The Catbird sings a crooked song,
in minors that are flat,
And when he can't control his voice,
he mews just like a cat,
Then nods his head and whisks his tail
and lets it go at that.
He sits on a branch of yon blossoming bush,
This madcap cousin of robin and thrush,
And sings without ceasing the whole morning long;
Now wild, now tender, the wayward song
That flows from his soft, gray, fluttering throat.
But often he stops in his sweetest note,
And, shaking a flower from the blossoming bough,
Drawls out, "Mi-eu, mi-ow!"
|-- E. Thomas|
There it was in the tree -- looking like a knot upon the limb. Of plant fibers it was made and covered with lichens. In it were two tiny white eggs. Liloriole's heart went pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, for she knew she had come unto the home of Hummingbird, whom Aurelius Evangel, the Wind Fairy, said was the most exquisite cradle in all Birdland. Mother Hummer returned in a few moments; and Liloriole sitting on the edge of the nest had a happy time talking with her. She learned that Hummingbirds not only like honey but plant lice and small spiders as well. As the close of day drew near she went away with Twilight, Child of Day and Night, to another home; but before going she promised Mother Hummer to return again when Baby Hummers were out of the eggs.
And the home she was journeying unto Liloriole knew not until Twilight gave three taps on an old decayed tree in the woods. Thirteen feet up from the ground on a knot he and Liloriole waited two minutes -- then again he gave three taps and led Liloriole in through a hole by the knot -- led her right into Chick-a-dees home. And there were a set of triplets and two sets of twins. Liloriole cuddled down among them and slept. Next morning she was hungry and was given for breakfast insect eggs -- for dinner, which was served at intervals, insect hash of grasshoppers, flies and caterpillars. And Baby Chick-a-dees were waxing fat and fluffy on just such a diet. As their scientific name was Parus atricapillus she named those seven Chick-a-dee youngsters -- Atlas Atricapillus, Atlanta Atricapillus, Alice Atricapillus, Alma Atricapillus, Atilla Atricapillus, Arnold Atricapillus, Aloah Atricapillus -- Liloriole's tongue rested for five minutes after she named them. Happy are her memories of the days spent with them.
In the marsh among the reeds -- attached to the reeds was the home of Long-billed Marsh Wren. Of grasses, reeds and weeds it was builded, and soft was its lining of Cat-tail seeds. And in it were seven eggs like unto this one and on them was dear little Mother Wren. And the day Liloriole came that way was the twenty-seventh day of May -- and she tarried that night within the little home. Among the things she learned before her departure were -- that the music box a-tilt on the reed that she heard again and again as she was coming near unto the home on yesterday, was dear little Mother Wren's mate -- the eggs within the nest were soon to be baby Long-billed Marsh Wrens -- and that her scientific name was Cistothorus palustris.
In a tree in a grove at the edge of the field Liloriole found Mother Crow at home. Of sticks, sticks, and more sticks and weed stalks it was made. With grass, straw, wool, hair, leaves, roots it was lined. And in this nest were six eggs like this one. She learned that Mother Crow's scientific name was Corvus americanus -- and that her cousins were Magpie, Raven and Blue Jay. Liloriole planned to come again when the Baby Crows were in the nest.
On Father Chimney Swift's back Liloriole journeyed to their home in the chimney. Their cradle was a wall pocket of twigs cemented to the chimney with salivary glue. Those baby Swifts were four and Liloriole named them Charles, Elsie, Caroline and Elisa Chaetura -- and Chaetura pelagica is their scientific name. While she was in the home she, too, was fed upon an insect diet.
In a thicket she saw a ball of feathers, and that ball of feathers was diligently looking for insect eggs -- and that ball of feathers was no other than Sir Bush-Tit himself, the cousin of Chick-a-dee. Sir Bush-Tit wore a coat of brownish gray. Every now and then he was upside down around on the other side of the twig. The second time he came right side up, Liloriole called to him and told him, all in one breath, lest her turn upside down before she could finish, of her search for the Homes of Fairyland. "There's a hanging cradle five trees and two bushes distant from here in which you will be welcomed, dear child," Sir Bush-Tit said. And truly it was a wonderful cradle, and so -- so much larger than Sir Bush-Tit and his darling mate and the little Bush-Tits seven who had come out of seven small white eggs. And O that cradle -- it was made of plant fibers, mosses, lichens and feathers. And O those babies -- they were dear and so dear. Liloriole learned that they were cousins of Chick-a-dee, Wren-tit and Verdin. Their scientific name is Psaltriparus.
In the woods in a thicket she came unto the home of Wood Rat. It was dome-shaped. Of sticks, sticks, sticks, and more sticks it was made. To, there were other bits of things, shreds of bark, etc. "Wood Rat is beautiful," thought Liloriole, for he looked much like White-footed Mouse enlarged. His fur was very soft and more like Squirrel's fur. Liloriole had a lovely time in the Wood Rat's home -- and she thought each Boy and Girl who reads of her journey would find it very interesting to watch for Wood Rat's home when they see heaps of sticks in a thicket or a tree. "Please remember," she says to tell you, "that Wood Rat is a very different sort of person from the pesky House Rat."
