BAY-BIRDS

Although a cursory account of the various bay-birds, their habits and
peculiarities, has been given in a previous chapter, it seems desirable
to add a more complete, exhaustive, and specific description. This is
attempted in the following pages, and although the ornithological
characteristics are taken from _Giraud’s Birds of Long Island_, which
seems to have been the resource of all our sporting writers, nothing
else is derived from him; but the facts are stated, either upon personal
knowledge, which is generally the case, or upon reliable information.

As to the abundance or scarcity of any particular species, the
experience of sportsmen will differ according to the accident of flight,
or the locality of their favorite sporting-ground; and in relation to
their shyness or gentleness, much depends upon the time of year and the
condition of the weather. In consequence of the confusion of
nomenclature, it has been deemed advisable to give the scientific
description of the common species, each one being placed under its most
appropriate name, and to collect together as many designations as could
be found to have been applied to them respectively. Nevertheless, many
names will no doubt be omitted, and there will be other birds, and some
quite common varieties, that, among bay-men, have no names whatever.

It is not intended to furnish a description of all the species of
shore-snipe that occasionally are killed, but to supply such information
as will enable the sportsman to distinguish the ordinary varieties; and
such facts as have not been fully stated, which are more especially
applicable to certain members of this great class, are grouped together
under separate heads. Nothing is expected to be added to the
ornithological learning of the world, and only such portions of that
science are given as may be considered desirable for the ready use of
the sportsman in the intelligent pursuit of his pleasures.

PLOVERS.

_Genus Charadrius, Linn._

_Generic distinctions._–Bill short, strong, straight, about the length
of the head, which is rather large and prominent in front; eyes large;
body full; neck short and rather thick; wings long; tail rounded and of
moderate length; toes connected at the base; hind toe wanting, or
consisting of a small knob.

BLACK-BREAST.

Bull-Headed Plover. Beetle-Headed Plover. Black-Bellied Plover.

_Charadrius Helveticus, Wils._

This bird is killed along our bays indiscriminately with the other
snipe, although it does not stool as well as the marlin or yellow-legs.
It passes north early in May, when it is often called the black-bellied
plover, and regarded from its plumage as a distinct variety from the
fall bird; it is then quite shy. In August or September it returns,
being more plentiful in the latter month, and is often found in great
numbers especially at Montauk Point; and at that period the young, being
quite fat, are regarded as delicious eating. It is then greyer in
appearance and not so strongly colored as when in full plumage. Before
the main flight arrives, scattering individuals are heard uttering their
peculiar beautiful and shrill cry, and are seen shyly approaching the
stools, or darting round not far off, and yet afraid to draw close to
them. Its head is large and round, giving rise to the name of bull-head,
which is common on the coast of New Jersey, although in New York it is
generally known as black-breast.

“_Specific Character._–Bill stout, along the gap one inch and
five-sixteenths; length of tarsi one inch and five-eighths. Adult male
with the bill black, strong, shorter than the head; cheeks, loral space,
throat, fore-neck, breast, with a large portion of the abdomen black;
hind part of the abdomen and flanks white; forehead, with a broad band
passing down the sides of the neck and breast, white; crown, occiput,
and hind-neck greyish white, spotted with dusky; upper parts
blackish-brown, the feathers broadly tipped with white; eye encircled
with white; tail and upper tail-coverts white, barred with black, the
former tipped with white; lower tail-coverts white, the outer feather
spotted with black; primaries and their coverts blackish-brown, the
latter margined with white; primary shafts about two-thirds from the
base, white, tips blackish-brown; part of the inner webs of the outer
primaries white; both webs of the inner primaries partially white;
secondaries white at the base, margined at the same; feet black; toes
connected by a membrane. Female smaller. Young with the upper plumage
greyish-brown, the feathers spotted with white; throat, fore-neck, and
upper part of the breast greyish-white, streaked with dusky; rest of the
lower parts white. Length of adult male eleven inches and three
quarters, wing seven and a half.”–_Giraud’s Birds of Long Island._

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER.

_Frost Bird_, Greenback.

_Charadrius Pluvialis, Wils._

This bird furnishes great sport at Montauk Point, when the fortunate
sportsman happens to arrive after a fierce north-easter early in
September and during one of those wonderful flights that occasionally
occur. They come readily to the decoys which are placed in the open
upland fields, and were once killed in great numbers on Hempstead plains
before cultivation ejected them. A large number of decoys should be
used, for they are not so easily seen as when set in the water. After
alighting, the golden plover runs with great activity in pursuit of the
insects, mostly grasshoppers, on which it feeds; and when killed it
constitutes a prime delicacy for the table, and brings a high price in
market. It passes to the northward in the latter part of April, and
returns in the early part of September. Its general color on the back is
greenish, and it has a distinct light stripe alongside of the eye. They
often congregate in immense numbers, and I have certainly seen a
thousand in a flock.

“_Specific Character._–Bill rather slender; along the gap one inch and
an eighth; tarsi one and nine-sixteenths. Adult with the bill black,
much slighter than _C. helveticus_; forehead, and a band over the eye,
extending behind the eye, white; upper parts, including the crown,
brownish-black, the feathers marked with spots of golden yellow and dull
white; quills and coverts dark greyish-brown; secondaries paler–the
inner margined with yellowish-white; tail feathers greyish-brown, barred
with paler, the central with dull yellow; shafts of the wing quills
white towards the end, which, with their bases, are dark brown; lower
parts brownish-black, though in general we find them mottled with brown,
dull white, and black; lower tail-coverts white, the lateral marked with
black; feet bluish-grey. Late in autumn, the golden markings on the
upper parts are not so distinct, and the lower parts are greyish-blue.
Length, ten inches and a half, wing seven and one-eighth.”–_Giraud._

BEACH-BIRD.

Piping Plover.

_Charadrius Hiaticula_, Wils.

The beach-bird, as its name implies, prefers the beaches to the meadows,
and follows each retreating wave of ocean surf in pursuit of its prey,
escaping with amazing agility from the next swell. It is a pretty little
bird, not often associating in flocks, and on hazy days coming well to
the decoys, which should be placed near to the surf, while the sportsman
conceals himself by digging a hollow in the loose sand. Although these
birds are small, they are plump and well flavored, and when flying
rapidly on a level with the flashing breakers, amid the noise and
confusion of old ocean’s roar, are by no means easy to kill. They are
present with us more or less all summer, their diminutive size tending
to protect them from destruction.

“_Specific Character._–Bill shorter than the head; at base orange
color, towards the end black; fore-neck and cheeks pure white, bordered
above with black; rest of the head very pale brown. Adult male with the
bill short, orange at the base, anterior to the nostrils black; forehead
white, with a band of black crossing directly above; upper part of the
head, hind neck, back, scapulars, and wing coverts, pale brown; rump
white, the central feathers tinged with brown; tail brown, white at
base, tipped with the same; lateral feathers pure white–the next with a
spot of blackish-brown near the end; upper tail coverts white;
primaries brown; a large portion of the inner webs white; a spot of the
same on the outer webs of the inner quills; secondaries white, with a
large spot of brown towards the ends; lower surface of the wings white,
a black band round the lower part of the neck, broadest on the sides
where it terminates; entire lower plumage white. Female similar, with
the band on the neck brown. Length seven inches, wing four and a
half.”–_Giraud._

KILDEER.

_Charadrius Vociferus_, Wils.

A worthless bird, furnishing no sport, and poor eating.

“_Specific Character._–A band on the forehead passing back to the eye;
a line over the eye, upper part of the neck all round, and a band on the
lower part of the fore-neck, white; above and below the latter, a broad
black band; rump and upper tail-coverts orange red. Adult with the bill
black; at the base a band of blackish-brown; on the forehead a band of
white passing back to the eye; directly above a band of black; rest of
the head brown, with a band of white behind the eye; throat white; a
broad band of the same color encircling the upper part of the neck;
middle of the neck encircled with black, much broader on the fore-neck;
below which, on the fore-neck, a band of white, followed by a band of
black on the lower neck, the feathers of which are tipped with white, of
which color are the breast, abdomen, under tail-coverts, and sides, the
latter faintly tinged with yellow; tail rather long, rounded; the outer
feathers white, barred with brownish-black, their tips white, with a
single spot of blackish-brown on the outer web; the rest pale
reddish-brown at the base, changing into brownish-black towards the
ends, which are white; some of the inner feathers tipped with
yellowish-brown; the middle feathers are plain brown, with a darker spot
towards the ends, which are slightly tipped with white; upper
tail-coverts and rump reddish-brown, the latter brighter; upper parts
brown, the feathers margined with reddish-brown; primaries dark brown,
with a large portion of the inner web white; a spot of the same color on
the outer webs towards the tips, excepting the first two; their coverts
blackish-brown tipped with white; secondaries white, with a large spot
of brown towards the ends; their tips, with those of the primaries,
white; secondary coverts brown, broadly tipped with white. Length ten
inches, wing seven inches.”–_Giraud._

SANDERLING.

_Charadrius Rubidus_, Wils.

“_Specific Character._–Bill straight, black, along the gap one inch and
one-eighth; length of tarsi one inch; hind toe wanting. Adult with the
bill straight, about as long as the head. Spring plumage, upper parts,
with the throat, fore-neck, and upper part of the breast rufous,
intermixed with dusky and greyish white; deeper red on the back; lower
part of the breast, abdomen, and sides of the body pure white; tarsi and
feet black; claws small, compressed; primaries, outer webs, black; inner
webs light brown; shafts brown at the base, tips black, rest parts
white; secondaries light brown, broadly margined with white. Winter
dress, lower parts white; upper parts greyish-white, intermixed with
black or dusky, darkest on the back. Length seven inches and
three-quarters, wing four and seven-eighths.”–_Giraud._

TURNSTONE.

_Genus Strepsilas._

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill shorter than the head, strong, tapering,
compressed, and blunt; neck rather short; body full; wings long, of
moderate breadth, and pointed; tail round, rather short, and composed of
twelve feathers; tarsus equal to the middle toe, and rather stout; hind
toe small, fore-toes free, with a narrow margin.

BRANT-BIRD.

Horse-foot Snipe, Turnstone, Beach-Robins.

_Strepsilas Interpres._

This is a beautiful bird, and stools pretty well, but is rare and mostly
solitary; its young are at Egg Harbor sometimes termed beach-birds. The
brant-bird is considered good eating. It feeds on the eggs of the
king-crab or horse-foot, which it digs up by jumping in the air and
striking with both its feet at once into the sand, thus scratching a
hole about three inches deep and an inch and a half across.

“_Specific Character._–Bill black; feet orange; the head and sides of
the neck streaked and patched with black and white; fore part of the
neck and upper portion of the sides of the breast, black; lower parts,
hind part of the back, and upper tail-coverts white; rump dusky; rest of
the upper parts reddish-brown, mottled with black; primaries dusky; a
band across the wings and the throat white. Young with the head and neck
all round, fore part of the back, and sides of the breast, dusky brown,
streaked and margined with greyish-white; wing-coverts and tertials
broadly margined with dull reddish-brown. It can at all times be
identified by its having the throat, lower parts, hind part of the back,
and the upper tail-coverts white, and the feathers on the rump dusky.
Adult with the bill black, throat white, sides of the head mottled with
black and white; crown streaked with black on white ground; on the hind
neck a patch of white; a patch of black on the sides of the neck, of
which color are the fore-neck and the sides of the breast; lower parts
white; tail blackish-brown, white at the base, of which color are the
lateral feathers, with a spot of black on the inner vanes near the
end–the rest margined with reddish-brown, and tipped with white; upper
tail-coverts white; hind part of the back white; the feathers on the
rump black; fore part of the back mottled with black and reddish-brown;
primaries dark brown, inner webs white; secondaries broadly edged with
white, forming a band on the wings; outer secondary coverts
reddish-brown, inner black; outer scapulars white, with dusky spots;
inner scapulars reddish brown. In winter the colors are duller. Length
nine inches, wing five and three-quarters.”–_Giraud._

SANDPIPER.

_Genus Tringà._

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill straight, slender, and tapering,
compressed towards the end, and but little longer than the head; body
rather full; wings very long and pointed; tail rather short and nearly
even; tarsi moderate; hind toe very small, and sometimes wanting; fore
toes slender, of moderate length, and generally divided.

ROBIN-SNIPE.

Red-breasted Sandpiper.

_Tringà Cinèrea_, Wils. Winter.

_Tringà Rufa_, Wils. Spring.

This delicious and beautiful bird, although far from plentiful,
furnishes excellent sport, coming readily to stool, and flying regularly
and steadily. It mostly affects the marshy islands lying between the
salt water creeks, and derives its name from a fancied resemblance to
the robin, as he is termed among us. It is always gentle, occasionally
abundant, and generally fat and tender; by reason of its steady flight
it is not difficult to kill; and its food, mostly shell-fish, does not
contribute an unpleasant flavor to its flesh. It arrives from the north
about the middle of August, and often lingers for some time on the
meadows. As the season advances its plumage becomes paler, till it
acquires the name of white robin-snipe–although I have often seen them
late in August of the most beautiful and strongly marked coloring, the
breast being a rich brownish red and the back a fine grey.

The robin-snipe is of about the size of the dowitcher, with a shorter
and more pointed bill, and is killed indiscriminately on the stools with
the other bay-birds. Its call consists of two notes, and is sharp and
clear; when well imitated, it will often attract the confiding snipe to
the gunner, exposed in full view, and without decoys. This bird is very
beautiful, and a great favorite.

“_Specific Character._–Bill straight, longer than the head; tarsi one
inch and three-sixteenths long; rump and upper tail-coverts white,
barred with dark brown; region of the vent and the lower tail-coverts
white, with dusky markings. In spring the upper parts are ash-grey,
variegated with black and pale yellowish-red; lower parts, including the
throat and fore-neck, brownish-orange. In autumn the upper parts are
ash-grey, margined with dull white; rump and upper tail-coverts barred
with black and white; lower parts white; the sides of the body marked
with dusky; a dull white line over the eye. Adult in spring–bill black;
a broad band of reddish brown commences at the base of the upper
mandible, extends half-way to the eye, where it changes to
reddish-brown; upper part of head and the hind neck dusky, the feathers
margined with greyish white–a few touches of pale reddish-brown on the
latter; throat, fore-neck, breast, and abdomen reddish-brown; vent
white; lower tail coverts white, spotted with dusky; upper plumage
blackish-brown, upper tail-coverts barred with black and white; tail
pale brown, margined with white; primary coverts black, tipped with
white; secondary coverts greyish-brown, margined with white. Young with
the upper parts greyish-brown; the feathers with central dusky streaks,
a narrow line of cinnamon-color towards their margins, which are dull
white; the lower parts ash-grey. Length of adult, ten inches; wing, six
and three-quarters.”–_Giraud._

UPLAND PLOVER.

Grey, Grass, or Field Plover.

Bartram’s Sandpiper.

_Tringà Bartramia_, Wils.

This bird, although scientifically not a plover, is, by its habits,
entitled to an appellation that common consent has bestowed upon it. It
is found upon the uplands, never frequenting the marshes except by
crossing them while migrating, and feeds, not on shell-fish or the
innumerable minute insects that live in sand and salt mud, but on the
grasshoppers and seeds of the open fields. It never takes the slightest
notice of the stools, is comparatively a solitary bird, and although
continually uttering its melodious cry, does not heed a responsive call.

On the eastern extremity of Long Island, and along the coast of New
England, are vast rolling and hilly stretches of land, where there are
no trees and little vegetation, besides a short thin grass, and here the
plovers rest and feed. They migrate to the southward in August, and
appear about the same time scattered from Nantucket to New Jersey. In
spite of their shyness and the difficulty of killing them, they are
pursued relentlessly by man with every device that he finds will outwit
their cunning or deceive their vigilance.

Rhode Island has long been one of their favorite resorts, but has been
overrun with gunners, who follow the vocation either for sport or
pleasure, and there, for many years, the grey plover were killed in
considerable quantities. Many are still found in the same locality, or
further east, as well as at Montauk Point; but at Hempstead Plains,
where they were once found quite numerous, they appear no longer; and
the eastern shore of New Jersey being unsuited to their habits, they
rarely sojourn or even pause upon it. They travel as well by night as by
day; and in the still summer nights their sweet trilling cry may be
heard at short intervals; while during the day they will often be seen
in small bodies, or singly, winging their way rapidly towards the south.

