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seclusion, perhaps deceiving people into the illusion that
they had gone, when they are really simply in hiding,
which the rank summer vegetation renders easy enough.
After eggs are laid, the males certainly desert their
mates entirely, forming themselves into bachelor coteries,
and leaving to the female the entire burden of the nursery.

Bustards take two years or more to acquire maturity : the
year-old males are hardly larger than adult females, possess
neither ruflf nor whiskers, and do not breed. They probably
continue growing for three or four years, or even more.
An old barhon, when winged and brought to bay, will
turn and attack its aggressor, hissing savagely and
uttering a low guttural bark, " Wuff ! wuff ! " Except on
such occasions we have not heard any vocal sound from
a Bustard ; nor do they, when winged, ever attempt to
escape by running.

Though the general habit of the Bustard is graminiv-
orous — his food consisting of the green corn, both blades
and shoots, of grain and green herbage of all kinds, yet in
summer, when the corn is cut, he develops for a time a
keenly carnivorous character, catching and swallowing
whole the rats and mice which, at that season, swarm on
the stubbled plain, as well as the young of ground-breeding
birds, buntings, larks, &c. Nor is a reptile wholly de-
spised — a small snake or green lizard is readily included
in his menu, and at all seasons they are very fond of
insects, especially grasshoppers and locusts.



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848



CHAPTEE XXXI.

THE LITTLE BUSTARD.

(Otis tetrax.)

While the Great Bustaord takes chief place amongst the
game-birds of Europe, both as regards size and sporting
qualities, his smaller relative, the Little Bustard — in
Spanish, Sison — must certainly head the list of the wily
and unapproachable.

Against the Great Bustard, watchful as he is, fair
measures can successfully be brought to bear, but no skill
that we know of — none, that is, of legitimate sporting
kind — will avail against the Sison. We may at once
classify him as the most difficult of all game-birds to bring
to bag. That he is frequently shot is no disproof of this
assertion. The birds being abundant, it would be strange
indeed if none fell " haphazard '* to chance shots when
the sportsman is in pursuit of other game.

The habits of the Little Bustard are, in general,
much the same as those of the larger species. They
frequent, in the main, the same ground ; the young are
reared amidst the security of the ripening corn ; in
autumn they form into packs or bands, and spend their
days upon the open plain.

We have not, however, met with these birds on the
dead-level plains, so attractive to the Abuturda, and their
preference is undoubtedly for more undulated lands. We
have observed them as far up as com grows on the foot-
hills of the sierra.

Li the month of April the Little Bustards are all paired ^
differing in this respect from the free-loving (?) Otis tard<i.



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844 WILD SPAIN.

The males have now acquired the banded throats, and-
indulge in love-antics, much after the fashion of the
blackcock. Far away on the prairie one's eye catches
something white, which disappears and again appears.
On focussing the field-glass upon the distant object it is
seen to be a male Sison, which, with drooping wings and
expanded tail, slowly revolves on his axis. Now he rises
to full height, displaying all the white on his plumage;
anon his breast seems depressed to earth, and all the
while a strange bubbling note is uttered, monosyllabic,
but repeated in rapid spondees.*

In vain one scans the surrounding ground to catch a
glimpse of the female ; she remains crouched among the
scant growth of palmetto, or rough herbage, invisible:
yet, we may presume, admiring the ** play *' of her lord.

Not yet have the sentiments of love overmastered those of
self-preservation : hence an attempt to gain closer quarters
will be unsuccessful, the male bird rising on clattering
wing at three gunshots, his partner following soon after.
He has not yet, moreover, attained the fullest beauty of
his nuptial plumage. By the middle of May his banded
throat, with its double gorget of black and white, has
become distended Hke a jargonelle pear, the rich glossy-
black plumes at the back long and hackle-like. At this
period — end of May — the males may be secured by careful
approach under the stalking-horse. And now the females,
already beginning to lay, become, of course, tame enough.

The four olive-green eggs are deposited among the
herbage at the end of May — four is the number we have
seen in the few nests discovered — and a second clutch
is, according to Mr. Saunders (who, we have found by ex-
perience, makes no statement unless he has good grounds
for it), frequently laid in the latter part of July. The
males, all through the tedious business of incubation,

♦ Col. Irby gives this love-note as ** prut, prut*'* Mr. Howard
Saunders describes the rising and falling movement as more of a
jump, which may very likely be a more correct definition; or,
perhaps, both actions are executed. At the distance at which observa-
tions are possible, it is difficult to be quite certain what one sees.



