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Ptarmigans, (Tetra Lagopus) are generally very abundant in this country; but when we were there, we were told that they were scarce in the neighbourhood of the town, and in some other parts of the country. Towards the latter end of July, we observed a bird of the grouse kind, with a brood of young ones: it was possibly the species which Paulson, in his catalogue of Iceland birds, has called the hazel grouse. It had less white, and in general differed somewhat in its plumage from the common ptarmigan, and appeared to be larger.
Of all the land-birds which are seen in Iceland, none are more common than the golden plover and the curlew. These birds are frequently the only enliveners of dreary plains and extended marshes, where their wild and inharmonious notes accord well with the surrounding scenery. The snipe is likewise common in the same situations; and in some instances seemed to have lost much of that wildness of disposition which it exhibits in this country. Thus we saw it associating as it were, with the Eiderducks, and sitting on its eggs within an hundred yards of the house at Vidée.
The variety of birds which frequent the sea-shore is very great. The high rocky islets on the south are covered with gannets (Pelicanus Bassanus). The shag (Pelicanus Graculus) and the corvorant (Pelicanus Carbo) sit constantly on the rocks... Innumerable gulls, fulmars, and shearwaters, breed in the cliffs. The black gull (Larus Crepidatus) we saw frequently in the swamps, in considerable numbers. Ducks, mergansers, and divers, in great variety, are at one time seen floating on the bays, and at
another, suffer themselves to be carried along by the rapid
streams, or accompany their young broods in the marshes.— Large flocks of auks and guillemots live about the coasts, which, together with the kittiwake, and other species of the gull, present in their eggs and feathers a valuable reward to the Icelanders for the fatigue and labour they undergo in their pursuit.
The tern (Sterna Hirundo) is another bird which is very common, always choosing, for the purpose of breeding, a piece of fresh water situated in a marsh near the sea-shore. The egg of this bird is a very delicate article of food, and frequently formed a principal relish in our homely repasts. We saw the tern, for the first time, on the 27th of May, at Grundivik; and, as we had not seen it at Reikiavik when we were there only a few days before, this was probably about the time of its arrival in Iceland. Mr. Macwick, in the Linnean Transactions, gives as an average of twenty-six years observations, that the Sterna Hirundo is first seen in England April 1st, and last seen October the 8th. He likewise represents the snipe as appearing November 20th, and disappearing March 20th.
The most majestic bird of Iceland is undoubtedly the Swan. It in general seeks the more remote lakes among the mountains, resorting at times to the salt marshes about the sea-shore, where forty or fifty are sometimes seen feeding together. During the breeding season, they retire in pairs to small lakes, where they may be concealed among the reeds, and thus protect themselves from the attacks of the Icelanders, who receive the value of a few shillings for their skins from the Danish merchants. Of the eggs, we once had an opportunity of partaking; and though somewhat heavy, they were very palatable.
So much has already been said respecting the manners and habits of that most curious and interesting bird, the Eider-duck, that it will be unnecessary to do more than merely mention its name in this place.
Some parts of the coast of Iceland, particularly the bays on the west, abound with varieties of very fine cod; for which, before the discovery of Newfoundland, a considerable fishery was carried on; so that, in the reign of James I., no less than one hundred and fifty British vessels were employed in Iceland fisheries. Great numbers are still taken by the Icelanders, chiefly for the Danish merchants, who dry them, either with or without salt, and export them to Denmark. Some are consumed by the Icelanders themselves; but their number is comparatively small, as they either prefer haddocks, or are obliged to eat them because the merchants will scarcely take anything but cod. The best season for fishing is from the beginning of February to the middle of May. In June, the fish become meagre and watery, as this is the month in which they generally cast their spawn.
The haddock is likewise very plentiful, apparently associating with the cod, for they are always taken together. They grow to a size not inferior to the cod, frequently measuring above three feet in length; and are to the inhabitants of greater importance than any thing with which nature or art has supplied them.
The ling, the skate, and the hollibut, occur in considerable numbers, though not nearly so common as the two last. The hollibut arrives at a great size; and, like the wolf-fish, is cut up and dried for winter use. Flounders abound on the shores; and herrings are taken in great numbers on the north coast. They come in extensive shoals in the months of June and July, not less than one hundred and fifty barrels of them having been taken at one draught of a net. Sharks are taken in great abundance on the north and western coasts.”