They are wary, fly rapidly, and are difficult to shoot, and, were it not
for one peculiarity, would escape almost scatheless. Alighting only in
the open fields, where the thin grass reveals every enemy and exposes
every approaching object to their view; readily alarmed at the first
symptom of danger, and shunning the slightest familiarity with man, they
are impossible to reach except with laborious and painful creeping that
no sportsman cares to undertake. Not sufficiently gregarious or friendly
in their nature to desire the company of wooden decoys, they cannot be
lured within gunshot; and it is only through their confidence in their
fellow-beasts that their destruction can be accomplished.

A horse, they know, has no evil design, does not live on plover, and may
be permitted to come and go as he pleases; a horse drawing a wagon is to
be pitied, not feared; and, most fortunately, the birds cannot conceive
that a man would be mean enough to hide in that wagon, and drive that
horse in an ingenious manner round and round them, every time narrowing
the circle till he gets within shot. Man, however, is ready for any
subterfuge to gain his plover; and, seated on the tail-board, or a place
behind prepared for the purpose, he steps to the ground the moment the
wagon stops, and as the bird immediately rises, fires–being often
compelled, in spite of his ingenuity, to take a long shot.

Even in this mode no large number of birds is killed, and by creeping or
stalking few indeed are obtained. One inventive genius made an imitation
cow of slats and canvas painted to represent the living animal, and,
mounting it upon his shoulders, was often able to approach without
detection; when near enough, or if the bird became alarmed, he cast off
his false skin and used his fowling-piece. This was certainly an
original and successful mode of modifying an idea derived from the times
of ancient Troy.

This bird is so delicious and so highly prized by the epicure, that no
pains are spared in its capture; it is by many superior judges regarded
as the richest and most delicately flavored of the birds of America;
while its timid and wary disposition renders it the most difficult to
kill. It is, therefore, justly esteemed the richest prize of the
sportsman and the gourmand, and holds as high a rank in the field as in
the market.

It is not, properly speaking, a bay-bird; but as it is frequently shot
from the stand when passing near the decoys, these few remarks
concerning it are inserted. It is essentially an upland bird, although
from the nature of its migration it passes along the coast and
occasionally far out at sea.

“_Specific Character._–Bill slender, rather longer than the head; tarsi
one inch and seven-eighths; neck rather long, slender; axillars
distinctly barred with black and greyish-white; upper parts dark brown,
margined with yellowish-brown; fore-neck and fore part of the breast
with arrow-shaped markings; rest of the lower parts yellowish-white.
Adult with the bill slender, yellowish-green, dusky at the tip; upper
part of the head dark brown, with a central yellowish-brown line, the
feathers margined with the same color; hind part and sides of the neck
yellowish-brown, streaked with dusky; fore part of the neck and breast
paler, with pointed streaks of dusky; sides of the body barred with the
same; rest of lower parts yellowish-white; lower wing-coverts white,
barred with brownish-black; upper plumage dark-brown, margined with
yellowish-brown, darker on the hind part of the back; primaries
dark-brown; coverts the same color; inner webs of the primaries barred
with white, more particularly on the first–the shaft of which is white;
the rest brown, all tipped with white; secondaries more broadly tipped
with the same; coverts and scapulars dark-brown, margined with
yellowish-brown, and tipped with white; tail barred with black and
yellowish-brown, tipped with white; middle feathers darker, tipped with
black. Length ten inches and a half, wing six and
five-eighths.”–_Giraud._

RED-BACKED SANDPIPER.

Winter Snipe.–Black-breast.

_Tringà Alpina_, Wils.

This bird absolutely has no common name.

“_Specific Character._–Bill about one-third longer than the head, bent
towards the end; length of tarsi, one inch. Adult with the bill
black–one-third longer than the head, slightly bent towards the end,
and rather shorter than that of T. Subarquata; upper part of the head,
back, and scapular, chestnut-red, the centre of each feather black,
which color occupies a large portion of the scapulars; wing-coverts and
quills greyish-brown; the bases and tips of the secondaries and parts of
the outer webs of the middle primaries, white; forehead, sides of the
head, and hind neck, pale reddish-grey, streaked with dusky; fore neck
and upper part of breast greyish-white, streaked with dusky; on the
lower part of the breast a large black patch; abdomen white; lower tail
coverts white, marked with dusky; tail light-brownish grey,
streaked–the central feathers darker.

“Winter dress, upper parts brownish-grey; throat, greyish-white; fore
part and sides of neck, sides of the head, and sides of the body, pale
brownish-grey, faintly streaked with darker; rest of the lower parts
white. Length, seven inches and a half; wing, four and an
eighth.”–_Giraud._

LONG-LEGGED SANDPIPER.

Peep, Blind Snipe, Frost Snipe, Stilt.

_Tringà Himantopus._

This bird also is nameless: it is rare, although I have killed quite a
number of them, and I believe its numbers are increasing; it rarely
consorts in flocks of more than five or six, stools readily, and is
often mistaken for the yellow-legs.

“_Specific Character._–Bill about one-third longer than the head,
slightly arched; length of tarsi, one inch and three-eighths. Adult,
with the upper parts brownish-black, the feathers margined with
reddish-white; the edges of the scapulars with semiform markings of the
same; rump and upper tail-coverts white, transversely barred with dusky;
tail, light grey, the feathers white at the base and along the middle;
primary quills and coverts brownish-black–inner tinged with grey; the
shaft of the outer primary, white; secondaries, brownish-grey, margined
with reddish-white, the inner dusky; a broad whitish line over the eye;
loral space dusky; auriculars, pale brownish-red; fore part and sides of
neck, greyish white, tinged with red, and longitudinally streaked with
dusky; the rest of the lower parts, pale reddish, transversely barred
with dusky; the middle of the breast and the abdomen without markings;
legs long and slender, of a yellowish-green color. In autumn, the
plumage duller, of a more greyish appearance, and the reddish markings
wanting, excepting on the sides of the head, and a few touches on the
scapular. Length, nine inches; wing, five.”–_Giraud._





RING-NECK.

American Ring Plover.

_Tringà Hiaticula_, Wils.

This is a small, but delicate, fat, and pretty bird; it does not stool
well, and accompanies the small snipe.

“_Specific Character._–Bill shorter than the head; base, orange color,
towards the point, black; a broad band on the forehead white, margined
below with a narrow black band, above with a broad band of the same
color; rest part of the head wood-brown; lateral toes connected by a
membrane as far as the first joint; inner toes, about half that
distance. Adult male with the bill flesh color at base, anterior to the
nostrils black; a line of black commences at the base of the upper
mandible, passes back to the eye, curving downward on the sides of the
neck; a band on the fore part of the head pure white; fore part of
crown, black; occiput, wood-brown; chin, throat, and fore neck, passing
round on the hind neck, pure white; directly below, on the lower portion
of the neck, a broad band of black; upper plumage, wood-brown;
primaries, blackish-brown; shafts, white–blackish-brown at their tips;
secondaries slightly edged with white on the inner webs; outer webs,
nearest to the shafts, an elongated spot of white; wing-coverts
wood-brown; secondary coverts broadly tipped with white; breast,
abdomen, sides, and lower tail-coverts, pure white; tail brown, lighter
at the base; outer feathers white–the rest broadly tipped with white,
excepting the middle pair, which are slightly tipped with the same.
Female similar, with the upper part of the head and the band on the neck
brown. Length, seven inches and a quarter; wing five.”–_Giraud._

KRIEKER.

Meadow Snipe, Fat Bird, Short Neck, Jack Snipe, Pectoral Sandpiper.

_Tringà Pectoralis_, Aud.

This is an excellent bird, remaining in the meadows till October, and
becoming fat, rich, and fine flavored, but unfortunately it will not
come to the stools. Although frequently associating in flocks, it can
hardly be said to be truly gregarious, and is as often found with the
different varieties of small snipe as with its own number. It is quite a
difficult bird to kill when on the wing, its flight being rapid and
irregular, and its size small; but when it becomes fat and lazy, after a
long residence in well supplied feeding-grounds, not only is its flight
slower and itself easier to hit, but it is often shot sitting. Its
general color is grey, with white on the abdomen; and its size varies
greatly according to its age and condition, some being of more than
double the size of others. As a natural consequence, considerable
practice is required to distinguish it readily from the ox-eyes by which
it is often surrounded, when the meadow grass hides it, in a measure,
from view. It feeds and dwells altogether in the meadows, finding its
food in the stagnant water collected upon their surface, and is only
plentiful when these are wet. When alarmed, it rises rapidly, and makes
off in a zigzag way, that reminds the sportsman of the flight of English
snipe; and early in the season it is wild and shy. It occasionally
passes over the stools, but never pauses or seems to notice them; and
for this reason, in spite of its epicurean recommendations, it is
generally neglected. In the cool days of September and October, when the
mosquitoes have succumbed in a measure to the frost, its pursuit over
the open meadows is pleasant and exhilarating. It is often killed to the
number of eighty in a day, and is so fat that its body is absolutely
round.

“_Specific Character._–Bill straight, base orange-green; length of
tarsi one inch and one-sixteenth; upper parts brownish-black, edged with
reddish-brown; throat white; fore part of neck and upper part of the
breast light brownish-grey, streaked with dusky; rest of lower parts,
including the lower tail-coverts, white. Adult with the bill straight;
top of the head dark-brown, intermixed with black; sides of the head,
neck, and a large portion of the breast, greyish-brown, streaked with
dusky; chin white; a streak of dark brown before the eye, continuing to
the nostril, directly above a faint line of white; back dark-brown;
feathers margined with white; primary quills dark-brown–shaft of the
first white; outer secondaries slightly edged with white; tail-feathers
brown, margined with brownish-white–two middle feathers darker,
longest, and more pointed; lower part of the breast, abdomen, and sides
of the body and under tail-coverts white; feet dull yellow; tibia bare,
about half the length. Female, the general plumage lighter. Length nine
inches and a half, wing five and a quarter.”–_Giraud._

OX-EYE.

_Tringà Semipalmata_, Wils.

“_Specific Character._–Bill rather stout, broad towards the point;
along the gap about one inch; length of tarsi seven-eighths of an inch;
bill and legs black; toes half webbed. Adult with the bill slender,
about the length of the head–dark-green, nearly approaching to black;
head, sides, and hind-part of neck ash-grey, streaked with dusky; upper
parts blackish-brown, the feathers edged with greyish-white; secondary
coverts tipped with white; primary coverts brownish-black, as are the
feathers on the rump; upper tail-coverts the same; wing-quills dusky,
their shafts white; tail-feathers ash-grey, the inner webs of the middle
pair much darker; over the eye a white line; lower parts white; legs
black. Length six inches and a half, wing four.”–_Giraud._

This and the following variety are generally confounded by bay-men; and
being too small to demand much consideration, and never shot unless
huddled together, so that a large number may be bagged, they are called
promiscuously by the odd name ox-eye. They are fat, and almost as good
eating when in prime order as the reed-bird.

OX-EYE.

Wilson’s Sandpiper.

_Tringà Pusilla_, Wils.

“_Specific Character._–Bill along the gap three-quarters of an inch,
slender; tarsi three-quarters of an inch; legs yellowish-green. Adult
with the bill brownish-black; upper part of the breast grey-brown, mixed
with white; back and upper parts black; the whole plumage above broadly
edged with bright bay and yellow ochre; primaries black–greater coverts
the same, tipped with white; tail rounded, the four exterior feathers on
each side dull white–the rest dark-brown; tertials as long as the
primaries; head above dark-brown, with paler edges; over the eye a
streak of whitish; belly and vent white. Length five inches and a half,
wing three and a half. With many of our birds we observe that
individuals of the same species vary in length, extent, and sometimes
differ slightly in their bills, even with those which have arrived at
maturity.–On consulting ornithological works, we notice that there are
no two writers whose measurement is in all cases alike. With specimens
of the Wilson’s sandpiper, we find in their proportions greater
discrepancy than in many other species–and out of these differences we
are inclined to the opinion that two spurious species have been
created.”–_Giraud._

TATLER.

Genus Totanus.

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill longer than the head, straight, hard and
slender; neck slender, and both it and body rather long; wings long and
pointed; tail short and rounded; legs long; hind-toe very small, and
the anterior ones connected at the base by webs, the inner being
slightly webbed.

WILLET.

Semipalmated Tatler.

_Totanus Semipalmatus_, Lath.

_Scolopax Semipalmata_, Wils.

This is a fine, large, and beautiful bird; the sharply distinct white
and black of its wings contrasting admirably with the reddish-brown
tints of the marlin and sickle-bills with which it often associates; it
stools well, flying steadily, and often returning after the first, and
even second visit; but even when fat, it is tough and ill-flavored. It
congregates in large flocks, and reaches the Middle States on its
southern journey in the latter part of August. Its cry is a fierce wild
shriek, which is rarely, if ever, accurately imitated; but it responds
to the call of the sickle-bill, and when once headed for the stools,
rarely alters its course. In exposed situations it is shy and difficult
of approach, like most of the shore-birds, which, although they come up
so unsuspiciously to the decoys, are wary of the gunner, and rarely
permit him to crawl within range of them.

“_Specific Character._–Secondaries and basal part of the primaries
white; toes connected at base by broad membranes. Adult with the head
and neck brown, intermixed with greyish-white; breast and sides of the
body spotted, and waved with brown on white ground; abdomen white;
tail-coverts white, barred with brown; tail greyish-brown, barred with
darker brown–the outer two feathers lighter; rump brown; fore part of
the back and wing-coverts brown, largely spotted with dull white;
primaries blackish-brown, broadly banded with white; secondaries white.
Length fifteen inches and a half, wing eight.”–_Giraud._

YELPER.

Big Yellow-Legs–Greater Yellow-Shanks–Tell-tale Tatler.

_Totanus Vociferus_, Wils.

This is one of the most numerous of the bay-birds, and among the most
highly prized for its sport-conferring properties. It stools well,
although occasionally suspicious, and will often drop like a stone from
the clouds, where it is fond of flying, upon receiving a response to its
strong, clear, and easily imitated cry. It will also frequently come
within shot in the open, when the sportsman is unaided by his decoys.
Its flight is uneven, being often slow when approaching or pausing over
the stools, and then exceedingly rapid and irregular when alarmed; and
if there are no stools to make the Yelper hesitate, it has a bobbing
motion, as if searching for the origin of the call, that makes it
exceedingly difficult to kill. Moreover, it is vigorous, and will carry
off much shot, as in fact is the habit with all the shore-birds, and is
tough and sedgy on the table.

It does not associate in large flocks, but roams about in parties of
three or four.

“_Specific Character._–Bill along the ridge two and a quarter inches;
tarsi two and a half; legs yellow. Adult with the bill black, at the
base bluish; upper part of the head, loral space, cheeks, and neck,
streaked with brownish-black and white; throat white; a white line from
the bill to the eye; a white ring round the eye; breast and abdomen
white, spotted and barred with brownish-black; sides and tail-coverts
the same; lower surface of the primaries light grey–upper
brownish-black, the inner spotted white; wing-coverts and back brown,
spotted with white, and dusky; scapulars the same; tail brown, barred
with white. Winter plumage, the upper parts lighter–larger portion of
the breast and abdomen white; sides of the body barred with dusky.
Length, fourteen inches; wing, seven and a quarter.”–_Giraud._

YELLOW-LEGS.

Little Yellow-Legs–Yellow-Shanks Tatler.

_Totanus Flavipes_, Lath.

_Scolopax Flavipes_, Wilson.

This bird in appearance is almost identical with the yelper, except that
it is much smaller, not being more than half as large. It has several
calls, consisting of one or more flute-like and shrill notes, which are
rather difficult to imitate. It is probably the most plentiful of all
the bay-snipe, making its summer visit in July, and continuing to arrive
till late in September. It collects in immense flocks, and stools
excellently, but its flight is irregular and rapid, and when frightened,
it darts about in a confusing way that often baffles the sportsman. When
wounded it will swim away, and, if possible, crawl into the grass to
hide.

Although a pleasant bird to shoot, it is unattractive on the table, even
when in best condition, unless killed along the fresh water, where it
attains an agreeable and delicate flavor. Both it and the yelper are
found in considerable numbers on the marshy shores of the western lakes,
where it and the other smaller bay-birds are called, indiscriminately,
plover.

Wonderful stories are told of the number of yellow-legs killed at one
shot, and as it is a small bird, these are probably not exaggerated. By
Wilson the yellow-legs, the yelper, and willet are classed among the
_Scolopacidæ_, or snipe, but the other ornithologists have erected a
separate genus for them.