In the meadow among the weeds was a home made of dried grasses. In it were four pale blue eggs. While yet Liloriole waited near unto it first came Mother Dickissel and perched at the edge of the nest. Then came Father Dickissel and he perched on a twig near by. That night she nestled under Mother Dickissel's wing. Next morning for breakfast she had grasshopper mush. After breakfast Father Dickissel told her that their scientific name was Spiza americana. Mother Dickissel told her that their cousins were Grosbeaks, Towhees, Song Sparrows, Juncos, Buntings and Goldfinches.
In the field was a little burrow. At the bottom of the burrow was a nest. When Liloriole came unto this burrow in the field she lay down and peeked over its edge to see who was down there and just as she peeked over somebody else from within the burrow peeked out to see what the outside world looked like -- and their noses met. He who peeked out was a Baby Meadow Mouse. Liloriole liked him and he told her about the other Baby Meadow Mice in the nest at the bottom of the burrow. So they both slid down the burrow to the nest. "There's folks that like to eat us and we have to watch out for them," piped Least Mouse of all as he came sliding down the burrow.
"Who be they?" inquired Liloriole.
"Marsh Hawks, Hen Hawks, Crows, Owls, Cats and Weasels," answered Mother meadow Mouse in profound tones. Then Liloriole being very tired out, nestled close to Least Mouse of all and went to sleep.
In the field at the foot of a bunch of grass she found the home of Meadowlark. It was builded of grass and arched over. It was in the month of May she found it -- and in it were six eggs like unto this one. Liloriole thought them beautiful indeed. As she nestled under Mother Meadowlark's wing she heard afar in the field the liquid voice of Father Meadowlark. When next morning she said good-bye she promised to return again when the little birds were hatched.
Sweet, sweet, sweet!
O happy that I am!
(Listen to the meadow-larks
across the fields that sing!)
Sweet, sweet, sweet!
O subtle breath of lamb,
O winds that blow, O buds that grow,
O rapture of the spring!
Sweet, sweet, sweet!
O happy world that is!
Dear heart, I hear across the fields
my mateling pipe and call.
Sweet, sweet, sweet!
O world so full of bliss,
For life is love, the world is love,
and love is over all.
In a burrow close to the stream dwelt a Mother Muskrat and her Baby Muskrats six. Liloriole tripping along through the grass fell down through the air hole into the burrow. She liked the Baby Muskrats so well that she stayed all night and yet another night. And Mother Muskrat shared her own lily-roots and clams with her. While with them Liloriole learned that they had to watch out for Minks and Weasels, Foxes and Dogs, Owls and Hawks, for these include Muskrats among those things delicious to eat. Next day she rode on Mother Muskrat's back as she swam about in the stream.
Behind a cascade of singing waters was a lovely cradle of green mosses. The waters rushed on, murmuring, rippling and singing. But the heart of the Mother feared not the rushing of the water -- the music of the stream seemed a part of her life. Day after day she tenderly guarded the treasures in the cradle of mosses behind the cascade. Now, this cradle was shaped like an oven -- an opening it had on the side. The treasures within it numbered five -- pure white in color, these eggs in which were the Baby Water Ouzels to be. Unto this home Liloriole came, and was surprised at the way Father and Mother Water Ouzel hurried over the wet rocks. While there she heard Sir Water Ouzel sing, and in his song was the beauty and the strength of the mountains around them. To the five Baby Water Ouzels to be she gave these names -- Cinclora Cinclus, Cindora Cinclus, Cinflora Cinclus, Cindrona Cinclus and Cicero Cinclus -- for their scientific name was Cinclus mexicanus. And when leaving time came she yet lingered, for Father Water Ouzel was singing -- and in his song was the glory of the mountains, the rippling laughter of the streams -- their dreamy sadness, too; the beauty of the mosses and ferns along the water. The tinkle of the raindrops traveling over the tiny rocks -- all these more too -- the joy of living in God's good world, was in the song of the Ouzel.
In a thicket along the stream she saw a Sunshine Bird -- saw the Summer Warbler -- he whose name is Dendroica aestiva in a tree close by was his cup-shaped home made of plant fibers. Soon Liloriole came unto this home, and saw there five eggs like these. When Mother Warbler came she learned that Cowbird (who is the black sheep of the Icteridae family) had placed one of her eggs in their newly built home -- and that a platform had been built over this Cowbird egg. Also she learned that Summer Warblers are cousins of Audubon, Magnolia, Dusky and Yellow-throat Warblers. She cuddled one night under Mother Summer Warbler's wing -- and promised to return when the young birds were out of their eggs. As she went away she planned what she would name them.
A bird's nest, mark it well, within, without,
No tool had he that wrought, no knife to cut,
No nail to fix, no bodkin to insert,
No glue to join; his little beak was all.
And yet how neatly finished! What a nice hand,
With every implement and means of art,
And twenty years' apprenticeship to boot,
Could make me such another?