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THE LITTLE BUSTARD. 345

-remain hard by, ever constant to their sitting partners,
and not ** packing'' or deserting them, as is the wont
of their less faithful cousins, Otis tarda. Not tiU the young
are on the wing are the Sisones seen again in packs. This
marked difference of habit between congeneric species so
closely allied as the two Bustards is very curious.

Possessed of keen powers of eye and ear, combined
with the strongest ideas of self-preservation all round,
the Little Bustard is never— in a sporting season —
surprised in covert* His favourite haunts are in rough
country, where he has every opportunity of remaining



LITTLE BUSTARDS— MAY.



concealed himself, while yet able to survey all that passes
for a wide radius around. Barely does one descry a band
of these birds on the ground. The loud rattle of wings as
a pack springs 200 yards away is usually the first inti-
mation of their presence. If, by some lucky chance, they
are seen on the ground, even then the tactics employed to
secure the larger bustard, namely, by ambushing the guns
in a half-circle on their front, and driving the birds
towards them, seldom, very seldom, come off. The
Sisones almost invariably take flight, from some un-



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846 WILD SPAIN.

explained cause — their extreme shyness and acute senses
of sight and hearing are the only explanation — before the
guns and drivers have reached their respective points.
Or, even if the pack is enclosed within the deadly circle,
they will still sometimes manage to escape by springing
up high in air, and passing out at impossible altitudes.

During the fiery heats of summer these birds may be
shot by the artifice of the bullock-cart — already described
in the chapter on Great Bustard — or be exhausted by
repeated flights; but neither of these plans possess the
merits of really attractive sport, while the second involves
hard work under a heat that few men can stand.

There are, however, times when the Little Bustard may
be secured upon easier lines. Upon occasion, in autumn,
they become so enamoured of certain spots, beguiled by
the plentiful supply of grain scattered around the erasy
or levelled threshingrgrounds out in the open field, that,
like greedy blackcocks on a Northumbrian stubble, they
**take a haunt" {toman la querfttcia), and allow them-
selves, evening after evening, to be surprised and shot.
This, however, is not a regular habit as with the black-
cocks, but rather an exceptional case.

Standing, partially concealed by my horse, near one of
these eras, on one occasion a band of Little Bustards
passed so near and in such close order that three brace
fell to the two barrels. On another memorable autumn
afternoon I bagged, under similar conditions, eight of these
bustards, besides four of the larger kind, the former all
shot as they flew in at dusk towards an open threshing-
ground.

The sportsman on the plains is frequently apprised of a
passing band of Little Bustards by the peculiar hissing
sound made by their wings in flight, different from that of
any other bird, but most resembling the rustle of the
Golden-eye ; but they are rarely so confiding as to pass
within shot. The birds seen in the markets are, however,
obtained, in nine cases out of ten, at such chance
moments.

In conclusion, we repeat, that whilst against every other



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THE LITTLB BUSTARD. 847

game-bird we know there is some ordered plan of campaign
available, yet all efforts to outmatch the astute Sison
are vain, and end in vexation of spirit. He is a bird, as
the Spanish put it, of very unsympathetic nature ("muy
antipatico ") towards the fowler, and this is the more to
be regretted as his flesh is of fine pheasant-like flavour.



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348 WILD* SPAIN.



CHAPTER XXXII.

A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DONANA.

(NOVEMBER.)

On a bright November forenoon we embarked from
the weed-girt jetty at Bonanza on a big falucha, manned
by four smi-bronzed watermen, and in whose spacious
storage lay a pile of sporting impedimenta — guns and
rifles, baggage, bedding, and the rest.