“_Specific Character._–Bill along the ridge one inch and three-eighths;
length of tarsi one inch and seven-eighths; legs yellow. Adult with the
bill black; throat white; upper part of the head, lores, cheeks, hind
part and side parts of the neck, deep brownish-grey, streaked with
greyish-white; eye encircled with white, a band of the same color from
the bill to the eye; fore neck, sides of the body, and upper part of the
breast, greyish-white, streaked with greyish-brown; lower part of the
breast and abdomen white; lower tail-coverts white, the outer feathers
barred with brown; scapulars and fore part of the back brown, the
feathers barred and spotted with black and white; primaries
blackish-brown, the shaft of the outer brownish-white, whiter towards
the tip, the rest dark-brown; secondaries margined with white; hind part
of the back brownish-grey; tail barred with greyish-brown, white at the
tip; legs, feet, and toes, yellow; claws black. Length, ten inches and
three-quarters; wing, six. Young with the legs greenish–and by those
who have not recognised it as the young of the year, I have heard the
propriety of its name questioned.”–_Giraud._

GODWIT.

Genus Limosa.

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill very long, a little recurved from the
middle, rather slender, and with the lower mandible the shorter. Wings
long and very acute; tail short and even; legs long; toes four, and
rather slender, the hind one being small and the middle toe the longest;
anterior toes connected at the base by webs, the outer web being much
the larger.

MARLIN.

Great Marbled Godwit.

_Limosa Fedoa_, Linn.

_Scolopax Fedoa_, Wils.

This is the gentlest and most abundant of the large birds, approaching
the decoys with great confidence and returning again and again, till
frequently the entire flock is killed. In color it is a reddish-brown,
lighter on the abdomen, and its flight is steady and rather slow.
Although better eating than the willet, and very rich and juicy, its
flesh cannot be called delicate. The ring-tailed marlin or Hudsonian
Godwit, _Limosa Hudsonica, Lath._ is a finer but much scarcer bird, and
resembles somewhat in color the willet, but has the marlin bill, which
is longer than that of the last-named species.

“_Specific Character._–Bill at base yellow, towards the end
blackish-brown; upper parts spotted and barred with yellowish-grey and
brownish-black; lower parts pale reddish-brown; tail darker, barred with
black. Adult male with the bill at the base yellowish-brown, towards the
end black; head and neck greyish-brown, tinged with pale reddish,
streaked with dusky–darker on the upper part of the head and hind neck;
throat whitish, lower parts pale reddish-brown; under tail-coverts
barred with brown; tail reddish-brown, barred with dusky; upper
tail-coverts the same; upper parts barred with brownish-black and pale
reddish-brown, spotted with dusky; inner primaries tipped with
yellowish-white; scapulars and wing-coverts barred with pale
reddish-brown and greyish-white; shaft of the first primary white, dusky
at the tip; inner shafts at the base white, rest part light brown,
excepting the tips, which are dusky. Length, sixteen inches; wing, nine
and a half. Female larger, exceeding the male from three to four
inches.”–_Giraud._

RING-TAILED MARLIN.

Hudsonian Godwit.

_Limosa Hudsonica_, Lath.

“_Specific Character._–Bill blackish-brown, at base of lower mandible
yellow; upper parts light brown, marked with dull brown, and a few small
white spots; neck all around brownish-grey; lower parts white, largely
marked with ferruginous; basal part of tail-feathers and a band crossing
the rump, white. Adult with the bill slender, blackish towards the tip,
lighter at the base, particularly at the base of the lower mandible; a
line of brownish-white from the bill to the eye; lower eyelid white;
throat white, spotted with rust color; head and neck brownish-grey;
lower parts white, marked with large spots of ferruginous; under
tail-coverts barred with brownish-black, and ferruginous; tail
brownish-black, with a white band at the base; a band over the rump;
tips of primary coverts and bases of quills white; upper tail-coverts
brownish-black–their base white; upper parts greyish-brown, scapulars
marked with darker; feet bluish. Length, fifteen inches and a half;
wing, eight and a half. Young with the lower parts brownish-grey, the
ferruginous markings wanting.”–_Giraud._

SNIPE.

_Genus Scolopax_, Linn.

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill long, at least twice the length of the
head; straight, tapering, and flattened towards the end; eyes rather
large, placed high in the head, and far back from the bill; neck of
moderate length, and rather thick; body full; wings rather long and
pointed; tail moderate and rounded; legs moderate; toes slender and
rather long, except the hind one; middle toe longest, and connected at
the base with the inner by a slight web, the outer one being free.

DOWITCHER.

Dowitch–Brown Back–Quail-Snipe–Red-Breasted Snipe.

_Scolopax Noveboracensis_, Wils.

This is a beautiful, excellent, and plentiful bird; it abounds in the
marshes during the entire summer, congregates in vast flocks, and
although uttering a faint call itself, is attracted to the decoys by the
cry of the yellow-legs, or almost any sharp whistle. It is remarkably
gentle, individuals often alighting when their associates are slain, in
spite of the unusual uproar; and it can be more readily approached than
any of the bay-birds. Its flesh, moreover, is quite delicate, and when
fat somewhat similar to that of the English snipe, which it greatly
resembles in appearance. In general color it is brownish, with a light
abdomen, but occasionally the breast is as red as that of a robin in
full plumage. Its flight is steady, although when alarmed it “skivers,”
or darts about rapidly, and as it flies in close ranks, it suffers
proportionally. Although it is rather looked down upon by persons who
wish to make a show of large birds, I am always entirely satisfied with
a good bag of well-conditioned dowitchers.

“_Specific Character._–Spring plumage, upper parts brownish-black,
variegated with light brownish-red; lower parts dull orange-red, abdomen
paler, spotted and barred with black; rump white; the tail feathers and
the upper and lower tail-coverts, alternately barred with white and
black. In autumn the upper parts are brownish-grey; the lower parts
greyish-white; the tail feathers and the upper and lower tail-coverts
the same as in spring. Adult with the bill towards the end black,
lighter at the base; top of the head, back of the neck, scapulars,
tertials, and fore part of the back, blackish-brown, variegated with
ferruginous; secondaries and wing-coverts clove-brown, the latter edged
with white, the former tipped with the same; hind part of back white;
the rump marked with roundish spots of blackish-brown; upper
tail-coverts dull white, barred with black; tail feathers crossed with
numerous black bands, their tips white; loral band dusky, the space
between which and the medial band on the fore part of the head,
greyish-white, tinged with ferruginous, and slightly touched with dusky;
sides of the head spotted with dark-brown; lower parts dull orange-red,
the abdomen lighter; the neck and fore part of breast spotted with
dusky; the sides of the body with numerous bars of the same color; legs
and feet dull yellowish-green. Young with the lower parts paler. Winter
dress, the upper parts brownish-grey; neck ash-grey, streaked with
dusky; lower parts greyish-white, with dusky bars on the sides of the
body. Length, ten inches and a half; wing, six.”–_Giraud._

CURLEW.

_Genus Numenius_, Briss.

_Generic Distinctions._–Bill very long, slender, decurved or arched,
with the upper mandible the longer, and obtuse at the end; head rounded
and compressed above; neck long, body full, wings long, feet rather
long; toes connected at the base; _tibia_ bare a short space above the
knee; legs rather long; tail short and rounded.

JACK CURLEW.

Short-billed Curlew. Hudsonian Curlew.

_Numenius Hudsonicus_, Lath.

This is a graceful and elegant bird, but so shy and so well able to
carry off shot, that it is regarded as the most difficult to kill of all
the bay-birds. It has a long, rolling cry, and although it approaches
the decoys, it rarely alights, or even pauses over them; but, detecting
the deception, it turns off or passes on in its course. For this reason,
the fortunate sportsman who kills a “Jack” is eminently satisfied,
although its flesh is not remarkably fine.

“_Specific Character._–Length of bill, three inches and three-quarters;
tarsi, two inches; lower parts white. Adult with the upper part of the
head deep brown, with a central and two lateral lines of whitish; a
brown line from the bill to the eye, and another behind the eye; neck
all round, pale yellowish-grey, longitudinally streaked with brown,
excepting the upper part of the throat, which is greyish-white; upper
parts in general blackish-brown, marked with numerous spots of
brownish-white, there being several along the margins of each feather;
wings and rump somewhat lighter; upper tail-coverts and tail barred with
dark-brown and olivaceous grey; primaries and their coverts
blackish-brown, all with transverse yellowish-grey markings on the inner
web; the shaft of the first quill, white–of the rest, brown; breast and
abdomen greyish-white, the sides tinged with cream color, and barred
with greyish-brown; bill rather more than twice the length of the head,
of a brownish-black color–at the base of the lower mandible, flesh
colored. Length, eighteen inches; wing, nine and a half.”–_Giraud._

SICKLE-BILLED CURLEW.

Long-billed Curlew.

_Numenius Longirostris_, Wils.

The finest, largest, most graceful, and elegant of all the bay-birds is
the magnificent sickle-bill; associating in large flocks, and with a
spread of wings of little less than three feet, when it approaches the
stand, the sportsman’s heart palpitates with excitement, and the sky
seems to have lost its natural blue and become of a rich brown tint. As
these splendid birds, shrieking their hoarse call, set their wings for
the stool, and crossing one another in their flight, pause in doubt; or,
after alighting individually, rise again, and hesitate whether to remain
or continue their course–the sportsman, cowering in his lair, and
anxious to take advantage of this glorious opportunity, becomes wildly
eager with excitement; and if, after having by a judicious selection
brought several to the ground, he recalls the departing flock which
again presents itself to his aim, his rapture knows no bounds, and with
his reloaded breech-loader, he repeats, perhaps more than once, the
exhilarating performance.

This lordly bird, the largest of the bay-snipe, is often extremely
gentle, and may be lured by the imitation of its cry at an immense
distance, and brought back to the decoys several times, where one or
more of its companions may have fallen; but at other times it is wild
and shy. Individuals differ considerably in size, the largest I ever saw
having a bill eleven inches long, and some weighing nearly double as
much as others; but all are of a beautiful reddish-brown or burnt sienna
tint, with a yellowish shade on the abdomen. Their flight is steady, and
their flesh tough, dark, and oily. Their eye is extremely bright, and
their shape graceful.

“_Specific Character._–Bill towards the end decurved; upper part of the
throat, and a band from the bill to the eye, light buff; general
plumage, pale reddish-brown; head and neck streaked with dusky; upper
parts marked with blackish-brown; tail barred with the same; abdomen,
plain reddish-brown; feet, bluish. Length, twenty-six inches; wing,
eleven. The bill of the specimen from which this description is taken
measures eight inches. The bills of individuals of this species vary,
but the length is at all times sufficient to determine the
species.”–_Giraud._

FUTE.

Doe-bird.–Esquimaux Curlew.

_Numenius Borealis_, Lath.

This is an upland bird, quite rare, but large, and rather delicate
eating.

“_Specific Character._–Bill, along the gap, about two inches and a
quarter; tarsi, one inch and five-eighths; upper parts, dusky brown,
with pale yellowish-white, marked all over with pale reddish-brown.
Adult with a line of white from the bill to the eye; eyelids, white;
upper part of the head dusky, spotted in front with greyish-white, a
medial band of the same color; throat, white; neck and breast
yellowish-grey, with longitudinal marks of dusky on the former, pointed
spots of the same color on the latter; abdomen, dull yellowish-white;
flanks, barred with brown; lower tail coverts the same as the abdomen;
tail and upper tail coverts barred with pale reddish-brown and dusky,
tipped with yellowish-white; upper parts brownish, the feathers tipped
with pale reddish-brown, the scapulars margined and tipped with lighter;
primaries, dark-brown, margined internally with lighter–the first shaft
white, with the tip dusky–the rest brown. Length, fourteen inches and a
half; wing, eight.”–_Giraud._

Continue Reading

THE JERSEY COAST.

Why is it that every one who visits New Jersey comes away with an
ecstatic impression of Jersey girls that he never can forget? Lovely
they are, it is true, but not more beautiful than other fair ones of
America; affable, gentle, graceful, sprightly–but these qualities are
common in our angel-favored country. Yet no one that has been blessed
with their company can forget them, but carries for ever in his heart
the image of one, if not two or three, Jersey girls.

These reflections were suggested to the writer by the recollection of
his first trip, many years ago, to the Jersey coast. The summer had been
oppressively hot, and being detained in town during the fore part of
August, he was glad to avail himself of the first chance to escape from
the city and betake himself to the cool, invigorating breezes of the
seashore. Not knowing precisely what route to follow, he trusted himself
on board the train without any definite destination, and, upon inquiry,
was informed that a good place for bay-shooting was at Tommy Cook’s,
near the coast, and about four miles from one of the last stations on
the road, where, under the charge of the Quaker host, considerable
comfort could be had.

To Cook’s, therefore, upon reaching the station, the writer told the
driver of what seemed to be a mongrel public coach, that he wanted to
go; but in thoughtlessness, never conceiving that there could be two
Cooks, he omitted the Tommy that should have preceded the direction. His
surprise was by no means moderate to find, upon reaching his
destination, the supposed Quaker host slightly inebriated, dancing a
solitary hornpipe to an admiring circle. Thinking perhaps that that was
the custom of Jersey Quakers–for the State is exceptional in certain
things–he took a glass of bad whiskey with the jovial landlord, made
proposals, much to every one’s surprise, to go shooting the day
following, and retired early.

Next morning a short walk dissipated all idea of finding game, and
having made the discovery that he was still fifteen miles from the
proper shooting-ground on the beach, he returned to the house, and in
order to enjoy a few hours ere the wagon for his further transportation
would be ready, joined a bathing party. It was quite a sociable affair;
both sexes, dressed in their bathing clothes–the girls without
shoes–crowded down in the bottom of an open wagon. But surely it is not
fair to tell how one of the flannel-encased nymphs nearly fell from the
wagon, and was caught in the arms of the writer, who had jumped out for
the purpose; nor how the rest drove off to leave them; nor how he bore
his lovely burden–plastic grace and beauty personified–bravely in
pursuit; nor how his foot chanced to trip–accidentally, of course–and
they fell and rolled in the sand together. If he would tell, he could
not; words do not exist for the purpose. Try, male reader, to carry one
hundred and twenty pounds of essential loveliness with only a single
flannel garment to protect it; feel it give to your pressure; clasp its
exquisite but yielding contour; press it to your heart, and then in an
ecstasy roll over and over with it in the sand. Having done so, endeavor
to describe the sensation, or forget that particular girl in a
life-time.

The road to the beach lay through a village formerly known by the
euphonious and distinctive title of Crab Town–a village of a thousand
inhabitants. It was evening ere Crab Town was reached, and just beyond,
the driver came upon a bevy of female acquaintances. In a moment the
suggestion was made that they should ride; after a little demur they
accepted, and were crowded in. The stage was not large, but there would
have been room if they had been twice as numerous; they filled every
seat, and every lap besides.

There are days in one’s lifetime that should be celebrated as
anniversaries; and if any gentleman has carried in his arms, and rolled
in the sand, one charming Jersey girl in the morning, and has had
another equally charming sit on his lap in the evening, he may look upon
that day as never likely to repeat itself.

There was a hum of pleasant voices–words like, “Oh! Deb, we should not
have got in;” “Why, Mary, we may as well ride–it’s all in our way.”
“Now, Lib, don’t say I’m married.” “Well, your husband is a good way
off.” But who could attend to what is occurring around him when seated
in the dark with a lovely angel in his lap? So situated, the ride
appeared very short, and the next mile, which was as far as our
delightful freight would go, was passed seemingly in about a minute and
a half, decidedly the fastest time on record. At the end of it, on a
suggestion from the driver, who lived in that section and knew the
country, toll was taken of their rosy lips as passage-money. Jersey is a
glorious place.

Passing Charley’s, as he is generally called, the son of the old man,
who for years was famous as the first hunter in that land, we turned off
beyond, down the beach. The bay between the mainland and the sand-bar,
known everywhere as “The Beach,” was narrow, widening slowly as we
advanced, until, at the end of our seven miles’ journey, it was nearly
three miles across. There was little vegetation beside salt grass and
bay-berry bushes; but of the animal kingdom the only
representatives–the mosquitoes–were thicker than the mind of man can
conceive; they rose in crowds, pursuing us fiercely, covering the horses
in an unbroken mass, settling upon ourselves, flying into our eyes,
crawling upon our necks, stinging through our clothes, and filling the
air. Although small, they were hungry beyond belief, and, following
their prey relentlessly, compelled us to fight them off with bushes of
bayberry for our lives.

Mosquitoes are found plentifully at our summer watering-places, and
still more numerously in the wild woods, grow abundantly in Canada, and
are over-plentiful at Lake Superior; but nowhere are they so merciless,
fierce, and numerous, as, on occasions, at the New Jersey beach. They
are a beautiful little creature, delicate, graceful, and elegant, but
obtrusive in their attentions; although the ardent lover was anxious to
be bitten by the same mosquito that had bitten his lady-love, that their
blood might mingle in the same body.

