The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."


The Months.

by House of Education Students.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 136-138

No. II.
By D. Brownell.

Feb. 1st, 1993.--February has come in with frost, snow and hail. The hungry birds come to the windows to get the food which is put out for them. The blue tits (Parus coeruleus) are most fascinating to watch, as they cling to the cocoa-nuts, and while taking hurried pecks try to keep both eyes open for any approaching danger. Occasionally a great tit (Parus major) or a cole tit (Parus Britannicus) will come, but the more regular visitors are the blue tits.

Feb. 2nd.--Today we watched two dippers disporting themselves in the river Rothay. In spite of the cold they seemed to be revelling in the water, plunging in most boldly, and sometimes remaining hidden for some seconds together. These birds make a great "fuss" in the water; they seem to spread their wings when they get below the surface, and move along by means of these. Their feet are not webbed, so it is interesting to see how they do get about so fast in the water. One of them stood for a few minutes on a stone with the water rushing over his legs. We heard their note some time before we were able to see them. The dipper has such a lovely broad white "front" which is shown off well by his rich brown coat. He belongs to the thrush family (Merulidae).

Two missel thrushes (Turdus viscivonis) looked lovely up in the branches of a tall Scotch fir, where the afternoon sun caught their light speckled breasts. The missel is larger than the song thrush, and has quite as beautiful a voice.

In a field at the end of Rydal Lake two jackdaws had joined a party of rooks, and looked very small among these big birds. The rooks spend the day at their feeding grounds, returning at bedtime to their nests, except when they are building or repairing these, when they return more than once during the daytime, but when they are actually sitting, or after the young have been hatched, they never altogether leave the nest, but always one or other of them remains. The bare patch at the base of the rook's beak may be seen from quite a little distance, and is a distinguishing feature of Corvus frugilegus. When he caws, the rook always raises and partly spreads his wings, as if some balancing power were necessary when he indulges in this performance!

Feb. 3rd.--The sharp frost of the last few days has made a great deal of the ivy turn quite yellow and brown.

Feb. 4th.--The clouds on the mountains were particularly beautiful today. They are never the same; sometimes they are loose and vapoury, sometimes they are like rolls of cotton-wool, but they are always lovely.

Feb. 5th.--Today we found a most curious fungus. It was of a pinkish-yellow colour, and very fleshy. It was growing out of the bark of a rough oak paling in a very damp place.

Feb. 6th.--The bulbils of the celandine may be found now. Sometimes one leaf appears alone, and this is often mistaken for a single cotyledon on what is a dicotyledonous plant; the fact is that the cotyledons wither away below ground, and do not appear above the surface at all. The little bulbils first grow in a cluster round the parent bulb, and afterwards drop off.

Feb. 11th.--Some of the trees are really budding in earnest now, and the willows are looking very pretty with their golden flowers, which come out before the leaves--an unusual thing in an entomophilous plant.

Feb. 13th.--Today we saw a tufted duck (Filigula virstate) on Rydal water. He is a most curious bird to look at with his contrasting plumage of black and white. While we were watching him he got up from the water and flew away, but, as with all the ducks, his flight is rather heavy and clumsy.

We also saw a wild duck which rose up from among the reeds at our feet. He made much noise with his wings. We stood and watched him as he flew away; he took two great circles over the lake, rising higher in the air all the time, until at last he flew up past us and disappeared towards Grasmere. We noticed his remarkably long neck, small head and long wings, as he passed. We saw some coote also (Fulica attra), the white star on the forehead--a distinguishing feature of this bird--we got a good view of.

Feb. 14th.--Some of the buds of the trees are beginning to burst, but the ash is late this year.

Feb. 17th.--The air seems wonderfully clear today, many of the distant mountains are visible.

Feb. 18th.--Today we found the cocoons of the saw fly. There were several of them, all on a hawthorn tree, in different stages. Two were quite empty, one of which had its cap completely sawn off, while in another the cutting had only been begun, and we were able to see the little flies inside.

In the cocoon there appeared to be partitions of a white membraneous substance, covered with a kind of soft down. In each cocoon we noticed that the cutting was wonderfully neat and clean. All the young plants are coming up fast now; the various cotyledons may be seen unfolding. We found a lot of arum, both the spotted and plain, curled like badly rolled up umbrellas. Arums always seem to grow in masses together, I don't know whether their roots are connected, like those of the lily of the valley, for instance. We were noticing the lenticels in the trunk of a young alder, they are all placed so regularly horizontal, which makes a very pretty effect.

Now is the time to notice the peeling of the bark of the trees, because the new growth may be seen so well underneath while it is fresh with the spring sap coming up. On some of the of the Scotch firs great pieces of bark are almost ready to drop off. There is a very good example here of Nature's healing, in the trunk of an oak through whose bark a railing has cut, but new bark is growing and gradually surrounding the railing.

We found a spray of siliculas (of the shepherd's purse) in perfect preservation, and very silvery and beautiful. In an old stump of a tree up on Wansfell are a number of holes, which look as if a boring beetle had been at work, but though we looked, we could not find him.

Feb. 19th.--The willow catkins or palm are still lovely. In this flower where there are no petals, it is the delicate golden stamens which attract the insects. The junipers on the mountain-side are covered with berries. These have such curious lips, arranged at first in a triangle, but later opening in a square.

Feb. 20th.--Today we saw some rooks, jackdaws and missel thrushes taking most energetic baths in a pool of water which the rain had left in a field; they were splashing about and enjoying themselves highly, although it was a raw, damp day.

Typed by happi, January, 2023; Proofread by LNL, June, 2023