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