We were a party of eight — EngHsh and Spanish
nationaUties equally represented — and old acquaint-
ances, associated in many branches of sport. All had
come some distance to the rendezvous — some from Seville
and Madrid, two from England — to pass a couple of weeks
at the historic preserves of Southern Spain, the Goto de
Dorla Ana. As the swarthy crew let fall their oars into
the tide of Guadalquivir, all eyes turned eagerly to the
opposite shores, so full of pleasant reminiscences. 'Tis
pleasant, too, to know that as the moorings are cast loose
we lose touch of the world and its civilization ; we leave
behind us post and telegram^ thought and care, and, with
them, perhaps, some measure of ease and luxury — from all
these things the broad flood of Boetis and leagues of track-
less waste will now divide us ; we are free to revert to
primaeval savagery, and we greatly rejoice thereat. Amidst
these happier thoughts arose just a qualm of speculation
as to whether all the multifarious arrangements incidental
to such campaigns had been duly fulfilled, and if we
should find our people, horses and mules, awaiting us at
the appointed tryst.

The mid-day sun was now lighting up the scene after a
morning of mist and rain ; to the left lay the town of San
Lucar, with its ancient castle looming above the white



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A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DONANA. 349

crenellated walls and spacious bodegas, and the busy strand
of Bonanza, celebrated by Cervantes in La Ilustre Fregona
as a rendezvous for ruffians, smugglers, and pirates. On
the stream floated craft of many descriptions, from the
London steamer receiving her cargo of manzanilla at the
wharf to the falucha-rigged "ariels'' and lumbering
fishing-sloops— vessels not unlike the caravels in which,
four centuries ago, Columbus set sail from the neighbour-
ing port of Palos to discover a New World, when

" A Castilla y d Leon
Nuevo Mundo dio Colon."



The river at this point, close to its confluence with the
sea, has a width of two miles, but the long lateen-sail,
bellying out before a gentle poniente, bore us rapidly to the
silent strand, where our horses stood awaiting us under a
giant pine. No short time was spent in landing baggage, for
the falucha lay aground a stone's throw from the shore ;
but at length all was landed, stowed in the mule-packs,
and we set out on the long ride.

It had been intended to have one " drive " this after-
noon, but these delays, and the customary tardiness of
Spanish trains and travel generally, frustrated this plan,



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850 WILD SPAIN.

and it was already dark ere the head of our cavalcade
sighted the welcome light displayed • from the turrets
of the ancient shooting lodge of Doflana. Though now in
a state of partial ruin, the old Palacio still shows signs of
fonxier grandeur, and has been, in bygone days, a favourite
sporting retreat for more than one Spanish king. As we
approached its glimmering lights amidst the darkness of
a November evening, the resonant konky konk ! kerronky
kerronk ! .of the wild geese, the mournful cries of plover
and curlew, and the startled splash of wild ducks, are
evidence of its lonely marsh-girt site and prophetic of
sport to come.

Around the pile of logs cheerily blazing in the spacious
hearth we gather, relieved to find that all the transport
and commissariat arrangements had this time come off
without a hitch — no slight matter where everything, from
a lemon or a hen's egg to a portable bath, from a match
to a mattress, has to be transported on mule-back the
whole forty miles of rough country (and river) we had
just travelled. Our Gallician cook and steward, half
sportsman, half Bohemian, had come on two days in
advance, and strangers were agreeably surprised to find
anything to eat — except perhaps stewed lynx or fricas-
seed flamingo — ^in this outer wilderness. Then, as we
gathered round the blazing hearth, enjoying such coffee
and hreva cigars as are only combined in Spain, the keepers
come in with their reports — keepers of a different type to
British ideals, Bartolo, Larrios, and Manolo, copper-skinned,
pelt-clad and unkempt, and Trujillo, the giiarda mayor y who
enters with lordly salaam, his jacket hung on one great
shoulder as on a peg — a picture of Cervantes' Quixote.
These are four of the ten keepers who, from father to son,
have occupied the posts on the property for generations.

The intention was to devote the first few days to the small
game of the adjacent plains, but our first operation in the
morning was a deer-drive. This, however, proved blank,
for, though several were seen — five stags breaking back
— none, except a few hinds and one bareta, or yearling
stag, whose incipient horns (hardly longer than his ears)



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A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DONANA. 351

were not distinguished by the gun past whom he broke,
came forward to the shooting line. The writer's position
was on the crest of a sand-ridge, with only the covert of
a dead cistus bush : nothing, however, tested his powers of
concealment except a few partridge and a pack of stone-
plovers. The sandy glen which the post commanded was,
nevertheless, plentifully tracked over by deer, and three
wild pigs had passed inwards into the covert that morning.

