Drummer the Grouse Gives Advice
BETTY BLUEBIRD was awakened the next morning by a loud noise. It came from a log not far from where Betty was sleeping.
It sounded like some one beating quickly on the bottom of a tub. Betty Bluebird jumped with fright.
"Brrrrrrruuuuuuunnnnnmm ! " it went again a little later.
Of course, it was only Drummer the Grouse awakening the Woods Dwellers, but Betty Bluebird had never heard Mr. Grouse drum before. She almost wished he would do it again, it was such an odd performance.
Betty hopped down from her perch and flew nearer to Drummer the Grouse. He was busy straightening his feathers after beating the air with his wings. He had to make his wings move very fast to make such a noise. People who have watched Drummer say that he beats the log with his wings to make the noise. Others say he slaps his sides. And some think he pounds his wings together over his back. It is quite likely that he makes his noise by beating upward against the air. But no one knows just how he does it, for Drummer has not told his secret.
"I wonder if you have seen my family," said Betty to Drummer the Grouse.
Drummer lived in the Wildwoods, and he knew all about the Wildwood Lanes. He slept in the Dense Trees at night, but during the day he often sat on his Favorite Drumming Log when he was not looking for wild berries and tender ferns to eat. Drummer did not care much about sitting on his Favorite Drumming Log during the hot summer days, but now that autumn was on the way he rather liked it. Of course, spring was the time he liked best for drumming, for then he lived pretty much alone while Mrs. Grouse was sitting on her nest. Perhaps then he had nothing better to do than to drum.
"Have you seen my family?" again asked Betty Bluebird, after she had hopped near to Drummer.
Drummer was thoughtful for a moment. He was a wise bird. He did not believe in talking unless he had something worth while to say.
"No, I have not seen your family, but I believe I can help you to find them," he replied. "If you will fly to the top of yonder Rocky Ridge and look over, you will see a Pleasant Little Valley in which grow many, many berries. That is where most bluebirds come for a vacation, and that is where Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird lived for a while last autumn."
Then Drummer the Grouse placed his feet firmly on his Favorite Drumming Log, waved his wings a few times to make sure that he had plenty of room, and sent a loud "Brrrrrrruuuuuuunnnnnmm ! echoing through the Big Mountains.
Betty Bluebird flew to the top of the Rocky Ridge and looked over. Sure enough, there was a Pleasant Little Valley just as Drummer the Grouse had said there would be. It was filled with many Jungle Thickets like the Big Jungle Thicket in the Black Forest. Betty thought it would be a nice place to live for a while. There would be plenty of raspberries and other kinds of berries to eat even though they would be getting rather dry that late in the summer. And there would be plenty of bugs and worms to eat also. If enemies came near, Betty thought it would be easy to hide in the Jungle Thickets.
Betty felt hungry when she thought about all the good things to eat that she was sure she could find in the Pleasant Little Valley. She had not yet eaten her breakfast. And so away flew Betty to see what she could find to eat, and also to find out if the other Bluebirds had arrived.
It was a good thing that Betty flew just when she did. She had been so interested in looking at the Pleasant Little Valley that she had not seen Killer the Marten climb the very tree on which she was sitting. He had, been well hidden by the Dancing Little Leaflets, and was ready to spring on Betty.
Killer the Marten is a cousin of Trailer the Mink. He is also a cousin of Snoop the Weasel, Fisher the Bold, and Lutra the Otter. And he is a near relative of Digger the Badger and Mephitis the Skunk.
Killer the Marten belongs to a family of hunters, and he likes the Big Mountains where he can run through the tree tops in search of chipmunks and squirrels and birds. Yes, sir; it was a good thing that Betty Bluebird flew just when she did.
When Betty Bluebird arrived in the Pleasant Little Valley, whom do you think she saw? Why, the other Bluebirds, of course. There were Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird and all Betty's brothers and sisters sitting in a Jungle Thicket eating berries for breakfast. It did not take Betty long to find some berries herself. But you may be sure after that Betty did not wander far from the other Bluebirds, for she had learned a lesson.
