18 JUNE 1898, Page 12


THE low temperature which has continued through the first half of the month, following a most ungenial spring, has affected nearly every form of animal and vegetable life. A plague of cold and darkness has brooded over London, where on Monday last only six minutes of sunshine were registered,

and on Tuesday no sun shone throughout the day. "Flaming June" has been under eclipse ; and the darkness has been made more intolerable by persistent north-east winds, blowing as cold as if from a refrigerating chamber. In the country, where the land was never thoroughly chilled by winter frosts, the deep-rooted grains, especially wheat, are doing well ; but owners of nearly every other form of crop and stock are praying for light and sunshine.

Young wild animals in the fields, especially fledgling birds, have died in numbers. After the cold rains, and early in the mornings, when the thermometer was frequently as low as 39° in the end of May and during the first fortnight of June, fledgling birds which had left the nest, such as young thrushes, finches, starlings, and even wild ducks, were picked up dead, or unable to fly, chilled through by the wet and low tempera. tare of the nights. Young pheasants and ground game also perished, the latter mainly from the unhealthy "food" afforded by wet, "sappy" grasses. The blight of cold has affected the waters. The movements of migra- tory fish must depend partly on the food-supply; and the bulk of their microscopic food floats near and on the surface. It is, therefore, exposed to the cold winds and night frosts, which also chill the shallow waters near the shore and check the growth of the larva) and fry, which also are "food for fishes." The result, over large areas, is gathered with more certainty from the prices of the London fish market than from the reports of local anglers. Salmon have been extravagantly dear ever since the season opened, because the catch made at the net fisheries is phenomenally low. We now know that temperature determines the time of the migrations of birds; and the same cause would naturally affect those of fish. Even the two warm days of June 10th and 11th caused a movement of salmon up the rivers, which lowered prices on Monday and Tuesday. But the catch is already decreasing. English lobsters will not approach the shore while the cold nights last, and the season so far has been a poor one. Prawns also keep in deep water, these fish being very sensitive to low temperature. " Shoal fish," like herrings and pilchards, which depend during their migrations entirely on the microscopic food with which the shallows and surface- waters swarm, will doubtless be affected; and if the season does not change, this year's herring fishery is likely to be abnormal. The results, whether better or worse than usual, should be carefully noted.

River fish are, speaking generally, backward in condition and not willing to feed, though some enormous trout have been taken ; one is said to have weighed 111 lb. In spite of the abundance of rain, which has filled the rivers with fresh, pure water, and usually makes all fish exuberant—there is nothing they enjoy more than a half-flood in summer—they have poor appetites and no enterprise. Some of the most noted fly fishermen of the day, whose reports of sport at this season are wont to glow with modest satisfaction, make no secret of their disappointment. There are almost no May-flies, for the cold has numbed the larvae; and when they do appear the trout are out of sorts, and do not appreciate them. In Dovedale anglers are asking whether the May-fly exists at all on those rivers. On many of the Hampshire streams "a miserable score or so of green drakes " have been seen during the day, and these the fish did not rise to, though the birds, which have had scarcely any insect food, ate them eagerly. They also greatly admire the artificial May-flies, not to eat, but as curiosities ; and the gentleman who writes under the pseudonym of " South-West " notes that a nest has been found with an artificial May-fly stuck in it, the gut collar being woven round into the material of the nest. The same thing was done by a reed-warbler last year at Newton Stacy. This was on the Test, where the fly was fairly plentiful, though on the upper part of that river the hatch has been poor. The general result is summed up by " Red Spinner," who pronounces that the " May-fly season of 1898, on waters that used to furnish a real carnival, has been a rank failure." One might imagine that the writer was a disappointed trout, for this is probably the sentiment of fish as well as fisherman. Unfortunately the cold which has killed the useful insects does not discourage the noxious species. East wind is particularly congenial to all forms of blight, especially to the " green fly." In ordinary wet seasons, green fly, the greatest enemy of the gardener, is washed away. This year it swarms even on plants which are usually free from it. The roses are spoiled by it, many of those trained on walls having scarcely any perfect flowers and few leaves. It covers the young chrysanthemums, blackens the ivy-shoots—for on this plant the blight is almost as black as soot—and is found even on the hardy little "creeping-jenny." Only the broad-beans seem free from the pest. Another unlooked-for result of the east wind is the quantity of " cuckoo-spit " on the grass and hedge- plants. This is usually a hot-weather plague. It is said to be particularly fatal to young pheasants, which eat the insects which distil the liquid.