One good effect they had, however, was to compel the driver to urge on
his weary team, and leave him no time to gossip at Jakey’s Tavern, over
the beach party that was to be held there next day. A beach party is
another delightful institution of the Jerseyites, and consists of a
congregation of the youths of both sexes, especially the female,
collected from the main shore, and meeting on the beach for a frolic, a
dance, and a bath. As it rarely breaks up till daylight, the pleasantest
intimacies are sometimes formed, and soft words uttered that could not
be wrung from blushing beauty in broad day.

The establishment of the “old man”–the sporting “old man,” not the
political one–since he has been gathered to his forefathers, is kept up
by his son-in-law, usually known by the abbreviation–Bill. It is not an
elegant place; sportsmen do not demand elegance, and willingly sleep,
if not in the same room, in chambers that lead into one another; but it
is situated within a hundred yards of the best shooting ground, and is
as well kept as any other tavern on the beach. Sportsmen do not mind
waiting their turn to use the solitary wash basin, drawing water from
the hogshead, or wiping on the same towel, but are thankful for good
food, and the luxury of a well filled ice-house.

In addition to the general directions heretofore given, it may be well
in this connexion to describe more particularly the mode of killing
bay-snipe. A number of imitation birds, usually called stools, are cut
from wood, and painted to resemble the various species; they have a long
stick, or leg, inserted into the lower part of the body, and a
sufficient number to constitute a large flock are set up in shallow
water, or upon some bar where the birds are accustomed to feed. They are
made from thin wood, or even from tin, and are headed various ways so as
to show in all directions; the coarsest and least perfect imitations
will answer.

The most remarkable trait of the shore birds, or bay-snipe, is their
gregarious nature and sociability. A flock flying high in air,
apparently intent upon some settled course, will, the moment they see
another flock feeding, turn and join it. Their natural history, or the
object which they evidently have in thus joining forces, does not seem
to be understood; but the baymen, by imitation-birds and calls, take
advantage of this instinct. Farther south, along the shores of Florida
and Texas, these snipe collect in crowds; and either this is the first
step towards that purpose, or they are merely attracted by the feeding
birds to a promising place for a plentiful repast.

Although ordinarily they will come to the stools of themselves, if they
happen to be at a distance flying fast and high, the gunner must trust
to the shrillness of his whistle and the perfection of his call, to
attract their attention. If they turn towards the decoys and answer the
whistle–which they will do at an immense distance–they are almost sure
to come straight on, and their confidence once gained, rarely wavers.

There is a common expression among the baymen, that birds have a trade,
or are trading up and down over a certain course, by which they mean
that they fly backward and forward at regular hours, and to and from
regular places. Snipe that are thus engaged trading are not only in the
finest condition, but come to the decoys, or stool, as it is termed, the
most readily. They are probably stopping on the meadows, and fly to
their feeding-grounds in the morning and back at night. The great
migratory bodies, which frequently stretch in broken lines almost across
the horizon, and which are pursuing their steady course to their
southern homes, rarely heed the whistle, or turn to the silly flock that
is eating while it should be travelling.

The best days are those with a cloudy sky, and a south-westerly wind. On
such occasions the birds often come in myriads, delighting the
sportsman’s heart, testing his nerves, and filling his bag to
repletion. When the object is to kill the greatest number possible, they
are permitted to alight among the stools and collect together before the
gun is fired; then the first discharge is followed rapidly by the
second, which tears among their thinned ranks as they rise; and, if
there be a second gun, by the third and fourth barrel, till frequently
all are killed. The scientific and sportsmanlike mode is to fire before
they alight, selecting two or three together and firing at the foremost.

It is a glorious thing to see a flock of marlin or willet, or perhaps
the chief of all, the sickle-bills, swerve from their course away up in
the heavens, and after a moment’s uncertainty reply to the sportsman’s
deceitful call and turn towards his false copies of themselves. As they
approach, the rich sienna brown of the marlin and curlew seems to color
the sky and reflect a ruddy hue upon surrounding objects; or the black
and white of the barred wings of the willet makes them resemble birds
hewn from veined marble. The sportsman’s heart leaps to his throat, as
crouching down with straining eye and nerve, grasping his faithful gun,
he awaits with eager anxiety the proper moment; then, rising ere they
are aware of the danger, he selects the spot where their crowding bodies
and jostling wings shut out the clouds beyond, and pours in his first
most deadly barrel; and quickly bringing to bear the other as best he
may among the now frightened creatures as they dart about, he delivers
it before he has noticed how many fell to the first. Dropping back to
his position of concealment, he recommences whistling, and the poor
things, forgetting their fright and anxious to know why their friends
alighted amid a roar like thunder, return to the fatal spot, and again
give the fortunate sportsman a chance for his reloaded gun.

It was for such glorious sport as this, with fair promise of
success–for the flight was on, as the saying is, when the snipe are
moving–that I prepared myself the next morning. Rising at earliest
daybreak, a friend, the gunner, and myself sallied out to the blind, and
having set out our stools, possessed our souls in patience for what
might follow. A blind is another ingenious invention of the devil–as
personified by a bayman, in pursuit of wild fowl–and is constructed by
planting bushes thickly in a circle round a bench. Seated upon this
bench and concealed from the suspicious eyes of the snipe by the dense
foliage of the bayberry bushes, the sportsman, in comparative comfort,
awaits his prey. In less civilized localities he hides himself among the
long sedge grass, or scoops out a hole in the sand and lies at length
upon a waterproof blanket.

The wind had hauled, in nautical language, to the south’ard and
west’ard, and the sun’s rays driving aside the hazy clouds, illuminated
the eastern sky with fiery glory. The land and water, dim with the heavy
night fog, stretched out in broad, undefined outline, and the heavens
seemed close down upon the earth. Through the hazy atmosphere and
sluggish darkness the rays of light penetrated slowly, bringing out
feature after feature of the landscape, lighting the tops of distant
hills, and revealing the fleecy coursers of the sky.

Amid the fading darkness we soon heard the welcome cry of the bay-snipe
pursuing his course, guided by light that had not yet reached our
portion of the earth’s surface. Instantly we responded with a vigor and
rapidity on behalf of each, that must have impressed the travelling
birds with the belief that we constituted an immense flock. Again and
again, long before our straining eyes could catch the outline of their
forms, came the answering cry. Our eagerness increased with the
approaching sound, until from out the dim air rushed a glorious flock of
marbled willet, and swooping down to our stools dropped their long legs
to alight–we feeling as though little shining goddesses were descending
upon us.

Without pausing to discuss their angelic character, but mercilessly
bringing our double-barrels to bear upon the crowded ranks, we poured in
a destructive broadside that hurled a dozen upon the bloodied sand.
Startled at the fearful report and its terrible consequences, they rose,
darting and crossing in their alarm, and fled at full speed; but hearing
again the familiar call, after flying a few hundred yards, they turned
and came once more straight for the decoys. Then my friend thought
highly of me and my breech-loading gun, for ere he had reloaded I had
discharged my two barrels three times, adding six birds to those
already upon the sand. Eighteen willet from the first flock, and ere the
sun was fairly up, gave us a good start; and after the birds were
gathered, the favorable send-off was duly celebrated in a few drops of
water with enough spirit to take the danger out.

And now myriads of swallows made their appearance, skimming close along
the water, but in one steady course, as though they were going out for
the day, and would not be back till night-fall. They were followed by
scattering snipe that furnished neat but easy shooting till six o’clock,
when the regular flight began with a splendid flock of marlin that came
rapidly from the south’ard, and after hovering over the stools and
giving us one chance, returned for two more favors from the
breech-loader, and left sixteen of their number.

Sportsmen of any experience know that nothing is easier than to select
from a flock a single bird with each barrel; but in bay-shooting, a man
who claims to excel, must kill several with the first barrel, and one,
at least, with the second. If, however, to the ordinary excitement be
added the natural emulation arising from the presence of several
sportsmen in the same stand, the foregoing desirable result is not
always attained. If, therefore, the reader shrewdly suspects we should
have killed more birds than we did, let him place himself in a similar
position, and record his success.

Shore birds of the various species, beginning with the magnificent
sickle-bill, and including the wary jack-curlew, the noisy, larger
yellow-legs or yelper, and the smaller one, down to the pretty
simple-hearted dowitcher, went to make up our morning’s bag. The
scorching sun when it hung high over our heads stopped the flight, and,
aided by venomous mosquitoes, drove us to the shelter of the house, and
turned our thoughts towards dinner.

The stands being convenient to the tavern, we had run in and snatched a
hasty breakfast, but now collected to clean guns, load cartridges, and
talk over results. The breech-loader being at that time something of a
novelty, attracted considerable attention, and was accused of that
defect popularly attributed to it, of not shooting strongly. As there
were several expensive guns present–among them one of William Moore–in
all of which the owners had great faith, the question was soon tested
and settled to the satisfaction of the most sceptical.

That being concluded, black-breast, or bull-head plover, was the
occasion of a terrible contest over the entire plover family–some of
the sportsmen insisting there were three, others four or five well-known
kinds. They all agreed as to there being the grass-plover, the
bull-head, and the golden-plover; but some claimed in addition, the
frost bird and the red-backed plover. At last one burst forth:

“There is Barnwell; he ought to know: what does he say?”

As they turned inquiringly, feeling the momentous nature of the
occasion, and that now was the chance to establish my reputation for
ever, with an air of deep learning, I commenced:

“In the first place, you are mistaken in including among plovers the
grass or grey-plover, as it is commonly called; it is not a plover at
all—-”

“Oh! that is nonsense,” they burst forth unanimously; “you don’t know
what you’re talking about.”

Never was a growing reputation more suddenly nipped. Instantly reduced
to a state of meekness, and only too glad to save a shred of character,
I mildly suggested that Giraud’s work on the birds of Long Island was in
my valise, and probably contained the desired information.

“Well,” said one, “let’s hear what he says.”

So I procured the book and read as follows:

“‘TRINGA BARTRAMIA–WILSON.
BARTRAM’S SANDPIPER.

Bartram’s Sandpiper, Tringa Bartramia, Wil. Amer. Orn.
_Totanus Bartramius_ Bonap. Syn.

_Totanus Bartramius_ Bartram Tatler, Su. & Rich. Bartramian
Tatler, Nutt. Man.

Bartramian Sandpiper. _Totanus Bartramius_ Aud. Orn.
Biog.’

“After giving the specific character, and a spirited account of the
well-known manner of shooting them from a wagon, which is not followed
with any other bird, as you well know, he proceeds as follows:

“‘In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and on the Shinnecock and
Hempstead Plains, Long Island, it is common, where it is known by the
name of “gray,” “grass,” “field,” or “upland” plover. It is very wary,
and difficult to be approached. On the ground it has an erect and
graceful gait. When alarmed it runs rapidly for a short distance before
taking wing, uttering a whistling note as it rises; its flight is rapid,
frequently going out of sight before alighting. It usually keeps on the
open, dry grounds–feeding on grasshoppers, insects, and seeds. In the
month of August it is generally in fine condition; and highly prized as
game. When feeding, for greater security, this species scatter about;
the instant the alarm is given, all move off. In the latter part of
August it migrates southward, and, it is said, performs the journey at
night. Stragglers frequently remain behind until late in September.’”

“It is evident he knew the bird,” replied one of the objectors; “but as
he calls it by six or seven names–the English ones being both
sand-piper and tatler–he evidently did not know what it should be
called.”

“That is the way with naturalists,” replied another; “they each give a
name to a species, but in this case all agree that it is not a plover.
What is the name plover derived from?”

“It comes from the French word _Pluvier_, rain-bird, because it
generally flies during a rain. But naturalists found distinctions more
upon the shape of bill and claws than on the habits of any species.
According to them, plovers proper have no hind toe, or, at most, only a
knob in its place.”

“Do you know what Frank Forester says on the subject?”

Feeling my reputation rising a little, I resumed: “He confuses
frost-bird and grass-plover, quoting Audubon as his authority; but he
points out the distinctive peculiarity of the plover.”

“If he thinks a grass-plover and a frost-bird are alike, he knows very
little of his subject. Why, the frost-bird stools admirably, while the
plover never stools at all.”

“Not so fast! Frank Forester was a splendid writer, and upon matters
with which he was familiar he was thorough. He has conferred an immense
favor upon the American sporting world; but where he had not personal
experience–and no one can know everything–he had to rely upon others.
He has done as much to correct and elevate sportsmanship in this
country, to introduce a proper vocabulary, and to enforce obedience to
gentlemanly rules, as any man possibly could. As a body, we owe it to
him that we are sportsmen, and not pot-hunters. Probably in some places
the grass-plover is called a frost-bird.”

“I have more faith in Giraud, and would like to hear what he can tell us
about the golden-plover, unless he says that is a sandpiper also.”

“He begins with a description of the black-bellied plover, which is
known to us as bull-head, the _charadrius helveticus_, and then
describes the American golden-plover, or _charadrius pluvialis_, and
uses these words: ‘It is better known to our gunners by the name of
frost-bird, so called from being more plentiful during the early frosts
of autumn, at which season it is generally in fine condition, and
exceedingly well flavored.’ Then follow the ring-plover, or
ring-neck–_charadrius semipalmatus_, Wilson’s plover; the
piping-plover, or beach-bird–_charadrius melodius_; and the kildeer
plover–_charadrius vociferus_, these being all the varieties of
American plover.”

Bill could stand it no longer; but rising as the book was closed, burst
forth at once:

“Those writers are queer fellows; they put the oddest, hardest, longest
names to birds that ever I heard. Who would have thought of their
calling a two-penny beach-bird, a radish mellow-deuce! What I have to
say is–we baymen will never learn these new-fangled names.”

“That is exactly the trouble,” I replied. “You baymen will, in different
sections of the country, call the same bird by various names, till no
one can tell what you are talking about; and the man of science has to
step in and dig up a third name, usually some Latin affair, which nobody
will accept. Thus it is that the older frost-birds, which, strange to
say, invariably arrive before the young, are known as golden-plover, and
their progeny as frost-birds.”

“Speaking of the seasons,” replied Bill, evasively, “have you noticed
that they are changing every year? The springs are later than they used
to be. In old times the English snipe arrived from the south early in
March; now they hardly come till June; so, the ducks come later and stay
later. The springs are colder, and the autumns warmer, than when I was
young, and the bay-snipe appear in September instead of August, as it
once was.”

“As to the English snipe you are undoubtedly correct, but this is due
probably to their increasing scarcity; and although we have no spring,
and the summer extends frequently into September, this appears to result
from the changes in climate effected by clearing the woods. As the
forests are cut down, the cold winds of spring, and the burning suns of
summer, produce a greater effect, and each in its turn lasts longer.
Altogether, however, our seasons seem to be moderating.”

At this interesting point in our discussion, some one discovered by the
aid of a telescope that a flock of willet had settled on the sand-bank
among the stools. The announcement was followed by a general seizure of
weapons and rush for the blinds. My friend and myself hastened to the
little boat, used in floating quietly down upon ducks, and called a
“sneak box,” and embarking, glided silently towards our stand. The tide
had left bare a long bank of sand, upon which was collected a glorious
flock, or, more properly speaking, two flocks united, one of marlin and
the other of willet.

All unconscious of approaching danger, the pretty creatures were busily
engaged, some in feeding, others in washing–dipping under and throwing
the water over their graceful bodies–others in running actively about,
or jumping up and taking short flights to dry their wings. A happy
murmur ran through the flock, and so innocent and beautiful were they
that we remained watching them in silent admiration, unwilling to
disturb the romance of the charming scene. The rich brown feathers of
the imposing marlin formed an exquisite contrast to the white and black
of the elegant willet, as the different species mixed unreservedly
together.

They did not exhibit the slightest alarm when our boat, after we had
ceased rowing, was borne towards them by the wind, and allowed us to
approach till it grounded on the flat. Having feasted our eyes on the
magnificent spectacle, we at last gave the word to fire. At the report
they rose wildly, and receiving the second discharge, made the best of
their way to safer quarters. Both barrels of my friend’s gun missed
fire, and we gathered only seven birds, as the flock, although numbering
at least seventy birds, was widely scattered and offered a poor mark.

No sooner were we again ensconced in our blind, than the exhilarating
sport of the morning was renewed–sport such as only those who have
tried it can appreciate–sport that makes the heart beat and the nerves
tingle–sport that overweighs humanity and compels the remorseless
slaughter of these beautiful birds. Flock after flock, seen at great
distance, and watched in their approach through changing hopes and
fears, or darting unexpectedly from over our heads and first noticed
when rushing with extended wings down to our stools, presented their
crowded ranks to our delighted gaze. From the very clouds, would come
the shrill whistle of the yelper, or from the horizon, the long shriek
of the willet, or nearer at hand would be heard the plaintive note of
the gentle dowitcher; they appeared from all quarters, sailing low along
the water or pitching directly down from out the sky.

