocr errors]

Vexico. The shore is still some 30 miles of prolonging the sail. This varied from cistant, the mountain itself about a few feet to 150 yards, with frequent miles, and one is with difficult! convinced changes of direction. that the gleaming pink cloud high above Jarch 7, 1910, as the steamer passed the horizon is part of the still invisible the island fortress of San Juan de Ulloa carth bencath it. Doubtless the Iztecs and glided inside the breakwater to the were not familiar with this viel vi VIt. substantial customs pier, our preparations Orizaba, but from no other place is their for immediate landing were halted by the name for it-Citlaltapetl, the Star Mow tardiness of the health officer, who, after tain so applicable

keeping is impatiently waiting for an On only one of three lovages toller hour, conducted his inspection with exico have I had this thrilling view of Ori- asperating deliberation: nor were we dezaba's S1011-Crown, but in default of it clared free until the last steerage passenthere is still the sunrise over the Gulf, ger had been examined. and if this be obscured, there is always

CONOUERING PEACEFUL BANDITS the Gulf itself, usually calm at this hour, and the hali-speed at which the steamer In the meantime, on the pier below, a is moving to prevent too early an arrival horde of cargadors had gathered behind at Tera Cruz, gives one an exceptional the rope before which the baggage had opportunity to see the surface life from been piled. Is we descended the gangher deck.

way the rope was dropped, and we were

charged by a mob of shouting: gesticulatSCIIOOLS OF ILILIG TISTI

ing porters, five or six of whom shoved Nearly every little raft of guli-weed their badges into one's face at the same shelters a sua

varm of small fish; near the moment, grabbed our hand baggage, and Trcos kers the black and white gunets, all but tore us into fragments. It was a which evidently live there, are abundant, scene of riotous confusion, with two or and occasional herring gullsi soot!' or tree

bandits pulling, shoving, brilled terns, and frigate birds are seen, stearing, dodging, fighting for the priviwhile at frequent intervals tlying fish, lege of taking our luggage to hotel or Alushed by the steamer, spring from be railway station, and I emerged from the neath the boll and scale aral.

One ex

fray with all our 14 trunks, 14 valises, ceptionally calm morning when the Gulf and the exultation of a conqueror. was glasst smoothi, we could see them Time was when l'era Cruz was dreaded from the bow of our ship. Swimming as a pest-hole, and trains at once took ahead a foot or to beneath the surface. one from the steamer up the Sierra on

Is the steamer bore down on then they thie way to Mexico City, usually as far darted right and left, or at our too close as Orizaba. Now, however, sanitary conapproach took to the air. For 20 10 10 clitions and hotel accommodations have feet they touched the surface when the been so improved that one may stay here tail and long, ling-like pectoral fins were without danger or discomfort. At least, in rapid motion, the latter being movedl one should remain over night to begin the lip and down. The body was held at an trip toward the table-land early in the angle and apparently only the lower morning, and thus be able to see every lobe of the tail touched the water, mak foot of this remarkable journey. ing, when it strucki in series of connected liellow-travelers with whom we had circles. Sufficient headwar being thus shared a common interest in the events gaineel, the fins became rigid and the of the voyage now separated, each to his creature scaled or sailed, a true aëroplane, appointed task or tour.

I newly apuntil momentum was lost, when it plunged pointed ambassador went to his post at abruptly into the water. then the tail the capital with small realization that out struck the crest of it swell the "wings" of the apparently peaceful present would Ilso librated, and fresh for

hus. soon arise a period of devastation ruinous cuireal, but the calmness of the sea af to the interests of the country and preFordel few opportunities for this method senting critical situations for diplomatic


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »