[Boston—Thursday, 26 November 1868]

Thursday Nov 26. Thanksgiving Day. Dine with L.

It was Tuesday evening Dr. Brewer came to talk about birds. First he read us a paper he had written for the A.M. and between the reading & after, he gave us little simple touches from his experience. He is a plain man, a singular contrast to his brother Gardner who lives in the palace on the hill! He told us once he was in the woods of Nova Scotia studying the Hermit Thrush. He had just begun to suspect there were two varieties and was eager in his pursuit of the study. He came upon a nest of the rarest kind, in the thick woods and the old ones being away he hastily took the nest and its contents of several eggs away into the light of an open space not far off. Just as the eggs were blown and the nest put up for transportation, the old birds returned. Their distress was great and their song of lamentation so touching that “I would have put the eggs all back in a minute if I could” the Dr. said. He described this lament as one of the most touching things he ever heard and totally unlike the birds’ note ordinarily. He talked also about the mocking bird and referred to Longfellow’s lovely lines upon him in Evangeline when she is far on the waters of the South West in search of her love. He once observed a mocking bird; one not accounted of such superior value on account of his song as for his tender familiarity. He lived chiefly out of the cage but was a greater care to them for this and finally to the grief of the family drowned himself in the slop-jar of his master’s dressing-room. In the summertime when there were a good many flies in the room he would perch on his master’s finger who would carry him round the walls & indicate a fly here and there when he would dive at them with astonishing celerity and swallow every one. One day Dr. Brewer’s mother, an old lady, had made a batch of pies for Thanksgiving, mince & apple and squash and had spread them out in a spare room to cool. The bird selected one of fine mince meat, pulled the crust off the top and was enjoying himself well when he was discovered by the old lady who after scolding him, put the pies all on a large waiter and was about to shut them up. Seeing her intention, & when her hands were fully occupied holding both sides of the heavy waiter, the bird flew down and pulled her cap off.

Speaking of the robin he told us how his daughter had watched a pair on their piazza for 20 days feeding their young with the larvae of insects every half hour until they were strong enough to fly away. In this way their garden was preserved from innumerable insects, hundreds of thousands, by computation. This paper was an indirect plea for the introduction of the English house sparrow for which so much has been said lately.


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