Towards evening the flight diminished, and when the horn announced that
supper was ready, the different parties met once more at the house to
compare notes and relate adventures. All had met with excellent success,
but our stand carried off the palm.

“Bill,” commenced some unhappy person, after we had left the close, hot
dining-room, “why do you not enlarge your house?”

“Bill is waiting for another wreck,” was the volunteer response; “the
whole coast is fed, clothed, and sheltered by the wrecks. The house is
built from the remnants of unfortunate ships, as you perceive by the
name-boards of the Arion, Pilgrim, Samuel Willets, J. Harthorn, and
Johanna, that form so conspicuous a part of the front under the porch.
When a vessel is driven ashore, and the crew and passengers who are not
quite dead are disposed of by the aid of a stone in the corner of a
handkerchief, which makes an unsuspicious bruise, the prize is fought
for by the natives, and not only the cargo, but the very ribs and planks
of the vessel appropriated.”

“Now that’s not fair,” replied Bill, aroused; “no man, except my
father-in-law, has done more to save drowning men than I have. I tell
you it’s an awful sight to see the poor creatures clinging to the
rigging and bowsprit, to see them washed off before your eyes, sometimes
close to you, without your being able to help them, and their dead
bodies thrown up by the waves on the sand. You don’t feel like stealing
or murder at such times; and besides, I never knew a dead man come
ashore that had anything in his pockets.”

A peal of laughter greeted this naïve remark, together with the ready
response: “Bill, you were too late; some Barnegat pirate had been before
you.”

“No, the Barnegat pirates are kinder than the Government. We do our best
to save the poor fellows, but the Government puts men in charge of their
station houses that know nothing about their business. My father-in-law
was the first man that threw a line with the cannon over a ship, and he
was presented with a medal by the Humane Society. He never was paid a
dollar for taking charge of the station, the life-boat, and the cannon.
Since he died I kept it for five years, and was paid two years; now men
are selected for their politics. One lives back on the main land two
miles from his station-house, another never fired a gun, and a third
never rowed a boat. The last got a crew of us together once to go out to
a ship in the life-boat and undertook to steer, but we told him not one
of us would go unless he stayed on shore. It is a dangerous thing to
have a green hand at the helm, or even at an oar, in times like that.”

“How far can you reach a ship with the cannon?” we inquired.

“The line, you know, is fastened to the ball with a short wire, so that
it won’t burn off, and is coiled up beside the gun, and of course it
keeps the ball back, and then people forget we always have to fire
against the wind, as vessels are never wrecked with the wind off shore;
so although the guns are expected to carry five hundred yards, they will
not carry more than one hundred and eighty. That is enough, though, if
they only have the right sort of men to manage them; but how is a
landsman to tell whether he must use the cannon or is safe in going off
in the boat? In one case, while the station-master was trying to drag
his cannon down to a ship, a party of us took a common boat and landed
her crew and passengers before he arrived. I don’t care about the pay,
for I kept it three years without; but I hate to see lives sacrificed
for politics. Would you like to see the medal they gave to the old man?”

We responded in the affirmative; and he soon produced a silver medal,
with an inscription on one side recording the circumstances, and on the
other an embossed picture of a ship in distress, a cannon from which the
ball and rope attached had been discharged and were visible in mid air,
several men standing around the gun, and a life-boat climbing the seas.

“But, Bill, tell us about the Barnegat pirates leading a lame horse with
a lantern tied to his neck over the sand hills in imitation of a ship’s
light, and thus inveigling vessels ashore.”

“I can only say I have never heard of it. As quick as a vessel comes
ashore, the insurance agent is telegraphed for, and he takes charge of
everything. Why, we even buy the wrecks and pay well for them, too. Now
and then something is washed up like that coal in front of the house,
but it is not often.”

“What do you mean by the stations?”

“They are houses built by the Government and placed at regular distances
along the beach. The gun, and rope, and life-boat, and life-car, and all
other things that are needed in case of shipwreck, are kept in them.
Then there is a stove and coal ready to make a fire, for if a poor
wretch got ashore in mid-winter he would soon freeze if he couldn’t get
to a fire. And if the man who has charge of the station lives two miles
off across a bay that he can’t cross in a bad storm, what can the poor
half-drowned fellows do, if they are too much benumbed to break open the
door? I’d stave it in for them pretty quick if I was there, law or no
law.”

“It is a shame that a matter like that should not be free from
politics.”

“So it was once,” Bill went on fluently; for on this subject he felt
that his family had a right to be eloquent; “at one time some department
had it in charge that never would either appoint or remove a man on
political account; but that is all changed now, and the men are expected
to go out with every administration, and shipwrecked passengers die
while political favorites draw the two hundred dollars a year pay for
the station-master.”

“Now, Bill, stop your talk about the public wrongs, and tell us
something more interesting. Have you ever heard one of Bill’s ghost
stories?” This inquiry was addressed to the public.

Bill’s face lengthened; he sat silently nursing his leg and smoking his
brierwood pipe, while a shadow seemed to settle on his countenance.
“Come, Bill,” we responded, “let’s have the story.”

Bill answered not, and the shadow deepened, and the smoke was puffed in
heavier masses from his lips.

“Bill is afraid; he don’t like ghosts, and don’t dare to talk of them.”

“I am not easily skeered,” he answered at last; “but if you had seen
what I have on this shore, you would not talk so easy about it. ‘Lige,
do you remember the time we saw that ship? There had been a heavy storm,
and when we got up next day early, there lay a vessel on the beach; she
must have been most everlastingly a harpin’ it.”

“What is that?” was asked wonderingly, on the utterance of this peculiar
expression.

“Why, she had come clear in over the bar, and must have been going some
to do that; for there she lay, bow on, with her bowsprit sticking way up
ashore, just below the station yonder. Her masts were standing, and we
clapped on our clothes and started for the beach. The wind was blowin’
hard, and the sand and drizzle driving in our faces as we walked over,
and we kept our heads down most of the time. When we got to the
sand-hills we looked up, and the ship was gone. I thought that likely
enough, for she must have broken up and gone to pieces soon in that
surf, so we hurried along as fast as we could; and sure enough, when we
rounded the point, the little cove in which she lay was full of truck.
‘Lige was there, and he saw it as plain as I did. The water was full of
drift-boxes, barrels, planks, and all sorts of things, pitching and
rolling about; and some of them had been carried up onto the sand and
were strewed about in all directions.

“It was early, and the day was misty, but, we could see plain enough,
and we saw all that stuff knocking about as plain as I see you now.
There was a big timber in my way–a stick–well, thirty feet long and
two feet or two and a half square, so that I had to raise my foot high
to clear it; I stepped one leg over, and drew the other along to feel
it, but it didn’t touch anything; then I stopped and looked down–there
was no timber there; I looked back towards the sea–the drift had
disappeared, the barrels and boxes and truck of one sort or another was
gone. There was nothing on shore nor in the water. Now you may laugh,
but ‘Lige knows whether what I’ve told you is true.”

“Bill, that is a pretty good story, but it is not the one I meant,”
persisted the individual who had commenced the attack.

“Well, another time, Zeph and I were at work getting the copper bolts
out of an old wreck, when we happened to look up and saw two carriages
coming along, up the beach. I spoke to Zeph about it, but as they came
along slowly, we went on with our work, and when we looked up again
there was only one. That came on closer and closer till I could tell the
horses; they were two bays of squire Jones’ down at the inlet; they
drove right on towards us till they were so near that I did not like to
stare the people in the face, and looked down again to my work. There
were two men, and I saw them so plain that I should know ’em anywhere.
Well, I raised my head a second after, and they were gone; and there
never had been any wagon, for Zeph and I hunted all over the beach to
find the tracks in the sand.”

“I guess that was another misty day, and you hadn’t had your
eye-opener,” was the appreciative response.

“No, it was three o’clock in the day, and bright sunshine; but at that
time, as near as can be, Tommy Smith was drowned down at the inlet, and
the very next day at the very same hour, the ‘Squire’s wagon did come up
the beach, with the same two men driving, and the body in a box in the
back part.”

“Now, Bill,” continued the persistent individual, “this is all very
well, but it is not the story. Come, out with it; you know what I mean.”

Bill fell silent, again looking off into the distance as though he saw
something that others could not see; he pulled away nervously on his
pipe, which had gone out, but answered not.

“Bill’s afraid;” was the tantalizing suggestion.

“There’s Sam,” said Bill suddenly; “he’s not afeard of man or devil; ask
him what he saw.”

The person referred to was a large, broad-shouldered, pleasant-faced
man, with a clear blue eye that looked as though it would not quail
easily, and he responded at once:

“I never saw anything; but one night when I was coming by the cove where
the Johanna was cast away, and where three hundred bodies were picked up
and buried, I heard a loud scream. It sounded like a woman’s voice, and
was repeated three or four times; but I couldn’t find anything, although
I spent an hour hunting among the sand-hills, and it was bright
moonlight. It may have been some sort of animal, but I don’t know
exactly what.”

“Bill’s adventure happened in the same neighborhood, so let’s have it,”
continued the persistent man.




“As Sam says,” commenced Bill, at last, “the Johanna went ashore one
awful north-easter in winter about six miles above here, near Old
Jackey’s tavern; she broke up before we could do anything for her, and
three hundred men, women, and children–for she was an emigrant
ship–were washed ashore during the following week; most of them had
been drifted by the set of the tide into the cove, and they were buried
there; so you see it ain’t a nice place of a dark night.

“I was driving down the beach about a year after she was lost, with my
old jagger wagon, and a heavy load on of groceries and stores of one
kind or other. It was about one o’clock at night, mighty cold, but
bright moonlight; and I was coming along by the corner of the fence, you
know, just above Jackey’s, when the mare stopped short. Now, she was
just the best beast to drive you ever saw. I could drive her into the
bay or right over into the ocean, and she was never skeered at anything.
But this time, she come right back in the shafts and began to tremble
all over; I gave her a touch of the whip, and she was just as full of
spirit as a horse need be, but she only reared up and snorted and
trembled worse than ever. So I knew something must be wrong, and looked
ahead pretty sharp; and there, sure enough, right across the road, lay a
man. Jackey was a little too fond of rum at that time, and I made up my
mind he had got drunk and tumbled down on his way home; it was cold, and
I didn’t want to get out of the wagon where I was nicely tucked in, and
thought I would drive round out of the road and wake him up with my whip
as I passed. I tried to pull the mare off to one side to go by, but she
only reared and snorted and trembled, so that I was afraid she would
fall. She had a tender mouth, but although I pulled my best I could not
budge her; at last, getting mad, I laid the gad over her just as hard as
I could draw it. Instead of obeying the rein, however, she plunged
straight on, made a tremendous leap over the body, and dragged the
wagon after her. I pulled her in all I knew how, and no mistake; but it
was no use, and I felt the front wheels strike, lift, and go over him,
and then the hind wheels, but I couldn’t stop her. That was a heavy
load, and enough to crush any one, and as soon as I could fetch the mare
down–for she had started to run–I jumped out quick enough then, you
may bet your life. I tied her up to the fence, although she was still so
uneasy I daresen’t hardly leave her, and hurried back to see if I could
do anything for Jackey. Would you believe it, there was nothing there! I
tell you I felt the wagon go over him, and what’s more, I looked down as
I passed and saw his clothes and his hair straggling out over the snow,
for he had no hat on; though I noticed at the time that I didn’t see any
flesh, but supposed his face was turned from me. There was no rise in
the ground and not a cloud in the sky; the moon was nearly full, and
there wasn’t any man, and never had been any man there; but whatever
there was, the mare saw it as plain as I did.”

“Now let’s turn in,” said a sleepy individual, who had first been
nodding over Bill’s statement of public wrongs, and had taken several
short naps in the course of his ghost story; “and as there was something
said yesterday about a smoke driving away mosquitoes, for heaven’s sake
let’s make a big one; the infernal pests kept me awake all last night.”

This was excellent advice, and not only was an entire newspaper consumed
in our common sleeping apartment, but a quantity of powder was squibbed
off, till the place smelt like the antechamber of Tartarus. The
mosquitoes were expelled or silenced at the cost of a slight suffocation
to ourselves, but we gained several hours sleep till the smoke escaped
and allowed the villains to return to their prey.

One sporting day resembles another in its essential features, although
not often so entirely as with the Englishman, who, having devoted his
life to woodcock shooting, and being called upon to relate his
experiences, replied that he had shot woodcock for forty years, but
never noticed anything worth recording. Our next day, however, was
enlivened by sport of an unexpected kind. We had heard there was some
dispute about the ownership of the stands; in fact, that the one
occupied by my friend and myself belonged to the Ortleys, a family
represented as decidedly uninviting; while both Bill and the Ortleys
claimed that, where another party was located.

In the disputed stand were Bill, a New York gentleman, who, as events
proved, seemed to be something of an athlete, and a sedate,
unimpassionable Jersey lawyer of considerable eminence. Elijah was with
us, when two villanous, red-haired, freckle-skinned objects presented
themselves, and, after some preliminary remarks and a refusal on their
part of a friendly glass, which is a desperate sign in a Jerseyman,
mildly suggested that they would like a little remuneration for the use
of the stand. As their suggestion was moderate, reasonable, and just,
and they undoubtedly owned the land, we complied, and beheld them
proceed, to Elijah’s great delight, for the same purpose towards the
other stand. Elijah prophetically announced they would probably get more
than they demanded.

The other stand was distant about a hundred yards, in full view, and we
perceived at once that a commotion was caused by the unexpected arrival.
The athletic man was shortly seen outside the blind, flinging his arms
wildly about in front of the two Ortley brothers, and, as we were
afterwards informed, offering to fight either or both of them. Matters
then seemed to progress more favorably, till suddenly Bill and the
younger Ortley emerged, locked in an unfriendly embrace, and commenced
dragging each other round the sand-bank, while the demonstrative
sportsman was seen dancing actively in front of the other Ortley, and
preventing his interference.

Of course we dropped our guns and hastened across the shallow,
intervening water, having just time to perceive that Bill had thrown his
adversary and remained on top. The first words we heard were: “Take him
off! Oh, my God! take him off. Enough, enough, take him off,” from the
one on the ground, whose eye–the only vulnerable part to uninstructed
anger–Bill was busily endeavoring to gouge out, while the other shouted
frantically: “He is killing my brother; let me get to him; he is gouging
his eye out. He will kill him, he will kill him.”

“Never mind,” answered the athletic man, swinging his arms ominously,
and dexterously interposing between the victim and his brother,
whenever the latter attempted to dodge past him. “Let him be killed, it
would serve him right; he came over here for a fight, and he shall have
enough of it if both of his eyes are gouged out.”

Elijah arrived in time to prevent the latter catastrophe, and being of a
peaceable and humane disposition, pulled off his brother before anything
more serious than a little scratching had occurred. In fact, there is no
position in which ignorance renders a person more pitiably inefficient,
than in fighting; and, while a skilful man could have killed his
opponent during the time Bill had enjoyed, the latter had really
effected nothing worth mentioning. The ugly wretch was awfully
frightened, however; his face being ghostly pale, streaked with bloody
red, and he commenced whining at once:

“I am nothing but a boy, only twenty-two last spring, and he’s a man
grown.”

“You know boys have to be whipped to keep them in order,” was the
consolatory response; for we naturally took part with our landlord.

“Gentlemen, just look at me.”

“Don’t come so close, you’re covered with blood; keep back, keep back.”

“But look at me; he’s bigger than I am, and I am only a boy.”

“Then you shouldn’t strike a man.”

“Oh! gentlemen, I didn’t strike him first, indeed I didn’t; he struck me
when I wasn’t thinking; indeed he did.”

“Yes,” broke in his brother, who was just recovering from the spell
first put upon him by our athlete’s continual offers to accommodate him
in any way he wished. “Yes, it will be a dear blow for you; I saw you
strike him.”

“No,” said the lawyer, advancing for the first time from behind the
blind where he had been an unmoved and impartial umpire of the fray,
“you should not say that; your brother certainly struck first; I saw him
distinctly.” His manner was solemn, and convincing, and conclusive,
taken in connexion with his perfect equanimity during the affair; but,
of course, he was met by contradiction and protestation from the two
brothers. This dispute would have been endless, but at that moment a
fine flock of willets was descried advancing towards the stools.