After this beat, shot-cartridges were substituted for
ball, and for the rest of that day and several following
ones caza menor was the order of the day. The system of
small-game shooting adopted on these plains combines both
walking up and driving at the same time, and requires
a few words of description. It must be borne in mind
that we always have on one side of us — towards the north
and east— the marisma, practically at this season an inland
sea, and upon this circumstance the system is based. The
plan of campaign consists in driving the game down upon
the marisma ; a line of eight, ten or twelve guns each 100
or 150 yards apart, and with several beaters placed in the
interval, is formed at a distance of three or four miles
inland. This line occupies upwards of a mile in length,
and as it advances towards the marisma, obviously encloses
whatever game may be concealed in three or four square
miles of country, the greater part of which (the game) has
a fair chance of coming in the way of one point or another
of the line of guns. Some care is needed to preserve the
formation of the beat, which is done by mounted keepers,
who also see that the " points " or wings are thrown
slightly in advance.

Presently there occurs an obstacle; already we have
waded through some wettish spots ; but how is it possible
to cross this broad lagoon ? On the right a inancha, one of
those thickets of tree-heath and brooms, all interlaced with
thorny briars, bars the way : these manchas are impene-
trable — we have proved this — save to the wild boar or the
badger. In the other direction the water stretches far
— we can see the mounted beaters already splashing
through it. In England one does not walk through river,
lake, or pond merely because it lies in one's course, but



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852 WILD SPAIN.

this is not England, and as, after all, the bottom is sound
and moderately level, if one can keep the cartridges dry,
the sun will soon dry the rest.

The density of the scrub varies also : sometimes for a
short distance one has to push through thickets where
every step is a struggle with hard dried cistus stems, and
where broken ground, ravines and thorny jungle make
perspiration flow, and ill conduce to taking those smart
chances that offer overhead at inopportune moments.

To a northerner it is hard to believe that it is mid-
winter while almost every tree remains leaf-clad, and the
brushwood all green and flower-spangled. Arbutus, rose-
mary and tree-heath (Erica arhorea) are already in bloom ;
while bees buzz in the shoulder-high heather, and suck
honey from its tricoloured blossoms — pink, purple and
violet. Strange flies and winged creatures of many sorts
and sizes, from gnat and midge to savage dragon-flies,
rustle and drone in one's ear, or poise on iridescent wing
in the sunlight, and the hateful hiss of the mosquito
mingles with the insect-melody. Over each open flower of
rock-rose or cistus hovers the humming-bird hawk-moth,
with here and there one of the larger sphinxes {S. conrol-
villi), each with his long proboscis inserted deep in the
tender calix. Not even the butterflies are entirely absent.
We have noticed several gorgeous species at Christmas-
time, including the painted lady and red admiral, the
southern wood-argus, Bath white and clouded yellow, with
Lyc(ena telicanus, Thais polyxenUy Megcera, and many more.
On the warm sand bask pretty green and spotted lizards,
apparently asleep, in the sunshine, but all alert to dart off
on slightest alarm, disappearing like a thought in some
crevice among the roots of the cistus.*

Gradually, as the line approaches the flat shores of the
marisma, the ** driving " shots increase in number and

'^ It may be Appropriate here to add that the curious chamaeleon,
which is found nowhere else in Europe^ is abundant in this district.
It is not, however, seen in mid-winter. Another remarkable reptile
is the lobe-footed gecko (Platydactylus niuralis)^ which swarms about
rocks and old walls. Both the reptiles and insects of Spain would
probably richly repay further research.



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A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DOSaNA. 358

the cry of pdjaro, the Spanish equivalent to " mark over,"
becomes incessant. Pajaroy pqjaro, the magic word comes
borne on the breeze from right and left, dwelt on by the
Andaluz till the final ** 6 " dies away in prolonged cadence ;
and there, far away ahead, appear sundry dark specks in
the sky, rapidly growing in size as the redlegs wheel back
towards the spot where we crouch behind a lentiscus. Now
they are overhead, for two brief seconds within reach of a
well-directed aim — then, in happy moments, a brace of
redlegs will bounce on the bents.