THE Bluebirds lived in the Big Mountains a number of weeks, and then the days began to grow colder. Every night Jack Frost stole out with his magic paintbrush and painted the oaks and maples and ivy with gold and red and yellow, The Dancing Little Leaflets began to shower down, and soon they covered the ground everywhere. Then one ' day the Merry Little Snowflakes began to tumble all around. It was a sign that Old Man Winter was not far away.
"I believe it is time for us to leave for the Sunny Southland," said Mr. Bluebird.
"Yes," agreed Mrs. Bluebird, "I think it is. But I must see the dear old Nesting Box before we go.. I must visit the Old Homestead again." And so one warm day in mid-November the Bluebirds started for the Old Homestead with their family for a last look around before going southward. They expected to stay only two nights, because they were in a hurry to leave before Old Man Winter dropped a white robe over the Great Wide World and tucked the Dancing Little Leaflets in bed.
Almost all the Bluebirds' Feathered Friends that spent their winters in the Sunny Southland had already gone. And it was time for many of the Little Wild Creatures to be ready for their long winter sleep.
Dandy the Chickadee and Judge Flicker and Whitebreast the Nuthatch did not seem to mind the cold. They could find plenty to eat even when everything was covered with Merry Little Snow�flakes, for they could still find tree borers. But the Bluebirds had noticed that bugs and grasshoppers were getting harder to find every day.
The Bluebirds arrived at the Nesting Box at evening just as the Laughing Yellow Sun was sinking out of sight in the west and Great Horn the Owl was awakening after sleeping all day.
"The Bluebirds are back," shouted Mary Smith to Bud, as he came out of the woodshed with an armful of wood.
"Sure enough," said Bud, "they must be ready to start for the Sunny Southland."
It was a happy family of Bluebirds that visited at the Old Homestead the next day. They flew across the Green Meadow, but it was no longer Green. The trees that stood in the Wide-Wide Pasture were leafless. Chatterer the Red Squirrel sat on a bare limb scolding because Tattler the Jay was hopping around among the branches of his Hollow Den Tree. Snoop the Weasel had changed his brown summer coat for a new white one. And the Little Jungle Thicket where Molly and Peter lived was so bare of leaves that it did not give them much protection.
"I see Snowy the Bunting," said Mr. Bluebird, as they flew back across the Green Meadow. "And there is Junco the Snowbird. Surely Old Man Winter is on the way when they come down from the Chilly Northland."
You see, Snowy the Bunting spent his summer in the Land of Ice, and came to the Old Homestead only in winter. That was why Mr. Bluebird knew that Old Man Winter could not be far away when he saw Snowy.
High overhead Honker the Goose was flying swiftly southward, with now and then a flock of ducks to keep him company. Out in the barnyard Noisy the English Sparrow and his friends gathered on the sunny side of the Rambling Old Barn to keep warm, where they scolded among themselves and made life miserable for Bud Smith's pigeons. And in the Hedgerow along the Apple Orchard, the Bluebirds heard the familiar call of Bobby White.
The following morning just as the Bluebirds were ready to leave, whom should they see but Mr. and Mrs. Robin Red.
"Ha ha-ha-ha," laughed Robin Red. "I thought I would find you here. Something tells me that Old Man Winter is on his way, and it is time for us to be looking for a warmer climate."
"You are right, Robin Red," said Mr. Bluebird. "We are ready to start now. Wouldn't you like to go with us?"
"Yes, yes," said Robin Red.
Mrs. Bluebird flew to the Nesting Box for a last look. She inspected it inside first, and then perched on the top.
"The dear Nesting Box," said she, "I wish I did not have to leave it. But I think it will be all right until we return next spring."
"Let's go, let's go," shouted one of the Young Bluebirds. You see, it was the first time the Young Bluebirds had gone south, and they were getting impatient. They wanted to see the new country where they were to spend the winter.
And so one morning, just as Bud and Mary Smith were starting to school, the Bluebirds and the Robins spread their wings and started southward. The children watched the birds as they disappeared over the Green Meadow, and they heard Father Bluebird as he sang, "Farewell, farewell."