“Down, down,” every one shouted, and, true to the bayman’s instinct,
friend and foe crowded down on the sand together, waiting breathlessly
the arrival of the birds. The latter came up handsomely, were received
with four barrels, and left several of their number as keepsakes or
peace-offerings; for, of course, anger was dissipated, and the defeated
enemy retired amid a few merry suggestions, and the excellent advice
that they had better not repeat their joke.

Such squabbles–for it can be called nothing graver–lower one’s opinion
of human kind, and it makes one ashamed to think that two men may hug
and pull one another about, and roll on the sand for fifteen minutes,
with the best will in the world to do each other all the damage
possible, and only inflict, in the feebleness of uneducated humanity, a
few miserable scratches. Any of the lower animals would, in that time,
have left serious marks of its anger; but the pitiful results of these
human efforts were, that Bill’s beard was pulled and Ortley’s face
scratched. It makes one blush to think he is a man.

As our party returned to the blind we had left, Elijah spoke, softly
ruminating aloud:

“Well, it only costs thirty-five dollars anyhow, and it was worth that.”

Our humane, peaceable friend, it seems, had been cast in a similar case,
and had to pay six cents damages and thirty-five dollars costs of court.
There is probably nothing that has so soothing and pacifying an
influence on the New Jersey mind as costs of court. The words alone act
like a charm upon a Jerseyman in the acme of frenzy, and are as
effective as a policeman in uniform. If a man commits assault and
battery, he is fined six cents damages and costs of court; if he is
guilty of trespass it is the same; if he kisses his neighbor’s wife
against her will, if he slanders a friend’s character, it is always six
cents damages and costs of court; and Jerseymen will probably expect in
the next world to get off with six cents damages and costs of court.

The shooting was excellent during the whole day, and evening found us
collected in the bar-room, well satisfied and particularly jocose over
the amusing pugilistic encounter we had witnessed. It lent point to
many a good hit at Bill’s expense; even his wife, who is a fine,
resolute-looking woman, saying that if she had seen it sooner, she would
have taken a broomstick and flogged them both. The general impression
was, she could have made her words good.

The pleasure of indulging in fun at the expense of a fellow-creature is
very great, and Bill’s adventure was certainly fair game. When our wit
was exhausted, and the craving for tobacco mollified by the steady use
of our pipes, our thoughts and voices turned to our never-wearying
passion, and one of the party commenced:

“I have shot a number of the birds you call kriekers; they are a fat
bird, but do not seem to stool. I have never before shot them, except
occasionally on the meadows.”

“They don’t stool,” said Bill, “and only utter a krieking kind of cry;
but in October they come here very thick, and we walk them up over the
meadows. Why, you can shoot a hundred a day.”

“A most excellent bird they are, too–fat and delicate. They are the
latest of the bay-snipe in returning from the summer breeding-places;
and as they rise and fly from you, they afford extremely pretty
shooting. They are sometimes called short-neck, and are, in a
gastronomic point of view, the best bay-snipe that is put upon the
table.”

“We call the bay-birds usually snipe,” said the first speaker; “but I
have been told they are not snipe at all. Refer to Giraud again and
give us the truth.”

This fell, of course, to my share, and I commenced as follows:

“I read you yesterday about the plovers, and immediately after them we
find an account of the turnstone, _strepsilas interpres_, which is
nothing else than our beautiful brant-bird or horse-foot snipe, as it is
called farther south, because it feeds on the spawn of the horse-foot.
This pretty but unfortunate bird belongs to no genus whatever, and has
been to the ornithologists a source of great tribulation. They have
sometimes considered it a sandpiper and sometimes not, so you may
probably call it what you please; and as brant-bird is a rhythmical
name, it will answer as well as _strepsilas interpres_; if you have not
a fluent tongue, perhaps somewhat better. Of the snipes, or
_scolopacidæ_, the only true representative is the dowitcher, _scolopax
noveboracensis_.

“Hold on,” shouted Bill; “say that last word over again.”

“_Noveboracensis._”

“That is only the half of it; let’s have the whole.”

“_Scolopax noveboracensis._”

“Scoly packs never borrow a census; that is a good sized name for a
little dowitch, and beats the radish altogether. Go ahead, we’ll learn
something before we get through.”

“Why, that is only Latin for New York snipe.”

“Oh, pshaw!” responded Bill, in intense disgust, “I thought it meant a
whole bookful of things.”

“The sandpipers, however, come under the family of snipes, and are
called _tringæ_. Among these are enumerated the robin-snipe and the
grass-plover, as I told you before, the black-breast, the krieker, or
short-neck, and several scarcer varieties. The yelpers and yellow-legs,
the tiny teeter, and the willet are tattlers, genus _totanus_, while the
marlin is the godwit _limosa_. The sickle-bills, jacks, and futes are
curlews, genus _numenius_.”

“And now that you have got through,” grumbled Bill again, “can you
whistle a snipe any better or shoot him any easier? Do you know why he
stools well in a south-westerly wind, why one stools better than
another, or why any of them stool at all? Do you know why he flies after
a storm, or why some go in flocks and others don’t, or why there is
usually a flight on the fifteenth and twenty-fifth of August? When books
tell us these things, I shall think more of the writers.”

“These matters are not easy to find out; even you gunners, who have been
on the bay all your lives, where your fathers lived before you, do not
know. But now tell us what other sport you have here.”

“On the mainland there are a good many English snipe in spring, while in
the fall we catch blue-fish and shoot ducks. The black ducks and teal
will soon be along; but ever since the inlet was closed, the
canvas-backs and red-heads have been scarce.”

“What do you mean by the inlet’s closing?”

“There used to be several inlets across the beach–one about ten miles
below–and then we had splendid oysters and ducks plenty. There came a
tremendous storm one winter that washed up the sand and closed the
inlet, and so it has remained ever since.”

“Can’t they be dredged out?”

“The people would pay a fortune to any man who did that, if he could
keep it open. In the fall, we go after ducks twenty miles when we want
any great shooting; but we kill a good many round here.”

“How do you catch the blue-fish that you spoke of?”

“They chase the bony-fish along the shore, and when they come close in,
you can stand on the beach, and throw the squid right among them, I took
sixteen hundred pounds in half a day.”

“Phew!” was the universal chorus.

“‘Lige was there, and he knows whether that is true. They averaged
fifteen pounds apiece. On those occasions, the only question is whether
you know how to land them, and can do it quick enough.”

“Your hands must have been cut to pieces.”

“Not at all; you’ll never cut your hands if you don’t let the line
slip.”

“Did you run up ashore with them?”

“No, I had no time for that; I landed them, hand over hand.”

“Well, after that story it’s time we went to bed; so good-night.”

During that night the mosquitoes, bad as they had been, were more
terrible than at any time previous. Favored by the late frequent rains,
they had become more numerous than had ever been known on the beach; and
being consequently compelled to subdivide to an unusual degree the
ordinarily small supply of food, they were savagely hungry. Sleep was
out of the question, and after trying all sorts of devices from
gunpowder to mosquito-nets, the party wandered out of doors, and,
scattering in search of a place of retreat, afforded an excellent
representation of unhappy ghosts on the banks of the Styx. The shore,
near the surf, and the bathing-houses had heretofore been tolerably
secure resorts, but, on this unprecedented night, a special meeting of
mosquitoes seemed to have been called in that neighborhood.

Those that tried the ground, and covered themselves carefully from head
to foot, found that the enterprising long-legs disregarded the customary
habits of their race, and consented to crawl down their sleeves, up
their pants, or through the folds of the blanket. The sand-fleas also
were numerous and lively, bounding about in an unpleasantly active way;
and where there were neither mosquitoes nor sand-fleas, the nervous
sufferer imagined every grain of stray sand that sifted in through his
clothes to be some malignant, blood-sucking, insect.

One great advantage, however, followed from this discomfort–that we
were up betimes next morning and ready for sport that soon proved equal
to any we had experienced. In fact, so steady and well sustained a
flight of large birds was extremely rare; before our arrival the
shooting had been good, and since excellent. There was a repetition to a
great extent of the day previous, in many particulars of flight, number,
and character of birds; in infinite modification of circumstance, there
was an incessant variety of bewildering sport.

No two birds ever approach the sportsman’s stand in precisely the same
way, and there is one round of deliciously torturing uncertainty; the
flock we are most certain of may turn off, the one that has passed and
been given up, may return; the bird that has been carefully covered may
escape, another that seems a hopeless chance may fall: it is these
minute differences, and this continual variety, that lend the principal
charm to the sportsman’s life.

At midday came again the congregation at the house, the discussion over
sporting topics, the joke or story, and the comparison of luck. Thus
passed the days, alike, yet different, affording undiminished pleasure,
excitement, and instruction, with sport admirably adapted to the hot
weather, when the cool, shady swamps are deserted by the woodcock. The
English snipe have not yet arrived upon the meadows, and the fall
shooting is still in prospective; the labor is easy, the body can be
kept cool by wading for dead birds, and to those who are, at the best,
not vigorous, bay-snipe shooting is a delightful resource.

Never did mortals pass a pleasanter week than that week at the beach,
and it is impossible to chronicle all the good shots, to repeat all the
amusing stories or merry jokes, or to record all the valuable
instruction; and to obtain an inkling even, the reader had better make a
firm resolve that next August will not pass over his head without his
devoting at least one week to bay-snipe shooting. When at last the time
came to part, and the baggage was packed, and the guns reluctantly
bestowed in their cases, we bade our farewell with sincere regret,
praying that often thereafter might we have such sport, and meet such
companionship.

It is a long journey to the beach, but it is a longer one back again; no
high hopes buoy up the traveller, regrets accompany him instead–no
anticipation of grand sport, but the gloomy certainty that it is over
for the year; and although the conveyance to the beach is irregular,
there is absolutely none away from it. It is true there are several
different routes to and from it, but all by private conveyance, and,
rendered by the mosquitoes nearly impracticable.

Bill harnessed his ponies–for, wonderful to say, a few horses and
cattle manage to live on the beach and sustain existence in spite of the
mosquitoes–and we stowed ourselves and our luggage in his well worn
wagon. The road lay over the barren beach, deep and heavy with sand,
and hardly distinguishable after a heavy rain; the one-story shanty,
that had been our resting-place, soon faded from view, and we had
nothing in prospect but the dreary journey home.

At the head of the beach we encountered a bathing-party, and were sorely
tempted to join the rollicking girls in a frolic among the breakers;
but, by exerting great self-denial, and shutting our eyes to their
attractions, much to my companion’s disgust, we kept on our course. We
dined at the tavern on the road, and having bade farewell to Bill, and
engaged another team, we reached Crab Town by dusk.

How changed the village seemed to us! Where was the precious and
beautiful freight that had paid us such delicious toll? Our eyes peered
up and down the road, and into the windows of the scattered houses; our
ears listened sharply for the music of merry voices and ringing
laughter; our thoughts reverted to that crowded stage, which had so
lately borne us through the village. The road was vacant and desolate;
all sound was hushed and still; graceful forms, clad in yielding
drapery, were nowhere to be seen; the dull lights in the windows
revealed nothing to our earnest gaze. Our lovely companions were
invisible, although we pursued our search persistently till late at
night, when, weary and disconsolate, we crawled up to bed in a dismal
hostelry kept by Huntsinger. Going sporting into Jersey is delightful,
but returning is sad indeed.

Continue Reading

BAY-SNIPE SHOOTING

The various writers on the different kinds of sport in our country have
generally devoted their attention to upland shooting; to the quail,
woodcock, English snipe, ruffed grouse of the hills, dales, and meadows,
to the prairie-chicken of the far west, or to the larger game–the
ducks, geese, and swans of our coast; and the few suggestions to be
found in _Frank Forester’s Field Sports_, or _Lewis’s American
Sportsman_, are of little assistance in discussing the mode of capture
of their less fashionable and less marketable brethren called bay-snipe.
Having no guides to aid me but my own experience, and differing
frequently in my views from the opinions expressed by the scientific
ornithologists, I approach the consideration of this subject with
diffidence; and for the many errors that a pioneer must inevitably
commit, I crave the indulgence of the public.

The birds that are shot along our shores upon the sand-bars or broad
salt meadows, or even upon the adjoining fields of upland, are among
sportsmen termed bay-birds or bay-snipe; and although including several
distinct varieties, present a general similarity in manners and habits.
They are ordinarily killed by stratagem over decoys, and not by open
pursuit; different varieties frequent the same locality, so that many
species will be collected in the same bag; they are for the most part,
except the upland birds, tough and sedgy, and at times hardly fit for
the table; and they arrive and may be killed at certain periods in vast
numbers.

Although despised by the upland sportsman, who regards the use of the
dog as essential to the pure exercise of his art; and by the pot-hunter,
because they do not generally bring high prices in market;–to the
genuine lover of nature and the gun they furnish splendid sport,
requiring, if not as high a degree of skill as may be needed to cut down
a quail in the dense coverts, at least as many fine qualities in the
sportsman, and as thorough a knowledge of their habits as any other
bird. In upland shooting the dog does the largest part of the work, and
invariably deserves the credit for a super-excellent bag; and truly
glorious is it to follow the dog that can make that bag, and wonderful
to watch his powers;–but in bay-snipe shooting there is no trusty dog
to look to, who can retrieve by his superiority his master’s
blunderings. The man relies upon himself, and himself alone; he it is
that must, with quick observant eye, catch the faint outline of the
distant flock, and with sharp ear distinguish the first audible call;
his experience must determine the nature of the birds, his powers of
imitation bring them within gunshot, and his skill drop them
advantageously from the crowded flock. To excel in all this requires
long patience, much experience, and great qualities of mind and body;
and few are the sportsmen who ever deserve the compliment paid by old
Paulus Enos of Quogue, when he remarked, “Colonel P. is a werry
destructive man–a werry destructive man in a flock of birds.”

It is true that quail-shooting is almost a certainty; and day after day
of fair weather, with well-trained animals and good marksmen, will
produce nearly the same average, so that an entire failure will be
almost impossible; whereas, with bay-snipe everything, in the first
instance, depends upon the flight; and if there are no birds, the result
must be a total blank; but when the season is propitious–and this can
be determined by the experienced sportsman with tolerable accuracy–the
sport is prodigious, and the number of shots enormous.

Nor is it so easy to kill the gentle game that approaches the decoys
with such entire confidence, and often at so moderate a pace. The upland
sportsman, who can cover the quail through the thick scrub-oaks, or the
woodcock in the dense foliage of the shady swamp, and send his charge
after them with astonishing precision, and who will expect easy work
with the bay-snipe, will find himself wonderfully bothered by their
curious motions and irregular flight, till he has acquired the knack of
anticipating their intentions. He will learn that their speed is
irregular; that while at times they will hang almost motionless in the
air, at others they will dart past at the rate of a hundred miles an
hour; that although usually flying steadily, they will frequently flirt
and twist as unexpectedly as an English snipe; and that often they will
either suddenly drop from before his gun and alight, or, taking the
alarm, will whirl fifty feet into the air; and when one barrel has been
discharged into a flock, the rest will “skiver” so as to puzzle even the
best marksman. It is not enough to kill one bird with each barrel from a
flock, as in quail-shooting, but a number must be selected at the moment
they cross one another, so that several may be secured with each barrel;
to do this will require much practice and entail many total misses, and
is rarely thoroughly learned by the upland sportsman. It will not answer
to follow the example of an enthusiastic French gentleman, whom I once
left in the stand while I went to the house for dinner; and who, on my
return, in an excited way remarked:

“Ah! I have vun beautifool shot, I make ze lovely shot; tree big birds
come along–vat you call him?”

“Willet?” I suggested.

“No, no; ze big brown birds.”

“Sickle-bills!”

“No, not ze seeckle-bills.”

“Jacks?”

“No, no; not ze jacks.”

“Marlin!”

“Yes, yes; tree big marlin come close by, right ovair ze stool; zay all
fly near ze other; I am sure to kill zem, it was such beautifool shot. I
take ze gun and miss zem all!”

Moreover, the excitement of a rapid flight is intense; the birds arrive
much faster than the muzzle-loader can be charged, and a flock will
hover round the stand, returning again and again in the most bewildering
manner; as there are usually two sportsmen in each stand, and the stands
are often in sight of one another, a sense of rivalry is added to the
other difficulties of the position.

