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1 " Talking about birds," said a veteran f aea-oaptaln to no Alta reporter," when I - waa a youngtter aboard a Boston dipper • In the Ohio a trade I saw about the btgpeat i, and most variegated oolleotfon of birds a that over met a sailor's eye, and bid 2 shellbacks see ooras queer things in their ,- oraisas. • - - 9 "We were off the Bio de la Plata, 5 Eight bells had pit (track, and \x watches had been changed,' when - suddenly awsy td the southwost 4 aa ionaltealmttl black speok showed 1 itself on the borlson. Larger and f larger; It grew.; The mate, an ancient I mariner; looked at it Intently for r a few momenta, then went below tind r examined the barometer. There was no g ohaoga there. What oould be the a mitter 1 He oalled the captain and pointed 3 oat to him the onuse of his anxiety. It • had now attained the proportions of a e 'opiall. Its lower edge was lined with"* II bright silver streak. That streak wii • foam, the water charned into milk, \x Another look at the glass. Still no change i therp. The captain's farrowed Visage a assumed a peoalUr, puzzled expression* a .Surely that was a hlaok olond stealing up, • fall of wind, and the tquall would looa e be upon as. Bat why was the barometer r silent ? The old man looked up uneasily 1 at the light solle. Blaoker and bigger n grew the oiouda and* longer and whiter; 3 grew the - ail vet' edge beneath , 'Lower r hit «y the roy— ' Ho was jast about to I, finish the order, the glasses glued to hla eyes, when 'Never mind I'-^be had changed his mind. «• Bang 1" went the filanees es the old man closed them sharply, and tornfag arouad glanced qu'zzloally at the mste>| who responded with a look of Inquiry, ' What do you think V asked the captain. 5 ' Don't know/ answered the mate shortly. g l Well, they're birds" was the answer. " Yes, thafc_ black oloud was birds. It extended' over two point* of the compass ■ now, and wan still Increasing, In another • Rcoond tbe naked eye could distinguish their Individual forms. They were birds . indeed. Myriads of them. Every spades of sea-bird was represented In that vast army. There war the albatross, sailing ' majestically aloru, its huge wings outspread ; the curlew with Its long, bpsax— '} llko bill and taper lego ; the black diver i and its rod-throated oousin ; the beautiful , frlgftto bird, or bo'aun, as sailors ball: It; ;• loa-birdß flaw neok-and-neck with gollle. mots. Bnobi Bor noddles jostled seagulls and snowbirds. Here the stormy petrel uttered Its peou'lar ory, and there the nape plgoon showed Its mottled breast. 1 Besides all these, hnndreds of sp^olei une known to the ordinary sailor, and perhaps r to the ornithologists. - s " In another ten miantes they covered e half the sky, a solid black mass casting an ever-inoreaalng shadow over the reflective, deep And that sliver lino of foam ; wbafc > was that A great army of porpoisea. s The Beoret was out. These sea-pigs, la s an Immeose front, miles Ions;, were parsp* • Ing the smaller fish on which they prey, f They were driving vast shoals cf bonlto, flying fish and others before them. These fish, terrl6od, hopeless, sprang from the water In their great agony and were • " oaught. For the birds above swooped] 3 npon what the porpoises below failed t,a oatoh. It was a wonderful sight. Hang- • Ing beneath tbe bine vault a huge dark veil of birdß. Birds everywhere as far aa the eye could reaoh, north, Boutb,'eaat and west— all birds. The noise of their myriad wings sounded like Ibe noise of a rushing, mighty wind. The sun; was 1 obscured ana thus to add to the solemblty : of the scene a dusk settled on the witen. 1 Then a deep awo fell upon the little knot of human witnesses of the Divine power. 1 Never before had anyone of these grlszled i seamen beheld ouoh a sight* All work 7 was forgotten In the contemplation of > that wondrous soene. And still the mighty aerial prooession Went on ; and l still thb great host of fish harried on their L way punning and panned ; and stlHihe ' vessel rolled heavily* But tbe flap flsjp of the sails was no longer heard. The nolsa of tbe myriad wings, loud ao the harrl> cane's roar drowned all olio. . ', "In another minute that line of rolling bodle? was within • blncnlt-tbrow of. the ship's 'side. Then a curloni thing ooonrred; That long line wheeled correctly as » regiment of grenadiers to the eastward. Our ship as it lay there divided the Hoe as it swept round, bnt did not break its symmetry, and the seaplgv, driving their shoals of T/iotiias before them, were sbon away übder v otir stern, still wheeling until they .dlsVp. paired to the southward. But' the Vast cloud of birds still darkened the sky. Thousands settled on the spara aid rigging and on the sea also, until to fire • musket amongst those floating bodlea meant death to a score. For half an hour the iftin was hidden, and we were bathed In toelul* datknesi. Then- a bre»k oooorrsd ln ihe prooesßion, and soon a little blaok speok was seen to the southward. It was %\f9 birds disappearing. But not all ' wept. Millions had settled down on J the sea, until so far as the eye oould. reach the water was covered with them. They remained there all night, and so great was the noise of their oroaklogand shriek- ( Ing that no sleep visited tha weary sailors in their watoh below; For two d»y«v«re lay thao beoklmed, the blrda drifting lazily about with us on the waters, gorged with fiab, quantities of Which floated around dead. On the third evonlng a flish of lightning from the southwest caused the old man to shorten aall, and before midnight we were Iyingr to In a raging pamporo. \^hen next morning broke we were the pent re o( • vast ctvole of broken water. The birds had vanished. One gloomy bape devil 1 alone remained circling about the iblp, solemn and sombre, like the genius of the storm or the forerunner of fatality."

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Bibliographic details

A WONDERFUL SIGHT, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2004, 4 December 1888

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A WONDERFUL SIGHT Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2004, 4 December 1888