The Springle: Effective Bird Catcher

The Springle is a somewhat complicated apparatus, but very effective as a bird catcher. It consists of five parts, as follows: 1The stump: a small stout stake of wood about five inches in length, which is fixed firmly in the ground, with its head about an inch above the surface. 2. The Spreader: a small bent switch, having a notch at its thicker end; it is kept in its bent position by a piece of small cord whipped over its smaller and larger end, and united just above the notch. 3. The Bender: a piece of pliant withy or hazel, of about eighteen inches long; both ends of it are fixed into the ground so as to form a kind of arch. 4. The Springer: a hazel rod of about four feet in length, thick at one end and tapering at the other; to the tapering end is fixed a piece of string. 5. The Catch: a sound piece of wood fixed at the end of the string of the springer; it is about half an inch long, a quarter broad, and the eighth of an inch thick. It is slightly beveled off at one end, so as to adapt it to the notch or the spreader. 6. The Noose: a knot formed of horsehair, fastened below the catch. In setting the springle, the following directions are to be attended to: Drive the stump firmly into the ground. Place the spreader around the stump so that its bight is in contact with it. Fix the bender into the ground at about the length of the spreader from the stump; then fix the thick end of the springer in the ground at a little distance from the bender, and the small end of it bent down till one end of the catch is placed upwards and on the outside of the bender. Raise the spreader about an inch from the ground, and put the small end of the catch into the notch. Finally, arrange the horsehair slipknot loosely around the bender, and the trap is set. Scatter a little seed within, and for some distance around the spreader, and watch at a short distance to seize the bird as soon as it is ensnared, otherwise it will flutter itself to death or be strangled. Birds may also be caught by means of horsehair loops. To accomplish this, tie a large number of loops upon a long string, the longer the better, and lay this string in a series of rings winding outward from the center, so that the ground will be completely covered with them; then lay the trap, with the loop properly opened, on a spot resorted to by birds. When a bird gets its feet into a loop, it is almost certain to draw the loop tightly about its legs, and is thus caught. The common brick trap is well known; it consists of four bricks arranged two lengthways, upon their edges or narrow sides and one in front, and the fourth between the two side bricks; this is so placed that it will fall and lie easily upon the front brick. Within the trap a stout peg is driven into the ground, upon which a forked twig is placed horizontally; above this a stick is placed, one end being on the twig and the other end supporting the brick in a slanting position. The end of the twig that rests upon the peg is cut flat to give it a better hold. The bait is strewn upon the ground inside of the trap. When the bird flies to the trap he generally perches for a moment on the forked twig and causes it to give way by reason of its weight, the brick that has been propped up then falls upon the front brick, enclosing and securing the bird. In preparing this trap, caution should be used to setting the upper brick, so that it does not fall between the two side bricks unsupported by the front brick, as in such a case the bird would be crushed to death. The downfall is an effective trap for taking field fares, thrushes, redwings, blackbirds, larks, sparrows, starlings, and all birds that congregate upon the ground. It is most effective when snow lies upon the ground, for then the birds being hungry, are less shy than is their wont in the pursuit of food. The trap consists of an iron or wooden hoop covered with a net, formed of meshes of about one inch. The lighter the net the better. The hoop is put to stand at an angle, as in the engraving, and is propped up by a piece of stick about two feet in length. At the bottom of the net, and lying upon that part of the hoop which rests upon the ground, is placed a heavy stone, in such a manner that directly the stick is withdrawn, the net will drop down suddenly upon the birds. A long string is tied to the stick, and is held by the person, who keeps as far away from the trap as is compatible with his being enabled to see when the birds are under it. It is better not to drop the trap when a single bird enters, as it will serve as a decoy, and a little patience will be rewarded by the capture of a number of birds instead of one. In some parts of France a curious mode is practical of taking birds; a frame is constructed of the stripped branches of the slender straight growing poplar, in the centre of which a seat is placed for the birdcatcher to sit upon. The frame so constructed is afterwards covered with boughs and evergreen shrubs, among which are openings for the entrance of the birds, and also for the hands of the birdcatcher to come out, who is seated within. When the birds alight on or about the sides of the holes, the bird catcher nimbly seizes them by the hand or by means of a small flap trap which he trusts out at one o f the holes, and upon which the birds alight. Woodcocks, partridges, and other land birds are said to be easily caught by what is called low-belling. In this method a strong light is employed and two persons carry nets, one on either side of him who bears the light. The light bearer carries a large bell, which he rings incessantly and with a regular jingle. The birds after a while become so alarmed by the combined effects of the light and the bell, that while some fly against the nets, others fall upon their backs on the ground and will not move, and so are captured.

For catching birds by means of bird-lime, the following is the most successful method: Take a large branch or bough of a tree, and after having trimmed it of all the leaves and superfluous shoots, cover it all over with bird-lime, taking great care to lay it on properly, for if it be too thick the birds will see it and will not settle on the bough, and if it be too thin it will not hold them when they do. When the bough is well limed it must be fixed on a low dead hedge near a rickyard, hemp or flax field, or in some other place which is a favorite resort for small birds, and the sportsman having concealed himself is near to the bough as he can, must imitate with his mouth or with a bird call the notes which birds make when they attack or call one another, but if he should not be expert at this, there is another mode of attraction called a stale. A hawk of any species or a bat make very good stales, but an owl makes the best of any, for this bird never shows himself at daylight without being followed by all the small birds that see it; so that if an owl be fastened in some conspicuous place at a short distance from the limed bough, the birds will collect around it in great numbers, and will be sure sooner or later to settle on the bough and be taken. When one bird is thus enticed and stuck fast, it must not be disengaged, but suffered to remain and attract others by its fluttering, so that many may be taken at once. If a live owl is not to be obtained, a stuffed one will do nearly as well. Sometimes the representations of an owl carved in wood is used, and being painted in the natural colors of the bird, is found to succeed very well.

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