The result of the cold and absence of sun is already felt in the fruit market. Gooseberries are the only small fruit which has not suffered, for gooseberries are cold-loving plants, and thrive in wet, which kills the larvae of the sirex-fly. Strawberries are not only a fortnight later than usual, but very dear and very bad in quality. Only the little, old- fashioned strawberries have ripened. Those who compare their flavour with that of the modern large and improved kinds, a few of which are on sale at very high prices, will dis- sent from those who maintain that the old kinds, though inferior in size, are superior in flavour to the larger fruit. The "progressive" strawberry is the better in all respects. Fruit cannot now recover from the ungenial spring and early summer. Currants, raspberries, apples, apricots, peaches, and plums will be late, tasteless, and scarce. Fortunately the supply from abroad has not suffered. But, except cherries, apples, and pears, it is difficult to replace the good and well- flavoured produce of our Kentish gardens. "Soft fruits," as well as apricots and peaches, travel ill, and need to be freshly gathered. On the wheat crops the cold winds have not had that disastrous effect which they often produce on the northern wheat territories of the United States. Probably the temperature of our cold summer blizzard is several degrees higher than that of the northern Arctic wind which travels straight down the middle wheat region of North America, and blights the growing corn of millions of acres. Some such .damage has been caused in the wheat region of Central and Southern Russia ; but here, though animals of all kinds, fruit, ,vegetables, and herbage suffer, grain is exempt from injury.

'Routine, serviceable enough in ordinary seasons, has not taken sufficient account of the abnormal weather in dealing with the animals of the farm. Unable, like wild creatures, to seek shelter or change pastures at will, the cattle have been turned out into the fields, and left there, according to the suggestions of the almanac rather than of the thermometer. Cattle and horses have slept on wet grass, in cold rains and -night fogs, and have fed by day on the watery herbage, which -does not form fat or produce heat. Consequently they suffer from coughs, grow thin instead of fat, and are out of con- dition. This does not apply to horses in work, or in towns, which have warm stables, dry food, and greatly prefer the cold weather to hot days in harness in the streets. Flock- masters say that in the West lambs are dying; that in the Romney district and the marshes of Kent the flocks are suffering severely; and that this will be the worst season for some years. Even the bay is not everywhere a heavy crop, or good in quality. The undergrowth of sweet small herbage will not thicken, nor the grasses ripen without sun; conse- craently the haymaking must be late, for hay should not be cut till the grasses are ripe for seed.

Man and beast usually suffer together from adverse conditions of weather, but in the present case the results to the former may be more serious than is at present .believed. For Englishmen, who have never become quite acclimatised to their own climate, and always suffer in the cold weeks of the end of spring, the prolongation of winter temperature for ten weeks beyond its normal limit in March is a killing strain on the system. Very young children, who cannot endure hot weather, are benefited by the postponement of the summer heats, and the death-rate is not increased at present. Bnt all the old are almost broken down by the need for warmth and sun, and the strain of resistance to the bitter wind, which they feel indoors as well as in the open air. Even a long warm autumn will not compensate for the demand made on systems already weakened by winter and the cold of spring. For the robust and the young the list of minor inconveniences—throat attacks, neuralgia, and affections of the eyes and lungs—is a long one. To such, even to the most vigorous, the abnormal summer cold brings decreased vitality. This is clear from the cricket scores, which have been phenomenally low of late, even though the grounds have been dry and in good order, but jump up directly a warm day comes. Last Friday, for instance, the first hot day for a week, Gloucester made six hundred and seventy runs in an innings, while during the east winds some of the finest batting teams have not made more than a hundred runs on good wickets.