As the birds approach, great judgment is required in selecting the
proper time to fire, both as regards the condition of the flock and
their position relative to the associate sportsman; they must be allowed
to come well within the reach of both, and yet be taken when they are
most together, and not allowed to pass so far as to endanger the success
of the second barrel. Each sportsman must invariably fire at his side of
the flock, and wait till it is well abreast of him, and never either
shoot over his neighbor’s corner of the stand or at his portion of the
birds. Nothing is so disagreeable as to have a gun discharged close to
one’s head, except perhaps to have it discharged at one’s head; the
noise and jar produce painful and dangerous effects, and unsettle a
person’s nerves for hours. No man who will fire by his associate without
presenting his gun well before him, can know the first principles of
gunnery–or who, if knowing them, wilfully disregards their effects, is
a fit companion. The concussion from the explosion is exceedingly
unpleasant, even if the gun is several feet off, and will produce a
slight deafness.

Of the number of birds which can be bagged, it is hardly possible to
speak within bounds–more than a hundred having been killed at one
shot–but probably a hundred separate shots are occasionally fired by
each sportsman in the course of a day, and with the breech-loader even
more. There have been times when twenty-five pounds of shot have been
expended by one gun, but those days exist no longer, and it is rare to
use more than five pounds where the load does not exceed an ounce and a
quarter.

The uncertainty of the flight is the principal drawback to bay-snipe
shooting, although experience can in a measure overcome the difficulty;
but to the citizen confined to certain days, a selection of time is an
impossibility. The height of the season extends from August 15th to the
25th for the bay-birds proper; and from August 28th to September 8th,
for golden plover; and if a north-easterly storm should occur at this
period, it will be followed by an immense flight.

Dry seasons are never good, and so long as the weather remains warm the
birds will tarry in their northern latitudes; when the meadows are
parched for want of rain, they become too hard for the birds to
perforate, and the latter, being unable to feed, must migrate elsewhere;
but when they are soft with moisture, the older snipe that have left
their progeny at the far north, linger on the feeding-grounds and wait
for the latter to arrive. They seem to make it a point to send back
portions of their number from time to time to look after the young; and
on such occasions, both the messengers and the young stool admirably.
Thus flocks of old birds will frequently be seen wending their way
towards the north, while the main flight is directed southward; and
these flocks will invariably come to the decoys, although the main body
will take no notice of them.

Of course when the meadows are too parched to furnish food, the birds
cannot return on their tracks, but must continue their flight to more
hospitable shores, and in this way one of the best chances for good
shooting is lost. There are probably, in addition, many ease-loving
gluttons among the troupe, who if they find the feeding-grounds well
supplied, stop for a time to enjoy the luxury after their long
abstinence in the inclement north; and in passing to and from their
favorite spots, are said by the native human species to have established
“a trade” to those places. These birds, of course, wherever they see a
flock apparently partaking of a plentiful repast, naturally pause to
obtain their share, and thus fall a prey to their appetites.

Bay-snipe fly during the day and night high up in the heavens, or close
to the earth, in rain or shine, but especially during a cold
north-easterly storm, which, from its direction, is favorable to their
southerly migrations; and they have a vigor of wing that enables them to
traverse immense distances in a short time. In proceeding with the wind,
it is usually at a considerable distance from the earth; but when facing
an adverse current, they keep close to the surface, and consequently are
apt to be attracted by the stools. They do not move much during foggy
weather, for the simple reason that they cannot see their course, but do
not seem to be troubled by a rain. Although clear–that is to say, not
rainy–weather is preferable on many accounts, for their pursuit, good
sport is frequently had, especially on Long Island, during a rain.

Their line of flight is peculiar. Except the plover, they do not follow
the entire coast, and are not found to the eastward of Massachusetts,
but appear to strike directly from their northern haunts to Cape Cod,
where, in the neighborhood of Barnstable, there was in former times
excellent shooting; thence they proceed to Point Judith, or even
somewhat to the westward of it, and then they cross Long Island Sound,
rarely much to the eastward of Quogue; from Long Island they make one
flight to Squan Beach, and so on along the bays and lagoons of the
southern coast to the Equator, or perhaps beyond it to the Antarctic
region. The plovers follow the coast more closely, and strike the
easternmost end of Long Island in their career.

It is very remarkable, that these birds which generally pass northward
in May, and require only three months for incubation and growth of
young, live the other nine months apparently in comparative idleness at
the south. This peculiarity has led to the suggestion that they may
travel to the Antarctic ocean during their absence from the
north–which, although probable, is as yet, from our entire ignorance of
their habits, a mere suggestion.

During the northward flight in May, there is often good sport, but the
time is more uncertain than in August; nor do the birds, which are old
and wary, stool quite so well as on their return. In the spring they
pursue the same course as in the autumnal flight; which, although it is
the most direct line, and follows the principal expanse of salt meadow,
necessitates considerable journeys far out at sea. But it is doubtless
the fact that these birds, in consequence of their stretch and power of
wing, could sustain an unbroken flight from north to south, and
accomplish the distance in a wonderfully short space of time. Unabated
speed of one hundred miles an hour is equivalent to twenty-four hundred
miles in a day, and portions of the flock may not pause between Labrador
and the swamps of Florida.

When the wind is strong and continuous from the westward, it is supposed
that they pass far out to sea; and during these seasons there will be no
flight of birds either at Long Island or on the Jersey coast. At such
periods sportsmen often conclude that the entire race has been
destroyed, till the easterly winds and soaking rains of the following
year, bring them back more numerous than ever. As they must migrate, and
are not to be found anywhere on the land, it is clear that they must
have the power of completing their journey in one unbroken flight.

The principal varieties are the sickle-bill, jack-curlew, the marlin and
ring-tailed marlin, the willet, the black-breast or bull-head, and
golden plovers, the yelper, yellow-legs, robin-snipe, dowitchers,
brant-bird, and krieker. The upland or grass-plover is pursued in a
different manner, and the smaller birds are not pursued for sport at
all.

The sickle-bills, so named after the beautiful sweeping curve of the
bill, which has been known to measure eleven inches in length, are the
largest of them all. They are colored much like a marlin, have a
beautiful bright eye, a short reed-like call, and a steady, dignified
flight. In stretch of wings they exceed three feet, and nothing can be
more impressive than the approach of a large flock of these birds with
wings and bills extended and legs dropped in preparation for alighting
amid the stools.

They are often shy in the first instance, but as soon as one of their
number is killed, they return again and again to the fatal
spot–apparently in blind confidence that he must have alighted instead
of fallen, or out of brotherly anxiety for his fate. I have on several
occasions attracted a large flock that was hesitating whether to
approach or not, and almost resolving to depart, by killing one of their
number that incautiously ventured within long range–for immediately on
seeing him fall, they approached, in spite of the report, with full
confidence.

They are easily killed, by reason of their moderate speed and customary
steadiness, although they can dart rapidly when alarmed, and will often,
like all the bay-birds, carry off much shot. Their flesh is tough, very
dark, and scarcely fit for the table, except perhaps when they first
come on from feeding on the more dainty repasts furnished by the
uplands of Labrador.

The jack-curlew is a still more wary bird, and although he comes to the
stools, rarely pauses over them, and never returns after being once
fired at. He is seldom seen in large flocks, and flies rapidly and
steadily. His cry is longer than that of the sickle-bill, and, like it,
easy to imitate. From his wariness and rarity he is regarded as the
greatest prize of the sportsman, although his flesh is little better
than that of the sickle-bill.

The marlin is quite common, very gentle, stools admirably, and goes in
large flocks. In color it is similar to the sickle-bill, but it is much
smaller and has a straight, if not slightly recurved, bill. It is
attracted by the same call, and is equally tough and sedgy as food. The
ring-tailed marlin differs from it entirely in color, resembling a
willet–except that its wings are darker, and its tail black with a
white ring–but it has the long, straight, marlin bill. It is a rare
bird, seldom collects in large flocks, and is often fat and tolerable
eating. It does not stool as well as its plainer brother, but from its
scarcity and higher gastronomic claims, it is more highly prized.

The willet is greyish in general color, with a white belly and broad
bands of black and white across its wings. It has a loud, shrill shriek,
stools well, flies steadily, congregates in large flocks, and when fat
is quite eatable. It often associates with marlins and sickle-bills,
where its light colors make a beautiful contrast.

The last four varieties are nearly similar in size and greatly exceed
the following, but are far less desirable in an epicurean point of view.

The golden plover is one of the finest birds that flies; it associates
in flocks of a thousand, stools well, is extremely fat, is delicious on
the table, and has a peculiarly musical whistle. It frequents the
uplands, and feeds on grasshoppers. Its back is marked with a greenish
red that faintly resembles gold, and gives rise to its name. The young
are quite different in plumage.

The black-breast or bull-head is a shy and rather solitary
bird–although it occasionally collects in large flocks–but it is quite
fat, and frequently killed in the salt marshes over the stools used for
the ordinary bay-birds.

The yelper has a strong, rapid, and often irregular flight, and a loud
cry. It stools well, but escapes rapidly as soon as shot at, darting
from side to side in a confusing way, and returns less confidently than
the willet or marlin. It pursues its course generally high in the
clouds, whence it will drop like a stone when coming to the stools. On
Long Island it goes by the name of big yellow-legs; its call can be
heard at an immense distance, and is repeated continually as it flies.
Gastronomically considered, it is passable, and, when fat, really
excellent.

The yellow-legs, or little yellow-legs, as it is termed on Long Island,
is similar in appearance to the yelper, but has a softer and more
flute-like note, and congregates in larger flocks. It stools admirably,
and is killed in immense numbers. Its flight is rapid and irregular,
especially when it is frightened; and, as food, it ranks with the
yelper.

The brant-bird is a beautiful bird, and stools well; it rarely consorts
in large flocks, and is quite acceptable on the table.

The robin-snipe is a graceful, beautiful, and delicious bird; its
favorite localities are the meadow-islands of the salt bays and lagoons;
its flight is steady, and it does not collect in such immense flocks as
the last named variety. Its whistle consists of two clear shrill notes,
by which it is readily attracted; and its predominant colors are grey on
the back and red on the breast.

The dowitcher, which is considered ornithologically as the only true
snipe of them all, has the habits of the sandpiper and the distinctive
attributes of the _scolopax_; it is abundant, extremely gentle, and
excellent eating. It stools admirably, coming to any whistle whatever;
and although it can skiver when alarmed, it usually flies steadily. It
associates with the smaller birds.

The krieker feeds on the meadows, remains till late in October, becomes
extremely fat, and is an epicurean delicacy; it utters a creaking cry,
but will not stool at all. It also flies with the smaller snipe.

Having thus mentioned the peculiar distinctive qualities and
characteristics of each bird, of which a fuller description will be
given in another place, we will now pass to a consideration of the best
mode of their pursuit. This being by stratagem, the more thorough the
deception, the more favorable will be the result; and although they can
frequently be attracted by an accurate imitation of their call within
reach of their destroyer, crouched in the open field and unaided by
decoys, they will approach much better to the concealed sportsman and
well made stools. A stand is usually erected near some pond or bar where
the birds are in the habit of alighting–and this can be built in half
an hour of bushes or reeds–high enough to conceal the sportsman
comfortably seated in his arm-chair; and as the grass has become by the
latter part of August a dull yellowish green, he may even shelter
himself from the sun’s rays by a brown cotton umbrella, if he be
delicate or ease-loving. His clothes should assimilate to the color of
the landscape, and be as cool as possible–for the temperature is often
oppressively hot; and a waterproof should always be at hand in case of
rain, to cover, not so much the sportsman as his gun and ammunition,
which may be seriously injured by dampness and salt air combined.





If it is impracticable to build a stand, and the locality is sandy, a
hole may be dug, with the excavated sand banked around it, and the
sportsman may deposit himself upon his Mackintosh at the bottom.
However, to one unaccustomed to the posture, it is difficult to rise and
shoot from such a position, and a comfortable seat is far preferable;
and besides, the mosquitoes are thicker near the earth; the breeze has
less effect and the sun more.

The stools should be so placed that they can be readily seen from the
line of flight, not too high above the water, and the farthest not more
than thirty-five yards from the shooter. If too near a bank, they will
be confounded with the grass, and be invisible even to the keen eye of
the snipe. They should be scattered sufficiently to allow each one to be
distinct, and must be headed in different directions, so that some may
present their broadsides to every quarter of the heavens. They should
tail down wind, in a measure, from the stand, as the birds, no matter
what direction they come from, head up wind in order to alight, and will
make a circle to do so. In this way they reach the lower end of the
imitation flock first, and are led safely close to the sportsman, giving
him an admirable opportunity to make his selection from their ranks.

As the tide varies according to the wind and moon, and will often cover
with several feet of water places usually dry, it is well to have two
sets of sticks–one set for deep water much longer than those for
ordinary use; otherwise, it will occasionally be found impossible to set
out the stools at all, or they will stand so high above the ground as to
resemble bean-poles more than birds.

It is customary to have in the flock, which should not be less than
forty, imitations of the different species–some being brown to
represent marlin, others grey, with white breasts and a white and black
streak over the tail to stand for willet, and so on; but a more
important point is to have them large. Small stools cannot be seen far
enough to attract a yelper sailing amid the clouds, or a marlin sweeping
along the distant horizon; and although it is pretty and appropriate to
have them of suitable colors, size is more necessary. A sickle-bill is a
large bird, and I have seen one tethered among the stools towering above
them, so that the imitations looked puny by comparison, although larger
than they were usually made. The word stool is derived from the Danish
_stoel_, and signifies something set up on less than four legs, but of
the mode or reason of its adoption we have no record; it is in universal
use, to the exclusion of the more elegant and appropriate term, decoy,
which is confined to imitation of wild fowl. Stools are ordinarily made
of wood, and occasionally painted with great artistic care and skill;
and although a rough affair, coarsely daubed, seems often to answer
nearly as well, there are times when the birds, rendered wild by many
hair-breadth escapes, look sharply ere they draw near, and will not
approach unsightly blocks of wood, no matter how sweetly they seem to
whistle.

As wooden stools take up much room and are troublesome to carry for any
distance, tin ones have been made that will pack together in a small
space. By heading these, different ways, they present a good view to the
snipe, except when the latter are high in air, from which position they
are invisible. To remedy this defect, it has been suggested that a strip
of tin of the width of the body may be soldered along the upper edge;
and thus, while they pack snugly, a section of the object is presented
in every direction.

Wooden stools are decidedly the best, especially where it is desirable
that the birds should alight, and are in general use. They are made of
pine, and painted the distinctive colors of their prototypes; thus
sickle-bills, marlin, and jacks, are all brown with dark spots on the
back and wings; willet, as heretofore described; yellow-legs, dark
mottled grey on the back and wings, and white beneath; dowitchers brown
on the back and wings, and yellowish-white below; bull-head plover light
on the back, with dark breasts; robin-snipe light grey on the back and
side, and reddish beneath. But the snipe are not always discriminating,
and a few varieties will answer every purpose.

Stools are easily made and moderate in cost, and every sportsman should
have not less than twenty-five of his own, so that in case those that he
finds at the country taverns for the public use are engaged, he may have
some to fall back upon–although twenty-five are not a full supply. They
may be carried in a bag or basket, with their feet and bills removed;
and the basket will be useful to hold lunch, ammunition, or game.

Extempore representations can be made from the dead birds, although they
are not quite so good as the wooden ones, by cutting a forked stick with
one end much longer than the other, and thrusting the longer point into
the bird’s neck and the shorter one into its body. It may then be stood
up in the sand, and will make a decoy scarcely distinguishable by man
from the living prototype, but apparently more unnatural to the
birds–which are sometimes alarmed at its ghastly appearance–than the
ordinary stools.

Very perfect stools are made of India-rubber, which, being compressible
and light, can be readily transported, and are a deceptive imitation;
their principal defects are their liability to injury from shot–which
is also the case with wooden ones–and the facility with which the hole
where their long leg is inserted becomes torn–an accident that entirely
destroys their usefulness. They can be packed in a small compass, and
are infinitely the best article where they are to be carried long
distances. Although of necessity undersized, their full plump shape
makes them visible at a considerable distance.

To prevent the bills, which are the most delicate part, from being
injured, it is necessary to make them rather thicker than those of the
living bird; they are to be painted dark-brown, blue, or grey, according
to circumstances; and their loss, although it may not diminish the
attractiveness, destroys the beauty of the fictitious flock. More
important than perfection of decoys, is accuracy in whistling; this
should be a perfect imitation and answer to the call of the bird, and
will often allure him to the fowler without any decoys whatever. It is
impossible to describe the calls on paper, and long practice will alone
give a thorough knowledge of them; they are generally shrill and loud;
the shriller and louder the better–for man’s best efforts will rarely
equal the bird’s natural powers. The yelper has a clear, bold cry, and
the willet a fierce shriek that can be heard for miles; and if listened
to from a distance, it will be found that the bird’s call can be heard
twice the distance of the man’s answer. It is true that when the snipe
are near at hand and about alighting, a lower whistle is better, for the
reason that it is more perfect, and because the cry changes to a note of
welcome when the flock receives its fellows. And often, when the birds
once head for the stools, if not distracted by neighboring stands, or
alarmed, they will come straight on without any whistling, although this
is by no means invariably the case.