Here every Uttle thicket or clump of brushwood holds
some of the birds that have been driven forward, and even
on the barest ground some have found refuge behind a
tuft of grass or palmetto. Everywhere partridges start up
from the slightest covert, and one sees them running for-
ward ere they rise. But the hottest work occurs in the
belt of rush and reed — in the juncos that border the
marisma. The finale is short, but it is sweet, and the
man who has stopped handsomely the rocketers that sped
to his lot has a reputation ready made.

Such is, in outhne, the system of an avero, several of
which can be carried out on a winter's day.

The partridges, unwilling to run save among the scrub,
usually rise at longish range on bare patches, and mount
rapidly in air, their flight rather resembling that of black-
game than of our grey partridge, and as they wheel back
fast and high, and at all angles, they test the best skill of
the gunner. Besides partridge and rabbits, an odd pair of
mallards will often rise from some rushy hollow, and from
the drier reeds a quail or two spring with their smart
game-like dash. The small Andalucian bush-quail {Tur-
nix Hiflvatica) is occasionally shot, and crossing the more
open ground, among short scrnb of tamarisk and juniper,
a few hares will be added to the bag. These are of the
small southern race, Lepus mediterraneus^ weighing only
five or six pounds, more brindled in colour and with
waxzaer shades on shoulders and flanks than ours. One
of them being hemmed in, was this afternoon swimming a
shallow pool when she attracted the attention of a Southern

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864 WILD SPAIN.

Peregrine falcon {Falco ptinicus) which was waiting on the
partridge in front of our line. This falcon had already
made several fine stoops at the flying game, all ansuccess-



A BOYAL HEAD— DONAXA.



fully, when the sight of a hare in difficulties brought him
overhead, and, in the act of poisipg, a double shot laid
both low.



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A WINTER CAMPAIGN IN DO^ANA. 355

After two or three days with the small game, it was
decided to give the deer a turn. The sun shone brightly
as we rode out to the ground selected for the day's sport,
and a gentle breeze blew from a favourable direction. The
first beat, nevertheless, proved blank — only hinds passing
through the line, which served to give us, for a moment, a
flutter of excitement as they crashed through the under-
wood, and dashed away at redoubled speed. On the next
drive several stags were seen — some broke back, but three
ran the gauntlet of our line at different points, offering
good opportunities to three of our guns, two of which.



DEAD LYNX.



however, were not accepted. The third hart was stopped
in the midst of a last bound by a clean rifle-shot at long
range — ^a fine head of twelve tines.

The guns were next placed along a line of gigantic
clumps of bulrushes which extended for miles with
narrow glades, and thick, matted jungle between. This
beat resulted successfully : seven shots were fired, two
deer escaped, but two deer and two boars were killed. A
curious incident also occurred with a lynx : the beast was
evidently wounded by a lucky rifle-shot, and presently, the

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856 WILD SPAIN.

dogs ran her to bay in a neighbouring mancha. Here one
of us who had fired the first shot followed, when, coming
unexpectedly upon her in a narrow opening, the lynx being
enclosed between man and dogs, made a desperate spring
to pass by ; the writer, in stepping aside, tripped and fell
prostrate on his back, right under the furious beast — never
did man rise more promptly ! luckily without a scratch,
and the next moment the lynx lay gasping out its life on
' the sand.

After this beat rifles were exchanged for smooth-bores, a
line formed, and we shot our way back to the lodge, secur-
ing some twenty brace of partridge and other small game,
• besides another stag, which, all too drowsy, had permitted
our line to advance too near ere he sprang from his lair.
Shot was quickly exchanged for ball, and as the hart ran
broadside on and within one hundred yards of two guns,
he was struck in three places, and the dogs soon pulled him
down. This was a very old beast, but only carried eight
points, the ** bay '* antlers being entirely wanting, and the
double-tops curiously bent inwards. This small-game beat
having brought us to the verge of the marisma, we finished a
successful day's sport with an hour's flight-shooting, during
which five geese and nearly fifty teal and wigeon were
brought to bag. The day's results were thus : — 4 stags, 2
boar and a lynx, 23J brace small game, and 54 head of
wildfowl.

This evening there was performed the time-honoured
ceremony of crowning with the laurel a neophyte in caza



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 27 of 36)