Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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summer days, when not a breath of air has been stirring, have I frequently remained for hours, stretched on the hot shingle, and gazed at the osprey as he soared aloft, or watched the little islands of mud at the turn of the tide, as each gradually rose from the receding waters, and wras successively taken possession of by flocks of sandpipers and ring-dotterels, after various circumvolutions on the part of each detachment, now simultaneously presenting their snowy breasts to the sunshine, now suddenly turning their dusky backs, so that the dazzled eye lost sight of them from the contrast; while the prolonged cry of the titterel,1 and the melancholy note of the peewit from the distant swamp, have mingled with the scream of the tern and the taunting laugh of the gull.
" Here have I watched the oyster-catcher, as he flew from point to point, and cautiously waded into the shallow water ; and the patient heron, that pattern of a fisherman, as with retracted neck, and eyes fixed on vacancy, he has stood for hours without a single snap, motionless as a statue. Here, too, have I pursued the guillemot, or craftily endeavoured to cut off the retreat of the diver, by mooring my boat across the narrow passage through which alone he could return to the open sea without having recourse to his reluctant wings. Nor can I forget how often, during the Siberian winter of 1838, when 'a whole gale,' as the sailors have it, has been blowing from the north-east, I used to take up my position on the long and narrow ridge of shingle which separated this paradise from the raging waves without, and sheltered behind a hillock of sea­weed, with my long duck-gun and a trusty double, or half buried in a hole in the sand, I used to watch the legions of water-birds as they neared the shore, and dropped distrustfully among the breakers, at a distance from the desired haven, until, gaining confidence from accession of numbers, some of the bolder spirits—the pioneers of the army—would flap their wings, rise from the white waves, and make for the calm water. 1 The Sussex provincial name for the whimbrel.
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