* It has been mentioned in the journal, that it is probably the species known by the name of the basking-shark; but the colour is different from that of the Squalus Maximus, being of a pinkish tinge. From figures I have seen of the
WOL. VIII. 5 tr
Eels are found in the rivers; and we once observed a very fine one in a stream, which was rendered tepid by the admixture of the water arising from a hot spring. Two or three species of the salmon frequent the rivers and lakes, among which the sea-trout is in great perfection. The Zeus Opah has been seen in Iceland. One, of which we saw a tolerable drawing, was taken about two years ago. Of the insect tribes, we saw nothing very remarkable. A large Tipula (Plumosa?) began to appear in considerable numbers about the middle of May: and although, as the summer advanced, a few of the most common species of flies and moths were seen, once only, in a low and marshy situation, in the month of July, did we experience any inconvenience from them. At that time, the air was thickly peopled by a small yellow-coloured fly, probably a species of Empis. “The entomological productions of Iceland,” says Mr. Hooker, are extremely scanty. A very small collection of insects indeed, rewarded my researches in this department of natural history; and of these there were none that were in the least remarkable for their beauty. Some of the Lepidopterous species were new to me; among which I think I had five or six nondescript Phalenae. No Papilio or Sphinx has ever been met with in the country. Of Coleopterous insects there is scarcely a greater variety; and I saw only a single Scarabaeus, and very few Curculiones and Carabi, most of which, however, to make me amends, were such as I was unacquainted with. I, by mere accident, have still preserved a specimen of an undescribed species of Coccinella, which I found killed by the steam of one of the hot springs of the Geysers; it was the only one of the genus that I saw.” Small crabs, of two or three species, are thrown upon the shore, together with the star-fish and echinus; of which latter we once observed a great number carried by the birds, and dispersed along an extensive marsh to a considerable distance from the sea. Muscles are in great abundance, and also whelks, snails, and limpets; and the barnade often forms a firm coating to the rocks.
white shark, from the general shape of those we saw, and from other circum-stances, it appears to be that variety which is so common on the coasts of Iceland, and not the basking-shark.
FROM THE BIOGRAPH E Mo Don N. E.
JEAN Gaspord Christian Lavater, was born at Zurich in 1761, was educated as a minister of the Protestant religion, and acquired much reputation by his eloquent discourses. If he had continued his theological pursuits, he would probably have become one of the most celebrated of divines, as his works upon his favorite topics sufficiently shew. His writings are numerous, full of spirit, and of novel and singular hypothesis. He has published the following works: “journal of a Self Observer,” of which Zollikoffer of Leipsic ublished an edition in 1778; “Solomon” in 1786; a “Collection of Poems” 1785 ; Nathaniel,” “jesus Christ or the Evangelists and acts of the Apostles paraphrased,” in 1785; “Fraternal Letters;” and a “Treatise upon Physiognomy.” This latter work is the most considerable of Lavater, and has procured him the most celebrity. The foundation is not new, and a Lyonais, the Abbé Perneti had published before a volume on the same subject; but the details, the descriptions, and the singular and ingenious applications of the German author renders his work remarkable and original. It has been translated into French and published with a number of plates and portraits. The system of Doctor Gall, although founded less upon fact, is, however, similar to that of Lavater, and it is unfortunate that it has met with less success. Lavater, perhaps, has proved more contradictions than the chronologist, but above all, he found means to make himself welcome to sovereigns. It is told of the Duke of Wirtemburg, who was much amused with him, that he sent him one day, two criminals who had been sentenced to be hanged, and, concealing this circumstance, begged him to pronounce on their physiognomies. Lavater declared that their countenances announced them to be very honest men, which gave rise to a number of jokes. Lavater has shown himself, on many occasions, to be opposed to the principles of the French revolution. He was at Zurich in 1799 at the defeat of the Russian army under Korsakow, and was a victim to the disorder which followed the victory of the French; for on percieving a female maltreated by two French soldiers, he flew to her assistance, and was wounded by a blow with the butt end of a gun. He died in the same city on the 2d. of January, 1801. His bust, executed by the sculptor Dancker, was exposed in the Saloon at Zurich in June, 1805. He had written before his death, more than two hundred letters, all of which had arrived at their destination. There was published in 1806, a second edition of “The art of knowing men by their Physiognomy.”