The Arctic Prairies By Ernest Thompson Seton


















































































































































 -  Right
up to the skirmish line are they.

The low thickets of the woods are swarming with Tree-sparrows,
Redpolls - Page 90
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Right Up To The Skirmish Line Are They.

The low thickets of the woods are swarming with Tree-sparrows, Redpolls, Robins, Hooded Sparrows, and the bare plains, a few yards away, are peopled and vocal with birds to whom a bush is an abomination.

Lap-longspur, Snowbird, Shorelarks, and Pipits are here soaring and singing, or among the barren rocks are Ptarmigan in garments that are painted in the patterns of their rocks.

There is one sombre fowl of ampler wing that knows no line - is at home in the open or in the woods. His sonorous voice has a human sound that is uncanny; his form is visible afar in the desert and sinister as a gibbet; his plumage fits in with nothing but the night, which he does not love. This evil genius of the land is the Raven of the north. Its numbers increased as we reached the Barrens, and the morning after the first Caribou was killed, no less than 28 were assembled at its offal.

An even more interesting bird of the woods is the Hooded Sparrow, interesting because so little known.

Here I found it on its breeding-grounds, a little late for its vernal song, but in September we heard its autumnal renewal like the notes of its kinsmen, White-throat and White-crowned Sparrows, but with less whistling, and more trilled. In all the woods of the Hudsonian Zone we found it evidently at home. But here I was privileged to find the first nest of the species known to science. The victory was robbed of its crown, through the nest having fledglings instead of eggs, but still it was the ample reward of hours of search.

Of course it was on the ground, in the moss and creeping plants, under some bushes of dwarf birch, screened by spruces. The structure closely resembled that of the Whitethroat was lined with grass and fibrous roots; no down, feathers, or fur were observable. The young numbered four.

The last woods was the limit of other interesting creatures - the Ants. Wherever one looks on the ground, in a high, dry place, throughout the forest country, from Athabaska Landing northward along our route, there is to be seen at least one Ant to the square foot, usually several. Three kinds seem common - one red-bodied, another a black one with brown thorax, and a third very small and all black. They seem to live chiefly in hollow logs and stumps, but are found also on marshes, where their hills are occasionally so numerous as to form dry bridges across.

I made many notes on the growth of timber here and all along the route; and for comparison will begin at the very beging.

In March, 1907, at my home in Connecticut, I cut down an oak tree (Q. palustris) that was 110 feet high, 32 inches in diameter, and yet had only 76 rings of annual growth.

In the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, where I camped in September, 1902, a yellow pine 6 feet 6 inches high was 51 inches in circumference at base.

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