The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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OWLS AND MARMOTS
397
necessary for the marmot, as he goes fast to sleep when the weather begins to get cold, and does not wake up till the sun is shining warmly again on the earth above him. Then he sets to work, either to repair the walls of his house which have been damaged by the heavy rains and hard frosts, or if that seems useless labour, to dig a fresh one somewhere else. But industrious as he is, the hard work does not make the marmot at all a ' dull boy,' and he can still spare time for a good game now and then.
Of course, as we are talking about birds, perhaps we ought not to be describing marmots, which are naturally not birds at all; but as they build for the burrowing owls to inhabit, a description of the houses may not be out of place.
The entrance to the marmot's house is either at the top or on the side of the little mound above ground. Then he hollows out a passage straight down for one, or sometimes two feet, and this passage is continued in a sloping direction for some distance further, when it leads, like a story in the ' Arabian Nights,' into a large warm room, built of soft dry grass, which has been packed into a tight, firm mass. In general the outside of the little mounds is covered with small plants and grasses, so that the marmot always has his food near at hand, but occasionally they prefer to make their villages in barren spots, as being safer from enemies. Still, wherever they are, the sociable little colony of marmots are said to be haunted by at least one burrowing owl, a bird about nine inches long, and from a distance not very unlike the marmot itself, when it is sitting up, listening for the approach of danger. If no burrow seems likely to be vacant at the time he wants one, the owl does not scruple to turn out the owner, who has to begin all his labour over again. Sometimes, when affairs above ground are more than usually disturbed, and foes of all kinds are prowling about, seeking whom they may devour, owls and marmots and rattlesnakes, and lizards rush helter-skelter
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