Three Hundred Games & Pastimes - complete online book

A Book Of Suggestions For Children's Games And Employments.

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172
What Shall We Do Now?
Ants. Rooks.
Swallows and hawks.
On p. 162 is given the title of a book about bees. Hardly less wonderful are ants, concerning whom there is much curious information in the same work, the reading of which makes it ten times more interesting to watch an ant-hill than it was before. One sometimes has to remember that it is as serious for ants to have their camp stirred up by a walking-stick as it would be for London if Snowdon were tossed on top of it.
If you like watching birds and animals, to be near a rookery is extremely interesting. No birds seem to have so much reason in their actions as rooks, and of none is it so possible to believe that the sounds they make really represent speech: gossip, consultation, advice, or scolding. When an army of rooks settle in a field they are careful to post sentries nearabouts, whose duty it is to give warning of danger. On a week day you can now and then take them in by pointing a walking-stick as if it were a gun, especially if the stick is a polished one ; but on Sunday they know better. Just before evening falls you may see the birds homing to the rookery : one by one, black and strong, steadily winging towards the camp. And then, when all are in, there is a sudden simultaneous flight out again and the sky above the rookery is a bewildering maze of specks, that cross and recross, and ascend and tumble, and utter harsh, yet, when multiplied by hundreds, soothing cries. When a high wind blows it is fine to watch a rook climbing the sky bravely for a minute, and then, caught by the gale, slip down hill again (as it were) swiftly and smoothly as a toboggan.
But in the flight of birds there is nothing to compare for beauty and speed with the swift, or for power and cleverness with the hawk. On moist evenings, when the swifts fly low and level, backwards and forwards, with a quaint little musical squeak, like a mouse's, they remind one of fish that dart through the water of clear streams under bridges. The hawk, even in a high wind, can remain, by tilting his body at the needed angle, perfectly still in the air, while his steady wide eyes search the ground far
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