Many persons find insuperable difficulty in whistling the clear, shrill,
sharp calls; and for them artificial whistles have been manufactured
with a hole at the lower end, which, being opened or closed by the
finger, like the holes in a flute, regulates the sound. These artificial
whistles are not so good as a perfectly trained natural one; the sound
is not sufficiently reed-like, and they occupy and confine one hand when
it should be free to seek the gun. They are suspended from the
button-hole by a string, so that they can be dropped in an instant; but
are only used out of necessity.

A curious one, to be held in the mouth, has been invented of a
wedge-shaped piece of tin in the form of an axe-head, with two holes
through the sides. The sound is regulated by the tongue, and is
altogether more correct than that of any other whistle; but more time
and patience are required to learn the use of this invention than of the
lips. It will be far better for the sportsman who intends to pursue this
sport, to practise with the organs that nature has given him, however
much time or perseverance may be necessary, and then there will be no
danger of leaving his whistle at home.

As before remarked, the great drawback to the sport of shooting
bay-snipe is its uncertainty; if the flight has not come on, or a
westerly wind has driven the birds to sea, or a heavy north-easter
carries them with it high in air and prevents their stopping–there will
be no shooting; and the most experienced hand will often receive the
comforting assurance which is always bestowed upon the inexperienced,
that if he had only come two weeks sooner, or deferred his visit two
weeks longer, he would have been sure of fine sport. There are
nevertheless certain general rules that furnish a tolerable criterion;
and laying aside the spring shooting, which occurs in May, and is
extremely uncertain, the main flight of small birds–such as dowitchers
and yellow-legs–commences about the tenth of July, and of large birds
about the fifteenth of August. Each lasts about two weeks.

The flight of large birds usually terminates with a short flight of
yellow-legs, and is followed by the plover, which are succeeded by the
kriekers. An easterly storm generally brings the birds, either by
bearing them from their northern homes, or by forcing them in from the
sea, where the main body is supposed to fly; and if such a storm occur
at either of these periods, and be succeeded by a south-westerly wind,
it will surely be followed by an abundance of the appropriate birds.

During an easterly blow they will be seen passing by Point Judith in an
almost unbroken line; and after it, they abound throughout the whole
length of the coast, as though they had been carried to all parts of it
at once. But if no such storm occur, the catching the flight is a mere
chance; and where the summer has been dry, the snipe will be scarce. If
the meadows have been kept moist by continual showers, there will be a
moderate supply of game the summer through; but if there has been a
drought, the surface becomes too hard for the snails and insects to
inhabit, or for the birds to penetrate; a scarcity of food results, and
there will be no flight whatever.

Scattering birds, wandering away from their fellows and exhausted with
hunger, delighted at beholding their friends apparently feeding, will be
killed perhaps in numbers sufficient to make now and then a decent bag;
but what is known as the “flight”–when the great army moves its vast
cohorts, division after division, regiment after regiment, company after
company–will not take place. How they reach the south no one can
accurately tell; they either fly inland or out at sea high in the air,
or late at night; but their returning myriads in the spring following,
prove that in some way they did reach their southern winter homes.

Notwithstanding the greatest experience, and despite the most favorable
signs, the oldest gunner will find that more or less uncertainty exists
in obtaining sport, and that his unlucky expeditions generally outnumber
his lucky ones. Often a flight will commence unexpectedly and without
any apparent reason; and a change of weather, after a long continuance
of wind from one quarter, will be followed by good shooting for some
days, although such weather is not intrinsically favorable. The follower
of bay-birds must therefore make up his mind to disappointment, and on
such occasions live on his hopes for the future, or his recollections of
the past.

For this sport a heavy gun, such as is commonly employed for ducks, is
not at all necessary; inasmuch as many of the birds are small and the
flocks frequently scattered, it is rarely desirable to use two ounces of
shot and five drachms of powder; and to fire such a charge at a solitary
dowitcher, as is often done, is simply ridiculous. A light field-gun,
with an ounce and a quarter of shot and three drachms and a half of
powder, (or, as I prefer, an ounce of shot and three drachms of powder,)
is amply sufficient–will confer more pleasure and require more skill in
the use, will cut down a reasonable number from a flock, and will kill a
single bird handsomely.

The gun should be kept at half-cock, and may be laid upon a bench beside
the sportsman; there is always time to cock it, even if a flock is not
seen till it is over the stools; and a gun at full cock in a stand, is a
danger that no reasonable man will encounter. In field-shooting, I do
not approve of carrying the gun at half-cock, believing, for certain
reasons unnecessary here to repeat, that it is less dangerous at
full-cock; but in a stand or in a house, or in fact anywhere but in the
field where it is always in the sportsman’s hand, it should be never
otherwise than at half-cock. It is common to pass in front of guns lying
on the bench in the stand, and they often fall off, and are usually
reached for by the sportsman while his eye is on the advancing flock,
and does not note whether his hand grasps the barrel or the triggers;
and there is an excitement, when the flight is rapid, sufficiently
perilous of itself in connexion with fire-arms, without uselessly
increasing it. Every precaution should therefore be taken; and if by
accident the gun which cannot go off at half-cock shall be discharged in
cocking or uncocking it, it will point forward, away from the stand, and
in such a direction that injury to human life cannot follow.

Next in importance to care in preventing the gun’s injuring a
fellow-creature, is care in preventing its being injured. The least
dampness, whether from fog or rain, and even the salt air alone, will
rust the delicate steel and iron, and, penetrating farther and farther,
make indentations that will spoil its beauty and injure its
effectiveness permanently. To prevent this, oil frequently applied is
the only remedy; a rag well oiled, and a bottle to replenish from,
should be among the ordinary equipments, and invariably taken to the
shooting-ground; the first symptom of rust or even discoloration should
be removed, and every portion of the iron-work kept well lubricated. At
night a waterproof covering should be used, and the charge invariably
left undrawn, as the dirt prevents oxydization for a time; and during a
rain the utmost care should be taken to protect, if not the entire gun,
at least the locks and trigger-plate. Kerosene oil is excellent to
remove rust, but is too thin to form a coating, and not so good a
protection as sweet or whale oil. Varnish is highly recommended, but I
have never known any one to try it; and in case no oil can be obtained,
the gunners on Long Island are in the habit of shooting a small snipe,
which is often extremely fat, and using its skin as an oiled rag.

Of course with a breech-loader the charge is withdrawn, and the cleaning
apparatus may be forced through every evening, although this is
unnecessary, as the dirt is rather a protection; and after the cleaning,
whether of the muzzle-loader or breech-loader, the barrels should be
well oiled both inside and out. If, however, the gun is to be left for a
long time unused and exposed to salt air, a piece of greasy rag wound
upon a stick may be thrust into the barrels to the bottom, and oil
should be liberally applied to the exposed parts. Moreover, the locks,
however well they may fit, will be injured after a while, and should be
removed and examined occasionally. The size of shot used should be
changed according to the season and character of the flight; in July,
when the yellow-legs and dowitchers are the principal victims, No. 8 is
abundantly large; but in August, when curlews, marlin, and willets are
flying, all of which are able to endure severe punishment, No. 6 is
preferable. Eley’s cartridges are often useful with grass-plover,
although they ball so frequently that the majority of sportsmen have
lost faith in them.

Favorable seasons for snipe, when heavy or repeated rains have saturated
the meadows, and filled every hollow with stagnant pools of dirty water,
are also favorable for mosquitoes. Persons who suffer from the bites of
this pestiferous insect–and the difference between individuals upon
this subject is remarkable–should prepare themselves with mosquito-nets
and ill-scented oils, as they would for a visit to the wild woods; while
those who are much affected by the sun should bring unguents with which
to temper its intensity and assuage the pain that its burning rays
inflict.

Shoes are the proper things for the feet, as boots become heated and
uncomfortable; and a brown linen jacket with white flannel pantaloons,
thick enough to resist the attacks of a mosquito, and with the necessary
underclothes for an exceptionally cold day, constitute the most
practical rig.

If the sportsman use a muzzle-loader–which he should not do if he can
afford to buy a breech-loader–he must have a loading-stick which he can
extemporize from his cleaning-rod by substituting a ramrod head for the
jag. This he does by simply having a piece of brass of the proper size
and shape to screw into the place of the latter. He should also have two
guns, or he loses the chance at the returning flock, which is the most
exciting, as it is often the most successful shot.

The powder should be coarse; the large grain of the ducking-powder being
alone fitted to withstand the deleterious effects of the moisture that
is an invariable concomitant of the salt atmosphere of the ocean.

One great difficulty that the writer has encountered in preparing this
work, is a proper selection of names–the natural history of our country
is popularly so little understood; to copy English names and apply them
to creatures bearing a faint resemblance in general coloring, though
neither in habits nor scientific distinctions, was so natural to the
first immigrants, and the introduction of a proper appellation is so
nearly impossible, that the confusion in nomenclature of our birds,
beasts, and fishes is hardly surprising. This confusion existing in
every department of natural history–confounding fish of all varieties,
leaving birds nameless, or giving them too many names–culminates among
the bay-snipe.

Although the bony-fish or mossbunkers of New York become the menhaden of
the Eastern States, and king-fish are transformed into barb in New
Jersey, and perch become pickerel in the west–there are rarely more
than two names, and every fish has some designation; but with bay-snipe,
after an infinite multiplication of names for certain species, others
are left entirely unnamed. Many that are frequently killed are without a
popular designation, and more still are called frost-birds, and
meadow-snipe, and beach-birds–names that might with justice be applied
to the entire class, and which are so utterly confused, that persons
from different sections of the country do not know what others are
talking about. To make matters worse, the scientific gentlemen have
stepped in, and after indulging in plenty of bad Latin, have added fresh
English appellations, more unmeaning and less appropriate if possible
than the common ones.

From this mass of incongruities the writer has endeavored, while
preserving the best name, to select the one in general use, bearing in
mind that names are mere substitutes, and not descriptive adjectives.
The name frost-bird or frost-snipe–which belongs to entirely different
creatures–is applicable to every bird that appears after a frost, and
as nearly a hundred varieties are in this category, it is not
distinctive; the names meadow-snipe and beach-bird are ridiculous, but
the latter, being applied to an unimportant class, is allowed to stand.
The snipe that is herein called a krieker, or, as it may be spelled,
creaker, which utters a hoarse, creaking note, is called in various
places meadow-snipe–although most of the bay-birds haunt the meadows;
fat-bird, whereas others are equally fat; and short neck, in spite of
the fact that its neck is longer than some species; while ornithologists
call it pectoral sandpiper, probably because it has a breast. So also
with the brant-bird, which is called on the coast of New Jersey
horsefoot-snipe, because it feeds on the spawn of the horsefoot;
notwithstanding that the yellow-legs and several others do the same.
The name, however, is not satisfactory on account of its similarity to
the brant or brent-goose; and probably the scientific designation,
turnstone, if it were at all in common acceptation, would be better. It
is to be hoped these names will at some day be harmonized by universal
consent, and these pages will at least make mutual comprehension open
the way for that desirable result. The sickle-bill, jack-curlew, marlin,
willet, golden-plover, yelper, dowitcher, and krieker, are excellent;
and the ring-tailed marlin, black-breast plover, yellow-legs, and
robin-snipe, are at least descriptive. Were these generally accepted, a
simple and tolerably accurate system of nomenclature would be obtained;
and it has been my effort, while placing the preferable name at the head
of the description of each variety, to collate all the other names that
in any section of our vast territory are applied to the same bird. In
this attempt I can only be partially successful; for the ingenuity of
the American people in coining new names, added to a profound ignorance
of ornithology, has produced a confusion that no one man can reduce to
order.

Bay-snipe, except the plovers, kriekers, and a few others, are not
considered delicate eating, contracting along the salt marshes a sedgy
flavor; but on the shores of the western lakes, where the fresh water
appears to remove this peculiarity, the yellow-legs and yelpers–which
are often found in considerable numbers, and are called by the general
appellation of plovers–are almost equal in tender, juicy delicacy to
the English snipe. Whether the same change is noticeable in the larger
varieties, I cannot say of my own knowledge.

The gunners have an ingenious way of stringing them in bunches of a half
dozen each, on the longest feathers taken from their wings, a pair of
these being tied together by the feather ends, and the quillpoints
thrust through the nostrils of the birds. It is desirable to put them up
in small bunches, as under the warm temperature of summer they will,
unless every precaution is exercised, soon become tainted. To prevent
this, the entrails should also be carefully removed without disturbing
the plumage; and a little salt, or, as many persons recommend, coffee,
rubbed inside, and they should be at all times carefully protected from
the sun. Their sedgy flavor grows stronger with every day they are kept;
and being extremely oily, the least taint renders them, together with
all the wild inhabitants of the coast, unfit for food.

Bay-snipe are essentially migratory, rarely stopping on our shores to
build their nests and rear their young; during the spring months they
pass to or beyond the coast of Labrador, and attend to the duties of
maternity in the vast levels and swamps that surround Hudson’s Bay, and
constitute a large portion of the northern part of British North
America. In my ramblings through the Provinces, I was frequently
informed that they abounded during the latter part of summer on the
marshes near the Bay Chaleur in New Brunswick. This must evidently have
been during their return flight; but whether they were our bay-birds in
their vast variety, or whether they were merely the flocks of golden
plover that follow the winding of the coast and subsequently visit
Nantucket and Montauk Point, I had no opportunity to determine by
personal experience.

With us they make their appearance in the neighborhood of Boston Bay,
and thence they are found, with various intermissions, caused by the
nature of the ground, all the way to the State of Texas. The innumerable
bays, sounds, and lagoons of our Southern States, inclosed by broad
meadows and including thousands of marshy islands, are their favorite
feeding-grounds, and are visited by them in unnumbered thousands. The
larger varieties may be seen there all through the fall quietly feeding,
and scarcely noticing the approach of man. In Texas they seem to
congregate in vast bodies, and probably move off to or beyond the
equator in the early winter months, although this has never been
positively ascertained.

They are not killed as game south of Virginia, and rarely south of New
Jersey; in fact, it may be said that only on Cape Cod, Long Island, and
the shore line of New Jersey, are they scientifically pursued. At these
places the sport has greatly diminished of late years; a few years ago
Barnstable beach was a celebrated resort; and at Quogue, parties used no
stools, but stationed themselves along the narrow neck that connects the
beach with the main land, and fired till their guns were dirty or their
ammunition exhausted. Then it was no unusual thing to expend
twenty-five pounds of shot in a day, where now the sportsman that could
use up five would be fortunate.

Of all the locations on this extent of meadow and beach, no place is so
famous, from its natural advantages and its ancient reputation, as
Quogue. It is true that the best pond is permanently occupied by a
famous Governor, a still more famous General, and a notorious
Colonel–although the latter is not “in the bond;” but there are other
good stands, and for small birds–yellow-legs, dowitchers, and
robin-snipe–it has no equal. Although many flocks pass it high in air,
all those that follow the coast, low down to the earth, must cross the
meadows that are compressed to a narrow strip at this point, which is
the dividing-ground between the two great bays on the south side of Long
Island.

Unfortunately, a watering-place for the summer resort of the exquisites
of New York has been established in the vicinity, and the consequent
advantages of comfortable beds and a good table are more than overborne
by the annoyance of such companionship. If there be a flight of birds,
every unfledged sportsman takes out his elegant fowling-piece, and,
daintily dressed, proceeds to the meadow, where he would be
comparatively harmless, and dangerous only to himself, were there room
for him and his fellows. But as the ground is limited, and the favorable
points few, he is sure to interfere; and, while killing nothing himself,
ruins the prospects of those who could do better. At Quogue, decoys
were first used about the year 1850, and the best day’s sport of late
was one hundred and thirty-eight birds.

West of Quogue there are some snipe, and occasionally a good flight at
South Oyster Bay, and more rarely still at Rockaway; but the large birds
are not numerous north of New Jersey. Squan Beach, Barnegat, Egg Harbor,
and Brigantine Beach are famous for the large birds–the sickle-bills,
curlews, willets, and marlins–that visit them; the same number of shots
cannot be obtained as at Quogue, but the bag is larger. At the former
places there is also a flight, of greater or less extent, of dowitchers
and yellow-legs, but these are not so abundant as along the margin of
the Great South Bay of Long Island. On the other hand, a bag of one
hundred of the larger varieties is not unusual; while at Egg Harbor the
robin-snipe, which affect marshy islands are exceedingly numerous.

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