The Vesper Sparrow

The Vesper Sparrow is fairly abundant everywhere, and it is a singular circumstance that Bain does not mention it in his “Birds of P.E.I.,” 1891. Are we to suppose that this pleasing songster did not visit the Island in those days? It was listed in the 1915 Bulletin, and the late Mr. Ludlow Jenkins marked it as “common and increasing” in 1934. I examined and described a dead Vesper Sparrow, Sept.4 1944.

This bird gets its name from its habit of “tuning up” as evening closes in. “Song, a clear ascending series of whistle”’ — Reed’s Guide. It is otherwise known as the “Eay-winged Sparrow,” or the “Grass Finch.” The white outer feathers of the tall, best seen in flight, are the surest marks of distinction.

As for diet the birds and their nestlings consume large numbers of insects; while later they turn to a diet of weed seeds. They are thus exceedingly valuable to the farmer. There are, however, two great hindrances to their increase: first, they make their nests in meadows and fields, where the eggs and young are easy prey for predators; and second, since the increase of poison-sprays, caterpillars must often be poisonous to the nestlings as well as to the old birds.

The Vesper Sparrow Breeds from our latitude south to N. Carolina, and Nebraska and winter to Gulf Coast and Texas.

Eastern Vesper Sparrow. AOU, 540 “Common and increasing” (1934). Upper parts brownish gray streaked with black and a little buff; eye-ring white: wings with bright chestnut shoulders, and two dull wing-bars; tall with white outer feathers, next one to these broadly tipped white, the rest dusky. Breast and sides streaked black and buff; underparts white. Length of adult about 6/15 inches.

– Newsy Notes by Agricola, February 25th, 1950.


We Are Favored People In This Island Province

“What does the day look like Ellen?” James asked of her first to a window this morning.

“It looks” we replied “as if there might be pussy willows out, down there” we noded “along the old mill-road.”

“Not in February!” he smiled. A February morning. But here was March casting tantalizing Spring shadows before… wide gold of sunrise, mild, calm, no wind of day yet born. It was a morning to put feet into the brisket pair of shoes and be off to the unexplored paths of the new week.

Unexplored but promising. What nice surprises, what adventures would be there for us to find and gather-lovely blossoms, rosemary and heart’s ease and a myriad of blooms as we made our way up its trails.

“Strange how the storms have by-passed the Island this Winter” James offered. “For instance when they get quiet a snowfall over on the mainland or “up along’ we only get the end of it.”

“Perhaps we are favoured people!” we chuckled.”

“Not in that sense, Ellen” he said “Though when we come to consider everything, we are a favored people. No, earthquakes, no floods, no extreme cold or heat. And its a rare year-oh there were odd lean ones in my memory- when we don’t have enough pasture for the stock through the summer, or enough crop to gather to see them through the winter might be ‘touch and go’ with the feed sometimes, but there’s mostly plenty if a farmer’s careful.”

Favored? Aye… Yesterday —The Lord’s Day-how lovely it was with its sunshine and gentle wind and the light haze veiling far hills! Kin came to Alderlea in the afternoon – a first granddaughter in many years of this house. And her husband. His name counted among the Island’s best farmers, he has land in plenty and herds, with which to practice his inherent skills of husbandry. And sons in a pair they have a daughter-in-law and little granddaughters two… aotogether [sic] a fine family to share in the interests of the farm.

Others too were our visitors, parents and children in an enviable half-dozen of grls [sic] and boys. How full and happy and never lonely that Island home must be! And each year in passing more interesting, horizons ever-widening. 

“A great little family” James said. And we agreed remembering how extremely good it was to be one of eight children never to get short of playmates… or affection.

“The Northern Lights, Ellen. I never saw them so bright and pretty” James says homing now from a “kaley” at the house across the lane. “Perhaps” he suggests “you’d slip into your coat and come yourself and see?”

– Ellen’s Diary, February 17th, 1958


Farmers Have Intellect & Character— Well Done

Our farmers today enjoyed a pleasant interlude in the morning’s choring. We doubt if they could have been invited to a more interesting event than that which took them to lend assistance to a neighbor in getting his fat cattle away to their market.

“I like to move among the simple down-to-earth, farm-folk” we chanced to hear a speaker on radio observe the other day. The words returned to mind today when we saw the pair of farmers hie down along our winter-lane of field, enter the waiting truck and on happiest wheels disappear beyond the little rise which mostly with an accelerated “huff and puff” bears all traffic in the road.

Yes ‘simple’ we chuckled to ourself, in that we who love the land, enjoy the seemingly lowly and humdrum dnties [sic]— and scenes of the farm. The term however, was sadly misused, in connection with the work then in prospect. What an alert and altogether skillful crew were for-gathering to the endeavor at that farm in the road! And in reckoning the tonnage about to be disposed of there, there would be very few pounds ‘out’ on the aggregate one way or another.

Have you ever stopped in the middle of preparing dinner to watch the shipping out of fat animals from a farm? No? We steeped in farm ways came to the back verandah to catch something of the colour and excitement of the scene, though it lay a distance from Alderlea, over the fields.

Above the millstream, above the A’s vacated house set down quiet in the valley, and up the rise beyond we caught sight presently of the dark figures of men and cattle moving in a company along the white field which was taking the animals to the great truck waiting at the road. So easily, after all, a herd can be moved these times. And as we saw these, we were recalling scenes from years long gone, when the fat cattle raised on a remembered farm by the Strait, must either go to market by boat on a summery morning from the harbour, or else be herded a distance on foot — even the twenty one miles which would take them to town.

“Nice cattle”, James commented when the two returned. The younger man nodded. “Now” he smiled “we’ll just see how the weights correspond with the girts!’ he said.

“The old law of supply and demand” James comments to Mr. C. from the house on the hill as they come in after a late tour of the stables, “makes the market! Looks to me as if there’s a move up in price. Yours doing well?”

“Not bad Mr. C. replies “They should at any rate— there’s not much last to a grist of crushing!”

“It is amazing how fast it goes” James nods, settled now to their visit. “And I was just saying to the wife today, if we keep them, there will be all of three months yet of feeding.”

“There’s this to it” Mr. C. offers “we never had so nice a winter to do the chores.’

“Never!’ James agrees. Then “You couldn’t rustle us a bite to eat, could you Ellen? I feel kind of hollow’ he chuckles.

Until tomorrow — Diary — Goodnight…

– Ellen’s diary, February 26th, 1958